"I know myself that one cannot help one's sympathies and antipathies," thought Prince Andrew, "so it will not do to present my proposal for the reform of the army regulations to the Emperor personally, but the project will speak for itself."
He mentioned what he had written to an old field marshal, a friend of his father's. The field marshal made an appointment to see him, received him graciously, and promised to inform the Emperor. A few days later Prince Andrew received notice that he was to go to see the Minister of War, Count Arakcheev.
On the appointed day Prince Andrew entered Count Arakcheev's waiting room at nine in the morning.
He did not know Arakcheev personally, had never seen him, and all he had heard of him inspired him with but little respect for the man.
"He is Minister of War, a man trusted by the Emperor, and I need not concern myself about his personal qualities: he has been commissioned to consider my project, so he alone can get it adopted," thought Prince Andrew as he waited among a number of important and unimportant people in Count Arakcheev's waiting room.
During his service, chiefly as an adjutant, Prince Andrew had seen the anterooms of many important men, and the different types of such rooms were well known to him. Count Arakcheev's anteroom had quite a special character. The faces of the unimportant people awaiting their turn for an audience showed embarrassment and servility; the faces of those of higher rank expressed a common feeling of awkwardness, covered by a mask of unconcern and ridicule of themselves, their situation, and the person for whom they were waiting. Some walked thoughtfully up and down, others whispered and laughed. Prince Andrew heard the nickname "Sila Andreevich" and the words, "Uncle will give it to us hot," in reference to Count Arakcheev. One general (an important personage), evidently feeling offended at having to wait so long, sat crossing and uncrossing his legs and smiling contemptuously to himself.
But the moment the door opened one feeling alone appeared on all faces—that of fear. Prince Andrew for the second time asked the adjutant on duty to take in his name, but received an ironical look and was told that his turn would come in due course. After some others had been shown in and out of the minister's room by the adjutant on duty, an officer who struck Prince Andrew by his humiliated and frightened air was admitted at that terrible door. This officer's audience lasted a long time. Then suddenly the grating sound of a harsh voice was heard from the other side of the door, and the officer—with pale face and trembling lips—came out and passed through the waiting room, clutching his head.
After this Prince Andrew was conducted to the door and the officer on duty said in a whisper, "To the right, at the window."
Prince Andrew entered a plain tidy room and saw at the table a man of forty with a long waist, a long closely cropped head, deep wrinkles, scowling brows above dull greenish-hazel eyes and an overhanging red nose. Arakcheev turned his head toward him without looking at him.
"What is your petition?" asked Arakcheev.
"I am not petitioning, your excellency," returned Prince Andrew quietly.
Arakcheev's eyes turned toward him.
"Sit down," said he. "Prince Bolkonski?"
"I am not petitioning about anything. His Majesty the Emperor has deigned to send your excellency a project submitted by me..."
"You see, my dear sir, I have read your project," interrupted Arakcheev, uttering only the first words amiably and then—again without looking at Prince Andrew—relapsing gradually into a tone of grumbling contempt. "You are proposing new military laws? There are many laws but no one to carry out the old ones. Nowadays everybody designs laws, it is easier writing than doing."
"I came at His Majesty the Emperor's wish to learn from your excellency how you propose to deal with the memorandum I have presented," said Prince Andrew politely.
"I have endorsed a resolution on your memorandum and sent it to the committee. I do not approve of it," said Arakcheev, rising and taking a paper from his writing table. "Here!" and he handed it to Prince Andrew.
Across the paper was scrawled in pencil, without capital letters, misspelled, and without punctuation: "Unsoundly constructed because resembles an imitation of the French military code and from the Articles of War needlessly deviating."
"To what committee has the memorandum been referred?" inquired Prince Andrew.
"To the Committee on Army Regulations, and I have recommended that your honor should be appointed a member, but without a salary."
Prince Andrew smiled.
"I don't want one."
"A member without salary," repeated Arakcheev. "I have the honor... Eh! Call the next one! Who else is there?" he shouted, bowing to Prince Andrew.
While waiting for the announcement of his appointment to the committee Prince Andrew looked up his former acquaintances, particularly those he knew to be in power and whose aid he might need. In Petersburg he now experienced the same feeling he had had on the eve of a battle, when troubled by anxious curiosity and irresistibly attracted to the ruling circles where the future, on which the fate of millions depended, was being shaped. From the irritation of the older men, the curiosity of the uninitiated, the reserve of the initiated, the hurry and preoccupation of everyone, and the innumerable committees and commissions of whose existence he learned every day, he felt that now, in 1809, here in Petersburg a vast civil conflict was in preparation, the commander in chief of which was a mysterious person he did not know, but who was supposed to be a man of genius—Speranski. And this movement of reconstruction of which Prince Andrew had a vague idea, and Speranski its chief promoter, began to interest him so keenly that the question of the army regulations quickly receded to a secondary place in his consciousness.
Prince Andrew was most favorably placed to secure good reception in the highest and most diverse Petersburg circles of the day. The reforming party cordially welcomed and courted him, in the first place because he was reputed to be clever and very well read, and secondly because by liberating his serfs he had obtained the reputation of being a liberal. The party of the old and dissatisfied, who censured the innovations, turned to him expecting his sympathy in their disapproval of the reforms, simply because he was the son of his father. The feminine society world welcomed him gladly, because he was rich, distinguished, a good match, and almost a newcomer, with a halo of romance on account of his supposed death and the tragic loss of his wife. Besides this the general opinion of all who had known him previously was that he had greatly improved during these last five years, having softened and grown more manly, lost his former affectation, pride, and contemptuous irony, and acquired the serenity that comes with years. People talked about him, were interested in him, and wanted to meet him.
The day after his interview with Count Arakcheev, Prince Andrew spent the evening at Count Kochubey's. He told the count of his interview with Sila Andreevich (Kochubey spoke of Arakcheev by that nickname with the same vague irony Prince Andrew had noticed in the Minister of War's anteroom).
"Mon cher, even in this case you can't do without Michael Mikhaylovich Speranski. He manages everything. I'll speak to him. He has promised to come this evening."
"What has Speranski to do with the army regulations?" asked Prince Andrew.
Kochubey shook his head smilingly, as if surprised at Bolkonski's simplicity.
"We were talking to him about you a few days ago," Kochubey continued, "and about your freed plowmen."
"Oh, is it you, Prince, who have freed your serfs?" said an old man of Catherine's day, turning contemptuously toward Bolkonski.
"It was a small estate that brought in no profit," replied Prince Andrew, trying to extenuate his action so as not to irritate the old man uselessly.
"Afraid of being late..." said the old man, looking at Kochubey.
"There's one thing I don't understand," he continued. "Who will plow the land if they are set free? It is easy to write laws, but difficult to rule.... Just the same as now—I ask you, Count—who will be heads of the departments when everybody has to pass examinations?"
"Those who pass the examinations, I suppose," replied Kochubey, crossing his legs and glancing round.
"Well, I have Pryanichnikov serving under me, a splendid man, a priceless man, but he's sixty. Is he to go up for examination?"
"Yes, that's a difficulty, as education is not at all general, but..."
Count Kochubey did not finish. He rose, took Prince Andrew by the arm, and went to meet a tall, bald, fair man of about forty with a large open forehead and a long face of unusual and peculiar whiteness, who was just entering. The newcomer wore a blue swallow-tail coat with a cross suspended from his neck and a star on his left breast. It was Speranski. Prince Andrew recognized him at once, and felt a throb within him, as happens at critical moments of life. Whether it was from respect, envy, or anticipation, he did not know. Speranski's whole figure was of a peculiar type that made him easily recognizable. In the society in which Prince Andrew lived he had never seen anyone who together with awkward and clumsy gestures possessed such calmness and self-assurance; he had never seen so resolute yet gentle an expression as that in those half-closed, rather humid eyes, or so firm a smile that expressed nothing; nor had he heard such a refined, smooth, soft voice; above all he had never seen such delicate whiteness of face or hands—hands which were broad, but very plump, soft, and white. Such whiteness and softness Prince Andrew had only seen on the faces of soldiers who had been long in hospital. This was Speranski, Secretary of State, reporter to the Emperor and his companion at Erfurt, where he had more than once met and talked with Napoleon.
Speranski did not shift his eyes from one face to another as people involuntarily do on entering a large company and was in no hurry to speak. He spoke slowly, with assurance that he would be listened to, and he looked only at the person with whom he was conversing.
Prince Andrew followed Speranski's every word and movement with particular attention. As happens to some people, especially to men who judge those near to them severely, he always on meeting anyone new—especially anyone whom, like Speranski, he knew by reputation—expected to discover in him the perfection of human qualities.
Speranski told Kochubey he was sorry he had been unable to come sooner as he had been detained at the palace. He did not say that the Emperor had kept him, and Prince Andrew noticed this affectation of modesty. When Kochubey introduced Prince Andrew, Speranski slowly turned his eyes to Bolkonski with his customary smile and looked at him in silence.
"I am very glad to make your acquaintance. I had heard of you, as everyone has," he said after a pause.
Kochubey said a few words about the reception Arakcheev had given Bolkonski. Speranski smiled more markedly.
"The chairman of the Committee on Army Regulations is my good friend Monsieur Magnitski," he said, fully articulating every word and syllable, "and if you like I can put you in touch with him." He paused at the full stop. "I hope you will find him sympathetic and ready to co-operate in promoting all that is reasonable."
A circle soon formed round Speranski, and the old man who had talked about his subordinate Pryanichnikov addressed a question to him.
