Part 27 out of 34
and that things being so it was quite likely he might be in command of
a regiment in a couple of years' time.
As he looked at the matter in this way, he learned that he was being
sent to Voronezh to buy remounts for his division, not only without
regret at being prevented from taking part in the coming battle, but
with the greatest pleasure- which he did not conceal and which his
comrades fully understood.
A few days before the battle of Borodino, Nicholas received the
necessary money and warrants, and having sent some hussars on in
advance, he set out with post horses for Voronezh.
Only a man who has experienced it- that is, has passed some months
continuously in an atmosphere of campaigning and war- can understand
the delight Nicholas felt when he escaped from the region covered by
the army's foraging operations, provision trains, and hospitals. When-
free from soldiers, wagons, and the filthy traces of a camp- he saw
villages with peasants and peasant women, gentlemen's country
houses, fields where cattle were grazing, posthouses with
stationmasters asleep in them, he rejoiced as though seeing all this
for the first time. What for a long while specially surprised and
delighted him were the women, young and healthy, without a dozen
officers making up to each of them; women, too, who were pleased and
flattered that a passing officer should joke with them.
In the highest spirits Nicholas arrived at night at a hotel in
Voronezh, ordered things he had long been deprived of in camp, and
next day, very clean-shaven and in a full-dress uniform he had not
worn for a long time, went to present himself to the authorities.
The commander of the militia was a civilian general, an old man
who was evidently pleased with his military designation and rank. He
received Nicholas brusquely (imagining this to be characteristically
military) and questioned him with an important air, as if
considering the general progress of affairs and approving and
disapproving with full right to do so. Nicholas was in such good
spirits that this merely amused him.
From the commander of the militia he drove to the governor. The
governor was a brisk little man, very simple and affable. He indicated
the stud farms at which Nicholas might procure horses, recommended
to him a horse dealer in the town and a landowner fourteen miles out
of town who had the best horses, and promised to assist him in every
"You are Count Ilya Rostov's son? My wife was a great friend of your
mother's. We are at home on Thursdays- today is Thursday, so please
come and see us quite informally," said the governor, taking leave
Immediately on leaving the governor's, Nicholas hired post horses
and, taking his squadron quartermaster with him, drove at a gallop
to the landowner, fourteen miles away, who had the stud. Everything
seemed to him pleasant and easy during that first part of his stay
in Voronezh and, as usually happens when a man is in a pleasant
state of mind, everything went well and easily.
The landowner to whom Nicholas went was a bachelor, an old
cavalryman, a horse fancier, a sportsman, the possessor of some
century-old brandy and some old Hungarian wine, who had a snuggery
where he smoked, and who owned some splendid horses.
In very few words Nicholas bought seventeen picked stallions for six
thousand rubles- to serve, as he said, as samples of his remounts.
After dining and taking rather too much of the Hungarian wine,
Nicholas- having exchanged kisses with the landowner, with whom he was
already on the friendliest terms- galloped back over abominable roads,
in the brightest frame of mind, continually urging on the driver so as
to be in time for the governor's party.
When he had changed, poured water over his head, and scented
himself, Nicholas arrived at the governor's rather late, but with
the phrase "better late than never" on his lips.
It was not a ball, nor had dancing been announced, but everyone knew
that Catherine Petrovna would play valses and the ecossaise on the
clavichord and that there would be dancing, and so everyone had come
as to a ball.
Provincial life in 1812 went on very much as usual, but with this
difference, that it was livelier in the towns in consequence of the
arrival of many wealthy families from Moscow, and as in everything
that went on in Russia at that time a special recklessness was
noticeable, an "in for a penny, in for a pound- who cares?" spirit,
and the inevitable small talk, instead of turning on the weather and
mutual acquaintances, now turned on Moscow, the army, and Napoleon.
The society gathered together at the governor's was the best in
There were a great many ladies and some of Nicholas' Moscow
acquaintances, but there were no men who could at all vie with the
cavalier of St. George, the hussar remount officer, the good-natured
and well-bred Count Rostov. Among the men was an Italian prisoner,
an officer of the French army; and Nicholas felt that the presence
of that prisoner enhanced his own importance as a Russian hero. The
Italian was, as it were, a war trophy. Nicholas felt this, it seemed
to him that everyone regarded the Italian in the same light, and he
treated him cordially though with dignity and restraint.
As soon as Nicholas entered in his hussar uniform, diffusing
around him a fragrance of perfume and wine, and had uttered the
words "better late than never" and heard them repeated several times
by others, people clustered around him; all eyes turned on him, and he
felt at once that he had entered into his proper position in the
province- that of a universal favorite: a very pleasant position,
and intoxicatingly so after his long privations. At posting
stations, at inns, and in the landowner's snuggery, maidservants had
been flattered by his notice, and here too at the governor's party
there were (as it seemed to Nicholas) an inexhaustible number of
pretty young women, married and unmarried, impatiently awaiting his
notice. The women and girls flirted with him and, from the first
day, the people concerned themselves to get this fine young
daredevil of an hussar married and settled down. Among these was the
governor's wife herself, who welcomed Rostov as a near relative and
called him "Nicholas."
Catherine Petrovna did actually play valses and the ecossaise, and
dancing began in which Nicholas still further captivated the
provincial society by his agility. His particularly free manner of
dancing even surprised them all. Nicholas was himself rather surprised
at the way he danced that evening. He had never danced like that in
Moscow and would even have considered such a very free and easy manner
improper and in bad form, but here he felt it incumbent on him to
astonish them all by something unusual, something they would have to
accept as the regular thing in the capital though new to them in the
All the evening Nicholas paid attention to a blue-eyed, plump and
pleasing little blonde, the wife of one of the provincial officials.
With the naive conviction of young men in a merry mood that other
men's wives were created for them, Rostov did not leave the lady's
side and treated her husband in a friendly and conspiratorial style,
as if, without speaking of it, they knew how capitally Nicholas and
the lady would get on together. The husband, however, did not seem
to share that conviction and tried to behave morosely with Rostov. But
the latter's good-natured naivete was so boundless that sometimes even
he involuntarily yielded to Nicholas' good humor. Toward the end of
the evening, however, as the wife's face grew more flushed and
animated, the husband's became more and more melancholy and solemn, as
though there were but a given amount of animation between them and
as the wife's share increased the husband's diminished.
Nicholas sat leaning slightly forward in an armchair, bending
closely over the blonde lady and paying her mythological compliments
with a smile that never left his face. Jauntily shifting the
position of his legs in their tight riding breeches, diffusing an odor
of perfume, and admiring his partner, himself, and the fine outlines
of his legs in their well-fitting Hessian boots, Nicholas told the
blonde lady that he wished to run away with a certain lady here in
"A charming lady, a divine one. Her eyes" (Nicholas looked at his
partner) "are blue, her mouth coral and ivory; her figure" (he glanced
at her shoulders) "like Diana's...."
The husband came up and sullenly asked his wife what she was talking
"Ah, Nikita Ivanych!" cried Nicholas, rising politely, and as if
wishing Nikita Ivanych to share his joke, he began to tell him of
his intention to elope with a blonde lady.
The husband smiled gloomily, the wife gaily. The governor's
good-natured wife came up with a look of disapproval.
"Anna Ignatyevna wants to see you, Nicholas," said she,
pronouncing the name so that Nicholas at once understood that Anna
Ignatyevna was a very important person. "Come, Nicholas! You know
you let me call you so?"
"Oh, yes, Aunt. Who is she?"
"Anna Ignatyevna Malvintseva. She has heard from her niece how you
rescued her... Can you guess?"
"I rescued such a lot of them!" said Nicholas.
"Her niece, Princess Bolkonskaya. She is here in Voronezh with her
aunt. Oho! How you blush. Why, are...?"
"Not a bit! Please don't, Aunt!"
"Very well, very well!... Oh, what a fellow you are!"
The governor's wife led him up to a tall and very stout old lady
with a blue headdress, who had just finished her game of cards with
the most important personages of the town. This was Malvintseva,
Princess Mary's aunt on her mother's side, a rich, childless widow who
always lived in Voronezh. When Rostov approached her she was
standing settling up for the game. She looked at him and, screwing
up her eyes sternly, continued to upbraid the general who had won from
"Very pleased, mon cher," she then said, holding out her hand to
Nicholas. "Pray come and see me."
After a few words about Princess Mary and her late father, whom
Malvintseva had evidently not liked, and having asked what Nicholas
knew of Prince Andrew, who also was evidently no favorite of hers, the
important old lady dismissed Nicholas after repeating her invitation
to come to see her.
Nicholas promised to come and blushed again as he bowed. At the
mention of Princess Mary he experienced a feeling of shyness and
even of fear, which he himself did not understand.
When he had parted from Malvintseva Nicholas wished to return to the
dancing, but the governor's little wife placed her plump hand on his
sleeve and, saying that she wanted to have a talk with him, led him to
her sitting room, from which those who were there immediately withdrew
so as not to be in her way.
"Do you know, dear boy," began the governor's wife with a serious
expression on her kind little face, "that really would be the match
for you: would you like me to arrange it?"
"Whom do you mean, Aunt?" asked Nicholas.
"I will make a match for you with the princess. Catherine Petrovna
speaks of Lily, but I say, no- the princess! Do you want me to do
it? I am sure your mother will be grateful to me. What a charming girl
she is, really! And she is not at all so plain, either."
"Not at all," replied Nicholas as if offended at the idea. "As
befits a soldier, Aunt, I don't force myself on anyone or refuse
anything," he said before he had time to consider what he was saying.
"Well then, remember, this is not a joke!"
"Of course not!"
"Yes, yes," the governor's wife said as if talking to herself. "But,
my dear boy, among other things you are too attentive to the other,
the blonde. One is sorry for the husband, really...."
"Oh no, we are good friends with him," said Nicholas in the
simplicity of his heart; it did not enter his head that a pastime so
pleasant to himself might not be pleasant to someone else.
