THE DAY after his son's departure, Prince Nikolay Andreitch sent for Princess Marya.
“Well, now are you satisfied?” he said to her. “You have made me quarrel with my son! Are you satisfied? That was all you wanted! Satisfied? … It's a grief to me, a grief. I'm old and weak, and it was your wish. Well, now, rejoice over it. …” And after that, Princess Marya did not see her father again for a week. He was ill and did not leave his study.
Princess Marya noticed to her surprise that during this illness the old prince excluded Mademoiselle Bourienne too from his room. Tihon was the only person who looked after him.
A week later the prince reappeared, and began to lead the same life as before, showing marked energy in the laying out of farm buildings and gardens, and completely breaking off all relations with Mademoiselle Bourienne. His frigid tone and air with Princess Marya seemed to say: “You see, you plotted against me, told lies to Prince Andrey of my relations with that Frenchwoman, and made me quarrel with him, but you see I can do without you, and without the Frenchwoman too.”
One half of the day Princess Marya spent with Nikolushka, giving him his Russian lessons, following his other lessons, and talking to Dessalle. The rest of the day she spent in reading, or with her old nurse and “God's folk,” who came by the back stairs sometimes to visit her. The war Princess Marya looked on as women do look on war. She was apprehensive for her brother who was at the front, and was horrified, without understanding it, at the cruelty of men, that led them to kill one another. But she had no notion of the significance of this war, which seemed to her exactly like all the preceding wars. She had no notion of the meaning of this war, although Dessalle, who was her constant companion, was passionately interested in the course of the war, and tried to explain his views on the subject to her, and although “God's folk” all, with terror, told her in their own way of the rumours among the peasantry of the coming of Antichrist, and although Julie, now Princess Drubetskoy, who had renewed her correspondence with her, was continually writing her patriotic letters from Moscow.
“I write to you in Russian, my sweet friend,” Julie wrote, “because I feel a hatred for all the French and for their language too; I can't bear to hear it spoken. … In Moscow we are all wild with enthusiasm for our adored Emperor.
“My poor husband is enduring hardships and hunger in wretched Jewish taverns, but the news I get from him only increases my ardour.
“You have doubtless heard of the heroic action of Raevsky, who embraced his two sons and said, ‘We will die together, but we will not flinch!' And though the enemy were twice as strong, we did not in fact flinch. We kill time here as best we can; but in war, as in war. Princess Alina and Sophie spend whole days with me, and we, unhappy windows of living husbands, have delightful talks over scraping lint. We only want you, my darling, to make us complete,” etc., etc.
The principal reason why Princess Marya failed to grasp the significance of the war was that the old prince never spoke of it, refused to recognize its existence, and laughed at Dessalle when he mentioned the war at dinner-time. The prince's tone was so calm and confident that Princess Marya put implicit faith in him.
During the whole of July the old prince was excessively active and even lively. He laid out another new garden and a new wing for the servants. The only thing that made Princess Marya anxious about him was that he slept badly, and gave up his old habit of sleeping in his study, and had a bed made up for him in a new place every day. One night he would have his travelling bedstead set up in the gallery, the next night he would spend dozing dressed on the sofa or in the lounge-chair in the drawing-room, while the lad Petrushka, who had replaced Mademoiselle Bourienne in attendance on him, read aloud to him; then he would try spending a night in the dining-room.
On the first of August a second letter came from Prince Andrey. In his first letter, which had been received shortly after he left home, Prince Andrey had humbly asked his father's forgiveness for what he had permitted himself to say to him, and had begged to be restored to his favour. To this letter, the old prince had sent an affectionate answer, and from that time he had kept the Frenchwoman at a distance. Prince Andrey's second letter was written under Vitebsk, after the French had taken it. It consisted of a brief account of the whole campaign, with a plan sketched to illustrate it, and of reflections on the probable course it would take in the future. In this letter Prince Andrey pointed out to his father the inconvenience of his position close to the theatre of war, and in the direct line of the enemy's advance, and advised him to move to Moscow.
At dinner that day, on Dessalle's observing that he had heard that the French had already entered Vitebsk, the old prince recollected Prince Andrey's letter.
