Part 15 out of 34
Toward evening Ilagin took leave of Nicholas, who found that they
were so far from home that he accepted "Uncle's" offer that the
hunting party should spend the night in his little village of
"And if you put up at my house that will be better still. That's it,
come on!" said "Uncle." "You see it's damp weather, and you could
rest, and the little countess could be driven home in a trap."
"Uncle's" offer was accepted. A huntsman was sent to Otradnoe for
a trap, while Nicholas rode with Natasha and Petya to "Uncle's" house.
Some five male domestic serfs, big and little, rushed out to the
front porch to meet their master. A score of women serfs, old and
young, as well as children, popped out from the back entrance to
have a look at the hunters who were arriving. The presence of Natasha-
a woman, a lady, and on horseback- raised the curiosity of the serfs
to such a degree that many of them came up to her, stared her in the
face, and unabashed by her presence made remarks about her as though
she were some prodigy on show and not a human being able to hear or
understand what was said about her.
"Arinka! Look, she sits sideways! There she sits and her skirt
dangles.... See, she's got a little hunting horn!"
"Goodness gracious! See her knife?..."
"Isn't she a Tartar!"
"How is it you didn't go head over heels?" asked the boldest of all,
addressing Natasha directly.
"Uncle" dismounted at the porch of his little wooden house which
stood in the midst of an overgrown garden and, after a glance at his
retainers, shouted authoritatively that the superfluous ones should
take themselves off and that all necessary preparations should be made
to receive the guests and the visitors.
The serfs all dispersed. "Uncle" lifted Natasha off her horse and
taking her hand led her up the rickety wooden steps of the porch.
The house, with its bare, unplastered log walls, was not overclean- it
did not seem that those living in it aimed at keeping it spotless- but
neither was it noticeably neglected. In the entry there was a smell of
fresh apples, and wolf and fox skins hung about.
"Uncle" led the visitors through the anteroom into a small hall with
a folding table and red chairs, then into the drawing room with a
round birchwood table and a sofa, and finally into his private room
where there was a tattered sofa, a worn carpet, and portraits of
Suvorov, of the host's father and mother, and of himself in military
uniform. The study smelt strongly of tobacco and dogs. "Uncle" asked
his visitors to sit down and make themselves at home, and then went
out of the room. Rugay, his back still muddy, came into the room and
lay down on the sofa, cleaning himself with his tongue and teeth.
Leading from the study was a passage in which a partition with
ragged curtains could be seen. From behind this came women's
laughter and whispers. Natasha, Nicholas, and Petya took off their
wraps and sat down on the sofa. Petya, leaning on his elbow, fell
asleep at once. Natasha and Nicholas were silent. Their faces
glowed, they were hungry and very cheerful. They looked at one another
(now that the hunt was over and they were in the house, Nicholas no
longer considered it necessary to show his manly superiority over
his sister), Natasha gave him a wink, and neither refrained long
from bursting into a peal of ringing laughter even before they had a
pretext ready to account for it.
After a while "Uncle" came in, in a Cossack coat, blue trousers, and
small top boots. And Natasha felt that this costume, the very one
she had regarded with surprise and amusement at Otradnoe, was just the
right thing and not at all worse than a swallow-tail or frock coat.
"Uncle" too was in high spirits and far from being offended by the
brother's and sister's laughter (it could never enter his head that
they might be laughing at his way of life) he himself joined in the
"That's right, young countess, that's it, come on! I never saw
anyone like her!" said he, offering Nicholas a pipe with a long stem
and, with a practiced motion of three fingers, taking down another
that had been cut short. "She's ridden all day like a man, and is as
fresh as ever!
Soon after "Uncle's" reappearance the door was opened, evidently
from the sound by a barefooted girl, and a stout, rosy, good-looking
woman of about forty, with a double chin and full red lips, entered
carrying a large loaded tray. With hospitable dignity and cordiality
in her glance and in every motion, she looked at the visitors and,
with a pleasant smile, bowed respectfully. In spite of her exceptional
stoutness, which caused her to protrude her chest and stomach and
throw back her head, this woman (who was "Uncle's" housekeeper) trod
very lightly. She went to the table, set down the tray, and with her
plump white hands deftly took from it the bottles and various hors
d'oeuvres and dishes and arranged them on the table. When she had
finished, she stepped aside and stopped at the door with a smile on
her face. "Here I am. I am she! Now do you understand 'Uncle'?" her
expression said to Rostov. How could one help understanding? Not
only Nicholas, but even Natasha understood the meaning of his puckered
brow and the happy complacent smile that slightly puckered his lips
when Anisya Fedorovna entered. On the tray was a bottle of herb
wine, different kinds of vodka, pickled mushrooms, rye cakes made with
buttermilk, honey in the comb, still mead and sparkling mead,
apples, nuts (raw and roasted), and nut-and-honey sweets. Afterwards
she brought a freshly roasted chicken, ham, preserves made with honey,
and preserves made with sugar.
All this was the fruit of Anisya Fedorovna's housekeeping,
gathered and prepared by her. The smell and taste of it all had a
smack of Anisya Fedorovna herself: a savor of juiciness,
cleanliness, whiteness, and pleasant smiles.
"Take this, little Lady-Countess!" she kept saying, as she offered
Natasha first one thing and then another.
Natasha ate of everything and thought she had never seen or eaten
such buttermilk cakes, such aromatic jam, such honey-and-nut sweets,
or such a chicken anywhere. Anisya Fedorovna left the room.
After supper, over their cherry brandy, Rostov and "Uncle" talked of
past and future hunts, of Rugay and Ilagin's dogs, while Natasha sat
upright on the sofa and listened with sparkling eyes. She tried
several times to wake Petya that he might eat something, but he only
muttered incoherent words without waking up. Natasha felt so
lighthearted and happy in these novel surroundings that she only
feared the trap would come for her too soon. After a casual pause,
such as often occurs when receiving friends for the first time in
one's own house, "Uncle," answering a thought that was in his
visitors' mind, said:
"This, you see, is how I am finishing my days... Death will come.
That's it, come on! Nothing will remain. Then why harm anyone?"
"Uncle's" face was very significant and even handsome as he said
this. Involuntarily Rostov recalled all the good he had heard about
him from his father and the neighbors. Throughout the whole province
"Uncle" had the reputation of being the most honorable and
disinterested of cranks. They called him in to decide family disputes,
chose him as executor, confided secrets to him, elected him to be a
justice and to other posts; but he always persistently refused
public appointments, passing the autumn and spring in the fields on
his bay gelding, sitting at home in winter, and lying in his overgrown
garden in summer.
"Why don't you enter the service, Uncle?"
"I did once, but gave it up. I am not fit for it. That's it, come
on! I can't make head or tail of it. That's for you- I haven't
brains enough. Now, hunting is another matter- that's it, come on!
Open the door, there!" he shouted. "Why have you shut it?"
The door at the end of the passage led to the huntsmen's room, as
they called the room for the hunt servants.
There was a rapid patter of bare feet, and an unseen hand opened the
door into the huntsmen's room, from which came the clear sounds of a
balalayka on which someone, who was evidently a master of the art, was
playing. Natasha had been listening to those strains for some time and
now went out into the passage to hear better.
"That's Mitka, my coachman.... I have got him a good balalayka.
I'm fond of it," said "Uncle."
It was the custom for Mitka to play the balalayka in the
huntsmen's room when "Uncle" returned from the chase. "Uncle" was fond
of such music.
"How good! Really very good!" said Nicholas with some
unintentional superciliousness, as if ashamed to confess that the
sounds pleased him very much.
"Very good?" said Natasha reproachfully, noticing her brother's
tone. "Not 'very good' it's simply delicious!"
Just as "Uncle's" pickled mushrooms, honey, and cherry brandy had
seemed to her the best in the world, so also that song, at that
moment, seemed to her the acme of musical delight.
"More, please, more!" cried Natasha at the door as soon as the
balalayka ceased. Mitka tuned up afresh, and recommenced thrumming the
balalayka to the air of My Lady, with trills and variations. "Uncle"
sat listening, slightly smiling, with his head on one side. The air
was repeated a hundred times. The balalayka was retuned several
times and the same notes were thrummed again, but the listeners did
not grow weary of it and wished to hear it again and again. Anisya
Fedorovna came in and leaned her portly person against the doorpost.
"You like listening?" she said to Natasha, with a smile extremely
like "Uncle's." "That's a good player of ours," she added.
"He doesn't play that part right!" said "Uncle" suddenly, with an
energetic gesture. "Here he ought to burst out- that's it, come on!-
ought to burst out."
"Do you play then?" asked Natasha.
"Uncle" did not answer, but smiled.
"Anisya, go and see if the strings of my guitar are all right. I
haven't touched it for a long time. That's it- come on! I've given
Anisya Fedorovna, with her light step, willingly went to fulfill her
errand and brought back the guitar.
Without looking at anyone, "Uncle" blew the dust off it and, tapping
the case with his bony fingers, tuned the guitar and settled himself
in his armchair. He took the guitar a little above the fingerboard,
arching his left elbow with a somewhat theatrical gesture, and, with a
wink at Anisya Fedorovna, struck a single chord, pure and sonorous,
and then quietly, smoothly, and confidently began playing in very slow
time, not My Lady, but the well-known song: Came a maiden down the
street. The tune, played with precision and in exact time, began to
thrill in the hearts of Nicholas and Natasha, arousing in them the
same kind of sober mirth as radiated from Anisya Fedorovna's whole
being. Anisya Fedorovna flushed, and drawing her kerchief over her
face went laughing out of the room. "Uncle" continued to play
correctly, carefully, with energetic firmness, looking with a
changed and inspired expression at the spot where Anisya Fedorovna had
just stood. Something seemed to be laughing a little on one side of
his face under his gray mustaches, especially as the song grew brisker
and the time quicker and when, here and there, as he ran his fingers
over the strings, something seemed to snap.
"Lovely, lovely! Go on, Uncle, go on!" shouted Natasha as soon as he
had finished. She jumped up and hugged and kissed him. "Nicholas,
Nicholas!" she said, turning to her brother, as if asking him: "What
is it moves me so?"
