"Do you see?... My doll... Mimi... You see..." was all Natasha managed to utter (to her everything seemed funny). She leaned against her mother and burst into such a loud, ringing fit of laughter that even the prim visitor could not help joining in.
"Now then, go away and take your monstrosity with you," said the mother, pushing away her daughter with pretended sternness, and turning to the visitor she added: "She is my youngest girl."
Natasha, raising her face for a moment from her mother's mantilla, glanced up at her through tears of laughter, and again hid her face.
The visitor, compelled to look on at this family scene, thought it necessary to take some part in it.
"Tell me, my dear," said she to Natasha, "is Mimi a relation of yours? A daughter, I suppose?"
Natasha did not like the visitor's tone of condescension to childish things. She did not reply, but looked at her seriously.
Meanwhile the younger generation: Boris, the officer, Anna Mikhaylovna's son; Nicholas, the undergraduate, the count's eldest son; Sonya, the count's fifteen-year-old niece, and little Petya, his youngest boy, had all settled down in the drawing room and were obviously trying to restrain within the bounds of decorum the excitement and mirth that shone in all their faces. Evidently in the back rooms, from which they had dashed out so impetuously, the conversation had been more amusing than the drawing-room talk of society scandals, the weather, and Countess Apraksina. Now and then they glanced at one another, hardly able to suppress their laughter.
The two young men, the student and the officer, friends from childhood, were of the same age and both handsome fellows, though not alike. Boris was tall and fair, and his calm and handsome face had regular, delicate features. Nicholas was short with curly hair and an open expression. Dark hairs were already showing on his upper lip, and his whole face expressed impetuosity and enthusiasm. Nicholas blushed when he entered the drawing room. He evidently tried to find something to say, but failed. Boris on the contrary at once found his footing, and related quietly and humorously how he had known that doll Mimi when she was still quite a young lady, before her nose was broken; how she had aged during the five years he had known her, and how her head had cracked right across the skull. Having said this he glanced at Natasha. She turned away from him and glanced at her younger brother, who was screwing up his eyes and shaking with suppressed laughter, and unable to control herself any longer, she jumped up and rushed from the room as fast as her nimble little feet would carry her. Boris did not laugh.
"You were meaning to go out, weren't you, Mamma? Do you want the carriage?" he asked his mother with a smile.
"Yes, yes, go and tell them to get it ready," she answered, returning his smile.
Boris quietly left the room and went in search of Natasha. The plump boy ran after them angrily, as if vexed that their program had been disturbed.
The only young people remaining in the drawing room, not counting the young lady visitor and the countess' eldest daughter (who was four years older than her sister and behaved already like a grown-up person), were Nicholas and Sonya, the niece. Sonya was a slender little brunette with a tender look in her eyes which were veiled by long lashes, thick black plaits coiling twice round her head, and a tawny tint in her complexion and especially in the color of her slender but graceful and muscular arms and neck. By the grace of her movements, by the softness and flexibility of her small limbs, and by a certain coyness and reserve of manner, she reminded one of a pretty, half-grown kitten which promises to become a beautiful little cat. She evidently considered it proper to show an interest in the general conversation by smiling, but in spite of herself her eyes under their thick long lashes watched her cousin who was going to join the army, with such passionate girlish adoration that her smile could not for a single instant impose upon anyone, and it was clear that the kitten had settled down only to spring up with more energy and again play with her cousin as soon as they too could, like Natasha and Boris, escape from the drawing room.
"Ah yes, my dear," said the count, addressing the visitor and pointing to Nicholas, "his friend Boris has become an officer, and so for friendship's sake he is leaving the university and me, his old father, and entering the military service, my dear. And there was a place and everything waiting for him in the Archives Department! Isn't that friendship?" remarked the count in an inquiring tone.
"But they say that war has been declared," replied the visitor.
"They've been saying so a long while," said the count, "and they'll say so again and again, and that will be the end of it. My dear, there's friendship for you," he repeated. "He's joining the hussars."
The visitor, not knowing what to say, shook her head.
"It's not at all from friendship," declared Nicholas, flaring up and turning away as if from a shameful aspersion. "It is not from friendship at all; I simply feel that the army is my vocation."
He glanced at his cousin and the young lady visitor; and they were both regarding him with a smile of approbation.
"Schubert, the colonel of the Pavlograd Hussars, is dining with us today. He has been here on leave and is taking Nicholas back with him. It can't be helped!" said the count, shrugging his shoulders and speaking playfully of a matter that evidently distressed him.
"I have already told you, Papa," said his son, "that if you don't wish to let me go, I'll stay. But I know I am no use anywhere except in the army; I am not a diplomat or a government clerk.—I don't know how to hide what I feel." As he spoke he kept glancing with the flirtatiousness of a handsome youth at Sonya and the young lady visitor.
The little kitten, feasting her eyes on him, seemed ready at any moment to start her gambols again and display her kittenish nature.
"All right, all right!" said the old count. "He always flares up! This Buonaparte has turned all their heads; they all think of how he rose from an ensign and became Emperor. Well, well, God grant it," he added, not noticing his visitor's sarcastic smile.
The elders began talking about Bonaparte. Julie Karagina turned to young Rostov.
"What a pity you weren't at the Arkharovs' on Thursday. It was so dull without you," said she, giving him a tender smile.
The young man, flattered, sat down nearer to her with a coquettish smile, and engaged the smiling Julie in a confidential conversation without at all noticing that his involuntary smile had stabbed the heart of Sonya, who blushed and smiled unnaturally. In the midst of his talk he glanced round at her. She gave him a passionately angry glance, and hardly able to restrain her tears and maintain the artificial smile on her lips, she got up and left the room. All Nicholas' animation vanished. He waited for the first pause in the conversation, and then with a distressed face left the room to find Sonya.
"How plainly all these young people wear their hearts on their sleeves!" said Anna Mikhaylovna, pointing to Nicholas as he went out. "Cousinage—dangereux voisinage;" * she added.
* Cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood.
"Yes," said the countess when the brightness these young people had brought into the room had vanished; and as if answering a question no one had put but which was always in her mind, "and how much suffering, how much anxiety one has had to go through that we might rejoice in them now! And yet really the anxiety is greater now than the joy. One is always, always anxious! Especially just at this age, so dangerous both for girls and boys."
"It all depends on the bringing up," remarked the visitor.
"Yes, you're quite right," continued the countess. "Till now I have always, thank God, been my children's friend and had their full confidence," said she, repeating the mistake of so many parents who imagine that their children have no secrets from them. "I know I shall always be my daughters' first confidante, and that if Nicholas, with his impulsive nature, does get into mischief (a boy can't help it), he will all the same never be like those Petersburg young men."
"Yes, they are splendid, splendid youngsters," chimed in the count, who always solved questions that seemed to him perplexing by deciding that everything was splendid. "Just fancy: wants to be an hussar. What's one to do, my dear?"
"What a charming creature your younger girl is," said the visitor; "a little volcano!"
"Yes, a regular volcano," said the count. "Takes after me! And what a voice she has; though she's my daughter, I tell the truth when I say she'll be a singer, a second Salomoni! We have engaged an Italian to give her lessons."
"Isn't she too young? I have heard that it harms the voice to train it at that age."
"Oh no, not at all too young!" replied the count. "Why, our mothers used to be married at twelve or thirteen."
"And she's in love with Boris already. Just fancy!" said the countess with a gentle smile, looking at Boris' and went on, evidently concerned with a thought that always occupied her: "Now you see if I were to be severe with her and to forbid it... goodness knows what they might be up to on the sly" (she meant that they would be kissing), "but as it is, I know every word she utters. She will come running to me of her own accord in the evening and tell me everything. Perhaps I spoil her, but really that seems the best plan. With her elder sister I was stricter."
"Yes, I was brought up quite differently," remarked the handsome elder daughter, Countess Vera, with a smile.
But the smile did not enhance Vera's beauty as smiles generally do; on the contrary it gave her an unnatural, and therefore unpleasant, expression. Vera was good-looking, not at all stupid, quick at learning, was well brought up, and had a pleasant voice; what she said was true and appropriate, yet, strange to say, everyone—the visitors and countess alike—turned to look at her as if wondering why she had said it, and they all felt awkward.
"People are always too clever with their eldest children and try to make something exceptional of them," said the visitor.
"What's the good of denying it, my dear? Our dear countess was too clever with Vera," said the count. "Well, what of that? She's turned out splendidly all the same," he added, winking at Vera.
The guests got up and took their leave, promising to return to dinner.
"What manners! I thought they would never go," said the countess, when she had seen her guests out.
