A Russian Summer

by James Keogh


The whole evening and the following day I did nothing, lost in a sort of despondent apathy. I tried to study, because I thought I should at least try to apply myself to my studies, but I lacked the concentration. I would start reading a page and my mind would wander, my thoughts quite simply escaped my control.

Putting aside my books, I put on a nice jacket and necktie, I wished to present well for dinner, father had invited the Gabrelyanovs and Konstantin Nikolayev. When my mother saw me she asked, "Why are you dressed so finely?"

She was not very agreeable with me, and passed comment on wasting my time. "Why do you not apply yourself to your studies? God knows if you will ever get through the entrance examination." She scolded me, adding, "there is no need to go to too much trouble for our neighbours. Princess," she tutted, and walked off.

As a concession, and to appease my mother, I took off the jacket, but kept the necktie. The princesses appeared accompanied by Konstantin, some ten minutes later than the appointed hour. My father smiled amicably as he greeted them, my mother, on the other hand, was rather put out by their lateness. She remarked about it to my father after they had left. The two ladies were quite different in their comportment. The Princess Agnia had on the same dress she had been wearing when we first met. She had added a yellow shawl, and colourful bonnet, but did not by appearance have the air of a princess. Anoushka was quite different, she had on a fine delicate blue dress and she carried herself with an upright demeanour fitting of her rank. The hussar, Konstantin, presented himself in his elegantly braided black uniform, resplendent with sabre at his side. My eyes were immediately fixed on him, but I had to try to look elsewhere, as I felt my cheeks burning.

My father sat next to Princess Anoushka during dinner. He entertained her in his usual amiable manner and appeared quite delighted by her company. They carried on their conversation in French, which I admit, rather surprised me. What also surprised me was the regard the young princess gave my father, one of slight hostility. As for my mother she seemed bored by the whole affair and her dislike of Princess Agnia was confirmed. She confided the next day she thought the young princess Anoushka to be a conceited minx. Not even the attempts by Konstantin to lighten the conversation with my mother, had any effect. "He's much too young to be a hussar," she insisted when the topic of his presence at our table was briefly mentioned between my parents. "Obviously, they are attempting to entangle this young man and empty his family's pockets."

Princess Agnia made a point out of how they found themselves abandoned in difficult times. She had a way of talking, or perhaps it was simply the length at which she talked, however it was, I quickly lost interest. Although, terribly boring for my mother, I was not concerned, my concentration was elsewhere. However, throughout the dinner, I received nothing more than a curt glance from Konstantin. This left me feeling utterly dejected, so I was astonished when they were leaving and the Princess Anoushka whispered to me: "Come and see us at eight. You will be sure to come, won't you?"

I had no time to reply, polite farewells had been made, and they were leaving. Coats were being taken and I stood, unmoving, watching them walk away.

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