"I have long been waiting for you," that frightened happy little girl seemed to say by the smile that replaced the threatened tears, as she raised her hand to Prince Andrew's shoulder. They were the second couple to enter the circle. Prince Andrew was one of the best dancers of his day and Natasha danced exquisitely. Her little feet in their white satin dancing shoes did their work swiftly, lightly, and independently of herself, while her face beamed with ecstatic happiness. Her slender bare arms and neck were not beautiful—compared to Helene's her shoulders looked thin and her bosom undeveloped. But Helene seemed, as it were, hardened by a varnish left by the thousands of looks that had scanned her person, while Natasha was like a girl exposed for the first time, who would have felt very much ashamed had she not been assured that this was absolutely necessary.
Prince Andrew liked dancing, and wishing to escape as quickly as possible from the political and clever talk which everyone addressed to him, wishing also to break up the circle of restraint he disliked, caused by the Emperor's presence, he danced, and had chosen Natasha because Pierre pointed her out to him and because she was the first pretty girl who caught his eye; but scarcely had he embraced that slender supple figure and felt her stirring so close to him and smiling so near him than the wine of her charm rose to his head, and he felt himself revived and rejuvenated when after leaving her he stood breathing deeply and watching the other dancers.
After Prince Andrew, Boris came up to ask Natasha for a dance, and then the aide-de-camp who had opened the ball, and several other young men, so that, flushed and happy, and passing on her superfluous partners to Sonya, she did not cease dancing all the evening. She noticed and saw nothing of what occupied everyone else. Not only did she fail to notice that the Emperor talked a long time with the French ambassador, and how particularly gracious he was to a certain lady, or that Prince So-and-so and So-and-so did and said this and that, and that Helene had great success and was honored by the special attention of So-and-so, but she did not even see the Emperor, and only noticed that he had gone because the ball became livelier after his departure. For one of the merry cotillions before supper Prince Andrew was again her partner. He reminded her of their first encounter in the Otradnoe avenue, and how she had been unable to sleep that moonlight night, and told her how he had involuntarily overheard her. Natasha blushed at that recollection and tried to excuse herself, as if there had been something to be ashamed of in what Prince Andrew had overheard.
Like all men who have grown up in society, Prince Andrew liked meeting someone there not of the conventional society stamp. And such was Natasha, with her surprise, her delight, her shyness, and even her mistakes in speaking French. With her he behaved with special care and tenderness, sitting beside her and talking of the simplest and most unimportant matters; he admired her shy grace. In the middle of the cotillion, having completed one of the figures, Natasha, still out of breath, was returning to her seat when another dancer chose her. She was tired and panting and evidently thought of declining, but immediately put her hand gaily on the man's shoulder, smiling at Prince Andrew.
"I'd be glad to sit beside you and rest: I'm tired; but you see how they keep asking me, and I'm glad of it, I'm happy and I love everybody, and you and I understand it all," and much, much more was said in her smile. When her partner left her Natasha ran across the room to choose two ladies for the figure.
"If she goes to her cousin first and then to another lady, she will be my wife," said Prince Andrew to himself quite to his own surprise, as he watched her. She did go first to her cousin.
"What rubbish sometimes enters one's head!" thought Prince Andrew, "but what is certain is that that girl is so charming, so original, that she won't be dancing here a month before she will be married.... Such as she are rare here," he thought, as Natasha, readjusting a rose that was slipping on her bodice, settled herself beside him.
When the cotillion was over the old count in his blue coat came up to the dancers. He invited Prince Andrew to come and see them, and asked his daughter whether she was enjoying herself. Natasha did not answer at once but only looked up with a smile that said reproachfully: "How can you ask such a question?"
"I have never enjoyed myself so much before!" she said, and Prince Andrew noticed how her thin arms rose quickly as if to embrace her father and instantly dropped again. Natasha was happier than she had ever been in her life. She was at that height of bliss when one becomes completely kind and good and does not believe in the possibility of evil, unhappiness, or sorrow.
At that ball Pierre for the first time felt humiliated by the position his wife occupied in court circles. He was gloomy and absent-minded. A deep furrow ran across his forehead, and standing by a window he stared over his spectacles seeing no one.
On her way to supper Natasha passed him.
Pierre's gloomy, unhappy look struck her. She stopped in front of him. She wished to help him, to bestow on him the superabundance of her own happiness.
"How delightful it is, Count!" said she. "Isn't it?"
Pierre smiled absent-mindedly, evidently not grasping what she said.
"Yes, I am very glad," he said.
"How can people be dissatisfied with anything?" thought Natasha. "Especially such a capital fellow as Bezukhov!" In Natasha's eyes all the people at the ball alike were good, kind, and splendid people, loving one another; none of them capable of injuring another—and so they ought all to be happy.
Next day Prince Andrew thought of the ball, but his mind did not dwell on it long. "Yes, it was a very brilliant ball," and then... "Yes, that little Rostova is very charming. There's something fresh, original, un-Petersburg-like about her that distinguishes her." That was all he thought about yesterday's ball, and after his morning tea he set to work.
But either from fatigue or want of sleep he was ill-disposed for work and could get nothing done. He kept criticizing his own work, as he often did, and was glad when he heard someone coming.
The visitor was Bitski, who served on various committees, frequented all the societies in Petersburg, and a passionate devotee of the new ideas and of Speranski, and a diligent Petersburg newsmonger—one of those men who choose their opinions like their clothes according to the fashion, but who for that very reason appear to be the warmest partisans. Hardly had he got rid of his hat before he ran into Prince Andrew's room with a preoccupied air and at once began talking. He had just heard particulars of that morning's sitting of the Council of State opened by the Emperor, and he spoke of it enthusiastically. The Emperor's speech had been extraordinary. It had been a speech such as only constitutional monarchs deliver. "The Sovereign plainly said that the Council and Senate are estates of the realm, he said that the government must rest not on authority but on secure bases. The Emperor said that the fiscal system must be reorganized and the accounts published," recounted Bitski, emphasizing certain words and opening his eyes significantly.
"Ah, yes! Today's events mark an epoch, the greatest epoch in our history," he concluded.
Prince Andrew listened to the account of the opening of the Council of State, which he had so impatiently awaited and to which he had attached such importance, and was surprised that this event, now that it had taken place, did not affect him, and even seemed quite insignificant. He listened with quiet irony to Bitski's enthusiastic account of it. A very simple thought occurred to him: "What does it matter to me or to Bitski what the Emperor was pleased to say at the Council? Can all that make me any happier or better?"
And this simple reflection suddenly destroyed all the interest Prince Andrew had felt in the impending reforms. He was going to dine that evening at Speranski's, "with only a few friends," as the host had said when inviting him. The prospect of that dinner in the intimate home circle of the man he so admired had greatly interested Prince Andrew, especially as he had not yet seen Speranski in his domestic surroundings, but now he felt disinclined to go to it.
At the appointed hour, however, he entered the modest house Speranski owned in the Taurida Gardens. In the parqueted dining room this small house, remarkable for its extreme cleanliness (suggesting that of a monastery), Prince Andrew, who was rather late, found the friendly gathering of Speranski's intimate acquaintances already assembled at five o'clock. There were no ladies present except Speranski's little daughter (long-faced like her father) and her governess. The other guests were Gervais, Magnitski, and Stolypin. While still in the anteroom Prince Andrew heard loud voices and a ringing staccato laugh—a laugh such as one hears on the stage. Someone—it sounded like Speranski—was distinctly ejaculating ha-ha-ha. Prince Andrew had never before heard Speranski's famous laugh, and this ringing, high pitched laughter from a statesman made a strange impression on him.
He entered the dining room. The whole company were standing between two windows at a small table laid with hors-d'oeuvres. Speranski, wearing a gray swallow-tail coat with a star on the breast, and evidently still the same waistcoat and high white stock he had worn at the meeting of the Council of State, stood at the table with a beaming countenance. His guests surrounded him. Magnitski, addressing himself to Speranski, was relating an anecdote, and Speranski was laughing in advance at what Magnitski was going to say. When Prince Andrew entered the room Magnitski's words were again crowned by laughter. Stolypin gave a deep bass guffaw as he munched a piece of bread and cheese. Gervais laughed softly with a hissing chuckle, and Speranski in a high-pitched staccato manner.
Still laughing, Speranski held out his soft white hand to Prince Andrew.
"Very pleased to see you, Prince," he said. "One moment..." he went on, turning to Magnitski and interrupting his story. "We have agreed that this is a dinner for recreation, with not a word about business!" and turning again to the narrator he began to laugh afresh.
Prince Andrew looked at the laughing Speranski with astonishment, regret, and disillusionment. It seemed to him that this was not Speranski but someone else. Everything that had formerly appeared mysterious and fascinating in Speranski suddenly became plain and unattractive.
