A Russian Summer

by James Keogh


Princess Agnia Gabrelyanov called on my mother. I was not there at the time, but I know the meeting did not go well. My mother told my father that the princess was exasperating. She continuously spoke about herself, her family, and worse, she decried everyone else whose paths she had crossed as villainous scoundrels. It would be true to say she did not have a good word for anyone and was absolutely convinced of her own self-importance.

My mother found the princess to be vulgar and uneducated, an observation which did not surprise my father. He recalled the late Prince Gabrelyanov, Princess Agnia's husband. The Prince had been a frivolous and rather stupid person who had successfully gambled away the better part of the family's wealth. The man had lived a life of leisure, much of his time spent in France, where he had done nothing at all, until his financial situation forced him to return home.

In my father's opinion he had married unwisely, to the daughter of a merchant agent, the now Princess Agnia, whom he had no doubt chosen purely to fill his coffers. However, being the dull-wit he was, he had lost no time in speculating with his new found wealth and ending up practically penniless.

The Princess Agnia, my mother confirmed, when she was not making a bad commentary on others, had insisted that she should intervene on her behalf with the Sergayovs. She did not stop in her persistence.

"I only hope she does not ask to borrow money," my mother said.

"That," my father replied, "is not unlikely."

After a short moment, my father picked up the conversation again. "Does she speak French?" He asked.

"Badly," my mother told him.

"And her daughter? I understand she is a very intelligent and educated young lady."

"In which case she cannot take after her mother."

"Nor, indeed, her father," my father remarked.

My mother sighed and said no more. My father returned to his own thoughts. The whole conversation had made me feel uncomfortable.

After dinner I went wandering by our neighbours lodge though I had vowed to myself to stay away. I caught sight of the young Princess Anoushka who was accompanied by Konstantin. Seeing the handsome young hussar set my heart racing, more so when the couple turned in my direction, but at the same time I was struck with an air of panic.

Footsteps approaching from behind made me stop and turn.

"Is this the young princess?" My father asked as he joined me.

"Yes," I nodded.

As they drew nearer my father smiled and gave a little bow. " Nestor Mikhailov," he announced, and I noticed her smile as she regarded him.

My father was always well dressed and cut a fine figure for a man of his age.

"You have already made the acquaintance of my son, I believe," he nodded his head towards me.

"Yes, indeed," she replied, flashing a beautiful smile in my direction.

At this point Konstantin, my young hussar, as I now liked to think of him, stepped forward. "Konstantin Nikolayev, fifth regiment Alexandria Hussars." He greeted my father with a click of his heels and an equally delightful smile which matched that of the young princess.

My father stayed only a short while, making inconsequential polite chat, before excusing himself to return to our house. I, of course, accompanied him, berating myself for having been struck dumb and taking no part in the encounter.

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