War And Peace



FOR A LONG WHILE Princess Marya sat at the open window of her room listening to the sound of the peasants' voices floating across from the village, but she was not thinking of them. She felt that she could not understand them however long she thought of them. She thought all the while of one thing—of her sorrow, which now, after the break made by anxiety about the present, already seemed to belong to the past. Now she could remember, could weep, and could pray. With the setting of the sun the wind sank. The night was still and fresh. At midnight the voices in the village began to die down; a cock crowed; the full moon rose from behind a lime-tree; there rose a fresh, white, dewy mist, and stillness reigned over the village and the house.

One after another pictures of the immediate past—her father's illness and last moments—rose before her imagination. And with mournful gladness she let her mind now rest on those images, only shunning with horror the one last scene which she felt she had not the strength to contemplate even in fancy at that still and mysterious hour of the night. And those images rose with such clearness and in such detail before her, that they seemed to her now in the actual present, now in the past, and now in the future.

She had a vivid picture of the moment when he was first stricken down and was being dragged in from the garden at Bleak Hills, and he had muttered something, twitching his grey eyebrows, and looking timidly and uneasily at her. “Even then he wanted to tell me what he told me on the day of his death,” she thought. “He always thought what he told me then.”

And then she recalled with every detail the night at Bleak Hills before his stroke, when, with a presentiment of trouble, she had remained with him against his will. She had not slept; and at night she had stolen down on tip-toe, and going to the door of the conservatory room where her father was spending that night, she had listened to his voice. He was talking in a weary, harassed voice to Tihon. He was saying something about the Crimea, about the warm nights, about the Empress. Evidently he wanted to talk to some one. “And why didn't he send for me? Why didn't he let me be there in Tihon's place?” Princess Marya had thought then and thought again now. “Now he will never tell any one all that was in his heart. Now the moment will never return when he might have told me all he longed to express, and I and not Tihon might have heard and understood. Why didn't I go into his room then?” she thought. “Perhaps he would have said to me then what he said on the day of his death. Even then talking to Tihon he asked about me twice. He was longing to see me while I was standing there behind the door. He was sad and weary talking to Tihon, who did not understand him. I remember how he spoke to him of Liza as though she were living—he forgot that she was dead, and Tihon reminded him that she was no more, and he cried, ‘Fool!' He was miserable. I heard from the door how he lay down groaning on the bed and cried out aloud, ‘My God!' Why didn't I go in then? What could he have done to me? What could I have lost? And, perhaps, then he would have been comforted, he would have said that word to me.” And Princess Marya uttered aloud that caressing word he had said to her on the day of his death. “Da-ar-ling!” Princess Marya repeated the word and broke into sobs that relieved her heart. She could see his face before her now. And not the face she had known ever since she could remember and had always seen at a distance; but the weak and timid face she had seen on the last day when, bending to his lips to catch what he said, she had, for the first time, looked at it quite close with all its wrinkles.

“Darling,” she repeated.

“What was he thinking when he uttered that word? What is he thinking now?” was the question that rose suddenly to her mind; and in answer to it she saw him with the expression she had seen on the face bound up with a white handkerchief in the coffin. And the horror that had overcome her at the moment when she had touched him, and felt that it was not he but something mysterious and horrible, came over her now. She tried to think of something else, tried to pray, and could do nothing. With wide eyes she gazed at the moonlight and the shadows, every instant expecting to see his dead face, and feeling as though she were held spellbound in the stillness that reigned without and within the house.

“Dunyasha!” she whispered. “Dunyasha!” she shrieked wildly, and tearing herself out of the stillness, she ran towards the maids' room, meeting the old nurse and the maids running out to meet her.




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