The gray-haired valet was sitting drowsily listening to the snoring of the prince, who was in his large study. From the far side of the house through the closed doors came the sound of difficult passages--twenty times repeated--of a sonata by Dussek.
Just then a closed carriage and another with a hood drove up to the porch. Prince Andrew got out of the carriage, helped his little wife to alight, and let her pass into the house before him. Old Tikhon, wearing a wig, put his head out of the door of the antechamber, reported in a whisper that the prince was sleeping, and hastily closed the door. Tikhon knew that neither the son's arrival nor any other unusual event must be allowed to disturb the appointed order of the day. Prince Andrew apparently knew this as well as Tikhon; he looked at his watch as if to ascertain whether his father's habits had changed since he was at home last, and, having assured himself that they had not, he turned to his wife.
"He will get up in twenty minutes. Let us go across to Mary's room," he said.
The little princess had grown stouter during this time, but her eyes and her short, downy, smiling lip lifted when she began to speak just as merrily and prettily as ever.
"Why, this is a palace!" she said to her husband, looking around with the expression with which people compliment their host at a ball. "Let's come, quick, quick!" And with a glance round, she smiled at Tikhon, at her husband, and at the footman who accompanied them.
"Is that Mary practicing? Let's go quietly and take her by surprise."
Prince Andrew followed her with a courteous but sad expression.
"You've grown older, Tikhon," he said in passing to the old man, who kissed his hand.
Before they reached the room from which the sounds of the clavichord came, the pretty, fair haired Frenchwoman, Mademoiselle Bourienne, rushed out apparently beside herself with delight.
"Ah! what joy for the princess!" exclaimed she: "At last! I must let her know."
"No, no, please not... You are Mademoiselle Bourienne," said the little princess, kissing her. "I know you already through my sister-in-law's friendship for you. She was not expecting us?"
They went up to the door of the sitting room from which came the sound of the oft-repeated passage of the sonata. Prince Andrew stopped and made a grimace, as if expecting something unpleasant.
The little princess entered the room. The passage broke off in the middle, a cry was heard, then Princess Mary's heavy tread and the sound of kissing. When Prince Andrew went in the two princesses, who had only met once before for a short time at his wedding, were in each other's arms warmly pressing their lips to whatever place they happened to touch. Mademoiselle Bourienne stood near them pressing her hand to her heart, with a beatific smile and obviously equally ready to cry or to laugh. Prince Andrew shrugged his shoulders and frowned, as lovers of music do when they hear a false note. The two women let go of one another, and then, as if afraid of being too late, seized each other's hands, kissing them and pulling them away, and again began kissing each other on the face, and then to Prince Andrew's surprise both began to cry and kissed again. Mademoiselle Bourienne also began to cry. Prince Andrew evidently felt ill at ease, but to the two women it seemed quite natural that they should cry, and apparently it never entered their heads that it could have been otherwise at this meeting.
"Ah! my dear!... Ah! Mary!" they suddenly exclaimed, and then laughed. "I dreamed last night..."--"You were not expecting us?..."- "Ah! Mary, you have got thinner?..." "And you have grown stouter!..."
"I knew the princess at once," put in Mademoiselle Bourienne.
"And I had no idea!..." exclaimed Princess Mary. "Ah, Andrew, I did not see you."
Prince Andrew and his sister, hand in hand, kissed one another, and he told her she was still the same crybaby as ever. Princess Mary had turned toward her brother, and through her tears the loving, warm, gentle look of her large luminous eyes, very beautiful at that moment, rested on Prince Andrew's face.
The little princess talked incessantly, her short, downy upper lip continually and rapidly touching her rosy nether lip when necessary and drawing up again next moment when her face broke into a smile of glittering teeth and sparkling eyes. She told of an accident they had had on the Spasski Hill which might have been serious for her in her condition, and immediately after that informed them that she had left all her clothes in Petersburg and that heaven knew what she would have to dress in here; and that Andrew had quite changed, and that Kitty Odyntsova had married an old man, and that there was a suitor for Mary, a real one, but that they would talk of that later. Princess Mary was still looking silently at her brother and her beautiful eyes were full of love and sadness. It was plain that she was following a train of thought independent of her sister-in-law's words. In the midst of a description of the last Petersburg fete she addressed her brother:
"So you are really going to the war, Andrew?" she said sighing.
