"No matter, Princess, don't be alarmed," said Mary Bogdanovna. "We'll manage very well without a doctor."
Five minutes later Princess Mary from her room heard something heavy being carried by. She looked out. The men servants were carrying the large leather sofa from Prince Andrew's study into the bedroom. On their faces was a quiet and solemn look.
Princess Mary sat alone in her room listening to the sounds in the house, now and then opening her door when someone passed and watching what was going on in the passage. Some women passing with quiet steps in and out of the bedroom glanced at the princess and turned away. She did not venture to ask any questions, and shut the door again, now sitting down in her easy chair, now taking her prayer book, now kneeling before the icon stand. To her surprise and distress she found that her prayers did not calm her excitement. Suddenly her door opened softly and her old nurse, Praskovya Savishna, who hardly ever came to that room as the old prince had forbidden it, appeared on the threshold with a shawl round her head.
"I've come to sit with you a bit, Masha," said the nurse, "and here I've brought the prince's wedding candles to light before his saint, my angel," she said with a sigh.
"Oh, nurse, I'm so glad!"
"God is merciful, birdie."
The nurse lit the gilt candles before the icons and sat down by the door with her knitting. Princess Mary took a book and began reading. Only when footsteps or voices were heard did they look at one another, the princess anxious and inquiring, the nurse encouraging. Everyone in the house was dominated by the same feeling that Princess Mary experienced as she sat in her room. But owing to the superstition that the fewer the people who know of it the less a woman in travail suffers, everyone tried to pretend not to know; no one spoke of it, but apart from the ordinary staid and respectful good manners habitual in the prince's household, a common anxiety, a softening of the heart, and a consciousness that something great and mysterious was being accomplished at that moment made itself felt.
There was no laughter in the maids' large hall. In the men servants' hall all sat waiting, silently and alert. In the outlying serfs' quarters torches and candles were burning and no one slept. The old prince, stepping on his heels, paced up and down his study and sent Tikhon to ask Mary Bogdanovna what news.—"Say only that 'the prince told me to ask,' and come and tell me her answer."
"Inform the prince that labor has begun," said Mary Bogdanovna, giving the messenger a significant look.
Tikhon went and told the prince.
"Very good!" said the prince closing the door behind him, and Tikhon did not hear the slightest sound from the study after that.
After a while he re-entered it as if to snuff the candles, and, seeing the prince was lying on the sofa, looked at him, noticed his perturbed face, shook his head, and going up to him silently kissed him on the shoulder and left the room without snuffing the candles or saying why he had entered. The most solemn mystery in the world continued its course. Evening passed, night came, and the feeling of suspense and softening of heart in the presence of the unfathomable did not lessen but increased. No one slept.
It was one of those March nights when winter seems to wish to resume its sway and scatters its last snows and storms with desperate fury. A relay of horses had been sent up the highroad to meet the German doctor from Moscow who was expected every moment, and men on horseback with lanterns were sent to the crossroads to guide him over the country road with its hollows and snow-covered pools of water.
Princess Mary had long since put aside her book: she sat silent, her luminous eyes fixed on her nurse's wrinkled face (every line of which she knew so well), on the lock of gray hair that escaped from under the kerchief, and the loose skin that hung under her chin.
Nurse Savishna, knitting in hand, was telling in low tones, scarcely hearing or understanding her own words, what she had told hundreds of times before: how the late princess had given birth to Princess Mary in Kishenev with only a Moldavian peasant woman to help instead of a midwife.
"God is merciful, doctors are never needed," she said.
Suddenly a gust of wind beat violently against the casement of the window, from which the double frame had been removed (by order of the prince, one window frame was removed in each room as soon as the larks returned), and, forcing open a loosely closed latch, set the damask curtain flapping and blew out the candle with its chill, snowy draft. Princess Mary shuddered; her nurse, putting down the stocking she was knitting, went to the window and leaning out tried to catch the open casement. The cold wind flapped the ends of her kerchief and her loose locks of gray hair.
"Princess, my dear, there's someone driving up the avenue!" she said, holding the casement and not closing it. "With lanterns. Most likely the doctor."
"Oh, my God! thank God!" said Princess Mary. "I must go and meet him, he does not know Russian."
Princess Mary threw a shawl over her head and ran to meet the newcomer. As she was crossing the anteroom she saw through the window a carriage with lanterns, standing at the entrance. She went out on the stairs. On a banister post stood a tallow candle which guttered in the draft. On the landing below, Philip, the footman, stood looking scared and holding another candle. Still lower, beyond the turn of the staircase, one could hear the footstep of someone in thick felt boots, and a voice that seemed familiar to Princess Mary was saying something.
"Thank God!" said the voice. "And Father?"
"Gone to bed," replied the voice of Demyan the house steward, who was downstairs.
Then the voice said something more, Demyan replied, and the steps in the felt boots approached the unseen bend of the staircase more rapidly.
"It's Andrew!" thought Princess Mary. "No it can't be, that would be too extraordinary," and at the very moment she thought this, the face and figure of Prince Andrew, in a fur cloak the deep collar of which covered with snow, appeared on the landing where the footman stood with the candle. Yes, it was he, pale, thin, with a changed and strangely softened but agitated expression on his face. He came up the stairs and embraced his sister.
"You did not get my letter?" he asked, and not waiting for a reply—which he would not have received, for the princess was unable to speak—he turned back, rapidly mounted the stairs again with the doctor who had entered the hall after him (they had met at the last post station), and again embraced his sister.
"What a strange fate, Masha darling!" And having taken off his cloak and felt boots, he went to the little princess' apartment.
The little princess lay supported by pillows, with a white cap on her head (the pains had just left her). Strands of her black hair lay round her inflamed and perspiring cheeks, her charming rosy mouth with its downy lip was open and she was smiling joyfully. Prince Andrew entered and paused facing her at the foot of the sofa on which she was lying. Her glittering eyes, filled with childlike fear and excitement, rested on him without changing their expression. "I love you all and have done no harm to anyone; why must I suffer so? Help me!" her look seemed to say. She saw her husband, but did not realize the significance of his appearance before her now. Prince Andrew went round the sofa and kissed her forehead.
"My darling!" he said—a word he had never used to her before. "God is merciful...."
She looked at him inquiringly and with childlike reproach.
"I expected help from you and I get none, none from you either!" said her eyes. She was not surprised at his having come; she did not realize that he had come. His coming had nothing to do with her sufferings or with their relief. The pangs began again and Mary Bogdanovna advised Prince Andrew to leave the room.
The doctor entered. Prince Andrew went out and, meeting Princess Mary, again joined her. They began talking in whispers, but their talk broke off at every moment. They waited and listened.
"Go, dear," said Princess Mary.
Prince Andrew went again to his wife and sat waiting in the room next to hers. A woman came from the bedroom with a frightened face and became confused when she saw Prince Andrew. He covered his face with his hands and remained so for some minutes. Piteous, helpless, animal moans came through the door. Prince Andrew got up, went to the door, and tried to open it. Someone was holding it shut.
"You can't come in! You can't!" said a terrified voice from within.
He began pacing the room. The screaming ceased, and a few more seconds went by. Then suddenly a terrible shriek—it could not be hers, she could not scream like that—came from the bedroom. Prince Andrew ran to the door; the scream ceased and he heard the wail of an infant.
"What have they taken a baby in there for?" thought Prince Andrew in the first second. "A baby? What baby...? Why is there a baby there? Or is the baby born?"
Then suddenly he realized the joyful significance of that wail; tears choked him, and leaning his elbows on the window sill be began to cry, sobbing like a child. The door opened. The doctor with his shirt sleeves tucked up, without a coat, pale and with a trembling jaw, came out of the room. Prince Andrew turned to him, but the doctor gave him a bewildered look and passed by without a word. A woman rushed out and seeing Prince Andrew stopped, hesitating on the threshold. He went into his wife's room. She was lying dead, in the same position he had seen her in five minutes before and, despite the fixed eyes and the pallor of the cheeks, the same expression was on her charming childlike face with its upper lip covered with tiny black hair.
"I love you all, and have done no harm to anyone; and what have you done to me?"—said her charming, pathetic, dead face.
In a corner of the room something red and tiny gave a grunt and squealed in Mary Bogdanovna's trembling white hands.
Two hours later Prince Andrew, stepping softly, went into his father's room. The old man already knew everything. He was standing close to the door and as soon as it opened his rough old arms closed like a vise round his son's neck, and without a word he began to sob like a child.
Three days later the little princess was buried, and Prince Andrew went up the steps to where the coffin stood, to give her the farewell kiss. And there in the coffin was the same face, though with closed eyes. "Ah, what have you done to me?" it still seemed to say, and Prince Andrew felt that something gave way in his soul and that he was guilty of a sin he could neither remedy nor forget. He could not weep. The old man too came up and kissed the waxen little hands that lay quietly crossed one on the other on her breast, and to him, too, her face seemed to say: "Ah, what have you done to me, and why?" And at the sight the old man turned angrily away.
