War and Peace
While in the Rostovs' ballroom the sixth anglaise was being
danced, to a tune in which the weary musicians blundered, and while
tired footmen and cooks were getting the supper, Count Bezukhov had
a sixth stroke. The doctors pronounced recovery impossible. After a
mute confession, communion was administered to the dying man,
preparations made for the sacrament of unction, and in his house there
was the bustle and thrill of suspense usual at such moments. Outside
the house, beyond the gates, a group of undertakers, who hid
whenever a carriage drove up, waited in expectation of an important
order for an expensive funeral. The Military Governor of Moscow, who
had been assiduous in sending aides-de-camp to inquire after the
count's health, came himself that evening to bid a last farewell to
the celebrated grandee of Catherine's court, Count Bezukhov.
The magnificent reception room was crowded. Everyone stood up
respectfully when the Military Governor, having stayed about half an
hour alone with the dying man, passed out, slightly acknowledging
their bows and trying to escape as quickly as from the glances fixed
on him by the doctors, clergy, and relatives of the family. Prince
Vasili, who had grown thinner and paler during the last few days,
escorted him to the door, repeating something to him several times
in low tones.
When the Military Governor had gone, Prince Vasili sat down all
alone on a chair in the ballroom, crossing one leg high over the
other, leaning his elbow on his knee and covering his face with his
hand. After sitting so for a while he rose, and, looking about him
with frightened eyes, went with unusually hurried steps down the
long corridor leading to the back of the house, to the room of the
Those who were in the dimly lit reception room spoke in nervous
whispers, and, whenever anyone went into or came from the dying
man's room, grew silent and gazed with eyes full of curiosity or
expectancy at his door, which creaked slightly when opened.
"The limits of human life... are fixed and may not be o'erpassed,"
said an old priest to a lady who had taken a seat beside him and was
listening naively to his words.
"I wonder, is it not too late to administer unction?" asked the
lady, adding the priest's clerical title, as if she had no opinion
of her own on the subject.
"Ah, madam, it is a great sacrament, "replied the priest, passing
his hand over the thin grizzled strands of hair combed back across his
"Who was that? The Military Governor himself?" was being asked at
the other side of the room. "How young-looking he is!"
"Yes, and he is over sixty. I hear the count no longer recognizes
anyone. They wished to administer the sacrament of unction."
"I knew someone who received that sacrament seven times."
The second princess had just come from the sickroom with her eyes
red from weeping and sat down beside Dr. Lorrain, who was sitting in a
graceful pose under a portrait of Catherine, leaning his elbow on a
"Beautiful," said the doctor in answer to a remark about the
weather. "The weather is beautiful, Princess; and besides, in Moscow
one feels as if one were in the country."
"Yes, indeed," replied the princess with a sigh. "So he may have
something to drink?"
"Has he taken his medicine?"
The doctor glanced at his watch.
"Take a glass of boiled water and put a pinch of cream of tartar,"
and he indicated with his delicate fingers what he meant by a pinch.
"Dere has neffer been a gase," a German doctor was saying to an
aide-de-camp, "dat one liffs after de sird stroke."
"And what a well-preserved man he was!" remarked the aide-de-camp.
"And who will inherit his wealth?" he added in a whisper.
"It von't go begging," replied the German with a smile.
Everyone again looked toward the door, which creaked as the second
princess went in with the drink she had prepared according to
Lorrain's instructions. The German doctor went up to Lorrain.
"Do you think he can last till morning?" asked the German,
addressing Lorrain in French which he pronounced badly.
Lorrain, pursing up his lips, waved a severely negative finger
before his nose.
"Tonight, not later," said he in a low voice, and he moved away with
a decorous smile of self-satisfaction at being able clearly to
understand and state the patient's condition.
Meanwhile Prince Vasili had opened the door into the princess' room.
In this room it was almost dark; only two tiny lamps were burning
before the icons and there was a pleasant scent of flowers and burnt
pastilles. The room was crowded with small pieces of furniture,
whatnots, cupboards, and little tables. The quilt of a high, white
feather bed was just visible behind a screen. A small dog began to
"Ah, is it you, cousin?"
She rose and smoothed her hair, which was as usual so extremely
smooth that it seemed to be made of one piece with her head and
covered with varnish.
"Has anything happened?" she asked. "I am so terrified."