Lise sighed too.
"Yes, and even tomorrow," replied her brother.
"He is leaving me here, God knows why, when he might have had promotion..."
Princess Mary did not listen to the end, but continuing her train of thought turned to her sister-in-law with a tender glance at her figure.
"Is it certain?" she said.
The face of the little princess changed. She sighed and said: "Yes, quite certain. Ah! it is very dreadful..."
Her lip descended. She brought her face close to her sister-in-law's and unexpectedly again began to cry.
"She needs rest," said Prince Andrew with a frown. "Don't you, Lise? Take her to your room and I'll go to Father. How is he? Just the same?"
"Yes, just the same. Though I don't know what your opinion will be," answered the princess joyfully.
"And are the hours the same? And the walks in the avenues? And the lathe?" asked Prince Andrew with a scarcely perceptible smile which showed that, in spite of all his love and respect for his father, he was aware of his weaknesses.
"The hours are the same, and the lathe, and also the mathematics and my geometry lessons," said Princess Mary gleefully, as if her lessons in geometry were among the greatest delights of her life.
When the twenty minutes had elapsed and the time had come for the old prince to get up, Tikhon came to call the young prince to his father. The old man made a departure from his usual routine in honor of his son's arrival: he gave orders to admit him to his apartments while he dressed for dinner. The old prince always dressed in old-fashioned style, wearing an antique coat and powdered hair; and when Prince Andrew entered his father's dressing room (not with the contemptuous look and manner he wore in drawing rooms, but with the animated face with which he talked to Pierre), the old man was sitting on a large leather-covered chair, wrapped in a powdering mantle, entrusting his head to Tikhon.
"Ah! here's the warrior! Wants to vanquish Buonaparte?" said the old man, shaking his powdered head as much as the tail, which Tikhon was holding fast to plait, would allow.
"You at least must tackle him properly, or else if he goes on like this he'll soon have us, too, for his subjects! How are you?" And he held out his cheek.
The old man was in a good temper after his nap before dinner. (He used to say that a nap "after dinner was silver--before dinner, golden.") He cast happy, sidelong glances at his son from under his thick, bushy eyebrows. Prince Andrew went up and kissed his father on the spot indicated to him. He made no reply on his father's favorite topic--making fun of the military men of the day, and more particularly of Bonaparte.
"Yes, Father, I have come come to you and brought my wife who is pregnant," said Prince Andrew, following every movement of his father's face with an eager and respectful look. "How is your health?"
"Only fools and rakes fall ill, my boy. You know me: I am busy from morning till night and abstemious, so of course I am well."
"Thank God," said his son smiling.
"God has nothing to do with it! Well, go on," he continued, returning to his hobby; "tell me how the Germans have taught you to fight Bonaparte by this new science you call 'strategy.'"
Prince Andrew smiled.
"Give me time to collect my wits, Father," said he, with a smile that showed that his father's foibles did not prevent his son from loving and honoring him. "Why, I have not yet had time to settle down!"
"Nonsense, nonsense!" cried the old man, shaking his pigtail to see whether it was firmly plaited, and grasping his by the hand. "The house for your wife is ready. Princess Mary will take her there and show her over, and they'll talk nineteen to the dozen. That's their woman's way! I am glad to have her. Sit down and talk. About Mikhelson's army I understand--Tolstoy's too... a simultaneous expedition.... But what's the southern army to do? Prussia is neutral... I know that. What about Austria?" said he, rising from his chair and pacing up and down the room followed by Tikhon, who ran after him, handing him different articles of clothing. "What of Sweden? How will they cross Pomerania?"
