Old Prince Nicholas Bolkonski received a letter from Prince Vasili i_ovember, 1805, announcing that he and his son would be paying him a visit. "_m starting on a journey of inspection, and of course I shall think nothing o_n extra seventy miles to come and see you at the same time, my honore_enefactor," wrote Prince Vasili. "My son Anatole is accompanying me on hi_ay to the army, so I hope you will allow him personally to express the dee_espect that, emulating his father, he feels for you."
"It seems that there will be no need to bring Mary out, suitors are coming t_s of their own accord," incautiously remarked the little princess on hearin_he news.
Prince Nicholas frowned, but said nothing.
A fortnight after the letter Prince Vasili's servants came one evening i_dvance of him, and he and his son arrived next day.
Old Bolkonski had always had a poor opinion of Prince Vasili's character, bu_ore so recently, since in the new reigns of Paul and Alexander Prince Vasil_ad risen to high position and honors. And now, from the hints contained i_is letter and given by the little princess, he saw which way the wind wa_lowing, and his low opinion changed into a feeling of contemptuous ill will.
He snorted whenever he mentioned him. On the day of Prince Vasili's arrival, Prince Bolkonski was particularly discontented and out of temper. Whether h_as in a bad temper because Prince Vasili was coming, or whether his being i_ bad temper made him specially annoyed at Prince Vasili's visit, he was in _ad temper, and in the morning Tikhon had already advised the architect not t_o the prince with his report.
"Do you hear how he's walking?" said Tikhon, drawing the architect's attentio_o the sound of the prince's footsteps. "Stepping flat on his heels—we kno_hat that means… ."
However, at nine o'clock the prince, in his velvet coat with a sable colla_nd cap, went out for his usual walk. It had snowed the day before and th_ath to the hothouse, along which the prince was in the habit of walking, ha_een swept: the marks of the broom were still visible in the snow and a shove_ad been left sticking in one of the soft snowbanks that bordered both side_f the path. The prince went through the conservatories, the serfs' quarters, and the outbuildings, frowning and silent.
"Can a sleigh pass?" he asked his overseer, a venerable man, resembling hi_aster in manners and looks, who was accompanying him back to the house.
"The snow is deep. I am having the avenue swept, your honor."
The prince bowed his head and went up to the porch. "God be thanked," though_he overseer, "the storm has blown over!"
"It would have been hard to drive up, your honor," he added. "I heard, you_onor, that a minister is coming to visit your honor."
The prince turned round to the overseer and fixed his eyes on him, frowning.
"What? A minister? What minister? Who gave orders?" he said in his shrill, harsh voice. "The road is not swept for the princess my daughter, but for _inister! For me, there are no ministers!"
"Your honor, I thought… "
"You thought!" shouted the prince, his words coming more and more rapidly an_ndistinctly. "You thought!… Rascals! Blackgaurds!… I'll teach you to think!"
and lifting his stick he swung it and would have hit Alpatych, the overseer, had not the latter instinctively avoided the blow. "Thought… Blackguards… "
shouted the prince rapidly.
But although Alpatych, frightened at his own temerity in avoiding the stroke, came up to the prince, bowing his bald head resignedly before him, or perhap_or that very reason, the prince, though he continued to shout: "Blackgaurds!… Throw the snow back on the road!" did not lift his stick again but hurrie_nto the house.
Before dinner, Princess Mary and Mademoiselle Bourienne, who knew that th_rince was in a bad humor, stood awaiting him; Mademoiselle Bourienne with _adiant face that said: "I know nothing, I am the same as usual," and Princes_ary pale, frightened, and with downcast eyes. What she found hardest to bea_as to know that on such occasions she ought to behave like Mademoisell_ourienne, but could not. She thought: "If I seem not to notice he will thin_hat I do not sympathize with him; if I seem sad and out of spirits myself, h_ill say (as he has done before) that I'm in the dumps."
The prince looked at his daughter's frightened face and snorted.
"Fool… or dummy!" he muttered.
"And the other one is not here. They've been telling tales," h_hought—referring to the little princess who was not in the dining room.
"Where is the princess?" he asked. "Hiding?"
"She is not very well," answered Mademoiselle Bourienne with a bright smile,
"so she won't come down. It is natural in her state."
"Hm! Hm!" muttered the prince, sitting down.
His plate seemed to him not quite clean, and pointing to a spot he flung i_way. Tikhon caught it and handed it to a footman. The little princess was no_nwell, but had such an overpowering fear of the prince that, hearing he wa_n a bad humor, she had decided not to appear.
"I am afraid for the baby," she said to Mademoiselle Bourienne: "Heaven know_hat a fright might do."
In general at Bald Hills the little princess lived in constant fear, and wit_ sense of antipathy to the old prince which she did not realize because th_ear was so much the stronger feeling. The prince reciprocated this antipathy, but it was overpowered by his contempt for her. When the little princess ha_rown accustomed to life at Bald Hills, she took a special fancy t_ademoiselle Bourienne, spent whole days with her, asked her to sleep in he_oom, and often talked with her about the old prince and criticized him.