At dinner the conversation did not cease for a moment and seemed to consist of the contents of a book of funny anecdotes. Before Magnitski had finished his story someone else was anxious to relate something still funnier. Most of the anecdotes, if not relating to the state service, related to people in the service. It seemed that in this company the insignificance of those people was so definitely accepted that the only possible attitude toward them was one of good humored ridicule. Speranski related how at the Council that morning a deaf dignitary, when asked his opinion, replied that he thought so too. Gervais gave a long account of an official revision, remarkable for the stupidity of everybody concerned. Stolypin, stuttering, broke into the conversation and began excitedly talking of the abuses that existed under the former order of things—threatening to give a serious turn to the conversation. Magnitski starting quizzing Stolypin about his vehemence. Gervais intervened with a joke, and the talk reverted to its former lively tone.
Evidently Speranski liked to rest after his labors and find amusement in a circle of friends, and his guests, understanding his wish, tried to enliven him and amuse themselves. But their gaiety seemed to Prince Andrew mirthless and tiresome. Speranski's high-pitched voice struck him unpleasantly, and the incessant laughter grated on him like a false note. Prince Andrew did not laugh and feared that he would be a damper on the spirits of the company, but no one took any notice of his being out of harmony with the general mood. They all seemed very gay.
He tried several times to join in the conversation, but his remarks were tossed aside each time like a cork thrown out of the water, and he could not jest with them.
There was nothing wrong or unseemly in what they said, it was witty and might have been funny, but it lacked just that something which is the salt of mirth, and they were not even aware that such a thing existed.
After dinner Speranski's daughter and her governess rose. He patted the little girl with his white hand and kissed her. And that gesture, too, seemed unnatural to Prince Andrew.
The men remained at table over their port—English fashion. In the midst of a conversation that was started about Napoleon's Spanish affairs, which they all agreed in approving, Prince Andrew began to express a contrary opinion. Speranski smiled and, with an evident wish to prevent the conversation from taking an unpleasant course, told a story that had no connection with the previous conversation. For a few moments all were silent.
Having sat some time at table, Speranski corked a bottle of wine and, remarking, "Nowadays good wine rides in a carriage and pair," passed it to the servant and got up. All rose and continuing to talk loudly went into the drawing room. Two letters brought by a courier were handed to Speranski and he took them to his study. As soon as he had left the room the general merriment stopped and the guests began to converse sensibly and quietly with one another.
"Now for the recitation!" said Speranski on returning from his study. "A wonderful talent!" he said to Prince Andrew, and Magnitski immediately assumed a pose and began reciting some humorous verses in French which he had composed about various well-known Petersburg people. He was interrupted several times by applause. When the verses were finished Prince Andrew went up to Speranski and took his leave.
"Where are you off to so early?" asked Speranski.
"I promised to go to a reception."
They said no more. Prince Andrew looked closely into those mirrorlike, impenetrable eyes, and felt that it had been ridiculous of him to have expected anything from Speranski and from any of his own activities connected with him, or ever to have attributed importance to what Speranski was doing. That precise, mirthless laughter rang in Prince Andrew's ears long after he had left the house.
When he reached home Prince Andrew began thinking of his life in Petersburg during those last four months as if it were something new. He recalled his exertions and solicitations, and the history of his project of army reform, which had been accepted for consideration and which they were trying to pass over in silence simply because another, a very poor one, had already been prepared and submitted to the Emperor. He thought of the meetings of a committee of which Berg was a member. He remembered how carefully and at what length everything relating to form and procedure was discussed at those meetings, and how sedulously and promptly all that related to the gist of the business was evaded. He recalled his labors on the Legal Code, and how painstakingly he had translated the articles of the Roman and French codes into Russian, and he felt ashamed of himself. Then he vividly pictured to himself Bogucharovo, his occupations in the country, his journey to Ryazan; he remembered the peasants and Dron the village elder, and mentally applying to them the Personal Rights he had divided into paragraphs, he felt astonished that he could have spent so much time on such useless work.
Next day Prince Andrew called at a few houses he had not visited before, and among them at the Rostovs' with whom he had renewed acquaintance at the ball. Apart from considerations of politeness which demanded the call, he wanted to see that original, eager girl who had left such a pleasant impression on his mind, in her own home.
Natasha was one of the first to meet him. She was wearing a dark-blue house dress in which Prince Andrew thought her even prettier than in her ball dress. She and all the Rostov family welcomed him as an old friend, simply and cordially. The whole family, whom he had formerly judged severely, now seemed to him to consist of excellent, simple, and kindly people. The old count's hospitality and good nature, which struck one especially in Petersburg as a pleasant surprise, were such that Prince Andrew could not refuse to stay to dinner. "Yes," he thought, "they are capital people, who of course have not the slightest idea what a treasure they possess in Natasha; but they are kindly folk and form the best possible setting for this strikingly poetic, charming girl, overflowing with life!"
In Natasha Prince Andrew was conscious of a strange world completely alien to him and brimful of joys unknown to him, a different world, that in the Otradnoe avenue and at the window that moonlight night had already begun to disconcert him. Now this world disconcerted him no longer and was no longer alien to him, but he himself having entered it found in it a new enjoyment.
After dinner Natasha, at Prince Andrew's request, went to the clavichord and began singing. Prince Andrew stood by a window talking to the ladies and listened to her. In the midst of a phrase he ceased speaking and suddenly felt tears choking him, a thing he had thought impossible for him. He looked at Natasha as she sang, and something new and joyful stirred in his soul. He felt happy and at the same time sad. He had absolutely nothing to weep about yet he was ready to weep. What about? His former love? The little princess? His disillusionments?... His hopes for the future?... Yes and no. The chief reason was a sudden, vivid sense of the terrible contrast between something infinitely great and illimitable within him and that limited and material something that he, and even she, was. This contrast weighed on and yet cheered him while she sang.
As soon as Natasha had finished she went up to him and asked how he liked her voice. She asked this and then became confused, feeling that she ought not to have asked it. He smiled, looking at her, and said he liked her singing as he liked everything she did.
Prince Andrew left the Rostovs' late in the evening. He went to bed from habit, but soon realized that he could not sleep. Having lit his candle he sat up in bed, then got up, then lay down again not at all troubled by his sleeplessness: his soul was as fresh and joyful as if he had stepped out of a stuffy room into God's own fresh air. It did not enter his head that he was in love with Natasha; he was not thinking about her, but only picturing her to himself, and in consequence all life appeared in a new light. "Why do I strive, why do I toil in this narrow, confined frame, when life, all life with all its joys, is open to me?" said he to himself. And for the first time for a very long while he began making happy plans for the future. He decided that he must attend to his son's education by finding a tutor and putting the boy in his charge, then he ought to retire from the service and go abroad, and see England, Switzerland and Italy. "I must use my freedom while I feel so much strength and youth in me," he said to himself. "Pierre was right when he said one must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy, and now I do believe in it. Let the dead bury their dead, but while one has life one must live and be happy!" thought he.
One morning Colonel Berg, whom Pierre knew as he knew everybody in Moscow and Petersburg, came to see him. Berg arrived in an immaculate brand-new uniform, with his hair pomaded and brushed forward over his temples as the Emperor Alexander wore his hair.
"I have just been to see the countess, your wife. Unfortunately she could not grant my request, but I hope, Count, I shall be more fortunate with you," he said with a smile.
"What is it you wish, Colonel? I am at your service."
"I have now quite settled in my new rooms, Count" (Berg said this with perfect conviction that this information could not but be agreeable), "and so I wish to arrange just a small party for my own and my wife's friends." (He smiled still more pleasantly.) "I wished to ask the countess and you to do me the honor of coming to tea and to supper."
Only Countess Helene, considering the society of such people as the Bergs beneath her, could be cruel enough to refuse such an invitation. Berg explained so clearly why he wanted to collect at his house a small but select company, and why this would give him pleasure, and why though he grudged spending money on cards or anything harmful, he was prepared to run into some expense for the sake of good society—that Pierre could not refuse, and promised to come.
"But don't be late, Count, if I may venture to ask; about ten minutes to eight, please. We shall make up a rubber. Our general is coming. He is very good to me. We shall have supper, Count. So you will do me the favor."
Contrary to his habit of being late, Pierre on that day arrived at the Bergs' house, not at ten but at fifteen minutes to eight.
Having prepared everything necessary for the party, the Bergs were ready for their guests' arrival.
In their new, clean, and light study with its small busts and pictures and new furniture sat Berg and his wife. Berg, closely buttoned up in his new uniform, sat beside his wife explaining to her that one always could and should be acquainted with people above one, because only then does one get satisfaction from acquaintances.
"You can get to know something, you can ask for something. See how I managed from my first promotion." (Berg measured his life not by years but by promotions.) "My comrades are still nobodies, while I am only waiting for a vacancy to command a regiment, and have the happiness to be your husband." (He rose and kissed Vera's hand, and on the way to her straightened out a turned-up corner of the carpet.) "And how have I obtained all this? Chiefly by knowing how to choose my aquaintances. It goes without saying that one must be conscientious and methodical."
