Chapter 6

THERE was the rustle of a woman’s dress in the next room. Prince Andrey started up, as it were pulling himself together, and his face assumed the expression it had worn in Anna Pavlovna’s drawing-room. Pierre dropped his legs down off the sofa. The princess came in. She had changed her gown, and was wearing a house dress as fresh and elegant as the other had been. Prince Andrey got up and courteously set a chair for her.

“Why is it, I often wonder,” she began in French as always, while she hurriedly and fussily settled herself in the low chair, “why is it Annette never married? How stupid you gentlemen all are not to have married her. You must excuse me, but you really have no sense about women. What an argumentative person you are, Monsieur Pierre!”

“I’m still arguing with your husband; I can’t make out why he wants to go to the war,” said Pierre, addressing the princess without any of the affectation so common in the attitude of a young man to a young woman.

The princess shivered. Clearly Pierre’s words touched a tender spot.

“Ah, that’s what I say,” she said. “I can’t understand, I simply can’t understand why men can’t get on without war. Why is it we women want nothing of the sort? We don’t care for it. Come, you shall be the judge. I keep saying to him: here he is uncle’s adjutant, a most brilliant position. He’s so well known, so appreciated by every one. The other day at the Apraxins’ I heard a lady ask: ‘So that is the famous Prince André? Upon my word!’ ” She laughed. “He’s asked everywhere. He could very easily be a flügel- adjutant. You know the Emperor has spoken very graciously to him. Annette and I were saying it would be quite easy to arrange it. What do you think?”

Pierre looked at Prince Andrey, and, noticing that his friend did not like this subject, made no reply.

“When are you starting?” he asked.

“Ah, don’t talk to me about that going away; don’t talk about it. I won’t even hear it spoken of,” said the princess in just the capriciously playful tone in which she had talked to Ippolit at the soirée, a tone utterly incongruous in her own home circle, where Pierre was like one of the family. “This evening when I thought all these relations so precious to me must be broken off.…And then, you know, André?” She looked significantly at her husband. “I’m afraid! I’m afraid!” she whispered, twitching her shoulder. Her husband looked at her as though he were surprised to observe that there was some one in the room beside himself and Pierre, and with frigid courtesy he addressed an inquiry to his wife.

“What are you afraid of, Liza? I don’t understand,” he said.

“See what egoists all men are; they are all, all egoists! Of his own accord, for his own whim, for no reason whatever, he is deserting me, shutting me up alone in the country.”

“With my father and sister, remember,” said Prince Andrey quietly.

“It’s just the same as alone, without my friends.…And he doesn’t expect me to be afraid.” Her tone was querulous now, her upper lip was lifted, giving her face not a joyous expression, but a wild-animal look, like a squirrel. She paused as though feeling it indecorous to speak of her condition before Pierre, though the whole gist of the matter lay in that.

“I still don’t understand what you are afraid of,” Prince Andrey said deliberately, not taking his eyes off his wife. The princess flushed red, and waved her hands despairingly.

“No, André, I say you are so changed, so changed…”

“Your doctor’s orders were that you were to go to bed earlier,” said Prince Andrey. “It’s time you were asleep.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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