Another five days passed, and then the young Prince Nicholas Andreevich was baptized. The wet nurse supported the coverlet with her chin, while the priest with a goose feather anointed the boy's little red and wrinkled soles and palms.
His grandfather, who was his godfather, trembling and afraid of dropping him, carried the infant round the battered tin font and handed him over to the godmother, Princess Mary. Prince Andrew sat in another room, faint with fear lest the baby should be drowned in the font, and awaited the termination of the ceremony. He looked up joyfully at the baby when the nurse brought it to him and nodded approval when she told him that the wax with the baby's hair had not sunk in the font but had floated.
Rostov's share in Dolokhov's duel with Bezukhov was hushed up by the efforts of the old count, and instead of being degraded to the ranks as he expected he was appointed an adjutant to the governor general of Moscow. As a result he could not go to the country with the rest of the family, but was kept all summer in Moscow by his new duties. Dolokhov recovered, and Rostov became very friendly with him during his convalescence. Dolokhov lay ill at his mother's who loved him passionately and tenderly, and old Mary Ivanovna, who had grown fond of Rostov for his friendship to her Fedya, often talked to him about her son.
"Yes, Count," she would say, "he is too noble and pure-souled for our present, depraved world. No one now loves virtue; it seems like a reproach to everyone. Now tell me, Count, was it right, was it honorable, of Bezukhov? And Fedya, with his noble spirit, loved him and even now never says a word against him. Those pranks in Petersburg when they played some tricks on a policeman, didn't they do it together? And there! Bezukhov got off scotfree, while Fedya had to bear the whole burden on his shoulders. Fancy what he had to go through! It's true he has been reinstated, but how could they fail to do that? I think there were not many such gallant sons of the fatherland out there as he. And now—this duel! Have these people no feeling, or honor? Knowing him to be an only son, to challenge him and shoot so straight! It's well God had mercy on us. And what was it for? Who doesn't have intrigues nowadays? Why, if he was so jealous, as I see things he should have shown it sooner, but he lets it go on for months. And then to call him out, reckoning on Fedya not fighting because he owed him money! What baseness! What meanness! I know you understand Fedya, my dear count; that, believe me, is why I am so fond of you. Few people do understand him. He is such a lofty, heavenly soul!"
Dolokhov himself during his convalescence spoke to Rostov in a way no one would have expected of him.
"I know people consider me a bad man!" he said. "Let them! I don't care a straw about anyone but those I love; but those I love, I love so that I would give my life for them, and the others I'd throttle if they stood in my way. I have an adored, a priceless mother, and two or three friends—you among them—and as for the rest I only care about them in so far as they are harmful or useful. And most of them are harmful, especially the women. Yes, dear boy," he continued, "I have met loving, noble, high-minded men, but I have not yet met any women—countesses or cooks—who were not venal. I have not yet met that divine purity and devotion I look for in women. If I found such a one I'd give my life for her! But those!..." and he made a gesture of contempt. "And believe me, if I still value my life it is only because I still hope to meet such a divine creature, who will regenerate, purify, and elevate me. But you don't understand it."
"Oh, yes, I quite understand," answered Rostov, who was under his new friend's influence.
In the autumn the Rostovs returned to Moscow. Early in the winter Denisov also came back and stayed with them. The first half of the winter of 1806, which Nicholas Rostov spent in Moscow, was one of the happiest, merriest times for him and the whole family. Nicholas brought many young men to his parents' house. Vera was a handsome girl of twenty; Sonya a girl of sixteen with all the charm of an opening flower; Natasha, half grown up and half child, was now childishly amusing, now girlishly enchanting.
At that time in the Rostovs' house there prevailed an amorous atmosphere characteristic of homes where there are very young and very charming girls. Every young man who came to the house—seeing those impressionable, smiling young faces (smiling probably at their own happiness), feeling the eager bustle around him, and hearing the fitful bursts of song and music and the inconsequent but friendly prattle of young girls ready for anything and full of hope—experienced the same feeling; sharing with the young folk of the Rostovs' household a readiness to fall in love and an expectation of happiness.
Among the young men introduced by Rostov one of the first was Dolokhov, whom everyone in the house liked except Natasha. She almost quarreled with her brother about him. She insisted that he was a bad man, and that in the duel with Bezukhov, Pierre was right and Dolokhov wrong, and further that he was disagreeable and unnatural.
"There's nothing for me to understand," she cried out with resolute self-will, "he is wicked and heartless. There now, I like your Denisov though he is a rake and all that, still I like him; so you see I do understand. I don't know how to put it... with this one everything is calculated, and I don't like that. But Denisov..."
"Oh, Denisov is quite different," replied Nicholas, implying that even Denisov was nothing compared to Dolokhov—"you must understand what a soul there is in Dolokhov, you should see him with his mother. What a heart!"
"Well, I don't know about that, but I am uncomfortable with him. And do you know he has fallen in love with Sonya?"
"I'm certain of it; you'll see."
Natasha's prediction proved true. Dolokhov, who did not usually care for the society of ladies, began to come often to the house, and the question for whose sake he came (though no one spoke of it) was soon settled. He came because of Sonya. And Sonya, though she would never have dared to say so, knew it and blushed scarlet every time Dolokhov appeared.
Dolokhov often dined at the Rostovs', never missed a performance at which they were present, and went to Iogel's balls for young people which the Rostovs always attended. He was pointedly attentive to Sonya and looked at her in such a way that not only could she not bear his glances without coloring, but even the old countess and Natasha blushed when they saw his looks.
It was evident that this strange, strong man was under the irresistible influence of the dark, graceful girl who loved another.
Rostov noticed something new in Dolokhov's relations with Sonya, but he did not explain to himself what these new relations were. "They're always in love with someone," he thought of Sonya and Natasha. But he was not as much at ease with Sonya and Dolokhov as before and was less frequently at home.
In the autumn of 1806 everybody had again begun talking of the war with Napoleon with even greater warmth than the year before. Orders were given to raise recruits, ten men in every thousand for the regular army, and besides this, nine men in every thousand for the militia. Everywhere Bonaparte was anathematized and in Moscow nothing but the coming war was talked of. For the Rostov family the whole interest of these preparations for war lay in the fact that Nicholas would not hear of remaining in Moscow, and only awaited the termination of Denisov's furlough after Christmas to return with him to their regiment. His approaching departure did not prevent his amusing himself, but rather gave zest to his pleasures. He spent the greater part of his time away from home, at dinners, parties, and balls.
On the third day after Christmas Nicholas dined at home, a thing he had rarely done of late. It was a grand farewell dinner, as he and Denisov were leaving to join their regiment after Epiphany. About twenty people were present, including Dolokhov and Denisov.
Never had love been so much in the air, and never had the amorous atmosphere made itself so strongly felt in the Rostovs' house as at this holiday time. "Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here," said the spirit of the place.
Nicholas, having as usual exhausted two pairs of horses, without visiting all the places he meant to go to and where he had been invited, returned home just before dinner. As soon as he entered he noticed and felt the tension of the amorous air in the house, and also noticed a curious embarrassment among some of those present. Sonya, Dolokhov, and the old countess were especially disturbed, and to a lesser degree Natasha. Nicholas understood that something must have happened between Sonya and Dolokhov before dinner, and with the kindly sensitiveness natural to him was very gentle and wary with them both at dinner. On that same evening there was to be one of the balls that Iogel (the dancing master) gave for his pupils during the holidays.
"Nicholas, will you come to Iogel's? Please do!" said Natasha. "He asked you, and Vasili Dmitrich * is also going."
"Where would I not go at the countess' command!" said Denisov, who at the Rostovs' had jocularly assumed the role of Natasha's knight. "I'm even weady to dance the pas de chale."
"If I have time," answered Nicholas. "But I promised the Arkharovs; they have a party."
"And you?" he asked Dolokhov, but as soon as he had asked the question he noticed that it should not have been put.
"Perhaps," coldly and angrily replied Dolokhov, glancing at Sonya, and, scowling, he gave Nicholas just such a look as he had given Pierre at the Club dinner.
"There is something up," thought Nicholas, and he was further confirmed in this conclusion by the fact that Dolokhov left immediately after dinner. He called Natasha and asked her what was the matter.
"And I was looking for you," said Natasha running out to him. "I told you, but you would not believe it," she said triumphantly. "He has proposed to Sonya!"
Little as Nicholas had occupied himself with Sonya of late, something seemed to give way within him at this news. Dolokhov was a suitable and in some respects a brilliant match for the dowerless, orphan girl. From the point of view of the old countess and of society it was out of the question for her to refuse him. And therefore Nicholas' first feeling on hearing the news was one of anger with Sonya.... He tried to say, "That's capital; of course she'll forget her childish promises and accept the offer," but before he had time to say it Natasha began again.
"And fancy! she refused him quite definitely!" adding, after a pause, "she told him she loved another."
"Yes, my Sonya could not have done otherwise!" thought Nicholas.
"Much as Mamma pressed her, she refused, and I know she won't change once she has said..."
"And Mamma pressed her!" said Nicholas reproachfully.
