PRINCE ANDREY was leaving the following evening. The old prince, not departing from his regular routine, went away to his own room after dinner. The little princess was with her sister-in-law. Prince Andrey, having changed his dress and put on a travelling-coat without epaulettes, had been packing with his valet in the rooms set apart for him. After himself inspecting the coach and the packing of his trunks on it, he gave orders for the horses to be put to. Nothing was left in the room but the things that Prince Andrey always carried with him: a travelling-case, a big silver wine-case, two Turkish pistols and a sabre, a present from his father, brought back from his campaign under Otchakov. All Prince Andrey's belongings for the journey were in good order; everything was new and clean, in cloth covers, carefully fastened with tape.
At moments of starting off and beginning a different life, persons given to deliberating on their actions are usually apt to be in a serious frame of mind. At such moments one reviews the past and forms plans for the future. The face of Prince Andrey was very dreamy and tender. Clasping his hands behind him, he walked rapidly up and down the room from corner to corner looking straight before him and dreamily shaking his head. Whether he felt dread at going to the war, or grief at forsaking his wife or possibly something of both—he evidently did not care to be seen in that mood, for, catching the sound of footsteps in the outer room, he hastily unclasped his hands, stood at the table, as though engaged in fastening the cover of the case, and assumed his habitual calm and impenetrable expression. It was the heavy step of Princess Marya.
“They told me you had ordered the horses to be put in,” she said, panting (she had evidently been running), “and I did so want to have a little more talk with you alone. God knows how long we shall be parted again. You're not angry with me for coming? You're very much changed, Andryusha,” she added, as though to explain the question.
She smiled as she uttered the word “Andryusha.” It was obviously strange to her to think that this stern, handsome man was the same as the thin, mischievous boy, the Andryusha who had been the companion of her childhood.
“And where's Liza?” he asked, only answering her question by a smile.
“She was so tired that she fell asleep on the sofa in my room. Oh Andrey, what a treasure of a wife you have,” she said, sitting down on the sofa, facing her brother. “She is a perfect child; such a sweet, merry child. I like her so much.” Prince Andrey did not speak, but the princess noticed the ironical and contemptuous expression that came into his face.
“But one must be indulgent to little weaknesses. Who is free from them, Andrey? You mustn't forget that she has grown up and been educated in society. And then her position is not a very cheerful one. One must put oneself in every one's position. To understand everything is to forgive everything. Only think what it must be for her, poor girl, after the life she has been used to, to part from her husband and be left alone in the country, and in her condition too. It's very hard.”
Prince Andrey smiled, looking at his sister as we smile listening to people whom we fancy we see through.
“You live in the country and think the life so awful?” he said.
“I—that's a different matter. Why bring me in? I don't wish for any other life, and indeed I can't wish for anything different, for I know no other sort of life. But only think, Andrey, what it is for a young woman used to fashionable society to be buried for the best years of her life in the country, alone, because papa is always busy, and I … you know me … I am not a cheerful companion for women used to the best society. Mademoiselle Bourienne is the only person …”
“I don't like her at all, your Bourienne,” said Prince Andrey.
“Oh, no! she's a very good and sweet girl, and what's more, she's very much to be pitied. She has nobody, nobody. To tell the truth, she is of no use to me, but only in my way. I have always, you know, been a solitary creature, and now I'm getting more and more so. I like to be alone … Mon père likes her very much. She and Mihail Ivanovitch are the two people he is always friendly and good-tempered with, because he has been a benefactor to both of them; 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.' Mon père picked her up an orphan in the streets, and she's very good-natured. And mon père likes her way of reading. She reads aloud to him in the evenings. She reads very well.”
“Come, tell me the truth, Marie, you suffer a good deal, I expect, sometimes from our father's character?” Prince Andrey asked suddenly. Princess Marya was at first amazed, then aghast at the question.
“Me?…me?…me suffer!” she said.
“He was always harsh, but he's growing very tedious, I should think,” said Prince Andrey, speaking so slightingly of his father with an unmistakable intention either of puzzling or of testing his sister.
