Chapter 7

TWO MONTHS had passed since the news of the defeat of Austerlitz and the loss of Prince Andrey had reached Bleak Hills. In spite of all researches and letters through the Russian embassy, his body had not been found, nor was he among the prisoners. What made it worst of all for his father and sister was the fact that there was still hope that he might have been picked up on the battlefield by the people of the country, and might perhaps be lying, recovering, or dying somewhere alone, among strangers, incapable of giving any account of himself. The newspapers, from which the old prince had first heard of the defeat at Austerlitz, had, as always, given very brief and vague accounts of how the Russians had been obliged after brilliant victories to retreat and had made their withdrawal in perfect order. The old prince saw from this official account that our army had been defeated. A week after the newspaper that had brought news of the defeat of Austerlitz, came a letter from Kutuzov, who described to the old prince the part taken in it by his son.

“Before my eyes,” wrote Kutuzov, “your son with the flag in his hands, at the head of a regiment, fell like a hero, worthy of his father and his fatherland. To my regret and the general regret of the whole army it has not been ascertained up to now whether he is alive or dead. I comfort myself and you with the hope that your son is living, as, otherwise, he would have been mentioned among the officers found on the field of battle, a list of whom has been given me under flag of truce.”

After receiving this letter, late in the evening when he was alone in his study, the old prince went for this morning walk as usual next day. But he was silent with the bailiff, the gardener, and the architect, and though he looked wrathful, said nothing to them. When Princess Marya went in to him at the usual hour, he was standing at the lathe and went on turning as usual, without looking round at her. “Ah? Princess Marya!” he said suddenly in an unnatural voice, and he let the lathe go. (The wheel swung round from the impetus. Long after, Princess Marya remembered the dying creak of the wheel, which was associated for her with what followed.)

Princess Marya went up to him; she caught sight of his face, and something seemed suddenly to give way within her. Her eyes could not see clearly. From her father’s face—not sad nor crushed, but vindictive and full of unnatural conflict—she saw that there was hanging over her, coming to crush her, a terrible calamity, the worst in life, a calamity she had not known till then, a calamity irrevocable, irremediable, the death of one beloved.

“Father! Andrey? …” said the ungainly, awkward princess with such unutterable beauty of sorrow and self-forgetfulness that her father could not bear to meet her eyes and turned away sobbing.

“I have had news. Not among the prisoners, not among the killed, Kutuzov writes,” he screamed shrilly, as though he would drive his daughter away with that shriek. “Killed!”

The princess did not swoon, she did not fall into a faint. She was pale, but when she heard those words her face was transformed, and there was a radiance of something in her beautiful, luminous eyes. Something like joy, an exalted joy, apart from the sorrows and joys of this world, flooded the bitter grief she felt within her. She forgot all her terror of her father, went up to him, took him by the hand, drew him to her, and put her arm about his withered, sinewy neck.

“Father,” she said, “do not turn away from me, let us weep for him together.”

“Blackguards, scoundrels!” screamed the old man, turning his face away from her. “Destroying the army, destroying men! What for? Go, go and tell Liza.”

Princess Marya sank helplessly into an armchair beside her father and burst into tears. She could see her brother now at the moment when he parted from her and from Liza with his tender and at the same time haughty expression. She saw him at the moment when tenderly and ironically he had put the image on. “Did he believe now? Had he repented of his unbelief? Was he there now? There in the realm of eternal peace and blessedness?” she wondered. “Father, tell me how it was,” she asked through her tears.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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