Prince Andrew, seeing that his father insisted, began--at first reluctantly, but gradually with more and more animation, and from habit changing unconsciously from Russian to French as he went on- to explain the plan of operation for the coming campaign. He explained how an army, ninety thousand strong, was to threaten Prussia so as to bring her out of her neutrality and draw her into the war; how part of that army was to join some Swedish forces at Stralsund; how two hundred and twenty thousand Austrians, with a hundred thousand Russians, were to operate in Italy and on the Rhine; how fifty thousand Russians and as many English were to land at Naples, and how a total force of five hundred thousand men was to attack the French from different sides. The old prince did not evince the least interest during this explanation, but as if he were not listening to it continued to dress while walking about, and three times unexpectedly interrupted. Once he stopped it by shouting: "The white one, the white one!"
This meant that Tikhon was not handing him the waistcoat he wanted. Another time he interrupted, saying:
"And will she soon be confined?" and shaking his head reproachfully said: "That's bad! Go on, go on."
The third interruption came when Prince Andrew was finishing his description. The old man began to sing, in the cracked voice of old age: "Malbrook s'en va-t-en guerre. Dieu sait quand reviendra."*
*"Marlborough is going to the wars; God knows when he'll return."
His son only smiled.
"I don't say it's a plan I approve of," said the son; "I am only telling you what it is. Napoleon has also formed his plan by now, not worse than this one."
"Well, you've told me nothing new," and the old man repeated, meditatively and rapidly:
"Dieu sait quand reviendra. Go to the dining room."
At the appointed hour the prince, powdered and shaven, entered the dining room where his daughter-in-law, Princess Mary, and Mademoiselle Bourienne were already awaiting him together with his architect, who by a strange caprice of his employer's was admitted to table though the position of that insignificant individual was such as could certainly not have caused him to expect that honor. The prince, who generally kept very strictly to social distinctions and rarely admitted even important government officials to his table, had unexpectedly selected Michael Ivanovich (who always went into a corner to blow his nose on his checked handkerchief) to illustrate the theory that all men are equals, and had more than once impressed on his daughter that Michael Ivanovich was "not a whit worse than you or I." At dinner the prince usually spoke to the taciturn Michael Ivanovich more often than to anyone else.
In the dining room, which like all the rooms in the house was exceedingly lofty, the members of the household and the footmen--one behind each chair--stood waiting for the prince to enter. The head butler, napkin on arm, was scanning the setting of the table, making signs to the footmen, and anxiously glancing from the clock to the door by which the prince was to enter. Prince Andrew was looking at a large gilt frame, new to him, containing the genealogical tree of the Princes Bolkonski, opposite which hung another such frame with a badly painted portrait (evidently by the hand of the artist belonging to the estate) of a ruling prince, in a crown--an alleged descendant of Rurik and ancestor of the Bolkonskis. Prince Andrew, looking again at that genealogical tree, shook his head, laughing as a man laughs who looks at a portrait so characteristic of the original as to be amusing.
"How thoroughly like him that is!" he said to Princess Mary, who had come up to him.
Princess Mary looked at her brother in surprise. She did not understand what he was laughing at. Everything her father did inspired her with reverence and was beyond question.
"Everyone has his Achilles' heel," continued Prince Andrew. "Fancy, with his powerful mind, indulging in such nonsense!"
Princess Mary could not understand the boldness of her brother's criticism and was about to reply, when the expected footsteps were heard coming from the study. The prince walked in quickly and jauntily as was his wont, as if intentionally contrasting the briskness of his manners with the strict formality of his house. At that moment the great clock struck two and another with a shrill tone joined in from the drawing room. The prince stood still; his lively glittering eyes from under their thick, bushy eyebrows sternly scanned all present and rested on the little princess. She felt, as courtiers do when the Tsar enters, the sensation of fear and respect which the old man inspired in all around him. He stroked her hair and then patted her awkwardly on the back of her neck.
"I'm glad, glad, to see you," he said, looking attentively into her eyes, and then quickly went to his place and sat down. "Sit down, sit down! Sit down, Michael Ianovich!"