Nicholas too was greatly pleased by "Uncle's" playing, and "Uncle"
played the piece over again. Anisya Fedorovna's smiling face
reappeared in the doorway and behind hers other faces...
Fetching water clear and sweet,
Stop, dear maiden, I entreat-
played "Uncle" once more, running his fingers skillfully over the
strings, and then he stopped short and jerked his shoulders.
"Go on, Uncle dear," Natasha wailed in an imploring tone as if her
life depended on it.
"Uncle" rose, and it was as if there were two men in him: one of
them smiled seriously at the merry fellow, while the merry fellow
struck a naive and precise attitude preparatory to a folk dance.
"Now then, niece!" he exclaimed, waving to Natasha the hand that had
just struck a chord.
Natasha threw off the shawl from her shoulders, ran forward to
face "Uncle," and setting her arms akimbo also made a motion with
her shoulders and struck an attitude.
Where, how, and when had this young countess, educated by an emigree
French governess, imbibed from the Russian air she breathed that
spirit and obtained that manner which the pas de chale* would, one
would have supposed, long ago have effaced? But the spirit and the
movements were those inimitable and unteachable Russian ones that
"Uncle" had expected of her. As soon as she had struck her pose, and
smiled triumphantly, proudly, and with sly merriment, the fear that
had at first seized Nicholas and the others that she might not do
the right thing was at an end, and they were already admiring her.
*The French shawl dance.
She did the right thing with such precision, such complete
precision, that Anisya Fedorovna, who had at once handed her the
handkerchief she needed for the dance, had tears in her eyes, though
she laughed as she watched this slim, graceful countess, reared in
silks and velvets and so different from herself, who yet was able to
understand all that was in Anisya and in Anisya's father and mother
and aunt, and in every Russian man and woman.
"Well, little countess; that's it- come on!" cried "Uncle," with a
joyous laugh, having finished the dance. "Well done, niece! Now a fine
young fellow must be found as husband for you. That's it- come on!"
"He's chosen already," said Nicholas smiling.
"Oh?" said "Uncle" in surprise, looking inquiringly at Natasha,
who nodded her head with a happy smile.
"And such a one!" she said. But as soon as she had said it a new
train of thoughts and feelings arose in her. "What did Nicholas' smile
mean when he said 'chosen already'? Is he glad of it or not? It is
as if he thought my Bolkonski would not approve of or understand our
gaiety. But he would understand it all. Where is he now?" she thought,
and her face suddenly became serious. But this lasted only a second.
"Don't dare to think about it," she said to herself, and sat down
again smilingly beside "Uncle," begging him to play something more.
"Uncle" played another song and a valse; then after a pause he
cleared his throat and sang his favorite hunting song:
As 'twas growing dark last night
Fell the snow so soft and light...
"Uncle" sang as peasants sing, with full and naive conviction that
the whole meaning of a song lies in the words and that the tune
comes of itself, and that apart from the words there is no tune, which
exists only to give measure to the words. As a result of this the
unconsidered tune, like the song of a bird, was extraordinarily
good. Natasha was in ecstasies over "Uncle's" singing. She resolved to
give up learning the harp and to play only the guitar. She asked
"Uncle" for his guitar and at once found the chords of the song.
After nine o'clock two traps and three mounted men, who had been
sent to look for them, arrived to fetch Natasha and Petya. The count
and countess did not know where they were and were very anxious,
said one of the men.
Petya was carried out like a log and laid in the larger of the two
traps. Natasha and Nicholas got into the other. "Uncle" wrapped
Natasha up warmly and took leave of her with quite a new tenderness.
He accompanied them on foot as far as the bridge that could not be
crossed, so that they had to go round by the ford, and he sent
huntsmen to ride in front with lanterns.
"Good-by, dear niece," his voice called out of the darkness- not the
voice Natasha had known previously, but the one that had sung As 'twas
growing dark last night.
In the village through which they passed there were red lights and a
cheerful smell of smoke.
"What a darling Uncle is!" said Natasha, when they had come out onto
"Yes," returned Nicholas. "You're not cold?"
"No. I'm quite, quite all right. I feel so comfortable!" answered
Natasha, almost perplexed by her feelings. They remained silent a long
while. The night was dark and damp. They could not see the horses, but
only heard them splashing through the unseen mud.
What was passing in that receptive childlike soul that so eagerly
caught and assimilated all the diverse impressions of life? How did
they all find place in her? But she was very happy. As they were
nearing home she suddenly struck up the air of As 'twas growing dark
last night- the tune of which she had all the way been trying to get
and had at last caught.
"Got it?" said Nicholas.
"What were you thinking about just now, Nicholas?" inquired Natasha.
They were fond of asking one another that question.
"I?" said Nicholas, trying to remember. "Well, you see, first I
thought that Rugay, the red hound, was like Uncle, and that if he were
a man he would always keep Uncle near him, if not for his riding, then
for his manner. What a good fellow Uncle is! Don't you think so?...
Well, and you?"
"I? Wait a bit, wait.... Yes, first I thought that we are driving
along and imagining that we are going home, but that heaven knows
where we are really going in the darkness, and that we shall arrive
and suddenly find that we are not in Otradnoe, but in Fairyland. And
then I thought... No, nothing else."
"I know, I expect you thought of him," said Nicholas, smiling as
Natasha knew by the sound of his voice.
"No," said Natasha, though she had in reality been thinking about
Prince Andrew at the same time as of the rest, and of how he would
have liked "Uncle." "And then I was saying to myself all the way, 'How
well Anisya carried herself, how well!'" And Nicholas heard her
spontaneous, happy, ringing laughter. "And do you know," she
suddenly said, "I know that I shall never again be as happy and
tranquil as I am now."
"Rubbish, nonsense, humbug!" exclaimed Nicholas, and he thought:
"How charming this Natasha of mine is! I have no other friend like her
and never shall have. Why should she marry? We might always drive
"What a darling this Nicholas of mine is!" thought Natasha.
"Ah, there are still lights in the drawingroom!" she said,
pointing to the windows of the house that gleamed invitingly in the
moist velvety darkness of the night.
Count Ilya Rostov had resigned the position of Marshal of the
Nobility because it involved him in too much expense, but still his
affairs did not improve. Natasha and Nicholas often noticed their
parents conferring together anxiously and privately and heard
suggestions of selling the fine ancestral Rostov house and estate near
Moscow. It was not necessary to entertain so freely as when the
count had been Marshal, and life at Otradnoe was quieter than in
former years, but still the enormous house and its lodges were full of
people and more than twenty sat down to table every day. These were
all their own people who had settled down in the house almost as
members of the family, or persons who were, it seemed, obliged to live
in the count's house. Such were Dimmler the musician and his wife,
Vogel the dancing master and his family, Belova, an old maiden lady,
an inmate of the house, and many others such as Petya's tutors, the
girls' former governess, and other people who simply found it
preferable and more advantageous to live in the count's house than
at home. They had not as many visitors as before, but the old habits
of life without which the count and countess could not conceive of
existence remained unchanged. There was still the hunting
establishment which Nicholas had even enlarged, the same fifty
horses and fifteen grooms in the stables, the same expensive
presents and dinner parties to the whole district on name days;
there were still the count's games of whist and boston, at which-
spreading out his cards so that everybody could see them- he let
himself be plundered of hundreds of rubles every day by his neighbors,
who looked upon an opportunity to play a rubber with Count Rostov as a
most profitable source of income.
The count moved in his affairs as in a huge net, trying not to
believe that he was entangled but becoming more and more so at every
step, and feeling too feeble to break the meshes or to set to work
carefully and patiently to disentangle them. The countess, with her
loving heart, felt that her children were being ruined, that it was
not the count's fault for he could not help being what he was- that
(though he tried to hide it) he himself suffered from the
consciousness of his own and his children's ruin, and she tried to
find means of remedying the position. From her feminine point of
view she could see only one solution, namely, for Nicholas to marry
a rich heiress. She felt this to be their last hope and that if
Nicholas refused the match she had found for him, she would have to
abandon the hope of ever getting matters right. This match was with
Julie Karagina, the daughter of excellent and virtuous parents, a girl
the Rostovs had known from childhood, and who had now become a wealthy
heiress through the death of the last of her brothers.
The countess had written direct to Julie's mother in Moscow
suggesting a marriage between their children and had received a
favorable answer from her. Karagina had replied that for her part
she was agreeable, and everything depend on her daughter's
inclination. She invited Nicholas to come to Moscow.
Several times the countess, with tears in her eyes, told her son
that now both her daughters were settled, her only wish was to see him
married. She said she could lie down in her grave peacefully if that
were accomplished. Then she told him that she knew of a splendid
girl and tried to discover what he thought about marriage.
At other times she praised Julie to him and advised him to go to
Moscow during the holidays to amuse himself. Nicholas guessed what his
mother's remarks were leading to and during one of these conversations
induced her to speak quite frankly. She told him that her only hope of
getting their affairs disentangled now lay in his marrying Julie
"But, Mamma, suppose I loved a girl who has no fortune, would you
expect me to sacrifice my feelings and my honor for the sake of
money?" he asked his mother, not realizing the cruelty of his question
and only wishing to show his noble-mindedness.
"No, you have not understood me," said his mother, not knowing how
to justify herself. "You have not understood me, Nikolenka. It is your
happiness I wish for," she added, feeling that she was telling an
untruth and was becoming entangled. She began to cry.
"Mamma, don't cry! Only tell me that you wish it, and you know I
will give my life, anything, to put you at ease," said Nicholas. "I
would sacrifice anything for you- even my feelings."
But the countess did not want the question put like that: she did
not want a sacrifice from her son, she herself wished to make a
sacrifice for him.
"No, you have not understood me, don't let us talk about it," she
replied, wiping away her tears.
