“I thought perhaps something had happened,” she said with her unchanging stonily severe expression; and, sitting down opposite the prince, she prepared to listen.
“I wished to get a nap, mon cousin, but I can’t.”
“Well, my dear?” said Prince Vasíli, taking her hand and bending it downwards as was his habit.
It was plain that this “well?” referred to much that they both understood without naming.
The princess, who had a straight, rigid body, abnormally long for her legs, looked directly at Prince Vasíli with no sign of emotion in her prominent gray eyes. Then she shook her head and glanced up at the icons with a sigh. This might have been taken as an expression of sorrow and devotion, or of weariness and hope of resting before long. Prince Vasíli understood it as an expression of weariness.
“And I?” he said; “do you think it is easier for me? I am as worn out as a post horse, but still I must have a talk with you, Catiche, a very serious talk.”
Prince Vasíli said no more and his cheeks began to twitch nervously, now on one side, now on the other, giving his face an unpleasant expression which was never to be seen on it in a drawing room. His eyes too seemed strange; at one moment they looked impudently sly and at the next glanced round in alarm.
The princess, holding her little dog on her lap with her thin bony hands, looked attentively into Prince Vasíli’s eyes evidently resolved not to be the first to break silence, if she had to wait till morning.
“Well, you see, my dear princess and cousin, Catherine Semënovna,” continued Prince Vasíli, returning to his theme, apparently not without an inner struggle; “at such a moment as this one must think of everything. One must think of the future, of all of you... I love you all, like children of my own, as you know.”
The princess continued to look at him without moving, and with the same dull expression.
“And then of course my family has also to be considered,” Prince Vasíli went on, testily pushing away a little table without looking at her. “You know, Catiche, that we—you three sisters, Mámontov, and my wife—are the count’s only direct heirs. I know, I know how hard it is for you to talk or think of such matters. It is no easier for me; but, my dear, I am getting on for sixty and must be prepared for anything. Do you know I have sent for Pierre? The count,” pointing to his portrait, “definitely demanded that he should be called.”
Prince Vasíli looked questioningly at the princess, but could not make out whether she was considering what he had just said or whether she was simply looking at him.
“There is one thing I constantly pray God to grant, mon cousin,” she replied, “and it is that He would be merciful to him and would allow his noble soul peacefully to leave this...”
“Yes, yes, of course,” interrupted Prince Vasíli impatiently, rubbing his bald head and angrily pulling back toward him the little table that he had pushed away. “But... in short, the fact is... you know yourself that last winter the count made a will by which he left all his property, not to us his direct heirs, but to Pierre.”
“He has made wills enough!” quietly remarked the princess. “But he cannot leave the estate to Pierre. Pierre is illegitimate.”
“But, my dear,” said Prince Vasíli suddenly, clutching the little table and becoming more animated and talking more rapidly: “what if a letter has been written to the Emperor in which the count asks for Pierre’s legitimation? Do you understand that in consideration of the count’s services, his request would be granted?...”
The princess smiled as people do who think they know more about the subject under discussion than those they are talking with.
“I can tell you more,” continued Prince Vasíli, seizing her hand, “that letter was written, though it was not sent, and the Emperor knew of it. The only question is, has it been destroyed or not? If not, then as soon as all is over,” and Prince Vasíli sighed to intimate what he meant by the words all is over, “and the count’s papers are opened, the will and letter will be delivered to the Emperor, and the petition will certainly be granted. Pierre will get everything as the legitimate son.”
“And our share?” asked the princess smiling ironically, as if anything might happen, only not that.
“But, my poor Catiche, it is as clear as daylight! He will then be the legal heir to everything and you won’t get anything. You must know, my dear, whether the will and letter were written, and whether they have been destroyed or not. And if they have somehow been overlooked, you ought to know where they are, and must find them, because...”
“What next?” the princess interrupted, smiling sardonically and not changing the expression of her eyes. “I am a woman, and you think we are all stupid; but I know this: an illegitimate son cannot inherit... un bâtard!”* she added, as if supposing that this translation of the word would effectively prove to Prince Vasíli the invalidity of his contention.
“Well, really, Catiche! Can’t you understand! You are so intelligent, how is it you don’t see that if the count has written a letter to the Emperor begging him to recognize Pierre as legitimate, it follows that Pierre will not be Pierre but will become Count Bezúkhov, and will then inherit everything under the will? And if the will and letter are not destroyed, then you will have nothing but the consolation of having been dutiful et tout ce qui s’ensuit!* That’s certain.”
“I know the will was made, but I also know that it is invalid; and you, mon cousin, seem to consider me a perfect fool,” said the princess with the expression women assume when they suppose they are saying something witty and stinging.
“My dear Princess Catherine Semënovna,” began Prince Vasíli impatiently, “I came here not to wrangle with you, but to talk about your interests as with a kinswoman, a good, kind, true relation. And I tell you for the tenth time that if the letter to the Emperor and the will in Pierre’s favor are among the count’s papers, then, my dear girl, you and your sisters are not heiresses! If you don’t believe me, then believe an expert. I have just been talking to Dmítri Onúfrich” (the family solicitor) “and he says the same.”
At this a sudden change evidently took place in the princess’ ideas; her thin lips grew white, though her eyes did not change, and her voice when she began to speak passed through such transitions as she herself evidently did not expect.
“That would be a fine thing!” said she. “I never wanted anything and I don’t now.”
She pushed the little dog off her lap and smoothed her dress.
“And this is gratitude—this is recognition for those who have sacrificed everything for his sake!” she cried. “It’s splendid! Fine! I don’t want anything, Prince.”
“Yes, but you are not the only one. There are your sisters...” replied Prince Vasíli.
But the princess did not listen to him.
“Yes, I knew it long ago but had forgotten. I knew that I could expect nothing but meanness, deceit, envy, intrigue, and ingratitude—the blackest ingratitude—in this house...”
“Do you or do you not know where that will is?” insisted Prince Vasíli, his cheeks twitching more than ever.
“Yes, I was a fool! I still believed in people, loved them, and sacrificed myself. But only the base, the vile succeed! I know who has been intriguing!”