He indicated a place beside him to his daughter-in-law. A footman moved the chair for her.
"Ho, ho!" said the old man, casting his eyes on her rounded figure. "You've been in a hurry. That's bad!"
He laughed in his usual dry, cold, unpleasant way, with his lips only and not with his eyes.
"You must walk, walk as much as possible, as much as possible," he said.
The little princess did not, or did not wish to, hear his words. She was silent and seemed confused. The prince asked her about her father, and she began to smile and talk. He asked about mutual acquaintances, and she became still more animated and chattered away giving him greetings from various people and retailing the town gossip.
"Countess Apraksina, poor thing, has lost her husband and she has cried her eyes out," she said, growing more and more lively.
As she became animated the prince looked at her more and more sternly, and suddenly, as if he had studied her sufficiently and had formed a definite idea of her, he turned away and addressed Michael Ivanovich.
"Well, Michael Ivanovich, our Bonaparte will be having a bad time of it. Prince Andrew" (he always spoke thus of his son) "has been telling me what forces are being collected against him! While you and I never thought much of him."
Michael Ivanovich did not at all know when "you and I" had said such things about Bonaparte, but understanding that he was wanted as a peg on which to hang the prince's favorite topic, he looked inquiringly at the young prince, wondering what would follow.
"He is a great tactician!" said the prince to his son, pointing to the architect.
And the conversation again turned on the war, on Bonaparte, and the generals and statesmen of the day. The old prince seemed convinced not only that all the men of the day were mere babies who did not know the A B C of war or of politics, and that Bonaparte was an insignificant little Frenchy, successful only because there were no longer any Potemkins or Suvorovs left to oppose him; but he was also convinced that there were no political difficulties in Europe and no real war, but only a sort of puppet show at which the men of the day were playing, pretending to do something real. Prince Andrew gaily bore with his father's ridicule of the new men, and drew him on and listened to him with evident pleasure.
"The past always seems good," said he, "but did not Suvorov himself fall into a trap Moreau set him, and from which he did not know how to escape?"
"Who told you that? Who?" cried the prince. "Suvorov!" And he jerked away his plate, which Tikhon briskly caught. "Suvorov!... Consider, Prince Andrew. Two... Frederick and Suvorov; Moreau!... Moreau would have been a prisoner if Suvorov had had a free hand; but he had the Hofs-kriegs-wurst-schnapps-Rath on his hands. It would have puzzled the devil himself! When you get there you'll find out what those Hofs-kriegs-wurst-Raths are! Suvorov couldn't manage them so what chance has Michael Kutuzov? No, my dear boy," he continued, "you and your generals won't get on against Buonaparte; you'll have to call in the French, so that birds of a feather may fight together. The German, Pahlen, has been sent to New York in America, to fetch the Frenchman, Moreau," he said, alluding to the invitation made that year to Moreau to enter the Russian service.... "Wonderful!... Were the Potemkins, Suvorovs, and Orlovs Germans? No, lad, either you fellows have all lost your wits, or I have outlived mine. May God help you, but we'll see what will happen. Buonaparte has become a great commander among them! Hm!..."
"I don't at all say that all the plans are good," said Prince Andrew, "I am only surprised at your opinion of Bonaparte. You may laugh as much as you like, but all the same Bonaparte is a great general!"
"Michael Ivanovich!" cried the old prince to the architect who, busy with his roast meat, hoped he had been forgotten: "Didn't I tell you Buonaparte was a great tactician? Here, he says the same thing."
"To be sure, your excellency." replied the architect.
The prince again laughed his frigid laugh.
"Buonaparte was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He has got splendid soldiers. Besides he began by attacking Germans. And only idlers have failed to beat the Germans. Since the world began everybody has beaten the Germans. They beat no one--except one another. He made his reputation fighting them."
And the prince began explaining all the blunders which, according to him, Bonaparte had made in his campaigns and even in politics. His son made no rejoinder, but it was evident that whatever arguments were presented he was as little able as his father to change his opinion. He listened, refraining from a reply, and involuntarily wondered how this old man, living alone in the country for so many years, could know and discuss so minutely and acutely all the recent European military and political events.