Berg smiled with a sense of his superiority over a weak woman, and paused, reflecting that this dear wife of his was after all but a weak woman who could not understand all that constitutes a man's dignity, what it was ein Mann zu sein. * Vera at the same time smiling with a sense of superiority over her good, conscientious husband, who all the same understood life wrongly, as according to Vera all men did. Berg, judging by his wife, thought all women weak and foolish. Vera, judging only by her husband and generalizing from that observation, supposed that all men, though they understand nothing and are conceited and selfish, ascribe common sense to themselves alone.
* To be a man.
Berg rose and embraced his wife carefully, so as not to crush her lace fichu for which he had paid a good price, kissing her straight on the lips.
"The only thing is, we mustn't have children too soon," he continued, following an unconscious sequence of ideas.
"Yes," answered Vera, "I don't at all want that. We must live for society."
"Princess Yusupova wore one exactly like this," said Berg, pointing to the fichu with a happy and kindly smile.
Just then Count Bezukhov was announced. Husband and wife glanced at one another, both smiling with self-satisfaction, and each mentally claiming the honor of this visit.
"This is what comes of knowing how to make acquaintances," thought Berg. "This is what comes of knowing how to conduct oneself."
"But please don't interrupt me when I am entertaining the guests," said Vera, "because I know what interests each of them and what to say to different people."
Berg smiled again.
"It can't be helped: men must sometimes have masculine conversation," said he.
They received Pierre in their small, new drawing-room, where it was impossible to sit down anywhere without disturbing its symmetry, neatness, and order; so it was quite comprehensible and not strange that Berg, having generously offered to disturb the symmetry of an armchair or of the sofa for his dear guest, but being apparently painfully undecided on the matter himself, eventually left the visitor to settle the question of selection. Pierre disturbed the symmetry by moving a chair for himself, and Berg and Vera immediately began their evening party, interrupting each other in their efforts to entertain their guest.
Vera, having decided in her own mind that Pierre ought to be entertained with conversation about the French embassy, at once began accordingly. Berg, having decided that masculine conversation was required, interrupted his wife's remarks and touched on the question of the war with Austria, and unconsciously jumped from the general subject to personal considerations as to the proposals made him to take part in the Austrian campaign and the reasons why he had declined them. Though the conversation was very incoherent and Vera was angry at the intrusion of the masculine element, both husband and wife felt with satisfaction that, even if only one guest was present, their evening had begun very well and was as like as two peas to every other evening party with its talk, tea, and lighted candles.
Before long Boris, Berg's old comrade, arrived. There was a shade of condescension and patronage in his treatment of Berg and Vera. After Boris came a lady with the colonel, then the general himself, then the Rostovs, and the party became unquestionably exactly like all other evening parties. Berg and Vera could not repress their smiles of satisfaction at the sight of all this movement in their drawing room, at the sound of the disconnected talk, the rustling of dresses, and the bowing and scraping. Everything was just as everybody always has it, especially so the general, who admired the apartment, patted Berg on the shoulder, and with parental authority superintended the setting out of the table for boston. The general sat down by Count Ilya Rostov, who was next to himself the most important guest. The old people sat with the old, the young with the young, and the hostess at the tea table, on which stood exactly the same kind of cakes in a silver cake basket as the Panins had at their party. Everything was just as it was everywhere else.
Pierre, as one of the principal guests, had to sit down to boston with Count Rostov, the general, and the colonel. At the card table he happened to be directly facing Natasha, and was struck by a curious change that had come over her since the ball. She was silent, and not only less pretty than at the ball, but only redeemed from plainness by her look of gentle indifference to everything around.
"What's the matter with her?" thought Pierre, glancing at her. She was sitting by her sister at the tea table, and reluctantly, without looking at him, made some reply to Boris who sat down beside her. After playing out a whole suit and to his partner's delight taking five tricks, Pierre, hearing greetings and the steps of someone who had entered the room while he was picking up his tricks, glanced again at Natasha.
"What has happened to her?" he asked himself with still greater surprise.
Prince Andrew was standing before her, saying something to her with a look of tender solicitude. She, having raised her head, was looking up at him, flushed and evidently trying to master her rapid breathing. And the bright glow of some inner fire that had been suppressed was again alight in her. She was completely transformed and from a plain girl had again become what she had been at the ball.
Prince Andrew went up to Pierre, and the latter noticed a new and youthful expression in his friend's face.
Pierre changed places several times during the game, sitting now with his back to Natasha and now facing her, but during the whole of the six rubbers he watched her and his friend.
"Something very important is happening between them," thought Pierre, and a feeling that was both joyful and painful agitated him and made him neglect the game.
After six rubbers the general got up, saying that it was no use playing like that, and Pierre was released. Natasha on one side was talking with Sonya and Boris, and Vera with a subtle smile was saying something to Prince Andrew. Pierre went up to his friend and, asking whether they were talking secrets, sat down beside them. Vera, having noticed Prince Andrew's attentions to Natasha, decided that at a party, a real evening party, subtle allusions to the tender passion were absolutely necessary and, seizing a moment when Prince Andrew was alone, began a conversation with him about feelings in general and about her sister. With so intellectual a guest as she considered Prince Andrew to be, she felt that she had to employ her diplomatic tact.
When Pierre went up to them he noticed that Vera was being carried away by her self-satisfied talk, but that Prince Andrew seemed embarrassed, a thing that rarely happened with him.
"What do you think?" Vera was saying with an arch smile. "You are so discerning, Prince, and understand people's characters so well at a glance. What do you think of Natalie? Could she be constant in her attachments? Could she, like other women" (Vera meant herself), "love a man once for all and remain true to him forever? That is what I consider true love. What do you think, Prince?"
"I know your sister too little," replied Prince Andrew, with a sarcastic smile under which he wished to hide his embarrassment, "to be able to solve so delicate a question, and then I have noticed that the less attractive a woman is the more constant she is likely to be," he added, and looked up at Pierre who was just approaching them.
"Yes, that is true, Prince. In our days," continued Vera—mentioning "our days" as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of "our days" and that human characteristics change with the times—"in our days a girl has so much freedom that the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her. And it must be confessed that Natalie is very susceptible." This return to the subject of Natalie caused Prince Andrew to knit his brows with discomfort: he was about to rise, but Vera continued with a still more subtle smile:
"I think no one has been more courted than she," she went on, "but till quite lately she never cared seriously for anyone. Now you know, Count," she said to Pierre, "even our dear cousin Boris, who, between ourselves, was very far gone in the land of tenderness..." (alluding to a map of love much in vogue at that time).
Prince Andrew frowned and remained silent.
"You are friendly with Boris, aren't you?" asked Vera.
"Yes, I know him..."
"I expect he has told you of his childish love for Natasha?"
"Oh, there was childish love?" suddenly asked Prince Andrew, blushing unexpectedly.
"Yes, you know between cousins intimacy often leads to love. Le cousinage est un dangereux voisinage. * Don't you think so?"
* "Cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood."
"Oh, undoubtedly!" said Prince Andrew, and with sudden and unnatural liveliness he began chaffing Pierre about the need to be very careful with his fifty-year-old Moscow cousins, and in the midst of these jesting remarks he rose, taking Pierre by the arm, and drew him aside.
"Well?" asked Pierre, seeing his friend's strange animation with surprise, and noticing the glance he turned on Natasha as he rose.
"I must... I must have a talk with you," said Prince Andrew. "You know that pair of women's gloves?" (He referred to the Masonic gloves given to a newly initiated Brother to present to the woman he loved.) "I... but no, I will talk to you later on," and with a strange light in his eyes and restlessness in his movements, Prince Andrew approached Natasha and sat down beside her. Pierre saw how Prince Andrew asked her something and how she flushed as she replied.
But at that moment Berg came to Pierre and began insisting that he should take part in an argument between the general and the colonel on the affairs in Spain.
Berg was satisfied and happy. The smile of pleasure never left his face. The party was very successful and quite like other parties he had seen. Everything was similar: the ladies' subtle talk, the cards, the general raising his voice at the card table, and the samovar and the tea cakes; only one thing was lacking that he had always seen at the evening parties he wished to imitate. They had not yet had a loud conversation among the men and a dispute about something important and clever. Now the general had begun such a discussion and so Berg drew Pierre to it.
Next day, having been invited by the count, Prince Andrew dined with the Rostovs and spent the rest of the day there.
Everyone in the house realized for whose sake Prince Andrew came, and without concealing it he tried to be with Natasha all day. Not only in the soul of the frightened yet happy and enraptured Natasha, but in the whole house, there was a feeling of awe at something important that was bound to happen. The countess looked with sad and sternly serious eyes at Prince Andrew when he talked to Natasha and timidly started some artificial conversation about trifles as soon as he looked her way. Sonya was afraid to leave Natasha and afraid of being in the way when she was with them. Natasha grew pale, in a panic of expectation, when she remained alone with him for a moment. Prince Andrew surprised her by his timidity. She felt that he wanted to say something to her but could not bring himself to do so.
