When Natasha opened Prince Andrew's door with a familiar movement and le_rincess Mary pass into the room before her, the princess felt the sobs in he_hroat. Hard as she had tried to prepare herself, and now tried to remai_ranquil, she knew that she would be unable to look at him without tears.
The princess understood what Natasha had meant by the words: "two days ag_his suddenly happened." She understood those words to mean that he ha_uddenly softened and that this softening and gentleness were signs o_pproaching death. As she stepped to the door she already saw in imaginatio_ndrew's face as she remembered it in childhood, a gentle, mild, sympatheti_ace which he had rarely shown, and which therefore affected her ver_trongly. She was sure he would speak soft, tender words to her such as he_ather had uttered before his death, and that she would not be able to bear i_nd would burst into sobs in his presence. Yet sooner or later it had to be,
and she went in. The sobs rose higher and higher in her throat as she more an_ore clearly distinguished his form and her shortsighted eyes tried to mak_ut his features, and then she saw his face and met his gaze.
He was lying in a squirrel-fur dressing gown on a divan, surrounded b_illows. He was thin and pale. In one thin, translucently white hand he held _andkerchief, while with the other he stroked the delicate mustache he ha_rown, moving his fingers slowly. His eyes gazed at them as they entered.
On seeing his face and meeting his eyes Princess Mary's pace suddenl_lackened, she felt her tears dry up and her sobs ceased. She suddenly fel_uilty and grew timid on catching the expression of his face and eyes.
"But in what am I to blame?" she asked herself. And his cold, stern loo_eplied: "Because you are alive and thinking of the living, while I… "
In the deep gaze that seemed to look not outwards but inwards there was a_lmost hostile expression as he slowly regarded his sister and Natasha.
He kissed his sister, holding her hand in his as was their wont.
"How are you, Mary? How did you manage to get here?" said he in a voice a_alm and aloof as his look.
Had he screamed in agony, that scream would not have struck such horror int_rincess Mary's heart as the tone of his voice.
"And have you brought little Nicholas?" he asked in the same slow, quie_anner and with an obvious effort to remember.
"How are you now?" said Princess Mary, herself surprised at what she wa_aying.
"That, my dear, you must ask the doctor," he replied, and again making a_vident effort to be affectionate, he said with his lips only (his word_learly did not correspond to his thoughts):
"Merci, chere amie, d'etre venue."[](footnotes.xml#footnote_108) Princes_ary pressed his hand. The pressure made him wince just perceptibly. He wa_ilent, and she did not know what to say. She now understood what had happene_o him two days before. In his words, his tone, and especially in that calm,
almost antagonistic look could be felt an estrangement from everythin_elonging to this world, terrible in one who is alive. Evidently only with a_ffort did he understand anything living; but it was obvious that he failed t_nderstand, not because he lacked the power to do so but because he understoo_omething else—something the living did not and could not understand—and whic_holly occupied his mind. "There, you see how strangely fate has brought u_ogether," said he, breaking the silence and pointing to Natasha. "She look_fter me all the time." Princess Mary heard him and did not understand how h_ould say such a thing. He, the sensitive, tender Prince Andrew, how could h_ay that, before her whom he loved and who loved him? Had he expected to liv_e could not have said those words in that offensively cold tone. If he ha_ot known that he was dying, how could he have failed to pity her and ho_ould he speak like that in her presence? The only explanation was that he wa_ndifferent, because something else, much more important, had been revealed t_im. The conversation was cold and disconnected and continually broke off.
"Mary came by way of Ryazan," said Natasha. Prince Andrew did not notice tha_he called his sister Mary, and only after calling her so in his presence di_atasha notice it herself. "Really?" he asked. "They told her that all Mosco_as been burned down, and that… " Natasha stopped. It was impossible to talk.
It was plain that he was making an effort to listen, but could not do so.
"Yes, they say it's burned," he said. "It's a great pity," and he gaze_traight before him, absently stroking his mustache with his fingers. "And s_ou have met Count Nicholas, Mary?" Prince Andrew suddenly said, evidentl_ishing to speak pleasantly to them. "He wrote here that he took a grea_iking to you," he went on simply and calmly, evidently unable to understan_ll the complex significance his words had for living people. "If you like_im too, it would be a good thing for you to get married," he added rathe_ore quickly, as if pleased at having found words he had long been seeking.
Princess Mary heard his words but they had no meaning for her, except as _roof of how far away he now was from everything living. "Why talk of me?" sh_aid quietly and glanced at Natasha. Natasha, who felt her glance, did no_ook at her. All three were again silent. "Andrew, would you like… " Princes_ary suddenly said in a trembling voice, "would you like to see littl_icholas? He is always talking about you!" Prince Andrew smiled jus_erceptibly and for the first time, but Princess Mary, who knew his face s_ell, saw with horror that he did not smile with pleasure or affection for hi_on, but with quiet, gentle irony because he thought she was trying what sh_elieved to be the last means of arousing him. "Yes, I shall be very glad t_ee him. Is he quite well?" When little Nicholas was brought into Princ_ndrew's room he looked at his father with frightened eyes, but did not cry,
because no one else was crying. Prince Andrew kissed him and evidently did no_now what to say to him. When Nicholas had been led away, Princess Mary agai_ent up to her brother, kissed him, and unable to restrain her tears an_onger began to cry. He looked at her attentively. "Is it about Nicholas?" h_sked. Princess Mary nodded her head, weeping. "Mary, you know the Gosp… " bu_e broke off. "What did you say?" "Nothing. You mustn't cry here," he said,
looking at her with the same cold expression. When Princess Mary began to cry,
he understood that she was crying at the thought that little Nicholas would b_eft without a father. With a great effort he tried to return to life and t_ee things from their point of view. "Yes, to them it must seem sad!" h_hought. "But how simple it is. "The fowls of the air sow not, neither do the_eap, yet your Father feedeth them," he said to himself and wished to say t_rincess Mary; "but no, they will take it their own way, they won'_nderstand! They can't understand that all those feelings they prize so—al_ur feelings, all those ideas that seem so important to us, are unnecessary.
We cannot understand one another," and he remained silent. Prince Andrew'_ittle son was seven. He could scarcely read, and knew nothing. After that da_e lived through many things, gaining knowledge, observation, and experience,
but had he possessed all the faculties he afterwards acquired, he could no_ave had a better or more profound understanding of the meaning of the scen_e had witnessed between his father, Mary, and Natasha, than he had then. H_nderstood it completely, and, leaving the room without crying, went silentl_p to Natasha who had come out with him and looked shyly at her with hi_eautiful, thoughtful eyes, then his uplifted, rosy upper lip trembled an_eaning his head against her he began to cry. After that he avoided Dessalle_nd the countess who caressed him and either sat alone or came timidly t_rincess Mary, or to Natasha of whom he seemed even fonder than of his aunt,
and clung to them quietly and shyly. When Princess Mary had left Prince Andre_he fully understood what Natasha's face had told her. She did not speak an_ore to Natasha of hopes of saving his life. She took turns with her besid_is sofa, and did not cry any more, but prayed continually, turning in soul t_hat Eternal and Unfathomable, whose presence above the dying man was now s_vident.