Next day, having been invited by the count, Prince Andrew dined with the Rostovs and spent the rest of the day there.
Everyone in the house realized for whose sake Prince Andrew came, and without concealing it he tried to be with Natasha all day. Not only in the soul of the frightened yet happy and enraptured Natasha, but in the whole house, there was a feeling of awe at something important that was bound to happen. The countess looked with sad and sternly serious eyes at Prince Andrew when he talked to Natasha and timidly started some artificial conversation about trifles as soon as he looked her way. Sonya was afraid to leave Natasha and afraid of being in the way when she was with them. Natasha grew pale, in a panic of expectation, when she remained alone with him for a moment. Prince Andrew surprised her by his timidity. She felt that he wanted to say something to her but could not bring himself to do so.
In the evening, when Prince Andrew had left, the countess went up to Natasha and whispered: “Well, what?”
“Mamma! For heaven’s sake don’t ask me anything now! One can’t talk about that,” said Natasha.
But all the same that night Natasha, now agitated and now frightened, lay long time in her mother’s bed gazing straight before her. She told her how he had complimented her, how he told her he was going abroad, asked her where they were going to spend the summer, and then how he had asked her about Boris.
“But such a… such a… never happened to me before!” she said. “Only I feel afraid in his presence. I am always afraid when I’m with him. What does that mean? Does it mean that it’s the real thing? Yes? Mamma, are you asleep?”
“No, my love; I am frightened myself,” answered her mother. “Now go!”
“All the same I shan’t sleep. What silliness, to sleep! Mummy! Mummy! such a thing never happened to me before,” she said, surprised and alarmed at the feeling she was aware of in herself. “And could we ever have thought!…”
It seemed to Natasha that even at the time she first saw Prince Andrew at Otradnoe she had fallen in love with him. It was as if she feared this strange, unexpected happiness of meeting again the very man she had then chosen (she was firmly convinced she had done so) and of finding him, as it seemed, not indifferent to her.
“And it had to happen that he should come specially to Petersburg while we are here. And it had to happen that we should meet at that ball. It is fate. Clearly it is fate that everything led up to this! Already then, directly I saw him I felt something peculiar.”
“What else did he say to you? What are those verses? Read them…” said her mother, thoughtfully, referring to some verses Prince Andrew had written in Natasha’s album.
“Mamma, one need not be ashamed of his being a widower?”
“Don’t, Natasha! Pray to God. ‘Marriages are made in heaven,'” said her mother.
“Darling Mummy, how I love you! How happy I am!” cried Natasha, shedding tears of joy and excitement and embracing her mother.
At that very time Prince Andrew was sitting with Pierre and telling him of his love for Natasha and his firm resolve to make her his wife.
That day Countess Helene had a reception at her house. The French ambassador was there, and a foreign prince of the blood who had of late become a frequent visitor of hers, and many brilliant ladies and gentlemen. Pierre, who had come downstairs, walked through the rooms and struck everyone by his preoccupied, absent-minded, and morose air.
Since the ball he had felt the approach of a fit of nervous depression and had made desperate efforts to combat it. Since the intimacy of his wife with the royal prince, Pierre had unexpectedly been made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and from that time he had begun to feel oppressed and ashamed in court society, and dark thoughts of the vanity of all things human came to him oftener than before. At the same time the feeling he had noticed between his protegee Natasha and Prince Andrew accentuated his gloom by the contrast between his own position and his friend’s. He tried equally to avoid thinking about his wife, and about Natasha and Prince Andrew; and again everything seemed to him insignificant in comparison with eternity; again the question: for what? presented itself; and he forced himself to work day and night at Masonic labors, hoping to drive away the evil spirit that threatened him. Toward midnight, after he had left the countess’ apartments, he was sitting upstairs in a shabby dressing gown, copying out the original transaction of the Scottish lodge of Freemasons at a table in his low room cloudy with tobacco smoke, when someone came in. It was Prince Andrew.
“Ah, it’s you!” said Pierre with a preoccupied, dissatisfied air. “And I, you see, am hard at it.” He pointed to his manuscript book with that air of escaping from the ills of life with which unhappy people look at their work.
Prince Andrew, with a beaming, ecstatic expression of renewed life on his face, paused in front of Pierre and, not noticing his sad look, smiled at him with the egotism of joy.
“Well, dear heart,” said he, “I wanted to tell you about it yesterday and I have come to do so today. I never experienced anything like it before. I am in love, my friend!”
Suddenly Pierre heaved a deep sigh and dumped his heavy person down on the sofa beside Prince Andrew.
“With Natasha Rostova, yes?” said he.
“Yes, yes! Who else should it be? I should never have believed it, but the feeling is stronger than I. Yesterday I tormented myself and suffered, but I would not exchange even that torment for anything in the world, I have not lived till now. At last I live, but I can’t live without her! But can she love me?… I am too old for her…. Why don’t you speak?”
“I? I? What did I tell you?” said Pierre suddenly, rising and beginning to pace up and down the room. “I always thought it…. That girl is such a treasure… she is a rare girl…. My dear friend, I entreat you, don’t philosophize, don’t doubt, marry, marry, marry…. And I am sure there will not be a happier man than you.”
“But what of her?”
“She loves you.”
“Don’t talk rubbish…” said Prince Andrew, smiling and looking into Pierre’s eyes.
“She does, I know,” Pierre cried fiercely.
“But do listen,” returned Prince Andrew, holding him by the arm. “Do you know the condition I am in? I must talk about it to someone.”
“Well, go on, go on. I am very glad,” said Pierre, and his face really changed, his brow became smooth, and he listened gladly to Prince Andrew. Prince Andrew seemed, and really was, quite a different, quite a new man. Where was his spleen, his contempt for life, his disillusionment? Pierre was the only person to whom he made up his mind to speak openly; and to him he told all that was in his soul. Now he boldly and lightly made plans for an extended future, said he could not sacrifice his own happiness to his father’s caprice, and spoke of how he would either make his father consent to this marriage and love her, or would do without his consent; then he marveled at the feeling that had mastered him as at something strange, apart from and independent of himself.
“I should not have believed anyone who told me that I was capable of such love,” said Prince Andrew. “It is not at all the same feeling that I knew in the past. The whole world is now for me divided into two halves: one half is she, and there all is joy, hope, light: the other half is everything where she is not, and there is all gloom and darkness….”
“Darkness and gloom,” reiterated Pierre: “yes, yes, I understand that.”
“I cannot help loving the light, it is not my fault. And I am very happy! You understand me? I know you are glad for my sake.”
“Yes, yes,” Pierre assented, looking at his friend with a touched and sad expression in his eyes. The brighter Prince Andrew’s lot appeared to him, the gloomier seemed his own.
Prince Andrew needed his father’s consent to his marriage, and to obtain this he started for the country next day.
His father received his son’s communication with external composure, but inward wrath. He could not comprehend how anyone could wish to alter his life or introduce anything new into it, when his own life was already ending. “If only they would let me end my days as I want to,” thought the old man, “then they might do as they please.” With his son, however, he employed the diplomacy he reserved for important occasions and, adopting a quiet tone, discussed the whole matter.
