Chapter 2

THE DAY after his son’s departure, Prince Nikolay Andreitch sent for Princess Marya.

“Well, now are you satisfied?” he said to her. “You have made me quarrel with my son! Are you satisfied? That was all you wanted! Satisfied? … It’s a grief to me, a grief. I’m old and weak, and it was your wish. Well, now, rejoice over it. …” And after that, Princess Marya did not see her father again for a week. He was ill and did not leave his study.

Princess Marya noticed to her surprise that during this illness the old prince excluded Mademoiselle Bourienne too from his room. Tihon was the only person who looked after him.

A week later the prince reappeared, and began to lead the same life as before, showing marked energy in the laying out of farm buildings and gardens, and completely breaking off all relations with Mademoiselle Bourienne. His frigid tone and air with Princess Marya seemed to say: “You see, you plotted against me, told lies to Prince Andrey of my relations with that Frenchwoman, and made me quarrel with him, but you see I can do without you, and without the Frenchwoman too.”

One half of the day Princess Marya spent with Nikolushka, giving him his Russian lessons, following his other lessons, and talking to Dessalle. The rest of the day she spent in reading, or with her old nurse and “God’s folk,” who came by the back stairs sometimes to visit her. The war Princess Marya looked on as women do look on war. She was apprehensive for her brother who was at the front, and was horrified, without understanding it, at the cruelty of men, that led them to kill one another. But she had no notion of the significance of this war, which seemed to her exactly like all the preceding wars. She had no notion of the meaning of this war, although Dessalle, who was her constant companion, was passionately interested in the course of the war, and tried to explain his views on the subject to her, and although “God’s folk” all, with terror, told her in their own way of the rumours among the peasantry of the coming of Antichrist, and although Julie, now Princess Drubetskoy, who had renewed her correspondence with her, was continually writing her patriotic letters from Moscow.

“I write to you in Russian, my sweet friend,” Julie wrote, “because I feel a hatred for all the French and for their language too; I can’t bear to hear it spoken. … In Moscow we are all wild with enthusiasm for our adored Emperor.

“My poor husband is enduring hardships and hunger in wretched Jewish taverns, but the news I get from him only increases my ardour.

“You have doubtless heard of the heroic action of Raevsky, who embraced his two sons and said, ‘We will die together, but we will not flinch!’ And though the enemy were twice as strong, we did not in fact flinch. We kill time here as best we can; but in war, as in war. Princess Alina and Sophie spend whole days with me, and we, unhappy windows of living husbands, have delightful talks over scraping lint. We only want you, my darling, to make us complete,” etc., etc.

The principal reason why Princess Marya failed to grasp the significance of the war was that the old prince never spoke of it, refused to recognize its existence, and laughed at Dessalle when he mentioned the war at dinner-time. The prince’s tone was so calm and confident that Princess Marya put implicit faith in him.

During the whole of July the old prince was excessively active and even lively. He laid out another new garden and a new wing for the servants. The only thing that made Princess Marya anxious about him was that he slept badly, and gave up his old habit of sleeping in his study, and had a bed made up for him in a new place every day. One night he would have his travelling bedstead set up in the gallery, the next night he would spend dozing dressed on the sofa or in the lounge-chair in the drawing-room, while the lad Petrushka, who had replaced Mademoiselle Bourienne in attendance on him, read aloud to him; then he would try spending a night in the dining-room.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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