Dron paused. He looked askance at Princess Mary and said:"There are no horses; I told Yakov Alpatych so."
"Why are there none?" asked the princess.
"It's all God's scourge," said Dron."What horses we had have been taken for the army or have died — this is such a year! It's not a case of feeding horses — we may die of hunger ourselves! As it is, some go three days without eating. We've nothing, we've been ruined."
Princess Mary listened attentively to what he told her.
"The peasants are ruined? They have no bread?" she asked.
"They're dying of hunger," said Dron."It's not a case of carting."
"But why didn't you tell me, Dronushka? Isn't it possible to help them? I'll do all I can . . . ."
To Princess Mary it was strange that now, at a moment when such sorrow was filling her soul, there could be rich people and poor, and the rich could refrain from helping the poor. She had heard vaguely that there was such a thing as"landlord's corn" which was sometimes given to the peasants. She also knew that neither her father nor her brother would refuse to help the peasants in need, she only feared to make some mistake in speaking about the distribution of the grain she wished to give. She was glad such cares presented themselves, enabling her without scruple to forget her own grief. She began asking Dron about the peasants' needs and what there was in Bogucharovo that belonged to the landlord.
"But we have grain belonging to my brother?" she said.
"The landlord's grain is all safe," replied Dron proudly."Our prince did not order it to be sold."
"Give it to the peasants, let them have all they need; I give you leave in my brother's name," said she.
Dron made no answer but sighed deeply.
"Give them that corn if there is enough of it. Distribute it all. I give this order in my brother's name; and tell them that what is ours is theirs. We do not grudge them anything. Tell them so."
Dron looked intently at the princess while she was speaking.
"Discharge me, little mother, for God's sake! Order the keys to be taken from me," said he."I have served twenty-three years and have done no wrong. Discharge me, for God's sake!"
Princess Mary did not understand what he wanted of her or why he was asking to be discharged. She replied that she had never doubted his devotion and that she was ready to do anything for him and for the peasants.