“You are good in every way, Andrey, but you have a sort of pride of intellect,” said the princess, evidently following her own train of thought rather than the thread of the conversation, “and that's a great sin. Do you think it right to judge our father? But if it were right, what feeling but vénération could be aroused by such a man as mon père? And I am so contented and happy with him. I could only wish you were all as happy as I am.”
Her brother shook his head incredulously.
“The only thing that troubles me,—I'll tell you the truth, Andrey,— is our father's way of thinking in religious matters. I can't understand how a man of such immense intellect can fail to see what is as clear as day, and can fall into such error. That is the one thing that makes me unhappy. But even in this I see a slight change for the better of late. Lately his jeers have not been so bitter, and there is a monk whom he received and talked to a long time.”
“Well, my dear, I'm afraid you and your monk are wasting your powder and shot,” Prince Andrey said ironically but affectionately.
“Ah, mon ami! I can only pray to God and trust that He will hear me. Andrey,” she said timidly after a minute's silence, “I have a great favour to ask of you.”
“What is it, dear?”
“No; promise me you won't refuse. It will be no trouble to you, and there is nothing beneath you in it. Only it will be a comfort to me. Promise, Andryusha,” she said, putting her hand into her reticule and holding something in it, but not showing it yet, as though what she was holding was the object of her entreaty, and before she received a promise to grant it, she could not take that something out of her reticule. She looked timidly with imploring eyes at her brother.
“Even if it were a great trouble …” answered Prince Andrey, seeming to guess what the favour was.
“You may think what you please about it. I know you are like mon père. Think what you please, but do this for my sake. Do, please. The father of my father, our grandfather, always wore it in all his wars …” She still did not take out what she was holding in her reticule. “You promise me, then?”
“Of course, what is it?”
“Andrey, I am blessing you with the holy image, and you must promise me you will never take it off.… You promise?”
“If it does not weigh a ton and won't drag my neck off … To please you,” said Prince Andrey. The same second he noticed the pained expression that came over his sister's face at this jest, and felt remorseful. “I am very glad, really very glad, dear,” he added.
“Against your own will He will save and will have mercy on you and turn you to Himself, because in Him alone is truth and peace,” she said in a voice shaking with emotion, and with a solemn gesture holding in both hands before her brother an old-fashioned, little, oval holy image of the Saviour with a black face in a silver setting, on a little silver chain of delicate workmanship. She crossed herself, kissed the image, and gave it to Andrey.
“Please, Andrey, for my sake.”
Rays of kindly, timid light beamed from her great eyes. Those eyes lighted up all the thin, sickly face and made it beautiful. Her brother would have taken the image, but she stopped him. Andrey understood, crossed himself, and kissed the image. His face looked at once tender (he was touched) and ironical.
“Merci, mon ami.” She kissed him on the forehead and sat down again on the sofa. Both were silent.
“So as I was telling you, Andrey, you must be kind and generous as you always used to be. Don't judge Liza harshly,” she began; “she is so sweet, so good-natured, and her position is a very hard one just now.”
“I fancy I have said nothing to you, Masha, of my blaming my wife for anything or being dissatisfied with her. What makes you say all this to me?”
Princess Marya coloured in patches, and was mute, as though she felt guilty.
“I have said nothing to you, but you have been talked to. And that makes me sad.”
The red patches grew deeper on the forehead and neck and cheeks of Princess Marya. She would have said something, but could not utter the words. Her brother had guessed right: his wife had shed tears after dinner, had said that she had a presentiment of a bad confinement, that she was afraid of it, and had complained of her hard lot, of her father-in-law and her husband. After crying she had fallen asleep. Prince Andrey felt sorry for his sister.
“Let me tell you one thing, Masha, I can't reproach my wife for anything, I never have and I never shall, nor can I reproach myself for anything in regard to her, and that shall always be so in whatever circumstances I may be placed. But if you want to know the truth … if you want to know if I am happy. No. Is she happy? No. Why is it so? I don't know.”