In the first place the marriage was not a brilliant one as regards birth, wealth, or rank. Secondly, Prince Andrew was no longer as young as he had been and his health was poor (the old man laid special stress on this), while she was very young. Thirdly, he had a son whom it would be a pity to entrust to a chit of a girl. “Fourthly and finally,” the father said, looking ironically at his son, “I beg you to put it off for a year: go abroad, take a cure, look out as you wanted to for a German tutor for Prince Nicholas. Then if your love or passion or obstinacy- as you please- is still as great, marry! And that’s my last word on it. Mind, the last…” concluded the prince, in a tone which showed that nothing would make him alter his decision.
Prince Andrew saw clearly that the old man hoped that his feelings, or his fiancee’s, would not stand a year’s test, or that he (the old prince himself) would die before then, and he decided to conform to his father’s wish- to propose, and postpone the wedding for a year.
Three weeks after the last evening he had spent with the Rostovs, Prince Andrew returned to Petersburg.
Next day after her talk with her mother Natasha expected Bolkonski all day, but he did not come. On the second and third day it was the same. Pierre did not come either and Natasha, not knowing that Prince Andrew had gone to see his father, could not explain his absence to herself.
Three weeks passed in this way. Natasha had no desire to go out anywhere and wandered from room to room like a shadow, idle and listless; she wept secretly at night and did not go to her mother in the evenings. She blushed continually and was irritable. It seemed to her that everybody knew about her disappointment and was laughing at her and pitying her. Strong as was her inward grief, this wound to her vanity intensified her misery.
Once she came to her mother, tried to say something, and suddenly began to cry. Her tears were those of an offended child who does not know why it is being punished.
The countess began to soothe Natasha, who after first listening to her mother’s words, suddenly interrupted her:
“Leave off, Mamma! I don’t think, and don’t want to think about it! He just came and then left off, left off…”
Her voice trembled, and she again nearly cried, but recovered and went on quietly:
“And I don’t at all want to get married. And I am afraid of him; I have now become quite calm, quite calm.”
The day after this conversation Natasha put on the old dress which she knew had the peculiar property of conducing to cheerfulness in the mornings, and that day she returned to the old way of life which she had abandoned since the ball. Having finished her morning tea she went to the ballroom, which she particularly liked for its loud resonance, and began singing her solfeggio. When she had finished her first exercise she stood still in the middle of the room and sang a musical phrase that particularly pleased her. She listened joyfully (as though she had not expected it) to the charm of the notes reverberating, filling the whole empty ballroom, and slowly dying away; and all at once she felt cheerful. “What’s the good of making so much of it? Things are nice as it is,” she said to herself, and she began walking up and down the room, not stepping simply on the resounding parquet but treading with each step from the heel to the toe (she had on a new and favorite pair of shoes) and listening to the regular tap of the heel and creak of the toe as gladly as she had to the sounds of her own voice. Passing a mirror she glanced into it. “There, that’s me!” the expression of her face seemed to say as she caught sight of herself. “Well, and very nice too! I need nobody.”
A footman wanted to come in to clear away something in the room but she would not let him, and having closed the door behind him continued her walk. That morning she had returned to her favorite mood- love of, and delight in, herself. “How charming that Natasha is!” she said again, speaking as some third, collective, male person. “Pretty, a good voice, young, and in nobody’s way if only they leave her in peace.” But however much they left her in peace she could not now be at peace, and immediately felt this.
In the hall the porch door opened, and someone asked, “At home?” and then footsteps were heard. Natasha was looking at the mirror, but did not see herself. She listened to the sounds in the hall. When she saw herself, her face was pale. It was he. She knew this for certain, though she hardly heard his voice through the closed doors.
Pale and agitated, Natasha ran into the drawing room.
“Mamma! Bolkonski has come!” she said. “Mamma, it is awful, it is unbearable! I don’t want… to be tormented? What am I to do?…”
Before the countess could answer, Prince Andrew entered the room with an agitated and serious face. As soon as he saw Natasha his face brightened. He kissed the countess’ hand and Natasha’s, and sat down beside the sofa.
“It is long since we had the pleasure…” began the countess, but Prince Andrew interrupted her by answering her intended question, obviously in haste to say what he had to.
“I have not been to see all this time because I have been at my father’s. I had to talk over a very important matter with him. I only got back last night,” he said glancing at Natasha; “I want to have a talk with you, Countess,” he added after a moment’s pause.
The countess lowered her eyes, sighing deeply.
“I am at your disposal,” she murmured.
Natasha knew that she ought to go away, but was unable to do so: something gripped her throat, and regardless of manners she stared straight at Prince Andrew with wide-open eyes.
“At once? This instant!… No, it can’t be!” she thought.
Again he glanced at her, and that glance convinced her that she was not mistaken. Yes, at once, that very instant, her fate would be decided.
“Go, Natasha! I will call you,” said the countess in a whisper.
Natasha glanced with frightened imploring eyes at Prince Andrew and at her mother and went out.
“I have come, Countess, to ask for your daughter’s hand,” said Prince Andrew.
The countess’ face flushed hotly, but she said nothing.
“Your offer…” she began at last sedately. He remained silent, looking into her eyes. “Your offer…” (she grew confused) “is agreeable to us, and I accept your offer. I am glad. And my husband… I hope… but it will depend on her….”
“I will speak to her when I have your consent…. Do you give it to me?” said Prince Andrew.
“Yes,” replied the countess. She held out her hand to him, and with a mixed feeling of estrangement and tenderness pressed her lips to his forehead as he stooped to kiss her hand. She wished to love him as a son, but felt that to her he was a stranger and a terrifying man. “I am sure my husband will consent,” said the countess, “but your father…”
“My father, to whom I have told my plans, has made it an express condition of his consent that the wedding is not to take place for a year. And I wished to tell you of that,” said Prince Andrew.
“It is true that Natasha is still young, but- so long as that?…”
“It is unavoidable,” said Prince Andrew with a sigh.
“I will send her to you,” said the countess, and left the room.
“Lord have mercy upon us!” she repeated while seeking her daughter.
Sonya said that Natasha was in her bedroom. Natasha was sitting on the bed, pale and dry eyed, and was gazing at the icons and whispering something as she rapidly crossed herself. Seeing her mother she jumped up and flew to her.
“Well, Mamma?… Well?…”
“Go, go to him. He is asking for your hand,” said the countess, coldly it seemed to Natasha. “Go… go,” said the mother, sadly and reproachfully, with a deep sigh, as her daughter ran away.
Natasha never remembered how she entered the drawing room. When she came in and saw him she paused. “Is it possible that this stranger has now become everything to me?” she asked herself, and immediately answered, “Yes, everything! He alone is now dearer to me than everything in the world.” Prince Andrew came up to her with downcast eyes.
“I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you. May I hope?”
He looked at her and was struck by the serious impassioned expression of her face. Her face said: “Why ask? Why doubt what you cannot but know? Why speak, when words cannot express what one feels?”
She drew near to him and stopped. He took her hand and kissed it.