The princess wished to rise, but the prince held her by the hand. She had the air of one who has suddenly lost faith in the whole human race. She gave her companion an angry glance.
“There is still time, my dear. You must remember, Catiche, that it was all done casually in a moment of anger, of illness, and was afterwards forgotten. Our duty, my dear, is to rectify his mistake, to ease his last moments by not letting him commit this injustice, and not to let him die feeling that he is rendering unhappy those who...”
“Who sacrificed everything for him,” chimed in the princess, who would again have risen had not the prince still held her fast, “though he never could appreciate it. No, mon cousin,” she added with a sigh, “I shall always remember that in this world one must expect no reward, that in this world there is neither honor nor justice. In this world one has to be cunning and cruel.”
“Now come, come! Be reasonable. I know your excellent heart.”
“No, I have a wicked heart.”
“I know your heart,” repeated the prince. “I value your friendship and wish you to have as good an opinion of me. Don’t upset yourself, and let us talk sensibly while there is still time, be it a day or be it but an hour.... Tell me all you know about the will, and above all where it is. You must know. We will take it at once and show it to the count. He has, no doubt, forgotten it and will wish to destroy it. You understand that my sole desire is conscientiously to carry out his wishes; that is my only reason for being here. I came simply to help him and you.”
“Now I see it all! I know who has been intriguing—I know!” cried the princess.
“That’s not the point, my dear.”
“It’s that protégé of yours, that sweet Princess Drubetskáya, that Anna Mikháylovna whom I would not take for a housemaid... the infamous, vile woman!”
“Do not let us lose any time...”
“Ah, don’t talk to me! Last winter she wheedled herself in here and told the count such vile, disgraceful things about us, especially about Sophie—I can’t repeat them—that it made the count quite ill and he would not see us for a whole fortnight. I know it was then he wrote this vile, infamous paper, but I thought the thing was invalid.”
“We’ve got to it at last—why did you not tell me about it sooner?”
“It’s in the inlaid portfolio that he keeps under his pillow,” said the princess, ignoring his question. “Now I know! Yes; if I have a sin, a great sin, it is hatred of that vile woman!” almost shrieked the princess, now quite changed. “And what does she come worming herself in here for? But I will give her a piece of my mind. The time will come!”
While these conversations were going on in the reception room and the princess’ room, a carriage containing Pierre (who had been sent for) and Anna Mikháylovna (who found it necessary to accompany him) was driving into the court of Count Bezúkhov’s house. As the wheels rolled softly over the straw beneath the windows, Anna Mikháylovna, having turned with words of comfort to her companion, realized that he was asleep in his corner and woke him up. Rousing himself, Pierre followed Anna Mikháylovna out of the carriage, and only then began to think of the interview with his dying father which awaited him. He noticed that they had not come to the front entrance but to the back door. While he was getting down from the carriage steps two men, who looked like tradespeople, ran hurriedly from the entrance and hid in the shadow of the wall. Pausing for a moment, Pierre noticed several other men of the same kind hiding in the shadow of the house on both sides. But neither Anna Mikháylovna nor the footman nor the coachman, who could not help seeing these people, took any notice of them. “It seems to be all right,” Pierre concluded, and followed Anna Mikháylovna. She hurriedly ascended the narrow dimly lit stone staircase, calling to Pierre, who was lagging behind, to follow. Though he did not see why it was necessary for him to go to the count at all, still less why he had to go by the back stairs, yet judging by Anna Mikháylovna’s air of assurance and haste, Pierre concluded that it was all absolutely necessary. Halfway up the stairs they were almost knocked over by some men who, carrying pails, came running downstairs, their boots clattering. These men pressed close to the wall to let Pierre and Anna Mikháylovna pass and did not evince the least surprise at seeing them there.
“Is this the way to the princesses’ apartments?” asked Anna Mikháylovna of one of them.
“Yes,” replied a footman in a bold loud voice, as if anything were now permissible; “the door to the left, ma’am.”
“Perhaps the count did not ask for me,” said Pierre when he reached the landing. “I’d better go to my own room.”
Anna Mikháylovna paused and waited for him to come up.
“Ah, my friend!” she said, touching his arm as she had done her son’s when speaking to him that afternoon, “believe me I suffer no less than you do, but be a man!”
“But really, hadn’t I better go away?” he asked, looking kindly at her over his spectacles.
“Ah, my dear friend! Forget the wrongs that may have been done you. Think that he is your father ... perhaps in the agony of death.” She sighed. “I have loved you like a son from the first. Trust yourself to me, Pierre. I shall not forget your interests.”
Pierre did not understand a word, but the conviction that all this had to be grew stronger, and he meekly followed Anna Mikháylovna who was already opening a door.
This door led into a back anteroom. An old man, a servant of the princesses, sat in a corner knitting a stocking. Pierre had never been in this part of the house and did not even know of the existence of these rooms. Anna Mikháylovna, addressing a maid who was hurrying past with a decanter on a tray as “my dear” and “my sweet,” asked about the princess’ health and then led Pierre along a stone passage. The first door on the left led into the princesses’ apartments. The maid with the decanter in her haste had not closed the door (everything in the house was done in haste at that time), and Pierre and Anna Mikháylovna in passing instinctively glanced into the room, where Prince Vasíli and the eldest princess were sitting close together talking. Seeing them pass, Prince Vasíli drew back with obvious impatience, while the princess jumped up and with a gesture of desperation slammed the door with all her might.
This action was so unlike her usual composure and the fear depicted on Prince Vasíli’s face so out of keeping with his dignity that Pierre stopped and glanced inquiringly over his spectacles at his guide. Anna Mikháylovna evinced no surprise, she only smiled faintly and sighed, as if to say that this was no more than she had expected.
“Be a man, my friend. I will look after your interests,” said she in reply to his look, and went still faster along the passage.