"Maybe I do love a poor girl," said Nicholas to himself. "Am I to
sacrifice my feelings and my honor for money? I wonder how Mamma could
speak so to me. Because Sonya is poor I must not love her," he
thought, "must not respond to her faithful, devoted love? Yet I should
certainly be happier with her than with some doll-like Julie. I can
always sacrifice my feelings for my family's welfare," he said to
himself, "but I can't coerce my feelings. If I love Sonya, that
feeling is for me stronger and higher than all else."
Nicholas did not go to Moscow, and the countess did not renew the
conversation with him about marriage. She saw with sorrow, and
sometimes with exasperation, symptoms of a growing attachment
between her son and the portionless Sonya. Though she blamed herself
for it, she could not refrain from grumbling at and worrying Sonya,
often pulling her up without reason, addressing her stiffly as "my
dear," and using the formal "you" instead of the intimate "thou" in
speaking to her. The kindhearted countess was the more vexed with
Sonya because that poor, dark-eyed niece of hers was so meek, so kind,
so devotedly grateful to her benefactors, and so faithfully,
unchangingly, and unselfishly in love with Nicholas, that there were
no grounds for finding fault with her.
Nicholas was spending the last of his leave at home. A fourth letter
had come from Prince Andrew, from Rome, in which he wrote that he
would have been on his way back to Russia long ago had not his wound
unexpectedly reopened in the warm climate, which obliged him to
defer his return till the beginning of the new year. Natasha was still
as much in love with her betrothed, found the same comfort in that
love, and was still as ready to throw herself into all the pleasures
of life as before; but at the end of the fourth month of their
separation she began to have fits of depression which she could not
master. She felt sorry for herself: sorry that she was being wasted
all this time and of no use to anyone- while she felt herself so
capable of loving and being loved.
Things were not cheerful in the Rostovs' home.
Christmas came and except for the ceremonial Mass, the solemn and
wearisome Christmas congratulations from neighbors and servants, and
the new dresses everyone put on, there were no special festivities,
though the calm frost of twenty degrees Reaumur, the dazzling sunshine
by day, and the starlight of the winter nights seemed to call for some
special celebration of the season.
On the third day of Christmas week, after the midday dinner, all the
inmates of the house dispersed to various rooms. It was the dullest
time of the day. Nicholas, who had been visiting some neighbors that
morning, was asleep on the sitting-room sofa. The old count was
resting in his study. Sonya sat in the drawing room at the round
table, copying a design for embroidery. The countess was playing
patience. Nastasya Ivanovna the buffoon sat with a sad face at the
window with two old ladies. Natasha came into the room, went up to
Sonya, glanced at what she was doing, and then went up to her mother
and stood without speaking.
"Why are you wandering about like an outcast?" asked her mother.
"What do you want?"
"Him... I want him... now, this minute! I want him!" said Natasha,
with glittering eyes and no sign of a smile.
The countess lifted her head and looked attentively at her daughter.
"Don't look at me, Mamma! Don't look; I shall cry directly."
"Sit down with me a little," said the countess.
"Mamma, I want him. Why should I be wasted like this, Mamma?"
Her voice broke, tears gushed from her eyes, and she turned
quickly to hide them and left the room.
She passed into the sitting room, stood there thinking awhile, and
then went into the maids' room. There an old maidservant was grumbling
at a young girl who stood panting, having just run in through the cold
from the serfs' quarters.
"Stop playing- there's a time for everything," said the old woman.
"Let her alone, Kondratevna," said Natasha. "Go, Mavrushka, go."
Having released Mavrushka, Natasha crossed the dancing hall and went
to the vestibule. There an old footman and two young ones were playing
cards. They broke off and rose as she entered.
"What can I do with them?" thought Natasha.
"Oh, Nikita, please go... where can I send him?... Yes, go to the
yard and fetch a fowl, please, a cock, and you, Misha, bring me some
"Just a few oats?" said Misha, cheerfully and readily.
"Go, go quickly," the old man urged him.
"And you, Theodore, get me a piece of chalk."
On her way past the butler's pantry she told them to set a
samovar, though it was not at all the time for tea.
Foka, the butler, was the most ill-tempered person in the house.
Natasha liked to test her power over him. He distrusted the order
and asked whether the samovar was really wanted.
"Oh dear, what a young lady!" said Foka, pretending to frown at
No one in the house sent people about or gave them as much trouble
as Natasha did. She could not see people unconcernedly, but had to
send them on some errand. She seemed to be trying whether any of
them would get angry or sulky with her; but the serfs fulfilled no
one's orders so readily as they did hers. "What can I do, where can
I go?" thought she, as she went slowly along the passage.
"Nastasya Ivanovna, what sort of children shall I have?" she asked
the buffoon, who was coming toward her in a woman's jacket.
"Why, fleas, crickets, grasshoppers," answered the buffoon.
"O Lord, O Lord, it's always the same! Oh, where am I to go? What am
I to do with myself?" And tapping with her heels, she ran quickly
upstairs to see Vogel and his wife who lived on the upper story.
Two governesses were sitting with the Vogels at a table, on which
were plates of raisins, walnuts, and almonds. The governesses were
discussing whether it was cheaper to live in Moscow or Odessa. Natasha
sat down, listened to their talk with a serious and thoughtful air,
and then got up again.
"The island of Madagascar," she said, "Ma-da-gas-car," she repeated,
articulating each syllable distinctly, and, not replying to Madame
Schoss who asked her what she was saying, she went out of the room.
Her brother Petya was upstairs too; with the man in attendance on
him he was preparing fireworks to let off that night.
"Petya! Petya!" she called to him. "Carry me downstairs."
Petya ran up and offered her his back. She jumped on it, putting her
arms round his neck, and he pranced along with her.
"No, don't... the island of Madagascar!" she said, and jumping off
his back she went downstairs.
Having as it were reviewed her kingdom, tested her power, and made
sure that everyone was submissive, but that all the same it was
dull, Natasha betook herself to the ballroom, picked up her guitar,
sat down in a dark corner behind a bookcase, and began to run her
fingers over the strings in the bass, picking out a passage she
recalled from an opera she had heard in Petersburg with Prince Andrew.
What she drew from the guitar would have had no meaning for other
listeners, but in her imagination a whole series of reminiscences
arose from those sounds. She sat behind the bookcase with her eyes
fixed on a streak of light escaping from the pantry door and
listened to herself and pondered. She was in a mood for brooding on
Sonya passed to the pantry with a glass in her hand. Natasha glanced
at her and at the crack in the pantry door, and it seemed to her
that she remembered the light failing through that crack once before
and Sonya passing with a glass in her hand. "Yes it was exactly the
same," thought Natasha.
"Sonya, what is this?" she cried, twanging a thick string.
"Oh, you are there!" said Sonya with a start, and came near and
listened. "I don't know. A storm?" she ventured timidly, afraid of
"There! That's just how she started and just how she came up smiling
timidly when all this happened before," thought Natasha, "and in
just the same way I thought there was something lacking in her."
"No, it's the chorus from The Water-Carrier, listen! " and Natasha
sang the air of the chorus so that Sonya should catch it. "Where
were you going?" she asked.
"To change the water in this glass. I am just finishing the design."
"You always find something to do, but I can't," said Natasha. "And
"Asleep, I think."
"Sonya, go and wake him," said Natasha. "Tell him I want him to come
She sat awhile, wondering what the meaning of it all having happened
before could be, and without solving this problem, or at all
regretting not having done so, she again passed in fancy to the time
when she was with him and he was looking at her with a lover's eyes.
"Oh, if only he would come quicker! I am so afraid it will never be!
And, worst of all, I am growing old- that's the thing! There won't
then be in me what there is now. But perhaps he'll come today, will
come immediately. Perhaps he has come and is sitting in the drawing
room. Perhaps he came yesterday and I have forgotten it." She rose,
put down the guitar, and went to the drawing room.
All the domestic circle, tutors, governesses, and guests, were
already at the tea table. The servants stood round the table- but
Prince Andrew was not there and life was going on as before.
"Ah, here she is!" said the old count, when he saw Natasha enter.
"Well, sit down by me." But Natasha stayed by her mother and glanced
round as if looking for something.
"Mamma!" she muttered, "give him to me, give him, Mamma, quickly,
quickly!" and she again had difficulty in repressing her sobs.
She sat down at the table and listened to the conversation between
the elders and Nicholas, who had also come to the table. "My God, my
God! The same faces, the same talk, Papa holding his cup and blowing
in the same way!" thought Natasha, feeling with horror a sense of
repulsion rising up in her for the whole household, because they
were always the same.
After tea, Nicholas, Sonya, and Natasha went to the sitting room, to
their favorite corner where their most intimate talks always began.
Does it ever happen to you," said Natasha to her brother, when
they settled down in the sitting room, "does it ever happen to you
to feel as if there were nothing more to come- nothing; that
everything good is past? And to feel not exactly dull, but sad?"
"I should think so!" he replied. "I have felt like that when
everything was all right and everyone was cheerful. The thought has
come into my mind that I was already tired of it all, and that we must
all die. Once in the regiment I had not gone to some merrymaking where
there was music... and suddenly I felt so depressed..."
"Oh yes, I know, I know, I know!" Natasha interrupted him. "When I
was quite little that used to be so with me. Do you remember when I
was punished once about some plums? You were all dancing, and I sat
sobbing in the schoolroom? I shall never forget it: I felt sad and
sorry for everyone, for myself, and for everyone. And I was
innocent- that was the chief thing," said Natasha. "Do you remember?"
"I remember," answered Nicholas. "I remember that I came to you
afterwards and wanted to comfort you, but do you know, I felt
ashamed to. We were terribly absurd. I had a funny doll then and
wanted to give it to you. Do you remember?"
"And do you remember," Natasha asked with a pensive smile, "how
once, long, long ago, when we were quite little, Uncle called us
into the study- that was in the old house- and it was dark- we went in
and suddenly there stood..."
"A Negro," chimed in Nicholas with a smile of delight. "Of course
I remember. Even now I don't know whether there really was a Negro, or
if we only dreamed it or were told about him."
"He was gray, you remember, and had white teeth, and stood and
looked at us..."
"Sonya, do you remember?" asked Nicholas.
"Yes, yes, I do remember something too," Sonya answered timidly.