In the evening, when Prince Andrew had left, the countess went up to Natasha and whispered: "Well, what?"
"Mamma! For heaven's sake don't ask me anything now! One can't talk about that," said Natasha.
But all the same that night Natasha, now agitated and now frightened, lay a long time in her mother's bed gazing straight before her. She told her how he had complimented her, how he told her he was going abroad, asked her where they were going to spend the summer, and then how he had asked her about Boris.
"But such a... such a... never happened to me before!" she said. "Only I feel afraid in his presence. I am always afraid when I'm with him. What does that mean? Does it mean that it's the real thing? Yes? Mamma, are you asleep?"
"No, my love; I am frightened myself," answered her mother. "Now go!"
"All the same I shan't sleep. What silliness, to sleep! Mummy! Mummy! such a thing never happened to me before," she said, surprised and alarmed at the feeling she was aware of in herself. "And could we ever have thought!..."
It seemed to Natasha that even at the time she first saw Prince Andrew at Otradnoe she had fallen in love with him. It was as if she feared this strange, unexpected happiness of meeting again the very man she had then chosen (she was firmly convinced she had done so) and of finding him, as it seemed, not indifferent to her.
"And it had to happen that he should come specially to Petersburg while we are here. And it had to happen that we should meet at that ball. It is fate. Clearly it is fate that everything led up to this! Already then, directly I saw him I felt something peculiar."
"What else did he say to you? What are those verses? Read them..." said her mother, thoughtfully, referring to some verses Prince Andrew had written in Natasha's album.
"Mamma, one need not be ashamed of his being a widower?"
"Don't, Natasha! Pray to God. 'Marriages are made in heaven,'" said her mother.
"Darling Mummy, how I love you! How happy I am!" cried Natasha, shedding tears of joy and excitement and embracing her mother.
At that very time Prince Andrew was sitting with Pierre and telling him of his love for Natasha and his firm resolve to make her his wife.
That day Countess Helene had a reception at her house. The French ambassador was there, and a foreign prince of the blood who had of late become a frequent visitor of hers, and many brilliant ladies and gentlemen. Pierre, who had come downstairs, walked through the rooms and struck everyone by his preoccupied, absent-minded, and morose air.
Since the ball he had felt the approach of a fit of nervous depression and had made desperate efforts to combat it. Since the intimacy of his wife with the royal prince, Pierre had unexpectedly been made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and from that time he had begun to feel oppressed and ashamed in court society, and dark thoughts of the vanity of all things human came to him oftener than before. At the same time the feeling he had noticed between his protegee Natasha and Prince Andrew accentuated his gloom by the contrast between his own position and his friend's. He tried equally to avoid thinking about his wife, and about Natasha and Prince Andrew; and again everything seemed to him insignificant in comparison with eternity; again the question: for what? presented itself; and he forced himself to work day and night at Masonic labors, hoping to drive away the evil spirit that threatened him. Toward midnight, after he had left the countess' apartments, he was sitting upstairs in a shabby dressing gown, copying out the original transaction of the Scottish lodge of Freemasons at a table in his low room cloudy with tobacco smoke, when someone came in. It was Prince Andrew.
"Ah, it's you!" said Pierre with a preoccupied, dissatisfied air. "And I, you see, am hard at it." He pointed to his manuscript book with that air of escaping from the ills of life with which unhappy people look at their work.
Prince Andrew, with a beaming, ecstatic expression of renewed life on his face, paused in front of Pierre and, not noticing his sad look, smiled at him with the egotism of joy.
"Well, dear heart," said he, "I wanted to tell you about it yesterday and I have come to do so today. I never experienced anything like it before. I am in love, my friend!"
Suddenly Pierre heaved a deep sigh and dumped his heavy person down on the sofa beside Prince Andrew.
"With Natasha Rostova, yes?" said he.
"Yes, yes! Who else should it be? I should never have believed it, but the feeling is stronger than I. Yesterday I tormented myself and suffered, but I would not exchange even that torment for anything in the world, I have not lived till now. At last I live, but I can't live without her! But can she love me?... I am too old for her.... Why don't you speak?"
"I? I? What did I tell you?" said Pierre suddenly, rising and beginning to pace up and down the room. "I always thought it.... That girl is such a treasure... she is a rare girl.... My dear friend, I entreat you, don't philosophize, don't doubt, marry, marry, marry.... And I am sure there will not be a happier man than you."
"But what of her?"
"She loves you."
"Don't talk rubbish..." said Prince Andrew, smiling and looking into Pierre's eyes.
"She does, I know," Pierre cried fiercely.
"But do listen," returned Prince Andrew, holding him by the arm. "Do you know the condition I am in? I must talk about it to someone."
"Well, go on, go on. I am very glad," said Pierre, and his face really changed, his brow became smooth, and he listened gladly to Prince Andrew. Prince Andrew seemed, and really was, quite a different, quite a new man. Where was his spleen, his contempt for life, his disillusionment? Pierre was the only person to whom he made up his mind to speak openly; and to him he told all that was in his soul. Now he boldly and lightly made plans for an extended future, said he could not sacrifice his own happiness to his father's caprice, and spoke of how he would either make his father consent to this marriage and love her, or would do without his consent; then he marveled at the feeling that had mastered him as at something strange, apart from and independent of himself.
"I should not have believed anyone who told me that I was capable of such love," said Prince Andrew. "It is not at all the same feeling that I knew in the past. The whole world is now for me divided into two halves: one half is she, and there all is joy, hope, light: the other half is everything where she is not, and there is all gloom and darkness...."
"Darkness and gloom," reiterated Pierre: "yes, yes, I understand that."
"I cannot help loving the light, it is not my fault. And I am very happy! You understand me? I know you are glad for my sake."
"Yes, yes," Pierre assented, looking at his friend with a touched and sad expression in his eyes. The brighter Prince Andrew's lot appeared to him, the gloomier seemed his own.
Prince Andrew needed his father's consent to his marriage, and to obtain this he started for the country next day.
His father received his son's communication with external composure, but inward wrath. He could not comprehend how anyone could wish to alter his life or introduce anything new into it, when his own life was already ending. "If only they would let me end my days as I want to," thought the old man, "then they might do as they please." With his son, however, he employed the diplomacy he reserved for important occasions and, adopting a quiet tone, discussed the whole matter.
In the first place the marriage was not a brilliant one as regards birth, wealth, or rank. Secondly, Prince Andrew was no longer as young as he had been and his health was poor (the old man laid special stress on this), while she was very young. Thirdly, he had a son whom it would be a pity to entrust to a chit of a girl. "Fourthly and finally," the father said, looking ironically at his son, "I beg you to put it off for a year: go abroad, take a cure, look out as you wanted to for a German tutor for Prince Nicholas. Then if your love or passion or obstinacy—as you please—is still as great, marry! And that's my last word on it. Mind, the last..." concluded the prince, in a tone which showed that nothing would make him alter his decision.
Prince Andrew saw clearly that the old man hoped that his feelings, or his fiancee's, would not stand a year's test, or that he (the old prince himself) would die before then, and he decided to conform to his father's wish—to propose, and postpone the wedding for a year.
Three weeks after the last evening he had spent with the Rostovs, Prince Andrew returned to Petersburg.
Next day after her talk with her mother Natasha expected Bolkonski all day, but he did not come. On the second and third day it was the same. Pierre did not come either and Natasha, not knowing that Prince Andrew had gone to see his father, could not explain his absence to herself.
Three weeks passed in this way. Natasha had no desire to go out anywhere and wandered from room to room like a shadow, idle and listless; she wept secretly at night and did not go to her mother in the evenings. She blushed continually and was irritable. It seemed to her that everybody knew about her disappointment and was laughing at her and pitying her. Strong as was her inward grief, this wound to her vanity intensified her misery.
Once she came to her mother, tried to say something, and suddenly began to cry. Her tears were those of an offended child who does not know why it is being punished.
The countess began to soothe Natasha, who after first listening to her mother's words, suddenly interrupted her:
"Leave off, Mamma! I don't think, and don't want to think about it! He just came and then left off, left off..."
Her voice trembled, and she again nearly cried, but recovered and went on quietly:
"And I don't at all want to get married. And I am afraid of him; I have now become quite calm, quite calm."
The day after this conversation Natasha put on the old dress which she knew had the peculiar property of conducing to cheerfulness in the mornings, and that day she returned to the old way of life which she had abandoned since the ball. Having finished her morning tea she went to the ballroom, which she particularly liked for its loud resonance, and began singing her solfeggio. When she had finished her first exercise she stood still in the middle of the room and sang a musical phrase that particularly pleased her. She listened joyfully (as though she had not expected it) to the charm of the notes reverberating, filling the whole empty ballroom, and slowly dying away; and all at once she felt cheerful. "What's the good of making so much of it? Things are nice as it is," she said to herself, and she began walking up and down the room, not stepping simply on the resounding parquet but treading with each step from the heel to the toe (she had on a new and favorite pair of shoes) and listening to the regular tap of the heel and creak of the toe as gladly as she had to the sounds of her own voice. Passing a mirror she glanced into it. "There, that's me!" the expression of her face seemed to say as she caught sight of herself. "Well, and very nice too! I need nobody."