When Natasha ran out of the drawing room she only went as far as the conservatory. There she paused and stood listening to the conversation in the drawing room, waiting for Boris to come out. She was already growing impatient, and stamped her foot, ready to cry at his not coming at once, when she heard the young man's discreet steps approaching neither quickly nor slowly. At this Natasha dashed swiftly among the flower tubs and hid there.
Boris paused in the middle of the room, looked round, brushed a little dust from the sleeve of his uniform, and going up to a mirror examined his handsome face. Natasha, very still, peered out from her ambush, waiting to see what he would do. He stood a little while before the glass, smiled, and walked toward the other door. Natasha was about to call him but changed her mind. "Let him look for me," thought she. Hardly had Boris gone than Sonya, flushed, in tears, and muttering angrily, came in at the other door. Natasha checked her first impulse to run out to her, and remained in her hiding place, watching—as under an invisible cap—to see what went on in the world. She was experiencing a new and peculiar pleasure. Sonya, muttering to herself, kept looking round toward the drawing-room door. It opened and Nicholas came in.
"Sonya, what is the matter with you? How can you?" said he, running up to her.
"It's nothing, nothing; leave me alone!" sobbed Sonya.
"Ah, I know what it is."
"Well, if you do, so much the better, and you can go back to her!"
"So-o-onya! Look here! How can you torture me and yourself like that, for a mere fancy?" said Nicholas taking her hand.
Sonya did not pull it away, and left off crying. Natasha, not stirring and scarcely breathing, watched from her ambush with sparkling eyes. "What will happen now?" thought she.
"Sonya! What is anyone in the world to me? You alone are everything!" said Nicholas. "And I will prove it to you."
"I don't like you to talk like that."
"Well, then, I won't; only forgive me, Sonya!" He drew her to him and kissed her.
"Oh, how nice," thought Natasha; and when Sonya and Nicholas had gone out of the conservatory she followed and called Boris to her.
"Boris, come here," said she with a sly and significant look. "I have something to tell you. Here, here!" and she led him into the conservatory to the place among the tubs where she had been hiding.
Boris followed her, smiling.
"What is the something?" asked he.
She grew confused, glanced round, and, seeing the doll she had thrown down on one of the tubs, picked it up.
"Kiss the doll," said she.
Boris looked attentively and kindly at her eager face, but did not reply.
"Don't you want to? Well, then, come here," said she, and went further in among the plants and threw down the doll. "Closer, closer!" she whispered.
She caught the young officer by his cuffs, and a look of solemnity and fear appeared on her flushed face.
"And me? Would you like to kiss me?" she whispered almost inaudibly, glancing up at him from under her brows, smiling, and almost crying from excitement.
"How funny you are!" he said, bending down to her and blushing still more, but he waited and did nothing.
Suddenly she jumped up onto a tub to be higher than he, embraced him so that both her slender bare arms clasped him above his neck, and, tossing back her hair, kissed him full on the lips.
Then she slipped down among the flowerpots on the other side of the tubs and stood, hanging her head.
"Natasha," he said, "you know that I love you, but..."
"You are in love with me?" Natasha broke in.
"Yes, I am, but please don't let us do like that.... In another four years... then I will ask for your hand."
"Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen," she counted on her slender little fingers. "All right! Then it's settled?"
A smile of joy and satisfaction lit up her eager face.
"Settled!" replied Boris.
"Forever?" said the little girl. "Till death itself?"
She took his arm and with a happy face went with him into the adjoining sitting room.
After receiving her visitors, the countess was so tired that she gave orders to admit no more, but the porter was told to be sure to invite to dinner all who came "to congratulate." The countess wished to have a tete-a-tete talk with the friend of her childhood, Princess Anna Mikhaylovna, whom she had not seen properly since she returned from Petersburg. Anna Mikhaylovna, with her tear-worn but pleasant face, drew her chair nearer to that of the countess.
"With you I will be quite frank," said Anna Mikhaylovna. "There are not many left of us old friends! That's why I so value your friendship."
Anna Mikhaylovna looked at Vera and paused. The countess pressed her friend's hand.
"Vera," she said to her eldest daughter who was evidently not a favorite, "how is it you have so little tact? Don't you see you are not wanted here? Go to the other girls, or..."
The handsome Vera smiled contemptuously but did not seem at all hurt.
"If you had told me sooner, Mamma, I would have gone," she replied as she rose to go to her own room.
But as she passed the sitting room she noticed two couples sitting, one pair at each window. She stopped and smiled scornfully. Sonya was sitting close to Nicholas who was copying out some verses for her, the first he had ever written. Boris and Natasha were at the other window and ceased talking when Vera entered. Sonya and Natasha looked at Vera with guilty, happy faces.
It was pleasant and touching to see these little girls in love; but apparently the sight of them roused no pleasant feeling in Vera.
"How often have I asked you not to take my things?" she said. "You have a room of your own," and she took the inkstand from Nicholas.
"In a minute, in a minute," he said, dipping his pen.
"You always manage to do things at the wrong time," continued Vera. "You came rushing into the drawing room so that everyone felt ashamed of you."
Though what she said was quite just, perhaps for that very reason no one replied, and the four simply looked at one another. She lingered in the room with the inkstand in her hand.
"And at your age what secrets can there be between Natasha and Boris, or between you two? It's all nonsense!"
"Now, Vera, what does it matter to you?" said Natasha in defense, speaking very gently.
She seemed that day to be more than ever kind and affectionate to everyone.
"Very silly," said Vera. "I am ashamed of you. Secrets indeed!"
"All have secrets of their own," answered Natasha, getting warmer. "We don't interfere with you and Berg."
"I should think not," said Vera, "because there can never be anything wrong in my behavior. But I'll just tell Mamma how you are behaving with Boris."
"Natalya Ilynichna behaves very well to me," remarked Boris. "I have nothing to complain of."
"Don't, Boris! You are such a diplomat that it is really tiresome," said Natasha in a mortified voice that trembled slightly. (She used the word "diplomat," which was just then much in vogue among the children, in the special sense they attached to it.) "Why does she bother me?" And she added, turning to Vera, "You'll never understand it, because you've never loved anyone. You have no heart! You are a Madame de Genlis and nothing more" (this nickname, bestowed on Vera by Nicholas, was considered very stinging), "and your greatest pleasure is to be unpleasant to people! Go and flirt with Berg as much as you please," she finished quickly.
"I shall at any rate not run after a young man before visitors..."
"Well, now you've done what you wanted," put in Nicholas—"said unpleasant things to everyone and upset them. Let's go to the nursery."
All four, like a flock of scared birds, got up and left the room.
"The unpleasant things were said to me," remarked Vera, "I said none to anyone."
"Madame de Genlis! Madame de Genlis!" shouted laughing voices through the door.
The handsome Vera, who produced such an irritating and unpleasant effect on everyone, smiled and, evidently unmoved by what had been said to her, went to the looking glass and arranged her hair and scarf. Looking at her own handsome face she seemed to become still colder and calmer.
In the drawing room the conversation was still going on.
"Ah, my dear," said the countess, "my life is not all roses either. Don't I know that at the rate we are living our means won't last long? It's all the Club and his easygoing nature. Even in the country do we get any rest? Theatricals, hunting, and heaven knows what besides! But don't let's talk about me; tell me how you managed everything. I often wonder at you, Annette—how at your age you can rush off alone in a carriage to Moscow, to Petersburg, to those ministers and great people, and know how to deal with them all! It's quite astonishing. How did you get things settled? I couldn't possibly do it."
"Ah, my love," answered Anna Mikhaylovna, "God grant you never know what it is to be left a widow without means and with a son you love to distraction! One learns many things then," she added with a certain pride. "That lawsuit taught me much. When I want to see one of those big people I write a note: 'Princess So-and-So desires an interview with So and-So,' and then I take a cab and go myself two, three, or four times—till I get what I want. I don't mind what they think of me."
"Well, and to whom did you apply about Bory?" asked the countess. "You see yours is already an officer in the Guards, while my Nicholas is going as a cadet. There's no one to interest himself for him. To whom did you apply?"
"To Prince Vasili. He was so kind. He at once agreed to everything, and put the matter before the Emperor," said Princess Anna Mikhaylovna enthusiastically, quite forgetting all the humiliation she had endured to gain her end.
"Has Prince Vasili aged much?" asked the countess. "I have not seen him since we acted together at the Rumyantsovs' theatricals. I expect he has forgotten me. He paid me attentions in those days," said the countess, with a smile.
