She crossed herself, kissed the icon, and handed it to Andrew.
"Please, Andrew, for my sake! . . ."
Rays of gentle light shone from her large, timid eyes. Those eyes lit up the whole of her thin, sickly face and made it beautiful. Her brother would have taken the icon, but she stopped him. Andrew understood, crossed himself and kissed the icon. There was a look of tenderness, for he was touched, but also a gleam of irony on his face.
"Thank you, my dear." She kissed him on the forehead and sat down again on the sofa. They were silent for a while.
"As I was saying to you, Andrew, be kind and generous as you always used to be. Don't judge Lise harshly," she began."She is so sweet, so good-natured, and her position now is a very hard one."
"I do not think I have complained of my wife to you, Masha, or blamed her. Why do you say all this to me?"
Red patches appeared on Princess Mary's face and she was silent as if she felt guilty.
"I have said nothing to you, but you have already been talked to. And I am sorry for that," he went on.
The patches grew deeper on her forehead, neck, and cheeks. She tried to say something but could not. Her brother had guessed right: the little princess had been crying after dinner and had spoken of her forebodings about her confinement, and how she dreaded it, and had complained of her fate, her father-in-law, and her husband. After crying she had fallen asleep. Prince Andrew felt sorry for his sister.
"Know this, Masha: I can't reproach, have not reproached, and never shall reproach my wife with anything, and I cannot reproach myself with anything in regard to her; and that always will be so in whatever circumstances I may be placed. But if you want to know the truth . . . if you want to know whether I am happy? No! Is she happy? No! But why this is so I don't know . . ."
As he said this he rose, went to his sister, and, stooping, kissed her forehead. His fine eyes lit up with a thoughtful, kindly, and unaccustomed brightness, but he was looking not at his sister but over her head toward the darkness of the open doorway.
"Let us go to her, I must say good-by. Or — go and wake and I'll come in a moment. Petrushka!" he called to his valet:"Come here, take these away. Put this on the seat and this to the right."
Princess Mary rose and moved to the door, then stopped and said:"Andrew, if you had faith you would have turned to God and asked Him to give you the love you do not feel, and your prayer would have been answered."
"Well, may be!" said Prince Andrew."Go, Masha; I'll come immediately."
On the way to his sister's room, in the passage which connected one wing with the other, Prince Andrew met Mademoiselle Bourienne smiling sweetly. It was the third time that day that, with an ecstatic and artless smile, she had met him in secluded passages.
"Oh! I thought you were in your room," she said, for some reason blushing and dropping her eyes.
Prince Andrew looked sternly at her and an expression of anger suddenly came over his face. He said nothing to her but looked at her forehead and hair, without looking at her eyes, with such contempt that the Frenchwoman blushed and went away without a word. When he reached his sister's room his wife was already awake and her merry voice, hurrying one word after another, came through the open door. She was speaking as usual in French, and as if after long self-restraint she wished to make up for lost time.
"No, but imagine the old Countess Zubova, with false curls and her mouth full of false teeth, as if she were trying to cheat old age . . . . Ha, ha, ha! Mary!"
This very sentence about Countess Zubova and this same laugh Prince Andrew had already heard from his wife in the presence of others some five times. He entered the room softly. The little princess, plump and rosy, was sitting in an easy chair with her work in her hands, talking incessantly, repeating Petersburg reminiscences and even phrases. Prince Andrew came up, stroked her hair, and asked if she felt rested after their journey. She answered him and continued her chatter.
The coach with six horses was waiting at the porch. It was an autumn night, so dark that the coachman could not see the carriage pole. Servants with lanterns were bustling about in the porch. The immense house was brilliant with lights shining through its lofty windows. The domestic serfs were crowding in the hall, waiting to bid good-by to the young prince. The members of the household were all gathered in the reception hall: Michael Ivanovich, Mademoiselle Bourienne, Princess Mary, and the little princess. Prince Andrew had been called to his father's study as the latter wished to say good-by to him alone. All were waiting for them to come out.
When Prince Andrew entered the study the old man in his old-age spectacles and white dressing gown, in which he received no one but his son, sat at the table writing. He glanced round.
"Going?" And he went on writing.
"I've come to say good-by."
"Kiss me here," and he touched his cheek:"Thanks, thanks!"
"What do you thank me for?"
"For not dilly-dallying and not hanging to a woman's apron strings. The Service before everything. Thanks, thanks!" And he went on writing, so that his quill spluttered and squeaked."If you have anything to say, say it. These two things can be done together," he added.
"About my wife . . . I am ashamed as it is to leave her on your hands . . ."
"Why talk nonsense? Say what you want."
"When her confinement is due, send to Moscow for an accoucheur . . . . Let him be here . . . ."
The old prince stopped writing and, as if not understanding, fixed his stern eyes on his son.
"I know that no one can help if nature does not do her work," said Prince Andrew, evidently confused."I know that out of a million cases only one goes wrong, but it is her fancy and mine. They have been telling her things. She has had a dream and is frightened."
"Hm . . . Hm . . ." muttered the old prince to himself, finishing what he was writing."I'll do it."
He signed with a flourish and suddenly turning to his son began to laugh.
"It's a bad business, eh?"
"What is bad, Father?"
"The wife!" said the old prince, briefly and significantly.
"I don't understand!" said Prince Andrew.
"No, it can't be helped, lad," said the prince."They're all like that; one can't unmarry. Don't be afraid; I won't tell anyone, but you know it yourself."
He seized his son by the hand with small bony fingers, shook it, looked straight into his son's face with keen eyes which seemed to see through him, and again laughed his frigid laugh.
The son sighed, thus admitting that his father had understood him. The old man continued to fold and seal his letter, snatching up and throwing down the wax, the seal, and the paper, with his accustomed rapidity.
"What's to be done? She's pretty! I will do everything. Make your mind easy," said he in abrupt sentences while sealing his letter.