"Yes," said Natasha. "Do you know, Nicholas—don't be angry—but I know you will not marry her. I know, heaven knows how, but I know for certain that you won't marry her."
"Now you don't know that at all!" said Nicholas. "But I must talk to her. What a darling Sonya is!" he added with a smile.
"Ah, she is indeed a darling! I'll send her to you."
And Natasha kissed her brother and ran away.
A minute later Sonya came in with a frightened, guilty, and scared look. Nicholas went up to her and kissed her hand. This was the first time since his return that they had talked alone and about their love.
"Sophie," he began, timidly at first and then more and more boldly, "if you wish to refuse one who is not only a brilliant and advantageous match but a splendid, noble fellow... he is my friend..."
Sonya interrupted him.
"I have already refused," she said hurriedly.
"If you are refusing for my sake, I am afraid that I..."
Sonya again interrupted. She gave him an imploring, frightened look.
"Nicholas, don't tell me that!" she said.
"No, but I must. It may be arrogant of me, but still it is best to say it. If you refuse him on my account, I must tell you the whole truth. I love you, and I think I love you more than anyone else...."
"That is enough for me," said Sonya, blushing.
"No, but I have been in love a thousand times and shall fall in love again, though for no one have I such a feeling of friendship, confidence, and love as I have for you. Then I am young. Mamma does not wish it. In a word, I make no promise. And I beg you to consider Dolokhov's offer," he said, articulating his friend's name with difficulty.
"Don't say that to me! I want nothing. I love you as a brother and always shall, and I want nothing more."
"You are an angel: I am not worthy of you, but I am afraid of misleading you."
And Nicholas again kissed her hand.
Iogel's were the most enjoyable balls in Moscow. So said the mothers as they watched their young people executing their newly learned steps, and so said the youths and maidens themselves as they danced till they were ready to drop, and so said the grown-up young men and women who came to these balls with an air of condescension and found them most enjoyable. That year two marriages had come of these balls. The two pretty young Princesses Gorchakov met suitors there and were married and so further increased the fame of these dances. What distinguished them from others was the absence of host or hostess and the presence of the good-natured Iogel, flying about like a feather and bowing according to the rules of his art, as he collected the tickets from all his visitors. There was the fact that only those came who wished to dance and amuse themselves as girls of thirteen and fourteen do who are wearing long dresses for the first time. With scarcely any exceptions they all were, or seemed to be, pretty—so rapturous were their smiles and so sparkling their eyes. Sometimes the best of the pupils, of whom Natasha, who was exceptionally graceful, was first, even danced the pas de chale, but at this last ball only the ecossaise, the anglaise, and the mazurka, which was just coming into fashion, were danced. Iogel had taken a ballroom in Bezukhov's house, and the ball, as everyone said, was a great success. There were many pretty girls and the Rostov girls were among the prettiest. They were both particularly happy and gay. That evening, proud of Dolokhov's proposal, her refusal, and her explanation with Nicholas, Sonya twirled about before she left home so that the maid could hardly get her hair plaited, and she was transparently radiant with impulsive joy.
Natasha no less proud of her first long dress and of being at a real ball was even happier. They were both dressed in white muslin with pink ribbons.
Natasha fell in love the very moment she entered the ballroom. She was not in love with anyone in particular, but with everyone. Whatever person she happened to look at she was in love with for that moment.
"Oh, how delightful it is!" she kept saying, running up to Sonya.
Nicholas and Denisov were walking up and down, looking with kindly patronage at the dancers.
"How sweet she is—she will be a weal beauty!" said Denisov.
"Countess Natasha," answered Denisov.
"And how she dances! What gwace!" he said again after a pause.
"Who are you talking about?"
"About your sister," ejaculated Denisov testily.
"My dear count, you were one of my best pupils—you must dance," said little Iogel coming up to Nicholas. "Look how many charming young ladies-" He turned with the same request to Denisov who was also a former pupil of his.
"No, my dear fellow, I'll be a wallflower," said Denisov. "Don't you wecollect what bad use I made of your lessons?"
"Oh no!" said Iogel, hastening to reassure him. "You were only inattentive, but you had talent—oh yes, you had talent!"
The band struck up the newly introduced mazurka. Nicholas could not refuse Iogel and asked Sonya to dance. Denisov sat down by the old ladies and, leaning on his saber and beating time with his foot, told them something funny and kept them amused, while he watched the young people dancing, Iogel with Natasha, his pride and his best pupil, were the first couple. Noiselessly, skillfully stepping with his little feet in low shoes, Iogel flew first across the hall with Natasha, who, though shy, went on carefully executing her steps. Denisov did not take his eyes off her and beat time with his saber in a way that clearly indicated that if he was not dancing it was because he would not and not because he could not. In the middle of a figure he beckoned to Rostov who was passing:
"This is not at all the thing," he said. "What sort of Polish mazuwka is this? But she does dance splendidly."
Knowing that Denisov had a reputation even in Poland for the masterly way in which he danced the mazurka, Nicholas ran up to Natasha:
"Go and choose Denisov. He is a real dancer, a wonder!" he said.
When it came to Natasha's turn to choose a partner, she rose and, tripping rapidly across in her little shoes trimmed with bows, ran timidly to the corner where Denisov sat. She saw that everybody was looking at her and waiting. Nicholas saw that Denisov was refusing though he smiled delightedly. He ran up to them.
"Please, Vasili Dmitrich," Natasha was saying, "do come!"
"Oh no, let me off, Countess," Denisov replied.
"Now then, Vaska," said Nicholas.
"They coax me as if I were Vaska the cat!" said Denisov jokingly.
"I'll sing for you a whole evening," said Natasha.
"Oh, the faiwy! She can do anything with me!" said Denisov, and he unhooked his saber. He came out from behind the chairs, clasped his partner's hand firmly, threw back his head, and advanced his foot, waiting for the beat. Only on horse back and in the mazurka was Denisov's short stature not noticeable and he looked the fine fellow he felt himself to be. At the right beat of the music he looked sideways at his partner with a merry and triumphant air, suddenly stamped with one foot, bounded from the floor like a ball, and flew round the room taking his partner with him. He glided silently on one foot half across the room, and seeming not to notice the chairs was dashing straight at them, when suddenly, clinking his spurs and spreading out his legs, he stopped short on his heels, stood so a second, stamped on the spot clanking his spurs, whirled rapidly round, and, striking his left heel against his right, flew round again in a circle. Natasha guessed what he meant to do, and abandoning herself to him followed his lead hardly knowing how. First he spun her round, holding her now with his left, now with his right hand, then falling on one knee he twirled her round him, and again jumping up, dashed so impetuously forward that it seemed as if he would rush through the whole suite of rooms without drawing breath, and then he suddenly stopped and performed some new and unexpected steps. When at last, smartly whirling his partner round in front of her chair, he drew up with a click of his spurs and bowed to her, Natasha did not even make him a curtsy. She fixed her eyes on him in amazement, smiling as if she did not recognize him.
"What does this mean?" she brought out.
Although Iogel did not acknowledge this to be the real mazurka, everyone was delighted with Denisov's skill, he was asked again and again as a partner, and the old men began smilingly to talk about Poland and the good old days. Denisov, flushed after the mazurka and mopping himself with his handkerchief, sat down by Natasha and did not leave her for the rest of the evening.
For two days after that Rostov did not see Dolokhov at his own or at Dolokhov's home: on the third day he received a note from him:
As I do not intend to be at your house again for reasons you know of, and am going to rejoin my regiment, I am giving a farewell supper tonight to my friends—come to the English Hotel.
About ten o'clock Rostov went to the English Hotel straight from the theater, where he had been with his family and Denisov. He was at once shown to the best room, which Dolokhov had taken for that evening. Some twenty men were gathered round a table at which Dolokhov sat between two candles. On the table was a pile of gold and paper money, and he was keeping the bank. Rostov had not seen him since his proposal and Sonya's refusal and felt uncomfortable at the thought of how they would meet.
Dolokhov's clear, cold glance met Rostov as soon as he entered the door, as though he had long expected him.
"It's a long time since we met," he said. "Thanks for coming. I'll just finish dealing, and then Ilyushka will come with his chorus."
"I called once or twice at your house," said Rostov, reddening.
Dolokhov made no reply.
"You may punt," he said.
Rostov recalled at that moment a strange conversation he had once had with Dolokhov. "None but fools trust to luck in play," Dolokhov had then said.
"Or are you afraid to play with me?" Dolokhov now asked as if guessing Rostov's thought.
Beneath his smile Rostov saw in him the mood he had shown at the Club dinner and at other times, when as if tired of everyday life he had felt a need to escape from it by some strange, and usually cruel, action.
Rostov felt ill at ease. He tried, but failed, to find some joke with which to reply to Dolokhov's words. But before he had thought of anything, Dolokhov, looking straight in his face, said slowly and deliberately so that everyone could hear:
"Do you remember we had a talk about cards... 'He's a fool who trusts to luck, one should make certain,' and I want to try."
"To try his luck or the certainty?" Rostov asked himself.