“Do you love me?”
“Yes, yes!” Natasha murmured as if in vexation. Then she sighed loudly and, catching her breath more and more quickly, began to sob.
“What is it? What’s the matter?”
“Oh, I am so happy!” she replied, smiled through her tears, bent over closer to him, paused for an instant as if asking herself whether she might, and then kissed him.
Prince Andrew held her hands, looked into her eyes, and did not find in his heart his former love for her. Something in him had suddenly changed; there was no longer the former poetic and mystic charm of desire, but there was pity for her feminine and childish weakness, fear at her devotion and trustfulness, and an oppressive yet joyful sense of the duty that now bound him to her forever. The present feeling, though not so bright and poetic as the former, was stronger and more serious.
“Did your mother tell you that it cannot be for a year?” asked Prince Andrew, still looking into her eyes.
“Is it possible that I- the ‘chit of a girl,’ as everybody called me,” thought Natasha- “is it possible that I am now to be the wife and the equal of this strange, dear, clever man whom even my father looks up to? Can it be true? Can it be true that there can be no more playing with life, that now I am grown up, that on me now lies a responsibility for my every word and deed? Yes, but what did he ask me?”
“No,” she replied, but she had not understood his question.
“Forgive me!” he said. “But you are so young, and I have already been through so much in life. I am afraid for you, you do not yet know yourself.”
Natasha listened with concentrated attention, trying but failing to take in the meaning of his words.
“Hard as this year which delays my happiness will be,” continued Prince Andrew, “it will give you time to be sure of yourself. I ask you to make me happy in a year, but you are free: our engagement shall remain a secret, and should you find that you do not love me, or should you come to love…” said Prince Andrew with an unnatural smile.
“Why do you say that?” Natasha interrupted him. “You know that from the very day you first came to Otradnoe I have loved you,” she cried, quite convinced that she spoke the truth.
“In a year you will learn to know yourself….”
“A whole year!” Natasha repeated suddenly, only now realizing that the marriage was to be postponed for a year. “But why a year? Why a year?…”
Prince Andrew began to explain to her the reasons for this delay. Natasha did not hear him.
“And can’t it be helped?” she asked. Prince Andrew did not reply, but his face expressed the impossibility of altering that decision.
“It’s awful! Oh, it’s awful! awful!” Natasha suddenly cried, and again burst into sobs. “I shall die, waiting a year: it’s impossible, it’s awful!” She looked into her lover’s face and saw in it a look of commiseration and perplexity.
“No, no! I’ll do anything!” she said, suddenly checking her tears. “I am so happy.”
The father and mother came into the room and gave the betrothed couple their blessing.
From that day Prince Andrew began to frequent the Rostovs’ as Natasha’s affianced lover.
No betrothal ceremony took place and Natasha’s engagement to Bolkonski was not announced; Prince Andrew insisted on that. He said that as he was responsible for the delay he ought to bear the whole burden of it; that he had given his word and bound himself forever, but that he did not wish to bind Natasha and gave her perfect freedom. If after six months she felt that she did not love him she would have full right to reject him. Naturally neither Natasha nor her parents wished to hear of this, but Prince Andrew was firm. He came every day to the Rostovs’, but did not behave to Natasha as an affianced lover: he did not use the familiar thou, but said you to her, and kissed only her hand. After their engagement, quite different, intimate, and natural relations sprang up between them. It was as if they had not known each other till now. Both liked to recall how they had regarded each other when as yet they were nothing to one another; they felt themselves now quite different beings: then they were artificial, now natural and sincere. At first the family felt some constraint in intercourse with Prince Andrew; he seemed a man from another world, and for a long time Natasha trained the family to get used to him, proudly assuring them all that he only appeared to be different, but was really just like all of them, and that she was not afraid of him and no one else ought to be. After a few days they grew accustomed to him, and without restraint in his presence pursued their usual way of life, in which he took his part. He could talk about rural economy with the count, fashions with the countess and Natasha, and about albums and fancywork with Sonya. Sometimes the household both among themselves and in his presence expressed their wonder at how it had all happened, and at the evident omens there had been of it: Prince Andrew’s coming to Otradnoe and their coming to Petersburg, and the likeness between Natasha and Prince Andrew which her nurse had noticed on his first visit, and Andrew’s encounter with Nicholas in 1805, and many other incidents betokening that it had to be.
In the house that poetic dullness and quiet reigned which always accompanies the presence of a betrothed couple. Often when all sitting together everyone kept silent. Sometimes the others would get up and go away and the couple, left alone, still remained silent. They rarely spoke of their future life. Prince Andrew was afraid and ashamed to speak of it. Natasha shared this as she did all his feelings, which she constantly divined. Once she began questioning him about his son. Prince Andrew blushed, as he often did now- Natasha particularly liked it in him- and said that his son would not live with them.
“Why not?” asked Natasha in a frightened tone.
“I cannot take him away from his grandfather, and besides…”
“How I should have loved him!” said Natasha, immediately guessing his thought; “but I know you wish to avoid any pretext for finding fault with us.”
Sometimes the old count would come up, kiss Prince Andrew, and ask his advice about Petya’s education or Nicholas’ service. The old countess sighed as she looked at them; Sonya was always getting frightened lest she should be in the way and tried to find excuses for leaving them alone, even when they did not wish it. When Prince Andrew spoke (he could tell a story very well), Natasha listened to him with pride; when she spoke she noticed with fear and joy that he gazed attentively and scrutinizingly at her. She asked herself in perplexity: “What does he look for in me? He is trying to discover something by looking at me! What if what he seeks in me is not there?” Sometimes she fell into one of the mad, merry moods characteristic of her, and then she particularly loved to hear and see how Prince Andrew laughed. He seldom laughed, but when he did he abandoned himself entirely to his laughter, and after such a laugh she always felt nearer to him. Natasha would have been completely happy if the thought of the separation awaiting her and drawing near had not terrified her, just as the mere thought of it made him turn pale and cold.
On the eve of his departure from Petersburg Prince Andrew brought with him Pierre, who had not been to the Rostovs’ once since the ball. Pierre seemed disconcerted and embarrassed. He was talking to the countess, and Natasha sat down beside a little chess table with Sonya, thereby inviting Prince Andrew to come too. He did so.
“You have known Bezukhov a long time?” he asked. “Do you like him?”
“Yes, he’s a dear, but very absurd.”
And as usual when speaking of Pierre, she began to tell anecdotes of his absent-mindedness, some of which had even been invented about him.
“Do you know I have entrusted him with our secret? I have known him from childhood. He has a heart of gold. I beg you, Natalie,” Prince Andrew said with sudden seriousness- “I am going away and heaven knows what may happen. You may cease to… all right, I know I am not to say that. Only this, then: whatever may happen to you when I am not here…”
“What can happen?”
“Whatever trouble may come,” Prince Andrew continued, “I beg you, Mademoiselle Sophie, whatever may happen, to turn to him alone for advice and help! He is a most absent-minded and absurd fellow, but he has a heart of gold.”