"So we are to have visitors, mon prince?" remarked Mademoiselle Bourienne, unfolding her white napkin with her rosy fingers. "His Excellency Princ_asili Kuragin and his son, I understand?" she said inquiringly.
"Hm!—his excellency is a puppy… . I got him his appointment in the service,"
said the prince disdainfully. "Why his son is coming I don't understand.
Perhaps Princess Elizabeth and Princess Mary know. I don't want him." (H_ooked at his blushing daughter.) "Are you unwell today? Eh? Afraid of the
'minister' as that idiot Alpatych called him this morning?"
"No, mon pere."
Though Mademoiselle Bourienne had been so unsuccessful in her choice of _ubject, she did not stop talking, but chattered about the conservatories an_he beauty of a flower that had just opened, and after the soup the princ_ecame more genial.
After dinner, he went to see his daughter-in-law. The little princess wa_itting at a small table, chattering with Masha, her maid. She grew pale o_eeing her father-in-law.
She was much altered. She was now plain rather than pretty. Her cheeks ha_unk, her lip was drawn up, and her eyes drawn down.
"Yes, I feel a kind of oppression," she said in reply to the prince's questio_s to how she felt.
"Do you want anything?"
"No, merci, mon pere."
"Well, all right, all right."
He left the room and went to the waiting room where Alpatych stood with bowe_ead.
"Has the snow been shoveled back?"
"Yes, your excellency. Forgive me for heaven's sake… It was only m_tupidity."
"All right, all right," interrupted the prince, and laughing his unnatura_ay, he stretched out his hand for Alpatych to kiss, and then proceeded to hi_tudy.
Prince Vasili arrived that evening. He was met in the avenue by coachmen an_ootmen, who, with loud shouts, dragged his sleighs up to one of the lodge_ver the road purposely laden with snow.
Prince Vasili and Anatole had separate rooms assigned to them.
Anatole, having taken off his overcoat, sat with arms akimbo before a table o_ corner of which he smilingly and absent-mindedly fixed his large an_andsome eyes. He regarded his whole life as a continual round of amusemen_hich someone for some reason had to provide for him. And he looked on thi_isit to a churlish old man and a rich and ugly heiress in the same way. Al_his might, he thought, turn out very well and amusingly. "And why not marr_er if she really has so much money? That never does any harm," though_natole.
He shaved and scented himself with the care and elegance which had becom_abitual to him and, his handsome head held high, entered his father's roo_ith the good-humored and victorious air natural to him. Prince Vasili's tw_alets were busy dressing him, and he looked round with much animation an_heerfully nodded to his son as the latter entered, as if to say: "Yes, that'_ow I want you to look."
"I say, Father, joking apart, is she very hideous?" Anatole asked, as i_ontinuing a conversation the subject of which had often been mentioned durin_he journey.
"Enough! What nonsense! Above all, try to be respectful and cautious with th_ld prince."
"If he starts a row I'll go away," said Prince Anatole. "I can't bear thos_ld men! Eh?"
"Remember, for you everything depends on this."
In the meantime, not only was it known in the maidservants' rooms that th_inister and his son had arrived, but the appearance of both had been minutel_escribed. Princess Mary was sitting alone in her room, vainly trying t_aster her agitation.
"Why did they write, why did Lise tell me about it? It can never happen!" sh_aid, looking at herself in the glass. "How shall I enter the drawing room?
Even if I like him I can't now be myself with him." The mere thought of he_ather's look filled her with terror. The little princess and Mademoisell_ourienne had already received from Masha, the lady's maid, the necessar_eport of how handsome the minister's son was, with his rosy cheeks and dar_yebrows, and with what difficulty the father had dragged his legs upstair_hile the son had followed him like an eagle, three steps at a time. Havin_eceived this information, the little princess and Mademoiselle Bourienne, whose chattering voices had reached her from the corridor, went into Princes_ary's room.
"You know they've come, Marie?" said the little princess, waddling in, an_inking heavily into an armchair.
She was no longer in the loose gown she generally wore in the morning, but ha_n one of her best dresses. Her hair was carefully done and her face wa_nimated, which, however, did not conceal its sunken and faded outlines.
Dressed as she used to be in Petersburg society, it was still more noticeabl_ow much plainer she had become. Some unobtrusive touch had been added t_ademoiselle Bourienne's toilet which rendered her fresh and pretty face ye_ore attractive.
"What! Are you going to remain as you are, dear princess?" she began. "They'l_e announcing that the gentlemen are in the drawing room and we shall have t_o down, and you have not smartened yourself up at all!"
The little princess got up, rang for the maid, and hurriedly and merrily bega_o devise and carry out a plan of how Princess Mary should be dressed.
Princess Mary's self-esteem was wounded by the fact that the arrival of _uitor agitated her, and still more so by both her companions' not having th_east conception that it could be otherwise. To tell them that she fel_shamed for herself and for them would be to betray her agitation, while t_ecline their offers to dress her would prolong their banter and insistence.
She flushed, her beautiful eyes grew dim, red blotches came on her face, an_t took on the unattractive martyrlike expression it so often wore, as sh_ubmitted herself to Mademoiselle Bourienne and Lise. Both these women quit_incerely tried to make her look pretty. She was so plain that neither of the_ould think of her as a rival, so they began dressing her with perfec_incerity, and with the naive and firm conviction women have that dress ca_ake a face pretty.
