Until Prince Andrew settled in Boguchárovo its owners had always been absentees, and its peasants were of quite a different character from those of Bald Hills. They differed from them in speech, dress, and disposition. They were called steppe peasants. The old prince used to approve of them for their endurance at work when they came to Bald Hills to help with the harvest or to dig ponds, and ditches, but he disliked them for their boorishness.
Prince Andrew’s last stay at Boguchárovo, when he introduced hospitals and schools and reduced the quitrent the peasants had to pay, had not softened their disposition but had on the contrary strengthened in them the traits of character the old prince called boorishness. Various obscure rumors were always current among them: at one time a rumor that they would all be enrolled as Cossacks; at another of a new religion to which they were all to be converted; then of some proclamation of the Tsar’s and of an oath to the Tsar Paul in 1797 (in connection with which it was rumored that freedom had been granted them but the landowners had stopped it), then of Peter Fëdorovich’s return to the throne in seven years’ time, when everything would be made free and so “simple” that there would be no restrictions. Rumors of the war with Bonaparte and his invasion were connected in their minds with the same sort of vague notions of Antichrist, the end of the world, and “pure freedom.”
In the vicinity of Boguchárovo were large villages belonging to the crown or to owners whose serfs paid quitrent and could work where they pleased. There were very few resident landlords in the neighborhood and also very few domestic or literate serfs, and in the lives of the peasantry of those parts the mysterious undercurrents in the life of the Russian people, the causes and meaning of which are so baffling to contemporaries, were more clearly and strongly noticeable than among others. One instance, which had occurred some twenty years before, was a movement among the peasants to emigrate to some unknown “warm rivers.” Hundreds of peasants, among them the Boguchárovo folk, suddenly began selling their cattle and moving in whole families toward the southeast. As birds migrate to somewhere beyond the sea, so these men with their wives and children streamed to the southeast, to parts where none of them had ever been. They set off in caravans, bought their freedom one by one or ran away, and drove or walked toward the “warm rivers.” Many of them were punished, some sent to Siberia, many died of cold and hunger on the road, many returned of their own accord, and the movement died down of itself just as it had sprung up, without apparent reason. But such undercurrents still existed among the people and gathered new forces ready to manifest themselves just as strangely, unexpectedly, and at the same time simply, naturally, and forcibly. Now in 1812, to anyone living in close touch with these people it was apparent that these undercurrents were acting strongly and nearing an eruption.
Alpátych, who had reached Boguchárovo shortly before the old prince’s death, noticed an agitation among the peasants, and that contrary to what was happening in the Bald Hills district, where over a radius of forty miles all the peasants were moving away and leaving their villages to be devastated by the Cossacks, the peasants in the steppe region round Boguchárovo were, it was rumored, in touch with the French, received leaflets from them that passed from hand to hand, and did not migrate. He learned from domestic serfs loyal to him that the peasant Karp, who possessed great influence in the village commune and had recently been away driving a government transport, had returned with news that the Cossacks were destroying deserted villages, but that the French did not harm them. Alpátych also knew that on the previous day another peasant had even brought from the village of Visloúkhovo, which was occupied by the French, a proclamation by a French general that no harm would be done to the inhabitants, and if they remained they would be paid for anything taken from them. As proof of this the peasant had brought from Visloúkhovo a hundred rubles in notes (he did not know that they were false) paid to him in advance for hay.
More important still, Alpátych learned that on the morning of the very day he gave the village Elder orders to collect carts to move the princess’ luggage from Boguchárovo, there had been a village meeting at which it had been decided not to move but to wait. Yet there was no time to waste. On the fifteenth, the day of the old prince’s death, the Marshal had insisted on Princess Mary’s leaving at once, as it was becoming dangerous. He had told her that after the sixteenth he could not be responsible for what might happen. On the evening of the day the old prince died the Marshal went away, promising to return next day for the funeral. But this he was unable to do, for he received tidings that the French had unexpectedly advanced, and had barely time to remove his own family and valuables from his estate.
For some thirty years Boguchárovo had been managed by the village Elder, Dron, whom the old prince called by the diminutive “Drónushka.”