"But what nonsense I have been saying to the governor's wife!"
thought Nicholas suddenly at supper. "She will really begin to arrange
a match... and Soyna...?" And on taking leave of the governor's
wife, when she again smilingly said to him, "Well then, remember!"
he drew her aside.
"But see here, to tell the truth, Aunt..."
"What is it, my dear? Come, let's sit down here," said she.
Nicholas suddenly felt a desire and need to tell his most intimate
thoughts (which he would not have told to his mother, his sister, or
his friend) to this woman who was almost a stranger. When he
afterwards recalled that impulse to unsolicited and inexplicable
frankness which had very important results for him, it seemed to
him- as it seems to everyone in such cases- that it was merely some
silly whim that seized him: yet that burst of frankness, together with
other trifling events, had immense consequences for him and for all
"You see, Aunt, Mamma has long wanted me to marry an heiress, but
the very idea of marrying for money is repugnant to me."
"Oh yes, I understand," said the governor's wife.
"But Princess Bolkonskaya- that's another matter. I will tell you
the truth. In the first place I like her very much, I feel drawn to
her; and then, after I met her under such circumstances- so strangely,
the idea often occurred to me: 'This is fate.' Especially if you
remember that Mamma had long been thinking of it; but I had never
happened to meet her before, somehow it had always happened that we
did not meet. And as long as my sister Natasha was engaged to her
brother it was of course out of the question for me to think of
marrying her. And it must needs happen that I should meet her just
when Natasha's engagement had been broken off... and then
everything... So you see... I never told this to anyone and never
will, only to you."
The governor's wife pressed his elbow gratefully.
"You know Sonya, my cousin? I love her, and promised to marry her,
and will do so.... So you see there can be no question about-" said
Nicholas incoherently and blushing.
"My dear boy, what a way to look at it! You know Sonya has nothing
and you yourself say your Papa's affairs are in a very bad way. And
what about your mother? It would kill her, that's one thing. And
what sort of life would it be for Sonya- if she's a girl with a heart?
Your mother in despair, and you all ruined.... No, my dear, you and
Sonya ought to understand that."
Nicholas remained silent. It comforted him to hear these arguments.
"All the same, Aunt, it is impossible," he rejoined with a sigh,
after a short pause. "Besides, would the princess have me? And
besides, she is now in mourning. How can one think of it!"
"But you don't suppose I'm going to get you married at once? There
is always a right way of doing things," replied the governor's wife.
"What a matchmaker you are, Aunt..." said Nicholas, kissing her
plump little hand.
On reaching Moscow after her meeting with Rostov, Princess Mary
had found her nephew there with his tutor, and a letter from Prince
Andrew giving her instructions how to get to her Aunt Malvintseva at
Voronezh. That feeling akin to temptation which had tormented her
during her father's illness, since his death, and especially since her
meeting with Rostov was smothered by arrangements for the journey,
anxiety about her brother, settling in a new house, meeting new
people, and attending to her nephew's education. She was sad. Now,
after a month passed in quiet surroundings, she felt more and more
deeply the loss of her father which was associated in her mind with
the ruin of Russia. She was agitated and incessantly tortured by the
thought of the dangers to which her brother, the only intimate
person now remaining to her, was exposed. She was worried too about
her nephew's education for which she had always felt herself
incompetent, but in the depths of her soul she felt at peace- a
peace arising from consciousness of having stifled those personal
dreams and hopes that had been on the point of awakening within her
and were related to her meeting with Rostov.
The day after her party the governor's wife came to see
Malvintseva and, after discussing her plan with the aunt, remarked
that though under present circumstances a formal betrothal was, of
course, not to be thought of, all the same the young people might be
brought together and could get to know one another. Malvintseva
expressed approval, and the governor's wife began to speak of Rostov
in Mary's presence, praising him and telling how he had blushed when
Princess Mary's name was mentioned. But Princess Mary experienced a
painful rather than a joyful feeling- her mental tranquillity was
destroyed, and desires, doubts, self-reproach, and hopes reawoke.
During the two days that elapsed before Rostov called, Princess Mary
continually thought of how she ought to behave to him. First she
decided not to come to the drawing room when he called to see her
aunt- that it would not be proper for her, in her deep mourning, to
receive visitors; then she thought this would be rude after what he
had done for her; then it occurred to her that her aunt and the
governor's wife had intentions concerning herself and Rostov- their
looks and words at times seemed to confirm this supposition- then
she told herself that only she, with her sinful nature, could think
this of them: they could not forget that situated as she was, while
still wearing deep mourning, such matchmaking would be an insult to
her and to her father's memory. Assuming that she did go down to see
him, Princess Mary imagined the words he would say to her and what she
would say to him, and these words sometimes seemed undeservedly cold
and then to mean too much. More than anything she feared lest the
confusion she felt might overwhelm her and betray her as soon as she
But when on Sunday after church the footman announced in the drawing
room that Count Rostov had called, the princess showed no confusion,
only a slight blush suffused her cheeks and her eyes lit up with a new
and radiant light.
"You have met him, Aunt?" said she in a calm voice, unable herself
to understand that she could be outwardly so calm and natural.
When Rostov entered the room, the princess dropped her eyes for an
instant, as if to give the visitor time to greet her aunt, and then
just as Nicholas turned to her she raised her head and met his look
with shining eyes. With a movement full of dignity and grace she
half rose with a smile of pleasure, held out her slender, delicate
hand to him, and began to speak in a voice in which for the first time
new deep womanly notes vibrated. Mademoiselle Bourienne, who was in
the drawing room, looked at Princess Mary in bewildered surprise.
Herself a consummate coquette, she could not have maneuvered better on
meeting a man she wished to attract.
"Either black is particularly becoming to her or she really has
greatly improved without my having noticed it. And above all, what
tact and grace!" thought Mademoiselle Bourienne.
Had Princess Mary been capable of reflection at that moment, she
would have been more surprised than Mademoiselle Bourienne at the
change that had taken place in herself. From the moment she recognized
that dear, loved face, a new life force took possession of her and
compelled her to speak and act apart from her own will. From the
time Rostov entered, her face became suddenly transformed. It was as
if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern and the
intricate, skillful, artistic work on its sides, that previously
seemed dark, coarse, and meaningless, was suddenly shown up in
unexpected and striking beauty. For the first time all that pure,
spiritual, inward travail through which she had lived appeared on
the surface. All her inward labor, her dissatisfaction with herself,
her sufferings, her strivings after goodness, her meekness, love,
and self-sacrifice- all this now shone in those radiant eyes, in her
delicate smile, and in every trait of her gentle face.
Rostov saw all this as clearly as if he had known her whole life. He
felt that the being before him was quite different from, and better
than, anyone he had met before, and above all better than himself.
Their conversation was very simple and unimportant. They spoke of
the war, and like everyone else unconsciously exaggerated their sorrow
about it; they spoke of their last meeting- Nicholas trying to
change the subject- they talked of the governor's kind wife, of
Nicholas' relations, and of Princess Mary's.
She did not talk about her brother, diverting the conversation as
soon as her aunt mentioned Andrew. Evidently she could speak of
Russia's misfortunes with a certain artificiality, but her brother was
too near her heart and she neither could nor would speak lightly of
him. Nicholas noticed this, as he noticed every shade of Princess
Mary's character with an observation unusual to him, and everything
confirmed his conviction that she was a quite unusual and
extraordinary being. Nicholas blushed and was confused when people
spoke to him about the princess (as she did when he was mentioned) and
even when he thought of her, but in her presence he felt quite at
ease, and said not at all what he had prepared, but what, quite
appropriately, occurred to him at the moment.
When a pause occurred during his short visit, Nicholas, as is
usual when there are children, turned to Prince Andrew's little son,
caressing him and asking whether he would like to be an hussar. He
took the boy on his knee, played with him, and looked round at
Princess Mary. With a softened, happy, timid look she watched the
boy she loved in the arms of the man she loved. Nicholas also
noticed that look and, as if understanding it, flushed with pleasure
and began to kiss the boy with good natured playfulness.
As she was in mourning Princess Mary did not go out into society,
and Nicholas did not think it the proper thing to visit her again; but
all the same the governor's wife went on with her matchmaking, passing
on to Nicholas the flattering things Princess Mary said of him and
vice versa, and insisting on his declaring himself to Princess Mary.
For this purpose she arranged a meeting between the young people at
the bishop's house before Mass.
Though Rostov told the governeor's wife that he would not make any
declaration to Princess Mary, he promised to go.
As at Tilsit Rostov had not allowed himself to doubt that what
everybody considered right was right, so now, after a short but
sincere struggle between his effort to arrange his life by his own
sense of justice, and in obedient submission to circumstances, he
chose the latter and yielded to the power he felt irresistibly
carrying him he knew not where. He knew that after his promise to
Sonya it would be what he deemed base to declare his feelings to
Princess Mary. And he knew that he would never act basely. But he also
knew (or rather felt at the bottom of his heart) that by resigning
himself now to the force of circumstances and to those who were
guiding him, he was not only doing nothing wrong, but was doing
something very important- more important than anything he had ever
done in his life.
After meeting Princess Mary, though the course of his life went on
externally as before, all his former amusements lost their charm for
him and he often thought about her. But he never thought about her
as he had thought of all the young ladies without exception whom he
had met in society, nor as he had for a long time, and at one time
rapturously, thought about Sonya. He had pictured each of those
young ladies as almost all honest-hearted young men do, that is, as
a possible wife, adapting her in his imagination to all the conditions
of married life: a white dressing gown, his wife at the tea table, his
wife's carriage, little ones, Mamma and Papa, their relations to
her, and so on- and these pictures of the future had given him
pleasure. But with Princess Mary, to whom they were trying to get
him engaged, he could never picture anything of future married life.
