“How did you like Nilsson?” he asked.
“Oh, how can you steal upon anyone like that! How you startled me!” she responded. “Please don’t talk to me about the opera; you know nothing about music. I’d better meet you on your own ground, and talk about your majolica and engravings. Come now, what treasure have you been buying lately at the old curiosity shops?”
“Would you like me to show you? But you don’t understand such things.”
“Oh, do show me! I’ve been learning about them at those—what’s their names?...the bankers...they’ve some splendid engravings. They showed them to us.”
“Why, have you been at the Schuetzburgs?” asked the hostess from the samovar.
“Yes, ma chere. They asked my husband and me to dinner, and told us the sauce at that dinner cost a hundred pounds,” Princess Myakaya said, speaking loudly, and conscious everyone was listening; “and very nasty sauce it was, some green mess. We had to ask them, and I made them sauce for eighteen pence, and everybody was very much pleased with it. I can’t run to hundred-pound sauces.”
“She’s unique!” said the lady of the house.
“Marvelous!” said someone.
The sensation produced by Princess Myakaya’s speeches was always unique, and the secret of the sensation she produced lay in the fact that though she spoke not always appropriately, as now, she said simple things with some sense in them. In the society in which she lived such plain statements produced the effect of the wittiest epigram. Princess Myakaya could never see why it had that effect, but she knew it had, and took advantage of it.
As everyone had been listening while Princess Myakaya spoke, and so the conversation around the ambassador’s wife had dropped, Princess Betsy tried to bring the whole party together, and turned to the ambassador’s wife.
“Will you really not have tea? You should come over here by us.”
“No, we’re very happy here,” the ambassador’s wife responded with a smile, and she went on with the conversation that had been begun.
“It was a very agreeable conversation. They were criticizing the Karenins, husband and wife.
“Anna is quite changed since her stay in Moscow. There’s something strange about her,” said her friend.
“The great change is that she brought back with her the shadow of Alexey Vronsky,” said the ambassador’s wife.
“Well, what of it? There’s a fable of Grimm’s about a man without a shadow, a man who’s lost his shadow. And that’s his punishment for something. I never could understand how it was a punishment. But a woman must dislike being without a shadow.”
“Yes, but women with a shadow usually come to a bad end,” said Anna’s friend.
“Bad luck to your tongue!” said Princess Myakaya suddenly. “Madame Karenina’s a splendid woman. I don’t like her husband, but I like her very much.”