Dron was one of those physically and mentally vigorous peasants who grow big beards as soon as they are of age and go on unchanged till they are sixty or seventy, without a gray hair or the loss of a tooth, as straight and strong at sixty as at thirty.
Soon after the migration to the “warm rivers,” in which he had taken part like the rest, Dron was made village Elder and overseer of Boguchárovo, and had since filled that post irreproachably for twenty-three years. The peasants feared him more than they did their master. The masters, both the old prince and the young, and the steward respected him and jestingly called him “the Minister.” During the whole time of his service Dron had never been drunk or ill, never after sleepless nights or the hardest tasks had he shown the least fatigue, and though he could not read he had never forgotten a single money account or the number of quarters of flour in any of the endless cartloads he sold for the prince, nor a single shock of the whole corn crop on any single acre of the Boguchárovo fields.
Alpátych, arriving from the devastated Bald Hills estate, sent for his Dron on the day of the prince’s funeral and told him to have twelve horses got ready for the princess’ carriages and eighteen carts for the things to be removed from Boguchárovo. Though the peasants paid quitrent, Alpátych thought no difficulty would be made about complying with this order, for there were two hundred and thirty households at work in Boguchárovo and the peasants were well to do. But on hearing the order Dron lowered his eyes and remained silent. Alpátych named certain peasants he knew, from whom he told him to take the carts.
Dron replied that the horses of these peasants were away carting. Alpátych named others, but they too, according to Dron, had no horses available: some horses were carting for the government, others were too weak, and others had died for want of fodder. It seemed that no horses could be had even for the carriages, much less for the carting.
Alpátych looked intently at Dron and frowned. Just as Dron was a model village Elder, so Alpátych had not managed the prince’s estates for twenty years in vain. He was a model steward, possessing in the highest degree the faculty of divining the needs and instincts of those he dealt with. Having glanced at Dron he at once understood that his answers did not express his personal views but the general mood of the Boguchárovo commune, by which the Elder had already been carried away. But he also knew that Dron, who had acquired property and was hated by the commune, must be hesitating between the two camps: the masters’ and the serfs’. He noticed this hesitation in Dron’s look and therefore frowned and moved closer up to him.
“Now just listen, Drónushka,” said he. “Don’t talk nonsense to me. His excellency Prince Andrew himself gave me orders to move all the people away and not leave them with the enemy, and there is an order from the Tsar about it too. Anyone who stays is a traitor to the Tsar. Do you hear?”
“I hear,” Dron answered without lifting his eyes.
Alpátych was not satisfied with this reply.
“Eh, Dron, it will turn out badly!” he said, shaking his head.
“The power is in your hands,” Dron rejoined sadly.
“Eh, Dron, drop it!” Alpátych repeated, withdrawing his hand from his bosom and solemnly pointing to the floor at Dron’s feet. “I can see through you and three yards into the ground under you,” he continued, gazing at the floor in front of Dron.
Dron was disconcerted, glanced furtively at Alpátych and again lowered his eyes.
“You drop this nonsense and tell the people to get ready to leave their homes and go to Moscow and to get carts ready for tomorrow morning for the princess’ things. And don’t go to any meeting yourself, do you hear?”
Dron suddenly fell on his knees.
“Yákov Alpátych, discharge me! Take the keys from me and discharge me, for Christ’s sake!”
“Stop that!” cried Alpátych sternly. “I see through you and three yards under you,” he repeated, knowing that his skill in beekeeping, his knowledge of the right time to sow the oats, and the fact that he had been able to retain the old prince’s favor for twenty years had long since gained him the reputation of being a wizard, and that the power of seeing three yards under a man is considered an attribute of wizards.
Dron got up and was about to say something, but Alpátych interrupted him.
“What is it you have got into your heads, eh?... What are you thinking of, eh?”
“What am I to do with the people?” said Dron. “They’re quite beside themselves; I have already told them...”
“‘Told them,’ I dare say!” said Alpátych. “Are they drinking?” he asked abruptly.
“Quite beside themselves, Yákov Alpátych; they’ve fetched another barrel.”
“Well, then, listen! I’ll go to the police officer, and you tell them so, and that they must stop this and the carts must be got ready.”