"He is just the same as ever," replied Anna Mikhaylovna, "overflowing with amiability. His position has not turned his head at all. He said to me, 'I am sorry I can do so little for you, dear Princess. I am at your command.' Yes, he is a fine fellow and a very kind relation. But, Nataly, you know my love for my son: I would do anything for his happiness! And my affairs are in such a bad way that my position is now a terrible one," continued Anna Mikhaylovna, sadly, dropping her voice. "My wretched lawsuit takes all I have and makes no progress. Would you believe it, I have literally not a penny and don't know how to equip Boris." She took out her handkerchief and began to cry. "I need five hundred rubles, and have only one twenty-five-ruble note. I am in such a state.... My only hope now is in Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov. If he will not assist his godson—you know he is Bory's godfather—and allow him something for his maintenance, all my trouble will have been thrown away.... I shall not be able to equip him."
The countess' eyes filled with tears and she pondered in silence.
"I often think, though, perhaps it's a sin," said the princess, "that here lives Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov so rich, all alone... that tremendous fortune... and what is his life worth? It's a burden to him, and Bory's life is only just beginning...."
"Surely he will leave something to Boris," said the countess.
"Heaven only knows, my dear! These rich grandees are so selfish. Still, I will take Boris and go to see him at once, and I shall speak to him straight out. Let people think what they will of me, it's really all the same to me when my son's fate is at stake." The princess rose. "It's now two o'clock and you dine at four. There will just be time."
And like a practical Petersburg lady who knows how to make the most of time, Anna Mikhaylovna sent someone to call her son, and went into the anteroom with him.
"Good-by, my dear," said she to the countess who saw her to the door, and added in a whisper so that her son should not hear, "Wish me good luck."
"Are you going to Count Cyril Vladimirovich, my dear?" said the count coming out from the dining hall into the anteroom, and he added: "If he is better, ask Pierre to dine with us. He has been to the house, you know, and danced with the children. Be sure to invite him, my dear. We will see how Taras distinguishes himself today. He says Count Orlov never gave such a dinner as ours will be!"
"My dear Boris," said Princess Anna Mikhaylovna to her son as Countess Rostova's carriage in which they were seated drove over the straw covered street and turned into the wide courtyard of Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov's house. "My dear Boris," said the mother, drawing her hand from beneath her old mantle and laying it timidly and tenderly on her son's arm, "be affectionate and attentive to him. Count Cyril Vladimirovich is your godfather after all, your future depends on him. Remember that, my dear, and be nice to him, as you so well know how to be."
"If only I knew that anything besides humiliation would come of it..." answered her son coldly. "But I have promised and will do it for your sake."
Although the hall porter saw someone's carriage standing at the entrance, after scrutinizing the mother and son (who without asking to be announced had passed straight through the glass porch between the rows of statues in niches) and looking significantly at the lady's old cloak, he asked whether they wanted the count or the princesses, and, hearing that they wished to see the count, said his excellency was worse today, and that his excellency was not receiving anyone.
"We may as well go back," said the son in French.
"My dear!" exclaimed his mother imploringly, again laying her hand on his arm as if that touch might soothe or rouse him.
Boris said no more, but looked inquiringly at his mother without taking off his cloak.
"My friend," said Anna Mikhaylovna in gentle tones, addressing the hall porter, "I know Count Cyril Vladimirovich is very ill... that's why I have come... I am a relation. I shall not disturb him, my friend... I only need see Prince Vasili Sergeevich: he is staying here, is he not? Please announce me."
The hall porter sullenly pulled a bell that rang upstairs, and turned away.
"Princess Drubetskaya to see Prince Vasili Sergeevich," he called to a footman dressed in knee breeches, shoes, and a swallow-tail coat, who ran downstairs and looked over from the halfway landing.
The mother smoothed the folds of her dyed silk dress before a large Venetian mirror in the wall, and in her trodden-down shoes briskly ascended the carpeted stairs.
"My dear," she said to her son, once more stimulating him by a touch, "you promised me!"
The son, lowering his eyes, followed her quietly.
They entered the large hall, from which one of the doors led to the apartments assigned to Prince Vasili.
Just as the mother and son, having reached the middle of the hall, were about to ask their way of an elderly footman who had sprung up as they entered, the bronze handle of one of the doors turned and Prince Vasili came out—wearing a velvet coat with a single star on his breast, as was his custom when at home—taking leave of a good-looking, dark-haired man. This was the celebrated Petersburg doctor, Lorrain.
"Then it is certain?" said the prince.
"Prince, humanum est errare, * but..." replied the doctor, swallowing his r's, and pronouncing the Latin words with a French accent.
* To err is human.
"Very well, very well..."
Seeing Anna Mikhaylovna and her son, Prince Vasili dismissed the doctor with a bow and approached them silently and with a look of inquiry. The son noticed that an expression of profound sorrow suddenly clouded his mother's face, and he smiled slightly.
"Ah, Prince! In what sad circumstances we meet again! And how is our dear invalid?" said she, as though unaware of the cold offensive look fixed on her.
Prince Vasili stared at her and at Boris questioningly and perplexed. Boris bowed politely. Prince Vasili without acknowledging the bow turned to Anna Mikhaylovna, answering her query by a movement of the head and lips indicating very little hope for the patient.
"Is it possible?" exclaimed Anna Mikhaylovna. "Oh, how awful! It is terrible to think.... This is my son," she added, indicating Boris. "He wanted to thank you himself."
Boris bowed again politely.
"Believe me, Prince, a mother's heart will never forget what you have done for us."
"I am glad I was able to do you a service, my dear Anna Mikhaylovna," said Prince Vasili, arranging his lace frill, and in tone and manner, here in Moscow to Anna Mikhaylovna whom he had placed under an obligation, assuming an air of much greater importance than he had done in Petersburg at Anna Scherer's reception.
"Try to serve well and show yourself worthy," added he, addressing Boris with severity. "I am glad.... Are you here on leave?" he went on in his usual tone of indifference.
"I am awaiting orders to join my new regiment, your excellency," replied Boris, betraying neither annoyance at the prince's brusque manner nor a desire to enter into conversation, but speaking so quietly and respectfully that the prince gave him a searching glance.
"Are you living with your mother?"
"I am living at Countess Rostova's," replied Boris, again adding, "your excellency."
"That is, with Ilya Rostov who married Nataly Shinshina," said Anna Mikhaylovna.
"I know, I know," answered Prince Vasili in his monotonous voice. "I never could understand how Nataly made up her mind to marry that unlicked bear! A perfectly absurd and stupid fellow, and a gambler too, I am told."
"But a very kind man, Prince," said Anna Mikhaylovna with a pathetic smile, as though she too knew that Count Rostov deserved this censure, but asked him not to be too hard on the poor old man. "What do the doctors say?" asked the princess after a pause, her worn face again expressing deep sorrow.
"They give little hope," replied the prince.
"And I should so like to thank Uncle once for all his kindness to me and Boris. He is his godson," she added, her tone suggesting that this fact ought to give Prince Vasili much satisfaction.
Prince Vasili became thoughtful and frowned. Anna Mikhaylovna saw that he was afraid of finding in her a rival for Count Bezukhov's fortune, and hastened to reassure him.
"If it were not for my sincere affection and devotion to Uncle," said she, uttering the word with peculiar assurance and unconcern, "I know his character: noble, upright... but you see he has no one with him except the young princesses.... They are still young...." She bent her head and continued in a whisper: "Has he performed his final duty, Prince? How priceless are those last moments! It can make things no worse, and it is absolutely necessary to prepare him if he is so ill. We women, Prince," and she smiled tenderly, "always know how to say these things. I absolutely must see him, however painful it may be for me. I am used to suffering."
Evidently the prince understood her, and also understood, as he had done at Anna Pavlovna's, that it would be difficult to get rid of Anna Mikhaylovna.
"Would not such a meeting be too trying for him, dear Anna Mikhaylovna?" said he. "Let us wait until evening. The doctors are expecting a crisis."
"But one cannot delay, Prince, at such a moment! Consider that the welfare of his soul is at stake. Ah, it is awful: the duties of a Christian..."
A door of one of the inner rooms opened and one of the princesses, the count's niece, entered with a cold, stern face. The length of her body was strikingly out of proportion to her short legs. Prince Vasili turned to her.
"Well, how is he?"
"Still the same; but what can you expect, this noise..." said the princess, looking at Anna Mikhaylovna as at a stranger.
"Ah, my dear, I hardly knew you," said Anna Mikhaylovna with a happy smile, ambling lightly up to the count's niece. "I have come, and am at your service to help you nurse my uncle. I imagine what you have gone through," and she sympathetically turned up her eyes.