"Well, you'd better not play," Dolokhov added, and springing a new pack of cards said: "Bank, gentlemen!"
Moving the money forward he prepared to deal. Rostov sat down by his side and at first did not play. Dolokhov kept glancing at him.
"Why don't you play?" he asked.
And strange to say Nicholas felt that he could not help taking up a card, putting a small stake on it, and beginning to play.
"I have no money with me," he said.
"I'll trust you."
Rostov staked five rubles on a card and lost, staked again, and again lost. Dolokhov "killed," that is, beat, ten cards of Rostov's running.
"Gentlemen," said Dolokhov after he had dealt for some time. "Please place your money on the cards or I may get muddled in the reckoning."
One of the players said he hoped he might be trusted.
"Yes, you might, but I am afraid of getting the accounts mixed. So I ask you to put the money on your cards," replied Dolokhov. "Don't stint yourself, we'll settle afterwards," he added, turning to Rostov.
The game continued; a waiter kept handing round champagne.
All Rostov's cards were beaten and he had eight hundred rubles scored up against him. He wrote "800 rubles" on a card, but while the waiter filled his glass he changed his mind and altered it to his usual stake of twenty rubles.
"Leave it," said Dolokhov, though he did not seem to be even looking at Rostov, "you'll win it back all the sooner. I lose to the others but win from you. Or are you afraid of me?" he asked again.
Rostov submitted. He let the eight hundred remain and laid down a seven of hearts with a torn corner, which he had picked up from the floor. He well remembered that seven afterwards. He laid down the seven of hearts, on which with a broken bit of chalk he had written "800 rubles" in clear upright figures; he emptied the glass of warm champagne that was handed him, smiled at Dolokhov's words, and with a sinking heart, waiting for a seven to turn up, gazed at Dolokhov's hands which held the pack. Much depended on Rostov's winning or losing on that seven of hearts. On the previous Sunday the old count had given his son two thousand rubles, and though he always disliked speaking of money difficulties had told Nicholas that this was all he could let him have till May, and asked him to be more economical this time. Nicholas had replied that it would be more than enough for him and that he gave his word of honor not to take anything more till the spring. Now only twelve hundred rubles was left of that money, so that this seven of hearts meant for him not only the loss of sixteen hundred rubles, but the necessity of going back on his word. With a sinking heart he watched Dolokhov's hands and thought, "Now then, make haste and let me have this card and I'll take my cap and drive home to supper with Denisov, Natasha, and Sonya, and will certainly never touch a card again." At that moment his home life, jokes with Petya, talks with Sonya, duets with Natasha, piquet with his father, and even his comfortable bed in the house on the Povarskaya rose before him with such vividness, clearness, and charm that it seemed as if it were all a lost and unappreciated bliss, long past. He could not conceive that a stupid chance, letting the seven be dealt to the right rather than to the left, might deprive him of all this happiness, newly appreciated and newly illumined, and plunge him into the depths of unknown and undefined misery. That could not be, yet he awaited with a sinking heart the movement of Dolokhov's hands. Those broad, reddish hands, with hairy wrists visible from under the shirt cuffs, laid down the pack and took up a glass and a pipe that were handed him.
"So you are not afraid to play with me?" repeated Dolokhov, and as if about to tell a good story he put down the cards, leaned back in his chair, and began deliberately with a smile:
"Yes, gentlemen, I've been told there's a rumor going about Moscow that I'm a sharper, so I advise you to be careful."
"Come now, deal!" exclaimed Rostov.
"Oh, those Moscow gossips!" said Dolokhov, and he took up the cards with a smile.
"Aah!" Rostov almost screamed lifting both hands to his head. The seven he needed was lying uppermost, the first card in the pack. He had lost more than he could pay.
"Still, don't ruin yourself!" said Dolokhov with a side glance at Rostov as he continued to deal.
An hour and a half later most of the players were but little interested in their own play.
The whole interest was concentrated on Rostov. Instead of sixteen hundred rubles he had a long column of figures scored against him, which he had reckoned up to ten thousand, but that now, as he vaguely supposed, must have risen to fifteen thousand. In reality it already exceeded twenty thousand rubles. Dolokhov was no longer listening to stories or telling them, but followed every movement of Rostov's hands and occasionally ran his eyes over the score against him. He had decided to play until that score reached forty-three thousand. He had fixed on that number because forty-three was the sum of his and Sonya's joint ages. Rostov, leaning his head on both hands, sat at the table which was scrawled over with figures, wet with spilled wine, and littered with cards. One tormenting impression did not leave him: that those broad-boned reddish hands with hairy wrists visible from under the shirt sleeves, those hands which he loved and hated, held him in their power.
"Six hundred rubles, ace, a corner, a nine... winning it back's impossible... Oh, how pleasant it was at home!... The knave, double or quits... it can't be!... And why is he doing this to me?" Rostov pondered. Sometimes he staked a large sum, but Dolokhov refused to accept it and fixed the stake himself. Nicholas submitted to him, and at one moment prayed to God as he had done on the battlefield at the bridge over the Enns, and then guessed that the card that came first to hand from the crumpled heap under the table would save him, now counted the cords on his coat and took a card with that number and tried staking the total of his losses on it, then he looked round for aid from the other players, or peered at the now cold face of Dolokhov and tried to read what was passing in his mind.
"He knows of course what this loss means to me. He can't want my ruin. Wasn't he my friend? Wasn't I fond of him? But it's not his fault. What's he to do if he has such luck?... And it's not my fault either," he thought to himself, "I have done nothing wrong. Have I killed anyone, or insulted or wished harm to anyone? Why such a terrible misfortune? And when did it begin? Such a little while ago I came to this table with the thought of winning a hundred rubles to buy that casket for Mamma's name day and then going home. I was so happy, so free, so lighthearted! And I did not realize how happy I was! When did that end and when did this new, terrible state of things begin? What marked the change? I sat all the time in this same place at this table, chose and placed cards, and watched those broad-boned agile hands in the same way. When did it happen and what has happened? I am well and strong and still the same and in the same place. No, it can't be! Surely it will all end in nothing!"
He was flushed and bathed in perspiration, though the room was not hot. His face was terrible and piteous to see, especially from its helpless efforts to seem calm.
The score against him reached the fateful sum of forty-three thousand. Rostov had just prepared a card, by bending the corner of which he meant to double the three thousand just put down to his score, when Dolokhov, slamming down the pack of cards, put it aside and began rapidly adding up the total of Rostov's debt, breaking the chalk as he marked the figures in his clear, bold hand.
"Supper, it's time for supper! And here are the gypsies!"
Some swarthy men and women were really entering from the cold outside and saying something in their gypsy accents. Nicholas understood that it was all over; but he said in an indifferent tone:
"Well, won't you go on? I had a splendid card all ready," as if it were the fun of the game which interested him most.
"It's all up! I'm lost!" thought he. "Now a bullet through my brain—that's all that's left me!" And at the same time he said in a cheerful voice:
"Come now, just this one more little card!"
"All right!" said Dolokhov, having finished the addition. "All right! Twenty-one rubles," he said, pointing to the figure twenty-one by which the total exceeded the round sum of forty-three thousand; and taking up a pack he prepared to deal. Rostov submissively unbent the corner of his card and, instead of the six thousand he had intended, carefully wrote twenty-one.
"It's all the same to me," he said. "I only want to see whether you will let me win this ten, or beat it."
Dolokhov began to deal seriously. Oh, how Rostov detested at that moment those hands with their short reddish fingers and hairy wrists, which held him in their power.... The ten fell to him.
"You owe forty-three thousand, Count," said Dolokhov, and stretching himself he rose from the table. "One does get tired sitting so long," he added.
"Yes, I'm tired too," said Rostov.
Dolokhov cut him short, as if to remind him that it was not for him to jest.
"When am I to receive the money, Count?"
Rostov, flushing, drew Dolokhov into the next room.
"I cannot pay it all immediately. Will you take an I.O.U.?" he said.
"I say, Rostov," said Dolokhov clearly, smiling and looking Nicholas straight in the eyes, "you know the saying, 'Lucky in love, unlucky at cards.' Your cousin is in love with you, I know."
"Oh, it's terrible to feel oneself so in this man's power," thought Rostov. He knew what a shock he would inflict on his father and mother by the news of this loss, he knew what a relief it would be to escape it all, and felt that Dolokhov knew that he could save him from all this shame and sorrow, but wanted now to play with him as a cat does with a mouse.
"Your cousin..." Dolokhov started to say, but Nicholas interrupted him.
"My cousin has nothing to do with this and it's not necessary to mention her!" he exclaimed fiercely.
"Then when am I to have it?"
"Tomorrow," replied Rostov and left the room.
To say "tomorrow" and keep up a dignified tone was not difficult, but to go home alone, see his sisters, brother, mother, and father, confess and ask for money he had no right to after giving his word of honor, was terrible.