“I have heard from Prince Andrey to-day,” he said to Princess Marya; “have you read the letter?”
“No, mon pére,” the Princess answered timidly. She could not possibly have read the letter, of which indeed she had not heard till that instant.
“He writes about this war,” said the prince, with the contemptuous smile that had become habitual with him in speaking of the present war.
“It must be very interesting,” said Dessalle. “Prince Andrey is in a position to know. …”
“Ah, very interesting!” said Mademoiselle Bourienne.
“Go and get it for me,” said the old prince to Mademoiselle Bourienne. “You know, on the little table under the paper-weight.”
Mademoiselle Bourienne jumped up eagerly.
“Ah, no,” he shouted, frowning. “You run, Mihail Ivanitch!” Mihail Ivanitch got up and went to the study. But he had hardly left the room when the old prince, looking about him nervously, threw down his dinner napkin and went himself.
“They never can do anything, always make a muddle.”
As he went out, Princess Marya, Dessalle, Mademoiselle Bourienne, and even little Nikolushka, looked at one another without speaking. The old prince accompanied by Mihail Ivanitch came back with a hurried step, bringing the letter and a plan, which he laid beside him, and did not give to any one to read during dinner.
When they went into the drawing-room, he handed the letter to Princess Marya, and spreading out before him the plan of his new buildings, he fixed his eyes upon it, and told her to read the letter aloud.
After reading the letter, Princess Marya looked inquiringly at her father. He was gazing at the plan, evidently engrossed in his own ideas.
“What do you think about it, prince?” Dessalle ventured to inquire.
“I? eh? …” said the old prince, seeming to rouse himself with a painful effort, and not taking his eyes from the plan of the building.
“It is very possible that the field of operations may be brought so close to us …”
“Ha-ha-ha! The field of operations indeed!” said the old prince. “I have always said, and I say still, that the field of operations is bound to be Poland, and the enemy will never advance beyond the Niemen.” Dessalle looked in amazement at the prince, who was talking of the Niemen, when the enemy was already at the Dnieper. But Princess Marya, forgetting the geographical position of the Niemen, supposed that what her father said was true.
“When the snows thaw they'll drown in the marshes of Poland. It's only that they can't see it,” said the old prince, obviously thinking of the campaign of 1807, which seemed to him so recent. “Bennigsen ought to have entered Prussia earlier, and things would have taken quite another turn. …”
“But, prince!” said Dessalle timidly, “the letter speaks of Vitebsk. …”
“Ah, the letter? Yes, …” said the prince, with displeasure. “Yes … yes …” His face suddenly assumed a gloomy expression. He paused. “Yes, he writes, the French have been beaten. On what river was it?”
Dessalle dropped his eyes. “The prince says nothing about that,” he said gently.
“What, doesn't he? Why, you don't suppose I imagined it.”
Every one was for a long time silent.
“Yes … yes … Well, Mihail Ivanitch,” he said suddenly, raising his head and pointing to the plan of the building, “tell me how you propose to make that alteration. …”
Mihail Ivanitch went up to the plan, and the old prince, talking to him about it, went off to his own room, casting a wrathful glance at Princess Marya and Dessalle.
Princess Marya saw Dessalle's embarrassed and amazed expression as he looked at her father. She noticed his silence and was struck by the fact that her father had left his son's letter forgotten on the drawing-room table. But she was afraid to speak of it, to ask Dessalle the reason of his embarrassed silence, afraid even to think about it.
In the evening Mihail Ivanitch was sent by the prince to Princess Marya to ask for the letter that had been forgotten on the table. Princess Marya gave him the letter, and much as she disliked doing so, she ventured to ask what her father was doing
“Still very busy,” said Mihail Ivanitch, in a tone of deferential irony, that made her turn pale. “Worrying very much over the new wing. Been reading a little: but now” — Mihail Ivanitch dropped his voice — “he's at his bureau looking after his will, I expect.” One of the old prince's favourite occupations of late had been going over the papers which he meant to leave at his death, and called his “will.”
“And is Alpatitch being sent to Smolensk?” asked Princess Marya.
“To be sure; he's been waiting a long while for his orders.”