The princess gave no reply and did not even smile, but left the room as Anna Mikhaylovna took off her gloves and, occupying the position she had conquered, settled down in an armchair, inviting Prince Vasili to take a seat beside her.
"Boris," she said to her son with a smile, "I shall go in to see the count, my uncle; but you, my dear, had better go to Pierre meanwhile and don't forget to give him the Rostovs' invitation. They ask him to dinner. I suppose he won't go?" she continued, turning to the prince.
"On the contrary," replied the prince, who had plainly become depressed, "I shall be only too glad if you relieve me of that young man.... Here he is, and the count has not once asked for him."
He shrugged his shoulders. A footman conducted Boris down one flight of stairs and up another, to Pierre's rooms.
Pierre, after all, had not managed to choose a career for himself in Petersburg, and had been expelled from there for riotous conduct and sent to Moscow. The story told about him at Count Rostov's was true. Pierre had taken part in tying a policeman to a bear. He had now been for some days in Moscow and was staying as usual at his father's house. Though he expected that the story of his escapade would be already known in Moscow and that the ladies about his father—who were never favorably disposed toward him—would have used it to turn the count against him, he nevertheless on the day of his arrival went to his father's part of the house. Entering the drawing room, where the princesses spent most of their time, he greeted the ladies, two of whom were sitting at embroidery frames while a third read aloud. It was the eldest who was reading—the one who had met Anna Mikhaylovna. The two younger ones were embroidering: both were rosy and pretty and they differed only in that one had a little mole on her lip which made her much prettier. Pierre was received as if he were a corpse or a leper. The eldest princess paused in her reading and silently stared at him with frightened eyes; the second assumed precisely the same expression; while the youngest, the one with the mole, who was of a cheerful and lively disposition, bent over her frame to hide a smile probably evoked by the amusing scene she foresaw. She drew her wool down through the canvas and, scarcely able to refrain from laughing, stooped as if trying to make out the pattern.
"How do you do, cousin?" said Pierre. "You don't recognize me?"
"I recognize you only too well, too well."
"How is the count? Can I see him?" asked Pierre, awkwardly as usual, but unabashed.
"The count is suffering physically and mentally, and apparently you have done your best to increase his mental sufferings."
"Can I see the count?" Pierre again asked.
"Hm.... If you wish to kill him, to kill him outright, you can see him... Olga, go and see whether Uncle's beef tea is ready—it is almost time," she added, giving Pierre to understand that they were busy, and busy making his father comfortable, while evidently he, Pierre, was only busy causing him annoyance.
Olga went out. Pierre stood looking at the sisters; then he bowed and said: "Then I will go to my rooms. You will let me know when I can see him."
And he left the room, followed by the low but ringing laughter of the sister with the mole.
Next day Prince Vasili had arrived and settled in the count's house. He sent for Pierre and said to him: "My dear fellow, if you are going to behave here as you did in Petersburg, you will end very badly; that is all I have to say to you. The count is very, very ill, and you must not see him at all."
Since then Pierre had not been disturbed and had spent the whole time in his rooms upstairs.
When Boris appeared at his door Pierre was pacing up and down his room, stopping occasionally at a corner to make menacing gestures at the wall, as if running a sword through an invisible foe, and glaring savagely over his spectacles, and then again resuming his walk, muttering indistinct words, shrugging his shoulders and gesticulating.
"England is done for," said he, scowling and pointing his finger at someone unseen. "Mr. Pitt, as a traitor to the nation and to the rights of man, is sentenced to..." But before Pierre—who at that moment imagined himself to be Napoleon in person and to have just effected the dangerous crossing of the Straits of Dover and captured London—could pronounce Pitt's sentence, he saw a well-built and handsome young officer entering his room. Pierre paused. He had left Moscow when Boris was a boy of fourteen, and had quite forgotten him, but in his usual impulsive and hearty way he took Boris by the hand with a friendly smile.
"Do you remember me?" asked Boris quietly with a pleasant smile. "I have come with my mother to see the count, but it seems he is not well."
"Yes, it seems he is ill. People are always disturbing him," answered Pierre, trying to remember who this young man was.
Boris felt that Pierre did not recognize him but did not consider it necessary to introduce himself, and without experiencing the least embarrassment looked Pierre straight in the face.
"Count Rostov asks you to come to dinner today," said he, after a considerable pause which made Pierre feel uncomfortable.
"Ah, Count Rostov!" exclaimed Pierre joyfully. "Then you are his son, Ilya? Only fancy, I didn't know you at first. Do you remember how we went to the Sparrow Hills with Madame Jacquot?... It's such an age..."
"You are mistaken," said Boris deliberately, with a bold and slightly sarcastic smile. "I am Boris, son of Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya. Rostov, the father, is Ilya, and his son is Nicholas. I never knew any Madame Jacquot."
Pierre shook his head and arms as if attacked by mosquitoes or bees.
"Oh dear, what am I thinking about? I've mixed everything up. One has so many relatives in Moscow! So you are Boris? Of course. Well, now we know where we are. And what do you think of the Boulogne expedition? The English will come off badly, you know, if Napoleon gets across the Channel. I think the expedition is quite feasible. If only Villeneuve doesn't make a mess of things!"
Boris knew nothing about the Boulogne expedition; he did not read the papers and it was the first time he had heard Villeneuve's name.
"We here in Moscow are more occupied with dinner parties and scandal than with politics," said he in his quiet ironical tone. "I know nothing about it and have not thought about it. Moscow is chiefly busy with gossip," he continued. "Just now they are talking about you and your father."
Pierre smiled in his good-natured way as if afraid for his companion's sake that the latter might say something he would afterwards regret. But Boris spoke distinctly, clearly, and dryly, looking straight into Pierre's eyes.
"Moscow has nothing else to do but gossip," Boris went on. "Everybody is wondering to whom the count will leave his fortune, though he may perhaps outlive us all, as I sincerely hope he will..."
"Yes, it is all very horrid," interrupted Pierre, "very horrid."
Pierre was still afraid that this officer might inadvertently say something disconcerting to himself.
"And it must seem to you," said Boris flushing slightly, but not changing his tone or attitude, "it must seem to you that everyone is trying to get something out of the rich man?"
"So it does," thought Pierre.
"But I just wish to say, to avoid misunderstandings, that you are quite mistaken if you reckon me or my mother among such people. We are very poor, but for my own part at any rate, for the very reason that your father is rich, I don't regard myself as a relation of his, and neither I nor my mother would ever ask or take anything from him."
For a long time Pierre could not understand, but when he did, he jumped up from the sofa, seized Boris under the elbow in his quick, clumsy way, and, blushing far more than Boris, began to speak with a feeling of mingled shame and vexation.
"Well, this is strange! Do you suppose I... who could think?... I know very well..."
But Boris again interrupted him.
"I am glad I have spoken out fully. Perhaps you did not like it? You must excuse me," said he, putting Pierre at ease instead of being put at ease by him, "but I hope I have not offended you. I always make it a rule to speak out... Well, what answer am I to take? Will you come to dinner at the Rostovs'?"
And Boris, having apparently relieved himself of an onerous duty and extricated himself from an awkward situation and placed another in it, became quite pleasant again.
"No, but I say," said Pierre, calming down, "you are a wonderful fellow! What you have just said is good, very good. Of course you don't know me. We have not met for such a long time... not since we were children. You might think that I... I understand, quite understand. I could not have done it myself, I should not have had the courage, but it's splendid. I am very glad to have made your acquaintance. It's queer," he added after a pause, "that you should have suspected me!" He began to laugh. "Well, what of it! I hope we'll get better acquainted," and he pressed Boris' hand. "Do you know, I have not once been in to see the count. He has not sent for me.... I am sorry for him as a man, but what can one do?"
"And so you think Napoleon will manage to get an army across?" asked Boris with a smile.
Pierre saw that Boris wished to change the subject, and being of the same mind he began explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the Boulogne expedition.
A footman came in to summon Boris—the princess was going. Pierre, in order to make Boris' better acquaintance, promised to come to dinner, and warmly pressing his hand looked affectionately over his spectacles into Boris' eyes. After he had gone Pierre continued pacing up and down the room for a long time, no longer piercing an imaginary foe with his imaginary sword, but smiling at the remembrance of that pleasant, intelligent, and resolute young man.
As often happens in early youth, especially to one who leads a lonely life, he felt an unaccountable tenderness for this young man and made up his mind that they would be friends.
Prince Vasili saw the princess off. She held a handkerchief to her eyes and her face was tearful.