At home, they had not yet gone to bed. The young people, after returning from the theater, had had supper and were grouped round the clavichord. As soon as Nicholas entered, he was enfolded in that poetic atmosphere of love which pervaded the Rostov household that winter and, now after Dolokhov's proposal and Iogel's ball, seemed to have grown thicker round Sonya and Natasha as the air does before a thunderstorm. Sonya and Natasha, in the light-blue dresses they had worn at the theater, looking pretty and conscious of it, were standing by the clavichord, happy and smiling. Vera was playing chess with Shinshin in the drawing room. The old countess, waiting for the return of her husband and son, sat playing patience with the old gentlewoman who lived in their house. Denisov, with sparkling eyes and ruffled hair, sat at the clavichord striking chords with his short fingers, his legs thrown back and his eyes rolling as he sang, with his small, husky, but true voice, some verses called "Enchantress," which he had composed, and to which he was trying to fit music:
Enchantress, say, to my forsaken lyre What magic power is this recalls me still? What spark has set my inmost soul on fire, What is this bliss that makes my fingers thrill?
He was singing in passionate tones, gazing with his sparkling black-agate eyes at the frightened and happy Natasha.
"Splendid! Excellent!" exclaimed Natasha. "Another verse," she said, without noticing Nicholas.
"Everything's still the same with them," thought Nicholas, glancing into the drawing room, where he saw Vera and his mother with the old lady.
"Ah, and here's Nicholas!" cried Natasha, running up to him.
"Is Papa at home?" he asked.
"I am so glad you've come!" said Natasha, without answering him. "We are enjoying ourselves! Vasili Dmitrich is staying a day longer for my sake! Did you know?"
"No, Papa is not back yet," said Sonya.
"Nicholas, have you come? Come here, dear!" called the old countess from the drawing room.
Nicholas went to her, kissed her hand, and sitting down silently at her table began to watch her hands arranging the cards. From the dancing room, they still heard the laughter and merry voices trying to persuade Natasha to sing.
"All wight! All wight!" shouted Denisov. "It's no good making excuses now! It's your turn to sing the ba'cawolla—I entweat you!"
The countess glanced at her silent son.
"What is the matter?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing," said he, as if weary of being continually asked the same question. "Will Papa be back soon?"
"I expect so."
"Everything's the same with them. They know nothing about it! Where am I to go?" thought Nicholas, and went again into the dancing room where the clavichord stood.
Sonya was sitting at the clavichord, playing the prelude to Denisov's favorite barcarolle. Natasha was preparing to sing. Denisov was looking at her with enraptured eyes.
Nicholas began pacing up and down the room.
"Why do they want to make her sing? How can she sing? There's nothing to be happy about!" thought he.
Sonya struck the first chord of the prelude.
"My God, I'm a ruined and dishonored man! A bullet through my brain is the only thing left me—not singing!" his thoughts ran on. "Go away? But where to? It's one—let them sing!"
He continued to pace the room, looking gloomily at Denisov and the girls and avoiding their eyes.
"Nikolenka, what is the matter?" Sonya's eyes fixed on him seemed to ask. She noticed at once that something had happened to him.
Nicholas turned away from her. Natasha too, with her quick instinct, had instantly noticed her brother's condition. But, though she noticed it, she was herself in such high spirits at that moment, so far from sorrow, sadness, or self-reproach, that she purposely deceived herself as young people often do. "No, I am too happy now to spoil my enjoyment by sympathy with anyone's sorrow," she felt, and she said to herself: "No, I must be mistaken, he must be feeling happy, just as I am."
"Now, Sonya!" she said, going to the very middle of the room, where she considered the resonance was best.
Having lifted her head and let her arms droop lifelessly, as ballet dancers do, Natasha, rising energetically from her heels to her toes, stepped to the middle of the room and stood still.
"Yes, that's me!" she seemed to say, answering the rapt gaze with which Denisov followed her.
"And what is she so pleased about?" thought Nicholas, looking at his sister. "Why isn't she dull and ashamed?"
Natasha took the first note, her throat swelled, her chest rose, her eyes became serious. At that moment she was oblivious of her surroundings, and from her smiling lips flowed sounds which anyone may produce at the same intervals and hold for the same time, but which leave you cold a thousand times and the thousand and first time thrill you and make you weep.
Natasha, that winter, had for the first time begun to sing seriously, mainly because Denisov so delighted in her singing. She no longer sang as a child, there was no longer in her singing that comical, childish, painstaking effect that had been in it before; but she did not yet sing well, as all the connoisseurs who heard her said: "It is not trained, but it is a beautiful voice that must be trained." Only they generally said this some time after she had finished singing. While that untrained voice, with its incorrect breathing and labored transitions, was sounding, even the connoisseurs said nothing, but only delighted in it and wished to hear it again. In her voice there was a virginal freshness, an unconsciousness of her own powers, and an as yet untrained velvety softness, which so mingled with her lack of art in singing that it seemed as if nothing in that voice could be altered without spoiling it.
"What is this?" thought Nicholas, listening to her with widely opened eyes. "What has happened to her? How she is singing today!" And suddenly the whole world centered for him on anticipation of the next note, the next phrase, and everything in the world was divided into three beats: "Oh mio crudele affetto."... One, two, three... one, two, three... One... "Oh mio crudele affetto."... One, two, three... One. "Oh, this senseless life of ours!" thought Nicholas. "All this misery, and money, and Dolokhov, and anger, and honor—it's all nonsense... but this is real.... Now then, Natasha, now then, dearest! Now then, darling! How will she take that si? She's taken it! Thank God!" And without noticing that he was singing, to strengthen the si he sung a second, a third below the high note. "Ah, God! How fine! Did I really take it? How fortunate!" he thought.
Oh, how that chord vibrated, and how moved was something that was finest in Rostov's soul! And this something was apart from everything else in the world and above everything in the world. "What were losses, and Dolokhov, and words of honor?... All nonsense! One might kill and rob and yet be happy..."
It was long since Rostov had felt such enjoyment from music as he did that day. But no sooner had Natasha finished her barcarolle than reality again presented itself. He got up without saying a word and went downstairs to his own room. A quarter of an hour later the old count came in from his Club, cheerful and contented. Nicholas, hearing him drive up, went to meet him.
"Well—had a good time?" said the old count, smiling gaily and proudly at his son.
Nicholas tried to say "Yes," but could not: and he nearly burst into sobs. The count was lighting his pipe and did not notice his son's condition.
"Ah, it can't be avoided!" thought Nicholas, for the first and last time. And suddenly, in the most casual tone, which made him feel ashamed of himself, he said, as if merely asking his father to let him have the carriage to drive to town:
"Papa, I have come on a matter of business. I was nearly forgetting. I need some money."
"Dear me!" said his father, who was in a specially good humor. "I told you it would not be enough. How much?"
"Very much," said Nicholas flushing, and with a stupid careless smile, for which he was long unable to forgive himself, "I have lost a little, I mean a good deal, a great deal—forty three thousand."
"What! To whom?... Nonsense!" cried the count, suddenly reddening with an apoplectic flush over neck and nape as old people do.
"I promised to pay tomorrow," said Nicholas.
"Well!..." said the old count, spreading out his arms and sinking helplessly on the sofa.
"It can't be helped It happens to everyone!" said the son, with a bold, free, and easy tone, while in his soul he regarded himself as a worthless scoundrel whose whole life could not atone for his crime. He longed to kiss his father's hands and kneel to beg his forgiveness, but said, in a careless and even rude voice, that it happens to everyone!
The old count cast down his eyes on hearing his son's words and began bustlingly searching for something.
"Yes, yes," he muttered, "it will be difficult, I fear, difficult to raise... happens to everybody! Yes, who has not done it?"
And with a furtive glance at his son's face, the count went out of the room.... Nicholas had been prepared for resistance, but had not at all expected this.
"Papa! Pa-pa!" he called after him, sobbing, "forgive me!" And seizing his father's hand, he pressed it to his lips and burst into tears.
While father and son were having their explanation, the mother and daughter were having one not less important. Natasha came running to her mother, quite excited.
"Mamma!... Mamma!... He has made me..."
"Made, made me an offer, Mamma! Mamma!" she exclaimed.
The countess did not believe her ears. Denisov had proposed. To whom? To this chit of a girl, Natasha, who not so long ago was playing with dolls and who was still having lessons.
"Don't, Natasha! What nonsense!" she said, hoping it was a joke.
"Nonsense, indeed! I am telling you the fact," said Natasha indignantly. "I come to ask you what to do, and you call it 'nonsense!'"
The countess shrugged her shoulders.
"If it is true that Monsieur Denisov has made you a proposal, tell him he is a fool, that's all!"
"No, he's not a fool!" replied Natasha indignantly and seriously.
"Well then, what do you want? You're all in love nowadays. Well, if you are in love, marry him!" said the countess, with a laugh of annoyance. "Good luck to you!"
"No, Mamma, I'm not in love with him, I suppose I'm not in love with him."
"Well then, tell him so."
"Mamma, are you cross? Don't be cross, dear! Is it my fault?"
"No, but what is it, my dear? Do you want me to go and tell him?" said the countess smiling.