"No really, my dear, this dress is not pretty," said Lise, looking sideways a_rincess Mary from a little distance. "You have a maroon dress, have i_etched. Really! You know the fate of your whole life may be at stake. Bu_his one is too light, it's not becoming!"
It was not the dress, but the face and whole figure of Princess Mary that wa_ot pretty, but neither Mademoiselle Bourienne nor the little princess fel_his; they still thought that if a blue ribbon were placed in the hair, th_air combed up, and the blue scarf arranged lower on the best maroon dress, and so on, all would be well. They forgot that the frightened face and th_igure could not be altered, and that however they might change the settin_nd adornment of that face, it would still remain piteous and plain. After tw_r three changes to which Princess Mary meekly submitted, just as her hair ha_een arranged on the top of her head (a style that quite altered and spoile_er looks) and she had put on a maroon dress with a pale-blue scarf, th_ittle princess walked twice round her, now adjusting a fold of the dress wit_er little hand, now arranging the scarf and looking at her with her head ben_irst on one side and then on the other.
"No, it will not do," she said decidedly, clasping her hands. "No, Mary, really this dress does not suit you. I prefer you in your little gray everyda_ress. Now please, do it for my sake. Katie," she said to the maid, "bring th_rincess her gray dress, and you'll see, Mademoiselle Bourienne, how I shal_rrange it," she added, smiling with a foretaste of artistic pleasure.
But when Katie brought the required dress, Princess Mary remained sittin_otionless before the glass, looking at her face, and saw in the mirror he_yes full of tears and her mouth quivering, ready to burst into sobs.
"Come, dear princess," said Mademoiselle Bourienne, "just one more littl_ffort."
The little princess, taking the dress from the maid, came up to Princess Mary.
"Well, now we'll arrange something quite simple and becoming," she said.
The three voices, hers, Mademoiselle Bourienne's, and Katie's, who wa_aughing at something, mingled in a merry sound, like the chirping of birds.
"No, leave me alone," said Princess Mary.
Her voice sounded so serious and so sad that the chirping of the birds wa_ilenced at once. They looked at the beautiful, large, thoughtful eyes full o_ears and of thoughts, gazing shiningly and imploringly at them, an_nderstood that it was useless and even cruel to insist.
"At least, change your coiffure," said the little princess. "Didn't I tel_ou," she went on, turning reproachfully to Mademoiselle Bourienne, "Mary's i_ face which such a coiffure does not suit in the least. Not in the least!
Please change it."
"Leave me alone, please leave me alone! It is all quite the same to me,"
answered a voice struggling with tears.
Mademoiselle Bourienne and the little princess had to own to themselves tha_rincess Mary in this guise looked very plain, worse than usual, but it wa_oo late. She was looking at them with an expression they both knew, a_xpression thoughtful and sad. This expression in Princess Mary did no_righten them (she never inspired fear in anyone), but they knew that when i_ppeared on her face, she became mute and was not to be shaken in he_etermination.
"You will change it, won't you?" said Lise. And as Princess Mary gave n_nswer, she left the room.
Princess Mary was left alone. She did not comply with Lise's request, she no_nly left her hair as it was, but did not even look in her glass. Letting he_rms fall helplessly, she sat with downcast eyes and pondered. A husband, _an, a strong dominant and strangely attractive being rose in her imagination, and carried her into a totally different happy world of his own. She fancied _hild, her own—such as she had seen the day before in the arms of her nurse'_aughter—at her own breast, the husband standing by and gazing tenderly at he_nd the child. "But no, it is impossible, I am too ugly," she thought.
"Please come to tea. The prince will be out in a moment," came the maid'_oice at the door.
She roused herself, and felt appalled at what she had been thinking, an_efore going down she went into the room where the icons hung and, her eye_ixed on the dark face of a large icon of the Saviour lit by a lamp, she stoo_efore it with folded hands for a few moments. A painful doubt filled he_oul. Could the joy of love, of earthly love for a man, be for her? In he_houghts of marriage Princess Mary dreamed of happiness and of children, bu_er strongest, most deeply hidden longing was for earthly love. The more sh_ried to hide this feeling from others and even from herself, the stronger i_rew. "O God," she said, "how am I to stifle in my heart these temptations o_he devil? How am I to renounce forever these vile fancies, so as peacefull_o fulfill Thy will?" And scarcely had she put that question than God gave he_he answer in her own heart. "Desire nothing for thyself, seek nothing, be no_nxious or envious. Man's future and thy own fate must remain hidden fro_hee, but live so that thou mayest be ready for anything. If it be God's wil_o prove thee in the duties of marriage, be ready to fulfill His will." Wit_his consoling thought (but yet with a hope for the fulfillment of he_orbidden earthly longing) Princess Mary sighed, and having crossed hersel_ent down, thinking neither of her gown and coiffure nor of how she would g_n nor of what she would say. What could all that matter in comparison wit_he will of God, without Whose care not a hair of man's head can fall?