"You know I have asked Papa and Mamma about that Negro," said
Natasha, "and they say there was no Negro at all. But you see, you
"Of course I do, I remember his teeth as if I had just seen them."
"How strange it is! It's as if it were a dream! I like that."
"And do you remember how we rolled hard-boiled eggs in the ballroom,
and suddenly two old women began spinning round on the carpet? Was
that real or not? Do you remember what fun it was?"
"Yes, and you remember how Papa in his blue overcoat fired a gun
in the porch?"
So they went through their memories, smiling with pleasure: not
the sad memories of old age, but poetic, youthful ones- those
impressions of one's most distant past in which dreams and realities
blend- and they laughed with quiet enjoyment.
Sonya, as always, did not quite keep pace with them, though they
shared the same reminiscences.
Much that they remembered had slipped from her mind, and what she
recalled did not arouse the same poetic feeling as they experienced.
She simply enjoyed their pleasure and tried to fit in with it.
She only really took part when they recalled Sonya's first
arrival. She told them how afraid she had been of Nicholas because
he had on a corded jacket and her nurse had told her that she, too,
would be sewn up with cords.
"And I remember their telling me that you had been born under a
cabbage," said Natasha, and I remember that I dared not disbelieve
it then, but knew that it was not true, and I felt so uncomfortable."
While they were talking a maid thrust her head in at the other
door of the sitting room.
"They have brought the cock, Miss," she said in a whisper.
"It isn't wanted, Petya. Tell them to take it away," replied
In the middle of their talk in the sitting room, Dimmler came in and
went up to the harp that stood there in a corner. He took off its
cloth covering, and the harp gave out a jarring sound.
"Mr. Dimmler, please play my favorite nocturne by Field," came the
old countess' voice from the drawing room.
Dimmler struck a chord and, turning to Natasha, Nicholas, and Sonya,
remarked: "How quiet you young people are!"
"Yes, we're philosophizing," said Natasha, glancing round for a
moment and then continuing the conversation. They were now
Dimmler began to play; Natasha went on tiptoe noiselessly to the
table, took up a candle, carried it out, and returned, seating herself
quietly in her former place. It was dark in the room especially
where they were sitting on the sofa, but through the big windows the
silvery light of the full moon fell on the floor. Dimmler had finished
the piece but still sat softly running his fingers over the strings,
evidently uncertain whether to stop or to play something else.
"Do you know," said Natasha in a whisper, moving closer to
Nicholas and Sonya, "that when one goes on and on recalling
memories, one at last begins to remember what happened before one
was in the world..."
"That is metempsychosis," said Sonya, who had always learned well,
and remembered everything. "The Egyptians believed that our souls have
lived in animals, and will go back into animals again."
"No, I don't believe we ever were in animals," said Natasha, still
in a whisper though the music had ceased. "But I am certain that we
were angels somewhere there, and have been here, and that is why we
"May I join you?" said Dimmler who had come up quietly, and he sat
down by them.
"If we have been angels, why have we fallen lower?" said Nicholas.
"No, that can't be!"
"Not lower, who said we were lower?... How do I know what I was
before?" Natasha rejoined with conviction. "The soul is immortal- well
then, if I shall always live I must have lived before, lived for a
"Yes, but it is hard for us to imagine eternity," remarked
Dimmler, who had joined the young folk with a mildly condescending
smile but now spoke as quietly and seriously as they.
"Why is it hard to imagine eternity?" said Natasha. "It is now
today, and it will be tomorrow, and always; and there was yesterday,
and the day before..."
"Natasha! Now it's your turn. Sing me something," they heard the
countess say. "Why are you sitting there like conspirators?"
"Mamma, I don't at all want to," replied Natasha, but all the same
None of them, not even the middle-aged Dimmler, wanted to break
off their conversation and quit that corner in the sitting room, but
Natasha got up and Nicholas sat down at the clavichord. Standing as
usual in the middle of the hall and choosing the place where the
resonance was best, Natasha began to sing her mother's favorite song.
She had said she did not want to sing, but it was long since she had
sung, and long before she again sang, as she did that evening. The
count, from his study where he was talking to Mitenka, heard her
and, like a schoolboy in a hurry to run out to play, blundered in
his talk while giving orders to the steward, and at last stopped,
while Mitenka stood in front of him also listening and smiling.
Nicholas did not take his eyes off his sister and drew breath in
time with her. Sonya, as she listened, thought of the immense
difference there was between herself and her friend, and how
impossible it was for her to be anything like as bewitching as her
cousin. The old countess sat with a blissful yet sad smile and with
tears in her eyes, occasionally shaking her head. She thought of
Natasha and of her own youth, and of how there was something unnatural
and dreadful in this impending marriage of Natasha and Prince Andrew.
Dimmler, who had seated himself beside the countess, listened with
"Ah, Countess," he said at last, "that's a European talent, she
has nothing to learn- what softness, tenderness, and strength...."
"Ah, how afraid I am for her, how afraid I am!" said the countess,
not realizing to whom she was speaking. Her maternal instinct told her
that Natasha had too much of something, and that because of this she
would not be happy. Before Natasha had finished singing,
fourteen-year-old Petya rushed in delightedly, to say that some
mummers had arrived.
Natasha stopped abruptly.
"Idiot!" she screamed at her brother and, running to a chair,
threw herself on it, sobbing so violently that she could not stop
for a long time.
"It's nothing, Mamma, really it's nothing; only Petya startled
me," she said, trying to smile, but her tears still flowed and sobs
still choked her.
The mummers (some of the house serfs) dressed up as bears, Turks,
innkeepers, and ladies- frightening and funny- bringing in with them
the cold from outside and a feeling of gaiety, crowded, at first
timidly, into the anteroom, then hiding behind one another they pushed
into the ballroom where, shyly at first and then more and more merrily
and heartily, they started singing, dancing, and playing Christmas
games. The countess, when she had identified them and laughed at their
costumes, went into the drawing room. The count sat in the ballroom,
smiling radiantly and applauding the players. The young people had
Half an hour later there appeared among the other mummers in the
ballroom an old lady in a hooped skirt- this was Nicholas. A Turkish
girl was Petya. A clown was Dimmler. An hussar was Natasha, and a
Circassian was Sonya with burnt-cork mustache and eyebrows.
After the condescending surprise, nonrecognition, and praise, from
those who were not themselves dressed up, the young people decided
that their costumes were so good that they ought to be shown
Nicholas, who, as the roads were in splendid condition, wanted to
take them all for a drive in his troyka, proposed to take with them
about a dozen of the serf mummers and drive to "Uncle's."
"No, why disturb the old fellow?" said the countess. "Besides, you
wouldn't have room to turn round there. If you must go, go to the
Melyukova was a widow, who, with her family and their tutors and
governesses, lived three miles from the Rostovs.
"That's right, my dear," chimed in the old count, thoroughly
aroused. "I'll dress up at once and go with them. I'll make Pashette
open her eyes."
But the countess would not agree to his going; he had had a bad
leg all these last days. It was decided that the count must not go,
but that if Louisa Ivanovna (Madame Schoss) would go with them, the
young ladies might go to the Melyukovs', Sonya, generally so timid and
shy, more urgently than anyone begging Louisa Ivanovna not to refuse.
Sonya's costume was the best of all. Her mustache and eyebrows
were extraordinarily becoming. Everyone told her she looked very
handsome, and she was in a spirited and energetic mood unusual with
her. Some inner voice told her that now or never her fate would be
decided, and in her male attire she seemed quite a different person.
Louisa Ivanovna consented to go, and in half an hour four troyka
sleighs with large and small bells, their runners squeaking and
whistling over the frozen snow, drove up to the porch.
Natasha was foremost in setting a merry holiday tone, which, passing
from one to another, grew stronger and reached its climax
when they all came out into the frost and got into the sleighs,
talking, calling to one another, laughing, and shouting.
Two of the troykas were the usual household sleighs, the third was
the old count's with a trotter from the Orlov stud as shaft horse, the
fourth was Nicholas' own with a short shaggy black shaft horse.
Nicholas, in his old lady's dress over which he had belted his
hussar overcoat, stood in the middle of the sleigh, reins in hand.
It was so light that he could see the moonlight reflected from the
metal harness disks and from the eyes of the horses, who looked
round in alarm at the noisy party under the shadow of the porch roof.
Natasha, Sonya, Madame Schoss, and two maids got into Nicholas'
sleigh; Dimmler, his wife, and Petya, into the old count's, and the
rest of the mummers seated themselves in the other two sleighs.
"You go ahead, Zakhar!" shouted Nicholas to his father's coachman,
wishing for a chance to race past him.
The old count's troyka, with Dimmler and his party, started forward,
squeaking on its runners as though freezing to the snow, its
deep-toned bell clanging. The side horses, pressing against the shafts
of the middle horse, sank in the snow, which was dry and glittered
like sugar, and threw it up.
Nicholas set off, following the first sleigh; behind him the
others moved noisily, their runners squeaking. At first they drove
at a steady trot along the narrow road. While they drove past the
garden the shadows of the bare trees often fell across the road and
hid the brilliant moonlight, but as soon as they were past the
fence, the snowy plain bathed in moonlight and motionless spread out
before them glittering like diamonds and dappled with bluish
shadows. Bang, bang! went the first sleigh over a cradle hole in the
snow of the road, and each of the other sleighs jolted in the same
way, and rudely breaking the frost-bound stillness, the troykas
began to speed along the road, one after the other.
"A hare's track, a lot of tracks!" rang out Natasha's voice
through the frost-bound air.
"How light it is, Nicholas!" came Sonya's voice.
Nicholas glanced round at Sonya, and bent down to see her face
closer. Quite a new, sweet face with black eyebrows and mustaches
peeped up at him from her sable furs- so close and yet so distant-
in the moonlight.
"That used to be Sonya," thought he, and looked at her closer and
"What is it, Nicholas?"
"Nothing," said he and turned again to the horses.
