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War And Peace 560


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singsong voice alternating between a despairing wail and a tender murmur, so that the wail fell quite at random on one word and the murmur on another. This reading, as was always the case at Anna Pavlovnas soirees, had a political significance. That evening she expected several important personages who had to be made ashamed of their visits to the French theater and aroused to a patriotic temper. A good many people had already arrived, but Anna Pavlovna, not yet seeing all those whom she wanted in her drawing room, did not let the reading begin but wound up the springs of a general conversation. The news of the day in Petersburg was the illness of Countess Bezukhova. She had fallen ill unexpectedly a few days previously, had missed several gatherings of which she was usually ornament, and was said to be receiving no one, and instead of the celebrated Petersburg doctors who usually attended her had entrusted herself to some Italian doctor who was treating her in some new and unusual way. They all knew very well that the enchanting countess illness arose from an inconvenience resulting from marrying two husbands at the same time, and that the Italians cure consisted in removing such inconvenience; but in Anna Pavlovnas presence no one dared to think of this or even appear to know it. "They say the poor countess is very ill. The doctor says it is angina pectoris." "Angina? Oh, thats a terrible illness!" "They say that the rivals are reconciled, thanks to the angina..." and the word angina was repeated with great satisfaction. "The count is pathetic, they say. He cried like a child when the doctor told him the case was dangerous." "Oh, it would be a terrible loss, she is an enchanting woman." "You are speaking of the poor countess?" said Anna Pavlovna, coming up just then. "I sent to ask for news, and hear that she is a little better. Oh, she is certainly the most charming woman in the world," she went on, with a smile at her own enthusiasm. "We belong to different camps, but that does not prevent my esteeming her as she deserves. She is very unfortunate!" added Anna Pavlovna. Supposing that by these words Anna Pavlovna was somewhat lifting the veil from the secret of the countess malady, an unwary young man ventured to express surprise that well known doctors had not been called in and that the countess was being attended by a charlatan who might employ dangerous remedies. "Your information maybe better than mine," Anna Pavlovna suddenly and venomously retorted on the inexperienced young man, "but I know on good authority that this doctor is a very learned and able man. He is private physician to the Queen of Spain." And having thus demolished the young man, Anna Pavlovna turned to another group where Bilibin was talking about the Austrians: having wrinkled up his face he was evidently preparing to smooth it out again and utter one of his mots. "I think it is delightful," he said, referring to a diplomatic note that had been sent to Vienna with some Austrian banners captured from the French by Wittgenstein, "the hero of Petropol" as he was then called in Petersburg. "What? Whats that?" asked Anna Pavlovna, securing silence for the mot, which she had heard before. And Bilibin repeated the actual words of the diplomatic dispatch, which he had himself composed. "The Emperor returns these Austrian banners," said Bilibin, "friendly banners gone astray and found on a wrong path," and his brow became smooth again. "Charming, charming!" observed Prince Vasili. "The path to Warsaw, perhaps," Prince Hippolyte remarked loudly and unexpectedly. Everybody looked at him, understanding what he meant. Prince Hippolyte himself glanced around with amused surprise. He knew no more than the others what his words meant. During his diplomatic career he had more than once noticed that such utterances were received as very witty, and at every opportunity he uttered in that way the first words that entered his head. "It may turn out very well," he thought, "but if not, theyll know how to arrange matters." And really, during the awkward silence that ensued, that insufficiently patriotic person entered whom Anna Pavlovna had been waiting for and wished to convert, and she, smiling and shaking a finger at Hippolyte, invited Prince Vasili to the table and bringing him two candles and the manuscript begged him to begin. Everyone became silent. "Most Gracious Sovereign and Emperor!" Prince Vasili sternly declaimed, looking round at his audience as if to inquire whether anyone had anything to say to the contrary. But no one said anything. "Moscow,

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