Moscow, September 1851
'Grandmother, what is wrong?'
'Dear child, what can you mean … I am fine … just tired'
'No it is more than that, ever since the Austrian delegation visited Moscow you have been withdrawn'
At this she turned to face me.
'For one evening I spoke my first language with that charming Antonio Pestalozza . Ah to speak not just Italian but dialetto
. For an evening I was 19 again and had not even met Paul
. Can you understand, it is almost too late for me to go home and I cannot face the alternative'.
'Grandmother, you are 70 … you cannot travel to Northern Italy at …'
'My age? … my dear I am still healthier than many women 30 years younger than me. If I want to go to see my first home, I will'.
She turned and walked to the table where she started to fiddle with her mirror. If there was something that annoyed me about my grandmother, it was this damn mirror.
In an attempt to force her to pay attention I grabbed at the mirror. In our accidental tussle it fell to the floor.
'Katja, enough … I make no demands on you, but leave me now'.
However, I was now not prepared to leave, the mirror seemed not just to reflect the room but to create its own light.
'Grandmother, just what is that … that thing?'
'Oh you do not want to know, believe me'
Here she paused as if reflecting on her words. It seemed that she was about to say more when we both heard a sound at the door.
Moving at a speed that surprised, she pulled open the door and Olga crashed to the ground.
Gabriella spoke quietly.
'Ah you … yes I feared you would want to know'
But the spell was broken, whatever might have been said was lost.
Angry at my sister I turned on her
'Why must you always spy on me, you want my clothes, and you are jealous that Grandmother wants to talk to me'
Olga slowly stood. Already almost as tall as me, she too was angry.
'Grandmother, oh yes, you might be her favourite but there is much she will not tell you'.
With this Olga left.
Even as I prepared myself to speak to Grandmother, she interrupted.
'Katja .. what of Boris? Have you had any news?'
Wishing to end the conversation on good terms I responded rather than ask my own questions.
'Oh he is the nearly man of the Russian army. He almost took part in the Daghestan campaign, he was almost sent to support the campaign east of the Caspian … oh and he almost met the Shah of Persia. Apparently, he was due to attend one of the many state banquets but was called away on military matters – according to his letter they almost caught a British spy.
So there you, I am engaged to a man who never quite is in the right place at the right time.'
As I left, I turned my head and added
'Now it seems as if you too want to abandon me'.
 The Austrians installed him as Mayor of Milan after the 1849 revolt. Quite a complex figure in the history of the Risorgimento
as at times he appeared to want Milan to stay in the Austrian Empire (this was actually a common goal in the business community as Austria was a richer market than central and southern Italy), but, after he stepped down in 1856, he may also have co-operated with Cavour. He was part of the Lombardy delegation at the 1861 discussions about the new constitution.