Pierre had no notion what was going on, and no inkling of what was meant by watching over his interests. But he felt that all this had had to be so. From the corridor they went into the half-lighted hall adjoining the count’s reception-room. This was one of the cold, sumptuously furnished rooms which Pierre knew, leading from the visitors’ staircase. But even in this apartment there was an empty bath standing in the middle of the floor, and water had been spilt on the carpet. They were met here by a servant and a church attendant with a censer, who walked on tiptoe and took no notice of them. They went into the reception-room opening into the winter garden, a room Pierre knew well, with its two Italian windows, its big bust and full-length portrait of Catherine. The same persons were all sitting almost in the same positions exchanging whispers in the reception-room. All ceased speaking and looked round at Anna Mihalovna, as she came in with her pale, tear-stained face, and at the big, stout figure of Pierre, as with downcast head he followed her submissively.

The countenance of Anna Mihalovna showed a consciousness that the crucial moment had arrived. With the air of a Petersburg lady of experience, she walked into the room even more boldly than in the morning, keeping Pierre at her side. She felt that as she was bringing the person the dying man wanted to see, she might feel secure as to her reception. With a rapid glance, scanning all the persons in the room, and observing the count’s spiritual adviser, she did not precisely bow down, but seemed somehow suddenly to shrink in stature, and with a tripping amble swam up to the priest and reverentially received a blessing first from one and then from another ecclesiastic.

“Thank God that we are in time,” she said to the priest; “all of us, his kinsfolk, have been in such alarm. This young man is the count’s son,” she added more softly, “It is a terrible moment.”

Having uttered these words she approached the doctor.

“Dear doctor,” she said to him, “this young man is the count’s son. Is there any hope?”

The doctor did not speak but rapidly shrugged his shoulders and turned up his eyes. With precisely the same gesture Anna Mihalovna moved her shoulders and eyes, almost closing her eyelids, sighed and went away from the doctor to Pierre. She addressed Pierre with peculiar deference and tender melancholy.

“Have faith in His mercy,” she said to him, and indicating a sofa for him to sit down and wait for her, she went herself with inaudible steps towards the door, at which every one was looking, and after almost noiselessly opening it, she vanished behind it.

Pierre, having decided to obey his monitress in everything, moved towards the sofa she had pointed out to him. As soon as Anna Mihalovna had disappeared, he noticed that the eyes of all the persons in the room were fixed upon him with something more than curiosity and sympathy in their gaze. He noticed that they were all whispering together, looking towards him with something like awe and even obsequious deference. They showed him a respect such as had never been shown him before. A lady, a stranger to him, the one who had been talking to the priest, got up and offered him her place. An adjutant picked up the glove Pierre had dropped and handed it to him. The doctors respectfully paused in their talk when he passed by them and moved aside to make way for him. Pierre wanted at first to sit somewhere else, so as not to trouble the lady; he would have liked to pick up the glove himself and to walk round the doctors, who were really not at all in the way. But he felt all at once that to do so would be improper; he felt that he was that night a person who had to go through a terrible ceremony which every one expected of him, and that for that reason he was bound to accept service from every one. He took the glove from the adjutant in silence, sat down in the lady’s place, laying his big hands on his knees, sitting in the naïvely symmetrical pose of an Egyptian statue, and decided mentally that it must all inevitably be like this, and that to avoid losing his head and doing something stupid, he must for that evening not act on his own ideas, but abandon himself wholly to the will of those who were guiding him.

Two minutes had not elapsed before Prince Vassily came majestically into the room, wearing his coat with three stars on it, and carrying his head high. He looked as though he had grown thinner since the

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.