Prince Andrew without joining in the conversation watched every movement of Speranski's: this man, not long since an insignificant divinity student, who now, Bolkonski thought, held in his hands—those plump white hands—the fate of Russia. Prince Andrew was struck by the extraordinarily disdainful composure with which Speranski answered the old man. He appeared to address condescending words to him from an immeasurable height. When the old man began to speak too loud, Speranski smiled and said he could not judge of the advantage or disadvantage of what pleased the sovereign.
Having talked for a little while in the general circle, Speranski rose and coming up to Prince Andrew took him along to the other end of the room. It was clear that he thought it necessary to interest himself in Bolkonski.
"I had no chance to talk with you, Prince, during the animated conversation in which that venerable gentleman involved me," he said with a mildly contemptuous smile, as if intimating by that smile that he and Prince Andrew understood the insignificance of the people with whom he had just been talking. This flattered Prince Andrew. "I have known of you for a long time: first from your action with regard to your serfs, a first example, of which it is very desirable that there should be more imitators; and secondly because you are one of those gentlemen of the chamber who have not considered themselves offended by the new decree concerning the ranks allotted to courtiers, which is causing so much gossip and tittle-tattle."
"No," said Prince Andrew, "my father did not wish me to take advantage of the privilege. I began the service from the lower grade."
"Your father, a man of the last century, evidently stands above our contemporaries who so condemn this measure which merely reestablishes natural justice."
"I think, however, that these condemnations have some ground," returned Prince Andrew, trying to resist Speranski's influence, of which he began to be conscious. He did not like to agree with him in everything and felt a wish to contradict. Though he usually spoke easily and well, he felt a difficulty in expressing himself now while talking with Speranski. He was too much absorbed in observing the famous man's personality.
"Grounds of personal ambition maybe," Speranski put in quietly.
"And of state interest to some extent," said Prince Andrew.
"What do you mean?" asked Speranski quietly, lowering his eyes.
"I am an admirer of Montesquieu," replied Prince Andrew, "and his idea that le principe des monarchies est l'honneur me parait incontestable. Certains droits et privileges de la noblesse me paraissent etre des moyens de soutenir ce sentiment." *
* "The principle of monarchies is honor seems to me incontestable. Certain rights and privileges for the aristocracy appear to me a means of maintaining that sentiment."
The smile vanished from Speranski's white face, which was much improved by the change. Probably Prince Andrew's thought interested him.
"Si vous envisagez la question sous ce point de vue," * he began, pronouncing French with evident difficulty, and speaking even slower than in Russian but quite calmly.
* "If you regard the question from that point of view."
Speranski went on to say that honor, l'honeur, cannot be upheld by privileges harmful to the service; that honor, l'honneur, is either a negative concept of not doing what is blameworthy or it is a source of emulation in pursuit of commendation and rewards, which recognize it. His arguments were concise, simple, and clear.
"An institution upholding honor, the source of emulation, is one similar to the Legion d'honneur of the great Emperor Napoleon, not harmful but helpful to the success of the service, but not a class or court privilege."
"I do not dispute that, but it cannot be denied that court privileges have attained the same end," returned Prince Andrew. "Every courtier considers himself bound to maintain his position worthily."
"Yet you do not care to avail yourself of the privilege, Prince," said Speranski, indicating by a smile that he wished to finish amiably an argument which was embarrassing for his companion. "If you will do me the honor of calling on me on Wednesday," he added, "I will, after talking with Magnitski, let you know what may interest you, and shall also have the pleasure of a more detailed chat with you."
Closing his eyes, he bowed a la francaise, without taking leave, and trying to attract as little attention as possible, he left the room.
During the first weeks of his stay in Petersburg Prince Andrew felt the whole trend of thought he had formed during his life of seclusion quite overshadowed by the trifling cares that engrossed him in that city.
On returning home in the evening he would jot down in his notebook four or five necessary calls or appointments for certain hours. The mechanism of life, the arrangement of the day so as to be in time everywhere, absorbed the greater part of his vital energy. He did nothing, did not even think or find time to think, but only talked, and talked successfully, of what he had thought while in the country.
He sometimes noticed with dissatisfaction that he repeated the same remark on the same day in different circles. But he was so busy for whole days together that he had no time to notice that he was thinking of nothing.
As he had done on their first meeting at Kochubey's, Speranski produced a strong impression on Prince Andrew on the Wednesday, when he received him tete-a-tate at his own house and talked to him long and confidentially.
To Bolkonski so many people appeared contemptible and insignificant creatures, and he so longed to find in someone the living ideal of that perfection toward which he strove, that he readily believed that in Speranski he had found this ideal of a perfectly rational and virtuous man. Had Speranski sprung from the same class as himself and possessed the same breeding and traditions, Bolkonski would soon have discovered his weak, human, unheroic sides; but as it was, Speranski's strange and logical turn of mind inspired him with respect all the more because he did not quite understand him. Moreover, Speranski, either because he appreciated the other's capacity or because he considered it necessary to win him to his side, showed off his dispassionate calm reasonableness before Prince Andrew and flattered him with that subtle flattery which goes hand in hand with self-assurance and consists in a tacit assumption that one's companion is the only man besides oneself capable of understanding the folly of the rest of mankind and the reasonableness and profundity of one's own ideas.
During their long conversation on Wednesday evening, Speranski more than once remarked: "We regard everything that is above the common level of rooted custom..." or, with a smile: "But we want the wolves to be fed and the sheep to be safe..." or: "They cannot understand this..." and all in a way that seemed to say: "We, you and I, understand what they are and who we are."
This first long conversation with Speranski only strengthened in Prince Andrew the feeling he had experienced toward him at their first meeting. He saw in him a remarkable, clear-thinking man of vast intellect who by his energy and persistence had attained power, which he was using solely for the welfare of Russia. In Prince Andrew's eyes Speranski was the man he would himself have wished to be—one who explained all the facts of life reasonably, considered important only what was rational, and was capable of applying the standard of reason to everything. Everything seemed so simple and clear in Speranski's exposition that Prince Andrew involuntarily agreed with him about everything. If he replied and argued, it was only because he wished to maintain his independence and not submit to Speranski's opinions entirely. Everything was right and everything was as it should be: only one thing disconcerted Prince Andrew. This was Speranski's cold, mirrorlike look, which did not allow one to penetrate to his soul, and his delicate white hands, which Prince Andrew involuntarily watched as one does watch the hands of those who possess power. This mirrorlike gaze and those delicate hands irritated Prince Andrew, he knew not why. He was unpleasantly struck, too, by the excessive contempt for others that he observed in Speranski, and by the diversity of lines of argument he used to support his opinions. He made use of every kind of mental device, except analogy, and passed too boldly, it seemed to Prince Andrew, from one to another. Now he would take up the position of a practical man and condemn dreamers; now that of a satirist, and laugh ironically at his opponents; now grow severely logical, or suddenly rise to the realm of metaphysics. (This last resource was one he very frequently employed.) He would transfer a question to metaphysical heights, pass on to definitions of space, time, and thought, and, having deduced the refutation he needed, would again descend to the level of the original discussion.
In general the trait of Speranski's mentality which struck Prince Andrew most was his absolute and unshakable belief in the power and authority of reason. It was evident that the thought could never occur to him which to Prince Andrew seemed so natural, namely, that it is after all impossible to express all one thinks; and that he had never felt the doubt, "Is not all I think and believe nonsense?" And it was just this peculiarity of Speranski's mind that particularly attracted Prince Andrew.
During the first period of their acquaintance Bolkonski felt a passionate admiration for him similar to that which he had once felt for Bonaparte. The fact that Speranski was the son of a village priest, and that stupid people might meanly despise him on account of his humble origin (as in fact many did), caused Prince Andrew to cherish his sentiment for him the more, and unconsciously to strengthen it.
On that first evening Bolkonski spent with him, having mentioned the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Laws, Speranski told him sarcastically that the Commission had existed for a hundred and fifty years, had cost millions, and had done nothing except that Rosenkampf had stuck labels on the corresponding paragraphs of the different codes.
"And that is all the state has for the millions it has spent," said he. "We want to give the Senate new juridical powers, but we have no laws. That is why it is a sin for men like you, Prince, not to serve in these times!"
Prince Andrew said that for that work an education in jurisprudence was needed which he did not possess.
"But nobody possesses it, so what would you have? It is a vicious circle from which we must break a way out."
A week later Prince Andrew was a member of the Committee on Army Regulations and—what he had not at all expected—was chairman of a section of the committee for the revision of the laws. At Speranski's request he took the first part of the Civil Code that was being drawn up and, with the aid of the Code Napoleon and the Institutes of Justinian, he worked at formulating the section on Personal Rights.
Nearly two years before this, in 1808, Pierre on returning to Petersburg after visiting his estates had involuntarily found himself in a leading position among the Petersburg Freemasons. He arranged dining and funeral lodge meetings, enrolled new members, and busied himself uniting various lodges and acquiring authentic charters. He gave money for the erection of temples and supplemented as far as he could the collection of alms, in regard to which the majority of members were stingy and irregular. He supported almost singlehanded a poorhouse the order had founded in Petersburg.
His life meanwhile continued as before, with the same infatuations and dissipations. He liked to dine and drink well, and though he considered it immoral and humiliating could not resist the temptations of the bachelor circles in which he moved.
Amid the turmoil of his activities and distractions, however, Pierre at the end of a year began to feel that the more firmly he tried to rest upon it, the more Masonic ground on which he stood gave way under him. At the same time he felt that the deeper the ground sank under him the closer bound he involuntarily became to the order. When he had joined the Freemasons he had experienced the feeling of one who confidently steps onto the smooth surface of a bog. When he put his foot down it sank in. To make quite sure of the firmness of the ground, he put his other foot down and sank deeper still, became stuck in it, and involuntarily waded knee-deep in the bog.