Pierre could not make out what it was all about, and still less what “watching over his interests” meant, but he decided that all these things had to be. From the passage they went into a large, dimly lit room adjoining the count’s reception room. It was one of those sumptuous but cold apartments known to Pierre only from the front approach, but even in this room there now stood an empty bath, and water had been spilled on the carpet. They were met by a deacon with a censer and by a servant who passed out on tiptoe without heeding them. They went into the reception room familiar to Pierre, with two Italian windows opening into the conservatory, with its large bust and full length portrait of Catherine the Great. The same people were still sitting here in almost the same positions as before, whispering to one another. All became silent and turned to look at the pale tear-worn Anna Mikháylovna as she entered, and at the big stout figure of Pierre who, hanging his head, meekly followed her.
Anna Mikháylovna’s face expressed a consciousness that the decisive moment had arrived. With the air of a practical Petersburg lady she now, keeping Pierre close beside her, entered the room even more boldly than that afternoon. She felt that as she brought with her the person the dying man wished to see, her own admission was assured. Casting a rapid glance at all those in the room and noticing the count’s confessor there, she glided up to him with a sort of amble, not exactly bowing yet seeming to grow suddenly smaller, and respectfully received the blessing first of one and then of another priest.
“God be thanked that you are in time,” said she to one of the priests; “all we relatives have been in such anxiety. This young man is the count’s son,” she added more softly. “What a terrible moment!”
Having said this she went up to the doctor.
“Dear doctor,” said she, “this young man is the count’s son. Is there any hope?”
The doctor cast a rapid glance upwards and silently shrugged his shoulders. Anna Mikháylovna with just the same movement raised her shoulders and eyes, almost closing the latter, sighed, and moved away from the doctor to Pierre. To him, in a particularly respectful and tenderly sad voice, she said:
“Trust in His mercy!” and pointing out a small sofa for him to sit and wait for her, she went silently toward the door that everyone was watching and it creaked very slightly as she disappeared behind it.
Pierre, having made up his mind to obey his monitress implicitly, moved toward the sofa she had indicated. As soon as Anna Mikháylovna had disappeared he noticed that the eyes of all in the room turned to him with something more than curiosity and sympathy. He noticed that they whispered to one another, casting significant looks at him with a kind of awe and even servility. A deference such as he had never before received was shown him. A strange lady, the one who had been talking to the priests, rose and offered him her seat; an aide-de-camp picked up and returned a glove Pierre had dropped; the doctors became respectfully silent as he passed by, and moved to make way for him. At first Pierre wished to take another seat so as not to trouble the lady, and also to pick up the glove himself and to pass round the doctors who were not even in his way; but all at once he felt that this would not do, and that tonight he was a person obliged to perform some sort of awful rite which everyone expected of him, and that he was therefore bound to accept their services. He took the glove in silence from the aide-de-camp, and sat down in the lady’s chair, placing his huge hands symmetrically on his knees in the naïve attitude of an Egyptian statue, and decided in his own mind that all was as it should be, and that in order not to lose his head and do foolish things he must not act on his own ideas tonight, but must yield himself up entirely to the will of those who were guiding him.
Not two minutes had passed before Prince Vasíli with head erect majestically entered the room. He was wearing his long coat with three stars on his breast. He seemed to have grown thinner since the morning; his eyes seemed larger than usual when he glanced round and noticed Pierre. He went up to him, took his hand (a thing he never used to do), and drew it downwards as if wishing to ascertain whether it was firmly fixed on.
“Courage, courage, my friend! He has asked to see you. That is well!” and he turned to go.
But Pierre thought it necessary to ask: “How is...” and hesitated, not knowing whether it would be proper to call the dying man “the count,” yet ashamed to call him “father.”
“He had another stroke about half an hour ago. Courage, my friend...”
Pierre’s mind was in such a confused state that the word “stroke” suggested to him a blow from something. He looked at Prince Vasíli in perplexity, and only later grasped that a stroke was an attack of illness. Prince Vasíli said something to Lorrain in passing and went through the door on tiptoe. He could not walk well on tiptoe and his whole body jerked at each step. The eldest princess followed him, and the priests and deacons and some servants also went in at the door. Through that door was heard a noise of things being moved about, and at last Anna Mikháylovna, still with the same expression, pale but resolute in the discharge of duty, ran out and touching Pierre lightly on the arm said:
“The divine mercy is inexhaustible! Unction is about to be administered. Come.”
Pierre went in at the door, stepping on the soft carpet, and noticed that the strange lady, the aide-de-camp, and some of the servants, all followed him in, as if there were now no further need for permission to enter that room.
Pierre well knew this large room divided by columns and an arch, its walls hung round with Persian carpets. The part of the room behind the columns, with a high silk-curtained mahogany bedstead on one side and on the other an immense case containing icons, was brightly illuminated with red light like a Russian church during evening service. Under the gleaming icons stood a long invalid chair, and in that chair on snowy-white smooth pillows, evidently freshly changed, Pierre saw—covered to the waist by a bright green quilt—the familiar, majestic figure of his father, Count Bezúkhov, with that gray mane of hair above his broad forehead which reminded one of a lion, and the deep characteristically noble wrinkles of his handsome, ruddy face. He lay just under the icons; his large thick hands outside the quilt. Into the right hand, which was lying palm downwards, a wax taper had been thrust between forefinger and thumb, and an old servant, bending over from behind the chair, held it in position. By the chair stood the priests, their long hair falling over their magnificent glittering vestments, with lighted tapers in their hands, slowly and solemnly conducting the service. A little behind them stood the two younger princesses holding handkerchiefs to their eyes, and just in front of them their eldest sister, Catiche, with a vicious and determined look steadily fixed on the icons, as though declaring to all that she could not answer for herself should she glance round. Anna Mikháylovna, with a meek, sorrowful, and all-forgiving expression on her face, stood by the door near the strange lady. Prince Vasíli in front of the door, near the invalid chair, a wax taper in his left hand, was leaning his left arm on the carved back of a velvet chair he had turned round for the purpose, and was crossing himself with his right hand, turning his eyes upward each time he touched his forehead. His face wore a calm look of piety and resignation to the will of God. “If you do not understand these sentiments,” he seemed to be saying, “so much the worse for you!”
