Princess Marya looked into his face with frightened inquiry, not understanding why he did not answer her chief question. How was her brother? Mademoiselle Bourienne put this question for the princess.
How is the prince? she asked.
His excellency is staying in the same house with them.
He is living, then, thought the princess; and she softly asked, How is he?
The servants say, No change.
What was meant by no change the princess did not inquire, and with a passing, hardly perceptible, glance at little seven-year-old Nikolushka, sitting before her, delighted at the sight of the town, she bowed her head, and did not raise it again till the heavy carriagerumbling, jolting, and swaying from side to sidecame to a standstill. The carriage-steps were let down with a crash.
The carriage-door was opened. On the left was watera broad river; on the right, entrance steps. At the entrance were people, servants, and a rosy-faced girl with a thick coil of black hair, who smiled at her in an unpleasantly affected way, as it seemed to Princess Marya (it was Sonya). The princess ran up the steps; the girl, smiling affectedly, said, This way! this way! and the princess found herself in the vestibule, facing an elderly woman of an Oriental type of face, who came rapidly to meet her, looking moved. It was the countess. She embraced Princess Marya and proceeded to kiss her.
My child, she said, I love you, and have known you a long while.
In spite of her emotion, Princess Marya knew it was the countess, and that she must say something to her. Not knowing how she did it, she uttered some polite French phrases in the tone in which she had been addressed, and asked, How is he?
The doctor says there is no danger, said the countess; but as she said it she sighed, and turned her eyes upwards, and this gesture contradicted her words.
Where is he? Can I see him; can I? asked the princess.
In a minute; in a minute, my dear. Is this his son? she said, turning to Nikolushka, who came in with Dessalle. We shall find room for every one; the house is large. Oh, what a charming boy!
The countess led the princess into the drawing-room. Sonya began to converse with Mademoiselle Bourienne. The countess caressed the child. The old count came into the room to welcome the princess. He was extraordinarily changed since Princess Marya had seen him last. Then he had been a jaunty, gay, self- confident old gentleman, now he seemed a pitiful, bewildered creature. As he talked to the princess, he was continually looking about him, as though asking every one if he were doing the right thing. After the destruction of Moscow and the loss of his property, driven out of his accustomed rut, he had visibly lost the sense of his own importance, and felt that there was no place for him in life.
In spite of her one desire to see her brother without loss of time, and her vexation that at that moment, when all she wanted was to see him, they should entertain her conventionally with praises of her nephew, the princess observed all that was passing around her, and felt it inevitable for the time to fall in with the new order of things into which she had entered. She knew that all this was inevitable, and it was hard for her, but she felt no grudge against them for it.
This is my niece, said the countess, presenting Sonya; you do not know her, princess?
Princess Marya turned to her, and trying to smother the feeling of hostility that rose up within her at the sight of this girl, she kissed her. But she felt painfully how out of keeping was the mood of every one around her with what was filling her own breast.
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