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War And Peace 121


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ladies toilets and the gold and silver of the mens epaulets; servants in scarlet liveries moved round the table, the clatter of plates, knives, and glasses mingled with the animated hum of several conversations. At one end of the table, the old chamberlain was heard assuring an old baroness that he loved her passionately, at which she laughed; at the other could be heard the story of the misfortunes of some Mary Viktorovna or other. At the center of the table, Prince Vasili attracted everybodys attention. With a facetious smile on his face, he was telling the ladies about last Wednesdays meeting of the Imperial Council, at which Sergey Kuzmich Vyazmitinov, the new military governor general of Petersburg, had received and read the then famous rescript of the Emperor Alexander from the army to Sergey Kuzmich, in which the Emperor said that he was receiving from all sides declarations of the peoples loyalty, that the declaration from Petersburg gave him particular pleasure, and that he was proud to be at the head of such a nation and would endeavor to be worthy of it. This rescript began with the words: "Sergey Kuzmich, From all sides reports reach me," etc. "Well, and so he never got farther than: Sergey Kuzmich?" asked one of the ladies. "Exactly, not a hairs breadth farther," answered Prince Vasili, laughing, "Sergey Kuzmich... From all sides... From all sides... Sergey Kuzmich... Poor Vyazmitinov could not get any farther! He began the rescript again and again, but as soon as he uttered Sergey he sobbed, Kuz-mi-ch, tears, and From all sides was smothered in sobs and he could get no farther. And again his handkerchief, and again: Sergey Kuzmich, From all sides,... and tears, till at last somebody else was asked to read it." "Kuzmich... From all sides... and then tears," someone repeated laughing. "Dont be unkind," cried Anna Pavlovna from her end of the table holding up a threatening finger. "He is such a worthy and excellent man, our dear Vyazmitinov...." Everybody laughed a great deal. At the head of the table, where the honored guests sat, everyone seemed to be in high spirits and under the influence of a variety of exciting sensations. Only Pierre and Helene sat silently side by side almost at the bottom of the table, a suppressed smile brightening both their faces, a smile that had nothing to do with Sergey Kuzmich--a smile of bashfulness at their own feelings. But much as all the rest laughed, talked, and joked, much as they enjoyed their Rhine wine, saute, and ices, and however they avoided looking at the young couple, and heedless and unobservant as they seemed of them, one could feel by the occasional glances they gave that the story about Sergey Kuzmich, the laughter, and the food were all a pretense, and that the whole attention of that company was directed to--Pierre and Helene. Prince Vasili mimicked the sobbing of Sergey Kuzmich and at the same time his eyes glanced toward his daughter, and while he laughed the expression on his face clearly said: "Yes... its getting on, it will all be settled today." Anna Pavlovna threatened him on behalf of "our dear Vyazmitinov," and in her eyes, which, for an instant, glanced at Pierre, Prince Vasili read a congratulation on his future son-in-law and on his daughters happiness. The old princess sighed sadly as she offered some wine to the old lady next to her and glanced angrily at her daughter, and her sigh seemed to say: "Yes, theres nothing left for you and me but to sip sweet wine, my dear, now that the time has come for these young ones to be thus boldly, provocatively happy." "And what nonsense all this is that I am saying!" thought a diplomatist, glancing at the happy faces of the lovers. "Thats happiness!" Into the insignificant, trifling, and artificial interests uniting that society had entered the simple feeling of the attraction of a healthy and handsome young man and woman for one another. And this human feeling dominated everything else and soared above all their affected chatter. Jests fell flat, news was not interesting, and the animation was evidently forced. Not only the guests but even the footmen waiting at table seemed to feel this, and they forgot their duties as they looked at the beautiful Helene with her radiant face and at the red, broad, and happy though uneasy face of Pierre. It seemed as if the very light of the candles was focused on those two happy faces alone. Pierre felt that he was the center of it all, and this

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