War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, chapter name CHAPTER XXII


While these conversations were going on in the reception room and the princess’ room, a
carriage containing Pierre (who had been sent for) and Anna Mikháylovna (who found it
necessary to accompany him) was driving into the court of Count Bezúkhov’s house. As the
wheels rolled softly over the straw beneath the windows, Anna Mikháylovna, having turned
with words of comfort to her companion, realized that he was asleep in his corner and
woke him up. Rousing himself, Pierre followed Anna Mikháylovna out of the carriage, and
only then began to think of the interview with his dying father which awaited him. He
noticed that they had not come to the front entrance but to the back door. While he was
getting down from the carriage steps two men, who looked like tradespeople, ran hurriedly
from the entrance and hid in the shadow of the wall. Pausing for a moment, Pierre noticed
several other men of the same kind hiding in the shadow of the house on both sides. But
neither Anna Mikháylovna nor the footman nor the coachman, who could not help seeing
these people, took any notice of them. “It seems to be all right,” Pierre concluded, and
followed Anna Mikháylovna. She hurriedly ascended the narrow dimly lit stone staircase,
calling to Pierre, who was lagging behind, to follow. Though he did not see why it was
necessary for him to go to the count at all, still less why he had to go by the back stairs, yet
judging by Anna Mikháylovna’s air of assurance and haste, Pierre concluded that it was all
absolutely necessary. Halfway up the stairs they were almost knocked over by some men
who, carrying pails, came running downstairs, their boots clattering. These men pressed
close to the wall to let Pierre and Anna Mikháylovna pass and did not evince the least
surprise at seeing them there.
“Is this the way to the princesses’ apartments?” asked Anna Mikháylovna of one of them.
“Yes,” replied a footman in a bold loud voice, as if anything were now permissible; “the
door to the left, ma’am.”
“Perhaps the count did not ask for me,” said Pierre when he reached the landing. “I’d
better go to my own room.”
Anna Mikháylovna paused and waited for him to come up.
“Ah, my friend!” she said, touching his arm as she had done her son’s when speaking to
him that afternoon, “believe me I suffer no less than you do, but be a man!”
“But really, hadn’t I better go away?” he asked, looking kindly at her over his spectacles.
“Ah, my dear friend! Forget the wrongs that may have been done you. Think that he is
your father ... perhaps in the agony of death.” She sighed. “I have loved you like a son from
the first. Trust yourself to me, Pierre. I shall not forget your interests.”
Pierre did not understand a word, but the conviction that all this had to be grew
stronger, and he meekly followed Anna Mikháylovna who was already opening a door.
This door led into a back anteroom. An old man, a servant of the princesses, sat in a
corner knitting a stocking. Pierre had never been in this part of the house and did not even
know of the existence of these rooms. Anna Mikháylovna, addressing a maid who was
hurrying past with a decanter on a tray as “my dear” and “my sweet,” asked about the

princess’ health and then led Pierre along a stone passage. The first door on the left led into
the princesses’ apartments. The maid with the decanter in her haste had not closed the
door (everything in the house was done in haste at that time), and Pierre and Anna
Mikháylovna in passing instinctively glanced into the room, where Prince Vasíli and the
eldest princess were sitting close together talking. Seeing them pass, Prince Vasíli drew
back with obvious impatience, while the princess jumped up and with a gesture of
desperation slammed the door with all her might.
This action was so unlike her usual composure and the fear depicted on Prince Vasíli’s
face so out of keeping with his dignity that Pierre stopped and glanced inquiringly over his
spectacles at his guide. Anna Mikháylovna evinced no surprise, she only smiled faintly and
sighed, as if to say that this was no more than she had expected.
“Be a man, my friend. I will look after your interests,” said she in reply to his look, and
went still faster along the passage.
Pierre could not make out what it was all about, and still less what “watching over his
interests” meant, but he decided that all these things had to be. From the passage they went
into a large, dimly lit room adjoining the count’s reception room. It was one of those
sumptuous but cold apartments known to Pierre only from the front approach, but even in
this room there now stood an empty bath, and water had been spilled on the carpet. They
were met by a deacon with a censer and by a servant who passed out on tiptoe without
heeding them. They went into the reception room familiar to Pierre, with two Italian
windows opening into the conservatory, with its large bust and full length portrait of
Catherine the Great. The same people were still sitting here in almost the same positions as
before, whispering to one another. All became silent and turned to look at the pale tear-
worn Anna Mikháylovna as she entered, and at the big stout figure of Pierre who, hanging
his head, meekly followed her.
Anna Mikháylovna’s face expressed a consciousness that the decisive moment had
arrived. With the air of a practical Petersburg lady she now, keeping Pierre close beside
her, entered the room even more boldly than that afternoon. She felt that as she brought
with her the person the dying man wished to see, her own admission was assured. Casting
a rapid glance at all those in the room and noticing the count’s confessor there, she glided
up to him with a sort of amble, not exactly bowing yet seeming to grow suddenly smaller,
and respectfully received the blessing first of one and then of another priest.
“God be thanked that you are in time,” said she to one of the priests; “all we relatives
have been in such anxiety. This young man is the count’s son,” she added more softly.
“What a terrible moment!”
Having said this she went up to the doctor.
“Dear doctor,” said she, “this young man is the count’s son. Is there any hope?”
The doctor cast a rapid glance upwards and silently shrugged his shoulders. Anna
Mikháylovna with just the same movement raised her shoulders and eyes, almost closing
the latter, sighed, and moved away from the doctor to Pierre. To him, in a particularly
respectful and tenderly sad voice, she said:

“Trust in His mercy!” and pointing out a small sofa for him to sit and wait for her, she
went silently toward the door that everyone was watching and it creaked very slightly as
she disappeared behind it.
Pierre, having made up his mind to obey his monitress implicitly, moved toward the sofa
she had indicated. As soon as Anna Mikháylovna had disappeared he noticed that the eyes
of all in the room turned to him with something more than curiosity and sympathy. He
noticed that they whispered to one another, casting significant looks at him with a kind of
awe and even servility. A deference such as he had never before received was shown him. A
strange lady, the one who had been talking to the priests, rose and offered him her seat; an
aide-de-camp picked up and returned a glove Pierre had dropped; the doctors became
respectfully silent as he passed by, and moved to make way for him. At first Pierre wished
to take another seat so as not to trouble the lady, and also to pick up the glove himself and
to pass round the doctors who were not even in his way; but all at once he felt that this
would not do, and that tonight he was a person obliged to perform some sort of awful rite
which everyone expected of him, and that he was therefore bound to accept their services.
He took the glove in silence from the aide-de-camp, and sat down in the lady’s chair, placing
his huge hands symmetrically on his knees in the naïve attitude of an Egyptian statue, and
decided in his own mind that all was as it should be, and that in order not to lose his head
and do foolish things he must not act on his own ideas tonight, but must yield himself up
entirely to the will of those who were guiding him.
Not two minutes had passed before Prince Vasíli with head erect majestically entered the
room. He was wearing his long coat with three stars on his breast. He seemed to have
grown thinner since the morning; his eyes seemed larger than usual when he glanced
round and noticed Pierre. He went up to him, took his hand (a thing he never used to do),
and drew it downwards as if wishing to ascertain whether it was firmly fixed on.
“Courage, courage, my friend! He has asked to see you. That is well!” and he turned to go.
But Pierre thought it necessary to ask: “How is...” and hesitated, not knowing whether it
would be proper to call the dying man “the count,” yet ashamed to call him “father.”
“He had another stroke about half an hour ago. Courage, my friend...”
Pierre’s mind was in such a confused state that the word “stroke” suggested to him a
blow from something. He looked at Prince Vasíli in perplexity, and only later grasped that a
stroke was an attack of illness. Prince Vasíli said something to Lorrain in passing and went
through the door on tiptoe. He could not walk well on tiptoe and his whole body jerked at
each step. The eldest princess followed him, and the priests and deacons and some servants
also went in at the door. Through that door was heard a noise of things being moved about,
and at last Anna Mikháylovna, still with the same expression, pale but resolute in the
discharge of duty, ran out and touching Pierre lightly on the arm said:
“The divine mercy is inexhaustible! Unction is about to be administered. Come.”
Pierre went in at the door, stepping on the soft carpet, and noticed that the strange lady,
the aide-de-camp, and some of the servants, all followed him in, as if there were now no
further need for permission to enter that room.