When they came out onto the beaten highroad- polished by sleigh
runners and cut up by rough-shod hoofs, the marks of which were
visible in the moonlight- the horses began to tug at the reins of
their own accord and increased their pace. The near side horse,
arching his head and breaking into a short canter, tugged at his
traces. The shaft horse swayed from side to side, moving his ears as
if asking: "Isn't it time to begin now?" In front, already far ahead
the deep bell of the sleigh ringing farther and farther off, the black
horses driven by Zakhar could be clearly seen against the white
snow. From that sleigh one could hear the shouts, laughter, and voices
of the mummers.
"Gee up, my darlings!" shouted Nicholas, pulling the reins to one
side and flourishing the whip.
It was only by the keener wind that met them and the jerks given
by the side horses who pulled harder- ever increasing their gallop-
that one noticed how fast the troyka was flying. Nicholas looked back.
With screams squeals, and waving of whips that caused even the shaft
horses to gallop- the other sleighs followed. The shaft horse swung
steadily beneath the bow over its head, with no thought of
slackening pace and ready to put on speed when required.
Nicholas overtook the first sleigh. They were driving downhill and
coming out upon a broad trodden track across a meadow, near a river.
"Where are we?" thought he. "It's the Kosoy meadow, I suppose. But
no- this is something new I've never seen before. This isn't the Kosoy
meadow nor the Demkin hill, and heaven only knows what it is! It is
something new and enchanted. Well, whatever it may be..." And shouting
to his horses, he began to pass the first sleigh.
Zakhar held back his horses and turned his face, which was already
covered with hoarfrost to his eyebrows.
Nicholas gave the horses the rein, and Zakhar, stretching out his
arms, clucked his tongue and let his horses go.
"Now, look out, master!" he cried.
Faster still the two troykas flew side by side, and faster moved the
feet of the galloping side horses. Nicholas began to draw ahead.
Zakhar, while still keeping his arms extended, raised one hand with
"No you won't, master!" he shouted.
Nicholas put all his horses to a gallop and passed Zakhar. The
horses showered the fine dry snow on the faces of those in the sleigh-
beside them sounded quick ringing bells and they caught confused
glimpses of swiftly moving legs and the shadows of the troyka they
were passing. The whistling sound of the runners on the snow and the
voices of girls shrieking were heard from different sides.
Again checking his horses, Nicholas looked around him. They were
still surrounded by the magic plain bathed in moonlight and spangled
"Zakhar is shouting that I should turn to the left, but why to the
left?" thought Nicholas. "Are we getting to the Melyukovs'? Is this
Melyukovka? Heaven only knows where we are going, and heaven knows
what is happening to us- but it is very strange and pleasant
whatever it is." And he looked round in the sleigh.
"Look, his mustache and eyelashes are all white!" said one of the
strange, pretty, unfamiliar people- the one with fine eyebrows and
"I think this used to be Natasha," thought Nicholas, "and that was
Madame Schoss, but perhaps it's not, and this Circassian with the
mustache I don't know, but I love her."
"Aren't you cold?" he asked.
They did not answer but began to laugh. Dimmler from the sleigh
behind shouted something- probably something funny- but they could not
make out what he said.
"Yes, yes!" some voices answered, laughing.
"But here was a fairy forest with black moving shadows, and a
glitter of diamonds and a flight of marble steps and the silver
roofs of fairy buildings and the shrill yells of some animals. And
if this is really Melyukovka, it is still stranger that we drove
heaven knows where and have come to Melyukovka," thought Nicholas.
It really was Melyukovka, and maids and footmen with merry faces
came running, out to the porch carrying candles.
"Who is it?" asked someone in the porch.
"The mummers from the count's. I know by the horses," replied some
Pelageya Danilovna Melyukova, a broadly built, energetic woman
wearing spectacles, sat in the drawing room in a loose dress,
surrounded by her daughters whom she was trying to keep from feeling
dull. They were quietly dropping melted wax into snow and looking at
the shadows the wax figures would throw on the wall, when they heard
the steps and voices of new arrivals in the vestibule.
Hussars, ladies, witches, clowns, and bears, after clearing their
throats and wiping the hoarfrost from their faces in the vestibule,
came into the ballroom where candles were hurriedly lighted. The
clown- Dimmler- and the lady- Nicholas- started a dance. Surrounded by
the screaming children the mummers, covering their faces and
disguising their voices, bowed to their hostess and arranged
themselves about the room.
"Dear me! there's no recognizing them! And Natasha! See whom she
looks like! She really reminds me of somebody. But Herr Dimmler- isn't
he good! I didn't know him! And how he dances. Dear me, there's a
Circassian. Really, how becoming it is to dear Sonya. And who is that?
Well, you have cheered us up! Nikita and Vanya- clear away the tables!
And we were sitting so quietly. Ha, ha, ha!... The hussar, the hussar!
Just like a boy! And the legs!... I can't look at him..." different
voices were saying.
Natasha, the young Melyukovs' favorite, disappeared with them into
the back rooms where a cork and various dressing gowns and male
garments were called for and received from the footman by bare girlish
arms from behind the door. Ten minutes later, all the young
Melyukovs joined the mummers.
Pelageya Danilovna, having given orders to clear the rooms for the
visitors and arranged about refreshments for the gentry and the serfs,
went about among the mummers without removing her spectacles,
peering into their faces with a suppressed smile and failing to
recognize any of them. It was not merely Dimmler and the Rostovs she
failed to recognize, she did not even recognize her own daughters,
or her late husband's, dressing gowns and uniforms, which they had put
"And who is is this?" she asked her governess, peering into the face
of her own daughter dressed up as a Kazan-Tartar. "I suppose it is one
of the Rostovs! Well, Mr. Hussar, and what regiment do you serve
in?" she asked Natasha. "Here, hand some fruit jelly to the Turk!" she
ordered the butler who was handing things round. "That's not forbidden
by his law."
Sometimes, as she looked at the strange but amusing capers cut by
the dancers, who- having decided once for all that being disguised, no
one would recognize them- were not at all shy, Pelageya Danilovna
hid her face in her handkerchief, and her whole stout body shook
with irrepressible, kindly, elderly laughter.
"My little Sasha! Look at Sasha!" she said.
After Russian country dances and chorus dances, Pelageya Danilovna
made the serfs and gentry join in one large circle: a ring, a
string, and a silver ruble were fetched and they all played games
In an hour, all the costumes were crumpled and disordered. The
corked eyebrows and mustaches were smeared over the perspiring,
flushed, and merry faces. Pelageya Danilovna began to recognize the
mummers, admired their cleverly contrived costumes, and particularly
how they suited the young ladies, and she thanked them all for
having entertained her so well. The visitors were invited to supper in
the drawing room, and the serfs had something served to them in the
"Now to tell one's fortune in the empty bathhouse is frightening!"
said an old maid who lived with the Melyukovs, during supper.
"Why?" said the eldest Melyukov girl.
"You wouldn't go, it takes courage..."
"I'll go," said Sonya.
"Tell what happened to the young lady!" said the second Melyukov
"Well," began the old maid, "a young lady once went out, took a
cock, laid the table for two, all properly, and sat down. After
sitting a while, she suddenly hears someone coming... a sleigh
drives up with harness bells; she hears him coming! He comes in,
just in the shape of a man, like an officer- comes in and sits down to
table with her."
"Ah! ah!" screamed Natasha, rolling her eyes with horror.
"Yes? And how... did he speak?"
"Yes, like a man. Everything quite all right, and he began
persuading her; and she should have kept him talking till cockcrow,
but she got frightened, just got frightened and hid her face in her
hands. Then he caught her up. It was lucky the maids ran in just
"Now, why frighten them?" said Pelageya Danilovna.
"Mamma, you used to try your fate yourself..." said her daughter.
"And how does one do it in a barn?" inquired Sonya.
"Well, say you went to the barn now, and listened. It depends on
what you hear; hammering and knocking- that's bad; but a sound of
shifting grain is good and one sometimes hears that, too."
"Mamma, tell us what happened to you in the barn."
Pelageya Danilovna smiled.
"Oh, I've forgotten..." she replied. "But none of you would go?"
"Yes, I will; Pelageya Danilovna, let me! I'll go," said Sonya.
"Well, why not, if you're not afraid?"
"Louisa Ivanovna, may I?" asked Sonya.
Whether they were playing the ring and string game or the ruble game
or talking as now, Nicholas did not leave Sonya's side, and gazed at
her with quite new eyes. It seemed to him that it was only today,
thanks to that burnt-cork mustache, that he had fully learned to
know her. And really, that evening, Sonya was brighter, more animated,
and prettier than Nicholas had ever seen her before.
"So that's what she is like; what a fool I have been!" he thought
gazing at her sparkling eyes, and under the mustache a happy rapturous
smile dimpled her cheeks, a smile he had never seen before.
"I'm not afraid of anything," said Sonya. "May I go at once?" She
They told her where the barn was and how she should stand and
listen, and they handed her a fur cloak. She threw this over her
head and shoulders and glanced at Nicholas.
"What a darling that girl is!" thought he. "And what have I been
thinking of till now?"
Sonya went out into the passage to go to the barn. Nicholas went
hastily to the front porch, saying he felt too hot. The crowd of
people really had made the house stuffy.
Outside, there was the same cold stillness and the same moon, but
even brighter than before. The light was so strong and the snow
sparkled with so many stars that one did not wish to look up at the
sky and the real stars were unnoticed. The sky was black and dreary,
while the earth was gay.
"I am a fool, a fool! what have I been waiting for?" thought
Nicholas. and running out from the porch he went round the corner of
the house and along the path that led to the back porch. He knew Sonya
would pass that way. Halfway lay some snow-covered piles of firewood
and across and along them a network of shadows from the bare old
lime trees fell on the snow and on the path. This path led to the
barn. The log walls of the barn and its snow-covered roof, that looked
as if hewn out of some precious stone, sparkled in the moonlight. A
tree in the garden snapped with the frost, and then all was again
perfectly silent. His bosom seemed to inhale not air but the
strength of eternal youth and gladness.
From the back porch came the sound of feet descending the steps, the
bottom step upon which snow had fallen gave a ringing creak and he
heard the voice of an old maidservant saying, "Straight, straight,
along the path, Miss. Only, don't look back."