If he tried, his pictures seemed incongruous and false. It made him
The dreadful news of the battle of Borodino, of our losses in killed
and wounded, and the still more terrible news of the loss of Moscow
reached Voronezh in the middle of September. Princess Mary, having
learned of her brother's wound only from the Gazette and having no
definite news of him, prepared (so Nicholas heard, he had not seen her
again himself) to set off in search of Prince Andrew.
When he received the news of the battle of Borodino and the
abandonment of Moscow, Rostov was not seized with despair, anger,
the desire for vengeance, or any feeling of that kind, but
everything in Voronezh suddenly seemed to him dull and tiresome, and
he experienced an indefinite feeling of shame and awkwardness. The
conversations he heard seemed to him insincere; he did not know how to
judge all these affairs and felt that only in the regiment would
everything again become clear to him. He made haste to finish buying
the horses, and often became unreasonably angry with his servant and
A few days before his departure a special thanksgiving, at which
Nicholas was present, was held in the cathedral for the Russian
victory. He stood a little behind the governor and held himself with
military decorum through the service, meditating on a great variety of
subjects. When the service was over the governor's wife beckoned him
"Have you seen the princess?" she asked, indicating with a
movement of her head a lady standing on the opposite side, beyond
Nicholas immediately recognized Princess Mary not so much by the
profile he saw under her bonnet as by the feeling of solicitude,
timidity, and pity that immediately overcame him. Princess Mary,
evidently engrossed by her thoughts, was crossing herself for the last
time before leaving the church.
Nicholas looked at her face with surprise. It was the same face he
had seen before, there was the same general expression of refined,
inner, spiritual labor, but now it was quite differently lit up. There
was a pathetic expression of sorrow, prayer, and hope in it. As had
occurred before when she was present, Nicholas went up to her
without waiting to be prompted by the governor's wife and not asking
himself whether or not it was right and proper to address her here
in church, and told her he had heard of her trouble and sympathized
with his whole soul. As soon as she heard his voice a vivid glow
kindled in her face, lighting up both her sorrow and her joy.
"There is one thing I wanted to tell you, Princess," said Rostov.
"It is that if your brother, Prince Andrew Nikolievich, were not
living, it would have been at once announced in the Gazette, as he
is a colonel."
The princess looked at him, not grasping what he was saying, but
cheered by the expression of regretful sympathy on his face.
"And I have known so many cases of a splinter wound" (the Gazette
said it was a shell) "either proving fatal at once or being very
slight," continued Nicholas. "We must hope for the best, and I am
Princess Mary interrupted him.
"Oh, that would be so dread..." she began and, prevented by
agitation from finishing, she bent her head with a movement as
graceful as everything she did in his presence and, looking up at
him gratefully, went out, following her aunt.
That evening Nicholas did not go out, but stayed at home to settle
some accounts with the horse dealers. When he had finished that
business it was already too late to go anywhere but still too early to
go to bed, and for a long time he paced up and down the room,
reflecting on his life, a thing he rarely did.
Princess Mary had made an agreeable impression on him when he had
met her in Smolensk province. His having encountered her in such
exceptional circumstances, and his mother having at one time mentioned
her to him as a good match, had drawn his particular attention to her.
When he met her again in Voronezh the impression she made on him was
not merely pleasing but powerful. Nicholas had been struck by the
peculiar moral beauty he observed in her at this time. He was,
however, preparing to go away and it had not entered his head to
regret that he was thus depriving himself of chances of meeting her.
But that day's encounter in church had, he felt, sunk deeper than
was desirable for his peace of mind. That pale, sad, refined face,
that radiant look, those gentle graceful gestures, and especially
the deep and tender sorrow expressed in all her features agitated
him and evoked his sympathy. In men Rostov could not bear to see the
expression of a higher spiritual life (that was why he did not like
Prince Andrew) and he referred to it contemptuously as philosophy
and dreaminess, but in Princess Mary that very sorrow which revealed
the depth of a whole spiritual world foreign to him was an
"She must be a wonderful woman. A real angel!" he said to himself.
"Why am I not free? Why was I in such a hurry with Sonya?" And he
involuntarily compared the two: the lack of spirituality in the one
and the abundance of it in the other- a spirituality he himself lacked
and therefore valued most highly. He tried to picture what would
happen were he free. How he would propose to her and how she would
become his wife. But no, he could not imagine that. He felt awed,
and no clear picture presented itself to his mind. He had long ago
pictured to himself a future with Sonya, and that was all clear and
simple just because it had all been thought out and he knew all
there was in Sonya, but it was impossible to picture a future with
Princess Mary, because he did not understand her but simply loved her.
Reveries about Sonya had had something merry and playful in them,
but to dream of Princess Mary was always difficult and a little
"How she prayed!" he thought. "It was plain that her whole soul
was in her prayer. Yes, that was the prayer that moves mountains,
and I am sure her prayer will be answered. Why don't I pray for what I
want?" he suddenly thought. "What do I want? To be free, released from
Sonya... She was right," he thought, remembering what the governor's
wife had said: "Nothing but misfortune can come of marrying Sonya.
Muddles, grief for Mamma... business difficulties... muddles, terrible
muddles! Besides, I don't love her- not as I should. O, God! release
me from this dreadful, inextricable position!" he suddenly began to
pray. "Yes, prayer can move mountains, but one must have faith and not
pray as Natasha and I used to as children, that the snow might turn
into sugar- and then run out into the yard to see whether it had
done so. No, but I am not praying for trifles now," he thought as he
put his pipe down in a corner, and folding his hands placed himself
before the icon. Softened by memories of Princess Mary he began to
pray as he had not done for a long time. Tears were in his eyes and in
his throat when the door opened and Lavrushka came in with some
"Blockhead! Why do you come in without being called?" cried
Nicholas, quickly changing his attitude.
"From the governor," said Lavrushka in a sleepy voice. "A courier
has arrived and there's a letter for you."
"Well, all right, thanks. You can go!"
Nicholas took the two letters, one of which was from his mother
and the other from Sonya. He recognized them by the handwriting and
opened Sonya's first. He had read only a few lines when he turned pale
and his eyes opened wide with fear and joy.
"No, it's not possible!" he cried aloud.
Unable to sit still he paced up and down the room holding the letter
and reading it. He glanced through it, then read it again, and then
again, and standing still in the middle of the room he raised his
shoulders, stretching out his hands, with his mouth wide open and
his eyes fixed. What he had just been praying for with confidence that
God would hear him had come to pass; but Nicholas was as much
astonished as if it were something extraordinary and unexpected, and
as if the very fact that it had happened so quickly proved that it had
not come from God to whom he had prayed, but by some ordinary
This unexpected and, as it seemed to Nicholas, quite voluntary
letter from Sonya freed him from the knot that fettered him and from
which there had seemed no escape. She wrote that the last
unfortunate events- the loss of almost the whole of the Rostovs'
Moscow property- and the countess' repeatedly expressed wish that
Nicholas should marry Princess Bolkonskaya, together with his
silence and coldness of late, had all combined to make her decide to
release him from his promise and set him completely free.
It would be too painful to me to think that I might be a cause of
sorrow or discord in the family that has been so good to me (she
wrote), and my love has no aim but the happiness of those I love;
so, Nicholas, I beg you to consider yourself free, and to be assured
that, in spite of everything, no one can love you more than does
Both letters were written from Troitsa. The other, from the
countess, described their last days in Moscow, their departure, the
fire, and the destruction of all their property. In this letter the
countess also mentioned that Prince Andrew was among the wounded
traveling with them; his state was very critical, but the doctor
said there was now more hope. Sonya and Natasha were nursing him.
Next day Nicholas took his mother's letter and went to see
Princess Mary. Neither he nor she said a word about what "Natasha
nursing him" might mean, but thanks to this letter Nicholas suddenly
became almost as intimate with the princess as if they were relations.
The following day he saw Princess Mary off on her journey to
Yaroslavl, and a few days later left to rejoin his regiment.
Sonya's letter written from Troitsa, which had come as an answer
to Nicholas' prayer, was prompted by this: the thought of getting
Nicholas married to an heiress occupied the old countess' mind more
and more. She knew that Sonya was the chief obstacle to this
happening, and Sonya's life in the countess' house had grown harder
and harder, especially after they had received a letter from
Nicholas telling of his meeting with Princess Mary in Bogucharovo. The
countess let no occasion slip of making humiliating or cruel allusions
But a few days before they left Moscow, moved and excited by all
that was going on, she called Sonya to her and, instead of reproaching
and making demands on her, tearfully implored her to sacrifice herself
and repay all that the family had done for her by breaking off her
engagement with Nicholas.
"I shall not be at peace till you promise me this."
Sonya burst into hysterical tears and replied through her sobs
that she would do anything and was prepared for anything, but gave
no actual promise and could not bring herself to decide to do what was
demanded of her. She must sacrifice herself for the family that had
reared and brought her up. To sacrifice herself for others was Sonya's
habit. Her position in the house was such that only by sacrifice could
she show her worth, and she was accustomed to this and loved doing it.
But in all her former acts of self-sacrifice she had been happily
conscious that they raised her in her own esteem and in that of
others, and so made her more worthy of Nicholas whom she loved more
than anything in the world. But now they wanted her to sacrifice the
very thing that constituted the whole reward for her self-sacrifice
and the whole meaning of her life. And for the first time she felt
bitterness against those who had been her benefactors only to
torture her the more painfully; she felt jealous of Natasha who had
never experienced anything of this sort, had never needed to sacrifice
herself, but made others sacrifice themselves for her and yet was
beloved by everybody. And for the first time Sonya felt that out of
her pure, quiet love for Nicholas a passionate feeling was beginning
to grow up which was stronger than principle, virtue, or religion.
Under the influence of this feeling Sonya, whose life of dependence
had taught her involuntarily to be secretive, having answered the
countess in vague general terms, avoided talking with her and resolved
to wait till she should see Nicholas, not in order to set him free but
on the contrary at that meeting to bind him to her forever.
