Book 5 Chapter 8

WAR had broken out and the theatre of it was closer to the borders of Russia. On all sides could be heard curses upon the enemy of the human race, Bonaparte; in the villages there were levies of recruits and reserve men, and from the theatre of war came news of the most conflicting kind, false as usual, and hence variously interpreted.

The life of the old Prince Bolkonsky, of Prince Andrey, and of Princess Marya was greatly changed since the year 1805.

In 1806 the old prince had been appointed one of the eight commanders-in-chief, created at that time for the equipment of the militia throughout all Russia. In spite of his weakness and age, which had been particularly noticeable during the time when he believed his son to have been killed, the old prince did not think it right to refuse a duty to which he had been appointed by the Emperor himself, and this new field for his activity gave him fresh energy and strength. He was continually away on tours about the three provinces that were put under his command; he was punctilious to pedantry in the performance of his duties, severe to cruelty with his subordinates, and entered into the minutest details of the work himself. Princess Marya no longer took lessons in mathematics from her father, and only went into her father's room on the mornings when he was at home, accompanied by the wet nurse and little Prince Nikolay (as his grandfather called him). The baby, Prince Nikolay, with his wet nurse and the old nurse Savishna, occupied the rooms that had been his mother's, and Princess Marya spent most of her time in the nursery taking a mother's place to her little nephew, to the best of her powers. Mademoiselle Bourienne, too, appeared to be passionately fond of the child, and Princess Marya often sacrificed herself by giving up to her friend the pleasure of dandling and playing with the little angel (as she called the baby).

Near the altar of the church at Bleak Hills was a little chapel over the tomb of the little princess, and in the chapel had been placed a marble monument brought from Italy, representing an angel with its wings parted about to take flight for heaven. The angel had the upper lip lifted as though about to smile, and one day Prince Andrey and Princess Marya, as they came out of the chapel, confessed to one another that, strange to say, the face of the angel reminded them of the face of the little princess. But what was stranger, though this Prince Andrey did not confess to his sister, was that in the expression the sculptor had chanced to put into the angel's face, Prince Andrey read the same words of reproach which he had read then on the face of his dead wife: “Ah, why have you done this to me? …”

Soon after Prince Andrey's return, the old prince made over a part of the property to him, giving him Bogutcharovo, a large estate about thirty miles from Bleak Hills. Partly to escape the painful memories associated with Bleak Hills, partly because Prince Andrey did not always feel equal to bearing with his father's peculiarities, and partly from a craving for solitude, Prince Andrey made use of Bogutcharovo, established himself there and spent the greater part of his time there.

After the Austerlitz campaign, Prince Andrey had grimly resolved never to serve again in the army. And when war broke out and all were bound to serve, he took service under his father in the levying of the militia, so as to escape active service. Since the campaign of 1805 the old prince and his son had as it were exchanged parts. The old prince, stimulated by activity, expected the best results from the present campaign. Prince Andrey, on the contrary, taking no part in the war, and secretly regretting his inaction, saw in it nothing but what was bad.

On the 26th of February, 1807 the old prince set off on a tour of inspection. Prince Andrey was staying at Bleak Hills, as he usually did in his father's absence. Little Nikolushka had been ill for the last three days. The coachman, who had driven the old prince away, returned bringing papers and letters from the town for Prince Andrey. The valet with the letters not finding the young prince in his study, went to Princess Marya's apartments, but he was not there either. The valet was told that the prince had gone to the nursery. “If you please, your excellency, Petrusha has come with some papers,” said one of the nursery maids, addressing Prince Andrey, who was sitting on a child's little chair. Screwing up his eyes, he was with trembling hands pouring drops from a medicine bottle into a glass half full of water.

“What is it?” he said angrily, and his hand shaking, he accidentally poured too many drops from the bottle into the glass. He tipped the medicine out of the glass on to the floor and asked for some more water. The maid gave it him.

