"Ah, the letter? Yes . . ." replied the prince peevishly."Yes . . . yes . . ." His face suddenly took on a morose expression. He paused."Yes, he writes that the French were beaten at . . . at . . . what river is it?"
Dessalles dropped his eyes.
"The prince says nothing about that," he remarked gently.
"Doesn't he? But I didn't invent it myself."
No one spoke for a long time.
"Yes . . . yes . . . Well, Michael Ivanovich," he suddenly went on, raising his head and pointing to the plan of the building,"tell me how you mean to alter it . . . ."
Michael Ivanovich went up to the plan, and the prince after speaking to him about the building looked angrily at Princess Mary and Dessalles and went to his own room.
Princess Mary saw Dessalles' embarrassed and astonished look fixed on her father, noticed his silence, and was struck by the fact that her father had forgotten his son's letter on the drawing-room table; but she was not only afraid to speak of it and ask Dessalles the reason of his confusion and silence, but was afraid even to think about it.
In the evening Michael Ivanovich, sent by the prince, came to Princess Mary for Prince Andrew's letter which had been forgotten in the drawing room. She gave it to him and, unpleasant as it was to her to do so, ventured to ask him what her father was doing.
"Always busy," replied Michael Ivanovich with a respectfully ironic smile which caused Princess Mary to turn pale."He's worrying very much about the new building. He has been reading a little, but now" — Michael Ivanovich went on, lowering his voice —"now he's at his desk, busy with his will, I expect." (One of the prince's favorite occupations of late had been the preparation of some papers he meant to leave at his death and which he called his"will.")
"And Alpatych is being sent to Smolensk?" asked Princess Mary.
"Oh, yes, he has been waiting to start for some time."