"I am not afraid," answered Sonya's voice, and along the path toward
Nicholas came the crunching, whistling sound of Sonya's feet in her
Sonya came along, wrapped in her cloak. She was only a couple of
paces away when she saw him, and to her too he was not the Nicholas
she had known and always slightly feared. He was in a woman's dress,
with tousled hair and a happy smile new to Sonya. She ran rapidly
"Quite different and yet the same," thought Nicholas, looking at her
face all lit up by the moonlight. He slipped his arms under the
cloak that covered her head, embraced her, pressed her to him, and
kissed her on the lips that wore a mustache and had a smell of burnt
cork. Sonya kissed him full on the lips, and disengaging her little
hands pressed them to his cheeks.
"Sonya!... Nicholas!"... was all they said. They ran to the barn and
then back again, re-entering, he by the front and she by the back
When they all drove back from Pelageya Danilovna's, Natasha, who
always saw and noticed everything, arranged that she and Madame Schoss
should go back in the sleigh with Dimmler, and Sonya with Nicholas and
On the way back Nicholas drove at a steady pace instead of racing
and kept peering by that fantastic all-transforming light into Sonya's
face and searching beneath the eyebrows and mustache for his former
and his present Sonya from whom he had resolved never to be parted
again. He looked and recognizing in her both the old and the new
Sonya, and being reminded by the smell of burnt cork of the
sensation of her kiss, inhaled the frosty air with a full breast
and, looking at the ground flying beneath him and at the sparkling
sky, felt himself again in fairyland.
"Sonya, is it well with thee?" he asked from time to time.
"Yes!" she replied. "And with thee?"
When halfway home Nicholas handed the reins to the coachman and
ran for a moment to Natasha's sleigh and stood on its wing.
"Natasha!" he whispered in French, "do you know I have made up my
mind about Sonya?"
"Have you told her?" asked Natasha, suddenly beaming all over with
"Oh, how strange you are with that mustache and those eyebrows!...
Natasha- are you glad?"
"I am so glad, so glad! I was beginning to be vexed with you. I
did not tell you, but you have been treating her badly. What a heart
she has, Nicholas! I am horrid sometimes, but I was ashamed to be
happy while Sonya was not," continued Natasha. "Now I am so glad!
Well, run back to her."
"No, wait a bit.... Oh, how funny you look!" cried Nicholas, peering
into her face and finding in his sister too something new, unusual,
and bewitchingly tender that he had not seen in her before.
"Natasha, it's magical, isn't it?"
"Yes," she replied. "You have done splendidly."
"Had I seen her before as she is now," thought Nicholas, "I should
long ago have asked her what to do and have done whatever she told me,
and all would have been well."
"So you are glad and I have done right?"
"Oh, quite right! I had a quarrel with Mamma some time ago about it.
Mamma said she was angling for you. How could she say such a thing!
I nearly stormed at Mamma. I will never let anyone say anything bad of
Sonya, for there is nothing but good in her."
"Then it's all right?" said Nicholas, again scrutinizing the
expression of his sister's face to see if she was in earnest. Then
he jumped down and, his boots scrunching the snow, ran back to his
sleigh. The same happy, smiling Circassian, with mustache and
beaming eyes looking up from under a sable hood, was still sitting
there, and that Circassian was Sonya, and that Sonya was certainly his
future happy and loving wife.
When they reached home and had told their mother how they had
spent the evening at the Melyukovs', the girls went to their
bedroom. When they had undressed, but without washing off the cork
mustaches, they sat a long time talking of their happiness. They
talked of how they would live when they were married, how their
husbands would be friends, and how happy they would be. On Natasha's
table stood two looking glasses which Dunyasha had prepared
"Only when will all that be? I am afraid never.... It would be too
good!" said Natasha, rising and going to the looking glasses.
"Sit down, Natasha; perhaps you'll see him," said Sonya.
Natasha lit the candles, one on each side of one of the looking
glasses, and sat down.
"I see someone with a mustache," said Natasha, seeing her own face.
"You mustn't laugh, Miss," said Dunyasha.
With Sonya's help and the maid's, Natasha got the glass she held
into the right position opposite the other; her face assumed a serious
expression and she sat silent. She sat a long time looking at the
receding line of candles reflected in the glasses and expecting
(from tales she had heard) to see a coffin, or him, Prince Andrew,
in that last dim, indistinctly outlined square. But ready as she was
to take the smallest speck for the image of a man or of a coffin,
she saw nothing. She began blinking rapidly and moved away from the
"Why is it others see things and I don't?" she said. "You sit down
now, Sonya. You absolutely must, tonight! Do it for me.... Today I
feel so frightened!"
Sonya sat down before the glasses, got the right position, and began
"Now, Miss Sonya is sure to see something," whispered Dunyasha;
"while you do nothing but laugh."
Sonya heard this and Natasha's whisper:
"I know she will. She saw something last year."
For about three minutes all were silent.
"Of course she will!" whispered Natasha, but did not finish...
suddenly Sonya pushed away the glass she was holding and covered her
eyes with her hand.
"Oh, Natasha!" she cried.
"Did you see? Did you? What was it?" exclaimed Natasha, holding up
the looking glass.
Sonya had not seen anything, she was just wanting to blink and to
get up when she heard Natasha say, "Of course she will!" She did not
wish to disappoint either Dunyasha or Natasha, but it was hard to
sit still. She did not herself know how or why the exclamation escaped
her when she covered her eyes.
"You saw him?" urged Natasha, seizing her hand.
"Yes. Wait a bit... I... saw him," Sonya could not help saying,
not yet knowing whom Natasha meant by him, Nicholas or Prince Andrew.
"But why shouldn't I say I saw something? Others do see! Besides who
can tell whether I saw anything or not?" flashed through Sonya's mind.
"Yes, I saw him," she said.
"How? Standing or lying?"
"No, I saw... At first there was nothing, then I saw him lying
"Andrew lying? Is he ill?" asked Natasha, her frightened eyes
fixed on her friend.
"No, on the contrary, on the contrary! His face was cheerful, and he
turned to me." And when saying this she herself fancied she had really
seen what she described.
"Well, and then, Sonya?..."
"After that, I could not make out what there was; something blue and
"Sonya! When will he come back? When shall I see him! O, God, how
afraid I am for him and for myself and about everything!..." Natasha
began, and without replying to Sonya's words of comfort she got into
bed, and long after her candle was out lay open-eyed and motionless,
gazing at the moonlight through the frosty windowpanes.
Soon after the Christmas holidays Nicholas told his mother of his
love for Sonya and of his firm resolve to marry her. The countess, who
had long noticed what was going on between them and was expecting this
declaration, listened to him in silence and then told her son that
he might marry whom he pleased, but that neither she nor his father
would give their blessing to such a marriage. Nicholas, for the
first time, felt that his mother was displeased with him and that,
despite her love for him, she would not give way. Coldly, without
looking at her son, she sent for her husband and, when he came,
tried briefly and coldly to inform him of the facts, in her son's
presence, but unable to restrain herself she burst into tears of
vexation and left the room. The old count began irresolutely to
admonish Nicholas and beg him to abandon his purpose. Nicholas replied
that he could not go back on his word, and his father, sighing and
evidently disconcerted, very soon became silent and went in to the
countess. In all his encounters with his son, the count was always
conscious of his own guilt toward him for having wasted the family
fortune, and so he could not be angry with him for refusing to marry
an heiress and choosing the dowerless Sonya. On this occasion, he
was only more vividly conscious of the fact that if his affairs had
not been in disorder, no better wife for Nicholas than Sonya could
have been wished for, and that no one but himself with his Mitenka and
his uncomfortable habits was to blame for the condition of the
The father and mother did not speak of the matter to their son
again, but a few days later the countess sent for Sonya and, with a
cruelty neither of them expected, reproached her niece for trying to
catch Nicholas and for ingratitude. Sonya listened silently with
downcast eyes to the countess' cruel words, without understanding what
was required of her. She was ready to sacrifice everything for her
benefactors. Self-sacrifice was her most cherished idea but in this
case she could not see what she ought to sacrifice, or for whom. She
could not help loving the countess and the whole Rostov family, but
neither could she help loving Nicholas and knowing that his
happiness depended on that love. She was silent and sad and did not
reply. Nicholas felt the situation to be intolerable and went to
have an explanation with his mother. He first implored her to
forgive him and Sonya and consent to their marriage, then he
threatened that if she molested Sonya he would at once marry her
The countess, with a coldness her son had never seen in her
before, replied that he was of age, that Prince Andrew was marrying
without his father's consent, and he could do the same, but that she
would never receive that intriguer as her daughter.
Exploding at the word intriguer, Nicholas, raising his voice, told
his mother he had never expected her to try to force him to sell his
feelings, but if that were so, he would say for the last time....
But he had no time to utter the decisive word which the expression
of his face caused his mother to await with terror, and which would
perhaps have forever remained a cruel memory to them both. He had
not time to say it, for Natasha, with a pale and set face, entered the
room from the door at which she had been listening.
"Nicholas, you are talking nonsense! Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet, I
tell you!..." she almost screamed, so as to drown his voice.
"Mamma darling, it's not at all so... my poor, sweet darling," she
said to her mother, who conscious that they had been on the brink of a
rupture gazed at her son with terror, but in the obstinacy and
excitement of the conflict could not and would not give way.
"Nicholas, I'll explain to you. Go away! Listen, Mamma darling,"
Her words were incoherent, but they attained the purpose at which
she was aiming.
The countess, sobbing heavily, hid her face on her daughter's
breast, while Nicholas rose, clutching his head, and left the room.
Natasha set to work to effect a reconciliation, and so far succeeded
that Nicholas received a promise from his mother that Sonya should not
be troubled, while he on his side promised not to undertake anything
without his parents' knowledge.
Firmly resolved, after putting his affairs in order in the regiment,
to retire from the army and return and marry Sonya, Nicholas, serious,
sorrowful, and at variance with his parents, but, as it seemed to him,
passionately in love, left at the beginning of January to rejoin his
After Nicholas had gone things in the Rostov household were more
depressing than ever, and the countess fell ill from mental agitation.