In the room were a couple of armchairs, a child's crib, a table and a child's table and a little chair, on which Prince Andrey was sitting. The windows were curtained, and on the table a single candle was burning, screened by a note-book, so that the light did not fall on the crib.

“My dear,” said Princess Marya, turning to her brother from beside the crib where she was standing, “it would be better to wait a little…later.”

“Oh, please, do as I say, what nonsense you keep talking, you have kept putting things off, and see what's come of it!” said Prince Andrey in an exasperated whisper, evidently meaning to wound his sister.

“My dear, it's really better not to wake him, he has fallen asleep,” said the princess in a voice of entreaty.

Prince Andrey got up and went on tiptoe to the crib with the glass in his hand.

“Should we really not wake him?” he said, hesitating.

“As you think—really…I believe so…but as you think,” said Princess Marya, obviously intimidated and ashamed that her opinion should triumph. She drew her brother's attention to the maid, who was summoning him in a whisper.

It was the second night that they had been without sleep looking after the baby, who was feverish. Mistrusting their own household doctor and expecting the doctor they had sent from the town, they had spent all that time trying first one remedy and then another. Agitated and worn out by sleeplessness, they vented their anxiety on each other, found fault with each other, and quarrelled.

“Petrusha with papers from your papa,” whispered the maid. Prince Andrey went out.

“Damn them all!” he commented angrily, and after listening to the verbal instructions sent him from his father, and taking the correspondence and his father's letter, he went back to the nursery. “Well?” queried Prince Andrey.

“No change, wait a little, for God's sake. Karl Ivanitch always says sleep is better than anything,” Princess Marya whispered with a sigh. Prince Andrey went up to the baby and felt him. He was burning hot. “Bother you and your Karl Ivanitch!” He took the glass with the drops of medicine in it and again went up to the crib.

“Andryusha, you shouldn't!” said Princess Marya. But he scowled at her with an expression of anger and at the same time of anguish, and bent over the child with the glass.

“But I wish it,” he said. “Come, I beg you, give it him…”

Princess Marya shrugged her shoulders but obediently she took the glass, and calling the nurse, began giving the child the medicine. The baby screamed and wheezed. Prince Andrey, scowling and clutching at his head, went out of the room and sat down on the sofa in the adjoining one.

The letters were still in his hand. Mechanically he opened them and began to read. The old prince in his big, sprawling hand, making use of occasional abbreviations, wrote on blue paper as follows:

“I have this moment received, through a special messenger, very joyful news, if it's not a falsehood. Bennigsen has gained it seems a complete victory over Bonaparte near Eylau. In Petersburg every one's jubilant and rewards have been sent to the army without stint. Though he's a German—I congratulate him. Commander in Kortchevo, a certain Handrikov, I can't make out what he's about; full contingent of men and regulation provision not yet arrived. Gallop over at once and say I'll have his head off if it's not all here within the week. I have a letter too about the Prussian battle at Preussisch-Eylau from Petenka, he took part in it,—it's true. If people don't meddle who've no business to meddle, even a German beats Bonaparte. They say he's running away in great disorder. Mind you gallop over to Kortchevo and do the business without delay!”

Prince Andrey sighed and broke open the other letter. It was a letter from Bilibin, two sheets covered with fine handwriting. He folded it up without reading it, and read through once more his father's letter, ending with the words: “Mind you gallop over to Kortchevo and do the business without delay!”

“No, excuse me, I'm not going now till the child is better,” he thought, and going to the door he glanced into the nursery. Princess Marya was still standing at the crib, softly rocking the baby. “Oh, and what was the other unpleasant thing he writes about?” Prince Andrey thought of the contents of his father's letter. “Yes. Our troops have gained a victory over Bonaparte precisely when I'm not in the army. Yes, yes, everything mocks at me…well and welcome too…” and he began reading the letter in French from Bilibin. He read, not understanding half of it, read simply to escape for one moment from thinking of what he had too long, too exclusively and too anxiously been dwelling upon.