The bustle and terror of the Rostovs' last days in Moscow stifled
the gloomy thoughts that oppressed Sonya. She was glad to find
escape from them in practical activity. But when she heard of Prince
Andrew's presence in their house, despite her sincere pity for him and
for Natasha, she was seized by a joyful and superstitious feeling that
God did not intend her to be separated from Nicholas. She knew that
Natasha loved no one but Prince Andrew and had never ceased to love
him. She knew that being thrown together again under such terrible
circumstances they would again fall in love with one another, and that
Nicholas would then not be able to marry Princess Mary as they would
be within the prohibited degrees of affinity. Despite all the terror
of what had happened during those last days and during the first
days of their journey, this feeling that Providence was intervening in
her personal affairs cheered Sonya.
At the Troitsa monastery the Rostovs first broke their journey for a
Three large rooms were assigned to them in the monastery hostelry,
one of which was occupied by Prince Andrew. The wounded man was much
better that day and Natasha was sitting with him. In the next room sat
the count and countess respectfully conversing with the prior, who was
calling on them as old acquaintances and benefactors of the monastery.
Sonya was there too, tormented by curiosity as to what Prince Andrew
and Natasha were talking about. She heard the sound of their voices
through the door. That door opened and Natasha came out, looking
excited. Not noticing the monk, who had risen to greet her and was
drawing back the wide sleeve on his right arm, she went up to Sonya
and took her hand.
"Natasha, what are you about? Come here!" said the countess.
Natasha went up to the monk for his blessing, and advised her to
pray for aid to God and His saint.
As soon as the prior withdrew, Natasha took her friend by the hand
and went with her into the unoccupied room.
"Sonya, will he live?" she asked. "Sonya, how happy I am, and how
unhappy!... Sonya, dovey, everything is as it used to be. If only he
lives! He cannot... because... because... of" and Natasha burst into
"Yes! I knew it! Thank God!" murmured Sonya. "He will live."
Sonya was not less agitated than her friend by the latter's fear and
grief and by her own personal feelings which she shared with no one.
Sobbing, she kissed and comforted Natasha. "If only he lives!" she
thought. Having wept, talked, and wiped away their tears, the two
friends went together to Prince Andrew's door. Natasha opened it
cautiously and glanced into the room, Sonya standing beside her at the
Prince Andrew was lying raised high on three pillows. His pale
face was calm, his eyes closed, and they could see his regular
"O, Natasha!" Sonya suddenly almost screamed, catching her
companion's arm and stepping back from the door.
"What? What is it?" asked Natasha.
"It's that, that..." said Sonya, with a white face and trembling
Natasha softly closed the door and went with Sonya to the window,
not yet understanding what the latter was telling her.
"You remember," said Sonya with a solemn and frightened
expression. "You remember when I looked in the mirror for you... at
Otradnoe at Christmas? Do you remember what I saw?"
"Yes, yes!" cried Natasha opening her eyes wide, and vaguely
recalling that Sonya had told her something about Prince Andrew whom
she had seen lying down.
"You remember?" Sonya went on. "I saw it then and told everybody,
you and Dunyasha. I saw him lying on a bed," said she, making a
gesture with her hand and a lifted finger at each detail, "and that he
had his eyes closed and was covered just with a pink quilt, and that
his hands were folded," she concluded, convincing herself that the
details she had just seen were exactly what she had seen in the
She had in fact seen nothing then but had mentioned the first
thing that came into her head, but what she had invented then seemed
to her now as real as any other recollection. She not only
remembered what she had then said- that he turned to look at her and
smiled and was covered with something red- but was firmly convinced
that she had then seen and said that he was covered with a pink
quilt and that his eyes were closed.
"Yes, yes, it really was pink!" cried Natasha, who now thought she
too remembered the word pink being used, and saw in this the most
extraordinary and mysterious part of the prediction.
"But what does it mean?" she added meditatively.
"Oh, I don't know, it is all so strange," replied Sonya, clutching
at her head.
A few minutes later Prince Andrew rang and Natasha went to him,
but Sonya, feeling unusually excited and touched, remained at the
window thinking about the strangeness of what had occurred.
They had an opportunity that day to send letters to the army, and
the countess was writing to her son.
"Sonya!" said the countess, raising her eyes from her letter as
her niece passed, "Sonya, won't you write to Nicholas?" She spoke in a
soft, tremulous voice, and in the weary eyes that looked over her
spectacles Sonya read all that the countess meant to convey with these
words. Those eyes expressed entreaty, shame at having to ask, fear
of a refusal, and readiness for relentless hatred in case of such
Sonya went up to the countess and, kneeling down, kissed her hand.
"Yes, Mamma, I will write," said she.
Sonya was softened, excited, and touched by all that had occurred
that day, especially by the mysterious fulfillment she had just seen
of her vision. Now that she knew that the renewal of Natasha's
relations with Prince Andrew would prevent Nicholas from marrying
Princess Mary, she was joyfully conscious of a return of that
self-sacrificing spirit in which she was accustomed to live and
loved to live. So with a joyful consciousness of performing a
magnanimous deed- interrupted several times by the tears that dimmed
her velvety black eyes- she wrote that touching letter the arrival
of which had so amazed Nicholas.
The officer and soldiers who had arrested Pierre treated him with
hostility but yet with respect, in the guardhouse to which he was
taken. In their attitude toward him could still be felt both
uncertainty as to who he might be- perhaps a very important person-
and hostility as a result of their recent personal conflict with him.
But when the guard was relieved next morning, Pierre felt that for
the new guard- both officers and men- he was not as interesting as
he had been to his captors; and in fact the guard of the second day
did not recognize in this big, stout man in a peasant coat the
vigorous person who had fought so desperately with the marauder and
the convoy and had uttered those solemn words about saving a child;
they saw in him only No. 17 of the captured Russians, arrested and
detained for some reason by order of the Higher Command. If they
noticed anything remarkable about Pierre, it was only his unabashed,
meditative concentration and thoughtfulness, and the way he spoke
French, which struck them as surprisingly good. In spite of this he
was placed that day with the other arrested suspects, as the
separate room he had occupied was required by an officer.
All the Russians confined with Pierre were men of the lowest class
and, recognizing him as a gentleman, they all avoided him, more
especially as he spoke French. Pierre felt sad at hearing them
making fun of him.
That evening he learned that all these prisoners (he, probably,
among them) were to be tried for incendiarism. On the third day he was
taken with the others to a house where a French general with a white
mustache sat with two colonels and other Frenchmen with scarves on
their arms. With the precision and definiteness customary in
addressing prisoners, and which is supposed to preclude human frailty,
Pierre like the others was questioned as to who he was, where he had
been, with what object, and so on.
These questions, like questions put at trials generally, left the
essence of the matter aside, shut out the possibility of that
essence's being revealed, and were designed only to form a channel
through which the judges wished the answers of the accused to flow
so as to lead to the desired result, namely a conviction. As soon as
Pierre began to say anything that did not fit in with that aim, the
channel was removed and the water could flow to waste. Pierre felt,
moreover, what the accused always feel at their trial, perplexity as
to why these questions were put to him. He had a feeling that it was
only out of condescension or a kind of civility that this device of
placing a channel was employed. He knew he was in these men's power,
that only by force had they brought him there, that force alone gave
them the right to demand answers to their questions, and that the sole
object of that assembly was to inculpate him. And so, as they had
the power and wish to inculpate him, this expedient of an inquiry
and trial seemed unnecessary. It was evident that any answer would
lead to conviction. When asked what he was doing when he was arrested,
Pierre replied in a rather tragic manner that he was restoring to
its parents a child he had saved from the flames. Why had he fought
the marauder? Pierre answered that he "was protecting a woman," and
that "to protect a woman who was being insulted was the duty of
every man; that..." They interrupted him, for this was not to the
point. Why was he in the yard of a burning house where witnesses had
seen him? He replied that he had gone out to see what was happening in
Moscow. Again they interrupted him: they had not asked where he was
going, but why he was found near the fire? Who was he? they asked,
repeating their first question, which he had declined to answer. Again
he replied that he could not answer it.
"Put that down, that's bad... very bad," sternly remarked the
general with the white mustache and red flushed face.
On the fourth day fires broke out on the Zubovski rampart.
Pierre and thirteen others were moved to the coach house of a
merchant's house near the Crimean bridge. On his way through the
streets Pierre felt stifled by the smoke which seemed to hang over the
whole city. Fires were visible on all sides. He did not then realize
the significance of the burning of Moscow, and looked at the fires
He passed four days in the coach house near the Crimean bridge and
during that time learned, from the talk of the French soldiers, that
all those confined there were awaiting a decision which might come any
day from the marshal. What marshal this was, Pierre could not learn
from the soldiers. Evidently for them "the marshal" represented a very
high and rather mysterious power.
These first days, before the eighth of September when the
prisoners were had up for a second examination, were the hardest of
all for Pierre.
On the eighth of September an officer- a very important one
judging by the respect the guards showed him- entered the coach
house where the prisoners were. This officer, probably someone on
the staff, was holding a paper in his hand, and called over all the
Russians there, naming Pierre as "the man who does not give his name."
Glancing indolently and indifferently at all the prisoners, he ordered
the officer in charge to have them decently dressed and tidied up
before taking them to the marshal. An hour later a squad of soldiers
arrived and Pierre with thirteen others was led to the Virgin's Field.
It was a fine day, sunny after rain, and the air was unusually pure.
The smoke did not hang low as on the day when Pierre had been taken
from the guardhouse on the Zubovski rampart, but rose through the pure
air in columns. No flames were seen, but columns of smoke rose on
all sides, and all Moscow as far as Pierre could see was one vast
charred ruin. On all sides there were waste spaces with only stoves
and chimney stacks still standing, and here and there the blackened
walls of some brick houses. Pierre gazed at the ruins and did not
recognize districts he had known well. Here and there he could see
churches that had not been burned. The Kremlin, which was not
destroyed, gleamed white in the distance with its towers and the
belfry of Ivan the Great. The domes of the New Convent of the Virgin
glittered brightly and its bells were ringing particularly clearly.
