When Michael Ivanovich returned to
the study with the letter, the old prince, with spectacles
on and a shade over his eyes, was sitting at his open
bureau with screened candles, holding a paper in his
outstretched hand, and in a somewhat dramatic attitude
was reading his manuscript his “Remarks”
as he termed it which was to be transmitted
to the Emperor after his death.
When Michael Ivanovich went in there
were tears in the prince’s eyes evoked by the
memory of the time when the paper he was now reading
had been written. He took the letter from Michael
Ivanovich’s hand, put it in his pocket, folded
up his papers, and called in Alpatych who had long
The prince had a list of things to
be bought in Smolensk and, walking up and down the
room past Alpatych who stood by the door, he gave his
“First, notepaper do
you hear? Eight quires, like this sample, gilt-edged...
it must be exactly like the sample. Varnish, sealing
wax, as in Michael Ivanovich’s list.”
He paced up and down for a while and
glanced at his notes.
“Then hand to the governor in
person a letter about the deed.”
Next, bolts for the doors of the new
building were wanted and had to be of a special shape
the prince had himself designed, and a leather case
had to be ordered to keep the “will” in.
The instructions to Alpatych took
over two hours and still the prince did not let him
go. He sat down, sank into thought, closed his
eyes, and dozed off. Alpatych made a slight movement.
“Well, go, go! If anything
more is wanted I’ll send after you.”
Alpatych went out. The prince
again went to his bureau, glanced into it, fingered
his papers, closed the bureau again, and sat down at
the table to write to the governor.
It was already late when he rose after
sealing the letter. He wished to sleep, but he
knew he would not be able to and that most depressing
thoughts came to him in bed. So he called Tikhon
and went through the rooms with him to show him where
to set up the bed for that night.
He went about looking at every corner.
Every place seemed unsatisfactory, but worst of all
was his customary couch in the study. That couch
was dreadful to him, probably because of the oppressive
thoughts he had had when lying there. It was unsatisfactory
everywhere, but the corner behind the piano in the
sitting room was better than other places: he
had never slept there yet.
With the help of a footman Tikhon
brought in the bedstead and began putting it up.
“That’s not right!
That’s not right!” cried the prince, and
himself pushed it a few inches from the corner and
then closer in again.
“Well, at last I’ve finished,
now I’ll rest,” thought the prince, and
let Tikhon undress him.
Frowning with vexation at the effort
necessary to divest himself of his coat and trousers,
the prince undressed, sat down heavily on the bed,
and appeared to be meditating as he looked contemptuously
at his withered yellow legs. He was not meditating,
but only deferring the moment of making the effort
to lift those legs up and turn over on the bed.
“Ugh, how hard it is! Oh, that this toil
might end and you would release me!” thought
he. Pressing his lips together he made that effort
for the twenty-thousandth time and lay down. But
hardly had he done so before he felt the bed rocking
backwards and forwards beneath him as if it were breathing
heavily and jolting. This happened to him almost
every night. He opened his eyes as they were
“No peace, damn them!”
he muttered, angry he knew not with whom. “Ah
yes, there was something else important, very important,
that I was keeping till I should be in bed. The
bolts? No, I told him about them. No, it
was something, something in the drawing room.
Princess Mary talked some nonsense. Dessalles,
that fool, said something. Something in my pocket can’t
“Tikhon, what did we talk about at dinner?”
“About Prince Michael...”
“Be quiet, quiet!” The
prince slapped his hand on the table. “Yes,
I know, Prince Andrew’s letter! Princess
Mary read it. Dessalles said something about
Vitebsk. Now I’ll read it.”
He had the letter taken from his pocket
and the table on which stood a glass of
lemonade and a spiral wax candle moved close
to the bed, and putting on his spectacles he began
reading. Only now in the stillness of the night,
reading it by the faint light under the green shade,
did he grasp its meaning for a moment.
“The French at Vitebsk, in four
days’ march they may be at Smolensk; perhaps
are already there! Tikhon!” Tikhon jumped
up. “No, no, I don’t want anything!”
He put the letter under the candlestick
and closed his eyes. And there rose before him
the Danube at bright noonday: reeds, the Russian
camp, and himself a young general without a wrinkle
on his ruddy face, vigorous and alert, entering Potemkin’s
gaily colored tent, and a burning sense of jealousy
of “the favorite” agitated him now as strongly
as it had done then. He recalled all the words
spoken at that first meeting with Potemkin. And
he saw before him a plump, rather sallow-faced, short,
stout woman, the Empress Mother, with her smile and
her words at her first gracious reception of him, and
then that same face on the catafalque, and the encounter
he had with Zubov over her coffin about his right
to kiss her hand.
“Oh, quicker, quicker!
To get back to that time and have done with all the
present! Quicker, quicker and that
they should leave me in peace!”