While in the Rostovs' ballroom the sixth anglaise was being danced, to a tun_n which the weary musicians blundered, and while tired footmen and cooks wer_etting the supper, Count Bezukhov had a sixth stroke. The doctors pronounce_ecovery impossible. After a mute confession, communion was administered t_he dying man, preparations made for the sacrament of unction, and in hi_ouse there was the bustle and thrill of suspense usual at such moments.
Outside the house, beyond the gates, a group of undertakers, who hid wheneve_ carriage drove up, waited in expectation of an important order for a_xpensive funeral. The Military Governor of Moscow, who had been assiduous i_ending aides-de-camp to inquire after the count's health, came himself tha_vening to bid a last farewell to the celebrated grandee of Catherine's court,
The magnificent reception room was crowded. Everyone stood up respectfull_hen the Military Governor, having stayed about half an hour alone with th_ying man, passed out, slightly acknowledging their bows and trying to escap_s quickly as from the glances fixed on him by the doctors, clergy, an_elatives of the family. Prince Vasili, who had grown thinner and paler durin_he last few days, escorted him to the door, repeating something to hi_everal times in low tones.
When the Military Governor had gone, Prince Vasili sat down all alone on _hair in the ballroom, crossing one leg high over the other, leaning his elbo_n his knee and covering his face with his hand. After sitting so for a whil_e rose, and, looking about him with frightened eyes, went with unusuall_urried steps down the long corridor leading to the back of the house, to th_oom of the eldest princess.
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 an_azed with eyes full of curiosity or expectancy at his door, which creake_lightly when opened.
"The limits of human life… are fixed and may not be o'erpassed," said an ol_riest to a lady who had taken a seat beside him and was listening naively t_is words.
"I wonder, is it not too late to administer unction?" asked the lady, addin_he priest's clerical title, as if she had no opinion of her own on th_ubject.
"Ah, madam, it is a great sacrament," replied the priest, passing his han_ver the thin grizzled strands of hair combed back across his bald head.
"Who was that? The Military Governor himself?" was being asked at the othe_ide of the room. "How young-looking he is!"
"Yes, and he is over sixty. I hear the count no longer recognizes anyone. The_ished 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 fro_eeping and sat down beside Dr. Lorrain, who was sitting in a graceful pos_nder a portrait of Catherine, leaning his elbow on a table.
"Beautiful," said the doctor in answer to a remark about the weather. "Th_eather is beautiful, Princess; and besides, in Moscow one feels as if on_ere in the country."
"Yes, indeed," replied the princess with a sigh. "So he may have something t_rink?"
"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 h_ndicated 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 wh_ill 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 princes_ent 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 Lorrai_n French which he pronounced badly.
Lorrain, pursing up his lips, waved a severely negative finger before hi_ose.
"Tonight, not later," said he in a low voice, and he moved away with _ecorous smile of self-satisfaction at being able clearly to understand an_tate 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 th_cons and there was a pleasant scent of flowers and burnt pastilles. The roo_as crowded with small pieces of furniture, whatnots, cupboards, and littl_ables. The quilt of a high, white feather bed was just visible behind _creen. A small dog began to bark.
"Ah, is it you, cousin?"
She rose and smoothed her hair, which was as usual so extremely smooth that i_eemed 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,"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_12) muttered the prince, seatin_imself wearily on the chair she had just vacated. "You have made the plac_arm, I must say," he remarked. "Well, sit down: let's have a talk." "_hought perhaps something had happened," she said with her unchanging stonil_evere expression; and, sitting down opposite the prince, she prepared t_isten. "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 understoo_ithout naming. The princess, who had a straight, rigid body, abnormally lon_or her legs, looked directly at Prince Vasili with no sign of emotion in he_rominent gray eyes. Then she shook her head and glanced up at the icons wit_ sigh. This might have been taken as an expression of sorrow and devotion, o_f weariness and hope of resting before long. Prince Vasili understood it a_n expression of weariness. "And I?" he said; "do you think it is easier fo_e? 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 bega_o twitch nervously, now on one side, now on the other, giving his face a_npleasant expression which was never to be seen on it in a drawing room. Hi_yes too seemed strange; at one moment they looked impudently sly and at th_ext glanced round in alarm. The princess, holding her little dog on her la_ith her thin bony hands, looked attentively into Prince Vasili's eye_vidently resolved not to be the first to break silence, if she had to wai_ill morning. "Well, you see, my dear princess and cousin, Catherin_emenovna," continued Prince Vasili, returning to his theme, apparently no_ithout an inner struggle; "at such a moment as this one must think o_verything. One must think of the future, of all of you… I love you all, lik_hildren of my own, as you know." The princess continued to look at hi_ithout moving, and with the same dull expression. "And then of course m_amily has also to be considered," Prince Vasili went on, testily pushing awa_ little table without looking at her. "You know, Catiche, that we—you thre_isters, Mamontov, and my wife—are the count's only direct heirs. I know, _now how hard it is for you to talk or think of such matters. It is no easie_or me; but, my dear, I am getting on for sixty and must be prepared fo_nything. Do you know I have sent for Pierre? The count," pointing to hi_ortrait, "definitely demanded that he should be called." Prince Vasili looke_uestioningly at the princess, but could not make out whether she wa_onsidering 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 sou_eacefully to leave this… " "Yes, yes, of course," interrupted Prince Vasil_mpatiently, rubbing his bald head and angrily pulling back toward him th_ittle table that he had pushed away. "But… in short, the fact is… you kno_ourself that last winter the count made a will by which he left all hi_roperty, not to us his direct heirs, but to Pierre." "He has made will_nough!" quietly remarked the princess. "But he cannot leave the estate t_ierre. Pierre is illegitimate." "But, my dear," said Prince Vasili suddenly,
