Danielle Steel: Zoya

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Zoya: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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“Oh, my God …” Natalya wailed. “And you've been exposed as well. Zoya, I had forbidden you to go and now you've exposed yourself … how could you do this to me? How dare you!” She was nearly hysterical at the thought of the illness Zoya might unwittingly have brought into the house, and Konstantin arrived on the scene in time to see his wife swoon, and he sent her maid rapidly upstairs for her vinaigrette. He had commissioned a special case for it by Fabergo, in the shape of a large red enamel, diamond encrusted strawberry, which she kept ever near her, by her bedside.

Dr. Fedorov was kind enough to stay long enough to see Natalya upstairs while Zoya dashed off a quick note to her friend. She wished her a speedy recovery so they could be together again, and signed it from herself and Sava, who had generously watered the famous Aubusson rug only the night before, but her grandmother had kept the puppy there anyway, while still threatening to turn her into soup if her manners did not improve very quickly.

“… I love you dearly, sweetest friend. Now hurry up and get well, so I can come and see you.” She sent her two books, one of them Helen's Babies, which she herself had read and loved only weeks before and had planned to give her anyway. And she added a quick postscript, warning Mashka not to use this as an excuse to cheat at tennis again, as they had both done the summer before, while playing at Livadia with two of Marie's sisters. It was their favorite game, and Marie was better than the rest of them, although Zoya always threatened to beat her.”… I will come out to see you as soon as your Mama and the doctor will let me. With all my heart, your loving Zoya….”

That afternoon, Zoya saw her brother again, which at least distracted her, and while waiting for their father to return home, he took her out for a spin in their mother's troika. She had not emerged from her room all day, so upset was she by the news that Marie had contracted measles and Zoya had been inadvertently exposed. Zoya knew she might not come out for days, and she was grateful for the distraction provided by her brother.

“Why have you come to see Papa again? Is something wrong, Nicolai?”

“Don't be silly. Why would you think something's wrong? What a twit you are.” But a smart one. He marveled at how she instinctively knew that he had returned to see Konstantin because he was worried. The previous day when the Duma convened, Alexander Kerensky had made a dreadful speech which included an incitement to assassinate the Tsar, and Nicolai was beginning to fear that some of what Ambassador Paléologue had said was true. Perhaps things were worse than they all knew and the people were more unnerved by the shortages than they all suspected. Sir George Buchanan, the British ambassador, had said as much too before leaving for Finland for a ten-day holiday. Nicolai was hearing a great deal these days and it worried him, and once again he was anxious to hear his father's opinion.

“You never come to visit unless something's wrong, Nicolai,” Zoya pressed him as they sped along the beautiful Nevsky Prospekt. There was fresh snow on the ground and it had never looked prettier than it did then, but Nicolai still staunchly insisted that nothing was amiss, and although she felt an odd twinge of fear, she decided to believe him.

“That's a charming thing to say, Zoya. And besides, it's not true. More to the point, is it true that you've driven Mama to distraction again? I hear she's taken to her bed thanks to you, and has had to be visited twice by her doctor.”

Zoya shrugged, with an impish grin. “That's just because Dr. Fedorov told her that Mashka has the measles.”

“And you're next?” Nicolai smiled at her and she laughed at him.

“Don't be stupid. I never get sick.”

“Don't be so sure. You're not going back there again, are you?” For an instant he looked worried, but she shook her head with a look of childlike disappointment.

“They won't let me. No one can visit now. And poor Anastasia has a terrible earache.”

“They'll all be fine soon and you can go back again.”

Zoya nodded and then grinned. “By the way, Nicolai, how's your dancer?”

He gave a sudden start and then pulled a lock of her hair peeking from beneath her far hat. “What makes you think I have a ‘dancer’?”

“Everyone knows that, stupid … just like they did about Uncle Nicholas before he married Aunt Alix.” She could speak openly with him, after all he was only her brother, but he looked shocked anyway. Outspoken though she was, he expected at least a little decorum.

“Zoya! How dare you speak of such things!”

“I can say anything I want to you. What's yours like? Is she pretty?”

“She is not anything! She doesn't exist. Is this what they teach you at the Smolny?”

“They don't teach me anything,” she said blithely, discounting a very solid education she had gotten there in spite of herself, just as he had years before at the Imperial Corps des Pages, the military school for the sons of noblemen and high-ranking officers. “Besides, I'm almost finished”

“I imagine they'll be awfully grateful to see the last of you, my dear.” She shrugged and they both laughed, and he thought for an instant that he had fobbed her off, but she was more persistent than that as she turned to him with a wicked smile.

“You still haven't told me about your friend, Nicolai.”

“You're a terrible girl, Zoya Konstantinovna.”

She giggled and he drove her slowly home, returning to their palace on Fontanka, and by then their father was home, and the two men closeted themselves in Konstantin's library, which overlooked the garden. It was filled with beautiful leather-bound books, and objects her father had collected over the years, particularly the malachite pieces he was so fond of. There was also a collection of elaborate Fabergo Easter eggs that Natalya had given him each year, similar to the ones the Tsar and Tsarina exchanged on memorable occasions. As Konstantin stood at the window, listening to his son, he saw Zoya bounding across the snow, on her way to visit her grandmother and Sava.

“Well, Father, what do you think?” When Konstantin turned to face him again, he saw that Nicolai was genuinely worried.

“I really don't think any of it means anything. And even if there's a bit of trouble in the streets, General Khabalov can handle anything, Nicolai. There's nothing to worry about.” He smiled comfortingly, pleased that his son was so concerned about the well-being of both the city and the country. “All is well. But it never hurts to be alert. It is the mark of a good soldier.” And he was, just as he had been when he was younger, and his father before him. If he could, Konstantin would have been at the front himself, but he was far too old, no matter how much he loved his cousin the Tsar and his country.

“Father, doesn't Kerensky's speech to the Duma worry you? My God, what he's suggesting is treason!”

“And so it is, but no one can possibly take this seriously, Nicolai. No one is going to assassinate the Tsar. They wouldn't dare. Besides, Nicky is wise enough to keep himself well protected. I think he's in far more danger at home just now, with a houseful of measles-ridden children and servants”—he smiled gently at his son—” than he is at the hands of his people. But in any case, I will call on Ambassador Buchanan when he returns and speak to him myself if he's so concerned. I would be interested to hear his point of view on the matter, and Paléologue's as well. When Buchanan returns from his holiday, I'll arrange a luncheon with them, and of course you're more than welcome to join us.” Most of all he wanted to assist his son's career. Nicolai was a bright boy, with a brilliant future ahead of him.

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