Chapter 8

WAR had broken out and the theatre of it was closer to the borders of Russia. On all sides could be heard curses upon the enemy of the human race, Bonaparte; in the villages there were levies of recruits and reserve men, and from the theatre of war came news of the most conflicting kind, false as usual, and hence variously interpreted.

The life of the old Prince Bolkonsky, of Prince Andrey, and of Princess Marya was greatly changed since the year 1805.

In 1806 the old prince had been appointed one of the eight commanders-in-chief, created at that time for the equipment of the militia throughout all Russia. In spite of his weakness and age, which had been particularly noticeable during the time when he believed his son to have been killed, the old prince did not think it right to refuse a duty to which he had been appointed by the Emperor himself, and this new field for his activity gave him fresh energy and strength. He was continually away on tours about the three provinces that were put under his command; he was punctilious to pedantry in the performance of his duties, severe to cruelty with his subordinates, and entered into the minutest details of the work himself. Princess Marya no longer took lessons in mathematics from her father, and only went into her father’s room on the mornings when he was at home, accompanied by the wet nurse and little Prince Nikolay (as his grandfather called him). The baby, Prince Nikolay, with his wet nurse and the old nurse Savishna, occupied the rooms that had been his mother’s, and Princess Marya spent most of her time in the nursery taking a mother’s place to her little nephew, to the best of her powers. Mademoiselle Bourienne, too, appeared to be passionately fond of the child, and Princess Marya often sacrificed herself by giving up to her friend the pleasure of dandling and playing with the little angel (as she called the baby).

Near the altar of the church at Bleak Hills was a little chapel over the tomb of the little princess, and in the chapel had been placed a marble monument brought from Italy, representing an angel with its wings parted about to take flight for heaven. The angel had the upper lip lifted as though about to smile, and one day Prince Andrey and Princess Marya, as they came out of the chapel, confessed to one another that, strange to say, the face of the angel reminded them of the face of the little princess. But what was stranger, though this Prince Andrey did not confess to his sister, was that in the expression the sculptor had chanced to put into the angel’s face, Prince Andrey read the same words of reproach which he had read then on the face of his dead wife: “Ah, why have you done this to me? …”

Soon after Prince Andrey’s return, the old prince made over a part of the property to him, giving him Bogutcharovo, a large estate about thirty miles from Bleak Hills. Partly to escape the painful memories associated with Bleak Hills, partly because Prince Andrey did not always feel equal to bearing with his father’s peculiarities, and partly from a craving for solitude, Prince Andrey made use of Bogutcharovo, established himself there and spent the greater part of his time there.

After the Austerlitz campaign, Prince Andrey had grimly resolved never to serve again in the army. And when war broke out and all were bound to serve, he took service under his father in the levying of the militia, so as to escape active service. Since the campaign of 1805 the old prince and his son had as it were exchanged parts. The old prince, stimulated by activity, expected the best results from the present campaign. Prince Andrey, on the contrary, taking no part in the war, and secretly regretting his inaction, saw in it nothing but what was bad.

On the 26th of February, 1807 the old prince set off on a tour of inspection. Prince Andrey was staying at Bleak Hills, as he usually did in his father’s absence. Little Nikolushka had been ill for the last three days. The coachman, who had driven the old prince away, returned bringing papers and letters from the town for Prince Andrey. The valet with the letters not finding the young prince in his study, went to Princess Marya’s apartments, but he was not there either. The valet was told that the prince had gone to the nursery. “If you please, your excellency, Petrusha has come with some papers,” said one of the nursery maids, addressing Prince Andrey, who was sitting on a child’s little chair. Screwing up his eyes, he was with trembling hands pouring drops from a medicine bottle into a glass half full of water.

  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.