WHEN ANNA MIHALOVNA had driven off with her son to Count Kirill Vladimirovitch Bezuhov's, Countess Rostov sat a long while alone, putting her handkerchief to her eyes. At last she rang the bell.
“What does it mean?” she said angrily to the maid, who had kept her waiting a few minutes; “don't you care for my service, eh? I'll find you another place, if so.”
The countess was distressed at the troubles and degrading poverty of her friend, and so out of humour, which always found expression in such remarks to her servants.
“I'm very sorry,” said the maid.
“Ask the count to come to me.”
The count came waddling in to see his wife, looking, as usual, rather guilty.
“Well, little countess! What a sauté of woodcocks and Madeira we're to have, ma chère! I've tried it; I did well to give a thousand roubles for Taras. He's worth it!”
He sat down by his wife, setting his elbow jauntily on his knee, and ruffling up his grey hair. “What are your commands, little countess?”
“It's this, my dear—why, what is this mess on you here?” she said, pointing to his waistcoat. “It's the sauté, most likely,” she added, smiling. “It's this, my dear, I want some money.” Her face became gloomy.
“Ah, little countess! …” And the count fidgeted about, pulling out his pocket-book.
“I want a great deal, count. I want five hundred roubles.” And taking out her cambric handkerchief she wiped her husband's waistcoat.
“This minute, this minute. Hey, who's there?” he shouted, as men only shout who are certain that those they call will run headlong at their summons. “Send Mitenka to me!”
Mitenka, the young man of noble family who had been brought up in the count's house, and now had charge of all his money affairs, walked softly into the room.
“Here, my dear boy,” said the count to the young man, who came up respectfully. “Bring me,” he thought a moment, “yes, seven hundred roubles, yes. And mind, don't bring me such torn and dirty notes as last time; nice ones now, for the countess.”
“Yes, Mitenka, clean ones, please,” said the countess with a depressed sigh.
“Your excellency, when do you desire me to get the money?” said Mitenka. “Your honour ought to know … But don't trouble,” he added, noticing that the count was beginning to breathe rapidly and heavily, which was always the sign of approaching anger. “I was forgetting … This minute do you desire me to bring them?”
“Yes, yes, just so, bring them. Give them to the countess. What a treasure that Mitenka is,” added the count, smiling, when the young man had gone out. “He doesn't know the meaning of impossible. That's a thing I can't bear. Everything's possible.”
“Ah, money, count, money, what a lot of sorrow it causes in the world!” said the countess. “This money I am in great need of.”
“You are a terrible spendthrift, little countess, we all know,” said the count, and kissing his wife's hand he went away again to his own room.
When Anna Mihalovna came back from the Bezuhovs', the money was already on the countess's little table, all in new notes, under her pocket-handkerchief. Anna Mihalovna noticed that the countess was fluttered about something.
“Well, my dear?” queried the countess.
“Ah, he is in a terrible condition! One would not recognise him, he is so ill, so ill; I was there only a minute, and did not say two words.”
“Annette, for God's sake don't refuse me,” the countess said suddenly with a blush, which was strangely incongruous with her elderly, thin, and dignified face, taking the money from under her handkerchief. Anna Mihalovna instantly grasped the situation, and was already bending over to embrace the countess at the appropriate moment.
“This is for Boris, from me, for his equipment …”
Anna Mihalovna was already embracing her and weeping. The countess wept too. They wept because they were friends, and because they were soft-hearted, and that they, who had been friends in youth, should have to think of anything so base as money, and that their youth was over.… But the tears of both were sweet to them.…