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Chapter 21

  • 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,
  • Count Bezukhov.
  • 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?"
  • Lorrain considered.
  • "Has he taken his medicine?"
  • "Yes."
  • 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,"[[12]](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!"[[13]](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![[14]](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!"