Neither her father, nor her mother, nor Sonya, nor Prince Andrew himself could have foreseen how the separation from her lover would act on Natasha. Flushed and agitated she went about the house all that day, dry-eyed, occupied with most trivial matters as if not understanding what awaited her. She did not even cry when, on taking leave, he kissed her hand for the last time. “Don’t go!” she said in a tone that made him wonder whether he really ought not to stay and which he remembered long afterwards. Nor did she cry when he was gone; but for several days she sat in her room dry-eyed, taking no interest in anything and only saying now and then, “Oh, why did he go away?”
But a fortnight after his departure, to the surprise of those around her, she recovered from her mental sickness just as suddenly and became her old self again, but with a change in her moral physiognomy, as a child gets up after a long illness with a changed expression of face.
During that year after his son’s departure, Prince Nicholas Bolkonski’s health and temper became much worse. He grew still more irritable, and it was Princess Mary who generally bore the brunt of his frequent fits of unprovoked anger. He seemed carefully to seek out her tender spots so as to torture her mentally as harshly as possible. Princess Mary had two passions and consequently two joys- her nephew, little Nicholas, and religion- and these were the favorite subjects of the prince’s attacks and ridicule. Whatever was spoken of he would bring round to the superstitiousness of old maids, or the petting and spoiling of children. “You want to make him”- little Nicholas- “into an old maid like yourself! A pity! Prince Andrew wants a son and not an old maid,” he would say. Or, turning to Mademoiselle Bourienne, he would ask her in Princess Mary’s presence how she liked our village priests and icons and would joke about them.
He continually hurt Princess Mary’s feelings and tormented her, but it cost her no effort to forgive him. Could he be to blame toward her, or could her father, whom she knew loved her in spite of it all, be unjust? And what is justice? The princess never thought of that proud word “justice.” All the complex laws of man centered for her in one clear and simple law- the law of love and self-sacrifice taught us by Him who lovingly suffered for mankind though He Himself was God. What had she to do with the justice or injustice of other people? She had to endure and love, and that she did.
During the winter Prince Andrew had come to Bald Hills and had been gay, gentle, and more affectionate than Princess Mary had known him for a long time past. She felt that something had happened to him, but he said nothing to her about his love. Before he left he had a long talk with his father about something, and Princess Mary noticed that before his departure they were dissatisfied with one another.
Soon after Prince Andrew had gone, Princess Mary wrote to her friend Julie Karagina in Petersburg, whom she had dreamed (as all girls dream) of marrying to her brother, and who was at that time in mourning for her own brother, killed in Turkey.
Sorrow, it seems, is our common lot, my dear, tender friend Julie.
Your loss is so terrible that I can only explain it to myself as a special providence of God who, loving you, wishes to try you and your excellent mother. Oh, my friend! Religion, and religion alone, can- I will not say comfort us- but save us from despair. Religion alone can explain to us what without its help man cannot comprehend: why, for what cause, kind and noble beings able to find happiness in life- not merely harming no one but necessary to the happiness of others- are called away to God, while cruel, useless, harmful persons, or such as are a burden to themselves and to others, are left living. The first death I saw, and one I shall never forget- that of my dear sister-in-law- left that impression on me. Just as you ask destiny why your splendid brother had to die, so I asked why that angel Lise, who not only never wronged anyone, but in whose soul there were never any unkind thoughts, had to die. And what do you think, dear friend? Five years have passed since then, and already I, with my petty understanding, begin to see clearly why she had to die, and in what way that death was but an expression of the infinite goodness of the Creator, whose every action, though generally incomprehensible to us, is but a manifestation of His infinite love for His creatures. Perhaps, I often think, she was too angelically innocent to have the strength to perform all a mother’s duties. As a young wife she was irreproachable; perhaps she could not have been so as a mother. As it is, not only has she left us, and particularly Prince Andrew, with the purest regrets and memories, but probably she will there receive a place I dare not hope for myself. But not to speak of her alone, that early and terrible death has had the most beneficent influence on me and on my brother in spite of all our grief. Then, at the moment of our loss, these thoughts could not occur to me; I should then have dismissed them with horror, but now they are very clear and certain. I write all this to you, dear friend, only to convince you of the Gospel truth which has become for me a principle of life: not a single hair of our heads will fall without His will. And His will is governed only by infinite love for us, and so whatever befalls us is for our good.
You ask whether we shall spend next winter in Moscow. In spite of my wish to see you, I do not think so and do not want to do so. You will be surprised to hear that the reason for this is Buonaparte! The case is this: my father’s health is growing noticeably worse, he cannot stand any contradiction and is becoming irritable. This irritability is, as you know, chiefly directed to political questions. He cannot endure the notion that Buonaparte is negotiating on equal terms with all the sovereigns of Europe and particularly with our own, the grandson of the Great Catherine! As you know, I am quite indifferent to politics, but from my father’s remarks and his talks with Michael Ivanovich I know all that goes on in the world and especially about the honors conferred on Buonaparte, who only at Bald Hills in the whole world, it seems, is not accepted as a great man, still less as Emperor of France. And my father cannot stand this. It seems to me that it is chiefly because of his political views that my father is reluctant to speak of going to Moscow; for he foresees the encounters that would result from his way of expressing his views regardless of anybody. All the benefit he might derive from a course of treatment he would lose as a result of the disputes about Buonaparte which would be inevitable. In any case it will be decided very shortly.
Our family life goes on in the old way except for my brother Andrew’s absence. He, as I wrote you before, has changed very much of late. After his sorrow he only this year quite recovered his spirits. He has again become as I used to know him when a child: kind, affectionate, with that heart of gold to which I know no equal. He has realized, it seems to me, that life is not over for him. But together with this mental change he has grown physically much weaker. He has become thinner and more nervous. I am anxious about him and glad he is taking this trip abroad which the doctors recommended long ago. I hope it will cure him. You write that in Petersburg he is spoken of as one of the most active, cultivated, and capable of the young men. Forgive my vanity as a relation, but I never doubted it. The good he has done to everybody here, from his peasants up to the gentry, is incalculable. On his arrival in Petersburg he received only his due. I always wonder at the way rumors fly from Petersburg to Moscow, especially such false ones as that you write about- I mean the report of my brother’s betrothal to the little Rostova. I do not think my brother will ever marry again, and certainly not her; and this is why: first, I know that though he rarely speaks about the wife he has lost, the grief of that loss has gone too deep in his heart for him ever to decide to give her a successor and our little angel a stepmother. Secondly because, as far as I know, that girl is not the kind of girl who could please Prince Andrew. I do not think he would choose her for a wife, and frankly I do not wish it. But I am running on too long and am at the end of my second sheet. Good-by, my dear friend. May God keep you in His holy and mighty care. My dear friend, Mademoiselle Bourienne, sends you kisses.
