BOOK SIX: 1808 - 10
20. CHAPTER XX
"But please don't interrupt me when I am entertaining the guests,"
said Vera, "because I know what interests each of them and what to say
to different people."
Berg smiled again.
"It can't be helped: men must sometimes have masculine
conversation," said he.
They received Pierre in their small, new drawing-room, where it
was impossible to sit down anywhere without disturbing its symmetry,
neatness, and order; so it was quite comprehensible and not strange
that Berg, having generously offered to disturb the symmetry of an
armchair or of the sofa for his dear guest, but being apparently
painfully undecided on the matter himself, eventually left the visitor
to settle the question of selection. Pierre disturbed the symmetry
by moving a chair for himself, and Berg and Vera immediately began
their evening party, interrupting each other in their efforts to
entertain their guest.
Vera, having decided in her own mind that Pierre ought to be
entertained with conversation about the French embassy, at once
began accordingly. Berg, having decided that masculine conversation
was required, interrupted his wife's remarks and touched on the
question of the war with Austria, and unconsciously jumped from the
general subject to personal considerations as to the proposals made
him to take part in the Austrian campaign and the reasons why he had
declined them. Though the conversation was very incoherent and Vera
was angry at the intrusion of the masculine element, both husband
and wife felt with satisfaction that, even if only one guest was
present, their evening had begun very well and was as like as two peas
to every other evening party with its talk, tea, and lighted candles.
Before long Boris, Berg's old comrade, arrived. There was a shade of
condescension and patronage in his treatment of Berg and Vera. After
Boris came a lady with the colonel, then the general himself, then the
Rostovs, and the party became unquestionably exactly like all other
evening parties. Berg and Vera could not repress their smiles of
satisfaction at the sight of all this movement in their drawing
room, at the sound of the disconnected talk, the rustling of
dresses, and the bowing and scraping. Everything was just as everybody
always has it, especially so the general, who admired the apartment,
patted Berg on the shoulder, and with parental authority superintended
the setting out of the table for boston. The general sat down by Count
Ilya Rostov, who was next to himself the most important guest. The old
people sat with the old, the young with the young, and the hostess
at the tea table, on which stood exactly the same kind of cakes in a
silver cake basket as the Panins had at their party. Everything was
just as it was everywhere else.