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By graf Leo Tolstoy
“Your doctor tells you to go to bed earlier,” said Prince Andrew. “You had better go.”
The princess said nothing, but suddenly her short downy lip quivered. Prince Andrew rose, shrugged his shoulders, and walked about the room.
Pierre looked over his spectacles with naive surprise, now at him and now at her, moved as if about to rise too, but changed his mind.
“Why should I mind Monsieur Pierre being here?” exclaimed the little princess suddenly, her pretty face all at once distorted by a tearful grimace. “I have long wanted to ask you, Andrew, why you have changed so to me? What have I done to you? You are going to the war and have no pity for me. Why is it?”
“Lise!” was all Prince Andrew said. But that one word expressed an entreaty, a threat, and above all conviction that she would herself regret her words. But she went on hurriedly:
“You treat me like an invalid or a child. I see it all! Did you behave like that six months ago?”
“Lise, I beg you to desist,” said Prince Andrew still more emphatically.
Pierre, who had been growing more and more agitated as he listened to all this, rose and approached the princess. He seemed unable to bear the sight of tears and was ready to cry himself.
“Calm yourself, Princess! It seems so to you because... I assure you I myself have experienced... and so... because... No, excuse me! An outsider is out of place here... No, don’t distress yourself... Good—by!”
Prince Andrew caught him by the hand.
“No, wait, Pierre! The princess is too kind to wish to deprive me of the pleasure of spending the evening with you.”
“No, he thinks only of himself,” muttered the princess without restraining her angry tears.
“Lise!” said Prince Andrew dryly, raising his voice to the pitch which indicates that patience is exhausted.
Suddenly the angry, squirrel—like expression of the princess’ pretty face changed into a winning and piteous look of fear. Her beautiful eyes glanced askance at her husband’s face, and her own assumed the timid, deprecating expression of a dog when it rapidly but feebly wags its drooping tail.
“Mon Dieu, mon Dieu!” she muttered, and lifting her dress with one hand she went up to her husband and kissed him on the forehead.
“Good night, Lise,” said he, rising and courteously kissing her hand as he would have done to a stranger.
The friends were silent. Neither cared to begin talking. Pierre continually glanced at Prince Andrew; Prince Andrew rubbed his forehead with his small hand.
“Let us go and have supper,” he said with a sigh, going to the door.
They entered the elegant, newly decorated, and luxurious dining room. Everything from the table napkins to the silver, china, and glass bore that imprint of newness found in the households of the newly married. Halfway through supper Prince Andrew leaned his elbows on the table and, with a look of nervous agitation such as Pierre had never before seen on his face, began to talk–as one who has long had something on his mind and suddenly determines to speak out.
“Never, never marry, my dear fellow! That’s my advice: never marry till you can say to yourself that you have done all you are capable of, and until you have ceased to love the woman of your choice and have seen her plainly as she is, or else you will make a cruel and irrevocable mistake. Marry when you are old and good for nothing–or all that is good and noble in you will be lost. It will all be wasted on trifles. Yes! Yes! Yes! Don’t look at me with such surprise. If you marry expecting anything from yourself in the future, you will feel at every step that for you all is ended, all is closed except the drawing room, where you will be ranged side by side with a court lackey and an idiot!... But what’s the good?...” and he waved his arm.
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