Something is happening. Papa and Mama seem tense, on edge. They think we don’t notice it, but we do. They hush each other when we walk into the room. They say things in front of us that don’t make sense in themselves, but obviously refer to some private conversation they were having before.
And Papa’s ministers have been coming to talk to him. Not just the ministers, but the generals. Count Witte is one of his chief advisors. He is a very old man, and extremely wise. He has known Papa since he was a child, and still calls Mama and Papa mes enfants. I overheard him talking in the hallway before he could go in to see Papa. He spoke with Count Benckendorff, another of Papa’s aides de camp.
“I think the tsar is inclined to favor peace.”
“But we are bound by treaty to guard Belgium’s neutrality,” Count Benckendorff answered.
There was a pause, then Count Witte said, “You know that Nikki cannot risk another debacle like the Japanese war.”
“True. Perhaps, nonetheless, he will see this as a way to set the record aright.”
War! With whom? I didn’t have anyone to ask. If it was such a big secret, I could hardly talk to Nastinka, or Isa, or Anya about it.
Before we went to bed, my sisters and I had a secret conference. I told them what I heard. Olga smoked a cigarette while she thought about it. She’s the only one who might be able to find anything out from Papa.
“I think it’s all just alarmist nonsense,” Tatiana said, but something told me that she knew more than she was saying.
Mashka looked pale. I’m sure she was thinking of her guard, the one she has such a crush on. If there is a war, the young men will go off to fight, and have a chance to be wounded or killed. Mashka has such a tender heart. She has already let her imagination lead her to the most dire possible consequences.
I’ll tell her a funny story before we go to sleep. That will take her mind off things.