“Oh, no! she’s a very good and sweet girl, and what’s more, she’s very much to be pitied. She has nobody, nobody. To tell the truth, she is of no use to me, but only in my way. I have always, you know, been a solitary creature, and now I’m getting more and more so. I like to be alone … Mon père likes her very much. She and Mihail Ivanovitch are the two people he is always friendly and good-tempered with, because he has been a benefactor to both of them; as Sterne says: ‘We don’t love people so much for the good they have done us as for the good we have done them.’ Mon père picked her up an orphan in the streets, and she’s very good-natured. And mon père likes her way of reading. She reads aloud to him in the evenings. She reads very well.”

“Come, tell me the truth, Marie, you suffer a good deal, I expect, sometimes from our father’s character?” Prince Andrey asked suddenly. Princess Marya was at first amazed, then aghast at the question.

“Me?…me?…me suffer!” she said.

“He was always harsh, but he’s growing very tedious, I should think,” said Prince Andrey, speaking so slightingly of his father with an unmistakable intention either of puzzling or of testing his sister.

“You are good in every way, Andrey, but you have a sort of pride of intellect,” said the princess, evidently following her own train of thought rather than the thread of the conversation, “and that’s a great sin. Do you think it right to judge our father? But if it were right, what feeling but vénération could be aroused by such a man as mon père? And I am so contented and happy with him. I could only wish you were all as happy as I am.”

Her brother shook his head incredulously.

“The only thing that troubles me,—I’ll tell you the truth, Andrey,— is our father’s way of thinking in religious matters. I can’t understand how a man of such immense intellect can fail to see what is as clear as day, and can fall into such error. That is the one thing that makes me unhappy. But even in this I see a slight change for the better of late. Lately his jeers have not been so bitter, and there is a monk whom he received and talked to a long time.”

“Well, my dear, I’m afraid you and your monk are wasting your powder and shot,” Prince Andrey said ironically but affectionately.

“Ah, mon ami! I can only pray to God and trust that He will hear me. Andrey,” she said timidly after a minute’s silence, “I have a great favour to ask of you.”

“What is it, dear?”

“No; promise me you won’t refuse. It will be no trouble to you, and there is nothing beneath you in it. Only it will be a comfort to me. Promise, Andryusha,” she said, putting her hand into her reticule and holding something in it, but not showing it yet, as though what she was holding was the object of her entreaty, and before she received a promise to grant it, she could not take that something out of her reticule. She looked timidly with imploring eyes at her brother.

“Even if it were a great trouble …” answered Prince Andrey, seeming to guess what the favour was.

“You may think what you please about it. I know you are like mon père. Think what you please, but do this for my sake. Do, please. The father of my father, our grandfather, always wore it in all his wars …” She still did not take out what she was holding in her reticule. “You promise me, then?”

“Of course, what is it?”

“Andrey, I am blessing you with the holy image, and you must promise me you will never take it off.… You promise?”

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