In the middle of the summer Princess Mary received an unexpected letter from Prince Andrew in Switzerland in which he gave her strange and surprising news. He informed her of his engagement to Natasha Rostova. The whole letter breathed loving rapture for his betrothed and tender and confiding affection for his sister. He wrote that he had never loved as he did now and that only now did he understand and know what life was. He asked his sister to forgive him for not having told her of his resolve when he had last visited Bald Hills, though he had spoken of it to his father. He had not done so for fear Princess Mary should ask her father to give his consent, irritating him and having to bear the brunt of his displeasure without attaining her object. “Besides,” he wrote, “the matter was not then so definitely settled as it is now. My father then insisted on a delay of a year and now already six months, half of that period, have passed, and my resolution is firmer than ever. If the doctors did not keep me here at the spas I should be back in Russia, but as it is I have to postpone my return for three months. You know me and my relations with Father. I want nothing from him. I have been and always shall be independent; but to go against his will and arouse his anger, now that he may perhaps remain with us such a short time, would destroy half my happiness. I am now writing to him about the same question, and beg you to choose a good moment to hand him the letter and to let me know how he looks at the whole matter and whether there is hope that he may consent to reduce the term by four months.”
After long hesitations, doubts, and prayers, Princess Mary gave the letter to her father. The next day the old prince said to her quietly:
“Write and tell your brother to wait till I am dead…. It won’t be long- I shall soon set him free.”
The princess was about to reply, but her father would not let her speak and, raising his voice more and more, cried:
“Marry, marry, my boy!… A good family!… Clever people, eh? Rich, eh? Yes, a nice stepmother little Nicholas will have! Write and tell him that he may marry tomorrow if he likes. She will be little Nicholas’ stepmother and I’ll marry Bourienne!… Ha, ha, ha! He mustn’t be without a stepmother either! Only one thing, no more women are wanted in my house- let him marry and live by himself. Perhaps you will go and live with him too?” he added, turning to Princess Mary. “Go in heavens name! Go out into the frost… the frost… the frost!
After this outburst the prince did not speak any more about the matter. But repressed vexation at his son’s poor-spirited behavior found expression in his treatment of his daughter. To his former pretexts for irony a fresh one was now added- allusions to stepmothers and amiabilities to Mademoiselle Bourienne.
“Why shouldn’t I marry her?” he asked his daughter. “She’ll make a splendid princess!”
And latterly, to her surprise and bewilderment, Princess Mary noticed that her father was really associating more and more with the Frenchwoman. She wrote to Prince Andrew about the reception of his letter, but comforted him with hopes of reconciling their father to the idea.
Little Nicholas and his education, her brother Andrew, and religion were Princess Mary’s joys and consolations; but besides that, since everyone must have personal hopes, Princess Mary in the profoundest depths of her heart had a hidden dream and hope that supplied the chief consolation of her life. This comforting dream and hope were given her by God’s folk- the half-witted and other pilgrims who visited her without the prince’s knowledge. The longer she lived, the more experience and observation she had of life, the greater was her wonder at the short-sightedness of men who seek enjoyment and happiness here on earth: toiling, suffering, struggling, and harming one another, to obtain that impossible, visionary, sinful happiness. Prince Andrew had loved his wife, she died, but that was not enough: he wanted to bind his happiness to another woman. Her father objected to this because he wanted a more distinguished and wealthier match for Andrew. And they all struggled and suffered and tormented one another and injured their souls, their eternal souls, for the attainment of benefits which endure but for an instant. Not only do we know this ourselves, but Christ, the Son of God, came down to earth and told us that this life is but for a moment and is a probation; yet we cling to it and think to find happiness in it. “How is it that no one realizes this?” thought Princess Mary. “No one except these despised God’s folk who, wallet on back, come to me by the back door, afraid of being seen by the prince, not for fear of ill-usage by him but for fear of causing him to sin. To leave family, home, and all the cares of worldly welfare, in order without clinging to anything to wander in hempen rags from place to place under an assumed name, doing no one any harm but praying for all- for those who drive one away as well as for those who protect one: higher than that life and truth there is no life or truth!”
There was one pilgrim, a quiet pockmarked little woman of fifty called Theodosia, who for over thirty years had gone about barefoot and worn heavy chains. Princess Mary was particularly fond of her. Once, when in a room with a lamp dimly lit before the icon Theodosia was talking of her life, the thought that Theodosia alone had found the true path of life suddenly came to Princess Mary with such force that she resolved to become a pilgrim herself. When Theodosia had gone to sleep Princess Mary thought about this for a long time, and at last made up her mind that, strange as it might seem, she must go on a pilgrimage. She disclosed this thought to no one but to her confessor, Father Akinfi, the monk, and he approved of her intention. Under guise of a present for the pilgrims, Princess Mary prepared a pilgrim’s complete costume for herself: a coarse smock, bast shoes, a rough coat, and a black kerchief. Often, approaching the chest of drawers containing this secret treasure, Princess Mary paused, uncertain whether the time had not already come to put her project into execution.
Often, listening to the pilgrims’ tales, she was so stimulated by their simple speech, mechanical to them but to her so full of deep meaning, that several times she was on the point of abandoning everything and running away from home. In imagination she already pictured herself by Theodosia’s side, dressed in coarse rags, walking with a staff, a wallet on her back, along the dusty road, directing her wanderings from one saint’s shrine to another, free from envy, earthly love, or desire, and reaching at last the place where there is no more sorrow or sighing, but eternal joy and bliss.
“I shall come to a place and pray there, and before having time to get used to it or getting to love it, I shall go farther. I will go on till my legs fail, and I’ll lie down and die somewhere, and shall at last reach that eternal, quiet haven, where there is neither sorrow nor sighing…” thought Princess Mary.
But afterwards, when she saw her father and especially little Koko (Nicholas), her resolve weakened. She wept quietly, and felt that she was a sinner who loved her father and little nephew more than God.
BOOK SEVEN: 1810 – 11
The Bible legend tells us that the absence of labor- idleness- was a condition of the first man’s blessedness before the Fall. Fallen man has retained a love of idleness, but the curse weighs on the race not only because we have to seek our bread in the sweat of our brows, but because our moral nature is such that we cannot be both idle and at ease. An inner voice tells us we are in the wrong if we are idle. If man could find a state in which he felt that though idle he was fulfilling his duty, he would have found one of the conditions of man’s primitive blessedness. And such a state of obligatory and irreproachable idleness is the lot of a whole class- the military. The chief attraction of military service has consisted and will consist in this compulsory and irreproachable idleness.
Nicholas Rostov experienced this blissful condition to the full when, after 1807, he continued to serve in the Pavlograd regiment, in which he already commanded the squadron he had taken over from Denisov.
Rostov had become a bluff, good-natured fellow, whom his Moscow acquaintances would have considered rather bad form, but who was liked and respected by his comrades, subordinates, and superiors, and was well contented with his life. Of late, in 1809, he found in letters from home more frequent complaints from his mother that their affairs were falling into greater and greater disorder, and that it was time for him to come back to gladden and comfort his old parents.