Behind him stood the aide-de-camp, the doctors, and the menservants; the men and women had separated as in church. All were silently crossing themselves, and the reading of the church service, the subdued chanting of deep bass voices, and in the intervals sighs and the shuffling of feet were the only sounds that could be heard. Anna Mikháylovna, with an air of importance that showed that she felt she quite knew what she was about, went across the room to where Pierre was standing and gave him a taper. He lit it and, distracted by observing those around him, began crossing himself with the hand that held the taper.
Sophie, the rosy, laughter-loving, youngest princess with the mole, watched him. She smiled, hid her face in her handkerchief, and remained with it hidden for awhile; then looking up and seeing Pierre she again began to laugh. She evidently felt unable to look at him without laughing, but could not resist looking at him: so to be out of temptation she slipped quietly behind one of the columns. In the midst of the service the voices of the priests suddenly ceased, they whispered to one another, and the old servant who was holding the count’s hand got up and said something to the ladies. Anna Mikháylovna stepped forward and, stooping over the dying man, beckoned to Lorrain from behind her back. The French doctor held no taper; he was leaning against one of the columns in a respectful attitude implying that he, a foreigner, in spite of all differences of faith, understood the full importance of the rite now being performed and even approved of it. He now approached the sick man with the noiseless step of one in full vigor of life, with his delicate white fingers raised from the green quilt the hand that was free, and turning sideways felt the pulse and reflected a moment. The sick man was given something to drink, there was a stir around him, then the people resumed their places and the service continued. During this interval Pierre noticed that Prince Vasíli left the chair on which he had been leaning, and—with an air which intimated that he knew what he was about and if others did not understand him it was so much the worse for them—did not go up to the dying man, but passed by him, joined the eldest princess, and moved with her to the side of the room where stood the high bedstead with its silken hangings. On leaving the bed both Prince Vasíli and the princess passed out by a back door, but returned to their places one after the other before the service was concluded. Pierre paid no more attention to this occurrence than to the rest of what went on, having made up his mind once for all that what he saw happening around him that evening was in some way essential.
The chanting of the service ceased, and the voice of the priest was heard respectfully congratulating the dying man on having received the sacrament. The dying man lay as lifeless and immovable as before. Around him everyone began to stir: steps were audible and whispers, among which Anna Mikháylovna’s was the most distinct.
Pierre heard her say:
“Certainly he must be moved onto the bed; here it will be impossible...”
The sick man was so surrounded by doctors, princesses, and servants that Pierre could no longer see the reddish-yellow face with its gray mane—which, though he saw other faces as well, he had not lost sight of for a single moment during the whole service. He judged by the cautious movements of those who crowded round the invalid chair that they had lifted the dying man and were moving him.
“Catch hold of my arm or you’ll drop him!” he heard one of the servants say in a frightened whisper. “Catch hold from underneath. Here!” exclaimed different voices; and the heavy breathing of the bearers and the shuffling of their feet grew more hurried, as if the weight they were carrying were too much for them.
As the bearers, among whom was Anna Mikháylovna, passed the young man he caught a momentary glimpse between their heads and backs of the dying man’s high, stout, uncovered chest and powerful shoulders, raised by those who were holding him under the armpits, and of his gray, curly, leonine head. This head, with its remarkably broad brow and cheekbones, its handsome, sensual mouth, and its cold, majestic expression, was not disfigured by the approach of death. It was the same as Pierre remembered it three months before, when the count had sent him to Petersburg. But now this head was swaying helplessly with the uneven movements of the bearers, and the cold listless gaze fixed itself upon nothing.
After a few minutes’ bustle beside the high bedstead, those who had carried the sick man dispersed. Anna Mikháylovna touched Pierre’s hand and said, “Come.” Pierre went with her to the bed on which the sick man had been laid in a stately pose in keeping with the ceremony just completed. He lay with his head propped high on the pillows. His hands were symmetrically placed on the green silk quilt, the palms downward. When Pierre came up the count was gazing straight at him, but with a look the significance of which could not be understood by mortal man. Either this look meant nothing but that as long as one has eyes they must look somewhere, or it meant too much. Pierre hesitated, not knowing what to do, and glanced inquiringly at his guide. Anna Mikháylovna made a hurried sign with her eyes, glancing at the sick man’s hand and moving her lips as if to send it a kiss. Pierre, carefully stretching his neck so as not to touch the quilt, followed her suggestion and pressed his lips to the large boned, fleshy hand. Neither the hand nor a single muscle of the count’s face stirred. Once more Pierre looked questioningly at Anna Mikháylovna to see what he was to do next. Anna Mikháylovna with her eyes indicated a chair that stood beside the bed. Pierre obediently sat down, his eyes asking if he were doing right. Anna Mikháylovna nodded approvingly. Again Pierre fell into the naïvely symmetrical pose of an Egyptian statue, evidently distressed that his stout and clumsy body took up so much room and doing his utmost to look as small as possible. He looked at the count, who still gazed at the spot where Pierre’s face had been before he sat down. Anna Mikháylovna indicated by her attitude her consciousness of the pathetic importance of these last moments of meeting between the father and son. This lasted about two minutes, which to Pierre seemed an hour. Suddenly the broad muscles and lines of the count’s face began to twitch. The twitching increased, the handsome mouth was drawn to one side (only now did Pierre realize how near death his father was), and from that distorted mouth issued an indistinct, hoarse sound. Anna Mikháylovna looked attentively at the sick man’s eyes, trying to guess what he wanted; she pointed first to Pierre, then to some drink, then named Prince Vasíli in an inquiring whisper, then pointed to the quilt. The eyes and face of the sick man showed impatience. He made an effort to look at the servant who stood constantly at the head of the bed.
“Wants to turn on the other side,” whispered the servant, and got up to turn the count’s heavy body toward the wall.
Pierre rose to help him.
While the count was being turned over, one of his arms fell back helplessly and he made a fruitless effort to pull it forward. Whether he noticed the look of terror with which Pierre regarded that lifeless arm, or whether some other thought flitted across his dying brain, at any rate he glanced at the refractory arm, at Pierre’s terror-stricken face, and again at the arm, and on his face a feeble, piteous smile appeared, quite out of keeping with his features, that seemed to deride his own helplessness. At sight of this smile Pierre felt an unexpected quivering in his breast and a tickling in his nose, and tears dimmed his eyes. The sick man was turned on to his side with his face to the wall. He sighed.
