far the greatest of the princess’s burdens was her father’s irascibility, which was invariably directed against his daughter, and had of late reached the point of cruelty. Had he forced her to spend the night bowing to the ground, had he beaten her, or made her carry in wood and water, it would never have entered her head that her position was a hard one. But this loving despot—most cruel of all because he loved, and for that very reason tortured himself and her—knew not only how to mortify and humiliate her, but of set purpose, to prove to her that she was always to blame in everything. Of late he had taken a new departure, which caused Princess Marya more misery than anything—that was his closer and closer intimacy with Mademoiselle Bourienne. The idea, that had occurred to him in jest at the first moment of receiving the news of his son’s intentions, that if Andrey got married he, too, would marry Mademoiselle Bourienne, obviously pleased him, and he had of late— simply, as Princess Marya fancied, to annoy her—persisted in being particularly gracious to Mademoiselle Bourienne and manifesting his dissatisfaction with his daughter by demonstrations of love for the Frenchwoman.

One day in Princess Marya’s presence (it seemed to her that her father did it on purpose because she was there) the old prince kissed Mademoiselle Bourienne’s hand, and drawing her to him embraced her affectionately. Princess Marya flushed hotly and ran out of the room. A few minutes later, Mademoiselle Bourienne went into Princess Marya’s room, smiling and making some cheerful remarks in her agreeable voice. Princess Marya hastily wiped away her tears, with resolute steps went up to the Frenchwoman, and obviously unconscious of what she was doing, with wrathful haste and breaks in her voice she began screaming at her:

“It’s loathsome, vile, inhuman to take advantage of feebleness…” She could not go on. “Go out of my room,” she cried, and broke into sobs.

The next day the old prince did not say a word to his daughter, but she noticed that at dinner he gave orders for the dishes to be handed to Mademoiselle Bourienne first. When towards the end of dinner, the footman from habit handed the coffee, beginning with the princess, the old prince flew into a sudden frenzy of rage, flung his cane at Filipp, and immediately gave orders for him to be sent for a soldier.

“He won’t obey…twice I told him!…and he didn’t obey. She’s the first person in this house, she’s my best friend,” screamed the old prince. And if you allow yourself,” he shouted in a fury, for the first time addressing Princess Marya, “ever again, as you dared yesterday … to forget yourself in her presence, I’ll show you who is master in this house. Away! don’t let me set eyes on you! Beg her pardon!”

Princess Marya begged Amalia Yevgenyevna’s pardon and also her father’s, both for herself and the footman Filipp, who implored her intervention.

At such moments the feeling that prevailed in Princess Marya’s soul was akin to the pride of sacrifice. And all of a sudden at such moments, that father whom she was judging would look for his spectacles, fumbling by them and not seeing them, or would forget what had just happened, or would take a tottering step with his weak legs, and look round to see whether any one had noticed his feebleness, or what was worst of all, at dinner when there were no guests to excite him, he would suddenly fall asleep, letting his napkin drop and his shaking head sink over his plate. “He is old and feeble, and I dare to judge him!” she thought, revolted by herself.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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