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Chapter V.13

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It was getting dusk when Prince Andrew and Pierre drove up to the front entrance of the house at Bald Hills. As they approached the house, Prince Andrew with asmile drew Pierre's attention to a commotion going on at the back porch. A woman, bent with age, with a wallet on her back, and a short, long-haired, young man in a black garment had rushed back to the gate on seeing the carriage driving up. Two women ran out after them, and all four, looking round at the carriage, ran in dismay up the steps of the back porch.

"Those are Mary's 'God's folk,'" said Prince Andrew. "They have mistaken us for my father. This is the one matter in which she disobeys him. He orders these pilgrims to be driven away, but she receives them."

"But what are 'God's folk'?" asked Pierre.

Prince Andrew had no time to answer. The servants came out to meet them, and he asked where the old prince was and whether he was expected back soon.

The old prince had gone to the town and was expected back any minute.

Prince Andrew led Pierre to his own apartments, which were always kept in perfect order and readiness for him in his father's house; he himself went to the nursery.

"Let us go and see my sister," he said to Pierre when he returned. "I have not found her yet, she is hiding now, sitting with her 'God's folk.' It will serve her right, she will be confused, but you will see her 'God's folk.' It's really very curious."

"What are 'God's folk'?" asked Pierre.

"Come, and you'll see for yourself."

Princess Mary really was disconcerted and red patches came on her face when they went in. In her snug room, with lamps burning before the icon stand, a young lad with a long nose and long hair, wearing a monk's cassock, sat on the sofa beside her, behind a samovar. Near them, in an armchair, sat a thin, shriveled, old woman, with a meek expression on her childlike face.

"Andrew, why didn't you warn me?" said the princess, with mild reproach, as she stood before her pilgrims like a hen before her chickens.

"Charmee de vous voir. Je suis tres contente de vous voir,"* she said to Pierre as he kissed her hand. She had known him as a child, and now his friendship with Andrew, his misfortune with his wife, and above all his kindly, simple face disposed her favorably toward him. She looked at him with her beautiful radiant eyes and seemed to say, "I like you very much, but please don't laugh at my people." After exchanging the first greetings, they sat down.

*"Delighted to see you. I am very glad to see you."

"Ah, and Ivanushka is here too!" said Prince Andrew, glancing with a smile at the young pilgrim.

"Andrew!" said Princess Mary, imploringly. "Il faut que vous sachiez que c'est une femme,"* said Prince Andrew to Pierre.

"Andrew, au nom de Dieu!"*[2] Princess Mary repeated.

*"You must know that this is a woman."

*[2] "For heaven's sake."

It was evident that Prince Andrew's ironical tone toward the pilgrims and Princess Mary's helpless attempts to protect them were their customary long-established relations on the matter.

"Mais, ma bonne amie," said Prince Andrew, "vous devriez au contraire m'etre reconnaissante de ce que j'explique a Pierre votre intimite avec ce jeune homme."*

*"But, my dear, you ought on the contrary to be grateful to me for explaining to Pierre your intimacy with this young man."

"Really?" said Pierre, gazing over his spectacles with curiosity and seriousness (for which Princess Mary was specially grateful to him) into Ivanushka's face, who, seeing that she was being spoken about, looked round at them all with crafty eyes.

Princess Mary's embarrassment on her people's account was quite unnecessary. They were not in the least abashed. The old woman, lowering her eyes but casting side glances at the newcomers, had turned her cup upside down and placed a nibbled bit of sugar beside it, and sat quietly in her armchair, though hoping to be offered another cup of tea. Ivanushka, sipping out of her saucer, looked with sly womanish eyes from under her brows at the young men.

"Where have you been? To Kiev?" Prince Andrew asked the old woman.

"I have, good sir," she answered garrulously. "Just at Christmastime I was deemed worthy to partake of the holy and heavenly sacrament at the shrine of the saint. And now I'm from Kolyazin, master, where a great and wonderful blessing has been revealed."

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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