As he said this, he went up to his sister, and stooping over her kissed her on the forehead. His fine eyes shone with an unaccustomed light of intelligence and goodness. But he was not looking at his sister, but towards the darkness of the open door, over her head.
“Let us go to her; I must say good-bye. Or you go alone and wake her up, and I'll come in a moment. Petrushka!” he called to his valet, “come here and take away these things. This is to go in the seat and this on the right side.”
Princess Marya got up and moved toward the door. She stopped. “Andrey, if you had faith, you would have appealed to God, to give you the love that you do not feel, and your prayer would have been granted.”
“Yes, perhaps so,” said Prince Andrey. “Go, Masha, I'll come immediately.”
On the way to his sister's room, in the gallery that united one house to the other, Prince Andrey encountered Mademoiselle Bourienne smiling sweetly. It was the third time that day that with an innocent and enthusiastic smile she had thrown herself in his way in secluded passages.
“Ah, I thought you were in your own room,” she said, for some reason blushing and casting down her eyes. Prince Andrey looked sternly at her. A sudden look of wrathful exasperation came into his face. He said nothing to her, but stared at her forehead and her hair, without looking at her eyes, with such contempt that the Frenchwoman crimsoned and went away without a word. When he reached his sister's room, the little princess was awake and her gay little voice could be heard through the open door, hurrying one word after another. She talked as though, after being long restrained, she wanted to make up for lost time, and, as always, she spoke French
“No, but imagine the old Countess Zubov, with false curls and her mouth full of false teeth as though she wanted to defy the years. Ha, ha, ha, Marie!”
Just the same phrase about Countess Zubov and just the same laugh Prince Andrey had heard five times already from his wife before outsiders. He walked softly into the room. The little princess, plump and rosy, was sitting in a low chair with her work in her hands, trotting out her Petersburg reminiscences and phrases. Prince Andrey went up, stroked her on the head, and asked if she had got over the fatigue of the journey. She answered him and went on talking.
The coach with six horses stood at the steps. It was a dark autumn night. The coachman could not see the shafts of the carriage. Servants with lanterns were running to and fro on the steps. The immense house glared with its great windows lighted up. The house-serfs were crowding in the outer hall, anxious to say good-bye to their young prince. In the great hall within stood all the members of the household: Mihail Ivanovitch, Mademoiselle Bourienne, Princess Marya, and the little princess. Prince Andrey had been summoned to the study of his father, who wanted to take leave of him alone. All were waiting for him to come out again. When Prince Andrey went into the study, the old prince was in his old-age spectacles and his white dressing-gown, in which he never saw any one but his son. He was sitting at the table writing. He looked round.
“Going?” And he went on writing again.
“I have come to say good-bye.”
“Kiss me here,” he touched his cheek; “thanks, thanks!”
“What are you thanking me for?”
“For not lingering beyond your fixed time, for not hanging about a woman's petticoats. Duty before everything. Thanks, thanks!” And he went on writing, so that ink spurted from the scratching pen.
“If you want to say anything, say it. I can do these two things at once,” he added.
“About my wife … I'm ashamed as it is to leave her on your hands.…”
“Why talk nonsense? Say what you want.”
“When my wife's confinement is due, send to Moscow for an accoucheur … Let him be here.”
The old man stopped and stared with stern eyes at his son, as though not understanding.
“I know that no one can be of use, if nature does not assist,” said Prince Andrey, evidently confused. “I admit that out of a million cases only one goes wrong, but it's her fancy and mine. They've been telling her things; she's had a dream and she's frightened.”
“H'm…h'm …” the old prince muttered to himself, going on with his writing. “I will do so.” He scribbled his signature, and suddenly turned quickly to his son and laughed.
“It's a bad business, eh?”
“What's a bad business, father?”
“Wife!” the old prince said briefly and significantly.
“I don't understand,” said Prince Andrey.