Joseph Alexeevich was not in Petersburg—he had of late stood aside from the affairs of the Petersburg lodges, and lived almost entirely in Moscow. All the members of the lodges were men Pierre knew in ordinary life, and it was difficult for him to regard them merely as Brothers in Freemasonry and not as Prince B. or Ivan Vasilevich D., whom he knew in society mostly as weak and insignificant men. Under the Masonic aprons and insignia he saw the uniforms and decorations at which they aimed in ordinary life. Often after collecting alms, and reckoning up twenty to thirty rubles received for the most part in promises from a dozen members, of whom half were as well able to pay as himself, Pierre remembered the Masonic vow in which each Brother promised to devote all his belongings to his neighbor, and doubts on which he tried not to dwell arose in his soul.
He divided the Brothers he knew into four categories. In the first he put those who did not take an active part in the affairs of the lodges or in human affairs, but were exclusively occupied with the mystical science of the order: with questions of the threefold designation of God, the three primordial elements—sulphur, mercury, and salt—or the meaning of the square and all the various figures of the temple of Solomon. Pierre respected this class of Brothers to which the elder ones chiefly belonged, including, Pierre thought, Joseph Alexeevich himself, but he did not share their interests. His heart was not in the mystical aspect of Freemasonry.
In the second category Pierre reckoned himself and others like him, seeking and vacillating, who had not yet found in Freemasonry a straight and comprehensible path, but hoped to do so.
In the third category he included those Brothers (the majority) who saw nothing in Freemasonry but the external forms and ceremonies, and prized the strict performance of these forms without troubling about their purport or significance. Such were Willarski and even the Grand Master of the principal lodge.
Finally, to the fourth category also a great many Brothers belonged, particularly those who had lately joined. These according to Pierre's observations were men who had no belief in anything, nor desire for anything, but joined the Freemasons merely to associate with the wealthy young Brothers who were influential through their connections or rank, and of whom there were very many in the lodge.
Pierre began to feel dissatisfied with what he was doing. Freemasonry, at any rate as he saw it here, sometimes seemed to him based merely on externals. He did not think of doubting Freemasonry itself, but suspected that Russian Masonry had taken a wrong path and deviated from its original principles. And so toward the end of the year he went abroad to be initiated into the higher secrets of the order.
In the summer of 1809 Pierre returned to Petersburg. Our Freemasons knew from correspondence with those abroad that Bezukhov had obtained the confidence of many highly placed persons, had been initiated into many mysteries, had been raised to a higher grade, and was bringing back with him much that might conduce to the advantage of the Masonic cause in Russia. The Petersburg Freemasons all came to see him, tried to ingratiate themselves with him, and it seemed to them all that he was preparing something for them and concealing it.
A solemn meeting of the lodge of the second degree was convened, at which Pierre promised to communicate to the Petersburg Brothers what he had to deliver to them from the highest leaders of their order. The meeting was a full one. After the usual ceremonies Pierre rose and began his address.
"Dear Brothers," he began, blushing and stammering, with a written speech in his hand, "it is not sufficient to observe our mysteries in the seclusion of our lodge—we must act—act! We are drowsing, but we must act." Pierre raised his notebook and began to read.
"For the dissemination of pure truth and to secure the triumph of virtue," he read, "we must cleanse men from prejudice, diffuse principles in harmony with the spirit of the times, undertake the education of the young, unite ourselves in indissoluble bonds with the wisest men, boldly yet prudently overcome superstitions, infidelity, and folly, and form of those devoted to us a body linked together by unity of purpose and possessed of authority and power.
"To attain this end we must secure a preponderance of virtue over vice and must endeavor to secure that the honest man may, even in this world, receive a lasting reward for his virtue. But in these great endeavors we are gravely hampered by the political institutions of today. What is to be done in these circumstances? To favor revolutions, overthrow everything, repel force by force?... No! We are very far from that. Every violent reform deserves censure, for it quite fails to remedy evil while men remain what they are, and also because wisdom needs no violence.
"The whole plan of our order should be based on the idea of preparing men of firmness and virtue bound together by unity of conviction—aiming at the punishment of vice and folly, and patronizing talent and virtue: raising worthy men from the dust and attaching them to our Brotherhood. Only then will our order have the power unobtrusively to bind the hands of the protectors of disorder and to control them without their being aware of it. In a word, we must found a form of government holding universal sway, which should be diffused over the whole world without destroying the bonds of citizenship, and beside which all other governments can continue in their customary course and do everything except what impedes the great aim of our order, which is to obtain for virtue the victory over vice. This aim was that of Christianity itself. It taught men to be wise and good and for their own benefit to follow the example and instruction of the best and wisest men.
"At that time, when everything was plunged in darkness, preaching alone was of course sufficient. The novelty of Truth endowed her with special strength, but now we need much more powerful methods. It is now necessary that man, governed by his senses, should find in virtue a charm palpable to those senses. It is impossible to eradicate the passions; but we must strive to direct them to a noble aim, and it is therefore necessary that everyone should be able to satisfy his passions within the limits of virtue. Our order should provide means to that end.
"As soon as we have a certain number of worthy men in every state, each of them again training two others and all being closely united, everything will be possible for our order, which has already in secret accomplished much for the welfare of mankind."
This speech not only made a strong impression, but created excitement in the lodge. The majority of the Brothers, seeing in it dangerous designs of Illuminism, * met it with a coldness that surprised Pierre. The Grand Master began answering him, and Pierre began developing his views with more and more warmth. It was long since there had been so stormy a meeting. Parties were formed, some accusing Pierre of Illuminism, others supporting him. At that meeting he was struck for the first time by the endless variety of men's minds, which prevents a truth from ever presenting itself identically to two persons. Even those members who seemed to be on his side understood him in their own way with limitations and alterations he could not agree to, as what he always wanted most was to convey his thought to others just as he himself understood it.
* The Illuminati sought to substitute republican for monarchical institutions.
At the end of the meeting the Grand Master with irony and ill-will reproved Bezukhov for his vehemence and said it was not love of virtue alone, but also a love of strife that had moved him in the dispute. Pierre did not answer him and asked briefly whether his proposal would be accepted. He was told that it would not, and without waiting for the usual formalities he left the lodge and went home.
Again Pierre was overtaken by the depression he so dreaded. For three days after the delivery of his speech at the lodge he lay on a sofa at home receiving no one and going nowhere.
It was just then that he received a letter from his wife, who implored him to see her, telling him how grieved she was about him and how she wished to devote her whole life to him.
At the end of the letter she informed him that in a few days she would return to Petersburg from abroad.
Following this letter one of the Masonic Brothers whom Pierre respected less than the others forced his way in to see him and, turning the conversation upon Pierre's matrimonial affairs, by way of fraternal advice expressed the opinion that his severity to his wife was wrong and that he was neglecting one of the first rules of Freemasonry by not forgiving the penitent.
At the same time his mother-in-law, Prince Vasili's wife, sent to him imploring him to come if only for a few minutes to discuss a most important matter. Pierre saw that there was a conspiracy against him and that they wanted to reunite him with his wife, and in the mood he then was, this was not even unpleasant to him. Nothing mattered to him. Nothing in life seemed to him of much importance, and under the influence of the depression that possessed him he valued neither his liberty nor his resolution to punish his wife.
"No one is right and no one is to blame; so she too is not to blame," he thought.
If he did not at once give his consent to a reunion with his wife, it was only because in his state of depression he did not feel able to take any step. Had his wife come to him, he would not have turned her away. Compared to what preoccupied him, was it not a matter of indifference whether he lived with his wife or not?
Without replying either to his wife or his mother-in-law, Pierre late one night prepared for a journey and started for Moscow to see Joseph Alexeevich. This is what he noted in his diary:
Moscow, 17th November
I have just returned from my benefactor, and hasten to write down what I have experienced. Joseph Alexeevich is living poorly and has for three years been suffering from a painful disease of the bladder. No one has ever heard him utter a groan or a word of complaint. From morning till late at night, except when he eats his very plain food, he is working at science. He received me graciously and made me sit down on the bed on which he lay. I made the sign of the Knights of the East and of Jerusalem, and he responded in the same manner, asking me with a mild smile what I had learned and gained in the Prussian and Scottish lodges. I told him everything as best I could, and told him what I had proposed to our Petersburg lodge, of the bad reception I had encountered, and of my rupture with the Brothers. Joseph Alexeevich, having remained silent and thoughtful for a good while, told me his view of the matter, which at once lit up for me my whole past and the future path I should follow. He surprised me by asking whether I remembered the threefold aim of the order: (1) The preservation and study of the mystery. (2) The purification and reformation of oneself for its reception, and (3) The improvement of the human race by striving for such purification. Which is the principal aim of these three? Certainly self-reformation and self-purification. Only to this aim can we always strive independently of circumstances. But at the same time just this aim demands the greatest efforts of us; and so, led astray by pride, losing sight of this aim, we occupy ourselves either with the mystery which in our impurity we are unworthy to receive, or seek the reformation of the human race while ourselves setting an example of baseness and profligacy. Illuminism is not a pure doctrine, just because it is attracted by social activity and puffed up by pride. On this ground Joseph Alexeevich condemned my speech and my whole activity, and in the depth of my soul I agreed with him. Talking of my family affairs he said to me, "the chief duty of a true Mason, as I have told you, lies in perfecting himself. We often think that by removing all the difficulties of our life we shall more quickly reach our aim, but on the contrary, my dear sir, it is only in the midst of worldly cares that we can attain our three chief aims: (1) Self-knowledge—for man can only know himself by comparison, (2) Self-perfecting, which can only be attained by conflict, and (3) The attainment of the chief virtue—love of death. Only the vicissitudes of life can show us its vanity and develop our innate love of death or of rebirth to a new life." These words are all the more remarkable because, in spite of his great physical sufferings, Joseph Alexeevich is never weary of life though he loves death, for which—in spite of the purity and loftiness of his inner man—he does not yet feel himself sufficiently prepared. My benefactor then explained to me fully the meaning of the Great Square of creation and pointed out to me that the numbers three and seven are the basis of everything. He advised me not to avoid intercourse with the Petersburg Brothers, but to take up only second-grade posts in the lodge, to try, while diverting the Brothers from pride, to turn them toward the true path self-knowledge and self-perfecting. Besides this he advised me for myself personally above all to keep a watch over myself, and to that end he gave me a notebook, the one I am now writing in and in which I will in future note down all my actions.