Reading these letters, Nicholas felt a dread of their wanting to take him away from surroundings in which, protected from all the entanglements of life, he was living so calmly and quietly. He felt that sooner or later he would have to re-enter that whirlpool of life, with its embarrassments and affairs to be straightened out, its accounts with stewards, quarrels, and intrigues, its ties, society, and with Sonya’s love and his promise to her. It was all dreadfully difficult and complicated; and he replied to his mother in cold, formal letters in French, beginning: “My dear Mamma,” and ending: “Your obedient son,” which said nothing of when he would return. In 1810 he received letters from his parents, in which they told him of Natasha’s engagement to Bolkonski, and that the wedding would be in a year’s time because the old prince made difficulties. This letter grieved and mortified Nicholas. In the first place he was sorry that Natasha, for whom he cared more than for anyone else in the family, should be lost to the home; and secondly, from his hussar point of view, he regretted not to have been there to show that fellow Bolkonski that connection with him was no such great honor after all, and that if he loved Natasha he might dispense with permission from his dotard father. For a moment he hesitated whether he should not apply for leave in order to see Natasha before she was married, but then came the maneuvers, and considerations about Sonya and about the confusion of their affairs, and Nicholas again put it off. But in the spring of that year, he received a letter from his mother, written without his father’s knowledge, and that letter persuaded him to return. She wrote that if he did not come and take matters in hand, their whole property would be sold by auction and they would all have to go begging. The count was so weak, and trusted Mitenka so much, and was so good-natured, that everybody took advantage of him and things were going from bad to worse. “For God’s sake, I implore you, come at once if you do not wish to make me and the whole family wretched,” wrote the countess.
This letter touched Nicholas. He had that common sense of a matter-of-fact man which showed him what he ought to do.
The right thing now was, if not to retire from the service, at any rate to go home on leave. Why he had to go he did not know; but after his after-dinner nap he gave orders to saddle Mars, an extremely vicious gray stallion that had not been ridden for a long time, and when he returned with the horse all in a lather, he informed Lavrushka (Denisov’s servant who had remained with him) and his comrades who turned up in the evening that he was applying for leave and was going home. Difficult and strange as it was for him to reflect that he would go away without having heard from the staff- and this interested him extremely- whether he was promoted to a captaincy or would receive the Order of St. Anne for the last maneuvers; strange as it was to think that he would go away without having sold his three roans to the Polish Count Golukhovski, who was bargaining for the horses Rostov had betted he would sell for two thousand rubles; incomprehensible as it seemed that the ball the hussars were giving in honor of the Polish Mademoiselle Przazdziecka (out of rivalry to the Uhlans who had given one in honor of their Polish Mademoiselle Borzozowska) would take place without him- he knew he must go away from this good, bright world to somewhere where everything was stupid and confused. A week later he obtained his leave. His hussar comrades- not only those of his own regiment, but the whole brigade- gave Rostov a dinner to which the subscription was fifteen rubles a head, and at which there were two bands and two choirs of singers. Rostov danced the Trepak with Major Basov; the tipsy officers tossed, embraced, and dropped Rostov; the soldiers of the third squadron tossed him too, and shouted “hurrah!” and then they put him in his sleigh and escorted him as far as the first post station.
During the first half of the journey- from Kremenchug to Kiev- all Rostov’s thoughts, as is usual in such cases, were behind him, with the squadron; but when he had gone more than halfway he began to forget his three roans and Dozhoyveyko, his quartermaster, and to wonder anxiously how things would be at Otradnoe and what he would find there. Thoughts of home grew stronger the nearer he approached it- far stronger, as though this feeling of his was subject to the law by which the force of attraction is in inverse proportion to the square of the distance. At the last post station before Otradnoe he gave the driver a three-ruble tip, and on arriving he ran breathlessly, like a boy, up the steps of his home.
After the rapture of meeting, and after that odd feeling of unsatisfied expectation- the feeling that “everything is just the same, so why did I hurry?”- Nicholas began to settle down in his old home world. His father and mother were much the same, only a little older. What was new in them was a certain uneasiness and occasional discord, which there used not to be, and which, as Nicholas soon found out, was due to the bad state of their affairs. Sonya was nearly twenty; she had stopped growing prettier and promised nothing more than she was already, but that was enough. She exhaled happiness and love from the time Nicholas returned, and the faithful, unalterable love of this girl had a gladdening effect on him. Petya and Natasha surprised Nicholas most. Petya was a big handsome boy of thirteen, merry, witty, and mischievous, with a voice that was already breaking. As for Natasha, for a long while Nicholas wondered and laughed whenever he looked at her.
“You’re not the same at all,” he said.
“How? Am I uglier?”
“On the contrary, but what dignity? A princess!” he whispered to her.
“Yes, yes, yes!” cried Natasha, joyfully.
She told him about her romance with Prince Andrew and of his visit to Otradnoe and showed him his last letter.
“Well, are you glad?” Natasha asked. “I am so tranquil and happy now.”
“Very glad,” answered Nicholas. “He is an excellent fellow…. And are you very much in love?”
“How shall I put it?” replied Natasha. “I was in love with Boris, with my teacher, and with Denisov, but this is quite different. I feel at peace and settled. I know that no better man than he exists, and I am calm and contented now. Not at all as before.”
Nicholas expressed his disapproval of the postponement of the marriage for a year; but Natasha attacked her brother with exasperation, proving to him that it could not be otherwise, and that it would be a bad thing to enter a family against the father’s will, and that she herself wished it so.
“You don’t at all understand,” she said.
Nicholas was silent and agreed with her.
Her brother often wondered as he looked at her. She did not seem at all like a girl in love and parted from her affianced husband. She was even-tempered and calm and quite as cheerful as of old. This amazed Nicholas and even made him regard Bolkonski’s courtship skeptically. He could not believe that her fate was sealed, especially as he had not seen her with Prince Andrew. It always seemed to him that there was something not quite right about this intended marriage.
“Why this delay? Why no betrothal?” he thought. Once, when he had touched on this topic with his mother, he discovered, to his surprise and somewhat to his satisfaction, that in the depth of her soul she too had doubts about this marriage.
“You see he writes,” said she, showing her son a letter of Prince Andrew’s, with that latent grudge a mother always has in regard to a daughter’s future married happiness, “he writes that he won’t come before December. What can be keeping him? Illness, probably! His health is very delicate. Don’t tell Natasha. And don’t attach importance to her being so bright: that’s because she’s living through the last days of her girlhood, but I know what she is like every time we receive a letter from him! However, God grant that everything turns out well!” (She always ended with these words.) “He is an excellent man!”
After reaching home Nicholas was at first serious and even dull. He was worried by the impending necessity of interfering in the stupid business matters for which his mother had called him home. To throw off this burden as quickly as possible, on the third day after his arrival he went, angry and scowling and without answering questions as to where he was going, to Mitenka’s lodge and demanded an account of everything. But what an account of everything might be Nicholas knew even less than the frightened and bewildered Mitenka. The conversation and the examination of the accounts with Mitenka did not last long. The village elder, a peasant delegate, and the village clerk, who were waiting in the passage, heard with fear and delight first the young count’s voice roaring and snapping and rising louder and louder, and then words of abuse, dreadful words, ejaculated one after the other.
“Robber!… Ungrateful wretch!… I’ll hack the dog to pieces! I’m not my father!… Robbing us!…” and so on.