"No, I will do it myself, only tell me what to say. It's all very well for you," said Natasha, with a responsive smile. "You should have seen how he said it! I know he did not mean to say it, but it came out accidently."
"Well, all the same, you must refuse him."
"No, I mustn't. I am so sorry for him! He's so nice."
"Well then, accept his offer. It's high time for you to be married," answered the countess sharply and sarcastically.
"No, Mamma, but I'm so sorry for him. I don't know how I'm to say it."
"And there's nothing for you to say. I shall speak to him myself," said the countess, indignant that they should have dared to treat this little Natasha as grown up.
"No, not on any account! I will tell him myself, and you'll listen at the door," and Natasha ran across the drawing room to the dancing hall, where Denisov was sitting on the same chair by the clavichord with his face in his hands.
He jumped up at the sound of her light step.
"Nataly," he said, moving with rapid steps toward her, "decide my fate. It is in your hands."
"Vasili Dmitrich, I'm so sorry for you!... No, but you are so nice... but it won't do...not that... but as a friend, I shall always love you."
Denisov bent over her hand and she heard strange sounds she did not understand. She kissed his rough curly black head. At this instant, they heard the quick rustle of the countess' dress. She came up to them.
"Vasili Dmitrich, I thank you for the honor," she said, with an embarrassed voice, though it sounded severe to Denisov—"but my daughter is so young, and I thought that, as my son's friend, you would have addressed yourself first to me. In that case you would not have obliged me to give this refusal."
"Countess..." said Denisov, with downcast eyes and a guilty face. He tried to say more, but faltered.
Natasha could not remain calm, seeing him in such a plight. She began to sob aloud.
"Countess, I have done w'ong," Denisov went on in an unsteady voice, "but believe me, I so adore your daughter and all your family that I would give my life twice over..." He looked at the countess, and seeing her severe face said: "Well, good-by, Countess," and kissing her hand, he left the room with quick resolute strides, without looking at Natasha.
Next day Rostov saw Denisov off. He did not wish to stay another day in Moscow. All Denisov's Moscow friends gave him a farewell entertainment at the gypsies', with the result that he had no recollection of how he was put in the sleigh or of the first three stages of his journey.
After Denisov's departure, Rostov spent another fortnight in Moscow, without going out of the house, waiting for the money his father could not at once raise, and he spent most of his time in the girls' room.
Sonya was more tender and devoted to him than ever. It was as if she wanted to show him that his losses were an achievement that made her love him all the more, but Nicholas now considered himself unworthy of her.
He filled the girls' albums with verses and music, and having at last sent Dolokhov the whole forty-three thousand rubles and received his receipt, he left at the end of November, without taking leave of any of his acquaintances, to overtake his regiment which was already in Poland.
BOOK FIVE: 1806 - 07
After his interview with his wife Pierre left for Petersburg. At the Torzhok post station, either there were no horses or the postmaster would not supply them. Pierre was obliged to wait. Without undressing, he lay down on the leather sofa in front of a round table, put his big feet in their overboots on the table, and began to reflect.
"Will you have the portmanteaus brought in? And a bed got ready, and tea?" asked his valet.
Pierre gave no answer, for he neither heard nor saw anything. He had begun to think of the last station and was still pondering on the same question—one so important that he took no notice of what went on around him. Not only was he indifferent as to whether he got to Petersburg earlier or later, or whether he secured accommodation at this station, but compared to the thoughts that now occupied him it was a matter of indifference whether he remained there for a few hours or for the rest of his life.
The postmaster, his wife, the valet, and a peasant woman selling Torzhok embroidery came into the room offering their services. Without changing his careless attitude, Pierre looked at them over his spectacles unable to understand what they wanted or how they could go on living without having solved the problems that so absorbed him. He had been engrossed by the same thoughts ever since the day he returned from Sokolniki after the duel and had spent that first agonizing, sleepless night. But now, in the solitude of the journey, they seized him with special force. No matter what he thought about, he always returned to these same questions which he could not solve and yet could not cease to ask himself. It was as if the thread of the chief screw which held his life together were stripped, so that the screw could not get in or out, but went on turning uselessly in the same place.
The postmaster came in and began obsequiously to beg his excellency to wait only two hours, when, come what might, he would let his excellency have the courier horses. It was plain that he was lying and only wanted to get more money from the traveler.
"Is this good or bad?" Pierre asked himself. "It is good for me, bad for another traveler, and for himself it's unavoidable, because he needs money for food; the man said an officer had once given him a thrashing for letting a private traveler have the courier horses. But the officer thrashed him because he had to get on as quickly as possible. And I," continued Pierre, "shot Dolokhov because I considered myself injured, and Louis XVI was executed because they considered him a criminal, and a year later they executed those who executed him—also for some reason. What is bad? What is good? What should one love and what hate? What does one live for? And what am I? What is life, and what is death? What power governs all?"
There was no answer to any of these questions, except one, and that not a logical answer and not at all a reply to them. The answer was: "You'll die and all will end. You'll die and know all, or cease asking." But dying was also dreadful.
The Torzhok peddler woman, in a whining voice, went on offering her wares, especially a pair of goatskin slippers. "I have hundreds of rubles I don't know what to do with, and she stands in her tattered cloak looking timidly at me," he thought. "And what does she want the money for? As if that money could add a hair's breadth to happiness or peace of mind. Can anything in the world make her or me less a prey to evil and death?—death which ends all and must come today or tomorrow—at any rate, in an instant as compared with eternity." And again he twisted the screw with the stripped thread, and again it turned uselessly in the same place.
His servant handed him a half-cut novel, in the form of letters, by Madame de Souza. He began reading about the sufferings and virtuous struggles of a certain Emilie de Mansfeld. "And why did she resist her seducer when she loved him?" he thought. "God could not have put into her heart an impulse that was against His will. My wife—as she once was—did not struggle, and perhaps she was right. Nothing has been found out, nothing discovered," Pierre again said to himself. "All we can know is that we know nothing. And that's the height of human wisdom."
Everything within and around him seemed confused, senseless, and repellent. Yet in this very repugnance to all his circumstances Pierre found a kind of tantalizing satisfaction.
"I make bold to ask your excellency to move a little for this gentleman," said the postmaster, entering the room followed by another traveler, also detained for lack of horses.
The newcomer was a short, large-boned, yellow-faced, wrinkled old man, with gray bushy eyebrows overhanging bright eyes of an indefinite grayish color.
Pierre took his feet off the table, stood up, and lay down on a bed that had been got ready for him, glancing now and then at the newcomer, who, with a gloomy and tired face, was wearily taking off his wraps with the aid of his servant, and not looking at Pierre. With a pair of felt boots on his thin bony legs, and keeping on a worn, nankeen-covered, sheepskin coat, the traveler sat down on the sofa, leaned back his big head with its broad temples and close-cropped hair, and looked at Bezukhov. The stern, shrewd, and penetrating expression of that look struck Pierre. He felt a wish to speak to the stranger, but by the time he had made up his mind to ask him a question about the roads, the traveler had closed his eyes. His shriveled old hands were folded and on the finger of one of them Pierre noticed a large cast iron ring with a seal representing a death's head. The stranger sat without stirring, either resting or, as it seemed to Pierre, sunk in profound and calm meditation. His servant was also a yellow, wrinkled old man, without beard or mustache, evidently not because he was shaven but because they had never grown. This active old servant was unpacking the traveler's canteen and preparing tea. He brought in a boiling samovar. When everything was ready, the stranger opened his eyes, moved to the table, filled a tumbler with tea for himself and one for the beardless old man to whom he passed it. Pierre began to feel a sense of uneasiness, and the need, even the inevitability, of entering into conversation with this stranger.
The servant brought back his tumbler turned upside down, * with an unfinished bit of nibbled sugar, and asked if anything more would be wanted.
* To indicate he did not want more tea.
"No. Give me the book," said the stranger.
The servant handed him a book which Pierre took to be a devotional work, and the traveler became absorbed in it. Pierre looked at him. All at once the stranger closed the book, putting in a marker, and again, leaning with his arms on the back of the sofa, sat in his former position with his eyes shut. Pierre looked at him and had not time to turn away when the old man, opening his eyes, fixed his steady and severe gaze straight on Pierre's face.
Pierre felt confused and wished to avoid that look, but the bright old eyes attracted him irresistibly.
"I have the pleasure of addressing Count Bezukhov, if I am not mistaken," said the stranger in a deliberate and loud voice.
Pierre looked silently and inquiringly at him over his spectacles.
"I have heard of you, my dear sir," continued the stranger, "and of your misfortune." He seemed to emphasize the last word, as if to say—"Yes, misfortune! Call it what you please, I know that what happened to you in Moscow was a misfortune."—"I regret it very much, my dear sir."
Pierre flushed and, hurriedly putting his legs down from the bed, bent forward toward the old man with a forced and timid smile.
"I have not referred to this out of curiosity, my dear sir, but for greater reasons."