These bells reminded Pierre that it was Sunday and the feast of the
Nativity of the Virgin. But there seemed to be no one to celebrate
this holiday: everywhere were blackened ruins, and the few Russians to
be seen were tattered and frightened people who tried to hide when
they saw the French.
It was plain that the Russian nest was ruined and destroyed, but
in place of the Russian order of life that had been destroyed,
Pierre unconsciously felt that a quite different, firm, French order
had been established over this ruined nest. He felt this in the
looks of the soldiers who, marching in regular ranks briskly and
gaily, were escorting him and the other criminals; he felt it in the
looks of an important French official in a carriage and pair driven by
a soldier, whom they met on the way. He felt it in the merry sounds of
regimental music he heard from the left side of the field, and felt
and realized it especially from the list of prisoners the French
officer had read out when he came that morning. Pierre had been
taken by one set of soldiers and led first to one and then to
another place with dozens of other men, and it seemed that they
might have forgotten him, or confused him with the others. But no: the
answers he had given when questioned had come back to him in his
designation as "the man who does not give his name," and under that
appellation, which to Pierre seemed terrible, they were now leading
him somewhere with unhesitating assurance on their faces that he and
all the other prisoners were exactly the ones they wanted and that
they were being taken to the proper place. Pierre felt himself to be
an insignificant chip fallen among the wheels of a machine whose
action he did not understand but which was working well.
He and the other prisoners were taken to the right side of the
Virgin's Field, to a large white house with an immense garden not
far from the convent. This was Prince Shcherbitov's house, where
Pierre had often been in other days, and which, as he learned from the
talk of the soldiers, was now occupied by the marshal, the Duke of
They were taken to the entrance and led into the house one by one.
Pierre was the sixth to enter. He was conducted through a glass
gallery, an anteroom, and a hall, which were familiar to him, into a
long low study at the door of which stood an adjutant.
Davout, spectacles on nose, sat bent over a table at the further end
of the room. Pierre went close up to him, but Davout, evidently
consulting a paper that lay before him, did not look up. Without
raising his eyes, he said in a low voice:
"Who are you?"
Pierre was silent because he was incapable of uttering a word. To
him Davout was not merely a French general, but a man notorious for
his cruelty. Looking at his cold face, as he sat like a stern
schoolmaster who was prepared to wait awhile for an answer, Pierre
felt that every instant of delay might cost him his life; but he did
not know what to say. He did not venture to repeat what he had said at
his first examination, yet to disclose his rank and position was
dangerous and embarrassing. So he was silent. But before he had
decided what to do, Davout raised his head, pushed his spectacles back
on his forehead, screwed up his eyes, and looked intently at him.
"I know that man," he said in a cold, measured tone, evidently
calculated to frighten Pierre.
The chill that had been running down Pierre's back now seized his
head as in a vise.
"You cannot know me, General, I have never seen you..."
"He is a Russian spy," Davout interrupted, addressing another
general who was present, but whom Pierre had not noticed.
Davout turned away. With an unexpected reverberation in his voice
Pierre rapidly began:
"No, monseigneur," he said, suddenly remembering that Davout was a
duke. "No, monseigneur, you cannot have known me. I am a militia
officer and have not quitted Moscow."
"Your name?" asked Davout.
"What proof have I that you are not lying?"
"Monseigneur!" exclaimed Pierre, not in an offended but in a
Davout looked up and gazed intently at him. For some seconds they
looked at one another, and that look saved Pierre. Apart from
conditions of war and law, that look established human relations
between the two men. At that moment an immense number of things passed
dimly through both their minds, and they realized that they were
both children of humanity and were brothers.
At the first glance, when Davout had only raised his head from the
papers where human affairs and lives were indicated by numbers, Pierre
was merely a circumstance, and Davout could have shot him without
burdening his conscience with an evil deed, but now he saw in him a
human being. He reflected for a moment.
"How can you show me that you are telling the truth?" said Davout
Pierre remembered Ramballe, and named him and his regiment and the
street where the house was.
"You are not what you say," returned Davout.
In a trembling, faltering voice Pierre began adducing proofs of
the truth of his statements.
But at that moment an adjutant entered and reported something to
Davout brightened up at the news the adjutant brought, and began
buttoning up his uniform. It seemed that he had quite forgotten
When the adjutant reminded him of the prisoner, he jerked his head
in Pierre's direction with a frown and ordered him to be led away. But
where they were to take him Pierre did not know: back to the coach
house or to the place of execution his companions had pointed out to
him as they crossed the Virgin's Field.
He turned his head and saw that the adjutant was putting another
question to Davout.
"Yes, of course!" replied Davout, but what this "yes" meant,
Pierre did not know.
Pierre could not afterwards remember how he went, whether it was
far, or in which direction. His faculties were quite numbed, he was
stupefied, and noticing nothing around him went on moving his legs
as the others did till they all stopped and he stopped too. The only
thought in his mind at that time was: who was it that had really
sentenced him to death? Not the men on the commission that had first
examined him- not one of them wished to or, evidently, could have done
it. It was not Davout, who had looked at him in so human a way. In
another moment Davout would have realized that he was doing wrong, but
just then the adjutant had come in and interrupted him. The
adjutant, also, had evidently had no evil intent though he might
have refrained from coming in. Then who was executing him, killing
him, depriving him of life- him, Pierre, with all his memories,
aspirations, hopes, and thoughts? Who was doing this? And Pierre
felt that it was no one.
It was a system- a concurrence of circumstances.
A system of some sort was killing him- Pierre- depriving him of
life, of everything, annihilating him.
From Prince Shcherbatov's house the prisoners were led straight down
the Virgin's Field, to the left of the nunnery, as far as a kitchen
garden in which a post had been set up. Beyond that post a fresh pit
had been dug in the ground, and near the post and the pit a large
crowd stood in a semicircle. The crowd consisted of a few Russians and
many of Napoleon's soldiers who were not on duty- Germans, Italians,
and Frenchmen, in a variety of uniforms. To the right and left of
the post stood rows of French troops in blue uniforms with red
epaulets and high boots and shakos.
The prisoners were placed in a certain order, according to the
list (Pierre was sixth), and were led to the post. Several drums
suddenly began to beat on both sides of them, and at that sound Pierre
felt as if part of his soul had been torn away. He lost the power of
thinking or understanding. He could only hear and see. And he had only
one wish- that the frightful thing that had to happen should happen
quickly. Pierre looked round at his fellow prisoners and scrutinized
The two first were convicts with shaven heads. One was tall and
thin, the other dark, shaggy, and sinewy, with a flat nose. The
third was a domestic serf, about forty-five years old, with grizzled
hair and a plump, well-nourished body. The fourth was a peasant, a
very handsome man with a broad, light-brown beard and black eyes.
The fifth was a factory hand, a thin, sallow-faced lad of eighteen
in a loose coat.
Pierre heard the French consulting whether to shoot them
separately or two at a time. "In couples," replied the officer in
command in a calm voice. There was a stir in the ranks of the soldiers
and it was evident that they were all hurrying- not as men hurry to do
something they understand, but as people hurry to finish a necessary
but unpleasant and incomprehensible task.
A French official wearing a scarf came up to the right of the row of
prisoners and read out the sentence in Russian and in French.
Then two pairs of Frenchmen approached the criminals and at the
officer's command took the two convicts who stood first in the row.
The convicts stopped when they reached the post and, while sacks
were being brought, looked dumbly around as a wounded beast looks at
an approaching huntsman. One crossed himself continually, the other
scratched his back and made a movement of the lips resembling a smile.
With hurried hands the soldiers blindfolded them, drawing the sacks
over their heads, and bound them to the post.
Twelve sharpshooters with muskets stepped out of the ranks with a
firm regular tread and halted eight paces from the post. Pierre turned
away to avoid seeing what was going to happen. Suddenly a crackling,
rolling noise was heard which seemed to him louder than the most
terrific thunder, and he looked round. There was some smoke, and the
Frenchmen were doing something near the pit, with pale faces and
trembling hands. Two more prisoners were led up. In the same way and
with similar looks, these two glanced vainly at the onlookers with
only a silent appeal for protection in their eyes, evidently unable to
understand or believe what was going to happen to them. They could not
believe it because they alone knew what their life meant to them,
and so they neither understood nor believed that it could be taken
Again Pierre did not wish to look and again turned away; but again
the sound as of a frightful explosion struck his ear, and at the
same moment he saw smoke, blood, and the pale, scared faces of the
Frenchmen who were again doing something by the post, their
trembling hands impeding one another. Pierre, breathing heavily,
looked around as if asking what it meant. The same question was
expressed in all the looks that met his.
On the faces of all the Russians and of the French soldiers and
officers without exception, he read the same dismay, horror, and
conflict that were in his own heart. "But who, after all, is doing
this? They are all suffering as I am. Who then is it? Who?" flashed
for an instant through his mind.
"Sharpshooters of the 86th, forward!" shouted someone. The fifth
prisoner, the one next to Pierre, was led away- alone. Pierre did
not understand that he was saved, that he and the rest had been
brought there only to witness the execution. With ever-growing horror,
and no sense of joy or relief, he gazed at what was taking place.
The fifth man was the factory lad in the loose cloak. The moment
they laid hands on him he sprang aside in terror and clutched at
Pierre. (Pierre shuddered and shook himself free.) The lad was
unable to walk. They dragged him along, holding him up under the arms,
and he screamed. When they got him to the post he grew quiet, as if he
suddenly understood something. Whether he understood that screaming
was useless or whether he thought it incredible that men should kill
him, at any rate he took his stand at the post, waiting to be
blindfolded like the others, and like a wounded animal looked around
him with glittering eyes.
Pierre was no longer able to turn away and close his eyes. His
curiosity and agitation, like that of the whole crowd, reached the
highest pitch at this fifth murder. Like the others this fifth man
seemed calm; he wrapped his loose cloak closer and rubbed one bare
foot with the other.