Petersburg, 23rd November
I am again living with my wife. My mother-in-law came to me in tears and said that Helene was here and that she implored me to hear her; that she was innocent and unhappy at my desertion, and much more. I knew that if I once let myself see her I should not have strength to go on refusing what she wanted. In my perplexity I did not know whose aid and advice to seek. Had my benefactor been here he would have told me what to do. I went to my room and reread Joseph Alexeevich's letters and recalled my conversations with him, and deduced from it all that I ought not to refuse a suppliant, and ought to reach a helping hand to everyone—especially to one so closely bound to me—and that I must bear my cross. But if I forgive her for the sake of doing right, then let union with her have only a spiritual aim. That is what I decided, and what I wrote to Joseph Alexeevich. I told my wife that I begged her to forget the past, to forgive me whatever wrong I may have done her, and that I had nothing to forgive. It gave me joy to tell her this. She need not know how hard it was for me to see her again. I have settled on the upper floor of this big house and am experiencing a happy feeling of regeneration.
At that time, as always happens, the highest society that met at court and at the grand balls was divided into several circles, each with its own particular tone. The largest of these was the French circle of the Napoleonic alliance, the circle of Count Rumyantsev and Caulaincourt. In this group Helene, as soon as she had settled in Petersburg with her husband, took a very prominent place. She was visited by the members of the French embassy and by many belonging to that circle and noted for their intellect and polished manners.
Helene had been at Erfurt during the famous meeting of the Emperors and had brought from there these connections with the Napoleonic notabilities. At Erfurt her success had been brilliant. Napoleon himself had noticed her in the theater and said of her: "C'est un superbe animal." * Her success as a beautiful and elegant woman did not surprise Pierre, for she had become even handsomer than before. What did surprise him was that during these last two years his wife had succeeded in gaining the reputation "d' une femme charmante, aussi spirituelle que belle." *(2) The distinguished Prince de Ligne wrote her eight-page letters. Bilibin saved up his epigrams to produce them in Countess Bezukhova's presence. To be received in the Countess Bezukhova's salon was regarded as a diploma of intellect. Young men read books before attending Helene's evenings, to have something to say in her salon, and secretaries of the embassy, and even ambassadors, confided diplomatic secrets to her, so that in a way Helene was a power. Pierre, who knew she was very stupid, sometimes attended, with a strange feeling of perplexity and fear, her evenings and dinner parties, where politics, poetry, and philosophy were discussed. At these parties his feelings were like those of a conjuror who always expects his trick to be found out at any moment. But whether because stupidity was just what was needed to run such a salon, or because those who were deceived found pleasure in the deception, at any rate it remained unexposed and Helene Bezukhova's reputation as a lovely and clever woman became so firmly established that she could say the emptiest and stupidest things and everybody would go into raptures over every word of hers and look for a profound meaning in it of which she herself had no conception.
* "That's a superb animal."
* (2) "Of a charming woman, as witty as she is lovely."
Pierre was just the husband needed for a brilliant society woman. He was that absent-minded crank, a grand seigneur husband who was in no one's way, and far from spoiling the high tone and general impression of the drawing room, he served, by the contrast he presented to her, as an advantageous background to his elegant and tactful wife. Pierre during the last two years, as a result of his continual absorption in abstract interests and his sincere contempt for all else, had acquired in his wife's circle, which did not interest him, that air of unconcern, indifference, and benevolence toward all, which cannot be acquired artificially and therefore inspires involuntary respect. He entered his wife's drawing room as one enters a theater, was acquainted with everybody, equally pleased to see everyone, and equally indifferent to them all. Sometimes he joined in a conversation which interested him and, regardless of whether any "gentlemen of the embassy" were present or not, lispingly expressed his views, which were sometimes not at all in accord with the accepted tone of the moment. But the general opinion concerning the queer husband of "the most distinguished woman in Petersburg" was so well established that no one took his freaks seriously.
Among the many young men who frequented her house every day, Boris Drubetskoy, who had already achieved great success in the service, was the most intimate friend of the Bezukhov household since Helene's return from Erfurt. Helene spoke of him as "mon page" and treated him like a child. Her smile for him was the same as for everybody, but sometimes that smile made Pierre uncomfortable. Toward him Boris behaved with a particularly dignified and sad deference. This shade of deference also disturbed Pierre. He had suffered so painfully three years before from the mortification to which his wife had subjected him that he now protected himself from the danger of its repetition, first by not being a husband to his wife, and secondly by not allowing himself to suspect.
"No, now that she has become a bluestocking she has finally renounced her former infatuations," he told himself. "There has never been an instance of a bluestocking being carried away by affairs of the heart"—a statement which, though gathered from an unknown source, he believed implicitly. Yet strange to say Boris' presence in his wife's drawing room (and he was almost always there) had a physical effect upon Pierre; it constricted his limbs and destroyed the unconsciousness and freedom of his movements.
"What a strange antipathy," thought Pierre, "yet I used to like him very much."
In the eyes of the world Pierre was a great gentleman, the rather blind and absurd husband of a distinguished wife, a clever crank who did nothing but harmed nobody and was a first-rate, good-natured fellow. But a complex and difficult process of internal development was taking place all this time in Pierre's soul, revealing much to him and causing him many spiritual doubts and joys.
Pierre went on with his diary, and this is what he wrote in it during that time:
Got up at eight, read the Scriptures, then went to my duties. (By Joseph Alexeevich's advice Pierre had entered the service of the state and served on one of the committees.) Returned home for dinner and dined alone—the countess had many visitors I do not like. I ate and drank moderately and after dinner copied out some passages for the Brothers. In the evening I went down to the countess and told a funny story about B., and only remembered that I ought not to have done so when everybody laughed loudly at it.
I am going to bed with a happy and tranquil mind. Great God, help me to walk in Thy paths, (1) to conquer anger by calmness and deliberation, (2) to vanquish lust by self-restraint and repulsion, (3) to withdraw from worldliness, but not avoid (a) the service of the state, (b) family duties, (c) relations with my friends, and the management of my affairs.
I got up late. On waking I lay long in bed yielding to sloth. O God, help and strengthen me that I may walk in Thy ways! Read the Scriptures, but without proper feeling. Brother Urusov came and we talked about worldly vanities. He told me of the Emperor's new projects. I began to criticize them, but remembered my rules and my benefactor's words—that a true Freemason should be a zealous worker for the state when his aid is required and a quiet onlooker when not called on to assist. My tongue is my enemy. Brothers G. V. and O. visited me and we had a preliminary talk about the reception of a new Brother. They laid on me the duty of Rhetor. I feel myself weak and unworthy. Then our talk turned to the interpretation of the seven pillars and steps of the Temple, the seven sciences, the seven virtues, the seven vices, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Brother O. was very eloquent. In the evening the admission took place. The new decoration of the Premises contributed much to the magnificence of the spectacle. It was Boris Drubetskoy who was admitted. I nominated him and was the Rhetor. A strange feeling agitated me all the time I was alone with him in the dark chamber. I caught myself harboring a feeling of hatred toward him which I vainly tried to overcome. That is why I should really like to save him from evil and lead him into the path of truth, but evil thoughts of him did not leave me. It seemed to me that his object in entering the Brotherhood was merely to be intimate and in favor with members of our lodge. Apart from the fact that he had asked me several times whether N. and S. were members of our lodge (a question to which I could not reply) and that according to my observation he is incapable of feeling respect for our holy order and is too preoccupied and satisfied with the outer man to desire spiritual improvement, I had no cause to doubt him, but he seemed to me insincere, and all the time I stood alone with him in the dark temple it seemed to me that he was smiling contemptuously at my words, and I wished really to stab his bare breast with the sword I held to it. I could not be eloquent, nor could I frankly mention my doubts to the Brothers and to the Grand Master. Great Architect of Nature, help me to find the true path out of the labyrinth of lies!
After this, three pages were left blank in the diary, and then the following was written:
I have had a long and instructive talk alone with Brother V., who advised me to hold fast by brother A. Though I am unworthy, much was revealed to me. Adonai is the name of the creator of the world. Elohim is the name of the ruler of all. The third name is the name unutterable which means the All. Talks with Brother V. strengthen, refresh, and support me in the path of virtue. In his presence doubt has no place. The distinction between the poor teachings of mundane science and our sacred all-embracing teaching is clear to me. Human sciences dissect everything to comprehend it, and kill everything to examine it. In the holy science of our order all is one, all is known in its entirety and life. The Trinity—the three elements of matter—are sulphur, mercury, and salt. Sulphur is of an oily and fiery nature; in combination with salt by its fiery nature it arouses a desire in the latter by means of which it attracts mercury, seizes it, holds it, and in combination produces other bodies. Mercury is a fluid, volatile, spiritual essence. Christ, the Holy Spirit, Him!...
