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By graf Leo Tolstoy
Prince Andrew had gone out into the hall, and, turning his shoulders to the footman who was helping him on with his cloak, listened indifferently to his wife’s chatter with Prince Hippolyte who had also come into the hall. Prince Hippolyte stood close to the pretty, pregnant princess, and stared fixedly at her through his eyeglass.
“Go in, Annette, or you will catch cold,” said the little princess, taking leave of Anna Pavlovna. “It is settled,” she added in a low voice.
Anna Pavlovna had already managed to speak to Lise about the match she contemplated between Anatole and the little princess’ sister—in—law.
“I rely on you, my dear,” said Anna Pavlovna, also in a low tone. “Write to her and let me know how her father looks at the matter. Au revoir!”–and she left the hall.
Prince Hippolyte approached the little princess and, bending his face close to her, began to whisper something.
Two footmen, the princess’ and his own, stood holding a shawl and a cloak, waiting for the conversation to finish. They listened to the French sentences which to them were meaningless, with an air of understanding but not wishing to appear to do so. The princess as usual spoke smilingly and listened with a laugh.
“I am very glad I did not go to the ambassador’s,” said Prince Hippolyte “—so dull—. It has been a delightful evening, has it not? Delightful!”
“They say the ball will be very good,” replied the princess, drawing up her downy little lip. “All the pretty women in society will be there.”
“Not all, for you will not be there; not all,” said Prince Hippolyte smiling joyfully; and snatching the shawl from the footman, whom he even pushed aside, he began wrapping it round the princess. Either from awkwardness or intentionally (no one could have said which) after the shawl had been adjusted he kept his arm around her for a long time, as though embracing her.
Still smiling, she gracefully moved away, turning and glancing at her husband. Prince Andrew’s eyes were closed, so weary and sleepy did he seem.
“Are you ready?” he asked his wife, looking past her.
Prince Hippolyte hurriedly put on his cloak, which in the latest fashion reached to his very heels, and, stumbling in it, ran out into the porch following the princess, whom a footman was helping into the carriage.
“Princesse, au revoir,” cried he, stumbling with his tongue as well as with his feet.
The princess, picking up her dress, was taking her seat in the dark carriage, her husband was adjusting his saber; Prince Hippolyte, under pretense of helping, was in everyone’s way.
“Allow me, sir,” said Prince Andrew in Russian in a cold, disagreeable tone to Prince Hippolyte who was blocking his path.
“I am expecting you, Pierre,” said the same voice, but gently and affectionately.
The postilion started, the carriage wheels rattled. Prince Hippolyte laughed spasmodically as he stood in the porch waiting for the vicomte whom he had promised to take home.
“Well, mon cher,” said the vicomte, having seated himself beside Hippolyte in the carriage, “your little princess is very nice, very nice indeed, quite French,” and he kissed the tips of his fingers. Hippolyte burst out laughing.
“Do you know, you are a terrible chap for all your innocent airs,” continued the vicomte. “I pity the poor husband, that little officer who gives himself the airs of a monarch.”
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