AT THE TIME that these conversations were taking place in the reception-room and the princess's room, a carriage with Pierre (who had been sent for) and Anna Mihalovna (who had thought fit to come with him) in it was driving into the court of Count Bezuhov's mansion. When the sound of the carriage wheels was muffled by the straw in the street, Anna Mihalovna turned with words of consolation to her companion, discovered that he was asleep in his corner of the carriage, and waked him up. Rousing himself, Pierre followed Anna Mihalovna out of the carriage, and only then began to think of the interview with his dying father that awaited him. He noticed that they had driven not up to the visitors' approach, but to the back entrance. As he got down from the carriage step, two men in the dress of tradesmen hastily scurried away from the entrance into the shadow of the wall. Pierre, as he stood waiting, noticed several other similar persons standing in the shadow of the house on both sides. But neither Anna Mihalovna nor the footman and coachman, who must have seen these people, took any notice of them. So it must be all right, Pierre decided, and he followed Anna Mihalovna. With hurrying footsteps Anna Mihalovna walked up the dimly lighted, narrow stone staircase, urging on Pierre, who lagged behind. Though Pierre had no notion why he had to go to the count at all, and still less why he had to go by the back stairs, yet, impressed by Anna Mihalovna's assurance and haste, he made up his mind that it was undoubtedly necessary for him to do so. Half-way up the stairs they were almost knocked over by some men with pails, who ran down towards them, tramping loudly with their big boots. These men huddled up against the wall to let Pierre and Anna Mihalovna pass, and showed not the slightest surprise at seeing them.
“Is this the princess's side of the house?” Anna Mihalovna asked of one of them …
“Yes, it is,” answered the footman in a bold, loud voice, as though anything were permissible at such a time; “the door on the left, ma'am.”
“Perhaps the count has not asked for me,” said Pierre, as he reached the landing. “I had better go to my own room.” Anna Mihalovna stopped for Pierre to catch her up.
“Ah, mon ami,” she said, touching his hand with just the same gesture as she had used in the morning with her son. “Believe me, I am suffering as much as you; but be a man.”
“Really, had I not better go?” Pierre asked affectionately, looking at her over his spectacles.
“Ah, mon ami, forget the wrong that may have been done you, think that it is your father … and perhaps in his death agony,” she sighed. “I have loved you like a son from the first. Trust in me, Pierre. I shall not forget your interests.”
Pierre did not understand a word. Again he felt more strongly than before that all this had to be so, and he obediently followed Anna Mihalovna, who was already opening the door. The door led into the vestibule of the back stairs. In the corner sat the princess's old man-servant knitting stockings. Pierre had never been in this part of the house, and had not even suspected the existence of these apartments. A maid-servant carrying a tray with a decanter overtook them, and Anna Mihalovna (calling her “my dear” and “my good girl”) asked her after the princesses' health, and drew Pierre further along the stone corridor. The first door to the left led out of the corridor into the princesses' living rooms. The maid with the decanter was in a hurry (everything seemed to be done in a hurry at that moment in the house), and she did not close the door after her. Pierre and Anna Mihalovna, as they passed by, glanced unconsciously into the room where the eldest princess and Prince Vassily were sitting close together talking. On catching sight of their passing figures, Prince Vassily made an impatient movement and drew back, the princess jumped up, and with a despairing gesture she closed the door, slamming it with all her might. This action was so unlike the princess's habitual composure, the dismay depicted on the countenance of Prince Vassily was so out of keeping with his dignity, that Pierre stopped short and looked inquiringly over his spectacles at his guide. Anna Mihalovna manifested no surprise; she simply smiled a little and sighed, as though to show that she had anticipated all that.
“Be a man, mon ami, I am looking after your interests,” she said in response to his look of inquiry, and she walked more quickly along the corridor.
Pierre had no notion what was going on, and no inkling of what was meant by watching over his interests. But he felt that all this had had to be so. From the corridor they went into the half-lighted hall adjoining the count's reception-room. This was one of the cold, sumptuously furnished rooms which Pierre knew, leading from the visitors' staircase. But even in this apartment there was an empty bath standing in the middle of the floor, and water had been spilt on the carpet. They were met here by a servant and a church attendant with a censer, who walked on tiptoe and took no notice of them. They went into the reception-room opening into the winter garden, a room Pierre knew well, with its two Italian windows, its big bust and full-length portrait of Catherine. The same persons were all sitting almost in the same positions exchanging whispers in the reception-room. All ceased speaking and looked round at Anna Mihalovna, as she came in with her pale, tear-stained face, and at the big, stout figure of Pierre, as with downcast head he followed her submissively.
