The day after his son had left, Prince
Nicholas sent for Princess Mary to come to his study.
“Well? Are you satisfied
now?” said he. “You’ve made
me quarrel with my son! Satisfied, are you?
That’s all you wanted! Satisfied?...
It hurts me, it hurts. I’m old and weak
and this is what you wanted. Well then, gloat
over it! Gloat over it!”
After that Princess Mary did not see
her father for a whole week. He was ill and did
not leave his study.
Princess Mary noticed to her surprise
that during this illness the old prince not only excluded
her from his room, but did not admit Mademoiselle
Bourienne either. Tikhon alone attended him.
At the end of the week the prince
reappeared and resumed his former way of life, devoting
himself with special activity to building operations
and the arrangement of the gardens and completely breaking
off his relations with Mademoiselle Bourienne.
His looks and cold tone to his daughter seemed to
say: “There, you see? You plotted against
me, you lied to Prince Andrew about my relations with
that Frenchwoman and made me quarrel with him, but
you see I need neither her nor you!”
Princess Mary spent half of every
day with little Nicholas, watching his lessons, teaching
him Russian and music herself, and talking to Dessalles;
the rest of the day she spent over her books, with
her old nurse, or with “God’s folk”
who sometimes came by the back door to see her.
Of the war Princess Mary thought as
women do think about wars. She feared for her
brother who was in it, was horrified by and amazed
at the strange cruelty that impels men to kill one
another, but she did not understand the significance
of this war, which seemed to her like all previous
wars. She did not realize the significance of
this war, though Dessalles with whom she constantly
conversed was passionately interested in its progress
and tried to explain his own conception of it to her,
and though the “God’s folk” who came
to see her reported, in their own way, the rumors
current among the people of an invasion by Antichrist,
and though Julie (now Princess Drubetskaya), who had
resumed correspondence with her, wrote patriotic letters
“I write you in Russian, my
good friend,” wrote Julie in her Frenchified
Russian, “because I have a detestation for all
the French, and the same for their language which
I cannot support to hear spoken.... We in Moscow
are elated by enthusiasm for our adored Emperor.
“My poor husband is enduring
pains and hunger in Jewish taverns, but the news which
I have inspires me yet more.
“You heard probably of the heroic
exploit of Raevski, embracing his two sons and saying:
‘I will perish with them but we will not be shaken!’
And truly though the enemy was twice stronger than
we, we were unshakable. We pass the time as we
can, but in war as in war! The princesses Aline
and Sophie sit whole days with me, and we, unhappy
widows of live men, make beautiful conversations over
our charpie, only you, my friend, are missing...”
and so on.
The chief reason Princess Mary did
not realize the full significance of this war was
that the old prince never spoke of it, did not recognize
it, and laughed at Dessalles when he mentioned it at
dinner. The prince’s tone was so calm and
confident that Princess Mary unhesitatingly believed
All that July the old prince was exceedingly
active and even animated. He planned another
garden and began a new building for the domestic serfs.
The only thing that made Princess Mary anxious about
him was that he slept very little and, instead of
sleeping in his study as usual, changed his sleeping
place every day. One day he would order his camp
bed to be set up in the glass gallery, another day
he remained on the couch or on the lounge chair in
the drawing room and dozed there without undressing,
while instead of Mademoiselle Bourienne a
serf boy read to him. Then again he would spend
a night in the dining room.
On August 1, a second letter was received
from Prince Andrew. In his first letter which
came soon after he had left home, Prince Andrew had
dutifully asked his father’s forgiveness for
what he had allowed himself to say and begged to be
restored to his favor. To this letter the old
prince had replied affectionately, and from that time
had kept the Frenchwoman at a distance. Prince
Andrew’s second letter, written near Vitebsk
after the French had occupied that town, gave a brief
account of the whole campaign, enclosed for them a
plan he had drawn and forecasts as to the further
progress of the war. In this letter Prince Andrew
pointed out to his father the danger of staying at
Bald Hills, so near the theater of war and on the
army’s direct line of march, and advised him
to move to Moscow.
At dinner that day, on Dessalles’
mentioning that the French were said to have already
entered Vitebsk, the old prince remembered his son’s
“There was a letter from Prince
Andrew today,” he said to Princess Mary “Haven’t
you read it?”