When they began to blindfold him he himself adjusted the knot
which hurt the back of his head; then when they propped him against
the bloodstained post, he leaned back and, not being comfortable in
that position, straightened himself, adjusted his feet, and leaned
back again more comfortably. Pierre did not take his eyes from him and
did not miss his slightest movement.
Probably a word of command was given and was followed by the reports
of eight muskets; but try as he would Pierre could not afterwards
remember having heard the slightest sound of the shots. He only saw
how the workman suddenly sank down on the cords that held him, how
blood showed itself in two places, how the ropes slackened under the
weight of the hanging body, and how the workman sat down, his head
hanging unnaturally and one leg bent under him. Pierre ran up to the
post. No one hindered him. Pale, frightened people were doing
something around the workman. The lower jaw of an old Frenchman with a
thick mustache trembled as he untied the ropes. The body collapsed.
The soldiers dragged it awkwardly from the post and began pushing it
into the pit.
They all plainly and certainly knew that they were criminals who
must hide the traces of their guilt as quickly as possible.
Pierre glanced into the pit and saw that the factory lad was lying
with his knees close up to his head and one shoulder higher than the
other. That shoulder rose and fell rhythmically and convulsively,
but spadefuls of earth were already being thrown over the whole
body. One of the soldiers, evidently suffering, shouted gruffly and
angrily at Pierre to go back. But Pierre did not understand him and
remained near the post, and no one drove him away.
When the pit had been filled up a command was given. Pierre was
taken back to his place, and the rows of troops on both sides of the
post made a half turn and went past it at a measured pace. The
twenty-four sharpshooters with discharged muskets, standing in the
center of the circle, ran back to their places as the companies passed
Pierre gazed now with dazed eyes at these sharpshooters who ran in
couples out of the circle. All but one rejoined their companies.
This one, a young soldier, his face deadly pale, his shako pushed
back, and his musket resting on the ground, still stood near the pit
at the spot from which he had fired. He swayed like a drunken man,
taking some steps forward and back to save himself from falling. An
old, noncommissioned officer ran out of the ranks and taking him by
the elbow dragged him to his company. The crowd of Russians and
Frenchmen began to disperse. They all went away silently and with
"That will teach them to start fires," said one of the Frenchmen.
Pierre glanced round at the speaker and saw that it was a soldier
who was trying to find some relief after what had been done, but was
not able to do so. Without finishing what he had begun to say he
made a hopeless movement with his arm and went away.
After the execution Pierre was separated from the rest of the
prisoners and placed alone in a small, ruined, and befouled church.
Toward evening a noncommissioned officer entered with two soldiers
and told him that he had been pardoned and would now go to the
barracks for the prisoners of war. Without understanding what was said
to him, Pierre got up and went with the soldiers. They took him to the
upper end of the field, where there were some sheds built of charred
planks, beams, and battens, and led him into one of them. In the
darkness some twenty different men surrounded Pierre. He looked at
them without understanding who they were, why they were there, or what
they wanted of him. He heard what they said, but did not understand
the meaning of the words and made no kind of deduction from or
application of them. He replied to questions they put to him, but
did not consider who was listening to his replies, nor how they
would understand them. He looked at their faces and figures, but
they all seemed to him equally meaningless.
From the moment Pierre had witnessed those terrible murders
committed by men who did not wish to commit them, it was as if the
mainspring of his life, on which everything depended and which made
everything appear alive, had suddenly been wrenched out and everything
had collapsed into a heap of meaningless rubbish. Though he did not
acknowledge it to himself, his faith in the right ordering of the
universe, in humanity, in his own soul, and in God, had been
destroyed. He had experienced this before, but never so strongly as
now. When similar doubts had assailed him before, they had been the
result of his own wrongdoing, and at the bottom of his heart he had
felt that relief from his despair and from those doubts was to be
found within himself. But now he felt that the universe had crumbled
before his eyes and only meaningless ruins remained, and this not by
any fault of his own. He felt that it was not in his power to regain
faith in the meaning of life.
Around him in the darkness men were standing and evidently something
about him interested them greatly. They were telling him something and
asking him something. Then they led him away somewhere, and at last he
found himself in a corner of the shed among men who were laughing
and talking on all sides.
"Well, then, mates... that very prince who..." some voice at the
other end of the shed was saying, with a strong emphasis on the word
Sitting silent and motionless on a heap of straw against the wall,
Pierre sometimes opened and sometimes closed his eyes. But as soon
as he closed them he saw before him the dreadful face of the factory
lad- especially dreadful because of its simplicity- and the faces of
the murderers, even more dreadful because of their disquiet. And he
opened his eyes again and stared vacantly into the darkness around
Beside him in a stooping position sat a small man of whose
presence he was first made aware by a strong smell of perspiration
which came from him every time he moved. This man was doing
something to his legs in the darkness, and though Pierre could not see
his face he felt that the man continually glanced at him. On growing
used to the darkness Pierre saw that the man was taking off his leg
bands, and the way he did it aroused Pierre's interest.
Having unwound the string that tied the band on one leg, he
carefully coiled it up and immediately set to work on the other leg,
glancing up at Pierre. While one hand hung up the first string the
other was already unwinding the band on the second leg. In this way,
having carefully removed the leg bands by deft circular motions of his
arm following one another uninterruptedly, the man hung the leg
bands up on some pegs fixed above his head. Then he took out a
knife, cut something, closed the knife, placed it under the head of
his bed, and, seating himself comfortably, clasped his arms round
his lifted knees and fixed his eyes on Pierre. The latter was
conscious of something pleasant, comforting, and well rounded in these
deft movements, in the man's well-ordered arrangements in his
corner, and even in his very smell, and he looked at the man without
taking his eyes from him.
"You've seen a lot of trouble, sir, eh?" the little man suddenly
And there was so much kindliness and simplicity in his singsong
voice that Pierre tried to reply, but his jaw trembled and he felt
tears rising to his eyes. The little fellow, giving Pierre no time
to betray his confusion, instantly continued in the same pleasant
"Eh, lad, don't fret!" said he, in the tender singsong caressing
voice old Russian peasant women employ. "Don't fret, friend- 'suffer
an hour, live for an age!' that's how it is, my dear fellow. And
here we live, thank heaven, without offense. Among these folk, too,
there are good men as well as bad," said he, and still speaking, he
turned on his knees with a supple movement, got up, coughed, and
went off to another part of the shed.
"Eh, you rascal!" Pierre heard the same kind voice saying at the
other end of the shed. "So you've come, you rascal? She remembers...
Now, now, that'll do!"
And the soldier, pushing away a little dog that was jumping up at
him, returned to his place and sat down. In his hands he had something
wrapped in a rag.
"Here, eat a bit, sir," said he, resuming his former respectful tone
as he unwrapped and offered Pierre some baked potatoes. "We had soup
for dinner and the potatoes are grand!"
Pierre had not eaten all day and the smell of the potatoes seemed
extremely pleasant to him. He thanked the soldier and began to eat.
"Well, are they all right?" said the soldier with a smile. "You
should do like this."
He took a potato, drew out his clasp knife, cut the potato into
two equal halves on the palm of his hand, sprinkled some salt on it
from the rag, and handed it to Pierre.
"The potatoes are grand!" he said once more. "Eat some like that!"
Pierre thought he had never eaten anything that tasted better.
"Oh, I'm all right," said he, "but why did they shoot those poor
fellows? The last one was hardly twenty."
"Tss, tt...!" said the little man. "Ah, what a sin... what a sin!"
he added quickly, and as if his words were always waiting ready in his
mouth and flew out involuntarily he went on: "How was it, sir, that
you stayed in Moscow?"
"I didn't think they would come so soon. I stayed accidentally,"
"And how did they arrest you, dear lad? At your house?"
"No, I went to look at the fire, and they arrested me there, and
tried me as an incendiary."
"Where there's law there's injustice," put in the little man.
"And have you been here long?" Pierre asked as he munched the last
of the potato.
"I? It was last Sunday they took me, out of a hospital in Moscow."
"Why, are you a soldier then?"
"Yes, we are soldiers of the Apsheron regiment. I was dying of
fever. We weren't told anything. There were some twenty of us lying
there. We had no idea, never guessed at all."
"And do you feel sad here?" Pierre inquired.
"How can one help it, lad? My name is Platon, and the surname is
Karataev," he added, evidently wishing to make it easier for Pierre to
address him. "They call me 'little falcon' in the regiment. How is one
to help feeling sad? Moscow- she's the mother of cities. How can one
see all this and not feel sad? But 'the maggot gnaws the cabbage,
yet dies first'; that's what the old folks used to tell us," he
"What? What did you say?" asked Pierre.
"Who? I?" said Karataev. "I say things happen not as we plan but
as God judges," he replied, thinking that he was repeating what he had
said before, and immediately continued:
"Well, and you, have you a family estate, sir? And a house? So you
have abundance, then? And a housewife? And your old parents, are
they still living?" he asked.
And though it was too dark for Pierre to see, he felt that a
suppressed smile of kindliness puckered the soldier's lips as he put
these questions. He seemed grieved that Pierre had no parents,
especially that he had no mother.
"A wife for counsel, a mother-in-law for welcome, but there's none
as dear as one's own mother!" said he. "Well, and have you little
ones?" he went on asking.
Again Pierre's negative answer seemed to distress him, and he
hastened to add:
"Never mind! You're young folks yet, and please God may still have
some. The great thing is to live in harmony...."
"But it's all the same now," Pierre could not help saying.
"Ah, my dear fellow!" rejoined Karataev, "never decline a prison
or a beggar's sack!"
He seated himself more comfortably and coughed, evidently
preparing to tell a long story.