Alpátych did not insist further. He had managed people for a long time and knew that the chief way to make them obey is to show no suspicion that they can possibly disobey. Having wrung a submissive “I understand” from Dron, Alpátych contented himself with that, though he not only doubted but felt almost certain that without the help of troops the carts would not be forthcoming.
And so it was, for when evening came no carts had been provided. In the village, outside the drink shop, another meeting was being held, which decided that the horses should be driven out into the woods and the carts should not be provided. Without saying anything of this to the princess, Alpátych had his own belongings taken out of the carts which had arrived from Bald Hills and had those horses got ready for the princess’ carriages. Meanwhile he went himself to the police authorities.
After her father’s funeral Princess Mary shut herself up in her room and did not admit anyone. A maid came to the door to say that Alpátych was asking for orders about their departure. (This was before his talk with Dron.) Princess Mary raised herself on the sofa on which she had been lying and replied through the closed door that she did not mean to go away and begged to be left in peace.
The windows of the room in which she was lying looked westward. She lay on the sofa with her face to the wall, fingering the buttons of the leather cushion and seeing nothing but that cushion, and her confused thoughts were centered on one subject—the irrevocability of death and her own spiritual baseness, which she had not suspected, but which had shown itself during her father’s illness. She wished to pray but did not dare to, dared not in her present state of mind address herself to God. She lay for a long time in that position.
The sun had reached the other side of the house, and its slanting rays shone into the open window, lighting up the room and part of the morocco cushion at which Princess Mary was looking. The flow of her thoughts suddenly stopped. Unconsciously she sat up, smoothed her hair, got up, and went to the window, involuntarily inhaling the freshness of the clear but windy evening.
“Yes, you can well enjoy the evening now! He is gone and no one will hinder you,” she said to herself, and sinking into a chair she let her head fall on the window sill.
Someone spoke her name in a soft and tender voice from the garden and kissed her head. She looked up. It was Mademoiselle Bourienne in a black dress and weepers. She softly approached Princess Mary, sighed, kissed her, and immediately began to cry. The princess looked up at her. All their former disharmony and her own jealousy recurred to her mind. But she remembered too how he had changed of late toward Mademoiselle Bourienne and could not bear to see her, thereby showing how unjust were the reproaches Princess Mary had mentally addressed to her. “Besides, is it for me, for me who desired his death, to condemn anyone?” she thought.
Princess Mary vividly pictured to herself the position of Mademoiselle Bourienne, whom she had of late kept at a distance, but who yet was dependent on her and living in her house. She felt sorry for her and held out her hand with a glance of gentle inquiry. Mademoiselle Bourienne at once began crying again and kissed that hand, speaking of the princess’ sorrow and making herself a partner in it. She said her only consolation was the fact that the princess allowed her to share her sorrow, that all the old misunderstandings should sink into nothing but this great grief; that she felt herself blameless in regard to everyone, and that he, from above, saw her affection and gratitude. The princess heard her, not heeding her words but occasionally looking up at her and listening to the sound of her voice.
“Your position is doubly terrible, dear princess,” said Mademoiselle Bourienne after a pause. “I understand that you could not, and cannot, think of yourself, but with my love for you I must do so.... Has Alpátych been to you? Has he spoken to you of going away?” she asked.
Princess Mary did not answer. She did not understand who was to go or where to. “Is it possible to plan or think of anything now? Is it not all the same?” she thought, and did not reply.
“You know, chère Marie,” said Mademoiselle Bourienne, “that we are in danger—are surrounded by the French. It would be dangerous to move now. If we go we are almost sure to be taken prisoners, and God knows...”
Princess Mary looked at her companion without understanding what she was talking about.
“Oh, if anyone knew how little anything matters to me now,” she said. “Of course I would on no account wish to go away from him.... Alpátych did say something about going.... Speak to him; I can do nothing, nothing, and don’t want to....”
“I’ve spoken to him. He hopes we should be in time to get away tomorrow, but I think it would now be better to stay here,” said Mademoiselle Bourienne. “Because, you will agree, chère Marie, to fall into the hands of the soldiers or of riotous peasants would be terrible.”
Mademoiselle Bourienne took from her reticule a proclamation (not printed on ordinary Russian paper) of General Rameau’s, telling people not to leave their homes and that the French authorities would afford them proper protection. She handed this to the princess.