A footman wanted to come in to clear away something in the room but she would not let him, and having closed the door behind him continued her walk. That morning she had returned to her favorite mood—love of, and delight in, herself. "How charming that Natasha is!" she said again, speaking as some third, collective, male person. "Pretty, a good voice, young, and in nobody's way if only they leave her in peace." But however much they left her in peace she could not now be at peace, and immediately felt this.
In the hall the porch door opened, and someone asked, "At home?" and then footsteps were heard. Natasha was looking at the mirror, but did not see herself. She listened to the sounds in the hall. When she saw herself, her face was pale. It was he. She knew this for certain, though she hardly heard his voice through the closed doors.
Pale and agitated, Natasha ran into the drawing room.
"Mamma! Bolkonski has come!" she said. "Mamma, it is awful, it is unbearable! I don't want... to be tormented? What am I to do?..."
Before the countess could answer, Prince Andrew entered the room with an agitated and serious face. As soon as he saw Natasha his face brightened. He kissed the countess' hand and Natasha's, and sat down beside the sofa.
"It is long since we had the pleasure..." began the countess, but Prince Andrew interrupted her by answering her intended question, obviously in haste to say what he had to.
"I have not been to see you all this time because I have been at my father's. I had to talk over a very important matter with him. I only got back last night," he said glancing at Natasha; "I want to have a talk with you, Countess," he added after a moment's pause.
The countess lowered her eyes, sighing deeply.
"I am at your disposal," she murmured.
Natasha knew that she ought to go away, but was unable to do so: something gripped her throat, and regardless of manners she stared straight at Prince Andrew with wide-open eyes.
"At once? This instant!... No, it can't be!" she thought.
Again he glanced at her, and that glance convinced her that she was not mistaken. Yes, at once, that very instant, her fate would be decided.
"Go, Natasha! I will call you," said the countess in a whisper.
Natasha glanced with frightened imploring eyes at Prince Andrew and at her mother and went out.
"I have come, Countess, to ask for your daughter's hand," said Prince Andrew.
The countess' face flushed hotly, but she said nothing.
"Your offer..." she began at last sedately. He remained silent, looking into her eyes. "Your offer..." (she grew confused) "is agreeable to us, and I accept your offer. I am glad. And my husband... I hope... but it will depend on her...."
"I will speak to her when I have your consent.... Do you give it to me?" said Prince Andrew.
"Yes," replied the countess. She held out her hand to him, and with a mixed feeling of estrangement and tenderness pressed her lips to his forehead as he stooped to kiss her hand. She wished to love him as a son, but felt that to her he was a stranger and a terrifying man. "I am sure my husband will consent," said the countess, "but your father..."
"My father, to whom I have told my plans, has made it an express condition of his consent that the wedding is not to take place for a year. And I wished to tell you of that," said Prince Andrew.
"It is true that Natasha is still young, but—so long as that?..."
"It is unavoidable," said Prince Andrew with a sigh.
"I will send her to you," said the countess, and left the room.
"Lord have mercy upon us!" she repeated while seeking her daughter.
Sonya said that Natasha was in her bedroom. Natasha was sitting on the bed, pale and dry eyed, and was gazing at the icons and whispering something as she rapidly crossed herself. Seeing her mother she jumped up and flew to her.
"Well, Mamma?... Well?..."
"Go, go to him. He is asking for your hand," said the countess, coldly it seemed to Natasha. "Go... go," said the mother, sadly and reproachfully, with a deep sigh, as her daughter ran away.
Natasha never remembered how she entered the drawing room. When she came in and saw him she paused. "Is it possible that this stranger has now become everything to me?" she asked herself, and immediately answered, "Yes, everything! He alone is now dearer to me than everything in the world." Prince Andrew came up to her with downcast eyes.
"I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you. May I hope?"
He looked at her and was struck by the serious impassioned expression of her face. Her face said: "Why ask? Why doubt what you cannot but know? Why speak, when words cannot express what one feels?"
She drew near to him and stopped. He took her hand and kissed it.
"Do you love me?"
"Yes, yes!" Natasha murmured as if in vexation. Then she sighed loudly and, catching her breath more and more quickly, began to sob.
"What is it? What's the matter?"
"Oh, I am so happy!" she replied, smiled through her tears, bent over closer to him, paused for an instant as if asking herself whether she might, and then kissed him.
Prince Andrew held her hands, looked into her eyes, and did not find in his heart his former love for her. Something in him had suddenly changed; there was no longer the former poetic and mystic charm of desire, but there was pity for her feminine and childish weakness, fear at her devotion and trustfulness, and an oppressive yet joyful sense of the duty that now bound him to her forever. The present feeling, though not so bright and poetic as the former, was stronger and more serious.
"Did your mother tell you that it cannot be for a year?" asked Prince Andrew, still looking into her eyes.
"Is it possible that I—the 'chit of a girl,' as everybody called me," thought Natasha—"is it possible that I am now to be the wife and the equal of this strange, dear, clever man whom even my father looks up to? Can it be true? Can it be true that there can be no more playing with life, that now I am grown up, that on me now lies a responsibility for my every word and deed? Yes, but what did he ask me?"
"No," she replied, but she had not understood his question.
"Forgive me!" he said. "But you are so young, and I have already been through so much in life. I am afraid for you, you do not yet know yourself."
Natasha listened with concentrated attention, trying but failing to take in the meaning of his words.
"Hard as this year which delays my happiness will be," continued Prince Andrew, "it will give you time to be sure of yourself. I ask you to make me happy in a year, but you are free: our engagement shall remain a secret, and should you find that you do not love me, or should you come to love..." said Prince Andrew with an unnatural smile.
"Why do you say that?" Natasha interrupted him. "You know that from the very day you first came to Otradnoe I have loved you," she cried, quite convinced that she spoke the truth.
"In a year you will learn to know yourself...."
"A whole year!" Natasha repeated suddenly, only now realizing that the marriage was to be postponed for a year. "But why a year? Why a year?..."
Prince Andrew began to explain to her the reasons for this delay. Natasha did not hear him.
"And can't it be helped?" she asked. Prince Andrew did not reply, but his face expressed the impossibility of altering that decision.
"It's awful! Oh, it's awful! awful!" Natasha suddenly cried, and again burst into sobs. "I shall die, waiting a year: it's impossible, it's awful!" She looked into her lover's face and saw in it a look of commiseration and perplexity.
"No, no! I'll do anything!" she said, suddenly checking her tears. "I am so happy."
The father and mother came into the room and gave the betrothed couple their blessing.
From that day Prince Andrew began to frequent the Rostovs' as Natasha's affianced lover.
No betrothal ceremony took place and Natasha's engagement to Bolkonski was not announced; Prince Andrew insisted on that. He said that as he was responsible for the delay he ought to bear the whole burden of it; that he had given his word and bound himself forever, but that he did not wish to bind Natasha and gave her perfect freedom. If after six months she felt that she did not love him she would have full right to reject him. Naturally neither Natasha nor her parents wished to hear of this, but Prince Andrew was firm. He came every day to the Rostovs', but did not behave to Natasha as an affianced lover: he did not use the familiar thou, but said you to her, and kissed only her hand. After their engagement, quite different, intimate, and natural relations sprang up between them. It was as if they had not known each other till now. Both liked to recall how they had regarded each other when as yet they were nothing to one another; they felt themselves now quite different beings: then they were artificial, now natural and sincere. At first the family felt some constraint in intercourse with Prince Andrew; he seemed a man from another world, and for a long time Natasha trained the family to get used to him, proudly assuring them all that he only appeared to be different, but was really just like all of them, and that she was not afraid of him and no one else ought to be. After a few days they grew accustomed to him, and without restraint in his presence pursued their usual way of life, in which he took his part. He could talk about rural economy with the count, fashions with the countess and Natasha, and about albums and fancywork with Sonya. Sometimes the household both among themselves and in his presence expressed their wonder at how it had all happened, and at the evident omens there had been of it: Prince Andrew's coming to Otradnoe and their coming to Petersburg, and the likeness between Natasha and Prince Andrew which her nurse had noticed on his first visit, and Andrew's encounter with Nicholas in 1805, and many other incidents betokening that it had to be.
In the house that poetic dullness and quiet reigned which always accompanies the presence of a betrothed couple. Often when all sitting together everyone kept silent. Sometimes the others would get up and go away and the couple, left alone, still remained silent. They rarely spoke of their future life. Prince Andrew was afraid and ashamed to speak of it. Natasha shared this as she did all his feelings, which she constantly divined. Once she began questioning him about his son. Prince Andrew blushed, as he often did now—Natasha particularly liked it in him—and said that his son would not live with them.