He paused, his gaze still on Pierre, and moved aside on the sofa by way of inviting the other to take a seat beside him. Pierre felt reluctant to enter into conversation with this old man, but, submitting to him involuntarily, came up and sat down beside him.
"You are unhappy, my dear sir," the stranger continued. "You are young and I am old. I should like to help you as far as lies in my power."
"Oh, yes!" said Pierre, with a forced smile. "I am very grateful to you. Where are you traveling from?"
The stranger's face was not genial, it was even cold and severe, but in spite of this, both the face and words of his new acquaintance were irresistibly attractive to Pierre.
"But if for reason you don't feel inclined to talk to me," said the old man, "say so, my dear sir." And he suddenly smiled, in an unexpected and tenderly paternal way.
"Oh no, not at all! On the contrary, I am very glad to make your acquaintance," said Pierre. And again, glancing at the stranger's hands, he looked more closely at the ring, with its skull—a Masonic sign.
"Allow me to ask," he said, "are you a Mason?"
"Yes, I belong to the Brotherhood of the Freemasons," said the stranger, looking deeper and deeper into Pierre's eyes. "And in their name and my own I hold out a brotherly hand to you."
"I am afraid," said Pierre, smiling, and wavering between the confidence the personality of the Freemason inspired in him and his own habit of ridiculing the Masonic beliefs—"I am afraid I am very far from understanding—how am I to put it?—I am afraid my way of looking at the world is so opposed to yours that we shall not understand one another."
"I know your outlook," said the Mason, "and the view of life you mention, and which you think is the result of your own mental efforts, is the one held by the majority of people, and is the invariable fruit of pride, indolence, and ignorance. Forgive me, my dear sir, but if I had not known it I should not have addressed you. Your view of life is a regrettable delusion."
"Just as I may suppose you to be deluded," said Pierre, with a faint smile.
"I should never dare to say that I know the truth," said the Mason, whose words struck Pierre more and more by their precision and firmness. "No one can attain to truth by himself. Only by laying stone on stone with the cooperation of all, by the millions of generations from our forefather Adam to our own times, is that temple reared which is to be a worthy dwelling place of the Great God," he added, and closed his eyes.
"I ought to tell you that I do not believe... do not believe in God," said Pierre, regretfully and with an effort, feeling it essential to speak the whole truth.
The Mason looked intently at Pierre and smiled as a rich man with millions in hand might smile at a poor fellow who told him that he, poor man, had not the five rubles that would make him happy.
"Yes, you do not know Him, my dear sir," said the Mason. "You cannot know Him. You do not know Him and that is why you are unhappy."
"Yes, yes, I am unhappy," assented Pierre. "But what am I to do?"
"You know Him not, my dear sir, and so you are very unhappy. You do not know Him, but He is here, He is in me, He is in my words, He is in thee, and even in those blasphemous words thou hast just uttered!" pronounced the Mason in a stern and tremulous voice.
He paused and sighed, evidently trying to calm himself.
"If He were not," he said quietly, "you and I would not be speaking of Him, my dear sir. Of what, of whom, are we speaking? Whom hast thou denied?" he suddenly asked with exulting austerity and authority in his voice. "Who invented Him, if He did not exist? Whence came thy conception of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being? didst thou, and why did the whole world, conceive the idea of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being, a Being all-powerful, eternal, and infinite in all His attributes?..."
He stopped and remained silent for a long time.
Pierre could not and did not wish to break this silence.
"He exists, but to understand Him is hard," the Mason began again, looking not at Pierre but straight before him, and turning the leaves of his book with his old hands which from excitement he could not keep still. "If it were a man whose existence thou didst doubt I could bring him to thee, could take him by the hand and show him to thee. But how can I, an insignificant mortal, show His omnipotence, His infinity, and all His mercy to one who is blind, or who shuts his eyes that he may not see or understand Him and may not see or understand his own vileness and sinfulness?" He paused again. "Who art thou? Thou dreamest that thou art wise because thou couldst utter those blasphemous words," he went on, with a somber and scornful smile. "And thou art more foolish and unreasonable than a little child, who, playing with the parts of a skillfully made watch, dares to say that, as he does not understand its use, he does not believe in the master who made it. To know Him is hard.... For ages, from our forefather Adam to our own day, we labor to attain that knowledge and are still infinitely far from our aim; but in our lack of understanding we see only our weakness and His greatness...."
Pierre listened with swelling heart, gazing into the Mason's face with shining eyes, not interrupting or questioning him, but believing with his whole soul what the stranger said. Whether he accepted the wise reasoning contained in the Mason's words, or believed as a child believes, in the speaker's tone of conviction and earnestness, or the tremor of the speaker's voice—which sometimes almost broke—or those brilliant aged eyes grown old in this conviction, or the calm firmness and certainty of his vocation, which radiated from his whole being (and which struck Pierre especially by contrast with his own dejection and hopelessness)—at any rate, Pierre longed with his whole soul to believe and he did believe, and felt a joyful sense of comfort, regeneration, and return to life.
"He is not to be apprehended by reason, but by life," said the Mason.
"I do not understand," said Pierre, feeling with dismay doubts reawakening. He was afraid of any want of clearness, any weakness, in the Mason's arguments; he dreaded not to be able to believe in him. "I don't understand," he said, "how it is that the mind of man cannot attain the knowledge of which you speak."
The Mason smiled with his gentle fatherly smile.
"The highest wisdom and truth are like the purest liquid we may wish to imbibe," he said. "Can I receive that pure liquid into an impure vessel and judge of its purity? Only by the inner purification of myself can I retain in some degree of purity the liquid I receive."
"Yes, yes, that is so," said Pierre joyfully.
"The highest wisdom is not founded on reason alone, not on those worldly sciences of physics, history, chemistry, and the like, into which intellectual knowledge is divided. The highest wisdom is one. The highest wisdom has but one science—the science of the whole—the science explaining the whole creation and man's place in it. To receive that science it is necessary to purify and renew one's inner self, and so before one can know, it is necessary to believe and to perfect one's self. And to attain this end, we have the light called conscience that God has implanted in our souls."
"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.
"Look then at thy inner self with the eyes of the spirit, and ask thyself whether thou art content with thyself. What hast thou attained relying on reason only? What art thou? You are young, you are rich, you are clever, you are well educated. And what have you done with all these good gifts? Are you content with yourself and with your life?"
"No, I hate my life," Pierre muttered, wincing.
"Thou hatest it. Then change it, purify thyself; and as thou art purified, thou wilt gain wisdom. Look at your life, my dear sir. How have you spent it? In riotous orgies and debauchery, receiving everything from society and giving nothing in return. You have become the possessor of wealth. How have you used it? What have you done for your neighbor? Have you ever thought of your tens of thousands of slaves? Have you helped them physically and morally? No! You have profited by their toil to lead a profligate life. That is what you have done. Have you chosen a post in which you might be of service to your neighbor? No! You have spent your life in idleness. Then you married, my dear sir—took on yourself responsibility for the guidance of a young woman; and what have you done? You have not helped her to find the way of truth, my dear sir, but have thrust her into an abyss of deceit and misery. A man offended you and you shot him, and you say you do not know God and hate your life. There is nothing strange in that, my dear sir!"
After these words, the Mason, as if tired by his long discourse, again leaned his arms on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. Pierre looked at that aged, stern, motionless, almost lifeless face and moved his lips without uttering a sound. He wished to say, "Yes, a vile, idle, vicious life!" but dared not break the silence.
The Mason cleared his throat huskily, as old men do, and called his servant.
"How about the horses?" he asked, without looking at Pierre.
"The exchange horses have just come," answered the servant. "Will you not rest here?"
"No, tell them to harness."
"Can he really be going away leaving me alone without having told me all, and without promising to help me?" thought Pierre, rising with downcast head; and he began to pace the room, glancing occasionally at the Mason. "Yes, I never thought of it, but I have led a contemptible and profligate life, though I did not like it and did not want to," thought Pierre. "But this man knows the truth and, if he wished to, could disclose it to me."
Pierre wished to say this to the Mason, but did not dare to. The traveler, having packed his things with his practiced hands, began fastening his coat. When he had finished, he turned to Bezukhov, and said in a tone of indifferent politeness:
"Where are you going to now, my dear sir?"
"I?... I'm going to Petersburg," answered Pierre, in a childlike, hesitating voice. "I thank you. I agree with all you have said. But do not suppose me to be so bad. With my whole soul I wish to be what you would have me be, but I have never had help from anyone.... But it is I, above all, who am to blame for everything. Help me, teach me, and perhaps I may..."
Pierre could not go on. He gulped and turned away.
The Mason remained silent for a long time, evidently considering.
"Help comes from God alone," he said, "but such measure of help as our Order can bestow it will render you, my dear sir. You are going to Petersburg. Hand this to Count Willarski" (he took out his notebook and wrote a few words on a large sheet of paper folded in four). "Allow me to give you a piece of advice. When you reach the capital, first of all devote some time to solitude and self-examination and do not resume your former way of life. And now I wish you a good journey, my dear sir," he added, seeing that his servant had entered... "and success."
