War and Peace
There was now no one in the reception room except Prince Vasili
and the eldest princess, who were sitting under the portrait of
Catherine the Great and talking eagerly. As soon as they saw Pierre
and his companion they became silent, and Pierre thought he saw the
princess hide something as she whispered:
"I can't bear the sight of that woman."
"Catiche has had tea served in the small drawing room," said
Prince Vasili to Anna Mikhaylovna. "Go and take something, my poor
Anna Mikhaylovna, or you will not hold out."
To Pierre he said nothing, merely giving his arm a sympathetic
squeeze below the shoulder. Pierre went with Anna Mikhaylovna into the
small drawing room.
"There is nothing so refreshing after a sleepless night as a cup
of this delicious Russian tea," Lorrain was saying with an air of
restrained animation as he stood sipping tea from a delicate Chinese
handleless cup before a table on which tea and a cold supper were laid
in the small circular room. Around the table all who were at Count
Bezukhov's house that night had gathered to fortify themselves. Pierre
well remembered this small circular drawing room with its mirrors
and little tables. During balls given at the house Pierre, who did not
know how to dance, had liked sitting in this room to watch the
ladies who, as they passed through in their ball dresses with diamonds
and pearls on their bare shoulders, looked at themselves in the
brilliantly lighted mirrors which repeated their reflections several
times. Now this same room was dimly lighted by two candles. On one
small table tea things and supper dishes stood in disorder, and in the
middle of the night a motley throng of people sat there, not
merrymaking, but somberly whispering, and betraying by every word
and movement that they none of them forgot what was happening and what
was about to happen in the bedroom. Pierre did not eat anything though
he would very much have liked to. He looked inquiringly at his
monitress and saw that she was again going on tiptoe to the
reception room where they had left Prince Vasili and the eldest
princess. Pierre concluded that this also was essential, and after a
short interval followed her. Anna Mikhaylovna was standing beside
the princess, and they were both speaking in excited whispers.
"Permit me, Princess, to know what is necessary and what is not
necessary," said the younger of the two speakers, evidently in the
same state of excitement as when she had slammed the door of her room.
"But, my dear princess," answered Anna Mikhaylovna blandly but
impressively, blocking the way to the bedroom and preventing the other
from passing, "won't this be too much for poor Uncle at a moment
when he needs repose? Worldly conversation at a moment when his soul
is already prepared..."
Prince Vasili was seated in an easy chair in his familiar
attitude, with one leg crossed high above the other. His cheeks, which
were so flabby that they looked heavier below, were twitching
violently; but he wore the air of a man little concerned in what the
two ladies were saying.
"Come, my dear Anna Mikhaylovna, let Catiche do as she pleases.
You know how fond the count is of her."
"I don't even know what is in this paper," said the younger of the
two ladies, addressing Prince Vasili and pointing to an inlaid
portfolio she held in her hand. "All I know is that his real will is
in his writing table, and this is a paper he has forgotten...."
She tried to pass Anna Mikhaylovna, but the latter sprang so as to
bar her path.
"I know, my dear, kind princess," said Anna Mikhaylovna, seizing the
portfolio so firmly that it was plain she would not let go easily.
"Dear princess, I beg and implore you, have some pity on him! Je
vous en conjure..."
The princess did not reply. Their efforts in the struggle for the
portfolio were the only sounds audible, but it was evident that if the
princess did speak, her words would not be flattering to Anna
Mikhaylovna. Though the latter held on tenaciously, her voice lost
none of its honeyed firmness and softness.
"Pierre, my dear, come here. I think he will not be out of place
in a family consultation; is it not so, Prince?"
"Why don't you speak, cousin?" suddenly shrieked the princess so
loud that those in the drawing room heard her and were startled.
"Why do you remain silent when heaven knows who permits herself to
interfere, making a scene on the very threshold of a dying man's room?
Intriguer!" she hissed viciously, and tugged with all her might at the
But Anna Mikhaylovna went forward a step or two to keep her hold
on the portfolio, and changed her grip.