"No, there is no change. I only came to have a talk about
business, Catiche,"* muttered the prince, seating himself wearily on
the chair she had just vacated. "You have made the place warm, I
must say," he remarked. "Well, sit down: let's have a talk."
"I thought perhaps something had happened," she said with her
unchanging stonily severe expression; and, sitting down opposite the
prince, she prepared to listen.
"I wished to get a nap, mon cousin, but I can't."
"Well, my dear?" said Prince Vasili, taking her hand and bending
it downwards as was his habit.
It was plain that this "well?" referred to much that they both
understood without naming.
The princess, who had a straight, rigid body, abnormally long for
her legs, looked directly at Prince Vasili with no sign of emotion
in her prominent gray eyes. Then she shook her head and glanced up
at the icons with a sigh. This might have been taken as an
expression of sorrow and devotion, or of weariness and hope of resting
before long. Prince Vasili understood it as an expression of
"And I?" he said; "do you think it is easier for me? I am as worn
out as a post horse, but still I must have a talk with you, Catiche, a
very serious talk."
Prince Vasili said no more and his cheeks began to twitch nervously,
now on one side, now on the other, giving his face an unpleasant expression which was never to be seen on it in a drawing room. His
eyes too seemed strange; at one moment they looked impudently sly
and at the next glanced round in alarm.
The princess, holding her little dog on her lap with her thin bony
hands, looked attentively into Prince Vasili's eyes evidently resolved
not to be the first to break silence, if she had to wait till morning.
"Well, you see, my dear princess and cousin, Catherine Semenovna,"
continued Prince Vasili, returning to his theme, apparently not
without an inner struggle; "at such a moment as this one must think of
everything. One must think of the future, of all of you... I love
you all, like children of my own, as you know."
The princess continued to look at him without moving, and with the
same dull expression.
"And then of course my family has also to be considered," Prince
Vasili went on, testily pushing away a little table without looking at
her. "You know, Catiche, that we- you three sisters, Mamontov, and
my wife- are the count's only direct heirs. I know, I know how hard it
is for you to talk or think of such matters. It is no easier for me;
but, my dear, I am getting on for sixty and must be prepared for
anything. Do you know I have sent for Pierre? The count," pointing
to his portrait, "definitely demanded that he should be called."
Prince Vasili looked questioningly at the princess, but could not
make out whether she was considering what he had just said or
whether she was simply looking at him.
"There is one thing I constantly pray God to grant, mon cousin," she
replied, "and it is that He would be merciful to him and would allow
his noble soul peacefully to leave this..."
"Yes, yes, of course," interrupted Prince Vasili impatiently,
rubbing his bald head and angrily pulling back toward him the little
table that he had pushed away. "But... in short, the fact is... you
know yourself that last winter the count made a will by which he
left all his property, not to us his direct heirs, but to Pierre."
"He has made wills enough!" quietly remarked the princess. "But he
cannot leave the estate to Pierre. Pierre is illegitimate."
"But, my dear," said Prince Vasili suddenly, clutching the little
table and becoming more animated and talking more rapidly: "what if
a letter has been written to the Emperor in which the count asks for
Pierre's legitimation? Do you understand that in consideration of
the count's services, his request would be granted?..."
The princess smiled as people do who think they know more about
the subject under discussion than those they are talking with.
"I can tell you more," continued Prince Vasili, seizing her hand,
"that letter was written, though it was not sent, and the Emperor knew
of it. The only question is, has it been destroyed or not? If not,
then as soon as all is over," and Prince Vasili sighed to intimate
what he meant by the words all is over, "and the count's papers are
opened, the will and letter will be delivered to the Emperor, and
the petition will certainly be granted. Pierre will get everything
as the legitimate son."
"And our share?" asked the princess smiling ironically, as if
anything might happen, only not that.
"But, my poor Catiche, it is as clear as daylight! He will then be
the legal heir to everything and you won't get anything. You must
know, my dear, whether the will and letter were written, and whether
they have been destroyed or not. And if they have somehow been
overlooked, you ought to know where they are, and must find them,
"What next?" the princess interrupted, smiling sardonically and
not changing the expression of her eyes. "I am a woman, and you
think we are all stupid; but I know this: an illegitimate son cannot
inherit... un batard!"* she added, as if supposing that this
translation of the word would effectively prove to Prince Vasili the
invalidity of his contention.
