Chapter 8

Ma bonne amie,” said the little princess, after breakfast, on the morning of the 19th of March, and her little downy lip was lifted as of old; but as in that house since the terrible news had come, smiles, tones of voice, movements even bore the stamp of mourning, so now the smile of the little princess, who was influenced by the general temper without knowing its cause, was such that more than all else it was eloquent of the common burden of sorrow.

“My dear, I am afraid that this morning’s fruschtique (as Foka calls it) has disagreed with me.”

“What is the matter with you, my darling? You look pale. Oh, you are very pale,” said Princess Marya in alarm, running with her soft, ponderous tread up to her sister-in-law.

“Shouldn’t we send for Marya Bogdanovna, your excellency?” said one of the maids who was present. Marya Bogdanovna was a midwife from a district town, who had been for the last fortnight at Bleak Hills.

“Yes, truly,” assented Princess Marya, “perhaps it is really that. I’ll go and get her. Courage, my angel.” She kissed Liza and was going out of the room.

“Oh, no, no!” And besides her pallor, the face of the little princess expressed a childish terror at the inevitable physical suffering before her.

“No, it is indigestion, say it is indigestion, say so, Marie, say so!” And the little princess began to cry, wringing her little hands with childish misery and capriciousness and affected exaggeration too. Princess Marya ran out of the room to fetch Marya Bogdanovna.

Mon Dieu! mon Dieu! Oh!” she heard behind her. The midwife was already on her way to meet her, rubbing her plump, small white hands, with a face of significant composure.

“Marya Bogdanovna! I think it has begun,” said Princess Marya, looking with wide-open, frightened eyes at the midwife.

“Well, I thank God for it,” said Marya Bogdanovna, not hastening her step. “You young ladies have no need to know anything about it.”

“But how is it the doctor has not come from Moscow yet?” said the princess. (In accordance with the wishes of Liza and Prince Andrey, they had sent to Moscow for a doctor, and were expecting him every minute.)

“It’s no matter, princess, don’t be uneasy,” said Marya Bogdanovna; “we shall do very well without the doctor.”

Five minutes later the princess from her room heard something heavy being carried by. She peeped out; the footmen were for some reason moving into the bedroom the leather sofa which stood in Prince Andrey’s study. There was a solemn and subdued look on the men’s faces.

Princess Marya sat alone in her room, listening to the sounds of the house, now and then opening the door when any one passed by and looking at what was taking place in the corridor. Several women passed to and fro treading softly; they glanced at the princess and turned away from her. She did not venture to ask questions, and going back to her room closed the door and sat still in an armchair, or took up her prayer-book, or knelt down before the shrine. To her distress and astonishment she felt that prayer did not soothe her emotion. All at once the door of her room was softly opened, and she saw on the threshold her old nurse, Praskovya Savvishna, with a kerchief over her head. The old woman hardly ever, owing to the old prince’s prohibition, came into her room.

“I’ve come to sit a bit with thee, Mashenka,” said the nurse; “and here I’ve brought the prince’s wedding candles to light before his saint, my angel,” she said, sighing.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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