Sonya was unhappy at the separation from Nicholas and still more
so on account of the hostile tone the countess could not help adopting
toward her. The count was more perturbed than ever by the condition of
his affairs, which called for some decisive action. Their town house
and estate near Moscow had inevitably to be sold, and for this they
had to go to Moscow. But the countess' health obliged them to delay
their departure from day to day.
Natasha, who had borne the first period of separation from her
betrothed lightly and even cheerfully, now grew more agitated and
impatient every day. The thought that her best days, which she would
have employed in loving him, were being vainly wasted, with no
advantage to anyone, tormented her incessantly. His letters for the
most part irritated her. It hurt her to think that while she lived
only in the thought of him, he was living a real life, seeing new
places and new people that interested him. The more interesting his
letters were the more vexed she felt. Her letters to him, far from
giving her any comfort, seemed to her a wearisome and artificial
obligation. She could not write, because she could not conceive the
possibility of expressing sincerely in a letter even a thousandth part
of what she expressed by voice, smile, and glance. She wrote to him
formal, monotonous, and dry letters, to which she attached no
importance herself, and in the rough copies of which the countess
corrected her mistakes in spelling.
There was still no improvement in the countess' health, but it was
impossible to defer the journey to Moscow any longer. Natasha's
trousseau had to be ordered and the house sold. Moreover, Prince
Andrew was expected in Moscow, where old Prince Bolkonski was spending
the winter, and Natasha felt sure he had already arrived.
So the countess remained in the country, and the count, taking Sonya
and Natasha with him, went to Moscow at the end of January.
BOOK EIGHT: 1811 - 12
After Prince Andrews engagement to Natasha, Pierre without any
apparent cause suddenly felt it impossible to go on living as
before. Firmly convinced as he was of the truths revealed to him by
his benefactor, and happy as he had been in perfecting his inner
man, to which he had devoted himself with such ardor- all the zest
of such a life vanished after the engagement of Andrew and Natasha and
the death of Joseph Alexeevich, the news of which reached him almost
at the same time. Only the skeleton of life remained: his house, a
brilliant wife who now enjoyed the favors of a very important
personage, acquaintance with all Petersburg, and his court service
with its dull formalities. And this life suddenly seemed to Pierre
unexpectedly loathsome. He ceased keeping a diary, avoided the company
of the Brothers, began going to the Club again, drank a great deal,
and came once more in touch with the bachelor sets, leading such a
life that the Countess Helene thought it necessary to speak severely
to him about it. Pierre felt that she right, and to avoid compromising
her went away to Moscow.
In Moscow as soon as he entered his huge house in which the faded
and fading princesses still lived, with its enormous retinue; as
soon as, driving through the town, he saw the Iberian shrine with
innumerable tapers burning before the golden covers of the icons,
the Kremlin Square with its snow undisturbed by vehicles, the sleigh
drivers and hovels of the Sivtsev Vrazhok, those old Moscovites who
desired nothing, hurried nowhere, and were ending their days
leisurely; when he saw those old Moscow ladies, the Moscow balls,
and the English Club, he felt himself at home in a quiet haven. In
Moscow he felt at peace, at home, warm and dirty as in an old dressing
Moscow society, from the old women down to the children, received
Pierre like a long-expected guest whose place was always ready
awaiting him. For Moscow society Pierre was the nicest, kindest,
most intellectual, merriest, and most magnanimous of cranks, a
heedless, genial nobleman of the old Russian type. His purse was
always empty because it was open to everyone.
Benefit performances, poor pictures, statues, benevolent
societies, gypsy choirs, schools, subscription dinners, sprees,
Freemasons, churches, and books- no one and nothing met with a refusal
from him, and had it not been for two friends who had borrowed large
sums from him and taken him under their protection, he would have
given everything away. There was never a dinner or soiree at the
Club without him. As soon as he sank into his place on the sofa
after two bottles of Margaux he was surrounded, and talking,
disputing, and joking began. When there were quarrels, his kindly
smile and well-timed jests reconciled the antagonists. The Masonic
dinners were dull and dreary when he was not there.
When after a bachelor supper he rose with his amiable and kindly
smile, yielding to the entreaties of the festive company to drive
off somewhere with them, shouts of delight and triumph arose among the
young men. At balls he danced if a partner was needed. Young ladies,
married and unmarried, liked him because without making love to any of
them, he was equally amiable to all, especially after supper. "Il
est charmant; il n'a pas de sexe,"* they said of him.
*"He is charming; he has no sex."
Pierre was one of those retired gentlemen-in-waiting of whom there
were hundreds good-humoredly ending their days in Moscow.
How horrified he would have been seven years before, when he first
arrived from abroad, had he been told that there was no need for him
to seek or plan anything, that his rut had long been shaped, eternally
predetermined, and that wriggle as he might, he would be what all in
his position were. He could not have believed it! Had he not at one
time longed with all his heart to establish a republic in Russia; then
himself to be a Napoleon; then to be a philosopher; and then a
strategist and the conqueror of Napoleon? Had he not seen the
possibility of, and passionately desired, the regeneration of the
sinful human race, and his own progress to the highest degree of
perfection? Had he not established schools and hospitals and liberated
But instead of all that- here he was, the wealthy husband of an
unfaithful wife, a retired gentleman-in-waiting, fond of eating and
drinking and, as he unbuttoned his waistcoat, of abusing the
government a bit, a member of the Moscow English Club, and a universal
favorite in Moscow society. For a long time he could not reconcile
himself to the idea that he was one of those same retired Moscow
gentlemen-in-waiting he had so despised seven years before.
Sometimes he consoled himself with the thought that he was only
living this life temporarily; but then he was shocked by the thought
of how many, like himself, had entered that life and that Club
temporarily, with all their teeth and hair, and had only left it
when not a single tooth or hair remained.
In moments of pride, when he thought of his position it seemed to
him that he was quite different and distinct from those other
retired gentlemen-in-waiting he had formerly despised: they were
empty, stupid, contented fellows, satisfied with their position,
"while I am still discontented and want to do something for mankind.
But perhaps all these comrades of mine struggled just like me and
sought something new, a path in life of their own, and like me were
brought by force of circumstances, society, and race- by that
elemental force against which man is powerless- to the condition I
am in," said he to himself in moments of humility; and after living
some time in Moscow he no longer despised, but began to grow fond
of, to respect, and to pity his comrades in destiny, as he pitied
Pierre longer suffered moments of despair, hypochondria, and disgust
with life, but the malady that had formerly found expression in such
acute attacks was driven inwards and never left him for a moment.
"What for? Why? What is going on in the world?" he would ask himself
in perplexity several times a day, involuntarily beginning to
reflect anew on the meaning of the phenomena of life; but knowing by
experience that there were no answers to these questions he made haste
to turn away from them, and took up a book, or hurried of to the
Club or to Apollon Nikolaevich's, to exchange the gossip of the town.
"Helene, who has never cared for anything but her own body and is
one of the stupidest women in the world," thought Pierre, "is regarded
by people as the acme of intelligence and refinement, and they pay
homage to her. Napoleon Bonaparte was despised by all as long as he
was great, but now that he has become a wretched comedian the
Emperor Francis wants to offer him his daughter in an illegal
marriage. The Spaniards, through the Catholic clergy, offer praise
to God for their victory over the French on the fourteenth of June,
and the French, also through the Catholic clergy, offer praise because
on that same fourteenth of June they defeated the Spaniards. My
brother Masons swear by the blood that they are ready to sacrifice
everything for their neighbor, but they do not give a ruble each to
the collections for the poor, and they intrigue, the Astraea Lodge
against the Manna Seekers, and fuss about an authentic Scotch carpet
and a charter that nobody needs, and the meaning of which the very man
who wrote it does not understand. We all profess the Christian law
of forgiveness of injuries and love of our neighbors, the law in honor
of which we have built in Moscow forty times forty churches- but
yesterday a deserter was knouted to death and a minister of that
same law of love and forgiveness, a priest, gave the soldier a cross
to kiss before his execution." So thought Pierre, and the whole of
this general deception which everyone accepts, accustomed as he was to
it, astonished him each time as if it were something new. "I
understand the deception and confusion," he thought, "but how am I
to tell them all that I see? I have tried, and have always found
that they too in the depths of their souls understand it as I do,
and only try not to see it. So it appears that it must be so! But I-
what is to become of me?" thought he. He had the unfortunate
capacity many men, especially Russians, have of seeing and believing
in the possibility of goodness and truth, but of seeing the evil and
falsehood of life too clearly to be able to take a serious part in it.
Every sphere of work was connected, in his eyes, with evil and
deception. Whatever he tried to be, whatever he engaged in, the evil
and falsehood of it repulsed him and blocked every path of activity.
Yet he had to live and to find occupation. It was too dreadful to be
under the burden of these insoluble problems, so he abandoned
himself to any distraction in order to forget them. He frequented
every kind of society, drank much, bought pictures, engaged in
building, and above all- read.
He read, and read everything that came to hand. On coming home,
while his valets were still taking off his things, he picked up a book
and began to read. From reading he passed to sleeping, from sleeping
to gossip in drawing rooms of the Club, from gossip to carousals and
women; from carousals back to gossip, reading, and wine. Drinking
became more and more a physical and also a moral necessity. Though the
doctors warned him that with his corpulence wine was dangerous for
him, he drank a great deal. He was only quite at ease when having
poured several glasses of wine mechanically into his large mouth he
felt a pleasant warmth in his body, an amiability toward all his
fellows, and a readiness to respond superficially to every idea
without probing it deeply. Only after emptying a bottle or two did
he feel dimly that the terribly tangled skein of life which previously
had terrified him was not as dreadful as he had thought. He was always
conscious of some aspect of that skein, as with a buzzing in his
head after dinner or supper he chatted or listened to conversation
or read. But under the influence of wine he said to himself: "It
doesn't matter. I'll get it unraveled. I have a solution ready, but
have no time now- I'll think it all out later on!" But the later on
In the morning, on an empty stomach, all the old questions
appeared as insoluble and terrible as ever, and Pierre hastily
picked up a book, and if anyone came to see him he was glad.
