“I don’t know. My impressions have got to settle and be skimmed and drained off before I know.”
“Well, we’ll go to their reception anyway,” said Bee, comfortably, with the air of one who had no problems to wrestle with.
“What are you going to wear?”
To be sure! That was the main question after all. What were we going to wear?
AT ONE OF THE TOLSTOY RECEPTIONS
When we arrived the next evening, it was to find a curious situation. The Countess Tolstoy and her daughter and young son, in European costume,—the countess in velvet and lace, and the little countess in a pretty taffeta silk,—were receiving their guests in the main salon, and later served them to a magnificent supper with champagne. The count, we were told, was elsewhere receiving his guests, who would not join us. Later he came in, still in his peasant’s costume, and refused all refreshment. He was exceedingly civil to all his guests, but signalled out the Americans in a manner truly flattering.
It was a charming evening, and we met agreeable people, but, although they stayed late, we remained, at Tolstoy’s request, still later, and when the last guest had departed, we sat down, drawing our chairs quite close together after the manner of a cheerful family party.
After inquiring how we had spent our day, and giving us some valuable hints about different points of interest for the morrow, Tolstoy plunged at once into the conversation which had been broken off the day before. It was evident that he had been thinking about our country, and was eager for more information.
“I became very well acquainted with your ambassador, Mr. White, while he was in this country,” he began. “I found him a man of wide experience, of great culture, and of much originality in thought. I learned a great deal about America from him. It must be wonderful to live in a country where there is no Orthodox Church, where one can worship as one pleases, and where every one’s vote is counted.”
Jimmie coughed politely, and looked at me.
“It encourages individuality,” he added. “Do you not find your own countrymen more individual than those of any other nation?” he added, addressing Jimmie directly for the first time.
“I think I do,” said Jimmie, carefully weighing out his words as if on invisible scales. Jimmie is largely imbued with that absurd fear of a man who has written books, which is to me so inexplicable.
“Your country appeals to Russians, strongly,” pursued the count, evidently bent upon drawing Jimmie out.
“I have often wondered why,” said Jimmie. “It couldn’t have been the wheat?”
“No, not entirely the wheat, although the news of your generosity spread like wildfire through all classes of society, and served to open the hearts of the peasants toward America as they are opened toward no other country in the world. The word ‘Amerikanski’ is an open sesame all through Russia. Have you noticed it?”