Then with no less fear and delight they saw how the young count, red in the face and with bloodshot eyes, dragged Mitenka out by the scruff of the neck and applied his foot and knee to him behind with great agility at convenient moments between the words, shouting, “Be off! Never let me see your face here again, you villain!”
Mitenka flew headlong down the six steps and ran away into the shrubbery. (This shrubbery was a well-known haven of refuge for culprits at Otradnoe. Mitenka himself, returning tipsy from the town, used to hide there, and many of the residents at Otradnoe, hiding from Mitenka, knew of its protective qualities.)
Mitenka’s wife and sisters-in-law thrust their heads and frightened faces out of the door of a room where a bright samovar was boiling and where the steward’s high bedstead stood with its patchwork quilt.
The young count paid no heed to them, but, breathing hard, passed by with resolute strides and went into the house.
The countess, who heard at once from the maids what had happened at the lodge, was calmed by the thought that now their affairs would certainly improve, but on the other hand felt anxious as to the effect this excitement might have on her son. She went several times to his door on tiptoe and listened, as he lighted one pipe after another.
Next day the old count called his son aside and, with an embarrassed smile, said to him:
“But you know, my dear boy, it’s a pity you got excited! Mitenka has told me all about it.”
“I knew,” thought Nicholas, “that I should never understand anything in this crazy world.”
“You were angry that he had not entered those 700 rubles. But they were carried forward- and you did not look at the other page.”
“Papa, he is a blackguard and a thief! I know he is! And what I have done, I have done; but, if you like, I won’t speak to him again.”
“No, my dear boy” (the count, too, felt embarrassed. He knew he had mismanaged his wife’s property and was to blame toward his children, but he did not know how to remedy it). “No, I beg you to attend to the business. I am old. I…”
“No, Papa. Forgive me if I have caused you unpleasantness. I understand it all less than you do.”
“Devil take all these peasants, and money matters, and carryings forward from page to page,” he thought. “I used to understand what a ‘corner’ and the stakes at cards meant, but carrying forward to another page I don’t understand at all,” said he to himself, and after that he did not meddle in business affairs. But once the countess called her son and informed him that she had a promissory note from Anna Mikhaylovna for two thousand rubles, and asked him what he thought of doing with it.
“This,” answered Nicholas. “You say it rests with me. Well, I don’t like Anna Mikhaylovna and I don’t like Boris, but they were our friends and poor. Well then, this!” and he tore up the note, and by so doing caused the old countess to weep tears of joy. After that, young Rostov took no further part in any business affairs, but devoted himself with passionate enthusiasm to what was to him a new pursuit- the chase- for which his father kept a large establishment.
The weather was already growing wintry and morning frosts congealed an earth saturated by autumn rains. The verdure had thickened and its bright green stood out sharply against the brownish strips of winter rye trodden down by the cattle, and against the pale-yellow stubble of the spring buckwheat. The wooded ravines and the copses, which at the end of August had still been green islands amid black fields and stubble, had become golden and bright-red islands amid the green winter rye. The hares had already half changed their summer coats, the fox cubs were beginning to scatter, and the young wolves were bigger than dogs. It was the best time of the year for the chase. The hounds of that ardent young sportsman Rostov had not merely reached hard winter condition, but were so jaded that at a meeting of the huntsmen it was decided to give them a three days’ rest and then, on the sixteenth of September, to go on a distant expedition, starting from the oak grove where there was an undisturbed litter of wolf cubs.
All that day the hounds remained at home. It was frosty and the air was sharp, but toward evening the sky became overcast and it began to thaw. On the fifteenth, when young Rostov, in his dressing gown, looked out of the window, he saw it was an unsurpassable morning for hunting: it was as if the sky were melting and sinking to the earth without any wind. The only motion in the air was that of the dripping, microscopic particles of drizzling mist. The bare twigs in the garden were hung with transparent drops which fell on the freshly fallen leaves. The earth in the kitchen garden looked wet and black and glistened like poppy seed and at a short distance merged into the dull, moist veil of mist. Nicholas went out into the wet and muddy porch. There was a smell of decaying leaves and of dog. Milka, a black-spotted, broad-haunched bitch with prominent black eyes, got up on seeing her master, stretched her hind legs, lay down like a hare, and then suddenly jumped up and licked him right on his nose and mustache. Another borzoi, a dog, catching sight of his master from the garden path, arched his back and, rushing headlong toward the porch with lifted tail, began rubbing himself against his legs.
“O-hoy!” came at that moment, that inimitable huntsman’s call which unites the deepest bass with the shrillest tenor, and round the corner came Daniel the head huntsman and head kennelman, a gray, wrinkled old man with hair cut straight over his forehead, Ukrainian fashion, a long bent whip in his hand, and that look of independence and scorn of everything that is only seen in huntsmen. He doffed his Circassian cap to his master and looked at him scornfully. This scorn was not offensive to his master. Nicholas knew that this Daniel, disdainful of everybody and who considered himself above them, was all the same his serf and huntsman.
“Daniel!” Nicholas said timidly, conscious at the sight of the weather, the hounds, and the huntsman that he was being carried away by that irresistible passion for sport which makes a man forget all his previous resolutions, as a lover forgets in the presence of his mistress.
“What orders, your excellency?” said the huntsman in his deep bass, deep as a proto-deacon’s and hoarse with hallooing- and two flashing black eyes gazed from under his brows at his master, who was silent. “Can you resist it?” those eyes seemed to be asking.
“It’s a good day, eh? For a hunt and a gallop, eh?” asked Nicholas, scratching Milka behind the ears.
Daniel did not answer, but winked instead.
“I sent Uvarka at dawn to listen,” his bass boomed out after a minute’s pause. “He says she’s moved them into the Otradnoe enclosure. They were howling there.” (This meant that the she-wolf, about whom they both knew, had moved with her cubs to the Otradnoe copse, a small place a mile and a half from the house.)
“We ought to go, don’t you think so?” said Nicholas. “Come to me with Uvarka.”
“As you please.”
“Then put off feeding them.”
Five minutes later Daniel and Uvarka were standing in Nicholas’ big study. Though Daniel was not a big man, to see him in a room was like seeing a horse or a bear on the floor among the furniture and surroundings of human life. Daniel himself felt this, and as usual stood just inside the door, trying to speak softly and not move, for fear of breaking something in the master’s apartment, and he hastened to say all that was necessary so as to get from under that ceiling, out into the open under the sky once more.
Having finished his inquiries and extorted from Daniel an opinion that the hounds were fit (Daniel himself wished to go hunting), Nicholas ordered the horses to be saddled. But just as Daniel was about to go Natasha came in with rapid steps, not having done up her hair or finished dressing and with her old nurse’s big shawl wrapped round her. Petya ran in at the same time.
“You are going?” asked Natasha. “I knew you would! Sonya said you wouldn’t go, but I knew that today is the sort of day when you couldn’t help going.”
“Yes, we are going,” replied Nicholas reluctantly, for today, as he intended to hunt seriously, he did not want to take Natasha and Petya. “We are going, but only wolf hunting: it would be dull for you.”
