Chapter 3

IN THE DECEMBER of 1805, the old Prince Nikolay Andreitch Bolkonsky received a letter from Prince Vassily, announcing that he intended to visit him with his son. (“I am going on an inspection tour, and of course a hundred versts is only a step out of the way for me to visit you, my deeply-honoured benefactor,” he wrote. “My Anatole is accompanying me on his way to the army, and I hope you will permit him to express to you in person the profound veneration that, following his father’s example, he entertains for you.”)

“Well, there’s no need to bring Marie out, it seems; suitors come to us of themselves,” the little princess said heedlessly on hearing of this. Prince Nikolay Andreitch scowled and said nothing.

A fortnight after receiving the letter, Prince Vassily’s servants arrived one evening in advance of him, and the following day he came himself with his son.

Old Bolkonsky had always had a poor opinion of Prince Vassily’s character, and this opinion had grown stronger of late since Prince Vassily had, under the new reigns of Paul and Alexander, advanced to high rank and honours. Now from the letter and the little princess’s hints, he saw what the object of the visit was, and his poor opinion of Prince Vassily passed into a feeling of ill-will and contempt in the old prince’s heart. He snorted indignantly whenever he spoke of him. On the day of Prince Vassily’s arrival, the old prince was particularly discontented and out of humour. Whether he was out of humour because Prince Vassily was coming, or whether he was particularly displeased at Prince Vassily’s coming because he was out of humour, no one can say. But he was out of humour, and early in the morning Tihon had dissuaded the architect from going to the prince with his report.

“Listen how he’s walking,” said Tihon, calling the attention of the architect to the sound of the prince’s footsteps. “Stepping flat on his heels … then we know …”

At nine o’clock, however, the old prince went out for a walk, as usual, wearing his short, velvet, fur-lined cloak with a sable collar and a sable cap. There had been a fall of snow on the previous evening. The path along which Prince Nikolay Andreitch walked to the conservatory had been cleared; there were marks of a broom in the swept snow, and a spade had been left sticking in the crisp bank of snow that bordered the path on both sides. The prince walked through the conservatories, the servants’ quarters, and the out-buildings, frowning and silent.

“Could a sledge drive up?” he asked the respectful steward, who was escorting him to the house, with a countenance and manners like his own.

“The snow is deep, your excellency. I gave orders for the avenue to be swept too.”

The prince nodded, and was approaching the steps. “Glory to Thee, O Lord!” thought the steward, “the storm has passed over!”

“It would have been hard to drive up, your excellency,” added the steward. “So I hear, your excellency, there’s a minister coming to visit your excellency?” The prince turned to the steward and stared with scowling eyes at him.

“Eh? A minister? What minister? Who gave you orders?” he began in his shrill, cruel voice. “For the princess my daughter, you do not clear the way, but for the minister you do! For me there are no ministers!”

“Your excellency, I supposed …”

“You supposed,” shouted the prince, articulating with greater and greater haste and incoherence. “You supposed … Brigands! blackguards! … I’ll teach you to suppose,” and raising his stick he waved it at Alpatitch, and would have hit him, had not the steward instinctively shrunk back and escaped the blow. “You supposed … Blackguards! …” he still cried hurriedly. But although Alpatitch, shocked at his own insolence in dodging the blow, went closer to the prince, with his bald head bent humbly before him, or perhaps just because

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