For a long time that night Princess Mary sat by the open window of her room hearing the sound of the peasants’ voices that reached her from the village, but it was not of them she was thinking. She felt that she could not understand them however much she might think about them. She thought only of one thing, her sorrow, which, after the break caused by cares for the present, seemed already to belong to the past. Now she could remember it and weep or pray.
After sunset the wind had dropped. The night was calm and fresh. Toward midnight the voices began to subside, a cock crowed, the full moon began to show from behind the lime trees, a fresh white dewy mist began to rise, and stillness reigned over the village and the house.
Pictures of the near past—her father’s illness and last moments—rose one after another to her memory. With mournful pleasure she now lingered over these images, repelling with horror only the last one, the picture of his death, which she felt she could not contemplate even in imagination at this still and mystic hour of night. And these pictures presented themselves to her so clearly and in such detail that they seemed now present, now past, and now future.
She vividly recalled the moment when he had his first stroke and was being dragged along by his armpits through the garden at Bald Hills, muttering something with his helpless tongue, twitching his gray eyebrows and looking uneasily and timidly at her.
“Even then he wanted to tell me what he told me the day he died,” she thought. “He had always thought what he said then.” And she recalled in all its detail the night at Bald Hills before he had the last stroke, when with a foreboding of disaster she had remained at home against his will. She had not slept and had stolen downstairs on tiptoe, and going to the door of the conservatory where he slept that night had listened at the door. In a suffering and weary voice he was saying something to Tíkhon, speaking of the Crimea and its warm nights and of the Empress. Evidently he had wanted to talk. “And why didn’t he call me? Why didn’t he let me be there instead of Tíkhon?” Princess Mary had thought and thought again now. “Now he will never tell anyone what he had in his soul. Never will that moment return for him or for me when he might have said all he longed to say, and not Tíkhon but I might have heard and understood him. Why didn’t I enter the room?” she thought. “Perhaps he would then have said to me what he said the day he died. While talking to Tíkhon he asked about me twice. He wanted to see me, and I was standing close by, outside the door. It was sad and painful for him to talk to Tíkhon who did not understand him. I remember how he began speaking to him about Lise as if she were alive—he had forgotten she was dead—and Tíkhon reminded him that she was no more, and he shouted, ‘Fool!’ He was greatly depressed. From behind the door I heard how he lay down on his bed groaning and loudly exclaimed, ‘My God!’ Why didn’t I go in then? What could he have done to me? What could I have lost? And perhaps he would then have been comforted and would have said that word to me.” And Princess Mary uttered aloud the caressing word he had said to her on the day of his death. “Dear-est!” she repeated, and began sobbing, with tears that relieved her soul. She now saw his face before her. And not the face she had known ever since she could remember and had always seen at a distance, but the timid, feeble face she had seen for the first time quite closely, with all its wrinkles and details, when she stooped near to his mouth to catch what he said.
“Dear-est!” she repeated again.
“What was he thinking when he uttered that word? What is he thinking now?” This question suddenly presented itself to her, and in answer she saw him before her with the expression that was on his face as he lay in his coffin with his chin bound up with a white handkerchief. And the horror that had seized her when she touched him and convinced herself that that was not he, but something mysterious and horrible, seized her again. She tried to think of something else and to pray, but could do neither. With wide-open eyes she gazed at the moonlight and the shadows, expecting every moment to see his dead face, and she felt that the silence brooding over the house and within it held her fast.
“Dunyásha,” she whispered. “Dunyásha!” she screamed wildly, and tearing herself out of this silence she ran to the servants’ quarters to meet her old nurse and the maidservants who came running toward her.
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