“I think it would be best to appeal to that general,” she continued, “and I am sure that all due respect would be shown you.”
Princess Mary read the paper, and her face began to quiver with stifled sobs.
“From whom did you get this?” she asked.
“They probably recognized that I am French, by my name,” replied Mademoiselle Bourienne blushing.
Princess Mary, with the paper in her hand, rose from the window and with a pale face went out of the room and into what had been Prince Andrew’s study.
“Dunyásha, send Alpátych, or Drónushka, or somebody to me!” she said, “and tell Mademoiselle Bourienne not to come to me,” she added, hearing Mademoiselle Bourienne’s voice. “We must go at once, at once!” she said, appalled at the thought of being left in the hands of the French.
“If Prince Andrew heard that I was in the power of the French! That I, the daughter of Prince Nicholas Bolkónski, asked General Rameau for protection and accepted his favor!” This idea horrified her, made her shudder, blush, and feel such a rush of anger and pride as she had never experienced before. All that was distressing, and especially all that was humiliating, in her position rose vividly to her mind. “They, the French, would settle in this house: M. le Général Rameau would occupy Prince Andrew’s study and amuse himself by looking through and reading his letters and papers. Mademoiselle Bourienne would do the honors of Boguchárovo for him. I should be given a small room as a favor, the soldiers would violate my father’s newly dug grave to steal his crosses and stars, they would tell me of their victories over the Russians, and would pretend to sympathize with my sorrow...” thought Princess Mary, not thinking her own thoughts but feeling bound to think like her father and her brother. For herself she did not care where she remained or what happened to her, but she felt herself the representative of her dead father and of Prince Andrew. Involuntarily she thought their thoughts and felt their feelings. What they would have said and what they would have done she felt bound to say and do. She went into Prince Andrew’s study, trying to enter completely into his ideas, and considered her position.
The demands of life, which had seemed to her annihilated by her father’s death, all at once rose before her with a new, previously unknown force and took possession of her.
Agitated and flushed she paced the room, sending now for Michael Ivánovich and now for Tíkhon or Dron. Dunyásha, the nurse, and the other maids could not say in how far Mademoiselle Bourienne’s statement was correct. Alpátych was not at home, he had gone to the police. Neither could the architect Michael Ivánovich, who on being sent for came in with sleepy eyes, tell Princess Mary anything. With just the same smile of agreement with which for fifteen years he had been accustomed to answer the old prince without expressing views of his own, he now replied to Princess Mary, so that nothing definite could be got from his answers. The old valet Tíkhon, with sunken, emaciated face that bore the stamp of inconsolable grief, replied: “Yes, Princess” to all Princess Mary’s questions and hardly refrained from sobbing as he looked at her.
At length Dron, the village Elder, entered the room and with a deep bow to Princess Mary came to a halt by the doorpost.
Princess Mary walked up and down the room and stopped in front of him.
“Drónushka,” she said, regarding as a sure friend this Drónushka who always used to bring a special kind of gingerbread from his visit to the fair at Vyázma every year and smilingly offer it to her, “Drónushka, now since our misfortune...” she began, but could not go on.
“We are all in God’s hands,” said he, with a sigh.
They were silent for a while.
“Drónushka, Alpátych has gone off somewhere and I have no one to turn to. Is it true, as they tell me, that I can’t even go away?”
“Why shouldn’t you go away, your excellency? You can go,” said Dron.
“I was told it would be dangerous because of the enemy. Dear friend, I can do nothing. I understand nothing. I have nobody! I want to go away tonight or early tomorrow morning.”
Dron paused. He looked askance at Princess Mary and said: “There are no horses; I told Yákov Alpátych so.”
“Why are there none?” asked the princess.
“It’s all God’s scourge,” said Dron. “What horses we had have been taken for the army or have died—this is such a year! It’s not a case of feeding horses—we may die of hunger ourselves! As it is, some go three days without eating. We’ve nothing, we’ve been ruined.”
Princess Mary listened attentively to what he told her.
“The peasants are ruined? They have no bread?” she asked.
“They’re dying of hunger,” said Dron. “It’s not a case of carting.”
“But why didn’t you tell me, Drónushka? Isn’t it possible to help them? I’ll do all I can....”
