Princess Marya heard him, and could not understand what he was saying. He, Prince Andrey, with his delicate, tender intuition, how could he say that before the girl whom he loved, and who loved him! If he had any thought of living, he could not have said that in that slightingly cold tone. If he had not known he was going to die, how could he have failed to feel for her, how could he speak like that before her! There could be but one explanation of it—that was, that it was all of no moment to him now, and of no moment because something else, more important, had been revealed to him.

The conversation was frigid and disconnected, and broke off at every moment.

“Marie came by Ryazan,” said Natasha.

Prince Andrey did not notice that she called his sister Marie. And Natasha, calling her by that name before him, for the first time became aware of it herself.

“Well?” said he.

“She was told that Moscow had been burnt to the ground, all of it entirely. That it looks as though …”

Natasha stopped. It was impossible to talk. He was obviously making an effort to listen, and yet he could not.

“Yes; it’s burnt, they say,” he said. “That’s a great pity,” and he gazed straight before him, his fingers straying heedlessly about his moustache.

“And so you met Count Nikolay, Marie?” said Prince Andrey, suddenly, evidently trying to say something to please them. “He wrote here what a great liking he took to you,” he went on, simply and calmly, plainly unable to grasp all the complex significance his words had for living people. “If you liked him, too, it would be a very good thing … for you to get married,” he added, rather more quickly, apparently pleased at finding at last the words he had been seeking. Princess Marya heard his words, but they had no significance for her except as showing how terribly far away he was now from everything living.

“Why talk of me?” she said calmly, and glanced at Natasha. Natasha, feeling her eyes on her, did not look at her. Again all of them were silent.

“Andrey, would you …” Princess Marya said suddenly in a shaky voice, “would you like to see Nikolushka? He is always talking of you.”

For the first time Prince Andrey smiled a faintly perceptible smile, but Princess Marya, who knew his face so well, saw with horror that it was a smile not of joy, not of tenderness for his son, but of quiet, gentle irony at his sister’s trying what she believed to be the last resource for rousing him to feeling.

“Yes, I shall be very glad to see Nikolushka. Is he quite well?”

When they brought in little Nikolushka, who gazed in dismay at his father, but did not cry, because nobody else was crying, Prince Andrey kissed him, and obviously did not know what to say to him.

When they had taken the child away, Princess Marya went up to her brother once more, kissed him, and unable to control herself any longer, began to weep.

He looked at her intently.

“You weep for Nikolushka?” he asked.

Princess Marya nodded through her tears.

“Marie, you know the Gos …” he began, but suddenly paused.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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