Chapter 8

PRINCESS MARYA was not in Moscow and out of danger as Prince Andrey supposed.

After Alpatitch’s return from Smolensk, the old prince seemed as though he had suddenly waked out of a sleep. He gave orders for the militiamen to assemble out of the villages, and to be armed; and wrote a letter to the commander-in-chief, in which he informed him of his intention to remain at Bleak Hills to the last and to defend himself, leaving it to his discretion to take steps or not for the defence of Bleak Hills, where he said one of the oldest Russian generals would be taken prisoner or die. He announced to his household that he should remain at Bleak Hills.

But though resolved himself to remain, the prince made arrangements for sending the princess with Dessalle and the little prince to Bogutcharovo, and from there on to Moscow. Frightened at her father’s feverish, sleepless energy, following on his previous apathy, Princess Marya could not bring herself to leave him alone, and for the first time in her life ventured not to obey him. She refused to go, and a fearful tempest of wrath burst upon her. The prince reminded her of every previous instance of injustice to her. Trying to find pretexts for reviling her, he said she had done everything to worry him, that she had estranged him from his son, that she harboured the vilest suspicions of him, that she made it the object of her life to poison his existence. He drove her out of his study, telling her that he did not care if she did not go away. He told her that he did not want to hear of her existence, but gave her fair warning not to dare show herself before him. Princess Marya was relieved that he had not, as she had dreaded, ordered her to be forcibly removed from Bleak Hills, but had simply commanded her not to show herself. She knew that this meant that in the secret recesses of his soul he was glad she was staying at home.

The day after Nikolushka had left, the old prince dressed himself in the morning in full uniform, and prepared to make a call on the commander-in-chief. The carriage was standing ready. Princess Marya saw him in his uniform, with all his orders on his breast, walk out of the house and go down the garden to inspect the armed peasants and houseserfs. Princess Marya sat at the window listening to his voice resounding from the garden. Suddenly several men came running up the avenue with panic-stricken faces.

Princess Marya ran out on to the steps, along the flower-bed path, and into the avenue. A great crowd of militiamen and servants were coming down it towards her, and in the middle of that crowd several men were holding up and dragging along a little old man in a uniform and decorations. Princess Marya ran towards him, and in the dancing, tiny rings of light that filtered through the shade of the lime-tree avenue, she could form no distinct impression of the change in his face. The only thing she could see was that the stern and determined expression of his face had changed to a look of timidity and submission. On seeing his daughter, he tried to move his powerless lips, and uttered a hoarse sound. It was impossible to understand what he meant. He was lifted up, carried into his study, and laid on the couch, which had been such an object of dread to him of late.

The doctor, who was brought over the same night, bled him, and declared that the prince had had a stroke, paralysing his right side.

To remain at Bleak Hills was becoming more and more dangerous, and the next day they moved the prince to Bogutcharovo. The doctor travelled with him.

When they reached Bogutcharovo, they found Dessalle had already set off for Moscow with the little prince.

For three weeks the old prince lay stricken with paralysis, getting neither better nor worse, in the new house Prince Andrey had planned at Bogutcharovo. The old prince was unconscious; he lay like a deformed corpse. He muttered incessantly, twitching his eyebrows and lips, and it was impossible to tell whether he understood his surroundings or not. Only one thing could be said for certain: that was, that he was suffering, and had a craving to express something. But what that was no one could tell: whether it were some sick and half-crazy whim; whether it related to public affairs or family circumstances.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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