On the first of August a second letter came from Prince Andrey. In his first letter, which had been received shortly after he left home, Prince Andrey had humbly asked his fathers forgiveness for what he had permitted himself to say to him, and had begged to be restored to his favour. To this letter, the old prince had sent an affectionate answer, and from that time he had kept the Frenchwoman at a distance. Prince Andreys second letter was written under Vitebsk, after the French had taken it. It consisted of a brief account of the whole campaign, with a plan sketched to illustrate it, and of reflections on the probable course it would take in the future. In this letter Prince Andrey pointed out to his father the inconvenience of his position close to the theatre of war, and in the direct line of the enemys advance, and advised him to move to Moscow.
At dinner that day, on Dessalles observing that he had heard that the French had already entered Vitebsk, the old prince recollected Prince Andreys letter.
I have heard from Prince Andrey to-day, he said to Princess Marya; have you read the letter?
No, mon pére, the Princess answered timidly. She could not possibly have read the letter, of which indeed she had not heard till that instant.
He writes about this war, said the prince, with the contemptuous smile that had become habitual with him in speaking of the present war.
It must be very interesting, said Dessalle. Prince Andrey is in a position to know.
Ah, very interesting! said Mademoiselle Bourienne.
Go and get it for me, said the old prince to Mademoiselle Bourienne. You know, on the little table under the paper-weight.
Mademoiselle Bourienne jumped up eagerly.
Ah, no, he shouted, frowning. You run, Mihail Ivanitch! Mihail Ivanitch got up and went to the study. But he had hardly left the room when the old prince, looking about him nervously, threw down his dinner napkin and went himself.
They never can do anything, always make a muddle.
As he went out, Princess Marya, Dessalle, Mademoiselle Bourienne, and even little Nikolushka, looked at one another without speaking. The old prince accompanied by Mihail Ivanitch came back with a hurried step, bringing the letter and a plan, which he laid beside him, and did not give to any one to read during dinner.
When they went into the drawing-room, he handed the letter to Princess Marya, and spreading out before him the plan of his new buildings, he fixed his eyes upon it, and told her to read the letter aloud.
After reading the letter, Princess Marya looked inquiringly at her father. He was gazing at the plan, evidently engrossed in his own ideas.
What do you think about it, prince? Dessalle ventured to inquire.
I? eh? said the old prince, seeming to rouse himself with a painful effort, and not taking his eyes from the plan of the building.
It is very possible that the field of operations may be brought so close to us
Ha-ha-ha! The field of operations indeed! said the old prince. I have always said, and I say still, that the field of operations is bound to be Poland, and the enemy will never advance beyond the Niemen.
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