“He is dozing,” said Anna Mikháylovna, observing that one of the princesses was coming to take her turn at watching. “Let us go.”
Pierre went out.
There was now no one in the reception room except Prince Vasíli and the eldest princess, who were sitting under the portrait of Catherine the Great and talking eagerly. As soon as they saw Pierre and his companion they became silent, and Pierre thought he saw the princess hide something as she whispered:
“I can’t bear the sight of that woman.”
“Catiche has had tea served in the small drawing room,” said Prince Vasíli to Anna Mikháylovna. “Go and take something, my poor Anna Mikháylovna, or you will not hold out.”
To Pierre he said nothing, merely giving his arm a sympathetic squeeze below the shoulder. Pierre went with Anna Mikháylovna into the small drawing room.
“There is nothing so refreshing after a sleepless night as a cup of this delicious Russian tea,” Lorrain was saying with an air of restrained animation as he stood sipping tea from a delicate Chinese handleless cup before a table on which tea and a cold supper were laid in the small circular room. Around the table all who were at Count Bezúkhov’s house that night had gathered to fortify themselves. Pierre well remembered this small circular drawing room with its mirrors and little tables. During balls given at the house Pierre, who did not know how to dance, had liked sitting in this room to watch the ladies who, as they passed through in their ball dresses with diamonds and pearls on their bare shoulders, looked at themselves in the brilliantly lighted mirrors which repeated their reflections several times. Now this same room was dimly lighted by two candles. On one small table tea things and supper dishes stood in disorder, and in the middle of the night a motley throng of people sat there, not merrymaking, but somberly whispering, and betraying by every word and movement that they none of them forgot what was happening and what was about to happen in the bedroom. Pierre did not eat anything though he would very much have liked to. He looked inquiringly at his monitress and saw that she was again going on tiptoe to the reception room where they had left Prince Vasíli and the eldest princess. Pierre concluded that this also was essential, and after a short interval followed her. Anna Mikháylovna was standing beside the princess, and they were both speaking in excited whispers.
“Permit me, Princess, to know what is necessary and what is not necessary,” said the younger of the two speakers, evidently in the same state of excitement as when she had slammed the door of her room.
“But, my dear princess,” answered Anna Mikháylovna blandly but impressively, blocking the way to the bedroom and preventing the other from passing, “won’t this be too much for poor Uncle at a moment when he needs repose? Worldly conversation at a moment when his soul is already prepared...”
Prince Vasíli was seated in an easy chair in his familiar attitude, with one leg crossed high above the other. His cheeks, which were so flabby that they looked heavier below, were twitching violently; but he wore the air of a man little concerned in what the two ladies were saying.
“Come, my dear Anna Mikháylovna, let Catiche do as she pleases. You know how fond the count is of her.”
“I don’t even know what is in this paper,” said the younger of the two ladies, addressing Prince Vasíli and pointing to an inlaid portfolio she held in her hand. “All I know is that his real will is in his writing table, and this is a paper he has forgotten....”
She tried to pass Anna Mikháylovna, but the latter sprang so as to bar her path.
“I know, my dear, kind princess,” said Anna Mikháylovna, seizing the portfolio so firmly that it was plain she would not let go easily. “Dear princess, I beg and implore you, have some pity on him! Je vous en conjure...”
The princess did not reply. Their efforts in the struggle for the portfolio were the only sounds audible, but it was evident that if the princess did speak, her words would not be flattering to Anna Mikháylovna. Though the latter held on tenaciously, her voice lost none of its honeyed firmness and softness.
“Pierre, my dear, come here. I think he will not be out of place in a family consultation; is it not so, Prince?”
“Why don’t you speak, cousin?” suddenly shrieked the princess so loud that those in the drawing room heard her and were startled. “Why do you remain silent when heaven knows who permits herself to interfere, making a scene on the very threshold of a dying man’s room? Intriguer!” she hissed viciously, and tugged with all her might at the portfolio.
But Anna Mikháylovna went forward a step or two to keep her hold on the portfolio, and changed her grip.
Prince Vasíli rose. “Oh!” said he with reproach and surprise, “this is absurd! Come, let go I tell you.”
The princess let go.
“And you too!”
But Anna Mikháylovna did not obey him.
“Let go, I tell you! I will take the responsibility. I myself will go and ask him, I!... does that satisfy you?”
“But, Prince,” said Anna Mikháylovna, “after such a solemn sacrament, allow him a moment’s peace! Here, Pierre, tell them your opinion,” said she, turning to the young man who, having come quite close, was gazing with astonishment at the angry face of the princess which had lost all dignity, and at the twitching cheeks of Prince Vasíli.
“Remember that you will answer for the consequences,” said Prince Vasíli severely. “You don’t know what you are doing.”
“Vile woman!” shouted the princess, darting unexpectedly at Anna Mikháylovna and snatching the portfolio from her.
Prince Vasíli bent his head and spread out his hands.
At this moment that terrible door, which Pierre had watched so long and which had always opened so quietly, burst noisily open and banged against the wall, and the second of the three sisters rushed out wringing her hands.
“What are you doing!” she cried vehemently. “He is dying and you leave me alone with him!”
Her sister dropped the portfolio. Anna Mikháylovna, stooping, quickly caught up the object of contention and ran into the bedroom. The eldest princess and Prince Vasíli, recovering themselves, followed her. A few minutes later the eldest sister came out with a pale hard face, again biting her underlip. At sight of Pierre her expression showed an irrepressible hatred.
“Yes, now you may be glad!” said she; “this is what you have been waiting for.” And bursting into tears she hid her face in her handkerchief and rushed from the room.
Prince Vasíli came next. He staggered to the sofa on which Pierre was sitting and dropped onto it, covering his face with his hand. Pierre noticed that he was pale and that his jaw quivered and shook as if in an ague.