"You think I'm an old man and don't understand the present state of affairs?" concluded his father. "But it troubles me. I don't sleep at night. Come now, where has this great commander of yours shown his skill?" he concluded.
"That would take too long to tell," answered the son.
"Well, then go to your Buonaparte! Mademoiselle Bourienne, here's another admirer of that powder-monkey emperor of yours," he exclaimed in excellent French.
"You know, Prince, I am not a Bonapartist!"
"Dieu sait quand reviendra..." hummed the prince out of tune and, with a laugh still more so, he quitted the table.
The little princess during the whole discussion and the rest of the dinner sat silent, glancing with a frightened look now at her father-in-law and now at Princess Mary. When they left the table she took her sister-in-law's arm and drew her into another room.
"What a clever man your father is," said she; "perhaps that is why I am afraid of him."
"Oh, he is so kind!" answered Princess Mary.
Prince Andrew was to leave next evening. The old prince, not altering his routine, retired as usual after dinner. The little princess was in her sister-in-law's room. Prince Andrew in a traveling coat without epaulettes had been packing with his valet in the rooms assigned to him. After inspecting the carriage himself and seeing the trunks put in, he ordered the horses to be harnessed. Only those things he always kept with him remained in his room; a small box, a large canteen fitted with silver plate, two Turkish pistols and a saber--a present from his father who had brought it from the siege of Ochakov. All these traveling effects of Prince Andrew's were in very good order: new, clean, and in cloth covers carefully tied with tapes.
When starting on a journey or changing their mode of life, men capable of reflection are generally in a serious frame of mind. At such moments one reviews the past and plans for the future. Prince Andrew's face looked very thoughtful and tender. With his hands behind him he paced briskly from corner to corner of the room, looking straight before him and thoughtfully shaking his head. Did he fear going to the war, or was he sad at leaving his wife?--perhaps both, but evidently he did not wish to be seen in that mood, for hearing footsteps in the passage he hurriedly unclasped his hands, stopped at a table as if tying the cover of the small box, and assumed his usual tranquil and impenetrable expression. It was the heavy tread of Princess Mary that he heard.
"I hear you have given orders to harness," she cried, panting (she had apparently been running), "and I did so wish to have another talk with you alone! God knows how long we may again be parted. You are not angry with me for coming? You have changed so, Andrusha," she added, as if to explain such a question.
She smiled as she uttered his pet name, "Andrusha." It was obviously strange to her to think that this stern handsome man should be Andrusha--the slender mischievous boy who had been her playfellow in childhood.
"And where is Lise?" he asked, answering her question only by a smile.
"She was so tired that she has fallen asleep on the sofa in my room. Oh, Andrew! What a treasure of a wife you have," said she, sitting down on the sofa, facing her brother. "She is quite a child: such a dear, merry child. I have grown so fond of her."
Prince Andrew was silent, but the princess noticed the ironical and contemptuous look that showed itself on his face.
"One must be indulgent to little weaknesses; who is free from them, Andrew? Don't forget that she has grown up and been educated in society, and so her position now is not a rosy one. We should enter into everyone's situation. Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner.* Think it must be for her, poor thing, after what she has been used to, to be parted from her husband and be left alone in the country, in her condition! It's very hard."
*To understand all is to forgive all.
Prince Andrew smiled as he looked at his sister, as we smile at those we think we thoroughly understand.
"You live in the country and don't think the life terrible," he replied.
"I... that's different. Why speak of me? I don't want any other life, and can't, for I know no other. But think, Andrew: for a young society woman to be buried in the country during the best years of her life, all alone--for Papa is always busy, and I... well, you know what poor resources I have for entertaining a woman used to the best society. There is only Mademoiselle Bourienne...."
"I don't like your Mademoiselle Bourienne at all," said Prince Andrew.