"Well, my dear fellow, I was still living at home," he began. "We
had a well-to-do homestead, plenty of land, we peasants lived well and
our house was one to thank God for. When Father and we went out mowing
there were seven of us. We lived well. We were real peasants. It so
And Platon Karataev told a long story of how he had gone into
someone's copse to take wood, how he had been caught by the keeper,
had been tried, flogged, and sent to serve as a soldier.
"Well, lad," and a smile changed the tone of his voice "we thought
it was a misfortune but it turned out a blessing! If it had not been
for my sin, my brother would have had to go as a soldier. But he, my
younger brother, had five little ones, while I, you see, only left a
wife behind. We had a little girl, but God took her before I went as a
soldier. I come home on leave and I'll tell you how it was, I look and
see that they are living better than before. The yard full of
cattle, the women at home, two brothers away earning wages, and only
Michael the youngest, at home. Father, he says, 'All my children are
the same to me: it hurts the same whichever finger gets bitten. But if
Platon hadn't been shaved for a soldier, Michael would have had to
go.' called us all to him and, will you believe it, placed us in front
of the icons. 'Michael,' he says, 'come here and bow down to his feet;
and you, young woman, you bow down too; and you, grandchildren, also
bow down before him! Do you understand?' he says. That's how it is,
dear fellow. Fate looks for a head. But we are always judging, 'that's
not well- that's not right!' Our luck is like water in a dragnet:
you pull at it and it bulges, but when you've drawn it out it's empty!
That's how it is."
And Platon shifted his seat on the straw.
After a short silence he rose.
"Well, I think you must be sleepy," said he, and began rapidly
crossing himself and repeating:
"Lord Jesus Christ, holy Saint Nicholas, Frola and Lavra! Lord Jesus
Christ, holy Saint Nicholas, Frola and Lavra! Lord Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and save us!" he concluded, then bowed to the ground,
got up, sighed, and sat down again on his heap of straw. "That's the
way. Lay me down like a stone, O God, and raise me up like a loaf," he
muttered as he lay down, pulling his coat over him.
"What prayer was that you were saying?" asked Pierre.
"Eh?" murmured Platon, who had almost fallen asleep. "What was I
saying? I was praying. Don't you pray?"
"Yes, I do," said Pierre. "But what was that you said: Frola and
"Well, of course," replied Platon quickly, "the horses' saints.
One must pity the animals too. Eh, the rascal! Now you've curled up
and got warm, you daughter of a bitch!" said Karataev, touching the
dog that lay at his feet, and again turning over he fell asleep
Sounds of crying and screaming came from somewhere in the distance
outside, and flames were visible through the cracks of the shed, but
inside it was quiet and dark. For a long time Pierre did not sleep,
but lay with eyes open in the darkness, listening to the regular
snoring of Platon who lay beside him, and he felt that the world
that had been shattered was once more stirring in his soul with a
new beauty and on new and unshakable foundations.
Twenty-three soldiers, three officers, and two officials were
confined in the shed in which Pierre had been placed and where he
remained for four weeks.
When Pierre remembered them afterwards they all seemed misty figures
to him except Platon Karataev, who always remained in his mind a
most vivid and precious memory and the personification of everything
Russian, kindly, and round. When Pierre saw his neighbor next
morning at dawn the first impression of him, as of something round,
was fully confirmed: Platon's whole figure- in a French overcoat
girdled with a cord, a soldier's cap, and bast shoes- was round. His
head was quite round, his back, chest, shoulders, and even his arms,
which he held as if ever ready to embrace something, were rounded, his
pleasant smile and his large, gentle brown eyes were also round.
Platon Karataev must have been fifty, judging by his stories of
campaigns he had been in, told as by an old soldier. He did not
himself know his age and was quite unable to determine it. But his
brilliantly white, strong teeth which showed in two unbroken
semicircles when he laughed- as he often did- were all sound and good,
there was not a gray hair in his beard or on his head, and his whole
body gave an impression of suppleness and especially of firmness and
His face, despite its fine, rounded wrinkles, had an expression of
innocence and youth, his voice was pleasant and musical. But the chief
peculiarity of his speech was its directness and appositeness. It
was evident that he never considered what he had said or was going
to say, and consequently the rapidity and justice of his intonation
had an irresistible persuasiveness.
His physical strength and agility during the first days of his
imprisonment were such that he seemed not to know what fatigue and
sickness meant. Every night before lying down, he said: "Lord, lay
me down as a stone and raise me up as a loaf!" and every morning on
getting up, he said: "I lay down and curled up, I get up and shake
myself." And indeed he only had to lie down, to fall asleep like a
stone, and he only had to shake himself, to be ready without a
moment's delay for some work, just as children are ready to play
directly they awake. He could do everything, not very well but not
badly. He baked, cooked, sewed, planed, and mended boots. He was
always busy, and only at night allowed himself conversation- of
which he was fond- and songs. He did not sing like a trained singer
who knows he is listened to, but like the birds, evidently giving vent
to the sounds in the same way that one stretches oneself or walks
about to get rid of stiffness, and the sounds were always
high-pitched, mournful, delicate, and almost feminine, and his face at
such times was very serious.
Having been taken prisoner and allowed his beard to grow, he
seemed to have thrown off all that had been forced upon him-
everything military and alien to himself- and had returned to his
former peasant habits.
"A soldier on leave- a shirt outside breeches," he would say.
He did not like talking about his life as a soldier, though he did
not complain, and often mentioned that he had not been flogged once
during the whole of his army service. When he related anything it
was generally some old and evidently precious memory of his
"Christian" life, as he called his peasant existence. The proverbs, of
which his talk was full, were for the most part not the coarse and
indecent saws soldiers employ, but those folk sayings which taken
without a context seem so insignificant, but when used appositely
suddenly acquire a significance of profound wisdom.
He would often say the exact opposite of what he had said on a
previous occasion, yet both would be right. He liked to talk and he
talked well, adorning his speech with terms of endearment and with
folk sayings which Pierre thought he invented himself, but the chief
charm of his talk lay in the fact that the commonest events- sometimes
just such as Pierre had witnessed without taking notice of them-
assumed in Karataev's a character of solemn fitness. He liked to
hear the folk tales one of the soldiers used to tell of an evening
(they were always the same), but most of all he liked to hear
stories of real life. He would smile joyfully when listening to such
stories, now and then putting in a word or asking a question to make
the moral beauty of what he was told clear to himself. Karataev had no
attachments, friendships, or love, as Pierre understood them, but
loved and lived affectionately with everything life brought him in
contact with, particularly with man- not any particular man, but those
with whom he happened to be. He loved his dog, his comrades, the
French, and Pierre who was his neighbor, but Pierre felt that in spite
of Karataev's affectionate tenderness for him (by which he
unconsciously gave Pierre's spiritual life its due) he would not
have grieved for a moment at parting from him. And Pierre began to
feel in the same way toward Karataev.
To all the other prisoners Platon Karataev seemed a most ordinary
soldier. They called him "little falcon" or "Platosha," chaffed him
good-naturedly, and sent him on errands. But to Pierre he always
remained what he had seemed that first night: an unfathomable,
rounded, eternal personification of the spirit of simplicity and
Platon Karataev knew nothing by heart except his prayers. When he
began to speak he seemed not to know how he would conclude.
Sometimes Pierre, struck by the meaning of his words, would ask
him to repeat them, but Platon could never recall what he had said a
moment before, just as he never could repeat to Pierre the words of
his favorite song: native and birch tree and my heart is sick occurred
in it, but when spoken and not sung, no meaning could be got out of
it. He did not, and could not, understand the meaning of words apart
from their context. Every word and action of his was the manifestation
of an activity unknown to him, which was his life. But his life, as he
regarded it, had no meaning as a separate thing. It had meaning only
as part of a whole of which he was always conscious. His words and
actions flowed from him as evenly, inevitably, and spontaneously as
fragrance exhales from a flower. He could not understand the value
or significance of any word or deed taken separately.
When Princess Mary heard from Nicholas that her brother was with the
Rostovs at Yaroslavl she at once prepared to go there, in spite of her
aunt's efforts to dissuade her- and not merely to go herself but to
take her nephew with her. Whether it were difficult or easy,
possible or impossible, she did not ask and did not want to know: it
was her duty not only herself to be near her brother who was perhaps
dying, but to do everything possible to take his son to him, and so
she prepared to set off. That she had not heard from Prince Andrew
himself, Princess Mary attributed to his being too weak to write or to
his considering the long journey too hard and too dangerous for her
and his son.
In a few days Princess Mary was ready to start. Her equipages were
the huge family coach in which she had traveled to Voronezh, a
semiopen trap, and a baggage cart. With her traveled Mademoiselle
Bourienne, little Nicholas and his tutor, her old nurse, three
maids, Tikhon, and a young footman and courier her aunt had sent to
The usual route through Moscow could not be thought of, and the
roundabout way Princess Mary was obliged to take through Lipetsk,
Ryazan, Vladimir, and Shuya was very long and, as post horses were not
everywhere obtainable, very difficult, and near Ryazan where the
French were said to have shown themselves was even dangerous.
During this difficult journey Mademoiselle Bourienne, Dessalles, and
Princess Mary's servants were astonished at her energy and firmness of
spirit. She went to bed later and rose earlier than any of them, and
no difficulties daunted her. Thanks to her activity and energy,
which infected her fellow travelers, they approached Yaroslavl by
the end of the second week.
The last days of her stay in Voronezh had been the happiest of her
life. Her love for Rostov no longer tormented or agitated her. It
filled her whole soul, had become an integral part of herself, and she
no longer struggled against it. Latterly she had become convinced that
she loved and was beloved, though she never said this definitely to
herself in words. She had become convinced of it at her last interview
with Nicholas, when he had come to tell her that her brother was
with the Rostovs. Not by a single word had Nicholas alluded to the
fact that Prince Andrew's relations with Natasha might, if he
recovered, be renewed, but Princess Mary saw by his face that he
knew and thought of this.
