as before. Every one was moving about him, there was the sound of footsteps and of whispers, Anna Mihalovna’s whisper rising above the rest.

Pierre heard her say: “Undoubtedly he must be moved on to the bed; it’s impossible …”

The sick man was so surrounded by the doctors, the princesses and the servants, that Pierre could no longer see the reddish-yellow face with the grey mane, which he had never lost sight of for one instant during the ceremony, even though he had been watching other people too. Pierre guessed from the cautious movements of the people about the chair that they were lifting the dying man up and moving him.

“Hold on to my arm; you’ll drop him so,” he heard the frightened whisper of one of the servants. “Lower down … another one here,” said voices. And their heavy breathing and hurried tread seemed to show that the weight they carried was too heavy for them.

As they passed him—Anna Mihalovna among them—the young man caught a glimpse over people’s backs and necks of the great muscular open chest, the grey, curly, leonine head, and the massive shoulders of the sick man, which were pushed up, as he was supported under the armpits. His head, with its extraordinarily broad brow and cheek-bones, its beautiful sensual mouth, and haughty, cold eyes, was not disfigured by the proximity of death. It was just the same as Pierre had seen it three months before, when his father had been sending him off to Petersburg. But the head swayed helplessly with the jerky steps of the bearers, and the cold, apathetic eyes did not know on what to rest.

They were busy for several minutes round the high bed; then the people, who had moved the count, dispersed. Anna Mihalovna touched Pierre’s arm and said, “Come along.” With her Pierre approached the bed, on which the sick man had been laid in a ceremonial position in keeping with the sacred rite that had just been performed. He was lying with his head propped high on the pillows. His hands were laid symmetrically on the green silk quilt with the palms turned downwards. When Pierre came up, the count looked straight at him, but he looked at him with a gaze the intent and significance of which no man could fathom. Either these eyes said nothing, but simply looked because as eyes they must look at something, or they said too much. Pierre stopped, not knowing what he was to do, and looked inquiringly at his monitress. Anna Mihalovna gave him a hurried glance, with a gesture indicating the sick man’s hand and with her lips wafting towards it a phantom kiss. Pierre did as he was bid, and carefully craning his neck to avoid entanglement with the quilt, kissed the broad-boned, muscular hand. There was not the faintest stir in the hand, nor in any muscle of the count’s face. Pierre again looked inquiringly at Anna Mihalovna to learn what he was to do now. Anna Mihalovna glanced towards the armchair that stood beside the bed. Pierre proceeded obediently to sit down there, his eyes still inquiring whether he had done the right thing. Anna Mihalovna nodded approvingly. Again Pierre fell into the naïvely symmetrical pose of an Egyptian statue, obviously distressed that his ungainly person took up so much room, and doing his utmost to look as small as possible. He looked at the count. The count still gazed at the spot where Pierre’s face had been, when he was standing up. Anna Mihalovna’s attitude evinced her consciousness of the touching gravity of this last meeting between father and son. It lasted for two minutes, which seemed to Pierre an hour. Suddenly a shudder passed over the thick muscles and furrows of the count’s face. The shudder grew more intense; the beautiful mouth was contorted (it was only then that Pierre grasped how near death his father was) and from the contorted mouth there came a husky, muffled sound. Anna Mihalovna looked intently at the sick man’s mouth, and trying to guess what he wanted, pointed first to Pierre, then to some drink, then in an inquiring whisper she mentioned the name of Prince Vassily, then pointed to the quilt. The eyes and face of the sick man showed impatience. He made an effort to glance at the servant, who never moved away from the head of his bed.

“His excellency wants to be turned over on the other side,” whispered the servant, and he got up to turn the heavy body of the count facing the wall.

Pierre stood up to help the servant.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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