To Princess Mary it was strange that now, at a moment when such sorrow was filling her soul, there could be rich people and poor, and the rich could refrain from helping the poor. She had heard vaguely that there was such a thing as “landlord’s corn” which was sometimes given to the peasants. She also knew that neither her father nor her brother would refuse to help the peasants in need, she only feared to make some mistake in speaking about the distribution of the grain she wished to give. She was glad such cares presented themselves, enabling her without scruple to forget her own grief. She began asking Dron about the peasants’ needs and what there was in Boguchárovo that belonged to the landlord.
“But we have grain belonging to my brother?” she said.
“The landlord’s grain is all safe,” replied Dron proudly. “Our prince did not order it to be sold.”
“Give it to the peasants, let them have all they need; I give you leave in my brother’s name,” said she.
Dron made no answer but sighed deeply.
“Give them that corn if there is enough of it. Distribute it all. I give this order in my brother’s name; and tell them that what is ours is theirs. We do not grudge them anything. Tell them so.”
Dron looked intently at the princess while she was speaking.
“Discharge me, little mother, for God’s sake! Order the keys to be taken from me,” said he. “I have served twenty-three years and have done no wrong. Discharge me, for God’s sake!”
Princess Mary did not understand what he wanted of her or why he was asking to be discharged. She replied that she had never doubted his devotion and that she was ready to do anything for him and for the peasants.
An hour later Dunyásha came to tell the princess that Dron had come, and all the peasants had assembled at the barn by the princess’ order and wished to have word with their mistress.
“But I never told them to come,” said Princess Mary. “I only told Dron to let them have the grain.”
“Only, for God’s sake, Princess dear, have them sent away and don’t go out to them. It’s all a trick,” said Dunyásha, “and when Yákov Alpátych returns let us get away... and please don’t...”
“What is a trick?” asked Princess Mary in surprise.
“I know it is, only listen to me for God’s sake! Ask nurse too. They say they don’t agree to leave Boguchárovo as you ordered.”
“You’re making some mistake. I never ordered them to go away,” said Princess Mary. “Call Drónushka.”
Dron came and confirmed Dunyásha’s words; the peasants had come by the princess’ order.
“But I never sent for them,” declared the princess. “You must have given my message wrong. I only said that you were to give them the grain.”
Dron only sighed in reply.
“If you order it they will go away,” said he.
“No, no. I’ll go out to them,” said Princess Mary, and in spite of the nurse’s and Dunyásha’s protests she went out into the porch; Dron, Dunyásha, the nurse, and Michael Ivánovich following her.
“They probably think I am offering them the grain to bribe them to remain here, while I myself go away leaving them to the mercy of the French,” thought Princess Mary. “I will offer them monthly rations and housing at our Moscow estate. I am sure Andrew would do even more in my place,” she thought as she went out in the twilight toward the crowd standing on the pasture by the barn.
The men crowded closer together, stirred, and rapidly took off their hats. Princess Mary lowered her eyes and, tripping over her skirt, came close up to them. So many different eyes, old and young, were fixed on her, and there were so many different faces, that she could not distinguish any of them and, feeling that she must speak to them all at once, did not know how to do it. But again the sense that she represented her father and her brother gave her courage, and she boldly began her speech.
“I am very glad you have come,” she said without raising her eyes, and feeling her heart beating quickly and violently. “Drónushka tells me that the war has ruined you. That is our common misfortune, and I shall grudge nothing to help you. I am myself going away because it is dangerous here... the enemy is near... because... I am giving you everything, my friends, and I beg you to take everything, all our grain, so that you may not suffer want! And if you have been told that I am giving you the grain to keep you here—that is not true. On the contrary, I ask you to go with all your belongings to our estate near Moscow, and I promise you I will see to it that there you shall want for nothing. You shall be given food and lodging.”
The princess stopped. Sighs were the only sound heard in the crowd.
“I am not doing this on my own account,” she continued, “I do it in the name of my dead father, who was a good master to you, and of my brother and his son.”
Again she paused. No one broke the silence.
“Ours is a common misfortune and we will share it together. All that is mine is yours,” she concluded, scanning the faces before her.
