Prince Andrew kept looking with an amused smile from Pierre to the vicomte and from the vicomte to their hostess. In the first moment of Pierre's outburst Anna Pavlovna, despite her social experience, was horror-struck. But when she saw that Pierre's sacrilegious words had not exasperated the vicomte, and had convinced herself that it was impossible to stop him, she rallied her forces and joined the vicomte in a vigorous attack on the orator.
"But, my dear Monsieur Pierre," said she,"how do you explain the fact of a great man executing a duc — or even an ordinary man who — is innocent and untried?"
"I should like," said the vicomte,"to ask how monsieur explains the 18th Brumaire; was not that an imposture? It was a swindle, and not at all like the conduct of a great man!"
"And the prisoners he killed in Africa? That was horrible!" said the little princess, shrugging her shoulders.
"He's a low fellow, say what you will," remarked Prince Hippolyte.
Pierre, not knowing whom to answer, looked at them all and smiled. His smile was unlike the half-smile of other people. When he smiled, his grave, even rather gloomy, look was instantaneously replaced by another — a childlike, kindly, even rather silly look, which seemed to ask forgiveness.
The vicomte who was meeting him for the first time saw clearly that this young Jacobin was not so terrible as his words suggested. All were silent.
"How do you expect him to answer you all at once?" said Prince Andrew."Besides, in the actions of a statesman one has to distinguish between his acts as a private person, as a general, and as an emperor. So it seems to me."
"Yes, yes, of course!" Pierre chimed in, pleased at the arrival of this reinforcement.
"One must admit," continued Prince Andrew,"that Napoleon as a man was great on the bridge of Arcola, and in the hospital at Jaffa where he gave his hand to the plague-stricken; but . . . but there are other acts which it is difficult to justify."
Prince Andrew, who had evidently wished to tone down the awkwardness of Pierre's remarks, rose and made a sign to his wife that it was time to go.
Suddenly Prince Hippolyte started up making signs to everyone to attend, and asking them all to be seated began:
"I was told a charming Moscow story today and must treat you to it. Excuse me, Vicomte — I must tell it in Russian or the point will be lost . . . ." And Prince Hippolyte began to tell his story in such Russian as a Frenchman would speak after spending about a year in Russia. Everyone waited, so emphatically and eagerly did he demand their attention to his story.
"There is in Moscow a lady, une dame, and she is very stingy. She must have two footmen behind her carriage, and very big ones. That was her taste. And she had a lady's maid, also big. She said . . ."
Here Prince Hippolyte paused, evidently collecting his ideas with difficulty.
"She said . . . Oh yes! She said, 'Girl,' to the maid, 'put on a livery, get up behind the carriage, and come with me while I make some calls.'"
Here Prince Hippolyte spluttered and burst out laughing long before his audience, which produced an effect unfavorable to the narrator. Several persons, among them the elderly lady and Anna Pavlovna, did however smile.
"She went. Suddenly there was a great wind. The girl lost her hat and her long hair came down . . . ." Here he could contain himself no longer and went on, between gasps of laughter:"And the whole world knew . . . ."
And so the anecdote ended. Though it was unintelligible why he had told it, or why it had to be told in Russian, still Anna Pavlovna and the others appreciated Prince Hippolyte's social tact in so agreeably ending Pierre's unpleasant and unamiable outburst. After the anecdote the conversation broke up into insignificant small talk about the last and next balls, about theatricals, and who would meet whom, and when and where.