“Ah, my friend!” said he, taking Pierre by the elbow; and there was in his voice a sincerity and weakness Pierre had never observed in it before. “How often we sin, how much we deceive, and all for what? I am near sixty, dear friend... I too... All will end in death, all! Death is awful...” and he burst into tears.
Anna Mikháylovna came out last. She approached Pierre with slow, quiet steps.
“Pierre!” she said.
Pierre gave her an inquiring look. She kissed the young man on his forehead, wetting him with her tears. Then after a pause she said:
“He is no more....”
Pierre looked at her over his spectacles.
“Come, I will go with you. Try to weep, nothing gives such relief as tears.”
She led him into the dark drawing room and Pierre was glad no one could see his face. Anna Mikháylovna left him, and when she returned he was fast asleep with his head on his arm.
In the morning Anna Mikháylovna said to Pierre:
“Yes, my dear, this is a great loss for us all, not to speak of you. But God will support you: you are young, and are now, I hope, in command of an immense fortune. The will has not yet been opened. I know you well enough to be sure that this will not turn your head, but it imposes duties on you, and you must be a man.”
Pierre was silent.
“Perhaps later on I may tell you, my dear boy, that if I had not been there, God only knows what would have happened! You know, Uncle promised me only the day before yesterday not to forget Borís. But he had no time. I hope, my dear friend, you will carry out your father’s wish?”
Pierre understood nothing of all this and coloring shyly looked in silence at Princess Anna Mikháylovna. After her talk with Pierre, Anna Mikháylovna returned to the Rostóvs’ and went to bed. On waking in the morning she told the Rostóvs and all her acquaintances the details of Count Bezúkhov’s death. She said the count had died as she would herself wish to die, that his end was not only touching but edifying. As to the last meeting between father and son, it was so touching that she could not think of it without tears, and did not know which had behaved better during those awful moments—the father who so remembered everything and everybody at last and had spoken such pathetic words to the son, or Pierre, whom it had been pitiful to see, so stricken was he with grief, though he tried hard to hide it in order not to sadden his dying father. “It is painful, but it does one good. It uplifts the soul to see such men as the old count and his worthy son,” said she. Of the behavior of the eldest princess and Prince Vasíli she spoke disapprovingly, but in whispers and as a great secret.
At Bald Hills, Prince Nicholas Andréevich Bolkónski’s estate, the arrival of young Prince Andrew and his wife was daily expected, but this expectation did not upset the regular routine of life in the old prince’s household. General in Chief Prince Nicholas Andréevich (nicknamed in society, “the King of Prussia”) ever since the Emperor Paul had exiled him to his country estate had lived there continuously with his daughter, Princess Mary, and her companion, Mademoiselle Bourienne. Though in the new reign he was free to return to the capitals, he still continued to live in the country, remarking that anyone who wanted to see him could come the hundred miles from Moscow to Bald Hills, while he himself needed no one and nothing. He used to say that there are only two sources of human vice—idleness and superstition, and only two virtues—activity and intelligence. He himself undertook his daughter’s education, and to develop these two cardinal virtues in her gave her lessons in algebra and geometry till she was twenty, and arranged her life so that her whole time was occupied. He was himself always occupied: writing his memoirs, solving problems in higher mathematics, turning snuffboxes on a lathe, working in the garden, or superintending the building that was always going on at his estate. As regularity is a prime condition facilitating activity, regularity in his household was carried to the highest point of exactitude. He always came to table under precisely the same conditions, and not only at the same hour but at the same minute. With those about him, from his daughter to his serfs, the prince was sharp and invariably exacting, so that without being a hardhearted man he inspired such fear and respect as few hardhearted men would have aroused. Although he was in retirement and had now no influence in political affairs, every high official appointed to the province in which the prince’s estate lay considered it his duty to visit him and waited in the lofty antechamber just as the architect, gardener, or Princess Mary did, till the prince appeared punctually to the appointed hour. Everyone sitting in this antechamber experienced the same feeling of respect and even fear when the enormously high study door opened and showed the figure of a rather small old man, with powdered wig, small withered hands, and bushy gray eyebrows which, when he frowned, sometimes hid the gleam of his shrewd, youthfully glittering eyes.
On the morning of the day that the young couple were to arrive, Princess Mary entered the antechamber as usual at the time appointed for the morning greeting, crossing herself with trepidation and repeating a silent prayer. Every morning she came in like that, and every morning prayed that the daily interview might pass off well.
An old powdered manservant who was sitting in the antechamber rose quietly and said in a whisper: “Please walk in.”
Through the door came the regular hum of a lathe. The princess timidly opened the door which moved noiselessly and easily. She paused at the entrance. The prince was working at the lathe and after glancing round continued his work.
The enormous study was full of things evidently in constant use. The large table covered with books and plans, the tall glass-fronted bookcases with keys in the locks, the high desk for writing while standing up, on which lay an open exercise book, and the lathe with tools laid ready to hand and shavings scattered around—all indicated continuous, varied, and orderly activity. The motion of the small foot shod in a Tartar boot embroidered with silver, and the firm pressure of the lean sinewy hand, showed that the prince still possessed the tenacious endurance and vigor of hardy old age. After a few more turns of the lathe he removed his foot from the pedal, wiped his chisel, dropped it into a leather pouch attached to the lathe, and, approaching the table, summoned his daughter. He never gave his children a blessing, so he simply held out his bristly cheek (as yet unshaven) and, regarding her tenderly and attentively, said severely:
“Quite well? All right then, sit down.” He took the exercise book containing lessons in geometry written by himself and drew up a chair with his foot.
“For tomorrow!” said he, quickly finding the page and making a scratch from one paragraph to another with his hard nail.
The princess bent over the exercise book on the table.
“Wait a bit, here’s a letter for you,” said the old man suddenly, taking a letter addressed in a woman’s hand from a bag hanging above the table, onto which he threw it.
At the sight of the letter red patches showed themselves on the princess’ face. She took it quickly and bent her head over it.
“From Héloïse?” asked the prince with a cold smile that showed his still sound, yellowish teeth.
