Chapter 3

IN THE YEAR 1811 there was living in Moscow a French doctor called Metivier, who was rapidly coming into fashion. He was a very tall, handsome man, polite as only a Frenchman is, and was said by every one in Moscow to be an extraordinarily clever doctor. He was received in the very best houses, not merely as a doctor, but as an equal.

Prince Nikolay Andreitch had always ridiculed medicine, but of late he had by Mademoiselle Bourienne’s advice allowed this doctor to see him, and had become accustomed to his visits. Metivier used to see the old prince twice a week.

On St. Nikolay’s day, the name-day of the old prince, all Moscow was driving up to the approach of his house, but he gave orders for no one to be admitted to see him. Only a few guests, of whom he gave a list to Princess Marya, were to be invited to dinner.

Metivier, who arrived in the morning with his felicitations, thought himself as the old prince’s doctor entitled to forcer la consigne, as he told Princess Marya, and went in to the prince. It so happened that on that morning of his name-day the old prince was in one of his very worst tempers. He had spent the whole morning wandering about the house, finding fault with every one, and affecting not to understand what was said to him and to be misunderstood by everybody. Princess Marya knew that mood well from subdued and fretful grumbling, which usually found vent in a violent outburst of fury, and as though facing a cocked and loaded gun, she went all the morning in expectation of an explosion. The morning passed off fairly well, till the doctor’s arrival. After admitting the doctor, Princess Marya sat down with a book in the drawing-room near the door, where she could hear all that passed in the prince’s study.

At first she heard Metivier’s voice alone, then her father’s voice, then both voices began talking at once. The door flew open, and in the doorway she saw the handsome, terrified figure of Metivier with his shock of black hair, and the old prince in a skull-cap and dressing-gown, his face hideous with rage and his eyes lowered.

“You don’t understand,” screamed the old prince, “but I do! French spy, slave of Bonaparte, spy, out of my house—away, I tell you!” And he slammed the door. Metivier, shrugging his shoulders, went up to Mademoiselle Bourienne, who ran out of the next room at the noise.

“The prince is not quite well, bile and rush of blood to the head. Calm yourself, I will look in to-morrow,” said Metivier; and putting his fingers to his lips he hurried off.

Through the door could be heard steps shuffling in slippers and shouts: “Spies, traitors, traitors everywhere! Not a minute of peace in my own house!”

After Metivier’s departure the old prince sent for his daughter, and the whole fury of his passion spent itself on her. She was to blame for the spy’s having been admitted to see him. Had not he told her, told her to make a list, and that those not on the list were on no account to be admitted? Why then had that scoundrel been shown up? She was to blame for everything. With her he could not have a minute of peace, could not die in peace, he told her.

“No, madame, we must part, we must part, I tell you! I can put up with no more,” he said, and went out of the room. And as though afraid she might find some comfort, he turned back and trying to assume an air of calmness, he added: “And don’t imagine that I have said this in a moment of temper; no, I’m quite calm and I have thought it well over, and it shall be so—you shall go away, and find some place for yourself!…” But he could not restrain himself, and with the vindictive fury which can only exist where a man loves, obviously in anguish, he shook his fists and screamed at her: “Ah! if some fool would marry her!” He slammed the door, sent for Mademoiselle Bourienne, and subsided into his study.

At two o’clock the six persons he had selected arrived to dinner. Those guests—the celebrated Count Rastoptchin, Prince Lopuhin and his nephew, General Tchatrov, an old comrade of the prince’s in the field, and of the younger generation Pierre and Boris Drubetskoy were awaiting him in the drawing-room.

  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.