"It is dreadful, dreadful!" she was saying, "but cost me what it may I shall do my duty. I will come and spend the night. He must not be left like this. Every moment is precious. I can't think why his nieces put it off. Perhaps God will help me to find a way to prepare him!... Adieu, Prince! May God support you..."
"Adieu, ma bonne," answered Prince Vasili turning away from her.
"Oh, he is in a dreadful state," said the mother to her son when they were in the carriage. "He hardly recognizes anybody."
"I don't understand, Mamma—what is his attitude to Pierre?" asked the son.
"The will will show that, my dear; our fate also depends on it."
"But why do you expect that he will leave us anything?"
"Ah, my dear! He is so rich, and we are so poor!"
"Well, that is hardly a sufficient reason, Mamma..."
"Oh, Heaven! How ill he is!" exclaimed the mother.
After Anna Mikhaylovna had driven off with her son to visit Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov, Countess Rostova sat for a long time all alone applying her handkerchief to her eyes. At last she rang.
"What is the matter with you, my dear?" she said crossly to the maid who kept her waiting some minutes. "Don't you wish to serve me? Then I'll find you another place."
The countess was upset by her friend's sorrow and humiliating poverty, and was therefore out of sorts, a state of mind which with her always found expression in calling her maid "my dear" and speaking to her with exaggerated politeness.
"I am very sorry, ma'am," answered the maid.
"Ask the count to come to me."
The count came waddling in to see his wife with a rather guilty look as usual.
"Well, little countess? What a saute of game au madere we are to have, my dear! I tasted it. The thousand rubles I paid for Taras were not ill-spent. He is worth it!"
He sat down by his wife, his elbows on his knees and his hands ruffling his gray hair.
"What are your commands, little countess?"
"You see, my dear... What's that mess?" she said, pointing to his waistcoat. "It's the saute, most likely," she added with a smile. "Well, you see, Count, I want some money."
Her face became sad.
"Oh, little countess!"... and the count began bustling to get out his pocketbook.
"I want a great deal, Count! I want five hundred rubles," and taking out her cambric handkerchief she began wiping her husband's waistcoat.
"Yes, immediately, immediately! Hey, who's there?" he called out in a tone only used by persons who are certain that those they call will rush to obey the summons. "Send Dmitri to me!"
Dmitri, a man of good family who had been brought up in the count's house and now managed all his affairs, stepped softly into the room.
"This is what I want, my dear fellow," said the count to the deferential young man who had entered. "Bring me..." he reflected a moment, "yes, bring me seven hundred rubles, yes! But mind, don't bring me such tattered and dirty notes as last time, but nice clean ones for the countess."
"Yes, Dmitri, clean ones, please," said the countess, sighing deeply.
"When would you like them, your excellency?" asked Dmitri. "Allow me to inform you... But, don't be uneasy," he added, noticing that the count was beginning to breathe heavily and quickly which was always a sign of approaching anger. "I was forgetting... Do you wish it brought at once?"
"Yes, yes; just so! Bring it. Give it to the countess."
"What a treasure that Dmitri is," added the count with a smile when the young man had departed. "There is never any 'impossible' with him. That's a thing I hate! Everything is possible."
"Ah, money, Count, money! How much sorrow it causes in the world," said the countess. "But I am in great need of this sum."
"You, my little countess, are a notorious spendthrift," said the count, and having kissed his wife's hand he went back to his study.
When Anna Mikhaylovna returned from Count Bezukhov's the money, all in clean notes, was lying ready under a handkerchief on the countess' little table, and Anna Mikhaylovna noticed that something was agitating her.
"Well, my dear?" asked the countess.
"Oh, what a terrible state he is in! One would not know him, he is so ill! I was only there a few moments and hardly said a word..."
"Annette, for heaven's sake don't refuse me," the countess began, with a blush that looked very strange on her thin, dignified, elderly face, and she took the money from under the handkerchief.
Anna Mikhaylovna instantly guessed her intention and stooped to be ready to embrace the countess at the appropriate moment.
"This is for Boris from me, for his outfit."
Anna Mikhaylovna was already embracing her and weeping. The countess wept too. They wept because they were friends, and because they were kindhearted, and because they—friends from childhood—had to think about such a base thing as money, and because their youth was over.... But those tears were pleasant to them both.
Countess Rostova, with her daughters and a large number of guests, was already seated in the drawing room. The count took the gentlemen into his study and showed them his choice collection of Turkish pipes. From time to time he went out to ask: "Hasn't she come yet?" They were expecting Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, known in society as le terrible dragon, a lady distinguished not for wealth or rank, but for common sense and frank plainness of speech. Marya Dmitrievna was known to the Imperial family as well as to all Moscow and Petersburg, and both cities wondered at her, laughed privately at her rudenesses, and told good stories about her, while none the less all without exception respected and feared her.
In the count's room, which was full of tobacco smoke, they talked of war that had been announced in a manifesto, and about the recruiting. None of them had yet seen the manifesto, but they all knew it had appeared. The count sat on the sofa between two guests who were smoking and talking. He neither smoked nor talked, but bending his head first to one side and then to the other watched the smokers with evident pleasure and listened to the conversation of his two neighbors, whom he egged on against each other.
One of them was a sallow, clean-shaven civilian with a thin and wrinkled face, already growing old, though he was dressed like a most fashionable young man. He sat with his legs up on the sofa as if quite at home and, having stuck an amber mouthpiece far into his mouth, was inhaling the smoke spasmodically and screwing up his eyes. This was an old bachelor, Shinshin, a cousin of the countess', a man with "a sharp tongue" as they said in Moscow society. He seemed to be condescending to his companion. The latter, a fresh, rosy officer of the Guards, irreproachably washed, brushed, and buttoned, held his pipe in the middle of his mouth and with red lips gently inhaled the smoke, letting it escape from his handsome mouth in rings. This was Lieutenant Berg, an officer in the Semenov regiment with whom Boris was to travel to join the army, and about whom Natasha had, teased her elder sister Vera, speaking of Berg as her "intended." The count sat between them and listened attentively. His favorite occupation when not playing boston, a card game he was very fond of, was that of listener, especially when he succeeded in setting two loquacious talkers at one another.
"Well, then, old chap, mon tres honorable Alphonse Karlovich," said Shinshin, laughing ironically and mixing the most ordinary Russian expressions with the choicest French phrases—which was a peculiarity of his speech. "Vous comptez vous faire des rentes sur l'etat; * you want to make something out of your company?"
* You expect to make an income out of the government.
"No, Peter Nikolaevich; I only want to show that in the cavalry the advantages are far less than in the infantry. Just consider my own position now, Peter Nikolaevich..."
Berg always spoke quietly, politely, and with great precision. His conversation always related entirely to himself; he would remain calm and silent when the talk related to any topic that had no direct bearing on himself. He could remain silent for hours without being at all put out of countenance himself or making others uncomfortable, but as soon as the conversation concerned himself he would begin to talk circumstantially and with evident satisfaction.
"Consider my position, Peter Nikolaevich. Were I in the cavalry I should get not more than two hundred rubles every four months, even with the rank of lieutenant; but as it is I receive two hundred and thirty," said he, looking at Shinshin and the count with a joyful, pleasant smile, as if it were obvious to him that his success must always be the chief desire of everyone else.
"Besides that, Peter Nikolaevich, by exchanging into the Guards I shall be in a more prominent position," continued Berg, "and vacancies occur much more frequently in the Foot Guards. Then just think what can be done with two hundred and thirty rubles! I even manage to put a little aside and to send something to my father," he went on, emitting a smoke ring.
"La balance y est... * A German knows how to skin a flint, as the proverb says," remarked Shinshin, moving his pipe to the other side of his mouth and winking at the count.
* So that squares matters.
The count burst out laughing. The other guests seeing that Shinshin was talking came up to listen. Berg, oblivious of irony or indifference, continued to explain how by exchanging into the Guards he had already gained a step on his old comrades of the Cadet Corps; how in wartime the company commander might get killed and he, as senior in the company, might easily succeed to the post; how popular he was with everyone in the regiment, and how satisfied his father was with him. Berg evidently enjoyed narrating all this, and did not seem to suspect that others, too, might have their own interests. But all he said was so prettily sedate, and the naivete of his youthful egotism was so obvious, that he disarmed his hearers.
"Well, my boy, you'll get along wherever you go—foot or horse—that I'll warrant," said Shinshin, patting him on the shoulder and taking his feet off the sofa.
Berg smiled joyously. The count, by his guests, went into the drawing room.
