Chapter 18

WHILE IN THE ROSTOVS’ HALL they were dancing the sixth anglaise, while the weary orchestra played wrong notes, and the tired footmen and cooks were getting the supper, Count Bezuhov had just had his sixth stroke. The doctors declared that there was no hope of recovery; the sick man received absolution and the sacrament while unconscious. Preparations were being made for administering extreme unction, and the house was full of the bustle and thrill of suspense usual at such moments. Outside the house undertakers were crowding beyond the gates, trying to escape the notice of the carriages that drove up, but eagerly anticipating a good order for the count’s funeral. The governor of Moscow, who had been constantly sending his adjutants to inquire after the count’s condition, came himself that evening to say good-bye to the renowned grandee of Catherine’s court, Count Bezuhov.

The magnificent reception-room was full. Every one stood up respectfully when the governor, after being half an hour alone with the sick man, came out of the sick-room. Bestowing scanty recognition on the bows with which he was received, he tried to escape as quickly as possible from the gaze of the doctors, ecclesiastical personages, and relations. Prince Vassily, who had grown paler and thinner during the last few days, escorted the governor out, and softly repeated something to him several times over.

After seeing the governor, Prince Vassily sat down on a chair in the hall alone, crossing one leg high over the other, leaning his elbow on his knee, and covering his eyes with his hand. After sitting so for some time he got up, and with steps more hurried than his wont, he crossed the long corridor, looking round him with frightened eyes, and went to the back part of the house to the apartments of the eldest princess.

The persons he had left in the dimly lighted reception-room, next to the sick-room, talked in broken whispers among themselves, pausing, and looking round with eyes full of suspense and inquiry whenever the door that led into the dying man’s room creaked as some one went in or came out.

“Man’s limitation,” said a little man, an ecclesiastic of some sort, to a lady, who was sitting near him listening naïvely to his words—“his limitation is fixed, there is no overstepping it.”

“I wonder if it won’t be late for extreme unction?” inquired the lady, using his clerical title, and apparently having no opinion of her own on the matter.

“It is a great mystery, ma’am,” answered the clerk, passing his hands over his bald head, on which lay a few tresses of carefully combed, half grey hair.

“Who was that? was it the governor himself?” they were asking at the other end of the room. “What a young-looking man!”

“And he’s over sixty!. … What, do they say, the count does not know any one? Do they mean to give extreme unction?”

“I knew a man who received extreme unction seven times.”

The second princess came out of the sick-room with tearful eyes, and sat down beside Doctor Lorrain, who was sitting in a graceful pose under the portrait of Catherine, with his elbow on the table.

“Very fine,” said the doctor in reply to a question about the weather; “very fine, princess, and besides, at Moscow, one might suppose oneself in the country.”

“Might one not?” said the princess, sighing. “So may he have something to drink?” Lorrain thought a moment.

“He has taken his medicine?”


  By PanEris using Melati.

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