While in the Rostovs' ballroom the sixth anglaise was being danced, to a tune in which the weary musicians blundered, and while tired footmen and cooks were getting the supper, Count Bezukhov had a sixth stroke. The doctors pronounced recovery impossible. After a mute confession, communion was administered to the dying man, preparations made for the sacrament of unction, and in his house there was the bustle and thrill of suspense usual at such moments. Outside the house, beyond the gates, a group of undertakers, who hid whenever a carriage drove up, waited in expectation of an important order for an expensive funeral. The Military Governor of Moscow, who had been assiduous in sending aides-de-camp to inquire after the count's health, came himself that evening to bid a last farewell to the celebrated grandee of Catherine's court, Count Bezukhov.
The magnificent reception room was crowded. Everyone stood up respectfully when the Military Governor, having stayed about half an hour alone with the dying man, passed out, slightly acknowledging their bows and trying to escape as quickly as from the glances fixed on him by the doctors, clergy, and relatives of the family. Prince Vasili, who had grown thinner and paler during the last few days, escorted him to the door, repeating something to him several times in low tones.
When the Military Governor had gone, Prince Vasili sat down all alone on a chair in the ballroom, crossing one leg high over the other, leaning his elbow on his knee and covering his face with his hand. After sitting so for a while he rose, and, looking about him with frightened eyes, went with unusually hurried steps down the long corridor leading to the back of the house, to the room of the eldest princess.
Those who were in the dimly lit reception room spoke in nervous whispers, and, whenever anyone went into or came from the dying man's room, grew silent and gazed with eyes full of curiosity or expectancy at his door, which creaked slightly when opened.
"The limits of human life... are fixed and may not be o'erpassed," said an old priest to a lady who had taken a seat beside him and was listening naively to his words.
"I wonder, is it not too late to administer unction?" asked the lady, adding the priest's clerical title, as if she had no opinion of her own on the subject.
"Ah, madam, it is a great sacrament," replied the priest, passing his hand over the thin grizzled strands of hair combed back across his bald head.
"Who was that? The Military Governor himself?" was being asked at the other side of the room. "How young-looking he is!"
"Yes, and he is over sixty. I hear the count no longer recognizes anyone. They wished to administer the sacrament of unction."
"I knew someone who received that sacrament seven times."
The second princess had just come from the sickroom with her eyes red from weeping and sat down beside Dr. Lorrain, who was sitting in a graceful pose under a portrait of Catherine, leaning his elbow on a table.
"Beautiful," said the doctor in answer to a remark about the weather. "The weather is beautiful, Princess; and besides, in Moscow one feels as if one were in the country."