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War And Peace 33


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War And Peace



y est...* A German knows how to skin a flint, as the proverb says," remarked Shinshin, moving his pipe to the other side of his mouth and winking at the count. *So that squares matters. The count burst out laughing. The other guests seeing that Shinshin was talking came up to listen. Berg, oblivious of irony or indifference, continued to explain how by exchanging into the Guards he had already gained a step on his old comrades of the Cadet Corps; how in wartime the company commander might get killed and he, as senior in the company, might easily succeed to the post; how popular he was with everyone in the regiment, and how satisfied his father was with him. Berg evidently enjoyed narrating all this, and did not seem to suspect that others, too, might have their own interests. But all he said was so prettily sedate, and the naivete of his youthful egotism was so obvious, that he disarmed his hearers. "Well, my boy, youll get along wherever you go--foot or horse--that Ill warrant," said Shinshin, patting him on the shoulder and taking his feet off the sofa. Berg smiled joyously. The count, by his guests, went into the drawing room. It was just the moment before a big dinner when the assembled guests, expecting the summons to zakuska,* avoid engaging in any long conversation but think it necessary to move about and talk, in order to show that they are not at all impatient for their food. The host and hostess look toward the door, and now and then glance at one another, and the visitors try to guess from these glances who, or what, they are waiting for--some important relation who has not yet arrived, or a dish that is not yet ready. *Hors doeuvres. Pierre had come just at dinnertime and was sitting awkwardly in the middle of the drawing room on the first chair he had come across, blocking the way for everyone. The countess tried to make him talk, but he went on naively looking around through his spectacles as if in search of somebody and answered all her questions in monosyllables. He was in the way and was the only one who did not notice the fact. Most of the guests, knowing of the affair with the bear, looked with curiosity at this big, stout, quiet man, wondering how such a clumsy, modest fellow could have played such a prank on a policeman. "You have only lately arrived?" the countess asked him. "Oui, madame," replied he, looking around him. "You have not yet seen my husband?" "Non, madame." He smiled quite inappropriately. "You have been in Paris recently, I believe? I suppose its very interesting." "Very interesting." The countess exchanged glances with Anna Mikhaylovna. The latter understood that she was being asked to entertain this young man, and sitting down beside him she began to speak about his father; but he answered her, as he had the countess, only in monosyllables. The other guests were all conversing with one another. "The Razumovskis... It was charming... You are very kind... Countess Apraksina..." was heard on all sides. The countess rose and went into the ballroom. "Marya Dmitrievna?" came her voice from there. "Herself," came the answer in a rough voice, and Marya Dmitrievna entered the room. All the unmarried ladies and even the married ones except the very oldest rose. Marya Dmitrievna paused at the door. Tall and stout, holding high her fifty-year-old head with its gray curls, she stood surveying the guests, and leisurely arranged her wide sleeves as if rolling them up. Marya Dmitrievna always spoke in Russian. "Health and happiness to her whose name day we are keeping and to her children," she said, in her loud, full-toned voice which drowned all others. "Well, you old sinner," she went on, turning to the count who was kissing her hand, "youre feeling dull in Moscow, I daresay? Nowhere to hunt with your dogs? But what is to be done, old man? Just see how these nestlings are growing up," and she pointed to the girls. "You must look for husbands for them whether you like it or not...." "Well," said she, "hows my Cossack?" (Marya Dmitrievna always called Natasha a Cossack) and she stroked the childs arm as she came up fearless and gay to kiss her hand. "I know shes a scamp of a girl, but I like her." She took a pair of pear-shaped ruby earrings from her huge reticule and, having given them to the rosy Natasha, who beamed with the pleasure of her saints-day fete, turned away at once and addressed herself to

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