4. CHAPTER IV.
"My own though, prince, my own, mind," he said, "and there'll be
some supper later on; my daughter is getting it ready now. Come
and sit down, prince, we are all waiting for you, we want you
with us. Fancy what we have been discussing! You know the
question, 'to be or not to be,'--out of Hamlet! A contemporary
theme! Quite up-to-date! Mr. Hippolyte has been eloquent to a
degree. He won't go to bed, but he has only drunk a little
champagne, and that can't do him any harm. Come along, prince,
and settle the question. Everyone is waiting for you, sighing for
the light of your luminous intelligence..."
The prince noticed the sweet, welcoming look on Vera Lebedeff's
face, as she made her way towards him through the crowd. He held
out his hand to her. She took it, blushing with delight, and
wished him "a happy life from that day forward." Then she ran off
to the kitchen, where. her presence was necessary to help in the
preparations for supper. Before the prince's arrival she had
spent some time on the terrace, listening eagerly to the
conversation, though the visitors, mostly under the influence of
wine, were discussing abstract subjects far beyond her
comprehension. In the next room her younger sister lay on a
wooden chest, sound asleep, with her mouth wide open; but the
boy, Lebedeff's son, had taken up his position close beside Colia
and Hippolyte, his face lit up with interest in the conversation
of his father and the rest, to which he would willingly have
listened for ten hours at a stretch.
"I have waited for you on purpose, and am very glad to see you
arrive so happy," said Hippolyte, when the prince came forward to
press his hand, immediately after greeting Vera.
"And how do you know that I am 'so happy'?
"I can see it by your face! Say 'how do you do' to the others,
and come and sit down here, quick--I've been waiting for you!" he
added, accentuating the fact that he had waited. On the prince's
asking, "Will it not be injurious to you to sit out so late?" he
replied that he could not believe that he had thought himself
dying three days or so ago, for he never had felt better than