Chapter 13

IT WAS DARK by the time Prince Andrey and Pierre drove up to the principal entrance of the house at Bleak Hills. While they were driving in, Prince Andrey with a smile drew Pierre’s attention to a commotion that was taking place at the back entrance. A bent little old woman with a wallet on her back, and a short man with long hair, in a black garment, ran back to the gate on seeing the carriage driving up. Two women ran out after them, and all the four, looking round at the carriage with scared faces, ran in at the back entrance.

“Those are Masha’s God’s folk,” said Prince Andrey. “They took us for my father. It’s the one matter in which she does not obey him. He orders them to drive away these pilgrims, but she receives them.”

“But what are God’s folk?” asked Pierre.

Prince Andrey had not time to answer him. The servants came out to meet them, and he inquired where the old prince was and whether they expected him home soon. The old prince was still in the town, and they were expecting him every minute.

Prince Andrey led Pierre away to his own suite of rooms, which were always in perfect readiness for him in his father’s house, and went off himself to the nursery.

“Let us go to my sister,” said Prince Andrey, coming back to Pierre; “I have not seen her yet, she is in hiding now, sitting with her God’s folk. Serve her right; she will be put to shame, and you will see God’s folk. It’s curious, upon my word.”

“What are ‘God’s folk’?” asked Pierre.

“You shall see.”

Princess Marya certainly was disconcerted, and reddened in patches when they went in. In her snug room, with lamps before the holy picture stand, there was sitting, behind the samovar, on the sofa beside her, a young lad with a long nose and long hair, wearing a monk’s cassock. In a low chair near sat a wrinkled, thin, old woman, with a meek expression on her childlike face.

“Andrey, why did you not let me know?” she said with mild reproach, standing before her pilgrims like a hen before her chickens.

“Delighted to see you. I am very glad to see you,” she said to Pierre, as he kissed her hand. She had known him as a child, and now his friendship with Andrey, his unhappy marriage, and above all, his kindly, simple face, disposed her favourably to him. She looked at him with her beautiful, luminous eyes, and seemed to say to him: “I like you very much, but, please, don’t laugh at my friends.”

After the first phrases of greeting, they sat down

“Oh, and Ivanushka’s here,” said Prince Andrey with a smile, indicating the young pilgrim.

“Andryusha!” said Princess Marya imploringly.

“You must know, it is a woman,” said Andrey to Pierre in French.

“Andrey, for heaven’s sake!” repeated Princess Marya.

It was plain that Prince Andrey’s ironical tone to the pilgrims, and Princess Marya’s helpless championship of them, were their habitual, long-established attitudes on the subject.

“Why, my dear girl,” said Prince Andrey, “you ought to be obliged to me, on the contrary, for explaining your intimacy with this young man to Pierre.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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