The countenance of Anna Mihalovna showed a consciousness that the crucial moment had arrived. With the air of a Petersburg lady of experience, she walked into the room even more boldly than in the morning, keeping Pierre at her side. She felt that as she was bringing the person the dying man wanted to see, she might feel secure as to her reception. With a rapid glance, scanning all the persons in the room, and observing the count's spiritual adviser, she did not precisely bow down, but seemed somehow suddenly to shrink in stature, and with a tripping amble swam up to the priest and reverentially received a blessing first from one and then from another ecclesiastic.
“Thank God that we are in time,” she said to the priest; “all of us, his kinsfolk, have been in such alarm. This young man is the count's son,” she added more softly, “It is a terrible moment.”
Having uttered these words she approached the doctor.
“Dear doctor,” she said to him, “this young man is the count's son. Is there any hope?”
The doctor did not speak but rapidly shrugged his shoulders and turned up his eyes. With precisely the same gesture Anna Mihalovna moved her shoulders and eyes, almost closing her eyelids, sighed and went away from the doctor to Pierre. She addressed Pierre with peculiar deference and tender melancholy.
“Have faith in His mercy,” she said to him, and indicating a sofa for him to sit down and wait for her, she went herself with inaudible steps towards the door, at which every one was looking, and after almost noiselessly opening it, she vanished behind it.
Pierre, having decided to obey his monitress in everything, moved towards the sofa she had pointed out to him. As soon as Anna Mihalovna had disappeared, he noticed that the eyes of all the persons in the room were fixed upon him with something more than curiosity and sympathy in their gaze. He noticed that they were all whispering together, looking towards him with something like awe and even obsequious deference. They showed him a respect such as had never been shown him before. A lady, a stranger to him, the one who had been talking to the priest, got up and offered him her place. An adjutant picked up the glove Pierre had dropped and handed it to him. The doctors respectfully paused in their talk when he passed by them and moved aside to make way for him. Pierre wanted at first to sit somewhere else, so as not to trouble the lady; he would have liked to pick up the glove himself and to walk round the doctors, who were really not at all in the way. But he felt all at once that to do so would be improper; he felt that he was that night a person who had to go through a terrible ceremony which every one expected of him, and that for that reason he was bound to accept service from every one. He took the glove from the adjutant in silence, sat down in the lady's place, laying his big hands on his knees, sitting in the naïvely symmetrical pose of an Egyptian statue, and decided mentally that it must all inevitably be like this, and that to avoid losing his head and doing something stupid, he must for that evening not act on his own ideas, but abandon himself wholly to the will of those who were guiding him.
Two minutes had not elapsed before Prince Vassily came majestically into the room, wearing his coat with three stars on it, and carrying his head high. He looked as though he had grown thinner since the morning. His eyes seemed larger than usual as he glanced round the room, and caught sight of Pierre. He went up to him, took his hand (a thing he had never done before), and drew it downwards, as though he wanted to try its strength.
“Courage, courage, mon ami. He has asked to see you, that is well …” and he would have gone on, but Pierre thought it fitting to ask: “How is …?” He hesitated, not knowing whether it was proper for him to call the dying man “the count”; he felt ashamed to call him “father.”
“He has had another stroke half-an-hour ago. Courage, mon ami.”
Pierre was in a condition of such mental confusion that the word stroke aroused in his mind the idea of a blow from some heavy body. He looked in perplexity at Prince Vassily, and only later grasped that an attack of illness was called a stroke. Prince Vassily said a few words to Lorrain as he passed and went to the door on tiptoe. He could not walk easily on tiptoe, and jerked his whole person up and down in an ungainly fashion. He was followed by the eldest princess, then by the clergy and church attendants; some servants too went in at the door. Through that door a stir could be heard, and at last Anna Mihalovna, with a face still pale but resolute in the performance of duty, ran out and touching Pierre on the arm, said:
“The goodness of heaven is inexhaustible; it is the ceremony of extreme unction which they are beginning. Come.”
Pierre went in, stepping on to the soft carpet, and noticed that the adjutant and the unknown lady and some servants too, all followed him in, as though there were no need now to ask permission to enter that room.