Reginald in Russia
First Collected, 1910
Reginald sat in a corner of the Princesss salon and tried to forgive the furniture, which started out with an obvious intention of being Louis Quinze, but relapsed at frequent intervals into Wilhelm II.
He classified the Princess with that distinct type of woman that looks as if it habitually went out to feed hens in the rain.
Her name was Olga; she kept what she hoped and believed to be a fox-terrier, and professed what she thought were Socialist opinions. It is not necessary to be called Olga if you are a Russian Princess; in fact, Reginald knew quite a number who were called Vera; but the fox-terrier and the Socialism are essential.
The Countess Lomshen keeps a bull-dog, said the Princess suddenly. In England is it more chic to have a bull-dog than a fox-terrier?
Reginald threw his mind back over the canine fashions of the last ten years and gave an evasive answer.
Do you think her handsome, the Countess Lomshen? asked the Princess.
Reginald thought the Countesss complexion suggested an exclusive diet of macaroons and pale sherry. He said so.
But that cannot be possible, said the Princess triumphantly;
Ive seen her eating fish-soup at Donons.
The Princess always defended a friends complexion if it was really bad. With her, as with a great many of her sex, charity began at homeliness and did not generally progress much farther.
Reginald withdrew his macaroon and sherry theory, and became interested in a case of miniatures.
That? said the Princess; that is the old Princess Lorikoff. She lived in Millionaya Street, near the Winter Palace, and was one of the Court ladies of the Old Russian school. Her knowledge of people and events was extremely limited; but she used to patronise every one who came in contact with her. There was a story that when she died and left the Millionaya for Heaven she addressed St Peter in her formal staccato French: Je suis la Princesse Lor-i-koff. Il me donne grand plaisir à faire votre connaissance. Je vous en prie me présenter au Bon Dieu. St Peter made the desired introduction, and the Princess addressed le Bon Dieu: Je suis la Princesse Lor-i-koff. Il me donne grand plaisir à faire votre connaissance. On a souvent parlé de vous à léglise de la rue Million.
Only the old and the clergy of Established churches know how to be flippant gracefully, commented Reginald; which reminds me that in the Anglican Church in a certain foreign capital, which shall be nameless, I was present the other day when one of the junior chaplains was preaching in aid of distressed somethings or other, and he brought a really eloquent passage to a close with the remark, The tears of the afflicted, to what shall I liken them-to diamonds? The other junior chaplain, who had been dozing out of professional jealousy, awoke with a start and asked hurriedly, Shall I play to diamonds, partner? It didnt improve matters when the senior chaplain remarked dreamily but with painful distinctness, Double diamonds. Every one looked at the preacher, half expecting him to redouble, but he contented himself with scoring what points he could under the circumstances.
You English are always so frivolous, said the Princess. In Russia we have too many troubles to permit of our being light-hearted.
Reginald gave a delicate shiver, such as an Italian greyhound might give in contemplating the approach of an ice age of which he personally disapproved, and resigned himself to the inevitable political discussion.
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