“Yes, it’s from Julie,” replied the princess with a timid glance and a timid smile.
“I’ll let two more letters pass, but the third I’ll read,” said the prince sternly; “I’m afraid you write much nonsense. I’ll read the third!”
“Read this if you like, Father,” said the princess, blushing still more and holding out the letter.
“The third, I said the third!” cried the prince abruptly, pushing the letter away, and leaning his elbows on the table he drew toward him the exercise book containing geometrical figures.
“Well, madam,” he began, stooping over the book close to his daughter and placing an arm on the back of the chair on which she sat, so that she felt herself surrounded on all sides by the acrid scent of old age and tobacco, which she had known so long. “Now, madam, these triangles are equal; please note that the angle ABC...”
The princess looked in a scared way at her father’s eyes glittering close to her; the red patches on her face came and went, and it was plain that she understood nothing and was so frightened that her fear would prevent her understanding any of her father’s further explanations, however clear they might be. Whether it was the teacher’s fault or the pupil’s, this same thing happened every day: the princess’ eyes grew dim, she could not see and could not hear anything, but was only conscious of her stern father’s withered face close to her, of his breath and the smell of him, and could think only of how to get away quickly to her own room to make out the problem in peace. The old man was beside himself: moved the chair on which he was sitting noisily backward and forward, made efforts to control himself and not become vehement, but almost always did become vehement, scolded, and sometimes flung the exercise book away.
The princess gave a wrong answer.
“Well now, isn’t she a fool!” shouted the prince, pushing the book aside and turning sharply away; but rising immediately, he paced up and down, lightly touched his daughter’s hair and sat down again.
He drew up his chair, and continued to explain.
“This won’t do, Princess; it won’t do,” said he, when Princess Mary, having taken and closed the exercise book with the next day’s lesson, was about to leave: “Mathematics are most important, madam! I don’t want to have you like our silly ladies. Get used to it and you’ll like it,” and he patted her cheek. “It will drive all the nonsense out of your head.”
She turned to go, but he stopped her with a gesture and took an uncut book from the high desk.
“Here is some sort of Key to the Mysteries that your Héloïse has sent you. Religious! I don’t interfere with anyone’s belief... I have looked at it. Take it. Well, now go. Go.”
He patted her on the shoulder and himself closed the door after her.
Princess Mary went back to her room with the sad, scared expression that rarely left her and which made her plain, sickly face yet plainer. She sat down at her writing table, on which stood miniature portraits and which was littered with books and papers. The princess was as untidy as her father was tidy. She put down the geometry book and eagerly broke the seal of her letter. It was from her most intimate friend from childhood; that same Julie Karágina who had been at the Rostóvs’ name-day party.
Julie wrote in French:
Dear and precious Friend, How terrible and frightful a thing is separation! Though I tell myself that half my life and half my happiness are wrapped up in you, and that in spite of the distance separating us our hearts are united by indissoluble bonds, my heart rebels against fate and in spite of the pleasures and distractions around me I cannot overcome a certain secret sorrow that has been in my heart ever since we parted. Why are we not together as we were last summer, in your big study, on the blue sofa, the confidential sofa? Why cannot I now, as three months ago, draw fresh moral strength from your look, so gentle, calm, and penetrating, a look I loved so well and seem to see before me as I write?
Having read thus far, Princess Mary sighed and glanced into the mirror which stood on her right. It reflected a weak, ungraceful figure and thin face. Her eyes, always sad, now looked with particular hopelessness at her reflection in the glass. “She flatters me,” thought the princess, turning away and continuing to read. But Julie did not flatter her friend, the princess’ eyes—large, deep and luminous (it seemed as if at times there radiated from them shafts of warm light)—were so beautiful that very often in spite of the plainness of her face they gave her an attraction more powerful than that of beauty. But the princess never saw the beautiful expression of her own eyes—the look they had when she was not thinking of herself. As with everyone, her face assumed a forced unnatural expression as soon as she looked in a glass. She went on reading:
All Moscow talks of nothing but war. One of my two brothers is already abroad, the other is with the Guards, who are starting on their march to the frontier. Our dear Emperor has left Petersburg and it is thought intends to expose his precious person to the chances of war. God grant that the Corsican monster who is destroying the peace of Europe may be overthrown by the angel whom it has pleased the Almighty, in His goodness, to give us as sovereign! To say nothing of my brothers, this war has deprived me of one of the associations nearest my heart. I mean young Nicholas Rostóv, who with his enthusiasm could not bear to remain inactive and has left the university to join the army. I will confess to you, dear Mary, that in spite of his extreme youth his departure for the army was a great grief to me. This young man, of whom I spoke to you last summer, is so noble-minded and full of that real youthfulness which one seldom finds nowadays among our old men of twenty and, particularly, he is so frank and has so much heart. He is so pure and poetic that my relations with him, transient as they were, have been one of the sweetest comforts to my poor heart, which has already suffered so much. Someday I will tell you about our parting and all that was said then. That is still too fresh. Ah, dear friend, you are happy not to know these poignant joys and sorrows. You are fortunate, for the latter are generally the stronger! I know very well that Count Nicholas is too young ever to be more to me than a friend, but this sweet friendship, this poetic and pure intimacy, were what my heart needed. But enough of this! The chief news, about which all Moscow gossips, is the death of old Count Bezúkhov, and his inheritance. Fancy! The three princesses have received very little, Prince Vasíli nothing, and it is Monsieur Pierre who has inherited all the property and has besides been recognized as legitimate; so that he is now Count Bezúkhov and possessor of the finest fortune in Russia. It is rumored that Prince Vasíli played a very despicable part in this affair and that he returned to Petersburg quite crestfallen.
