At Home. 1812, September 7th
"Don't cry, my dear." -- the father was saying. -- "Do not!" "Oh please forgive... I did wrong... And I'll never do it again..." -- Vera sobbed.
She justified herself timidly, childishly, because father's caresses reminded her old times. The old times, when the mother scolded Vera, and the father, having put her on his knees, calmed his little girl.
"What happened? What are you talking about, my friend?" -- he probably misheard her. So calmly -- as a spring in a forest -- his voice sounded, so fondly -- as a rising sun -- he patted her on the head, that Vera understood he was not cross with her,
and asked a bit more confidently: "You aren't angry, are you?" "How can I be angry? I'm proud of you, Vera!"
She looked in wide-eyed astonishment, and the father added: "Modest is sitting around the house, and you're a hero, a holder of St. George."
Vera frowned. The fifth grade is nothing to be proud of. And the realization that she could be excused only because of her seeming success was painful.
"And I feel sorry for you, my dear!" She felt like a great weight was lifted off her -- these words made her placid and serene. It seemed that never was there a fear of anger and Vera was sure her father would calm her as always.
He still was touching her entangled hair, and Vera recollected that before -- when she was six years old -- in evenings her father came to her room and, talking with her about a passing day, made her a braid.
Now Vera also was getting sleepy. She rested her head on her father's shoulder, closed her eyes, -- and the father's whisper "Verochka... My dear, my friend" was lulling Vera.
Vera woke up because father's valet entered and said: "The lady is waiting you for a tea and deigned to be upset that you still didn't come"
"Tell her to order one more cover," -- the father answered and added, looking to Vera: -- "You aren't leaving now?"
She smiled and shook her head. A minute ago, when she just opened her eyes, everything seemed to be only a dream, pleasant and ephemeral.
They walked through the suit of rooms. Although the father gave her his hand, Vera only took his palm. As much as she would like to lean on it -- her leg still hearted, and Vera limped, -- she did not want to cause any troubles.
In a dining room the family has already started a high tea. Eugenia jumped up, saying "I didn't recognize you", kissed her on both cheeks; Modest pulled an empty chair quicker than servants; only mother did nothing.
She was stirring her tea, without noticing Vera.
"Are you going with us to the uncle?" -- "Why are you so pale?" -- "How long are you staying?" -- brother and sister kept asking Vera, and she hardly managed to answer.
The father sometimes complained that Vera's favourite pies were not cooked or offered to send out for another jam.
Finally, the mother talked to Vera: "And how do they call you there?"
"Why do I have to remember what was there?" -- thought Vera and sighed: "Alexandr."
The mother did not say anything during all high tea, and the conversation switched on urgent topics: how not to forget something necessary and when would they hit the road...
When the tea was finished, the ladies stood and were ready to go to the drawing room. Eugenia curtsied, and Vera, having paused a bit, bowed: nothing could look more stupidly than a curtsey made by a person in a uniform.
"Are you going with us, Alexandr?" -- the mother pretended to be surprised. "Yes, I'd like..."
The mother interrupted: "Then at least gave an arm to your sister! You ought to behave appropriately to your position in society!"
"I suppose I'll have lots of difficulties with society," -- Vera decided. -- "My previous position was much better."
To be continued…