Prince Vasili rose. "Oh!" said he with reproach and surprise,
"this is absurd! Come, let go I tell you."
The princess let go.
"And you too!"
But Anna Mikhaylovna did not obey him.
"Let go, I tell you! I will take the responsibility. I myself will
go and ask him, I!... does that satisfy you?"
"But, Prince," said Anna Mikhaylovna, "after such a solemn
sacrament, allow him a moment's peace! Here, Pierre, tell them your
opinion," said she, turning to the young man who, having come quite
close, was gazing with astonishment at the angry face of the
princess which had lost all dignity, and at the twitching cheeks of
"Remember that you will answer for the consequences," said Prince
Vasili severely. "You don't know what you are doing."
"Vile woman!" shouted the princess, darting unexpectedly at Anna
Mikhaylovna and snatching the portfolio from her.
Prince Vasili bent his head and spread out his hands.
At this moment that terrible door, which Pierre had watched so
long and which had always opened so quietly, burst noisily open and
banged against the wall, and the second of the three sisters rushed
out wringing her hands.
"What are you doing!" she cried vehemently. "He is dying and you
leave me alone with him!"
Her sister dropped the portfolio. Anna Mikhaylovna, stooping,
quickly caught up the object of contention and ran into the bedroom.
The eldest princess and Prince Vasili, recovering themselves, followed
her. A few minutes later the eldest sister came out with a pale hard
face, again biting her underlip. At sight of Pierre her expression
showed an irrepressible hatred.
"Yes, now you may be glad!" said she; "this is what you have been
waiting for." And bursting into tears she hid her face in her
handkerchief and rushed from the room.
Prince Vasili came next. He staggered to the sofa on which Pierre
was sitting and dropped onto it, covering his face with his hand.
Pierre noticed that he was pale and that his jaw quivered and shook as
if in an ague.
"Ah, my friend!" said he, taking Pierre by the elbow; and there
was in his voice a sincerity and weakness Pierre had never observed in
it before. "How often we sin, how much we deceive, and all for what? I
am near sixty, dear friend... I too... All will end in death, all!
Death is awful..." and he burst into tears.
Anna Mikhaylovna came out last. She approached Pierre with slow,
"Pierre!" she said.
Pierre gave her an inquiring look. She kissed the young man on his
forehead, wetting him with her tears. Then after a pause she said:
"He is no more...."
Pierre looked at her over his spectacles.
"Come, I will go with you. Try to weep, nothing gives such relief as
She led him into the dark drawing room and Pierre was glad no one
could see his face. Anna Mikhaylovna left him, and when she returned
he was fast asleep with his head on his arm.
In the morning Anna Mikhaylovna said to Pierre:
"Yes, my dear, this is a great loss for us all, not to speak of you.
But God will support you: you are young, and are now, I hope, in
command of an immense fortune. The will has not yet been opened. I
know you well enough to be sure that this will not turn your head, but
it imposes duties on you, and you must be a man."
Pierre was silent.
"Perhaps later on I may tell you, my dear boy, that if I had not
been there, God only knows what would have happened! You know, Uncle
promised me only the day before yesterday not to forget Boris. But
he had no time. I hope, my dear friend, you will carry out your
Pierre understood nothing of all this and coloring shyly looked in
silence at Princess Anna Mikhaylovna. After her talk with Pierre, Anna
Mikhaylovna returned to the Rostovs' and went to bed. On waking in the
morning she told the Rostovs and all her acquaintances the details
of Count Bezukhov's death. She said the count had died as she would
herself wish to die, that his end was not only touching but
edifying. As to the last meeting between father and son, it was so
touching that she could not think of it without tears, and did not
know which had behaved better during those awful moments- the father
who so remembered everything and everybody at last and last and had
spoken such pathetic words to the son, or Pierre, whom it had been
pitiful to see, so stricken was he with grief, though he tried hard to
hide it in order not to sadden his dying father. "It is painful, but
it does one good. It uplifts the soul to see such men as the old count
and his worthy son," said she. Of the behavior of the eldest
princess and Prince Vasili she spoke disapprovingly, but in whispers
and as a great secret.
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