Emma Watson Pussy
War And Peace
as though they had made
a compact about it. And I cant see why they liked that remark
The conversation was cut short by this observation, and a new
subject had to be thought of again.
"Do tell me something amusing but not spiteful," said the
ambassadors wife, a great proficient in the art of that elegant
conversation called by the English, _small talk_. She addressed
the attache, who was at a loss now what to begin upon.
"They say that thats a difficult task, that nothings amusing
that isnt spiteful," he began with a smile. "But Ill try. Get
me a subject. It all lies in the subject. If a subjects given
me, its easy to spin something round it. I often think that the
celebrated talkers of the last century would have found it
difficult to talk cleverly now. Everything clever is so
"That has been said long ago," the ambassadors wife interrupted
The conversation began amiably, but just because it was too
amiable, it came to a stop again. They had to have recourse to
the sure, never-failing topic--gossip.
"Dont you think theres something Louis Quinze about
Tushkevitch?" he said, glancing towards a handsome, fair-haired
young man, standing at the table.
"Oh, yes! Hes in the same style as the drawing room and thats
why it is hes so often here."
This conversation was maintained, since it rested on allusions to
what could not be talked of in that room--that is to say, of the
relations of Tushkevitch with their hostess.
Round the samovar and the hostess the conversation had been
meanwhile vacillating in just the same way between three
inevitable topics: the latest piece of public news, the
theater, and scandal. It, too, came finally to rest on the last
topic, that is, ill-natured gossip.
"Have you heard the Maltishtcheva woman--the mother, not the
daughter--has ordered a costume in _diable rose_ color?"
"Nonsense! No, thats too lovely!"
"I wonder that with her sense--for shes not a fool, you know--
that she doesnt see how funny she is."
Everyone had something to say in censure or ridicule of the
luckless Madame Maltishtcheva, and the conversation crackled
merrily, like a burning faggot-stack.
The husband of Princess Betsy, a good-natured fat man, an ardent
collector of engravings, hearing that his wife had visitors, came
into the drawing room before going to his club. Stepping
noiselessly over the thick rugs, he went up to Princess Myakaya.
"How did you like Nilsson?" he asked.
"Oh, how can you steal upon anyone like that! How you startled
me!" she responded. "Please dont talk to me about the opera;
you know nothing about music. Id better meet you on your own
ground, and talk about your majolica and engravings. Come now,
what treasure have you been buying lately at the old curiosity
"Would you like me to show you? But you dont understand such
"Oh, do show me! Ive been learning about them at those--whats
their names?...the bankers...theyve some splendid engravings.
They showed them to us."
"Why, have you been at the Schuetzburgs?" asked the hostess from
"Yes, _ma chere_. They asked my husband and me to dinner, and told
us the sauce at that dinner cost a hundred pounds," Princess
Myakaya said, speaking loudly, and conscious everyone was
listening; "and very nasty sauce it was, some green mess. We had
to ask them, and I made them sauce for eighteen pence, and
everybody was very much pleased with it. I cant run to
"Shes unique!" said the lady of the house.
"Marvelous!" said someone.
The sensation produced by Princess Myakayas speeches was always
unique, and the secret of the sensation she produced lay in the
fact that though she spoke not always appropriately, as now, she
said simple things with some sense in them. In the society in
which she lived such plain statements produced the effect of the
wittiest epigram. Princess Myakaya could never see why it had
that effect, but she knew it had, and took advantage of it.
As everyone had been listening while Princess Myakaya spoke, and
so the conversation around the ambassadors wife had dropped,
Princess Betsy tried to bring the whole party together, and
turned to the ambassadors wife.
"Will you really not have tea? You should come over here by us."
"No, were very happy here," the ambassadors wife responded with
a smile, and she went on with the conversation that had been
"It was a very agreeable conversation. They were criticizing the
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