Chapter 19

AT THE TIME that these conversations were taking place in the reception-room and the princess’s room, a carriage with Pierre (who had been sent for) and Anna Mihalovna (who had thought fit to come with him) in it was driving into the court of Count Bezuhov’s mansion. When the sound of the carriage wheels was muffled by the straw in the street, Anna Mihalovna turned with words of consolation to her companion, discovered that he was asleep in his corner of the carriage, and waked him up. Rousing himself, Pierre followed Anna Mihalovna out of the carriage, and only then began to think of the interview with his dying father that awaited him. He noticed that they had driven not up to the visitors’ approach, but to the back entrance. As he got down from the carriage step, two men in the dress of tradesmen hastily scurried away from the entrance into the shadow of the wall. Pierre, as he stood waiting, noticed several other similar persons standing in the shadow of the house on both sides. But neither Anna Mihalovna nor the footman and coachman, who must have seen these people, took any notice of them. So it must be all right, Pierre decided, and he followed Anna Mihalovna. With hurrying footsteps Anna Mihalovna walked up the dimly lighted, narrow stone staircase, urging on Pierre, who lagged behind. Though Pierre had no notion why he had to go to the count at all, and still less why he had to go by the back stairs, yet, impressed by Anna Mihalovna’s assurance and haste, he made up his mind that it was undoubtedly necessary for him to do so. Half-way up the stairs they were almost knocked over by some men with pails, who ran down towards them, tramping loudly with their big boots. These men huddled up against the wall to let Pierre and Anna Mihalovna pass, and showed not the slightest surprise at seeing them.

“Is this the princess’s side of the house?” Anna Mihalovna asked of one of them …

“Yes, it is,” answered the footman in a bold, loud voice, as though anything were permissible at such a time; “the door on the left, ma’am.”

“Perhaps the count has not asked for me,” said Pierre, as he reached the landing. “I had better go to my own room.” Anna Mihalovna stopped for Pierre to catch her up.

“Ah, mon ami,” she said, touching his hand with just the same gesture as she had used in the morning with her son. “Believe me, I am suffering as much as you; but be a man.”

“Really, had I not better go?” Pierre asked affectionately, looking at her over his spectacles.

“Ah, mon ami, forget the wrong that may have been done you, think that it is your father … and perhaps in his death agony,” she sighed. “I have loved you like a son from the first. Trust in me, Pierre. I shall not forget your interests.”

Pierre did not understand a word. Again he felt more strongly than before that all this had to be so, and he obediently followed Anna Mihalovna, who was already opening the door. The door led into the vestibule of the back stairs. In the corner sat the princess’s old man-servant knitting stockings. Pierre had never been in this part of the house, and had not even suspected the existence of these apartments. A maid-servant carrying a tray with a decanter overtook them, and Anna Mihalovna (calling her “my dear” and “my good girl”) asked her after the princesses’ health, and drew Pierre further along the stone corridor. The first door to the left led out of the corridor into the princesses’ living rooms. The maid with the decanter was in a hurry (everything seemed to be done in a hurry at that moment in the house), and she did not close the door after her. Pierre and Anna Mihalovna, as they passed by, glanced unconsciously into the room where the eldest princess and Prince Vassily were sitting close together talking. On catching sight of their passing figures, Prince Vassily made an impatient movement and drew back, the princess jumped up, and with a despairing gesture she closed the door, slamming it with all her might. This action was so unlike the princess’s habitual composure, the dismay depicted on the countenance of Prince Vassily was so out of keeping with his dignity, that Pierre stopped short and looked inquiringly over his spectacles at his guide. Anna Mihalovna manifested no surprise; she simply smiled a little and sighed, as though to show that she had anticipated all that.

“Be a man, mon ami, I am looking after your interests,” she said in response to his look of inquiry, and she walked more quickly along the corridor.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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