"No? She is very nice and kind and, above all, she's much to be pitied. She has no one, no one. To tell the truth, I don't need her, and she's even in my way. You know I always was a savage, and now am even more so. I like being alone.... Father likes her very much. She and Michael Ivanovich are the two people to whom he is always gentle and kind, because he has been a benefactor to them both. As Sterne says: 'We don't love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we have done them.' Father took her when she was homeless after losing her own father. She is very good-natured, and my father likes her way of reading. She reads to him in the evenings and reads splendidly."
"To be quite frank, Mary, I expect Father's character sometimes makes things trying for you, doesn't it?" Prince Andrew asked suddenly.
Princess Mary was first surprised and then aghast at this question.
"For me? For me?... Trying for me!..." said she.
"He always was rather harsh; and now I should think he's getting very trying," said Prince Andrew, apparently speaking lightly of their father in order to puzzle or test his sister.
"You are good in every way, Andrew, but you have a kind of intellectual pride," said the princess, following the train of her own thoughts rather than the trend of the conversation--"and that's a great sin. How can one judge Father? But even if one might, what feeling except veneration could such a man as my father evoke? And I am so contented and happy with him. I only wish you were all as happy as I am."
Her brother shook his head incredulously.
"The only thing that is hard for me... I will tell you the truth, Andrew... is Father's way of treating religious subjects. I don't understand how a man of his immense intellect can fail to see what is as clear as day, and can go so far astray. That is the only thing that makes me unhappy. But even in this I can see lately a shade of improvement. His satire has been less bitter of late, and there was a monk he received and had a long talk with."
"Ah! my dear, I am afraid you and your monk are wasting your powder," said Prince Andrew banteringly yet tenderly.
"Ah! mon ami, I only pray, and hope that God will hear me. Andrew..." she said timidly after a moment's silence, "I have a great favor to ask of you."
"What is it, dear?"
"No--promise that you will not refuse! It will give you no trouble and is nothing unworthy of you, but it will comfort me. Promise, Andrusha!..." said she, putting her hand in her reticule but not yet taking out what she was holding inside it, as if what she held were the subject of her request and must not be shown before the request was granted.
She looked timidly at her brother.
"Even if it were a great deal of trouble..." answered Prince Andrew, as if guessing what it was about.
"Think what you please! I know you are just like Father. Think as you please, but do this for my sake! Please do! Father's father, our grandfather, wore it in all his wars." (She still did not take out what she was holding in her reticule.) "So you promise?"
"Of course. What is it?"
"Andrew, I bless you with this icon and you must promise me you will never take it off. Do you promise?"
"If it does not weigh a hundredweight and won't break my neck... To please you..." said Prince Andrew. But immediately, noticing the pained expression his joke had brought to his sister's face, he repented and added: "I am glad; really, dear, I am very glad."
"Against your will He will save and have mercy on you and bring you to Himself, for in Him alone is truth and peace," said she in a voice trembling with emotion, solemnly holding up in both hands before her brother a small, oval, antique, dark-faced icon of the Saviour in a gold setting, on a finely wrought silver chain.
She crossed herself, kissed the icon, and handed it to Andrew.
"Please, Andrew, for my sake!..."
Rays of gentle light shone from her large, timid eyes. Those eyes lit up the whole of her thin, sickly face and made it beautiful. Her brother would have taken the icon, but she stopped him. Andrew understood, crossed himself and kissed the icon. There was a look of tenderness, for he was touched, but also a gleam of irony on his face.
"Thank you, my dear." She kissed him on the forehead and sat down again on the sofa. They were silent for a while.
"As I was saying to you, Andrew, be kind and generous as you always used to be. Don't judge Lise harshly," she began. "She is so sweet, so good-natured, and her position now is a very hard one."
"I do not think I have complained of my wife to you, Masha, or blamed her. Why do you say all this to me?"
Red patches appeared on Princess Mary's face and she was silent as if she felt guilty.
"I have said nothing to you, but you have already been talked to. And I am sorry for that," he went on.