All eyes were gazing at her with one and the same expression. She could not fathom whether it was curiosity, devotion, gratitude, or apprehension and distrust—but the expression on all the faces was identical.
“We are all very thankful for your bounty, but it won’t do for us to take the landlord’s grain,” said a voice at the back of the crowd.
“But why not?” asked the princess.
No one replied and Princess Mary, looking round at the crowd, found that every eye she met now was immediately dropped.
“But why don’t you want to take it?” she asked again.
No one answered.
The silence began to oppress the princess and she tried to catch someone’s eye.
“Why don’t you speak?” she inquired of a very old man who stood just in front of her leaning on his stick. “If you think something more is wanted, tell me! I will do anything,” said she, catching his eye.
But as if this angered him, he bent his head quite low and muttered:
“Why should we agree? We don’t want the grain.”
“Why should we give up everything? We don’t agree. Don’t agree.... We are sorry for you, but we’re not willing. Go away yourself, alone...” came from various sides of the crowd.
And again all the faces in that crowd bore an identical expression, though now it was certainly not an expression of curiosity or gratitude, but of angry resolve.
“But you can’t have understood me,” said Princess Mary with a sad smile. “Why don’t you want to go? I promise to house and feed you, while here the enemy would ruin you....”
But her voice was drowned by the voices of the crowd.
“We’re not willing. Let them ruin us! We won’t take your grain. We don’t agree.”
Again Princess Mary tried to catch someone’s eye, but not a single eye in the crowd was turned to her; evidently they were all trying to avoid her look. She felt strange and awkward.
“Oh yes, an artful tale! Follow her into slavery! Pull down your houses and go into bondage! I dare say! ‘I’ll give you grain, indeed!’ she says,” voices in the crowd were heard saying.
With drooping head Princess Mary left the crowd and went back to the house. Having repeated her order to Dron to have horses ready for her departure next morning, she went to her room and remained alone with her own thoughts.
For a long time that night Princess Mary sat by the open window of her room hearing the sound of the peasants’ voices that reached her from the village, but it was not of them she was thinking. She felt that she could not understand them however much she might think about them. She thought only of one thing, her sorrow, which, after the break caused by cares for the present, seemed already to belong to the past. Now she could remember it and weep or pray.
After sunset the wind had dropped. The night was calm and fresh. Toward midnight the voices began to subside, a cock crowed, the full moon began to show from behind the lime trees, a fresh white dewy mist began to rise, and stillness reigned over the village and the house.
Pictures of the near past—her father’s illness and last moments—rose one after another to her memory. With mournful pleasure she now lingered over these images, repelling with horror only the last one, the picture of his death, which she felt she could not contemplate even in imagination at this still and mystic hour of night. And these pictures presented themselves to her so clearly and in such detail that they seemed now present, now past, and now future.
She vividly recalled the moment when he had his first stroke and was being dragged along by his armpits through the garden at Bald Hills, muttering something with his helpless tongue, twitching his gray eyebrows and looking uneasily and timidly at her.
“Even then he wanted to tell me what he told me the day he died,” she thought. “He had always thought what he said then.” And she recalled in all its detail the night at Bald Hills before he had the last stroke, when with a foreboding of disaster she had remained at home against his will. She had not slept and had stolen downstairs on tiptoe, and going to the door of the conservatory where he slept that night had listened at the door. In a suffering and weary voice he was saying something to Tíkhon, speaking of the Crimea and its warm nights and of the Empress. Evidently he had wanted to talk. “And why didn’t he call me? Why didn’t he let me be there instead of Tíkhon?” Princess Mary had thought and thought again now. “Now he will never tell anyone what he had in his soul. Never will that moment return for him or for me when he might have said all he longed to say, and not Tíkhon but I might have heard and understood him. Why didn’t I enter the room?” she thought. “Perhaps he would then have said to me what he said the day he died. While talking to Tíkhon he asked about me twice. He wanted to see me, and I was standing close by, outside the door. It was sad and painful for him to talk to Tíkhon who did not understand him. I remember how he began speaking to him about Lise as if she were alive—he had forgotten she was dead—and Tíkhon reminded him that she was no more, and he shouted, ‘Fool!’ He was greatly depressed. From behind the door I heard how he lay down on his bed groaning and loudly exclaimed, ‘My God!’ Why didn’t I go in then? What could he have done to me? What could I have lost? And perhaps he would then have been comforted and would have said that word to me.” And Princess Mary uttered aloud the caressing word he had said to her on the day of his death. “Dear-est!” she repeated, and began sobbing, with tears that relieved her soul. She now saw his face before her. And not the face she had known ever since she could remember and had always seen at a distance, but the timid, feeble face she had seen for the first time quite closely, with all its wrinkles and details, when she stooped near to his mouth to catch what he said.