It was just the moment before a big dinner when the assembled guests, expecting the summons to zakuska, * avoid engaging in any long conversation but think it necessary to move about and talk, in order to show that they are not at all impatient for their food. The host and hostess look toward the door, and now and then glance at one another, and the visitors try to guess from these glances who, or what, they are waiting for—some important relation who has not yet arrived, or a dish that is not yet ready.
* Hors d'oeuvres.
Pierre had come just at dinnertime and was sitting awkwardly in the middle of the drawing room on the first chair he had come across, blocking the way for everyone. The countess tried to make him talk, but he went on naively looking around through his spectacles as if in search of somebody and answered all her questions in monosyllables. He was in the way and was the only one who did not notice the fact. Most of the guests, knowing of the affair with the bear, looked with curiosity at this big, stout, quiet man, wondering how such a clumsy, modest fellow could have played such a prank on a policeman.
"You have only lately arrived?" the countess asked him.
"Oui, madame," replied he, looking around him.
"You have not yet seen my husband?"
"Non, madame." He smiled quite inappropriately.
"You have been in Paris recently, I believe? I suppose it's very interesting."
The countess exchanged glances with Anna Mikhaylovna. The latter understood that she was being asked to entertain this young man, and sitting down beside him she began to speak about his father; but he answered her, as he had the countess, only in monosyllables. The other guests were all conversing with one another. "The Razumovskis... It was charming... You are very kind... Countess Apraksina..." was heard on all sides. The countess rose and went into the ballroom.
"Marya Dmitrievna?" came her voice from there.
"Herself," came the answer in a rough voice, and Marya Dmitrievna entered the room.
All the unmarried ladies and even the married ones except the very oldest rose. Marya Dmitrievna paused at the door. Tall and stout, holding high her fifty-year-old head with its gray curls, she stood surveying the guests, and leisurely arranged her wide sleeves as if rolling them up. Marya Dmitrievna always spoke in Russian.
"Health and happiness to her whose name day we are keeping and to her children," she said, in her loud, full-toned voice which drowned all others. "Well, you old sinner," she went on, turning to the count who was kissing her hand, "you're feeling dull in Moscow, I daresay? Nowhere to hunt with your dogs? But what is to be done, old man? Just see how these nestlings are growing up," and she pointed to the girls. "You must look for husbands for them whether you like it or not...."
"Well," said she, "how's my Cossack?" (Marya Dmitrievna always called Natasha a Cossack) and she stroked the child's arm as she came up fearless and gay to kiss her hand. "I know she's a scamp of a girl, but I like her."
She took a pair of pear-shaped ruby earrings from her huge reticule and, having given them to the rosy Natasha, who beamed with the pleasure of her saint's-day fete, turned away at once and addressed herself to Pierre.
"Eh, eh, friend! Come here a bit," said she, assuming a soft high tone of voice. "Come here, my friend..." and she ominously tucked up her sleeves still higher. Pierre approached, looking at her in a childlike way through his spectacles.
"Come nearer, come nearer, friend! I used to be the only one to tell your father the truth when he was in favor, and in your case it's my evident duty." She paused. All were silent, expectant of what was to follow, for this was dearly only a prelude.
"A fine lad! My word! A fine lad!... His father lies on his deathbed and he amuses himself setting a policeman astride a bear! For shame, sir, for shame! It would be better if you went to the war."
She turned away and gave her hand to the count, who could hardly keep from laughing.
"Well, I suppose it is time we were at table?" said Marya Dmitrievna.
The count went in first with Marya Dmitrievna, the countess followed on the arm of a colonel of hussars, a man of importance to them because Nicholas was to go with him to the regiment; then came Anna Mikhaylovna with Shinshin. Berg gave his arm to Vera. The smiling Julie Karagina went in with Nicholas. After them other couples followed, filling the whole dining hall, and last of all the children, tutors, and governesses followed singly. The footmen began moving about, chairs scraped, the band struck up in the gallery, and the guests settled down in their places. Then the strains of the count's household band were replaced by the clatter of knives and forks, the voices of visitors, and the soft steps of the footmen. At one end of the table sat the countess with Marya Dmitrievna on her right and Anna Mikhaylovna on her left, the other lady visitors were farther down. At the other end sat the count, with the hussar colonel on his left and Shinshin and the other male visitors on his right. Midway down the long table on one side sat the grownup young people: Vera beside Berg, and Pierre beside Boris; and on the other side, the children, tutors, and governesses. From behind the crystal decanters and fruit vases the count kept glancing at his wife and her tall cap with its light-blue ribbons, and busily filled his neighbors' glasses, not neglecting his own. The countess in turn, without omitting her duties as hostess, threw significant glances from behind the pineapples at her husband whose face and bald head seemed by their redness to contrast more than usual with his gray hair. At the ladies' end an even chatter of voices was heard all the time, at the men's end the voices sounded louder and louder, especially that of the colonel of hussars who, growing more and more flushed, ate and drank so much that the count held him up as a pattern to the other guests. Berg with tender smiles was saying to Vera that love is not an earthly but a heavenly feeling. Boris was telling his new friend Pierre who the guests were and exchanging glances with Natasha, who was sitting opposite. Pierre spoke little but examined the new faces, and ate a great deal. Of the two soups he chose turtle with savory patties and went on to the game without omitting a single dish or one of the wines. These latter the butler thrust mysteriously forward, wrapped in a napkin, from behind the next man's shoulders and whispered: "Dry Madeira"... "Hungarian"... or "Rhine wine" as the case might be. Of the four crystal glasses engraved with the count's monogram that stood before his plate, Pierre held out one at random and drank with enjoyment, gazing with ever-increasing amiability at the other guests. Natasha, who sat opposite, was looking at Boris as girls of thirteen look at the boy they are in love with and have just kissed for the first time. Sometimes that same look fell on Pierre, and that funny lively little girl's look made him inclined to laugh without knowing why.
Nicholas sat at some distance from Sonya, beside Julie Karagina, to whom he was again talking with the same involuntary smile. Sonya wore a company smile but was evidently tormented by jealousy; now she turned pale, now blushed and strained every nerve to overhear what Nicholas and Julie were saying to one another. The governess kept looking round uneasily as if preparing to resent any slight that might be put upon the children. The German tutor was trying to remember all the dishes, wines, and kinds of dessert, in order to send a full description of the dinner to his people in Germany; and he felt greatly offended when the butler with a bottle wrapped in a napkin passed him by. He frowned, trying to appear as if he did not want any of that wine, but was mortified because no one would understand that it was not to quench his thirst or from greediness that he wanted it, but simply from a conscientious desire for knowledge.
At the men's end of the table the talk grew more and more animated. The colonel told them that the declaration of war had already appeared in Petersburg and that a copy, which he had himself seen, had that day been forwarded by courier to the commander in chief.
"And why the deuce are we going to fight Bonaparte?" remarked Shinshin. "He has stopped Austria's cackle and I fear it will be our turn next."
The colonel was a stout, tall, plethoric German, evidently devoted to the service and patriotically Russian. He resented Shinshin's remark.
"It is for the reasson, my goot sir," said he, speaking with a German accent, "for the reasson zat ze Emperor knows zat. He declares in ze manifessto zat he cannot fiew wiz indifference ze danger vreatening Russia and zat ze safety and dignity of ze Empire as vell as ze sanctity of its alliances..." he spoke this last word with particular emphasis as if in it lay the gist of the matter.
Then with the unerring official memory that characterized him he repeated from the opening words of the manifesto:
... and the wish, which constitutes the Emperor's sole and absolute aim—to establish peace in Europe on firm foundations—has now decided him to despatch part of the army abroad and to create a new condition for the attainment of that purpose.
"Zat, my dear sir, is vy..." he concluded, drinking a tumbler of wine with dignity and looking to the count for approval.
"Connaissez-vous le Proverbe: * 'Jerome, Jerome, do not roam, but turn spindles at home!'?" said Shinshin, puckering his brows and smiling. "Cela nous convient a merveille.*(2) Suvorov now—he knew what he was about; yet they beat him a plate couture,*(3) and where are we to find Suvorovs now? Je vous demande un peu,"*(4) said he, continually changing from French to Russian.
*Do you know the proverb?
*(2) That suits us down to the ground.
*(4) I just ask you that.
"Ve must vight to the last tr-r-op of our plood!" said the colonel, thumping the table; "and ve must tie for our Emperor, and zen all vill pe vell. And ve must discuss it as little as po-o-ossible"... he dwelt particularly on the word possible... "as po-o-ossible," he ended, again turning to the count. "Zat is how ve old hussars look at it, and zere's an end of it! And how do you, a young man and a young hussar, how do you judge of it?" he added, addressing Nicholas, who when he heard that the war was being discussed had turned from his partner with eyes and ears intent on the colonel.