Yet in spite of that, his relation to her- considerate, delicate,
and loving- not only remained unchanged, but it sometimes seemed to
Princess Mary that he was even glad that the family connection between
them allowed him to express his friendship more freely. She knew
that she loved for the first and only time in her life and felt that
she was beloved, and was happy in regard to it.
But this happiness on one side of her spiritual nature did not
prevent her feeling grief for her brother with full force; on the
contrary, that spiritual tranquility on the one side made it the
more possible for her to give full play to her feeling for her
brother. That feeling was so strong at the moment of leaving
Voronezh that those who saw her off, as they looked at her careworn,
despairing face, felt sure she would fall ill on the journey. But
the very difficulties and preoccupations of the journey, which she
took so actively in hand, saved her for a while from her grief and
gave her strength.
As always happens when traveling, Princess Mary thought only of
the journey itself, forgetting its object. But as she approached
Yaroslavl the thought of what might await her there- not after many
days, but that very evening- again presented itself to her and her
agitation increased to its utmost limit.
The courier who had been sent on in advance to find out where the
Rostovs were staying in Yaroslavl, and in what condition Prince Andrew
was, when he met the big coach just entering the town gates was
appalled by the terrible pallor of the princess' face that looked
out at him from the window.
"I have found out everything, your excellency: the Rostovs are
staying at the merchant Bronnikov's house, in the Square not far
from here, right above the Volga," said the courier.
Princess Mary looked at him with frightened inquiry, not
understanding why he did not reply to what she chiefly wanted to know:
how was her brother? Mademoiselle Bourienne put that question for her.
"How is the prince?" she asked.
"His excellency is staying in the same house with them."
"Then he is alive," thought Princess Mary, and asked in a low voice:
"How is he?"
"The servants say he is still the same."
What "still the same" might mean Princess Mary did not ask, but with
an unnoticed glance at little seven-year-old Nicholas, who was sitting
in front of her looking with pleasure at the town, she bowed her
head and did not raise it again till the heavy coach, rumbling,
shaking and swaying, came to a stop. The carriage steps clattered as
they were let down.
The carriage door was opened. On the left there was water- a great
river- and on the right a porch. There were people at the entrance:
servants, and a rosy girl with a large plait of black hair, smiling as
it seemed to Princess Mary in an unpleasantly affected way. (This
was Sonya.) Princess Mary ran up the steps. "This way, this way!" said
the girl, with the same artificial smile, and the princess found
herself in the hall facing an elderly woman of Oriental type, who came
rapidly to meet her with a look of emotion. This was the countess. She
embraced Princess Mary and kissed her.
"Mon enfant!" she muttered, "je vous aime et vous connais depuis
*"My child! I love you and have known you a long time."
Despite her excitement, Princess Mary realized that this was the
countess and that it was necessary to say something to her. Hardly
knowing how she did it, she contrived to utter a few polite phrases in
French in the same tone as those that had been addressed to her, and
asked: "How is he?"
"The doctor says that he is not in danger," said the countess, but
as she spoke she raised her eyes with a sigh, and her gesture conveyed
a contradiction of her words.
"Where is he? Can I see him- can I?" asked the princess.
"One moment, Princess, one moment, my dear! Is this his son?" said
the countess, turning to little Nicholas who was coming in with
Dessalles. "There will be room for everybody, this is a big house. Oh,
what a lovely boy!"
The countess took Princess Mary into the drawing room, where Sonya
was talking to Mademoiselle Bourienne. The countess caressed the
boy, and the old count came in and welcomed the princess. He had
changed very much since Princess Mary had last seen him. Then he had
been a brisk, cheerful, self-assured old man; now he seemed a pitiful,
bewildered person. While talking to Princess Mary he continually
looked round as if asking everyone whether he was doing the right
thing. After the destruction of Moscow and of his property, thrown out
of his accustomed groove he seemed to have lost the sense of his own
significance and to feel that there was no longer a place for him in
In spite of her one desire to see her brother as soon as possible,
and her vexation that at the moment when all she wanted was to see him
they should be trying to entertain her and pretending to admire her
nephew, the princess noticed all that was going on around her and felt
the necessity of submitting, for a time, to this new order of things
which she had entered. She knew it to be necessary, and though it
was hard for her she was not vexed with these people.
"This is my niece," said the count, introducing Sonya- "You don't
know her, Princess?"
Princess Mary turned to Sonya and, trying to stifle the hostile
feeling that arose in her toward the girl, she kissed her. But she
felt oppressed by the fact that the mood of everyone around her was so
far from what was in her own heart.
"Where is he?" she asked again, addressing them all.
"He is downstairs. Natasha is with him," answered Sonya, flushing.
"We have sent to ask. I think you must be tired, Princess."
Tears of vexation showed themselves in Princess Mary's eyes. She
turned away and was about to ask the countess again how to go to
him, when light, impetuous, and seemingly buoyant steps were heard
at the door. The princess looked round and saw Natasha coming in,
almost running- that Natasha whom she had liked so little at their
meeting in Moscow long since.
But hardly had the princess looked at Natasha's face before she
realized that here was a real comrade in her grief, and consequently a
friend. She ran to meet her, embraced her, and began to cry on her
As soon as Natasha, sitting at the head of Prince Andrew's bed,
heard of Princess Mary's arrival, she softly left his room and
hastened to her with those swift steps that had sounded buoyant to
There was only one expression on her agitated face when she ran into
the drawing room- that of love- boundless love for him, for her, and
for all that was near to the man she loved; and of pity, suffering for
others, and passionate desire to give herself entirely to helping
them. It was plain that at that moment there was in Natasha's heart no
thought of herself or of her own relations with Prince Andrew.
Princess Mary, with her acute sensibility, understood all this at
the first glance at Natasha's face, and wept on her shoulder with
"Come, come to him, Mary," said Natasha, leading her into the
Princess Mary raised her head, dried her eyes, and turned to
Natasha. She felt that from her she would be able to understand and
"How..." she began her question but stopped short.
She felt that it was impossible to ask, or to answer, in words.
Natasha's face eyes would have to tell her all more clearly
Natasha was gazing at her, but seemed afraid and in doubt whether to
say all she knew or not; she seemed to feel that before those luminous
eyes which penetrated into the very depths of her heart, it was
impossible not to tell the whole truth which she saw. And suddenly,
Natasha's lips twitched, ugly wrinkles gathered round her mouth, and
covering her face with her hands she burst into sobs.
Princess Mary understood.
But she still hoped, and asked, in words she herself did not trust:
"But how is his wound? What is his general condition?"
"You, you... will see," was all Natasha could say.
They sat a little while downstairs near his room till they had
left off crying and were able to go to him with calm faces.
"How has his whole illness gone? Is it long since he grew worse?
When did this happen?" Princess Mary inquired.
Natasha told her that at first there had been danger from his
feverish condition and the pain he suffered, but at Troitsa that had
passed and the doctor had only been afraid of gangrene. That danger
had also passed. When they reached Yaroslavl the wound had begun to
fester (Natasha knew all about such things as festering) and the
doctor had said that the festering might take a normal course. Then
fever set in, but the doctor had said the fever was not very serious.
"But two days ago this suddenly happened," said Natasha,
struggling with her sobs. "I don't know why, but you will see what
he is like."
"Is he weaker? Thinner?" asked the princess.
"No, it's not that, but worse. You will see. O, Mary, he is too
good, he cannot, cannot live, because..."
When Natasha opened Prince Andrew's door with a familiar movement
and let Princess Mary pass into the room before her, the princess felt
the sobs in her throat. Hard as she had tried to prepare herself,
and now tried to remain tranquil, she knew that she would be unable to
look at him without tears.
The princess understood what Natasha had meant by the words: "two
days ago this suddenly happened." She understood those words to mean
that he had suddenly softened and that this softening and gentleness
were signs of approaching death. As she stepped to the door she
already saw in imagination Andrew's face as she remembered it in
childhood, a gentle, mild, sympathetic face which he had rarely shown,
and which therefore affected her very strongly. She was sure he
would speak soft, tender words to her such as her father had uttered
before his death, and that she would not be able to bear it and
would burst into sobs in his presence. Yet sooner or later it had to
be, and she went in. The sobs rose higher and higher in her throat
as she more and more clearly distinguished his form and her
shortsighted eyes tried to make out his features, and then she saw his
face and met his gaze.
He was lying in a squirrel-fur dressing gown on a divan,
surrounded by pillows. He was thin and pale. In one thin,
translucently white hand he held a handkerchief, while with the
other he stroked the delicate mustache he had grown, moving his
fingers slowly. His eyes gazed at them as they entered.
On seeing his face and meeting his eyes Princess Mary's pace
suddenly slackened, she felt her tears dry up and her sobs ceased. She
suddenly felt guilty and grew timid on catching the expression of
his face and eyes.
"But in what am I to blame?" she asked herself. And his cold,
stern look replied: "Because you are alive and thinking of the living,
In the deep gaze that seemed to look not outwards but
inwards there was an almost hostile expression as he slowly regarded
his sister and Natasha.
He kissed his sister, holding her hand in his as was their wont.
"How are you, Mary? How did you manage to get here?" said he in a
voice as calm and aloof as his look.
Had he screamed in agony, that scream would not have struck such
horror into Princess Mary's heart as the tone of his voice.
"And have you brought little Nicholas?" he asked in the same slow,
quiet manner and with an obvious effort to remember.
"How are you now?" said Princess Mary, herself surprised at what she
"That, my dear, you must ask the doctor," he replied, and again
making an evident effort to be affectionate, he said with his lips
only (his words clearly did not correspond to his thoughts):
"Merci, chere amie, d'etre venue."*
*"Thank you for coming, my dear."
Princess Mary pressed his hand. The pressure made him wince just
perceptibly. He was silent, and she did not know what to say. She
now understood what had happened to him two days before. In his words,
his tone, and especially in that calm, almost antagonistic look
could be felt an estrangement from everything belonging to this world,
terrible in one who is alive. Evidently only with an effort did he
understand anything living; but it was obvious that he failed to