The patches grew deeper on her forehead, neck, and cheeks. She tried to say something but could not. Her brother had guessed right: the little princess had been crying after dinner and had spoken of her forebodings about her confinement, and how she dreaded it, and had complained of her fate, her father-in-law, and her husband. After crying she had fallen asleep. Prince Andrew felt sorry for his sister.
"Know this, Masha: I can't reproach, have not reproached, and never shall reproach my wife with anything, and I cannot reproach myself with anything in regard to her; and that always will be so in whatever circumstances I may be placed. But if you want to know the truth... if you want to know whether I am happy? No! Is she happy? No! But why this is so I don't know..."
As he said this he rose, went to his sister, and, stooping, kissed her forehead. His fine eyes lit up with a thoughtful, kindly, and unaccustomed brightness, but he was looking not at his sister but over her head toward the darkness of the open doorway.
"Let us go to her, I must say good-by. Or--go and wake and I'll come in a moment. Petrushka!" he called to his valet: "Come here, take these away. Put this on the seat and this to the right."
Princess Mary rose and moved to the door, then stopped and said: "Andrew, if you had faith you would have turned to God and asked Him to give you the love you do not feel, and your prayer would have been answered."
"Well, may be!" said Prince Andrew. "Go, Masha; I'll come immediately."
On the way to his sister's room, in the passage which connected one wing with the other, Prince Andrew met Mademoiselle Bourienne smiling sweetly. It was the third time that day that, with an ecstatic and artless smile, she had met him in secluded passages.
"Oh! I thought you were in your room," she said, for some reason blushing and dropping her eyes.
Prince Andrew looked sternly at her and an expression of anger suddenly came over his face. He said nothing to her but looked at her forehead and hair, without looking at her eyes, with such contempt that the Frenchwoman blushed and went away without a word. When he reached his sister's room his wife was already awake and her merry voice, hurrying one word after another, came through the open door. She was speaking as usual in French, and as if after long self-restraint she wished to make up for lost time.
"No, but imagine the old Countess Zubova, with false curls and her mouth full of false teeth, as if she were trying to cheat old age.... Ha, ha, ha! Mary!"
This very sentence about Countess Zubova and this same laugh Prince Andrew had already heard from his wife in the presence of others some five times. He entered the room softly. The little princess, plump and rosy, was sitting in an easy chair with her work in her hands, talking incessantly, repeating Petersburg reminiscences and even phrases. Prince Andrew came up, stroked her hair, and asked if she felt rested after their journey. She answered him and continued her chatter.
The coach with six horses was waiting at the porch. It was an autumn night, so dark that the coachman could not see the carriage pole. Servants with lanterns were bustling about in the porch. The immense house was brilliant with lights shining through its lofty windows. The domestic serfs were crowding in the hall, waiting to bid good-by to the young prince. The members of the household were all gathered in the reception hall: Michael Ivanovich, Mademoiselle Bourienne, Princess Mary, and the little princess. Prince Andrew had been called to his father's study as the latter wished to say good-by to him alone. All were waiting for them to come out.
When Prince Andrew entered the study the old man in his old-age spectacles and white dressing gown, in which he received no one but his son, sat at the table writing. He glanced round.
"Going?" And he went on writing.
"I've come to say good-by."
"Kiss me here," and he touched his cheek: "Thanks, thanks!"
"What do you thank me for?"
"For not dilly-dallying and not hanging to a woman's apron strings. The Service before everything. Thanks, thanks!" And he went on writing, so that his quill spluttered and squeaked. "If you have anything to say, say it. These two things can be done together," he added.
"About my wife... I am ashamed as it is to leave her on your hands..."
"Why talk nonsense? Say what you want."
"When her confinement is due, send to Moscow for an accoucheur.... Let him be here...."
The old prince stopped writing and, as if not understanding, fixed his stern eyes on his son.
"I know that no one can help if nature does not do her work," said Prince Andrew, evidently confused. "I know that out of a million cases only one goes wrong, but it is her fancy and mine. They have been telling her things. She has had a dream and is frightened."
"Hm... Hm..." muttered the old prince to himself, finishing what he was writing. "I'll do it."