“But there's no help for it, my dear boy,” said the old prince; “they're all like that, and there's no getting unmarried again. Don't be afraid, I won't say a word to any one, but you know it yourself.”
He grasped his hand with his thin, little, bony fingers, shook it, looked straight into his son's face with his keen eyes, that seemed to see right through any one, and again he laughed his frigid laugh.
The son sighed, acknowledging in that sigh that his father understood him. The old man, still busy folding and sealing the letters with his habitual rapidity, snatched up and flung down again the wax, the seal, and the paper.
“It can't be helped. She's pretty. I'll do everything. Set your mind at rest,” he said jerkily, as he sealed the letter.
Andrey did not speak; it was both pleasant and painful to him that his father understood him. The old man got up and gave his son the letter.
“Listen,” said he. “Don't worry about your wife; what can be done shall be done. Now, listen; give this letter to Mihail Ilarionovitch. I write that he is to make use of you on good work, and not to keep you long an adjutant; a vile duty! Tell him I remember him and like him. And write to me how he receives you. If he's all right, serve him. The son of Nikolay Andreitch Bolkonsky has no need to serve under any man as a favour. Now, come here.”
He spoke so rapidly that he did not finish half of his words, but his son was used to understanding him. He led his son to the bureau, opened it, drew out a drawer, and took out of it a manuscript book filled with his bold, big, compressed handwriting.
“I am sure to die before you. See, here are my notes, to be given to the Emperor after my death. Now here, see, is a bank note and a letter: this is a prize for any one who writes a history of Suvorov's wars. Send it to the academy. Here are my remarks, read them after I am gone for your own sake; you will find them profitable.”
Andrey did not tell his father that he probably had many years before him. He knew there was no need to say that.
“I will do all that, father,” he said.
“Well, now, good-bye!” He gave his son his hand to kiss and embraced him. “Remember one thing, Prince Andrey, if you are killed, it will be a grief to me in my old age…” He paused abruptly, and all at once in a shrill voice went on: “But if I learn that you have not behaved like the son of Nikolay Bolkonsky, I shall be … ashamed,” he shrilled.
“You needn't have said that to me, father,” said his son, smiling.
The old man did not speak.
“There's another thing I wanted to ask you,” went on Prince Andrey; “if I'm killed, and if I have a son, don't let him slip out of your hands, as I said to you yesterday; let him grow up with you…please.”
“Not give him up to your wife?” said the old man, and he laughed.
They stood mutually facing each other. The old man's sharp eyes were fixed on his son's eyes. A quiver passed over the lower part of the old prince's face.
“We have said good-bye…go along!” he said suddenly. “Go along!” he cried in a loud and wrathful voice, opening the study door.
“What is it, what's the matter?” asked the two princesses on seeing Prince Andrey, and catching a momentary glimpse of the figure of the old man in his white dressing-gown, wearing his spectacles and no wig, and shouting in a wrathful voice.
Prince Andrey sighed and made no reply.
“Now, then,” he said, turning to his wife, and that “now then” sounded like a cold sneer, as though he had said, “Now, go through your little performance.”
“Andrey? Already!” said the little princess, turning pale and looking with dismay at her husband. He embraced her. She shrieked and fell swooning on his shoulder.
He cautiously withdrew the shoulder, on which she was lying, glanced into her face and carefully laid her in a low chair.
“Good-bye, Masha,” he said gently-to his sister, and they kissed one another's hands, then with rapid steps he walked out of the room.
The little princess lay in the arm-chair; Mademoiselle Bourienne rubbed her temples. Princess Marya, supporting her sister-in-law, still gazed with her fine eyes full of tears at the door by which Prince Andrey had gone, and she made the sign of the cross at it. From the study she heard like pistol shots the repeated and angry sounds of the old man blowing his nose. Just after Prince Andrey had gone, the door of the study was flung open, and the stern figure of the old man in his white dressing-gown peeped out.
“Gone? Well, and a good thing too!” he said, looking furiously at the fainting princess. He shook his head reproachfully and slammed the door.