"Why not?" asked Natasha in a frightened tone.
"I cannot take him away from his grandfather, and besides..."
"How I should have loved him!" said Natasha, immediately guessing his thought; "but I know you wish to avoid any pretext for finding fault with us."
Sometimes the old count would come up, kiss Prince Andrew, and ask his advice about Petya's education or Nicholas' service. The old countess sighed as she looked at them; Sonya was always getting frightened lest she should be in the way and tried to find excuses for leaving them alone, even when they did not wish it. When Prince Andrew spoke (he could tell a story very well), Natasha listened to him with pride; when she spoke she noticed with fear and joy that he gazed attentively and scrutinizingly at her. She asked herself in perplexity: "What does he look for in me? He is trying to discover something by looking at me! What if what he seeks in me is not there?" Sometimes she fell into one of the mad, merry moods characteristic of her, and then she particularly loved to hear and see how Prince Andrew laughed. He seldom laughed, but when he did he abandoned himself entirely to his laughter, and after such a laugh she always felt nearer to him. Natasha would have been completely happy if the thought of the separation awaiting her and drawing near had not terrified her, just as the mere thought of it made him turn pale and cold.
On the eve of his departure from Petersburg Prince Andrew brought with him Pierre, who had not been to the Rostovs' once since the ball. Pierre seemed disconcerted and embarrassed. He was talking to the countess, and Natasha sat down beside a little chess table with Sonya, thereby inviting Prince Andrew to come too. He did so.
"You have known Bezukhov a long time?" he asked. "Do you like him?"
"Yes, he's a dear, but very absurd."
And as usual when speaking of Pierre, she began to tell anecdotes of his absent-mindedness, some of which had even been invented about him.
"Do you know I have entrusted him with our secret? I have known him from childhood. He has a heart of gold. I beg you, Natalie," Prince Andrew said with sudden seriousness—"I am going away and heaven knows what may happen. You may cease to... all right, I know I am not to say that. Only this, then: whatever may happen to you when I am not here..."
"What can happen?"
"Whatever trouble may come," Prince Andrew continued, "I beg you, Mademoiselle Sophie, whatever may happen, to turn to him alone for advice and help! He is a most absent-minded and absurd fellow, but he has a heart of gold."
Neither her father, nor her mother, nor Sonya, nor Prince Andrew himself could have foreseen how the separation from her lover would act on Natasha. Flushed and agitated she went about the house all that day, dry-eyed, occupied with most trivial matters as if not understanding what awaited her. She did not even cry when, on taking leave, he kissed her hand for the last time. "Don't go!" she said in a tone that made him wonder whether he really ought not to stay and which he remembered long afterwards. Nor did she cry when he was gone; but for several days she sat in her room dry-eyed, taking no interest in anything and only saying now and then, "Oh, why did he go away?"
But a fortnight after his departure, to the surprise of those around her, she recovered from her mental sickness just as suddenly and became her old self again, but with a change in her moral physiognomy, as a child gets up after a long illness with a changed expression of face.
During that year after his son's departure, Prince Nicholas Bolkonski's health and temper became much worse. He grew still more irritable, and it was Princess Mary who generally bore the brunt of his frequent fits of unprovoked anger. He seemed carefully to seek out her tender spots so as to torture her mentally as harshly as possible. Princess Mary had two passions and consequently two joys—her nephew, little Nicholas, and religion—and these were the favorite subjects of the prince's attacks and ridicule. Whatever was spoken of he would bring round to the superstitiousness of old maids, or the petting and spoiling of children. "You want to make him"—little Nicholas—"into an old maid like yourself! A pity! Prince Andrew wants a son and not an old maid," he would say. Or, turning to Mademoiselle Bourienne, he would ask her in Princess Mary's presence how she liked our village priests and icons and would joke about them.
He continually hurt Princess Mary's feelings and tormented her, but it cost her no effort to forgive him. Could he be to blame toward her, or could her father, whom she knew loved her in spite of it all, be unjust? And what is justice? The princess never thought of that proud word "justice." All the complex laws of man centered for her in one clear and simple law—the law of love and self-sacrifice taught us by Him who lovingly suffered for mankind though He Himself was God. What had she to do with the justice or injustice of other people? She had to endure and love, and that she did.
During the winter Prince Andrew had come to Bald Hills and had been gay, gentle, and more affectionate than Princess Mary had known him for a long time past. She felt that something had happened to him, but he said nothing to her about his love. Before he left he had a long talk with his father about something, and Princess Mary noticed that before his departure they were dissatisfied with one another.
Soon after Prince Andrew had gone, Princess Mary wrote to her friend Julie Karagina in Petersburg, whom she had dreamed (as all girls dream) of marrying to her brother, and who was at that time in mourning for her own brother, killed in Turkey.
Sorrow, it seems, is our common lot, my dear, tender friend Julie.
Your loss is so terrible that I can only explain it to myself as a special providence of God who, loving you, wishes to try you and your excellent mother. Oh, my friend! Religion, and religion alone, can—I will not say comfort us—but save us from despair. Religion alone can explain to us what without its help man cannot comprehend: why, for what cause, kind and noble beings able to find happiness in life—not merely harming no one but necessary to the happiness of others—are called away to God, while cruel, useless, harmful persons, or such as are a burden to themselves and to others, are left living. The first death I saw, and one I shall never forget—that of my dear sister-in-law—left that impression on me. Just as you ask destiny why your splendid brother had to die, so I asked why that angel Lise, who not only never wronged anyone, but in whose soul there were never any unkind thoughts, had to die. And what do you think, dear friend? Five years have passed since then, and already I, with my petty understanding, begin to see clearly why she had to die, and in what way that death was but an expression of the infinite goodness of the Creator, whose every action, though generally incomprehensible to us, is but a manifestation of His infinite love for His creatures. Perhaps, I often think, she was too angelically innocent to have the strength to perform all a mother's duties. As a young wife she was irreproachable; perhaps she could not have been so as a mother. As it is, not only has she left us, and particularly Prince Andrew, with the purest regrets and memories, but probably she will there receive a place I dare not hope for myself. But not to speak of her alone, that early and terrible death has had the most beneficent influence on me and on my brother in spite of all our grief. Then, at the moment of our loss, these thoughts could not occur to me; I should then have dismissed them with horror, but now they are very clear and certain. I write all this to you, dear friend, only to convince you of the Gospel truth which has become for me a principle of life: not a single hair of our heads will fall without His will. And His will is governed only by infinite love for us, and so whatever befalls us is for our good.
You ask whether we shall spend next winter in Moscow. In spite of my wish to see you, I do not think so and do not want to do so. You will be surprised to hear that the reason for this is Buonaparte! The case is this: my father's health is growing noticeably worse, he cannot stand any contradiction and is becoming irritable. This irritability is, as you know, chiefly directed to political questions. He cannot endure the notion that Buonaparte is negotiating on equal terms with all the sovereigns of Europe and particularly with our own, the grandson of the Great Catherine! As you know, I am quite indifferent to politics, but from my father's remarks and his talks with Michael Ivanovich I know all that goes on in the world and especially about the honors conferred on Buonaparte, who only at Bald Hills in the whole world, it seems, is not accepted as a great man, still less as Emperor of France. And my father cannot stand this. It seems to me that it is chiefly because of his political views that my father is reluctant to speak of going to Moscow; for he foresees the encounters that would result from his way of expressing his views regardless of anybody. All the benefit he might derive from a course of treatment he would lose as a result of the disputes about Buonaparte which would be inevitable. In any case it will be decided very shortly.
Our family life goes on in the old way except for my brother Andrew's absence. He, as I wrote you before, has changed very much of late. After his sorrow he only this year quite recovered his spirits. He has again become as I used to know him when a child: kind, affectionate, with that heart of gold to which I know no equal. He has realized, it seems to me, that life is not over for him. But together with this mental change he has grown physically much weaker. He has become thinner and more nervous. I am anxious about him and glad he is taking this trip abroad which the doctors recommended long ago. I hope it will cure him. You write that in Petersburg he is spoken of as one of the most active, cultivated, and capable of the young men. Forgive my vanity as a relation, but I never doubted it. The good he has done to everybody here, from his peasants up to the gentry, is incalculable. On his arrival in Petersburg he received only his due. I always wonder at the way rumors fly from Petersburg to Moscow, especially such false ones as that you write about—I mean the report of my brother's betrothal to the little Rostova. I do not think my brother will ever marry again, and certainly not her; and this is why: first, I know that though he rarely speaks about the wife he has lost, the grief of that loss has gone too deep in his heart for him ever to decide to give her a successor and our little angel a stepmother. Secondly because, as far as I know, that girl is not the kind of girl who could please Prince Andrew. I do not think he would choose her for a wife, and frankly I do not wish it. But I am running on too long and am at the end of my second sheet. Good-by, my dear friend. May God keep you in His holy and mighty care. My dear friend, Mademoiselle Bourienne, sends you kisses.
