Chapter 10

AFTER HER FATHER’S FUNERAL Princess Marya locked herself in her room and would not let any one come near her. A maid came to the door to say that Alpatitch had come to ask for instructions in regard to the journey. (This was before Alpatitch had talked to Dron.) Princess Marya got up from the sofa on which she was lying, and through the closed door replied that she was never going away, and begged to be left in peace.

The windows of the room in which Princess Marya lay looked to the west. She lay on the sofa facing the wall, and fingering the buttons on the leather bolster, she saw nothing but that bolster, and her thoughts were concentrated obscurely on one subject. She thought of the finality of death and of her spiritual baseness, of which she had had no idea till it showed itself during her father’s illness. She longed to pray, but dared not; dared not, in the spiritual state she was in, turn to God. For a long while she lay in that position.

The sun was setting, and the slanting rays lighted up the room through the open window, and threw a glow on part of the morocco cushion at which Princess Marya was looking. The current of her thoughts was suddenly arrested. She unconsciously sat up, smoothed her hair, stood up, and walked to the window, involuntarily drawing a deep breath of the refreshing coolness of the clear, windy evening.

“Yes, now you can admire the sunset at your ease! He is not here, and there is no one to hinder you,” she said to herself, and sinking into a chair, she let her head fall on the window-sill.

Some one spoke her name in a soft and tender voice from the garden and kissed her on the head. She looked up. It was Mademoiselle Bourienne in a black dress and pleureuses. She softly approached Princess Marya, kissed her with a sigh, and promptly burst into tears. Princess Marya looked round at her. All her old conflicts with her, her jealousy of her, recurred to Princess Marya’s mind. She remembered too that he had changed of late to Mademoiselle Bourienne, could not bear the sight of her, and therefore how unjust had been the censure that she had in her heart passed upon her. “Yes, and is it for me, for me, after desiring his death, to pass judgment on any one?” she thought.

Princess Marya pictured vividly to herself Mademoiselle Bourienne’s position, estranged from her of late, though dependent on her, and living among strangers. And she felt sorry for her. She looked at her in gentle inquiry and held out her hand to her. Mademoiselle Bourienne at once began kissing her hand with tears and talking of the princess’s sorrow, making herself a partner in that sorrow. She said that her only consolation in her sorrow was that the princess permitted her to share it with her. She said that all their former misunderstandings must sink into nothing before their great sorrow: that she felt herself guiltless in regard to every one, and that he from above saw her love and gratitude. The princess heard her without heeding her words, though she looked at her now and then and listened to the sound of her voice.

“Your position is doubly dreadful, dear princess,” said Mademoiselle Bourienne. “I know you could not and cannot think of yourself; but with my love for you I am bound to do so.…Has Alpatitch been with you? Has he spoken to you of moving?” she asked.

Princess Marya did not answer. She did not understand who was to move and where. “Was it possible to undertake anything now, to think of anything? Could anything matter?” she wondered. She made no reply.

“Do you know, chère Marie,” said Mademoiselle Bourienne, “that we are in danger, that we are surrounded by the French; it is dangerous to move now. If we move, we are almost certain to be taken prisoner, and God knows …”

Princess Marya looked at her companion, with no notion what she was saying.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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