Sometimes he remembered how he had heard that soldiers in war when
entrenched under the enemy's fire, if they have nothing to do, try
hard to find some occupation the more easily to bear the danger. To
Pierre all men seemed like those soldiers, seeking refuge from life:
some in ambition, some in cards, some in framing laws, some in
women, some in toys, some in horses, some in politics, some in
sport, some in wine, and some in governmental affairs. "Nothing is
trivial, and nothing is important, it's all the same- only to save
oneself from it as best one can," thought Pierre. "Only not to see it,
that dreadful it!"
At the beginning of winter Prince Nicholas Bolkonski and his
daughter moved to Moscow. At that time enthusiasm for the Emperor
Alexander's regime had weakened and a patriotic and anti-French
tendency prevailed there, and this, together with his past and his
intellect and his originality, at once made Prince Nicholas
Bolkonski an object of particular respect to the Moscovites and the
center of the Moscow opposition to the government.
The prince had aged very much that year. He showed marked signs of
senility by a tendency to fall asleep, forgetfulness of quite recent
events, remembrance of remote ones, and the childish vanity with which
he accepted the role of head of the Moscow opposition. In spite of
this the old man inspired in all his visitors alike a feeling of
respectful veneration- especially of an evening when he came in to tea
in his old-fashioned coat and powdered wig and, aroused by anyone,
told his abrupt stories of the past, or uttered yet more abrupt and
scathing criticisms of the present. For them all, that old-fashioned
house with its gigantic mirrors, pre-Revolution furniture, powdered
footmen, and the stern shrewd old man (himself a relic of the past
century) with his gentle daughter and the pretty Frenchwoman who
were reverently devoted to him presented a majestic and agreeable
spectacle. But the visitors did not reflect that besides the couple of
hours during which they saw their host, there were also twenty-two
hours in the day during which the private and intimate life of the
Latterly that private life had become very trying for Princess Mary.
There in Moscow she was deprived of her greatest pleasures- talks with
the pilgrims and the solitude which refreshed her at Bald Hills- and
she had none of the advantages and pleasures of city life. She did not
go out into society; everyone knew that her father would not let her
go anywhere without him, and his failing health prevented his going
out himself, so that she was not invited to dinners and evening
parties. She had quite abandoned the hope of getting married. She
saw the coldness and malevolence with which the old prince received
and dismissed the young men, possible suitors, who sometimes
appeared at their house. She had no friends: during this visit to
Moscow she had been disappointed in the two who had been nearest to
her. Mademoiselle Bourienne, with whom she had never been able to be
quite frank, had now become unpleasant to her, and for various reasons
Princess Mary avoided her. Julie, with whom she had corresponded for
the last five years, was in Moscow, but proved to be quite alien to
her when they met. Just then Julie, who by the death of her brothers
had become one of the richest heiresses in Moscow, was in the full
whirl of society pleasures. She was surrounded by young men who, she
fancied, had suddenly learned to appreciate her worth. Julie was at
that stage in the life of a society woman when she feels that her last
chance of marrying has come and that her fate must be decided now or
never. On Thursdays Princess Mary remembered with a mournful smile
that she now had no one to write to, since Julie- whose presence
gave her no pleasure was here and they met every week. Like the old
emigre who declined to marry the lady with whom he had spent his
evenings for years, she regretted Julie's presence and having no one
to write to. In Moscow Princess Mary had no one to talk to, no one
to whom to confide her sorrow, and much sorrow fell to her lot just
then. The time for Prince Andrew's return and marriage was
approaching, but his request to her to prepare his father for it had
not been carried out; in fact, it seemed as if matters were quite
hopeless, for at every mention of the young Countess Rostova the old
prince (who apart from that was usually in a bad temper) lost
control of himself. Another lately added sorrow arose from the lessons
she gave her six year-old nephew. To her consternation she detected in
herself in relation to little Nicholas some symptoms of her father's
irritability. However often she told herself that she must not get
irritable when teaching her nephew, almost every time that, pointer in
hand, she sat down to show him the French alphabet, she so longed to
pour her own knowledge quickly and easily into the child- who was
already afraid that Auntie might at any moment get angry- that at
his slightest inattention she trembled, became flustered and heated,
raised her voice, and sometimes pulled him by the arm and put him in
the corner. Having put him in the corner she would herself begin to
cry over her cruel, evil nature, and little Nicholas, following her
example, would sob, and without permission would leave his corner,
come to her, pull her wet hands from her face, and comfort her. But
what distressed the princess most of all was her father's
irritability, which was always directed against her and had of late
amounted to cruelty. Had he forced her to prostrate herself to the
ground all night, had he beaten her or made her fetch wood or water,
it would never have entered her mind to think her position hard; but
this loving despot- the more cruel because he loved her and for that
reason tormented himself and her- knew how not merely to hurt and
humiliate her deliberately, but to show her that she was always to
blame for everything. Of late he had exhibited a new trait that
tormented Princess Mary more than anything else; this was his
ever-increasing intimacy with Mademoiselle Bourienne. The idea that at
the first moment of receiving the news of his son's intentions had
occurred to him in jest- that if Andrew got married he himself would
marry Bourienne- had evidently pleased him, and latterly he had
persistently, and as it seemed to Princess Mary merely to offend
her, shown special endearments to the companion and expressed his
dissatisfaction with his daughter by demonstrations of love of
One day in Moscow in Princess Mary's presence (she thought her
father did it purposely when she was there) the old prince kissed
Mademoiselle Bourienne's hand and, drawing her to him, embraced her
affectionately. Princess Mary flushed and ran out of the room. A few
minutes later Mademoiselle Bourienne came into Princess Mary's room
smiling and making cheerful remarks in her agreeable voice. Princess
Mary hastily wiped away her tears, went resolutely up to
Mademoiselle Bourienne, and evidently unconscious of what she was
doing began shouting in angry haste at the Frenchwoman, her voice
breaking: "It's horrible, vile, inhuman, to take advantage of the
weakness..." She did not finish. "Leave my room," she exclaimed, and
burst into sobs.
Next day the prince did not say a word to his daughter, but she
noticed that at dinner he gave orders that Mademoiselle Bourienne
should be served first. After dinner, when the footman handed coffee
and from habit began with the princess, the prince suddenly grew
furious, threw his stick at Philip, and instantly gave instructions to
have him conscripted for the army.
"He doesn't obey... I said it twice... and he doesn't obey! She is
the first person in this house; she's my best friend," cried the
prince. "And if you allow yourself," he screamed in a fury, addressing
Princess Mary for the first time, "to forget yourself again before her
as you dared to do yesterday, I will show you who is master in this
house. Go! Don't let me set eyes on you; beg her pardon!"
Princess Mary asked Mademoiselle Bourienne's pardon, and also her
father's pardon for herself and for Philip the footman, who had begged
for her intervention.
At such moments something like a pride of sacrifice gathered in
her soul. And suddenly that father whom she had judged would look
for his spectacles in her presence, fumbling near them and not
seeing them, or would forget something that had just occurred, or take
a false step with his failing legs and turn to see if anyone had
noticed his feebleness, or, worst of all, at dinner when there were no
visitors to excite him would suddenly fall asleep, letting his
napkin drop and his shaking head sink over his plate. "He is old and
feeble, and I dare to condemn him!" she thought at such moments,
with a feeling of revulsion against herself.
In 1811 there was living in Moscow a French doctor- Metivier- who
had rapidly become the fashion. He was enormously tall, handsome,
amiable as Frenchmen are, and was, as all Moscow said, an
extraordinarily clever doctor. He was received in the best houses
not merely as a doctor, but as an equal.
Prince Nicholas had always ridiculed medicine, but latterly on
Mademoiselle Bourienne's advice had allowed this doctor to visit him
and had grown accustomed to him. Metivier came to see the prince about
twice a week.
On December 6- St. Nicholas' Day and the prince's name day- all
Moscow came to the prince's front door but he gave orders to admit
no one and to invite to dinner only a small number, a list of whom
he gave to Princess Mary.
Metivier, who came in the morning with his felicitations, considered
it proper in his quality of doctor de forcer la consigne,* as he
told Princess Mary, and went in to see the prince. It happened that on
that morning of his name day the prince was in one of his worst moods.
He had been going about the house all the morning finding fault with
everyone and pretending not to understand what was said to him and not
to be understood himself. Princess Mary well knew this mood of quiet
absorbed querulousness, which generally culminated in a burst of rage,
and she went about all that morning as though facing a cocked and
loaded gun and awaited the inevitable explosion. Until the doctor's
arrival the morning had passed off safely. After admitting the doctor,
Princess Mary sat down with a book in the drawing room near the door
through which she could hear all that passed in the study.
*To force the guard.
At first she heard only Metivier's voice, then her father's, then
both voices began speaking at the same time, the door was flung
open, and on the threshold appeared the handsome figure of the
terrified Metivier with his shock of black hair, and the prince in his
dressing gown and fez, his face distorted with fury and the pupils
of his eyes rolled downwards.
"You don't understand?" shouted the prince, "but I do! French spy,
slave of Buonaparte, spy, get out of my house! Be off, I tell you..."
Metivier, shrugging his shoulders, went up to Mademoiselle Bourienne
who at the sound of shouting had run in from an adjoining room.
"The prince is not very well: bile and rush of blood to the head.
Keep calm, I will call again tomorrow," said Metivier; and putting his
fingers to his lips he hastened away.
Through the study door came the sound of slippered feet and the cry:
"Spies, traitors, traitors everywhere! Not a moment's peace in my
After Metivier's departure the old prince called his daughter in,
and the whole weight of his wrath fell on her. She was to blame that a
spy had been admitted. Had he not told her, yes, told her to make a
list, and not to admit anyone who was not on that list? Then why was
that scoundrel admitted? She was the cause of it all. With her, he
said, he could not have a moment's peace and could not die quietly.