Awoke late, read the Scriptures but was apathetic. Afterwards went and paced up and down the large hall. I wished to meditate, but instead my imagination pictured an occurrence of four years ago, when Dolokhov, meeting me in Moscow after our duel, said he hoped I was enjoying perfect peace of mind in spite of my wife's absence. At the time I gave him no answer. Now I recalled every detail of that meeting and in my mind gave him the most malevolent and bitter replies. I recollected myself and drove away that thought only when I found myself glowing with anger, but I did not sufficiently repent. Afterwards Boris Drubetskoy came and began relating various adventures. His coming vexed me from the first, and I said something disagreeable to him. He replied. I flared up and said much that was unpleasant and even rude to him. He became silent, and I recollected myself only when it was too late. My God, I cannot get on with him at all. The cause of this is my egotism. I set myself above him and so become much worse than he, for he is lenient to my rudeness while I on the contrary nourish contempt for him. O God, grant that in his presence I may rather see my own vileness, and behave so that he too may benefit. After dinner I fell asleep and as I was drowsing off I clearly heard a voice saying in my left ear, "Thy day!"
I dreamed that I was walking in the dark and was suddenly surrounded by dogs, but I went on undismayed. Suddenly a smallish dog seized my left thigh with its teeth and would not let go. I began to throttle it with my hands. Scarcely had I torn it off before another, a bigger one, began biting me. I lifted it up, but the higher I lifted it the bigger and heavier it grew. And suddenly Brother A. came and, taking my arm, led me to a building to enter which we had to pass along a narrow plank. I stepped on it, but it bent and gave way and I began to clamber up a fence which I could scarcely reach with my hands. After much effort I dragged myself up, so that my leg hung down on one side and my body on the other. I looked round and saw Brother A. standing on the fence and pointing me to a broad avenue and garden, and in the garden was a large and beautiful building. I woke up. O Lord, great Architect of Nature, help me to tear from myself these dogs—my passions especially the last, which unites in itself the strength of all the former ones, and aid me to enter that temple of virtue to a vision of which I attained in my dream.
I dreamed that Joseph Alexeevich was sitting in my house, and that I was very glad and wished to entertain him. It seemed as if I chattered incessantly with other people and suddenly remembered that this could not please him, and I wished to come close to him and embrace him. But as soon as I drew near I saw that his face had changed and grown young, and he was quietly telling me something about the teaching of our order, but so softly that I could not hear it. Then it seemed that we all left the room and something strange happened. We were sitting or lying on the floor. He was telling me something, and I wished to show him my sensibility, and not listening to what he was saying I began picturing to myself the condition of my inner man and the grace of God sanctifying me. And tears came into my eyes, and I was glad he noticed this. But he looked at me with vexation and jumped up, breaking off his remarks. I felt abashed and asked whether what he had been saying did not concern me; but he did not reply, gave me a kind look, and then we suddenly found ourselves in my bedroom where there is a double bed. He lay down on the edge of it and I burned with longing to caress him and lie down too. And he said, "Tell me frankly what is your chief temptation? Do you know it? I think you know it already." Abashed by this question, I replied that sloth was my chief temptation. He shook his head incredulously; and even more abashed, I said that though I was living with my wife as he advised, I was not living with her as her husband. To this he replied that one should not deprive a wife of one's embraces and gave me to understand that that was my duty. But I replied that I should be ashamed to do it, and suddenly everything vanished. And I awoke and found in my mind the text from the Gospel: "The life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Joseph Alexeevich's face had looked young and bright. That day I received a letter from my benefactor in which he wrote about "conjugal duties."
I had a dream from which I awoke with a throbbing heart. I saw that I was in Moscow in my house, in the big sitting room, and Joseph Alexeevich came in from the drawing room. I seemed to know at once that the process of regeneration had already taken place in him, and I rushed to meet him. I embraced him and kissed his hands, and he said, "Hast thou noticed that my face is different?" I looked at him, still holding him in my arms, and saw that his face was young, but that he had no hair on his head and his features were quite changed. And I said, "I should have known you had I met you by chance," and I thought to myself, "Am I telling the truth?" And suddenly I saw him lying like a dead body; then he gradually recovered and went with me into my study carrying a large book of sheets of drawing paper; I said, "I drew that," and he answered by bowing his head. I opened the book, and on all the pages there were excellent drawings. And in my dream I knew that these drawings represented the love adventures of the soul with its beloved. And on its pages I saw a beautiful representation of a maiden in transparent garments and with a transparent body, flying up to the clouds. And I seemed to know that this maiden was nothing else than a representation of the Song of Songs. And looking at those drawings I dreamed I felt that I was doing wrong, but could not tear myself away from them. Lord, help me! My God, if Thy forsaking me is Thy doing, Thy will be done; but if I am myself the cause, teach me what I should do! I shall perish of my debauchery if Thou utterly desertest me!
The Rostovs' monetary affairs had not improved during the two years they had spent in the country.
Though Nicholas Rostov had kept firmly to his resolution and was still serving modestly in an obscure regiment, spending comparatively little, the way of life at Otradnoe—Mitenka's management of affairs, in particular—was such that the debts inevitably increased every year. The only resource obviously presenting itself to the old count was to apply for an official post, so he had come to Petersburg to look for one and also, as he said, to let the lassies enjoy themselves for the last time.
Soon after their arrival in Petersburg Berg proposed to Vera and was accepted.
Though in Moscow the Rostovs belonged to the best society without themselves giving it a thought, yet in Petersburg their circle of acquaintances was a mixed and indefinite one. In Petersburg they were provincials, and the very people they had entertained in Moscow without inquiring to what set they belonged, here looked down on them.
The Rostovs lived in the same hospitable way in Petersburg as in Moscow, and the most diverse people met at their suppers. Country neighbors from Otradnoe, impoverished old squires and their daughters, Peronskaya a maid of honor, Pierre Bezukhov, and the son of their district postmaster who had obtained a post in Petersburg. Among the men who very soon became frequent visitors at the Rostovs' house in Petersburg were Boris, Pierre whom the count had met in the street and dragged home with him, and Berg who spent whole days at the Rostovs' and paid the eldest daughter, Countess Vera, the attentions a young man pays when he intends to propose.
Not in vain had Berg shown everybody his right hand wounded at Austerlitz and held a perfectly unnecessary sword in his left. He narrated that episode so persistently and with so important an air that everyone believed in the merit and usefulness of his deed, and he had obtained two decorations for Austerlitz.
In the Finnish war he also managed to distinguish himself. He had picked up the scrap of a grenade that had killed an aide-de-camp standing near the commander in chief and had taken it to his commander. Just as he had done after Austerlitz, he related this occurrence at such length and so insistently that everyone again believed it had been necessary to do this, and he received two decorations for the Finnish war also. In 1809 he was a captain in the Guards, wore medals, and held some special lucrative posts in Petersburg.
Though some skeptics smiled when told of Berg's merits, it could not be denied that he was a painstaking and brave officer, on excellent terms with his superiors, and a moral young man with a brilliant career before him and an assured position in society.
Four years before, meeting a German comrade in the stalls of a Moscow theater, Berg had pointed out Vera Rostova to him and had said in German, "das soll mein Weib werden," * and from that moment had made up his mind to marry her. Now in Petersburg, having considered the Rostovs' position and his own, he decided that the time had come to propose.
* "That girl shall be my wife."
Berg's proposal was at first received with a perplexity that was not flattering to him. At first it seemed strange that the son of an obscure Livonian gentleman should propose marriage to a Countess Rostova; but Berg's chief characteristic was such a naive and good natured egotism that the Rostovs involuntarily came to think it would be a good thing, since he himself was so firmly convinced that it was good, indeed excellent. Moreover, the Rostovs' affairs were seriously embarrassed, as the suitor could not but know; and above all, Vera was twenty-four, had been taken out everywhere, and though she was certainly good-looking and sensible, no one up to now had proposed to her. So they gave their consent.
"You see," said Berg to his comrade, whom he called "friend" only because he knew that everyone has friends, "you see, I have considered it all, and should not marry if I had not thought it all out or if it were in any way unsuitable. But on the contrary, my papa and mamma are now provided for—I have arranged that rent for them in the Baltic Provinces—and I can live in Petersburg on my pay, and with her fortune and my good management we can get along nicely. I am not marrying for money—I consider that dishonorable—but a wife should bring her share and a husband his. I have my position in the service, she has connections and some means. In our times that is worth something, isn't it? But above all, she is a handsome, estimable girl, and she loves me..."
Berg blushed and smiled.
"And I love her, because her character is sensible and very good. Now the other sister, though they are the same family, is quite different—an unpleasant character and has not the same intelligence. She is so... you know?... Unpleasant... But my fiancee!... Well, you will be coming," he was going to say, "to dine," but changed his mind and said "to take tea with us," and quickly doubling up his tongue he blew a small round ring of tobacco smoke, perfectly embodying his dream of happiness.
After the first feeling of perplexity aroused in the parents by Berg's proposal, the holiday tone of joyousness usual at such times took possession of the family, but the rejoicing was external and insincere. In the family's feeling toward this wedding a certain awkwardness and constraint was evident, as if they were ashamed of not having loved Vera sufficiently and of being so ready to get her off their hands. The old count felt this most. He would probably have been unable to state the cause of his embarrassment, but it resulted from the state of his affairs. He did not know at all how much he had, what his debts amounted to, or what dowry he could give Vera. When his daughters were born he had assigned to each of them, for her dowry, an estate with three hundred serfs; but one of these estates had already been sold, and the other was mortgaged and the interest so much in arrears that it would have to be sold, so that it was impossible to give it to Vera. Nor had he any money.