“Dear-est!” she repeated again.
“What was he thinking when he uttered that word? What is he thinking now?” This question suddenly presented itself to her, and in answer she saw him before her with the expression that was on his face as he lay in his coffin with his chin bound up with a white handkerchief. And the horror that had seized her when she touched him and convinced herself that that was not he, but something mysterious and horrible, seized her again. She tried to think of something else and to pray, but could do neither. With wide-open eyes she gazed at the moonlight and the shadows, expecting every moment to see his dead face, and she felt that the silence brooding over the house and within it held her fast.
“Dunyásha,” she whispered. “Dunyásha!” she screamed wildly, and tearing herself out of this silence she ran to the servants’ quarters to meet her old nurse and the maidservants who came running toward her.
On the seventeenth of August Rostóv and Ilyín, accompanied by Lavrúshka who had just returned from captivity and by an hussar orderly, left their quarters at Yankóvo, ten miles from Boguchárovo, and went for a ride—to try a new horse Ilyín had bought and to find out whether there was any hay to be had in the villages.
For the last three days Boguchárovo had lain between the two hostile armies, so that it was as easy for the Russian rearguard to get to it as for the French vanguard; Rostóv, as a careful squadron commander, wished to take such provisions as remained at Boguchárovo before the French could get them.
Rostóv and Ilyín were in the merriest of moods. On the way to Boguchárovo, a princely estate with a dwelling house and farm where they hoped to find many domestic serfs and pretty girls, they questioned Lavrúshka about Napoleon and laughed at his stories, and raced one another to try Ilyín’s horse.
Rostóv had no idea that the village he was entering was the property of that very Bolkónski who had been engaged to his sister.
Rostóv and Ilyín gave rein to their horses for a last race along the incline before reaching Boguchárovo, and Rostóv, outstripping Ilyín, was the first to gallop into the village street.
“You’re first!” cried Ilyín, flushed.
“Yes, always first both on the grassland and here,” answered Rostóv, stroking his heated Donéts horse.
“And I’d have won on my Frenchy, your excellency,” said Lavrúshka from behind, alluding to his shabby cart horse, “only I didn’t wish to mortify you.”
They rode at a footpace to the barn, where a large crowd of peasants was standing.
Some of the men bared their heads, others stared at the new arrivals without doffing their caps. Two tall old peasants with wrinkled faces and scanty beards emerged from the tavern, smiling, staggering, and singing some incoherent song, and approached the officers.
“Fine fellows!” said Rostóv laughing. “Is there any hay here?”
“And how like one another,” said Ilyín.
“A mo-o-st me-r-r-y co-o-m-pa...!” sang one of the peasants with a blissful smile.
One of the men came out of the crowd and went up to Rostóv.
“Who do you belong to?” he asked.
“The French,” replied Ilyín jestingly, “and here is Napoleon himself”—and he pointed to Lavrúshka.
“Then you are Russians?” the peasant asked again.
“And is there a large force of you here?” said another, a short man, coming up.
“Very large,” answered Rostóv. “But why have you collected here?” he added. “Is it a holiday?”
“The old men have met to talk over the business of the commune,” replied the peasant, moving away.
At that moment, on the road leading from the big house, two women and a man in a white hat were seen coming toward the officers.
“The one in pink is mine, so keep off!” said Ilyín on seeing Dunyásha running resolutely toward him.
“She’ll be ours!” said Lavrúshka to Ilyín, winking.
“What do you want, my pretty?” said Ilyín with a smile.
“The princess ordered me to ask your regiment and your name.”
“This is Count Rostóv, squadron commander, and I am your humble servant.”
“Co-o-om-pa-ny!” roared the tipsy peasant with a beatific smile as he looked at Ilyín talking to the girl. Following Dunyásha, Alpátych advanced to Rostóv, having bared his head while still at a distance.