"I am quite of your opinion," replied Nicholas, flaming up, turning his plate round and moving his wineglasses about with as much decision and desperation as though he were at that moment facing some great danger. "I am convinced that we Russians must die or conquer," he concluded, conscious—as were others—after the words were uttered that his remarks were too enthusiastic and emphatic for the occasion and were therefore awkward.
"What you said just now was splendid!" said his partner Julie.
Sonya trembled all over and blushed to her ears and behind them and down to her neck and shoulders while Nicholas was speaking.
Pierre listened to the colonel's speech and nodded approvingly.
"That's fine," said he.
"The young man's a real hussar!" shouted the colonel, again thumping the table.
"What are you making such a noise about over there?" Marya Dmitrievna's deep voice suddenly inquired from the other end of the table. "What are you thumping the table for?" she demanded of the hussar, "and why are you exciting yourself? Do you think the French are here?"
"I am speaking ze truce," replied the hussar with a smile.
"It's all about the war," the count shouted down the table. "You know my son's going, Marya Dmitrievna? My son is going."
"I have four sons in the army but still I don't fret. It is all in God's hands. You may die in your bed or God may spare you in a battle," replied Marya Dmitrievna's deep voice, which easily carried the whole length of the table.
Once more the conversations concentrated, the ladies' at the one end and the men's at the other.
"You won't ask," Natasha's little brother was saying; "I know you won't ask!"
"I will," replied Natasha.
Her face suddenly flushed with reckless and joyous resolution. She half rose, by a glance inviting Pierre, who sat opposite, to listen to what was coming, and turning to her mother:
"Mamma!" rang out the clear contralto notes of her childish voice, audible the whole length of the table.
"What is it?" asked the countess, startled; but seeing by her daughter's face that it was only mischief, she shook a finger at her sternly with a threatening and forbidding movement of her head.
The conversation was hushed.
"Mamma! What sweets are we going to have?" and Natasha's voice sounded still more firm and resolute.
The countess tried to frown, but could not. Marya Dmitrievna shook her fat finger.
"Cossack!" she said threateningly.
Most of the guests, uncertain how to regard this sally, looked at the elders.
"You had better take care!" said the countess.
"Mamma! What sweets are we going to have?" Natasha again cried boldly, with saucy gaiety, confident that her prank would be taken in good part.
Sonya and fat little Petya doubled up with laughter.
"You see! I have asked," whispered Natasha to her little brother and to Pierre, glancing at him again.
"Ice pudding, but you won't get any," said Marya Dmitrievna.
Natasha saw there was nothing to be afraid of and so she braved even Marya Dmitrievna.
"Marya Dmitrievna! What kind of ice pudding? I don't like ice cream."
"No! What kind, Marya Dmitrievna? What kind?" she almost screamed; "I want to know!"
Marya Dmitrievna and the countess burst out laughing, and all the guests joined in. Everyone laughed, not at Marya Dmitrievna's answer but at the incredible boldness and smartness of this little girl who had dared to treat Marya Dmitrievna in this fashion.
Natasha only desisted when she had been told that there would be pineapple ice. Before the ices, champagne was served round. The band again struck up, the count and countess kissed, and the guests, leaving their seats, went up to "congratulate" the countess, and reached across the table to clink glasses with the count, with the children, and with one another. Again the footmen rushed about, chairs scraped, and in the same order in which they had entered but with redder faces, the guests returned to the drawing room and to the count's study.
The card tables were drawn out, sets made up for boston, and the count's visitors settled themselves, some in the two drawing rooms, some in the sitting room, some in the library.
The count, holding his cards fanwise, kept himself with difficulty from dropping into his usual after-dinner nap, and laughed at everything. The young people, at the countess' instigation, gathered round the clavichord and harp. Julie by general request played first. After she had played a little air with variations on the harp, she joined the other young ladies in begging Natasha and Nicholas, who were noted for their musical talent, to sing something. Natasha, who was treated as though she were grown up, was evidently very proud of this but at the same time felt shy.
"What shall we sing?" she said.
"'The Brook,'" suggested Nicholas.
"Well, then, let's be quick. Boris, come here," said Natasha. "But where is Sonya?"
She looked round and seeing that her friend was not in the room ran to look for her.
Running into Sonya's room and not finding her there, Natasha ran to the nursery, but Sonya was not there either. Natasha concluded that she must be on the chest in the passage. The chest in the passage was the place of mourning for the younger female generation in the Rostov household. And there in fact was Sonya lying face downward on Nurse's dirty feather bed on the top of the chest, crumpling her gauzy pink dress under her, hiding her face with her slender fingers, and sobbing so convulsively that her bare little shoulders shook. Natasha's face, which had been so radiantly happy all that saint's day, suddenly changed: her eyes became fixed, and then a shiver passed down her broad neck and the corners of her mouth drooped.
"Sonya! What is it? What is the matter?... Oo... Oo... Oo...!" And Natasha's large mouth widened, making her look quite ugly, and she began to wail like a baby without knowing why, except that Sonya was crying. Sonya tried to lift her head to answer but could not, and hid her face still deeper in the bed. Natasha wept, sitting on the blue-striped feather bed and hugging her friend. With an effort Sonya sat up and began wiping her eyes and explaining.
"Nicholas is going away in a week's time, his... papers... have come... he told me himself... but still I should not cry," and she showed a paper she held in her hand—with the verses Nicholas had written, "still, I should not cry, but you can't... no one can understand... what a soul he has!"
And she began to cry again because he had such a noble soul.
"It's all very well for you... I am not envious... I love you and Boris also," she went on, gaining a little strength; "he is nice... there are no difficulties in your way.... But Nicholas is my cousin... one would have to... the Metropolitan himself... and even then it can't be done. And besides, if she tells Mamma" (Sonya looked upon the countess as her mother and called her so) "that I am spoiling Nicholas' career and am heartless and ungrateful, while truly... God is my witness," and she made the sign of the cross, "I love her so much, and all of you, only Vera... And what for? What have I done to her? I am so grateful to you that I would willingly sacrifice everything, only I have nothing...."
Sonya could not continue, and again hid her face in her hands and in the feather bed. Natasha began consoling her, but her face showed that she understood all the gravity of her friend's trouble.
"Sonya," she suddenly exclaimed, as if she had guessed the true reason of her friend's sorrow, "I'm sure Vera has said something to you since dinner? Hasn't she?"
"Yes, these verses Nicholas wrote himself and I copied some others, and she found them on my table and said she'd show them to Mamma, and that I was ungrateful, and that Mamma would never allow him to marry me, but that he'll marry Julie. You see how he's been with her all day... Natasha, what have I done to deserve it?..."
And again she began to sob, more bitterly than before. Natasha lifted her up, hugged her, and, smiling through her tears, began comforting her.
"Sonya, don't believe her, darling! Don't believe her! Do you remember how we and Nicholas, all three of us, talked in the sitting room after supper? Why, we settled how everything was to be. I don't quite remember how, but don't you remember that it could all be arranged and how nice it all was? There's Uncle Shinshin's brother has married his first cousin. And we are only second cousins, you know. And Boris says it is quite possible. You know I have told him all about it. And he is so clever and so good!" said Natasha. "Don't you cry, Sonya, dear love, darling Sonya!" and she kissed her and laughed. "Vera's spiteful; never mind her! And all will come right and she won't say anything to Mamma. Nicholas will tell her himself, and he doesn't care at all for Julie."
Natasha kissed her on the hair.
Sonya sat up. The little kitten brightened, its eyes shone, and it seemed ready to lift its tail, jump down on its soft paws, and begin playing with the ball of worsted as a kitten should.
"Do you think so?... Really? Truly?" she said, quickly smoothing her frock and hair.
"Really, truly!" answered Natasha, pushing in a crisp lock that had strayed from under her friend's plaits.
"Well, let's go and sing 'The Brook.'"
"Do you know, that fat Pierre who sat opposite me is so funny!" said Natasha, stopping suddenly. "I feel so happy!"
And she set off at a run along the passage.
Sonya, shaking off some down which clung to her and tucking away the verses in the bosom of her dress close to her bony little chest, ran after Natasha down the passage into the sitting room with flushed face and light, joyous steps. At the visitors' request the young people sang the quartette, "The Brook," with which everyone was delighted. Then Nicholas sang a song he had just learned:
At nighttime in the moon's fair glow How sweet, as fancies wander free, To feel that in this world there's one Who still is thinking but of thee!
That while her fingers touch the harp Wafting sweet music o'er the lea, It is for thee thus swells her heart, Sighing its message out to thee...