Berg had already been engaged a month, and only a week remained before the wedding, but the count had not yet decided in his own mind the question of the dowry, nor spoken to his wife about it. At one time the count thought of giving her the Ryazan estate or of selling a forest, at another time of borrowing money on a note of hand. A few days before the wedding Berg entered the count's study early one morning and, with a pleasant smile, respectfully asked his future father-in-law to let him know what Vera's dowry would be. The count was so disconcerted by this long-foreseen inquiry that without consideration he gave the first reply that came into his head. "I like your being businesslike about it.... I like it. You shall be satisfied...."
And patting Berg on the shoulder he got up, wishing to end the conversation. But Berg, smiling pleasantly, explained that if he did not know for certain how much Vera would have and did not receive at least part of the dowry in advance, he would have to break matters off.
"Because, consider, Count—if I allowed myself to marry now without having definite means to maintain my wife, I should be acting badly...."
The conversation ended by the count, who wished to be generous and to avoid further importunity, saying that he would give a note of hand for eighty thousand rubles. Berg smiled meekly, kissed the count on the shoulder, and said that he was very grateful, but that it was impossible for him to arrange his new life without receiving thirty thousand in ready money. "Or at least twenty thousand, Count," he added, "and then a note of hand for only sixty thousand."
"Yes, yes, all right!" said the count hurriedly. "Only excuse me, my dear fellow, I'll give you twenty thousand and a note of hand for eighty thousand as well. Yes, yes! Kiss me."
Natasha was sixteen and it was the year 1809, the very year to which she had counted on her fingers with Boris after they had kissed four years ago. Since then she had not seen him. Before Sonya and her mother, if Boris happened to be mentioned, she spoke quite freely of that episode as of some childish, long-forgotten matter that was not worth mentioning. But in the secret depths of her soul the question whether her engagement to Boris was a jest or an important, binding promise tormented her.
Since Boris left Moscow in 1805 to join the army he had not seen the Rostovs. He had been in Moscow several times, and had passed near Otradnoe, but had never been to see them.
Sometimes it occurred to Natasha that he did not wish to see her, and this conjecture was confirmed by the sad tone in which her elders spoke of him.
"Nowadays old friends are not remembered," the countess would say when Boris was mentioned.
Anna Mikhaylovna also had of late visited them less frequently, seemed to hold herself with particular dignity, and always spoke rapturously and gratefully of the merits of her son and the brilliant career on which he had entered. When the Rostovs came to Petersburg Boris called on them.
He drove to their house in some agitation. The memory of Natasha was his most poetic recollection. But he went with the firm intention of letting her and her parents feel that the childish relations between himself and Natasha could not be binding either on her or on him. He had a brilliant position in society thanks to his intimacy with Countess Bezukhova, a brilliant position in the service thanks to the patronage of an important personage whose complete confidence he enjoyed, and he was beginning to make plans for marrying one of the richest heiresses in Petersburg, plans which might very easily be realized. When he entered the Rostovs' drawing room Natasha was in her own room. When she heard of his arrival she almost ran into the drawing room, flushed and beaming with a more than cordial smile.
Boris remembered Natasha in a short dress, with dark eyes shining from under her curls and boisterous, childish laughter, as he had known her four years before; and so he was taken aback when quite a different Natasha entered, and his face expressed rapturous astonishment. This expression on his face pleased Natasha.
"Well, do you recognize your little madcap playmate?" asked the countess.
Boris kissed Natasha's hand and said that he was astonished at the change in her.
"How handsome you have grown!"
"I should think so!" replied Natasha's laughing eyes.
"And is Papa older?" she asked.
Natasha sat down and, without joining in Boris' conversation with the countess, silently and minutely studied her childhood's suitor. He felt the weight of that resolute and affectionate scrutiny and glanced at her occasionally.
Boris' uniform, spurs, tie, and the way his hair was brushed were all comme il faut and in the latest fashion. This Natasha noticed at once. He sat rather sideways in the armchair next to the countess, arranging with his right hand the cleanest of gloves that fitted his left hand like a skin, and he spoke with a particularly refined compression of his lips about the amusements of the highest Petersburg society, recalling with mild irony old times in Moscow and Moscow acquaintances. It was not accidentally, Natasha felt, that he alluded, when speaking of the highest aristocracy, to an ambassador's ball he had attended, and to invitations he had received from N.N. and S.S.
All this time Natasha sat silent, glancing up at him from under her brows. This gaze disturbed and confused Boris more and more. He looked round more frequently toward her, and broke off in what he was saying. He did not stay more than ten minutes, then rose and took his leave. The same inquisitive, challenging, and rather mocking eyes still looked at him. After his first visit Boris said to himself that Natasha attracted him just as much as ever, but that he must not yield to that feeling, because to marry her, a girl almost without fortune, would mean ruin to his career, while to renew their former relations without intending to marry her would be dishonorable. Boris made up his mind to avoid meeting Natasha, but despite that resolution he called again a few days later and began calling often and spending whole days at the Rostovs'. It seemed to him that he ought to have an explanation with Natasha and tell her that the old times must be forgotten, that in spite of everything... she could not be his wife, that he had no means, and they would never let her marry him. But he failed to do so and felt awkward about entering on such an explanation. From day to day he became more and more entangled. It seemed to her mother and Sonya that Natasha was in love with Boris as of old. She sang him his favorite songs, showed him her album, making him write in it, did not allow him to allude to the past, letting it be understood how delightful was the present; and every day he went away in a fog, without having said what he meant to, and not knowing what he was doing or why he came, or how it would all end. He left off visiting Helene and received reproachful notes from her every day, and yet he continued to spend whole days with the Rostovs.
One night when the old countess, in nightcap and dressing jacket, without her false curls, and with her poor little knob of hair showing under her white cotton cap, knelt sighing and groaning on a rug and bowing to the ground in prayer, her door creaked and Natasha, also in a dressing jacket with slippers on her bare feet and her hair in curlpapers, ran in. The countess—her prayerful mood dispelled—looked round and frowned. She was finishing her last prayer: "Can it be that this couch will be my grave?" Natasha, flushed and eager, seeing her mother in prayer, suddenly checked her rush, half sat down, and unconsciously put out her tongue as if chiding herself. Seeing that her mother was still praying she ran on tiptoe to the bed and, rapidly slipping one little foot against the other, pushed off her slippers and jumped onto the bed the countess had feared might become her grave. This couch was high, with a feather bed and five pillows each smaller than the one below. Natasha jumped on it, sank into the feather bed, rolled over to the wall, and began snuggling up the bedclothes as she settled down, raising her knees to her chin, kicking out and laughing almost inaudibly, now covering herself up head and all, and now peeping at her mother. The countess finished her prayers and came to the bed with a stern face, but seeing, that Natasha's head was covered, she smiled in her kind, weak way.
"Now then, now then!" said she.
"Mamma, can we have a talk? Yes?" said Natasha. "Now, just one on your throat and another... that'll do!" And seizing her mother round the neck, she kissed her on the throat. In her behavior to her mother Natasha seemed rough, but she was so sensitive and tactful that however she clasped her mother she always managed to do it without hurting her or making her feel uncomfortable or displeased.
"Well, what is it tonight?" said the mother, having arranged her pillows and waited until Natasha, after turning over a couple of times, had settled down beside her under the quilt, spread out her arms, and assumed a serious expression.
These visits of Natasha's at night before the count returned from his club were one of the greatest pleasures of both mother, and daughter.
"What is it tonight?—But I have to tell you..."
Natasha put her hand on her mother's mouth.
"About Boris... I know," she said seriously; "that's what I have come about. Don't say it—I know. No, do tell me!" and she removed her hand. "Tell me, Mamma! He's nice?"
"Natasha, you are sixteen. At your age I was married. You say Boris is nice. He is very nice, and I love him like a son. But what then?... What are you thinking about? You have quite turned his head, I can see that...."
As she said this the countess looked round at her daughter. Natasha was lying looking steadily straight before her at one of the mahogany sphinxes carved on the corners of the bedstead, so that the countess only saw her daughter's face in profile. That face struck her by its peculiarly serious and concentrated expression.
Natasha was listening and considering.
"Well, what then?" said she.
"You have quite turned his head, and why? What do you want of him? You know you can't marry him."
"Why not?" said Natasha, without changing her position.
"Because he is young, because he is poor, because he is a relation... and because you yourself don't love him."
"How do you know?"
"I know. It is not right, darling!"
"But if I want to..." said Natasha.
"Leave off talking nonsense," said the countess.
"But if I want to..."
"Natasha, I am in earnest..."
Natasha did not let her finish. She drew the countess' large hand to her, kissed it on the back and then on the palm, then again turned it over and began kissing first one knuckle, then the space between the knuckles, then the next knuckle, whispering, "January, February, March, April, May. Speak, Mamma, why don't you say anything? Speak!" said she, turning to her mother, who was tenderly gazing at her daughter and in that contemplation seemed to have forgotten all she had wished to say.
"It won't do, my love! Not everyone will understand this friendship dating from your childish days, and to see him so intimate with you may injure you in the eyes of other young men who visit us, and above all it torments him for nothing. He may already have found a suitable and wealthy match, and now he's half crazy."
"Crazy?" repeated Natasha.
"I'll tell you some things about myself. I had a cousin..."
"I know! Cyril Matveich... but he is old."
"He was not always old. But this is what I'll do, Natasha, I'll have a talk with Boris. He need not come so often...."
"Why not, if he likes to?"
"Because I know it will end in nothing...."