He signed with a flourish and suddenly turning to his son began to laugh.
"It's a bad business, eh?"
"What is bad, Father?"
"The wife!" said the old prince, briefly and significantly.
"I don't understand!" said Prince Andrew.
"No, it can't be helped, lad," said the prince. "They're all like that; one can't unmarry. Don't be afraid; I won't tell anyone, but you know it yourself."
He seized his son by the hand with small bony fingers, shook it, looked straight into his son's face with keen eyes which seemed to see through him, and again laughed his frigid laugh.
The son sighed, thus admitting that his father had understood him. The old man continued to fold and seal his letter, snatching up and throwing down the wax, the seal, and the paper, with his accustomed rapidity.
"What's to be done? She's pretty! I will do everything. Make your mind easy," said he in abrupt sentences while sealing his letter.
Andrew did not speak; he was both pleased and displeased that his father understood him. The old man got up and gave the letter to his son.
"Listen!" said he; "don't worry about your wife: what can be done shall be. Now listen! Give this letter to Michael Ilarionovich.* I have written that he should make use of you in proper places and not keep you long as an adjutant: a bad position! Tell him I remember and like him. Write and tell me how he receives you. If he is all right--serve him. Nicholas Bolkonski's son need not serve under anyone if he is in disfavor. Now come here."
He spoke so rapidly that he did not finish half his words, but his son was accustomed to understand him. He led him to the desk, raised the lid, drew out a drawer, and took out an exercise book filled with his bold, tall, close handwriting.
"I shall probably die before you. So remember, these are my memoirs; hand them to the Emperor after my death. Now here is a Lombard bond and a letter; it is a premium for the man who writes a history of Suvorov's wars. Send it to the Academy. Here are some jottings for you to read when I am gone. You will find them useful."
Andrew did not tell his father that he would no doubt live a long time yet. He felt that he must not say it.
"I will do it all, Father," he said.
"Well, now, good-by!" He gave his son his hand to kiss, and embraced him. "Remember this, Prince Andrew, if they kill you it will hurt me, your old father..." he paused unexpectedly, and then in a querulous voice suddenly shrieked: "but if I hear that you have not behaved like a son of Nicholas Bolkonski, I shall be ashamed!"
"You need not have said that to me, Father," said the son with a smile.
The old man was silent.
"I also wanted to ask you," continued Prince Andrew, "if I'm killed and if I have a son, do not let him be taken away from you- as I said yesterday... let him grow up with you.... Please."
"Not let the wife have him?" said the old man, and laughed.
They stood silent, facing one another. The old man's sharp eyes were fixed straight on his son's. Something twitched in the lower part of the old prince's face.
"We've said good-by. Go!" he suddenly shouted in a loud, angry voice, opening his door.
"What is it? What?" asked both princesses when they saw for a moment at the door Prince Andrew and the figure of the old man in a white dressing gown, spectacled and wigless, shouting in an angry voice.
Prince Andrew sighed and made no reply.
"Well!" he said, turning to his wife.
And this "Well!" sounded coldly ironic, as if he were saying,: "Now go through your performance."
"Andrew, already!" said the little princess, turning pale and looking with dismay at her husband.
He embraced her. She screamed and fell unconscious on his shoulder.
He cautiously released the shoulder she leaned on, looked into her face, and carefully placed her in an easy chair.
"Adieu, Mary," said he gently to his sister, taking her by the hand and kissing her, and then he left the room with rapid steps.
The little princess lay in the armchair, Mademoiselle Bourienne chafing her temples. Princess Mary, supporting her sister-in-law, still looked with her beautiful eyes full of tears at the door through which Prince Andrew had gone and made the sign of the cross in his direction. From the study, like pistol shots, came the frequent sound of the old man angrily blowing his nose. Hardly had Prince Andrew gone when the study door opened quickly and the stern figure of the old man in the white dressing gown looked out.
"Gone? That's all right!" said he; and looking angrily at the unconscious little princess, he shook his head reprovingly and slammed the door.