A day or two, then bliss unspoilt, But oh! till then I cannot live!...
He had not finished the last verse before the young people began to get ready to dance in the large hall, and the sound of the feet and the coughing of the musicians were heard from the gallery.
Pierre was sitting in the drawing-room where Shinshin had engaged him, as a man recently returned from abroad, in a political conversation in which several others joined but which bored Pierre. When the music began Natasha came in and walking straight up to Pierre said, laughing and blushing:
"Mamma told me to ask you to join the dancers."
"I am afraid of mixing the figures," Pierre replied; "but if you will be my teacher..." And lowering his big arm he offered it to the slender little girl.
While the couples were arranging themselves and the musicians tuning up, Pierre sat down with his little partner. Natasha was perfectly happy; she was dancing with a grown-up man, who had been abroad. She was sitting in a conspicuous place and talking to him like a grown-up lady. She had a fan in her hand that one of the ladies had given her to hold. Assuming quite the pose of a society woman (heaven knows when and where she had learned it) she talked with her partner, fanning herself and smiling over the fan.
"Dear, dear! Just look at her!" exclaimed the countess as she crossed the ballroom, pointing to Natasha.
Natasha blushed and laughed.
"Well, really, Mamma! Why should you? What is there to be surprised at?"
In the midst of the third ecossaise there was a clatter of chairs being pushed back in the sitting room where the count and Marya Dmitrievna had been playing cards with the majority of the more distinguished and older visitors. They now, stretching themselves after sitting so long, and replacing their purses and pocketbooks, entered the ballroom. First came Marya Dmitrievna and the count, both with merry countenances. The count, with playful ceremony somewhat in ballet style, offered his bent arm to Marya Dmitrievna. He drew himself up, a smile of debonair gallantry lit up his face and as soon as the last figure of the ecossaise was ended, he clapped his hands to the musicians and shouted up to their gallery, addressing the first violin:
"Semen! Do you know the Daniel Cooper?"
This was the count's favorite dance, which he had danced in his youth. (Strictly speaking, Daniel Cooper was one figure of the anglaise.)
"Look at Papa!" shouted Natasha to the whole company, and quite forgetting that she was dancing with a grown-up partner she bent her curly head to her knees and made the whole room ring with her laughter.
And indeed everybody in the room looked with a smile of pleasure at the jovial old gentleman, who standing beside his tall and stout partner, Marya Dmitrievna, curved his arms, beat time, straightened his shoulders, turned out his toes, tapped gently with his foot, and, by a smile that broadened his round face more and more, prepared the onlookers for what was to follow. As soon as the provocatively gay strains of Daniel Cooper (somewhat resembling those of a merry peasant dance) began to sound, all the doorways of the ballroom were suddenly filled by the domestic serfs—the men on one side and the women on the other—who with beaming faces had come to see their master making merry.
"Just look at the master! A regular eagle he is!" loudly remarked the nurse, as she stood in one of the doorways.
The count danced well and knew it. But his partner could not and did not want to dance well. Her enormous figure stood erect, her powerful arms hanging down (she had handed her reticule to the countess), and only her stern but handsome face really joined in the dance. What was expressed by the whole of the count's plump figure, in Marya Dmitrievna found expression only in her more and more beaming face and quivering nose. But if the count, getting more and more into the swing of it, charmed the spectators by the unexpectedness of his adroit maneuvers and the agility with which he capered about on his light feet, Marya Dmitrievna produced no less impression by slight exertions—the least effort to move her shoulders or bend her arms when turning, or stamp her foot—which everyone appreciated in view of her size and habitual severity. The dance grew livelier and livelier. The other couples could not attract a moment's attention to their own evolutions and did not even try to do so. All were watching the count and Marya Dmitrievna. Natasha kept pulling everyone by sleeve or dress, urging them to "look at Papa!" though as it was they never took their eyes off the couple. In the intervals of the dance the count, breathing deeply, waved and shouted to the musicians to play faster. Faster, faster, and faster; lightly, more lightly, and yet more lightly whirled the count, flying round Marya Dmitrievna, now on his toes, now on his heels; until, turning his partner round to her seat, he executed the final pas, raising his soft foot backwards, bowing his perspiring head, smiling and making a wide sweep with his arm, amid a thunder of applause and laughter led by Natasha. Both partners stood still, breathing heavily and wiping their faces with their cambric handkerchiefs.
"That's how we used to dance in our time, ma chere," said the count.
"That was a Daniel Cooper!" exclaimed Marya Dmitrievna, tucking up her sleeves and puffing heavily.
While in the Rostovs' ballroom the sixth anglaise was being danced, to a tune in which the weary musicians blundered, and while tired footmen and cooks were getting the supper, Count Bezukhov had a sixth stroke. The doctors pronounced recovery impossible. After a mute confession, communion was administered to the dying man, preparations made for the sacrament of unction, and in his house there was the bustle and thrill of suspense usual at such moments. Outside the house, beyond the gates, a group of undertakers, who hid whenever a carriage drove up, waited in expectation of an important order for an expensive funeral. The Military Governor of Moscow, who had been assiduous in sending aides-de-camp to inquire after the count's health, came himself that evening to bid a last farewell to the celebrated grandee of Catherine's court, Count Bezukhov.
The magnificent reception room was crowded. Everyone stood up respectfully when the Military Governor, having stayed about half an hour alone with the dying man, passed out, slightly acknowledging their bows and trying to escape as quickly as possible from the glances fixed on him by the doctors, clergy, and relatives of the family. Prince Vasili, who had grown thinner and paler during the last few days, escorted him to the door, repeating something to him several times in low tones.
When the Military Governor had gone, Prince Vasili sat down all alone on a chair in the ballroom, crossing one leg high over the other, leaning his elbow on his knee and covering his face with his hand. After sitting so for a while he rose, and, looking about him with frightened eyes, went with unusually hurried steps down the long corridor leading to the back of the house, to the room of the eldest princess.
Those who were in the dimly lit reception room spoke in nervous whispers, and, whenever anyone went into or came from the dying man's room, grew silent and gazed with eyes full of curiosity or expectancy at his door, which creaked slightly when opened.
"The limits of human life... are fixed and may not be o'erpassed," said an old priest to a lady who had taken a seat beside him and was listening naively to his words.
"I wonder, is it not too late to administer unction?" asked the lady, adding the priest's clerical title, as if she had no opinion of her own on the subject.
"Ah, madam, it is a great sacrament," replied the priest, passing his hand over the thin grizzled strands of hair combed back across his bald head.
"Who was that? The Military Governor himself?" was being asked at the other side of the room. "How young-looking he is!"
"Yes, and he is over sixty. I hear the count no longer recognizes anyone. They wished to administer the sacrament of unction."
"I knew someone who received that sacrament seven times."
The second princess had just come from the sickroom with her eyes red from weeping and sat down beside Dr. Lorrain, who was sitting in a graceful pose under a portrait of Catherine, leaning his elbow on a table.
"Beautiful," said the doctor in answer to a remark about the weather. "The weather is beautiful, Princess; and besides, in Moscow one feels as if one were in the country."
"Yes, indeed," replied the princess with a sigh. "So he may have something to drink?"
"Has he taken his medicine?"
The doctor glanced at his watch.
"Take a glass of boiled water and put a pinch of cream of tartar," and he indicated with his delicate fingers what he meant by a pinch.
"Dere has neffer been a gase," a German doctor was saying to an aide-de-camp, "dat one liffs after de sird stroke."
"And what a well-preserved man he was!" remarked the aide-de-camp. "And who will inherit his wealth?" he added in a whisper.
"It von't go begging," replied the German with a smile.
Everyone again looked toward the door, which creaked as the second princess went in with the drink she had prepared according to Lorrain's instructions. The German doctor went up to Lorrain.
"Do you think he can last till morning?" asked the German, addressing Lorrain in French which he pronounced badly.
Lorrain, pursing up his lips, waved a severely negative finger before his nose.
"Tonight, not later," said he in a low voice, and he moved away with a decorous smile of self-satisfaction at being able clearly to understand and state the patient's condition.
Meanwhile Prince Vasili had opened the door into the princess' room.
In this room it was almost dark; only two tiny lamps were burning before the icons and there was a pleasant scent of flowers and burnt pastilles. The room was crowded with small pieces of furniture, whatnots, cupboards, and little tables. The quilt of a high, white feather bed was just visible behind a screen. A small dog began to bark.
"Ah, is it you, cousin?"
She rose and smoothed her hair, which was as usual so extremely smooth that it seemed to be made of one piece with her head and covered with varnish.