clutching the little table and becoming more animated and talking mor_apidly: "what if a letter has been written to the Emperor in which the coun_sks for Pierre's legitimation? Do you understand that in consideration of th_ount's services, his request would be granted?… " The princess smiled a_eople do who think they know more about the subject under discussion tha_hose 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 th_mperor knew of it. The only question is, has it been destroyed or not? I_ot, then as soon as all is over," and Prince Vasili sighed to intimate wha_e meant by the words all is over, "and the count's papers are opened, th_ill and letter will be delivered to the Emperor, and the petition wil_ertainly be granted. Pierre will get everything as the legitimate son." "An_ur share?" asked the princess smiling ironically, as if anything migh_appen, only not that. "But, my poor Catiche, it is as clear as daylight! H_ill then be the legal heir to everything and you won't get anything. You mus_now, my dear, whether the will and letter were written, and whether they hav_een destroyed or not. And if they have somehow been overlooked, you ought t_now where they are, and must find them, because… " "What next?" the princes_nterrupted, 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: a_llegitimate son cannot inherit… un batard!"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_13)
she added, as if supposing that this translation of the word would effectivel_rove to Prince Vasili the invalidity of his contention. "Well, really,
Catiche! Can't you understand! You are so intelligent, how is it you don't se_hat if the count has written a letter to the Emperor begging him to recogniz_ierre as legitimate, it follows that Pierre will not be Pierre but wil_ecome Count Bezukhov, and will then inherit everything under the will? And i_he will and letter are not destroyed, then you will have nothing but th_onsolation of having been dutiful et tout ce qu_'ensuit![](footnotes.xml#footnote_14) That's certain." "I know the wil_as made, but I also know that it is invalid; and you, mon cousin, seem t_onsider me a perfect fool," said the princess with the expression wome_ssume when they suppose they are saying something witty and stinging. "M_ear Princess Catherine Semenovna," began Prince Vasili impatiently, "I cam_ere not to wrangle with you, but to talk about your interests as with _inswoman, a good, kind, true relation. And I tell you for the tenth time tha_f the letter to the Emperor and the will in Pierre's favor are among th_ount's papers, then, my dear girl, you and your sisters are not heiresses! I_ou don't believe me, then believe an expert. I have just been talking t_mitri Onufrich" (the family solicitor) "and he says the same." At this _udden change evidently took place in the princess' ideas; her thin lips gre_hite, though her eyes did not change, and her voice when she began to spea_assed through such transitions as she herself evidently did not expect. "Tha_ould 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 i_ratitude—this is recognition for those who have sacrificed everything for hi_ake!" 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 ha_orgotten. I knew that I could expect nothing but meanness, deceit, envy,
intrigue, and ingratitude—the blackest ingratitude—in this house… " "Do you o_o you not know where that will is?" insisted Prince Vasili, his cheek_witching 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 kno_ho has been intriguing!" The princess wished to rise, but the prince held he_y the hand. She had the air of one who has suddenly lost faith in the whol_uman race. She gave her companion an angry glance. "There is still time, m_ear. You must remember, Catiche, that it was all done casually in a moment o_nger, of illness, and was afterwards forgotten. Our duty, my dear, is t_ectify his mistake, to ease his last moments by not letting him commit thi_njustice, and not to let him die feeling that he is rendering unhappy thos_ho… " "Who sacrificed everything for him," chimed in the princess, who woul_gain have risen had not the prince still held her fast, "though he neve_ould appreciate it. No, mon cousin," she added with a sigh, "I shall alway_emember that in this world one must expect no reward, that in this worl_here is neither honor nor justice. In this world one has to be cunning an_ruel." "Now come, come! Be reasonable. I know your excellent heart." "No, _ave a wicked heart." "I know your heart," repeated the prince. "I value you_riendship and wish you to have as good an opinion of me. Don't upse_ourself, and let us talk sensibly while there is still time, be it a day o_e it but an hour… . Tell me all you know about the will, and above all wher_t is. You must know. We will take it at once and show it to the count. H_as, no doubt, forgotten it and will wish to destroy it. You understand tha_y sole desire is conscientiously to carry out his wishes; that is my onl_eason 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 the princess. "That's not th_oint, 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! Las_inter she wheedled herself in here and told the count such vile, disgracefu_hings about us, especially about Sophie—I can't repeat them—that it made th_ount quite ill and he would not see us for a whole fortnight. I know it wa_hen he wrote this vile, infamous paper, but I thought the thing was invalid."
"We've got to it at last—why did you not tell me about it sooner?" "It's i_he 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 i_atred 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 _iece of my mind. The time will come!"