"How can you know? No, Mamma, don't speak to him! What nonsense!" said Natasha in the tone of one being deprived of her property. "Well, I won't marry, but let him come if he enjoys it and I enjoy it." Natasha smiled and looked at her mother. "Not to marry, but just so," she added.
"How so, my pet?"
"Just so. There's no need for me to marry him. But... just so."
"Just so, just so," repeated the countess, and shaking all over, she went off into a good humored, unexpected, elderly laugh.
"Don't laugh, stop!" cried Natasha. "You're shaking the whole bed! You're awfully like me, just such another giggler.... Wait..." and she seized the countess' hands and kissed a knuckle of the little finger, saying, "June," and continued, kissing, "July, August," on the other hand. "But, Mamma, is he very much in love? What do you think? Was anybody ever so much in love with you? And he's very nice, very, very nice. Only not quite my taste—he is so narrow, like the dining-room clock.... Don't you understand? Narrow, you know—gray, light gray..."
"What rubbish you're talking!" said the countess.
Natasha continued: "Don't you really understand? Nicholas would understand.... Bezukhov, now, is blue, dark-blue and red, and he is square."
"You flirt with him too," said the countess, laughing.
"No, he is a Freemason, I have found out. He is fine, dark-blue and red.... How can I explain it to you?"
"Little countess!" the count's voice called from behind the door. "You're not asleep?" Natasha jumped up, snatched up her slippers, and ran barefoot to her own room.
It was a long time before she could sleep. She kept thinking that no one could understand all that she understood and all there was in her.
"Sonya?" she thought, glancing at that curled-up, sleeping little kitten with her enormous plait of hair. "No, how could she? She's virtuous. She fell in love with Nicholas and does not wish to know anything more. Even Mamma does not understand. It is wonderful how clever I am and how... charming she is," she went on, speaking of herself in the third person, and imagining it was some very wise man—the wisest and best of men—who was saying it of her. "There is everything, everything in her," continued this man. "She is unusually intelligent, charming... and then she is pretty, uncommonly pretty, and agile—she swims and rides splendidly... and her voice! One can really say it's a wonderful voice!"
She hummed a scrap from her favorite opera by Cherubini, threw herself on her bed, laughed at the pleasant thought that she would immediately fall asleep, called Dunyasha the maid to put out the candle, and before Dunyasha had left the room had already passed into yet another happier world of dreams, where everything was as light and beautiful as in reality, and even more so because it was different.
Next day the countess called Boris aside and had a talk with him, after which he ceased coming to the Rostovs'.
On the thirty-first of December, New Year's Eve, 1809 - 10 an old grandee of Catherine's day was giving a ball and midnight supper. The diplomatic corps and the Emperor himself were to be present.
The grandee's well-known mansion on the English Quay glittered with innumerable lights. Police were stationed at the brightly lit entrance which was carpeted with red baize, and not only gendarmes but dozens of police officers and even the police master himself stood at the porch. Carriages kept driving away and fresh ones arriving, with red-liveried footmen and footmen in plumed hats. From the carriages emerged men wearing uniforms, stars, and ribbons, while ladies in satin and ermine cautiously descended the carriage steps which were let down for them with a clatter, and then walked hurriedly and noiselessly over the baize at the entrance.
Almost every time a new carriage drove up a whisper ran through the crowd and caps were doffed.
"The Emperor?... No, a minister.... prince... ambassador. Don't you see the plumes?..." was whispered among the crowd.
One person, better dressed than the rest, seemed to know everyone and mentioned by name the greatest dignitaries of the day.
A third of the visitors had already arrived, but the Rostovs, who were to be present, were still hurrying to get dressed.
There had been many discussions and preparations for this ball in the Rostov family, many fears that the invitation would not arrive, that the dresses would not be ready, or that something would not be arranged as it should be.
Marya Ignatevna Peronskaya, a thin and shallow maid of honor at the court of the Dowager Empress, who was a friend and relation of the countess and piloted the provincial Rostovs in Petersburg high society, was to accompany them to the ball.
They were to call for her at her house in the Taurida Gardens at ten o'clock, but it was already five minutes to ten, and the girls were not yet dressed.
Natasha was going to her first grand ball. She had got up at eight that morning and had been in a fever of excitement and activity all day. All her powers since morning had been concentrated on ensuring that they all—she herself, Mamma, and Sonya—should be as well dressed as possible. Sonya and her mother put themselves entirely in her hands. The countess was to wear a claret-colored velvet dress, and the two girls white gauze over pink silk slips, with roses on their bodices and their hair dressed a la grecque.
Everything essential had already been done; feet, hands, necks, and ears washed, perfumed, and powdered, as befits a ball; the openwork silk stockings and white satin shoes with ribbons were already on; the hairdressing was almost done. Sonya was finishing dressing and so was the countess, but Natasha, who had bustled about helping them all, was behindhand. She was still sitting before a looking-glass with a dressing jacket thrown over her slender shoulders. Sonya stood ready dressed in the middle of the room and, pressing the head of a pin till it hurt her dainty finger, was fixing on a last ribbon that squeaked as the pin went through it.
"That's not the way, that's not the way, Sonya!" cried Natasha turning her head and clutching with both hands at her hair which the maid who was dressing it had not time to release. "That bow is not right. Come here!"
Sonya sat down and Natasha pinned the ribbon on differently.
"Allow me, Miss! I can't do it like that," said the maid who was holding Natasha's hair.
"Oh, dear! Well then, wait. That's right, Sonya."
"Aren't you ready? It is nearly ten," came the countess' voice.
"Directly! Directly! And you, Mamma?"
"I have only my cap to pin on."
"Don't do it without me!" called Natasha. "You won't do it right."
"But it's already ten."
They had decided to be at the ball by half past ten, and Natasha had still to get dressed and they had to call at the Taurida Gardens.
When her hair was done, Natasha, in her short petticoat from under which her dancing shoes showed, and in her mother's dressing jacket, ran up to Sonya, scrutinized her, and then ran to her mother. Turning her mother's head this way and that, she fastened on the cap and, hurriedly kissing her gray hair, ran back to the maids who were turning up the hem of her skirt.
The cause of the delay was Natasha's skirt, which was too long. Two maids were turning up the hem and hurriedly biting off the ends of thread. A third with pins in her mouth was running about between the countess and Sonya, and a fourth held the whole of the gossamer garment up high on one uplifted hand.
"Mavra, quicker, darling!"
"Give me my thimble, Miss, from there..."
"Whenever will you be ready?" asked the count coming to the door. "Here is some scent. Peronskaya must be tired of waiting."
"It's ready, Miss," said the maid, holding up the shortened gauze dress with two fingers, and blowing and shaking something off it, as if by this to express a consciousness of the airiness and purity of what she held.
Natasha began putting on the dress.
"In a minute! In a minute! Don't come in, Papa!" she cried to her father as he opened the door—speaking from under the filmy skirt which still covered her whole face.
Sonya slammed the door to. A minute later they let the count in. He was wearing a blue swallow-tail coat, shoes and stockings, and was perfumed and his hair pomaded.
"Oh, Papa! how nice you look! Charming!" cried Natasha, as she stood in the middle of the room smoothing out the folds of the gauze.
"If you please, Miss! allow me," said the maid, who on her knees was pulling the skirt straight and shifting the pins from one side of her mouth to the other with her tongue.
"Say what you like," exclaimed Sonya, in a despairing voice as she looked at Natasha, "say what you like, it's still too long."
Natasha stepped back to look at herself in the pier glass. The dress was too long.
"Really, madam, it is not at all too long," said Mavra, crawling on her knees after her young lady.
"Well, if it's too long we'll take it up... we'll tack it up in one minute," said the resolute Dunyasha taking a needle that was stuck on the front of her little shawl and, still kneeling on the floor, set to work once more.
At that moment, with soft steps, the countess came in shyly, in her cap and velvet gown.
"Oo-oo, my beauty!" exclaimed the count, "she looks better than any of you!"
He would have embraced her but, blushing, she stepped aside fearing to be rumpled.
"Mamma, your cap, more to this side," said Natasha. "I'll arrange it," and she rushed forward so that the maids who were tacking up her skirt could not move fast enough and a piece of gauze was torn off.
"Oh goodness! What has happened? Really it was not my fault!"
"Never mind, I'll run it up, it won't show," said Dunyasha.
"What a beauty—a very queen!" said the nurse as she came to the door. "And Sonya! They are lovely!"
At a quarter past ten they at last got into their carriages and started. But they had still to call at the Taurida Gardens.
Peronskaya was quite ready. In spite of her age and plainness she had gone through the same process as the Rostovs, but with less flurry—for to her it was a matter of routine. Her ugly old body was washed, perfumed, and powdered in just the same way. She had washed behind her ears just as carefully, and when she entered her drawing room in her yellow dress, wearing her badge as maid of honor, her old lady's maid was as full of rapturous admiration as the Rostovs' servants had been.
She praised the Rostovs' toilets. They praised her taste and toilet, and at eleven o'clock, careful of their coiffures and dresses, they settled themselves in their carriages and drove off.
Natasha had not had a moment free since early morning and had not once had time to think of what lay before her.
