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The Duel and Other Stories

The Princess
A CARRIAGE with four fine sleek horses drove in at the big so-called Red Gate of the
N--- Monastery. While it was still at a distance, the priests and monks who were standing
in a group round the part of the hostel allotted to the gentry, recognised by the coachman
and horses that the lady in the carriage was Princess Vera Gavrilovna, whom they knew
very well.
An old man in livery jumped off the box and helped the princess to get out of the
carriage. She raised her dark veil and moved in a leisurely way up to the priests to receive
their blessing; then she nodded pleasantly to the rest of the monks and went into the
hostel.
"Well, have you missed your princess?" she said to the monk who brought in her things.
"It's a whole month since I've been to see you. But here I am; behold your princess. And
where is the Father Superior? My goodness, I am burning with impatience! Wonderful,
wonderful old man! You must be proud of having such a Superior."
When the Father Superior came in, the princess uttered a shriek of delight, crossed her
arms over her bosom, and went up to receive his blessing.
"No, no, let me kiss your hand," she said, snatching it and eagerly kissing it three times.
"How glad I am to see you at last, holy Father! I'm sure you've forgotten your princess,
but my thoughts have been in your dear monastery every moment. How delightful it is
here! This living for God far from the busy, giddy world has a special charm of its own,
holy Father, which I feel with my whole soul although I cannot express it!"
The princess's cheeks glowed and tears came into her eyes. She talked incessantly,
fervently, while the Father Superior, a grave, plain, shy old man of seventy, remained
mute or uttered abruptly, like a soldier on duty, phrases such as:
"Certainly, Your Excellency. . . . Quite so. I understand."
"Has Your Excellency come for a long stay?" he inquired.
"I shall stay the night here, and to-morrow I'm going on to Klavdia Nikolaevna's--it's a
long time since I've seen her--and the day after to-morrow I'll come back to you and stay
three or four days. I want to rest my soul here among you, holy Father. . . ."
The princess liked being at the monastery at N---. For the last two years it had been a
favourite resort of hers; she used to go there almost every month in the summer and stay
two or three days, even sometimes a week. The shy novices, the stillness, the low
ceilings, the smell of cypress, the modest fare, the cheap curtains on the windows--all this
touched her, softened her, and disposed her to contemplation and good thoughts. It was
enough for her to be half an hour in the hostel for her to feel that she, too, was timid and
 
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