The traveler was Joseph Alexeevich Bazdeev, as Pierre saw from the postmaster's book. Bazdeev had been one of the best-known Freemasons and Martinists, even in Novikov's time. For a long while after he had gone, Pierre did not go to bed or order horses but paced up and down the room, pondering over his vicious past, and with a rapturous sense of beginning anew pictured to himself the blissful, irreproachable, virtuous future that seemed to him so easy. It seemed to him that he had been vicious only because he had somehow forgotten how good it is to be virtuous. Not a trace of his former doubts remained in his soul. He firmly believed in the possibility of the brotherhood of men united in the aim of supporting one another in the path of virtue, and that is how Freemasonry presented itself to him.
On reaching Petersburg Pierre did not let anyone know of his arrival, he went nowhere and spent whole days in reading Thomas a Kempis, whose book had been sent him by someone unknown. One thing he continually realized as he read that book: the joy, hitherto unknown to him, of believing in the possibility of attaining perfection, and in the possibility of active brotherly love among men, which Joseph Alexeevich had revealed to him. A week after his arrival, the young Polish count, Willarski, whom Pierre had known slightly in Petersburg society, came into his room one evening in the official and ceremonious manner in which Dolokhov's second had called on him, and, having closed the door behind him and satisfied himself that there was nobody else in the room, addressed Pierre.
"I have come to you with a message and an offer, Count," he said without sitting down. "A person of very high standing in our Brotherhood has made application for you to be received into our Order before the usual term and has proposed to me to be your sponsor. I consider it a sacred duty to fulfill that person's wishes. Do you wish to enter the Brotherhood of Freemasons under my sponsorship?"
The cold, austere tone of this man, whom he had almost always before met at balls, amiably smiling in the society of the most brilliant women, surprised Pierre.
"Yes, I do wish it," said he.
Willarski bowed his head.
"One more question, Count," he said, "which I beg you to answer in all sincerity—not as a future Mason but as an honest man: have you renounced your former convictions—do you believe in God?"
"Yes... yes, I believe in God," he said.
"In that case..." began Willarski, but Pierre interrupted him.
"Yes, I do believe in God," he repeated.
"In that case we can go," said Willarski. "My carriage is at your service."
Willarski was silent throughout the drive. To Pierre's inquiries as to what he must do and how he should answer, Willarski only replied that brothers more worthy than he would test him and that Pierre had only to tell the truth.
Having entered the courtyard of a large house where the Lodge had its headquarters, and having ascended a dark staircase, they entered a small well-lit anteroom where they took off their cloaks without the aid of a servant. From there they passed into another room. A man in strange attire appeared at the door. Willarski, stepping toward him, said something to him in French in an undertone and then went up to a small wardrobe in which Pierre noticed garments such as he had never seen before. Having taken a kerchief from the cupboard, Willarski bound Pierre's eyes with it and tied it in a knot behind, catching some hairs painfully in the knot. Then he drew his face down, kissed him, and taking him by the hand led him forward. The hairs tied in the knot hurt Pierre and there were lines of pain on his face and a shamefaced smile. His huge figure, with arms hanging down and with a puckered, though smiling face, moved after Willarski with uncertain, timid steps.
Having led him about ten paces, Willarski stopped.
"Whatever happens to you," he said, "you must bear it all manfully if you have firmly resolved to join our Brotherhood." (Pierre nodded affirmatively.) "When you hear a knock at the door, you will uncover your eyes," added Willarski. "I wish you courage and success," and, pressing Pierre's hand, he went out.
Left alone, Pierre went on smiling in the same way. Once or twice he shrugged his and raised his hand to the kerchief, as if wishing to take it off, but let it drop again. The five minutes spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him an hour. His arms felt numb, his legs almost gave way, it seemed to him that he was tired out. He experienced a variety of most complex sensations. He felt afraid of what would happen to him and still more afraid of showing his fear. He felt curious to know what was going to happen and what would be revealed to him; but most of all, he felt joyful that the moment had come when he would at last start on that path of regeneration and on the actively virtuous life of which he had been dreaming since he met Joseph Alexeevich. Loud knocks were heard at the door. Pierre took the bandage off his eyes and glanced around him. The room was in black darkness, only a small lamp was burning inside something white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the lamp stood on a black table on which lay an open book. The book was the Gospel, and the white thing with the lamp inside was a human skull with its cavities and teeth. After reading the first words of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God," Pierre went round the table and saw a large open box filled with something. It was a coffin with bones inside. He was not at all surprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter on an entirely new life quite unlike the old one, he expected everything to be unusual, even more unusual than what he was seeing. A skull, a coffin, the Gospel—it seemed to him that he had expected all this and even more. Trying to stimulate his emotions he looked around. "God, death, love, the brotherhood of man," he kept saying to himself, associating these words with vague yet joyful ideas. The door opened and someone came in.
By the dim light, to which Pierre had already become accustomed, he saw rather short man. Having evidently come from the light into the darkness, the man paused, then moved with cautious steps toward the table and placed on it his small leather-gloved hands.
This short man had on a white leather apron which covered his chest and part of his legs; he had on a kind of necklace above which rose a high white ruffle, outlining his rather long face which was lit up from below.
"For what have you come hither?" asked the newcomer, turning in Pierre's direction at a slight rustle made by the latter. "Why have you, who do not believe in the truth of the light and who have not seen the light, come here? What do you seek from us? Wisdom, virtue, enlightenment?"
At the moment the door opened and the stranger came in, Pierre felt a sense of awe and veneration such as he had experienced in his boyhood at confession; he felt himself in the presence of one socially a complete stranger, yet nearer to him through the brotherhood of man. With bated breath and beating heart he moved toward the Rhetor (by which name the brother who prepared a seeker for entrance into the Brotherhood was known). Drawing nearer, he recognized in the Rhetor a man he knew, Smolyaninov, and it mortified him to think that the newcomer was an acquaintance—he wished him simply a brother and a virtuous instructor. For a long time he could not utter a word, so that the Rhetor had to repeat his question.
"Yes... I... I... desire regeneration," Pierre uttered with difficulty.
"Very well," said Smolyaninov, and went on at once: "Have you any idea of the means by which our holy Order will help you to reach your aim?" said he quietly and quickly.
"I... hope... for guidance... help... in regeneration," said Pierre, with a trembling voice and some difficulty in utterance due to his excitement and to being unaccustomed to speak of abstract matters in Russian.
"What is your conception of Freemasonry?"
"I imagine that Freemasonry is the fraternity and equality of men who have virtuous aims," said Pierre, feeling ashamed of the inadequacy of his words for the solemnity of the moment, as he spoke. "I imagine..."
"Good!" said the Rhetor quickly, apparently satisfied with this answer. "Have you sought for means of attaining your aim in religion?"
"No, I considered it erroneous and did not follow it," said Pierre, so softly that the Rhetor did not hear him and asked him what he was saying. "I have been an atheist," answered Pierre.
"You are seeking for truth in order to follow its laws in your life, therefore you seek wisdom and virtue. Is that not so?" said the Rhetor, after a moment's pause.
"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.
The Rhetor cleared his throat, crossed his gloved hands on his breast, and began to speak.
"Now I must disclose to you the chief aim of our Order," he said, "and if this aim coincides with yours, you may enter our Brotherhood with profit. The first and chief object of our Order, the foundation on which it rests and which no human power can destroy, is the preservation and handing on to posterity of a certain important mystery... which has come down to us from the remotest ages, even from the first man—a mystery on which perhaps the fate of mankind depends. But since this mystery is of such a nature that nobody can know or use it unless he be prepared by long and diligent self-purification, not everyone can hope to attain it quickly. Hence we have a secondary aim, that of preparing our members as much as possible to reform their hearts, to purify and enlighten their minds, by means handed on to us by tradition from those who have striven to attain this mystery, and thereby to render them capable of receiving it.
"By purifying and regenerating our members we try, thirdly, to improve the whole human race, offering it in our members an example of piety and virtue, and thereby try with all our might to combat the evil which sways the world. Think this over and I will come to you again."
"To combat the evil which sways the world..." Pierre repeated, and a mental image of his future activity in this direction rose in his mind. He imagined men such as he had himself been a fortnight ago, and he addressed an edifying exhortation to them. He imagined to himself vicious and unfortunate people whom he would assist by word and deed, imagined oppressors whose victims he would rescue. Of the three objects mentioned by the Rhetor, this last, that of improving mankind, especially appealed to Pierre. The important mystery mentioned by the Rhetor, though it aroused his curiosity, did not seem to him essential, and the second aim, that of purifying and regenerating himself, did not much interest him because at that moment he felt with delight that he was already perfectly cured of his former faults and was ready for all that was good.
Half an hour later, the Rhetor returned to inform the seeker of the seven virtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon's temple, which every Freemason should cultivate in himself. These virtues were: 1. Discretion, the keeping of the secrets of the Order. 2. Obedience to those of higher ranks in the Order. 3. Morality. 4. Love of mankind. 5. Courage. 6. Generosity. 7. The love of death.