“No, Father,” she replied in a frightened
She could not have read the letter
as she did not even know it had arrived.
“He writes about this war,”
said the prince, with the ironic smile that had become
habitual to him in speaking of the present war.
“That must be very interesting,”
said Dessalles. “Prince Andrew is in a
position to know...”
“Oh, very interesting!” said Mademoiselle
“Go and get it for me,”
said the old prince to Mademoiselle Bourienne.
“You know under the paperweight on
the little table.”
Mademoiselle Bourienne jumped up eagerly.
“No, don’t!” he exclaimed with a
frown. “You go, Michael Ivanovich.”
Michael Ivanovich rose and went to
the study. But as soon as he had left the room
the old prince, looking uneasily round, threw down
his napkin and went himself.
“They can’t do anything... always make
some muddle,” he muttered.
While he was away Princess Mary, Dessalles,
Mademoiselle Bourienne, and even little Nicholas exchanged
looks in silence. The old prince returned with
quick steps, accompanied by Michael Ivanovich, bringing
the letter and a plan. These he put down beside
him not letting anyone read them at dinner.
On moving to the drawing room he handed
the letter to Princess Mary and, spreading out before
him the plan of the new building and fixing his eyes
upon it, told her to read the letter aloud. When
she had done so Princess Mary looked inquiringly at
her father. He was examining the plan, evidently
engrossed in his own ideas.
“What do you think of it, Prince?”
Dessalles ventured to ask.
“I? I?...” said the
prince as if unpleasantly awakened, and not taking
his eyes from the plan of the building.
“Very possibly the theater of
war will move so near to us that...”
“Ha ha ha! The theater
of war!” said the prince. “I have
said and still say that the theater of war is Poland
and the enemy will never get beyond the Niemen.”
Dessalles looked in amazement at the
prince, who was talking of the Niemen when the enemy
was already at the Dnieper, but Princess Mary, forgetting
the geographical position of the Niemen, thought that
what her father was saying was correct.
“When the snow melts they’ll
sink in the Polish swamps. Only they could fail
to see it,” the prince continued, evidently thinking
of the campaign of 1807 which seemed to him so recent.
“Bennigsen should have advanced into Prussia
sooner, then things would have taken a different turn...”
“But, Prince,” Dessalles
began timidly, “the letter mentions Vitebsk....”
“Ah, the letter? Yes...”
replied the prince peevishly. “Yes... yes...”
His face suddenly took on a morose expression.
He paused. “Yes, he writes that the French
were beaten at... at... what river is it?”
Dessalles dropped his eyes.
“The prince says nothing about that,”
he remarked gently.
“Doesn’t he? But I didn’t invent
No one spoke for a long time.
“Yes... yes... Well, Michael
Ivanovich,” he suddenly went on, raising his
head and pointing to the plan of the building, “tell
me how you mean to alter it....”
Michael Ivanovich went up to the plan,
and the prince after speaking to him about the building
looked angrily at Princess Mary and Dessalles and
went to his own room.
Princess Mary saw Dessalles’
embarrassed and astonished look fixed on her father,
noticed his silence, and was struck by the fact that
her father had forgotten his son’s letter on
the drawing-room table; but she was not only afraid
to speak of it and ask Dessalles the reason of his
confusion and silence, but was afraid even to think
In the evening Michael Ivanovich,
sent by the prince, came to Princess Mary for Prince
Andrew’s letter which had been forgotten in the
drawing room. She gave it to him and, unpleasant
as it was to her to do so, ventured to ask him what
her father was doing.
“Always busy,” replied
Michael Ivanovich with a respectfully ironic smile
which caused Princess Mary to turn pale. “He’s
worrying very much about the new building. He
has been reading a little, but now” Michael
Ivanovich went on, lowering his voice “now
he’s at his desk, busy with his will, I expect.”
(One of the prince’s favorite occupations of
late had been the preparation of some papers he meant
to leave at his death and which he called his “will.”)
“And Alpatych is being sent
to Smolensk?” asked Princess Mary.
“Oh, yes, he has been waiting to start for some