I confess I understand very little about all these matters of wills and inheritance; but I do know that since this young man, whom we all used to know as plain Monsieur Pierre, has become Count Bezúkhov and the owner of one of the largest fortunes in Russia, I am much amused to watch the change in the tone and manners of the mammas burdened by marriageable daughters, and of the young ladies themselves, toward him, though, between you and me, he always seemed to me a poor sort of fellow. As for the past two years people have amused themselves by finding husbands for me (most of whom I don’t even know), the matchmaking chronicles of Moscow now speak of me as the future Countess Bezúkhova. But you will understand that I have no desire for the post. À propos of marriages: do you know that a while ago that universal auntie Anna Mikháylovna told me, under the seal of strict secrecy, of a plan of marriage for you. It is neither more nor less than with Prince Vasíli’s son Anatole, whom they wish to reform by marrying him to someone rich and distinguée, and it is on you that his relations’ choice has fallen. I don’t know what you will think of it, but I consider it my duty to let you know of it. He is said to be very handsome and a terrible scapegrace. That is all I have been able to find out about him.
But enough of gossip. I am at the end of my second sheet of paper, and Mamma has sent for me to go and dine at the Apráksins’. Read the mystical book I am sending you; it has an enormous success here. Though there are things in it difficult for the feeble human mind to grasp, it is an admirable book which calms and elevates the soul. Adieu! Give my respects to monsieur your father and my compliments to Mademoiselle Bourienne. I embrace you as I love you.
P.S. Let me have news of your brother and his charming little wife.
The princess pondered awhile with a thoughtful smile and her luminous eyes lit up so that her face was entirely transformed. Then she suddenly rose and with her heavy tread went up to the table. She took a sheet of paper and her hand moved rapidly over it. This is the reply she wrote, also in French:
Dear and precious Friend, Your letter of the 13th has given me great delight. So you still love me, my romantic Julie? Separation, of which you say so much that is bad, does not seem to have had its usual effect on you. You complain of our separation. What then should I say, if I dared complain, I who am deprived of all who are dear to me? Ah, if we had not religion to console us life would be very sad. Why do you suppose that I should look severely on your affection for that young man? On such matters I am only severe with myself. I understand such feelings in others, and if never having felt them I cannot approve of them, neither do I condemn them. Only it seems to me that Christian love, love of one’s neighbor, love of one’s enemy, is worthier, sweeter, and better than the feelings which the beautiful eyes of a young man can inspire in a romantic and loving young girl like yourself.
The news of Count Bezúkhov’s death reached us before your letter and my father was much affected by it. He says the count was the last representative but one of the great century, and that it is his own turn now, but that he will do all he can to let his turn come as late as possible. God preserve us from that terrible misfortune!
I cannot agree with you about Pierre, whom I knew as a child. He always seemed to me to have an excellent heart, and that is the quality I value most in people. As to his inheritance and the part played by Prince Vasíli, it is very sad for both. Ah, my dear friend, our divine Saviour’s words, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, are terribly true. I pity Prince Vasíli but am still more sorry for Pierre. So young, and burdened with such riches—to what temptations he will be exposed! If I were asked what I desire most on earth, it would be to be poorer than the poorest beggar. A thousand thanks, dear friend, for the volume you have sent me and which has such success in Moscow. Yet since you tell me that among some good things it contains others which our weak human understanding cannot grasp, it seems to me rather useless to spend time in reading what is unintelligible and can therefore bear no fruit. I never could understand the fondness some people have for confusing their minds by dwelling on mystical books that merely awaken their doubts and excite their imagination, giving them a bent for exaggeration quite contrary to Christian simplicity. Let us rather read the Epistles and Gospels. Let us not seek to penetrate what mysteries they contain; for how can we, miserable sinners that we are, know the terrible and holy secrets of Providence while we remain in this flesh which forms an impenetrable veil between us and the Eternal? Let us rather confine ourselves to studying those sublime rules which our divine Saviour has left for our guidance here below. Let us try to conform to them and follow them, and let us be persuaded that the less we let our feeble human minds roam, the better we shall please God, who rejects all knowledge that does not come from Him; and the less we seek to fathom what He has been pleased to conceal from us, the sooner will He vouchsafe its revelation to us through His divine Spirit.
My father has not spoken to me of a suitor, but has only told me that he has received a letter and is expecting a visit from Prince Vasíli. In regard to this project of marriage for me, I will tell you, dear sweet friend, that I look on marriage as a divine institution to which we must conform. However painful it may be to me, should the Almighty lay the duties of wife and mother upon me I shall try to perform them as faithfully as I can, without disquieting myself by examining my feelings toward him whom He may give me for husband.
I have had a letter from my brother, who announces his speedy arrival at Bald Hills with his wife. This pleasure will be but a brief one, however, for he will leave us again to take part in this unhappy war into which we have been drawn, God knows how or why. Not only where you are—at the heart of affairs and of the world—is the talk all of war, even here amid fieldwork and the calm of nature—which townsfolk consider characteristic of the country—rumors of war are heard and painfully felt. My father talks of nothing but marches and countermarches, things of which I understand nothing; and the day before yesterday during my daily walk through the village I witnessed a heartrending scene.... It was a convoy of conscripts enrolled from our people and starting to join the army. You should have seen the state of the mothers, wives, and children of the men who were going and should have heard the sobs. It seems as though mankind has forgotten the laws of its divine Saviour, Who preached love and forgiveness of injuries—and that men attribute the greatest merit to skill in killing one another.
Adieu, dear and kind friend; may our divine Saviour and His most Holy Mother keep you in their holy and all-powerful care!
“Ah, you are sending off a letter, Princess? I have already dispatched mine. I have written to my poor mother,” said the smiling Mademoiselle Bourienne rapidly, in her pleasant mellow tones and with guttural r’s. She brought into Princess Mary’s strenuous, mournful, and gloomy world a quite different atmosphere, careless, lighthearted, and self-satisfied.
“Princess, I must warn you,” she added, lowering her voice and evidently listening to herself with pleasure, and speaking with exaggerated grasseyement, “the prince has been scolding Michael Ivánovich. He is in a very bad humor, very morose. Be prepared.”
“Ah, dear friend,” replied Princess Mary, “I have asked you never to warn me of the humor my father is in. I do not allow myself to judge him and would not have others do so.”
The princess glanced at her watch and, seeing that she was five minutes late in starting her practice on the clavichord, went into the sitting room with a look of alarm. Between twelve and two o’clock, as the day was mapped out, the prince rested and the princess played the clavichord.