In the middle of the summer Princess Mary received an unexpected letter from Prince Andrew in Switzerland in which he gave her strange and surprising news. He informed her of his engagement to Natasha Rostova. The whole letter breathed loving rapture for his betrothed and tender and confiding affection for his sister. He wrote that he had never loved as he did now and that only now did he understand and know what life was. He asked his sister to forgive him for not having told her of his resolve when he had last visited Bald Hills, though he had spoken of it to his father. He had not done so for fear Princess Mary should ask her father to give his consent, irritating him and having to bear the brunt of his displeasure without attaining her object. "Besides," he wrote, "the matter was not then so definitely settled as it is now. My father then insisted on a delay of a year and now already six months, half of that period, have passed, and my resolution is firmer than ever. If the doctors did not keep me here at the spas I should be back in Russia, but as it is I have to postpone my return for three months. You know me and my relations with Father. I want nothing from him. I have been and always shall be independent; but to go against his will and arouse his anger, now that he may perhaps remain with us such a short time, would destroy half my happiness. I am now writing to him about the same question, and beg you to choose a good moment to hand him the letter and to let me know how he looks at the whole matter and whether there is hope that he may consent to reduce the term by four months."
After long hesitations, doubts, and prayers, Princess Mary gave the letter to her father. The next day the old prince said to her quietly:
"Write and tell your brother to wait till I am dead.... It won't be long—I shall soon set him free."
The princess was about to reply, but her father would not let her speak and, raising his voice more and more, cried:
"Marry, marry, my boy!... A good family!... Clever people, eh? Rich, eh? Yes, a nice stepmother little Nicholas will have! Write and tell him that he may marry tomorrow if he likes. She will be little Nicholas' stepmother and I'll marry Bourienne!... Ha, ha, ha! He mustn't be without a stepmother either! Only one thing, no more women are wanted in my house—let him marry and live by himself. Perhaps you will go and live with him too?" he added, turning to Princess Mary. "Go in heavens name! Go out into the frost... the frost... the frost!"
After this outburst the prince did not speak any more about the matter. But repressed vexation at his son's poor-spirited behavior found expression in his treatment of his daughter. To his former pretexts for irony a fresh one was now added—allusions to stepmothers and amiabilities to Mademoiselle Bourienne.
"Why shouldn't I marry her?" he asked his daughter. "She'll make a splendid princess!"
And latterly, to her surprise and bewilderment, Princess Mary noticed that her father was really associating more and more with the Frenchwoman. She wrote to Prince Andrew about the reception of his letter, but comforted him with hopes of reconciling their father to the idea.
Little Nicholas and his education, her brother Andrew, and religion were Princess Mary's joys and consolations; but besides that, since everyone must have personal hopes, Princess Mary in the profoundest depths of her heart had a hidden dream and hope that supplied the chief consolation of her life. This comforting dream and hope were given her by God's folk—the half-witted and other pilgrims who visited her without the prince's knowledge. The longer she lived, the more experience and observation she had of life, the greater was her wonder at the short-sightedness of men who seek enjoyment and happiness here on earth: toiling, suffering, struggling, and harming one another, to obtain that impossible, visionary, sinful happiness. Prince Andrew had loved his wife, she died, but that was not enough: he wanted to bind his happiness to another woman. Her father objected to this because he wanted a more distinguished and wealthier match for Andrew. And they all struggled and suffered and tormented one another and injured their souls, their eternal souls, for the attainment of benefits which endure but for an instant. Not only do we know this ourselves, but Christ, the Son of God, came down to earth and told us that this life is but for a moment and is a probation; yet we cling to it and think to find happiness in it. "How is it that no one realizes this?" thought Princess Mary. "No one except these despised God's folk who, wallet on back, come to me by the back door, afraid of being seen by the prince, not for fear of ill-usage by him but for fear of causing him to sin. To leave family, home, and all the cares of worldly welfare, in order without clinging to anything to wander in hempen rags from place to place under an assumed name, doing no one any harm but praying for all—for those who drive one away as well as for those who protect one: higher than that life and truth there is no life or truth!"
There was one pilgrim, a quiet pockmarked little woman of fifty called Theodosia, who for over thirty years had gone about barefoot and worn heavy chains. Princess Mary was particularly fond of her. Once, when in a room with a lamp dimly lit before the icon Theodosia was talking of her life, the thought that Theodosia alone had found the true path of life suddenly came to Princess Mary with such force that she resolved to become a pilgrim herself. When Theodosia had gone to sleep Princess Mary thought about this for a long time, and at last made up her mind that, strange as it might seem, she must go on a pilgrimage. She disclosed this thought to no one but to her confessor, Father Akinfi, the monk, and he approved of her intention. Under guise of a present for the pilgrims, Princess Mary prepared a pilgrim's complete costume for herself: a coarse smock, bast shoes, a rough coat, and a black kerchief. Often, approaching the chest of drawers containing this secret treasure, Princess Mary paused, uncertain whether the time had not already come to put her project into execution.
Often, listening to the pilgrims' tales, she was so stimulated by their simple speech, mechanical to them but to her so full of deep meaning, that several times she was on the point of abandoning everything and running away from home. In imagination she already pictured herself by Theodosia's side, dressed in coarse rags, walking with a staff, a wallet on her back, along the dusty road, directing her wanderings from one saint's shrine to another, free from envy, earthly love, or desire, and reaching at last the place where there is no more sorrow or sighing, but eternal joy and bliss.
"I shall come to a place and pray there, and before having time to get used to it or getting to love it, I shall go farther. I will go on till my legs fail, and I'll lie down and die somewhere, and shall at last reach that eternal, quiet haven, where there is neither sorrow nor sighing..." thought Princess Mary.
But afterwards, when she saw her father and especially little Koko (Nicholas), her resolve weakened. She wept quietly, and felt that she was a sinner who loved her father and little nephew more than God.
BOOK SEVEN: 1810 - 11
The Bible legend tells us that the absence of labor—idleness—was a condition of the first man's blessedness before the Fall. Fallen man has retained a love of idleness, but the curse weighs on the race not only because we have to seek our bread in the sweat of our brows, but because our moral nature is such that we cannot be both idle and at ease. An inner voice tells us we are in the wrong if we are idle. If man could find a state in which he felt that though idle he was fulfilling his duty, he would have found one of the conditions of man's primitive blessedness. And such a state of obligatory and irreproachable idleness is the lot of a whole class—the military. The chief attraction of military service has consisted and will consist in this compulsory and irreproachable idleness.
Nicholas Rostov experienced this blissful condition to the full when, after 1807, he continued to serve in the Pavlograd regiment, in which he already commanded the squadron he had taken over from Denisov.
Rostov had become a bluff, good-natured fellow, whom his Moscow acquaintances would have considered rather bad form, but who was liked and respected by his comrades, subordinates, and superiors, and was well contented with his life. Of late, in 1809, he found in letters from home more frequent complaints from his mother that their affairs were falling into greater and greater disorder, and that it was time for him to come back to gladden and comfort his old parents.
Reading these letters, Nicholas felt a dread of their wanting to take him away from surroundings in which, protected from all the entanglements of life, he was living so calmly and quietly. He felt that sooner or later he would have to re-enter that whirlpool of life, with its embarrassments and affairs to be straightened out, its accounts with stewards, quarrels, and intrigues, its ties, society, and with Sonya's love and his promise to her. It was all dreadfully difficult and complicated; and he replied to his mother in cold, formal letters in French, beginning: "My dear Mamma," and ending: "Your obedient son," which said nothing of when he would return. In 1810 he received letters from his parents, in which they told him of Natasha's engagement to Bolkonski, and that the wedding would be in a year's time because the old prince made difficulties. This letter grieved and mortified Nicholas. In the first place he was sorry that Natasha, for whom he cared more than for anyone else in the family, should be lost to the home; and secondly, from his hussar point of view, he regretted not to have been there to show that fellow Bolkonski that connection with him was no such great honor after all, and that if he loved Natasha he might dispense with permission from his dotard father. For a moment he hesitated whether he should not apply for leave in order to see Natasha before she was married, but then came the maneuvers, and considerations about Sonya and about the confusion of their affairs, and Nicholas again put it off. But in the spring of that year, he received a letter from his mother, written without his father's knowledge, and that letter persuaded him to return. She wrote that if he did not come and take matters in hand, their whole property would be sold by auction and they would all have to go begging. The count was so weak, and trusted Mitenka so much, and was so good-natured, that everybody took advantage of him and things were going from bad to worse. "For God's sake, I implore you, come at once if you do not wish to make me and the whole family wretched," wrote the countess.
This letter touched Nicholas. He had that common sense of a matter-of-fact man which showed him what he ought to do.