“May I make bold to trouble your honor?” said he respectfully, but with a shade of contempt for the youthfulness of this officer and with a hand thrust into his bosom. “My mistress, daughter of General in Chief Prince Nicholas Bolkónski who died on the fifteenth of this month, finding herself in difficulties owing to the boorishness of these people”—he pointed to the peasants—“asks you to come up to the house.... Won’t you, please, ride on a little farther,” said Alpátych with a melancholy smile, “as it is not convenient in the presence of...?” He pointed to the two peasants who kept as close to him as horseflies to a horse.
“Ah!... Alpátych... Ah, Yákov Alpátych... Grand! Forgive us for Christ’s sake, eh?” said the peasants, smiling joyfully at him.
Rostóv looked at the tipsy peasants and smiled.
“Or perhaps they amuse your honor?” remarked Alpátych with a staid air, as he pointed at the old men with his free hand.
“No, there’s not much to be amused at here,” said Rostóv, and rode on a little way. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I make bold to inform your honor that the rude peasants here don’t wish to let the mistress leave the estate, and threaten to unharness her horses, so that though everything has been packed up since morning, her excellency cannot get away.”
“Impossible!” exclaimed Rostóv.
“I have the honor to report to you the actual truth,” said Alpátych.
Rostóv dismounted, gave his horse to the orderly, and followed Alpátych to the house, questioning him as to the state of affairs. It appeared that the princess’ offer of corn to the peasants the previous day, and her talk with Dron and at the meeting, had actually had so bad an effect that Dron had finally given up the keys and joined the peasants and had not appeared when Alpátych sent for him; and that in the morning when the princess gave orders to harness for her journey, the peasants had come in a large crowd to the barn and sent word that they would not let her leave the village: that there was an order not to move, and that they would unharness the horses. Alpátych had gone out to admonish them, but was told (it was chiefly Karp who did the talking, Dron not showing himself in the crowd) that they could not let the princess go, that there was an order to the contrary, but that if she stayed they would serve her as before and obey her in everything.
At the moment when Rostóv and Ilyín were galloping along the road, Princess Mary, despite the dissuasions of Alpátych, her nurse, and the maids, had given orders to harness and intended to start, but when the cavalrymen were espied they were taken for Frenchmen, the coachman ran away, and the women in the house began to wail.
“Father! Benefactor! God has sent you!” exclaimed deeply moved voices as Rostóv passed through the anteroom.
Princess Mary was sitting helpless and bewildered in the large sitting room, when Rostóv was shown in. She could not grasp who he was and why he had come, or what was happening to her. When she saw his Russian face, and by his walk and the first words he uttered recognized him as a man of her own class, she glanced at him with her deep radiant look and began speaking in a voice that faltered and trembled with emotion. This meeting immediately struck Rostóv as a romantic event. “A helpless girl overwhelmed with grief, left to the mercy of coarse, rioting peasants! And what a strange fate sent me here! What gentleness and nobility there are in her features and expression!” thought he as he looked at her and listened to her timid story.
When she began to tell him that all this had happened the day after her father’s funeral, her voice trembled. She turned away, and then, as if fearing he might take her words as meant to move him to pity, looked at him with an apprehensive glance of inquiry. There were tears in Rostóv’s eyes. Princess Mary noticed this and glanced gratefully at him with that radiant look which caused the plainness of her face to be forgotten.
“I cannot express, Princess, how glad I am that I happened to ride here and am able to show my readiness to serve you,” said Rostóv, rising. “Go when you please, and I give you my word of honor that no one shall dare to cause you annoyance if only you will allow me to act as your escort.” And bowing respectfully, as if to a lady of royal blood, he moved toward the door.
Rostóv’s deferential tone seemed to indicate that though he would consider himself happy to be acquainted with her, he did not wish to take advantage of her misfortunes to intrude upon her.
Princess Mary understood this and appreciated his delicacy.
“I am very, very grateful to you,” she said in French, “but I hope it was all a misunderstanding and that no one is to blame for it.” She suddenly began to cry.
“Excuse me!” she said.
Rostóv, knitting his brows, left the room with another low bow.