In the damp chill air and crowded closeness of the swaying carriage, she for the first time vividly imagined what was in store for her there at the ball, in those brightly lighted rooms—with music, flowers, dances, the Emperor, and all the brilliant young people of Petersburg. The prospect was so splendid that she hardly believed it would come true, so out of keeping was it with the chill darkness and closeness of the carriage. She understood all that awaited her only when, after stepping over the red baize at the entrance, she entered the hall, took off her fur cloak, and, beside Sonya and in front of her mother, mounted the brightly illuminated stairs between the flowers. Only then did she remember how she must behave at a ball, and tried to assume the majestic air she considered indispensable for a girl on such an occasion. But, fortunately for her, she felt her eyes growing misty, she saw nothing clearly, her pulse beat a hundred to the minute, and the blood throbbed at her heart. She could not assume that pose, which would have made her ridiculous, and she moved on almost fainting from excitement and trying with all her might to conceal it. And this was the very attitude that became her best. Before and behind them other visitors were entering, also talking in low tones and wearing ball dresses. The mirrors on the landing reflected ladies in white, pale-blue, and pink dresses, with diamonds and pearls on their bare necks and arms.
Natasha looked in the mirrors and could not distinguish her reflection from the others. All was blended into one brilliant procession. On entering the ballroom the regular hum of voices, footsteps, and greetings deafened Natasha, and the light and glitter dazzled her still more. The host and hostess, who had already been standing at the door for half an hour repeating the same words to the various arrivals, "Charme de vous voir," * greeted the Rostovs and Peronskaya in the same manner.
* "Delighted to see you."
The two girls in their white dresses, each with a rose in her black hair, both curtsied in the same way, but the hostess' eye involuntarily rested longer on the slim Natasha. She looked at her and gave her alone a special smile in addition to her usual smile as hostess. Looking at her she may have recalled the golden, irrecoverable days of her own girlhood and her own first ball. The host also followed Natasha with his eyes and asked the count which was his daughter.
"Charming!" said he, kissing the tips of his fingers.
In the ballroom guests stood crowding at the entrance doors awaiting the Emperor. The countess took up a position in one of the front rows of that crowd. Natasha heard and felt that several people were asking about her and looking at her. She realized that those noticing her liked her, and this observation helped to calm her.
"There are some like ourselves and some worse," she thought.
Peronskaya was pointing out to the countess the most important people at the ball.
"That is the Dutch ambassador, do you see? That gray-haired man," she said, indicating an old man with a profusion of silver-gray curly hair, who was surrounded by ladies laughing at something he said.
"Ah, here she is, the Queen of Petersburg, Countess Bezukhova," said Peronskaya, indicating Helene who had just entered. "How lovely! She is quite equal to Marya Antonovna. See how the men, young and old, pay court to her. Beautiful and clever... they say Prince—is quite mad about her. But see, those two, though not good-looking, are even more run after."
She pointed to a lady who was crossing the room followed by a very plain daughter.
"She is a splendid match, a millionairess," said Peronskaya. "And look, here come her suitors."
"That is Bezukhova's brother, Anatole Kuragin," she said, indicating a handsome officer of the Horse Guards who passed by them with head erect, looking at something over the heads of the ladies. "He's handsome, isn't he? I hear they will marry him to that rich girl. But your cousin, Drubetskoy, is also very attentive to her. They say she has millions. Oh yes, that's the French ambassador himself!" she replied to the countess' inquiry about Caulaincourt. "Looks as if he were a king! All the same, the French are charming, very charming. No one more charming in society. Ah, here she is! Yes, she is still the most beautiful of them all, our Marya Antonovna! And how simply she is dressed! Lovely! And that stout one in spectacles is the universal Freemason," she went on, indicating Pierre. "Put him beside his wife and he looks a regular buffoon!"
Pierre, swaying his stout body, advanced, making way through the crowd and nodding to right and left as casually and good-naturedly as if he were passing through a crowd at a fair. He pushed through, evidently looking for someone.
Natasha looked joyfully at the familiar face of Pierre, "the buffoon," as Peronskaya had called him, and knew he was looking for them, and for her in particular. He had promised to be at the ball and introduce partners to her.
But before he reached them Pierre stopped beside a very handsome, dark man of middle height, and in a white uniform, who stood by a window talking to a tall man wearing stars and a ribbon. Natasha at once recognized the shorter and younger man in the white uniform: it was Bolkonski, who seemed to her to have grown much younger, happier, and better-looking.
"There's someone else we know—Bolkonski, do you see, Mamma?" said Natasha, pointing out Prince Andrew. "You remember, he stayed a night with us at Otradnoe."
"Oh, you know him?" said Peronskaya. "I can't bear him. Il fait a present la pluie et le beau temps. * He's too proud for anything. Takes after his father. And he's hand in glove with Speranski, writing some project or other. Just look how he treats the ladies! There's one talking to him and he has turned away," she said, pointing at him. "I'd give it to him if he treated me as he does those ladies."
* "He is all the rage just now."
Suddenly everybody stirred, began talking, and pressed forward and then back, and between the two rows, which separated, the Emperor entered to the sounds of music that had immediately struck up. Behind him walked his host and hostess. He walked in rapidly, bowing to right and left as if anxious to get the first moments of the reception over. The band played the polonaise in vogue at that time on account of the words that had been set to it, beginning: "Alexander, Elisaveta, all our hearts you ravish quite..." The Emperor passed on to the drawing room, the crowd made a rush for the doors, and several persons with excited faces hurried there and back again. Then the crowd hastily retired from the drawing-room door, at which the Emperor reappeared talking to the hostess. A young man, looking distraught, pounced down on the ladies, asking them to move aside. Some ladies, with faces betraying complete forgetfulness of all the rules of decorum, pushed forward to the detriment of their toilets. The men began to choose partners and take their places for the polonaise.
Everyone moved back, and the Emperor came smiling out of the drawing room leading his hostess by the hand but not keeping time to the music. The host followed with Marya Antonovna Naryshkina; then came ambassadors, ministers, and various generals, whom Peronskaya diligently named. More than half the ladies already had partners and were taking up, or preparing to take up, their positions for the polonaise. Natasha felt that she would be left with her mother and Sonya among a minority of women who crowded near the wall, not having been invited to dance. She stood with her slender arms hanging down, her scarcely defined bosom rising and falling regularly, and with bated breath and glittering, frightened eyes gazed straight before her, evidently prepared for the height of joy or misery. She was not concerned about the Emperor or any of those great people whom Peronskaya was pointing out—she had but one thought: "Is it possible no one will ask me, that I shall not be among the first to dance? Is it possible that not one of all these men will notice me? They do not even seem to see me, or if they do they look as if they were saying, 'Ah, she's not the one I'm after, so it's not worth looking at her!' No, it's impossible," she thought. "They must know how I long to dance, how splendidly I dance, and how they would enjoy dancing with me."
The strains of the polonaise, which had continued for a considerable time, had begun to sound like a sad reminiscence to Natasha's ears. She wanted to cry. Peronskaya had left them. The count was at the other end of the room. She and the countess and Sonya were standing by themselves as in the depths of a forest amid that crowd of strangers, with no one interested in them and not wanted by anyone. Prince Andrew with a lady passed by, evidently not recognizing them. The handsome Anatole was smilingly talking to a partner on his arm and looked at Natasha as one looks at a wall. Boris passed them twice and each time turned away. Berg and his wife, who were not dancing, came up to them.
This family gathering seemed humiliating to Natasha—as if there were nowhere else for the family to talk but here at the ball. She did not listen to or look at Vera, who was telling her something about her own green dress.
At last the Emperor stopped beside his last partner (he had danced with three) and the music ceased. A worried aide-de-camp ran up to the Rostovs requesting them to stand farther back, though as it was they were already close to the wall, and from the gallery resounded the distinct, precise, enticingly rhythmical strains of a waltz. The Emperor looked smilingly down the room. A minute passed but no one had yet begun dancing. An aide-de-camp, the Master of Ceremonies, went up to Countess Bezukhova and asked her to dance. She smilingly raised her hand and laid it on his shoulder without looking at him. The aide-de-camp, an adept in his art, grasping his partner firmly round her waist, with confident deliberation started smoothly, gliding first round the edge of the circle, then at the corner of the room he caught Helene's left hand and turned her, the only sound audible, apart from the ever-quickening music, being the rhythmic click of the spurs on his rapid, agile feet, while at every third beat his partner's velvet dress spread out and seemed to flash as she whirled round. Natasha gazed at them and was ready to cry because it was not she who was dancing that first turn of the waltz.
Prince Andrew, in the white uniform of a cavalry colonel, wearing stockings and dancing shoes, stood looking animated and bright in the front row of the circle not far from the Rostovs. Baron Firhoff was talking to him about the first sitting of the Council of State to be held next day. Prince Andrew, as one closely connected with Speranski and participating in the work of the legislative commission, could give reliable information about that sitting, concerning which various rumors were current. But not listening to what Firhoff was saying, he was gazing now at the sovereign and now at the men intending to dance who had not yet gathered courage to enter the circle.
Prince Andrew was watching these men abashed by the Emperor's presence, and the women who were breathlessly longing to be asked to dance.
Pierre came up to him and caught him by the arm.
"You always dance. I have a protegee, the young Rostova, here. Ask her," he said.
"Where is she?" asked Bolkonski. "Excuse me!" he added, turning to the baron, "we will finish this conversation elsewhere—at a ball one must dance." He stepped forward in the direction Pierre indicated. The despairing, dejected expression of Natasha's face caught his eye. He recognized her, guessed her feelings, saw that it was her debut, remembered her conversation at the window, and with an expression of pleasure on his face approached Countess Rostova.
"Allow me to introduce you to my daughter," said the countess, with heightened color.
"I have the pleasure of being already acquainted, if the countess remembers me," said Prince Andrew with a low and courteous bow quite belying Peronskaya's remarks about his rudeness, and approaching Natasha he held out his arm to grasp her waist before he had completed his invitation. He asked her to waltz. That tremulous expression on Natasha's face, prepared either for despair or rapture, suddenly brightened into a happy, grateful, childlike smile.