The right thing now was, if not to retire from the service, at any rate to go home on leave. Why he had to go he did not know; but after his after-dinner nap he gave orders to saddle Mars, an extremely vicious gray stallion that had not been ridden for a long time, and when he returned with the horse all in a lather, he informed Lavrushka (Denisov's servant who had remained with him) and his comrades who turned up in the evening that he was applying for leave and was going home. Difficult and strange as it was for him to reflect that he would go away without having heard from the staff—and this interested him extremely—whether he was promoted to a captaincy or would receive the Order of St. Anne for the last maneuvers; strange as it was to think that he would go away without having sold his three roans to the Polish Count Golukhovski, who was bargaining for the horses Rostov had betted he would sell for two thousand rubles; incomprehensible as it seemed that the ball the hussars were giving in honor of the Polish Mademoiselle Przazdziecka (out of rivalry to the Uhlans who had given one in honor of their Polish Mademoiselle Borzozowska) would take place without him—he knew he must go away from this good, bright world to somewhere where everything was stupid and confused. A week later he obtained his leave. His hussar comrades—not only those of his own regiment, but the whole brigade—gave Rostov a dinner to which the subscription was fifteen rubles a head, and at which there were two bands and two choirs of singers. Rostov danced the Trepak with Major Basov; the tipsy officers tossed, embraced, and dropped Rostov; the soldiers of the third squadron tossed him too, and shouted "hurrah!" and then they put him in his sleigh and escorted him as far as the first post station.
During the first half of the journey—from Kremenchug to Kiev—all Rostov's thoughts, as is usual in such cases, were behind him, with the squadron; but when he had gone more than halfway he began to forget his three roans and Dozhoyveyko, his quartermaster, and to wonder anxiously how things would be at Otradnoe and what he would find there. Thoughts of home grew stronger the nearer he approached it—far stronger, as though this feeling of his was subject to the law by which the force of attraction is in inverse proportion to the square of the distance. At the last post station before Otradnoe he gave the driver a three-ruble tip, and on arriving he ran breathlessly, like a boy, up the steps of his home.
After the rapture of meeting, and after that odd feeling of unsatisfied expectation—the feeling that "everything is just the same, so why did I hurry?"—Nicholas began to settle down in his old home world. His father and mother were much the same, only a little older. What was new in them was a certain uneasiness and occasional discord, which there used not to be, and which, as Nicholas soon found out, was due to the bad state of their affairs. Sonya was nearly twenty; she had stopped growing prettier and promised nothing more than she was already, but that was enough. She exhaled happiness and love from the time Nicholas returned, and the faithful, unalterable love of this girl had a gladdening effect on him. Petya and Natasha surprised Nicholas most. Petya was a big handsome boy of thirteen, merry, witty, and mischievous, with a voice that was already breaking. As for Natasha, for a long while Nicholas wondered and laughed whenever he looked at her.
"You're not the same at all," he said.
"How? Am I uglier?"
"On the contrary, but what dignity? A princess!" he whispered to her.
"Yes, yes, yes!" cried Natasha, joyfully.
She told him about her romance with Prince Andrew and of his visit to Otradnoe and showed him his last letter.
"Well, are you glad?" Natasha asked. "I am so tranquil and happy now."
"Very glad," answered Nicholas. "He is an excellent fellow.... And are you very much in love?"
"How shall I put it?" replied Natasha. "I was in love with Boris, with my teacher, and with Denisov, but this is quite different. I feel at peace and settled. I know that no better man than he exists, and I am calm and contented now. Not at all as before."
Nicholas expressed his disapproval of the postponement of the marriage for a year; but Natasha attacked her brother with exasperation, proving to him that it could not be otherwise, and that it would be a bad thing to enter a family against the father's will, and that she herself wished it so.
"You don't at all understand," she said.
Nicholas was silent and agreed with her.
Her brother often wondered as he looked at her. She did not seem at all like a girl in love and parted from her affianced husband. She was even-tempered and calm and quite as cheerful as of old. This amazed Nicholas and even made him regard Bolkonski's courtship skeptically. He could not believe that her fate was sealed, especially as he had not seen her with Prince Andrew. It always seemed to him that there was something not quite right about this intended marriage.
"Why this delay? Why no betrothal?" he thought. Once, when he had touched on this topic with his mother, he discovered, to his surprise and somewhat to his satisfaction, that in the depth of her soul she too had doubts about this marriage.
"You see he writes," said she, showing her son a letter of Prince Andrew's, with that latent grudge a mother always has in regard to a daughter's future married happiness, "he writes that he won't come before December. What can be keeping him? Illness, probably! His health is very delicate. Don't tell Natasha. And don't attach importance to her being so bright: that's because she's living through the last days of her girlhood, but I know what she is like every time we receive a letter from him! However, God grant that everything turns out well!" (She always ended with these words.) "He is an excellent man!"
After reaching home Nicholas was at first serious and even dull. He was worried by the impending necessity of interfering in the stupid business matters for which his mother had called him home. To throw off this burden as quickly as possible, on the third day after his arrival he went, angry and scowling and without answering questions as to where he was going, to Mitenka's lodge and demanded an account of everything. But what an account of everything might be Nicholas knew even less than the frightened and bewildered Mitenka. The conversation and the examination of the accounts with Mitenka did not last long. The village elder, a peasant delegate, and the village clerk, who were waiting in the passage, heard with fear and delight first the young count's voice roaring and snapping and rising louder and louder, and then words of abuse, dreadful words, ejaculated one after the other.
"Robber!... Ungrateful wretch!... I'll hack the dog to pieces! I'm not my father!... Robbing us!..." and so on.
Then with no less fear and delight they saw how the young count, red in the face and with bloodshot eyes, dragged Mitenka out by the scruff of the neck and applied his foot and knee to his behind with great agility at convenient moments between the words, shouting, "Be off! Never let me see your face here again, you villain!"
Mitenka flew headlong down the six steps and ran away into the shrubbery. (This shrubbery was a well-known haven of refuge for culprits at Otradnoe. Mitenka himself, returning tipsy from the town, used to hide there, and many of the residents at Otradnoe, hiding from Mitenka, knew of its protective qualities.)
Mitenka's wife and sisters-in-law thrust their heads and frightened faces out of the door of a room where a bright samovar was boiling and where the steward's high bedstead stood with its patchwork quilt.
The young count paid no heed to them, but, breathing hard, passed by with resolute strides and went into the house.
The countess, who heard at once from the maids what had happened at the lodge, was calmed by the thought that now their affairs would certainly improve, but on the other hand felt anxious as to the effect this excitement might have on her son. She went several times to his door on tiptoe and listened, as he lighted one pipe after another.
Next day the old count called his son aside and, with an embarrassed smile, said to him:
"But you know, my dear boy, it's a pity you got excited! Mitenka has told me all about it."
"I knew," thought Nicholas, "that I should never understand anything in this crazy world."
"You were angry that he had not entered those 700 rubles. But they were carried forward—and you did not look at the other page."
"Papa, he is a blackguard and a thief! I know he is! And what I have done, I have done; but, if you like, I won't speak to him again."
"No, my dear boy" (the count, too, felt embarrassed. He knew he had mismanaged his wife's property and was to blame toward his children, but he did not know how to remedy it). "No, I beg you to attend to the business. I am old. I..."
"No, Papa. Forgive me if I have caused you unpleasantness. I understand it all less than you do."
"Devil take all these peasants, and money matters, and carryings forward from page to page," he thought. "I used to understand what a 'corner' and the stakes at cards meant, but carrying forward to another page I don't understand at all," said he to himself, and after that he did not meddle in business affairs. But once the countess called her son and informed him that she had a promissory note from Anna Mikhaylovna for two thousand rubles, and asked him what he thought of doing with it.
"This," answered Nicholas. "You say it rests with me. Well, I don't like Anna Mikhaylovna and I don't like Boris, but they were our friends and poor. Well then, this!" and he tore up the note, and by so doing caused the old countess to weep tears of joy. After that, young Rostov took no further part in any business affairs, but devoted himself with passionate enthusiasm to what was to him a new pursuit—the chase—for which his father kept a large establishment.
The weather was already growing wintry and morning frosts congealed an earth saturated by autumn rains. The verdure had thickened and its bright green stood out sharply against the brownish strips of winter rye trodden down by the cattle, and against the pale-yellow stubble of the spring buckwheat. The wooded ravines and the copses, which at the end of August had still been green islands amid black fields and stubble, had become golden and bright-red islands amid the green winter rye. The hares had already half changed their summer coats, the fox cubs were beginning to scatter, and the young wolves were bigger than dogs. It was the best time of the year for the chase. The hounds of that ardent young sportsman Rostov had not merely reached hard winter condition, but were so jaded that at a meeting of the huntsmen it was decided to give them a three days' rest and then, on the sixteenth of September, to go on a distant expedition, starting from the oak grove where there was an undisturbed litter of wolf cubs.