* A bastard.
"Well, really, Catiche! Can't you understand! You are so
intelligent, how is it you don't see that if the count has written a
letter to the Emperor begging him to recognize Pierre as legitimate,
it follows that Pierre will not be Pierre but will become Count
Bezukhov, and will then inherit everything under the will? And if
the will and letter are not destroyed, then you will have nothing
but the consolation of having been dutiful et tout ce qui s'ensuit!*
* And all that follows therefrom.
"I know the will was made, but I also know that it is invalid; and
you, mon cousin, seem to consider me a perfect fool," said the
princess with the expression women assume when they suppose they are
saying something witty and stinging.
"My dear Princess Catherine Semenovna," began Prince Vasili
impatiently, "I came here not to wrangle with you, but to talk about
your interests as with a kinswoman, a good, kind, true relation. And I
tell you for the tenth time that if the letter to the Emperor and
the will in Pierre's favor are among the count's papers, then, my dear
girl, you and your sisters are not heiresses! If you don't believe me,
then believe an expert. I have just been talking to Dmitri Onufrich"
(the family solicitor) "and he says the same."
At this a sudden change evidently took place in the princess' ideas;
her thin lips grew white, though her eyes did not change, and her
voice when she began to speak passed through such transitions as she
herself evidently did not expect.
"That would be a fine thing!" said she. "I never wanted anything and
I don't now."
She pushed the little dog off her lap and smoothed her dress.
"And this is gratitude- this is recognition for those who have
sacrificed everything for his sake!" she cried. "It's splendid!
Fine! I don't want anything, Prince."
"Yes, but you are not the only one. There are your sisters..."
replied Prince Vasili.
But the princess did not listen to him.
"Yes, I knew it long ago but had forgotten. I knew that I could
expect nothing but meanness, deceit, envy, intrigue, and
ingratitude- the blackest ingratitude- in this house..."
"Do you or do you not know where that will is?" insisted Prince
Vasili, his cheeks twitching more than ever.
"Yes, I was a fool! I still believed in people, loved them, and
sacrificed myself. But only the base, the vile succeed! I know who has
The princees wished to rise, but the prince held her by the hand.
She had the air of one who has suddenly lost faith in the whole
human race. She gave her companion an angry glance.
"There is still time, my dear. You must remember, Catiche, that it
was all done casually in a moment of anger, of illness, and was
afterwards forgotten. Our duty, my dear, is to rectify his mistake, to
ease his last moments by not letting him commit this injustice, and
not to let him die feeling that he is rendering unhappy those who..."
"Who sacrificed everything for him," chimed in the princess, who
would again have risen had not the prince still held her fast, "though
he never could appreciate it. No, mon cousin," she added with a
sigh, "I shall always remember that in this world one must expect no
reward, that in this world there is neither honor nor justice. In this
world one has to be cunning and cruel."
"Now come, come! Be reasonable. I know your excellent heart."
"No, I have a wicked heart."
"I know your heart," repeated the prince. "I value your friendship
and wish you to have as good an opinion of me. Don't upset yourself,
and let us talk sensibly while there is still time, be it a day or
be it but an hour.... Tell me all you know about the will, and above
all where it is. You must know. We will take it at once and show it to
the count. He has, no doubt, forgotten it and will wish to destroy it.
You understand that my sole desire is conscientiously to carry out his
wishes; that is my only reason for being here. I came simply to help
him and you."
"Now I see it all! I know who has been intriguing- I know!" cried
"That's not the point, my dear."
"It's that protege of yours, that sweet Princess Drubetskaya, that
Anna Mikhaylovna whom I would not take for a housemaid... the
infamous, vile woman!"
"Do not let us lose any time..."
"Ah, don't talk to me! Last winter she wheedled herself in here
and told the count such vile, disgraceful things about us,
especially about Sophie- I can't repeat them- that it made the count
quite ill and he would not see us for a whole fortnight. I know it was
then he wrote this vile, infamous paper, but I thought the thing was
"We've got to it at last- why did you not tell me about it sooner?"
"It's in the inlaid portfolio that he keeps under his pillow,"
said the princess, ignoring his question. "Now I know! Yes; if I
have a sin, a great sin, it is hatred of that vile woman!" almost
shrieked the princess, now quite changed. "And what does she come
worming herself in here for? But I will give her a piece of my mind.
The time will come!"
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