“You know it is my greatest pleasure,” said Natasha. “It’s not fair; you are going by yourself, are having the horses saddled and said nothing to us about it.”
“‘No barrier bars a Russian’s path’- we’ll go!” shouted Petya.
“But you can’t. Mamma said you mustn’t,” said Nicholas to Natasha.
“Yes, I’ll go. I shall certainly go,” said Natasha decisively. “Daniel, tell them to saddle for us, and Michael must come with my dogs,” she added to the huntsman.
It seemed to Daniel irksome and improper to be in a room at all, but to have anything to do with a young lady seemed to him impossible. He cast down his eyes and hurried out as if it were none of his business, careful as he went not to inflict any accidental injury on the young lady.
The old count, who had always kept up an enormous hunting establishment but had now handed it all completely over to his son’s care, being in very good spirits on this fifteenth of September, prepared to go out with the others.
In an hour’s time the whole hunting party was at the porch. Nicholas, with a stern and serious air which showed that now was no time for attending to trifles, went past Natasha and Petya who were trying to tell him something. He had a look at all the details of the hunt, sent a pack of hounds and huntsmen on ahead to find the quarry, mounted his chestnut Donets, and whistling to his own leash of borzois, set off across the threshing ground to a field leading to the Otradnoe wood. The old count’s horse, a sorrel gelding called Viflyanka, was led by the groom in attendance on him, while the count himself was to drive in a small trap straight to a spot reserved for him.
They were taking fifty-four hounds, with six hunt attendants and whippers-in. Besides the family, there were eight borzoi kennelmen and more than forty borzois, so that, with the borzois on the leash belonging to members of the family, there were about a hundred and thirty dogs and twenty horsemen.
Each dog knew its master and its call. Each man in the hunt knew his business. his place, what he had to do. As soon as they had passed the fence they all spread out evenly and quietly, without noise or talk, along the road and field leading to the Otradnoe covert.
The horses stepped over the field as over a thick carpet, now and then splashing into puddles as they crossed a road. The misty sky still seemed to descend evenly and imperceptibly toward the earth, the air was still, warm, and silent. Occasionally the whistle of a huntsman, the snort of a horse, the crack of a whip, or the whine of a straggling hound could be heard.
When they had gone a little less than a mile, five more riders with dogs appeared out of the mist, approaching the Rostovs. In front rode a fresh-looking, handsome old man with a large gray mustache.
“Good morning, Uncle!” said Nicholas, when the old man drew near.
“That’s it. Come on!… I was sure of it,” began “Uncle.” (He was a distant relative of the Rostovs’, a man of small means, and their neighbor.) “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist it and it’s a good thing you’re going. That’s it! Come on! (This was “Uncle’s” favorite expression.) “Take the covert at once, for my Girchik says the Ilagins are at Korniki with their hounds. That’s it. Come on!… They’ll take the cubs from under your very nose.”
“That’s where I’m going. Shall we join up our packs?” asked Nicholas.
The hounds were joined into one pack, and “Uncle” and Nicholas rode on side by side. Natasha, muffled up in shawls which did not hide her eager face and shining eyes, galloped up to them. She was followed by Petya who always kept close to her, by Michael, a huntsman, and by a groom appointed to look after her. Petya, who was laughing, whipped and pulled at his horse. Natasha sat easily and confidently on her black Arabchik and reined him in without effort with a firm hand.
“Uncle” looked round disapprovingly at Petya and Natasha. He did not like to combine frivolity with the serious business of hunting.
“Good morning, Uncle! We are going too!” shouted Petya.
“Good morning, good morning! But don’t go overriding the hounds,” said “Uncle” sternly.
“Nicholas, what a fine dog Trunila is! He knew me,” said Natasha, referring to her favorite hound.
“In the first place, Trunila is not a ‘dog,’ but a harrier,” thought Nicholas, and looked sternly at his sister, trying to make her feel the distance that ought to separate them at that moment. Natasha understood it.
“You mustn’t think we’ll be in anyone’s way, Uncle,” she said. “We’ll go to our places and won’t budge.”
“A good thing too, little countess,” said “Uncle,” “only mind you don’t fall off your horse,” he added, “because- that’s it, come on!- you’ve nothing to hold on to.”
The oasis of the Otradnoe covert came in sight a few hundred yards off, the huntsmen were already nearing it. Rostov, having finally settled with “Uncle” where they should set on the hounds, and having shown Natasha where she was to stand- a spot where nothing could possibly run out- went round above the ravine.
“Well, nephew, you’re going for a big wolf,” said “Uncle.” “Mind and don’t let her slip!”
“That’s as may happen,” answered Rostov. “Karay, here!” he shouted, answering “Uncle’s” remark by this call to his borzoi. Karay was a shaggy old dog with a hanging jowl, famous for having tackled a big wolf unaided. They all took up their places.
The old count, knowing his son’s ardor in the hunt, hurried so as not to be late, and the hunstmen had not yet reached their places when Count Ilya Rostov, cheerful, flushed, and with quivering cheeks, drove up with his black horses over the winter rye to the place reserved for him, where a wolf might come out. Having straightened his coat and fastened on his hunting knives and horn, he mounted his good, sleek, well-fed, and comfortable horse, Viflyanka, which was turning gray, like himself. His horses and trap were sent home. Count Ilya Rostov, though not at heart a keen sportsman, knew the rules of the hunt well, and rode to the bushy edge of the road where he was to stand, arranged his reins, settled himself in the saddle, and, feeling that he was ready, looked about with a smile.
Beside him was Simon Chekmar, his personal attendant, an old horseman now somewhat stiff in the saddle. Chekmar held in leash three formidable wolfhounds, who had, however, grown fat like their master and his horse. Two wise old dogs lay down unleashed. Some hundred paces farther along the edge of the wood stood Mitka, the count’s other groom, a daring horseman and keen rider to hounds. Before the hunt, by old custom, the count had drunk a silver cupful of mulled brandy, taken a snack, and washed it down with half a bottle of his favorite Bordeaux.
He was somewhat flushed with the wine and the drive. His eyes were rather moist and glittered more than usual, and as he sat in his saddle, wrapped up in his fur coat, he looked like a child taken out for an outing.
The thin, hollow-cheeked Chekmar, having got everything ready, kept glancing at his master with whom he had lived on the best of terms for thirty years, and understanding the mood he was in expected a pleasant chat. A third person rode up circumspectly through the wood (it was plain that he had had a lesson) and stopped behind the count. This person was a gray-bearded old man in a woman’s cloak, with a tall peaked cap on his head. He was the buffoon, who went by a woman’s name, Nastasya Ivanovna.
“Well, Nastasya Ivanovna!” whispered the count, winking at him. “If you scare away the beast, Daniel’ll give it you!”
“I know a thing or two myself!” said Nastasya Ivanovna.
“Hush!” whispered the count and turned to Simon. “Have you seen the young countess?” he asked. “Where is she?”
“With young Count Peter, by the Zharov rank grass,” answered Simon, smiling. “Though she’s a lady, she’s very fond of hunting.”
“And you’re surprised at the way she rides, Simon, eh?” said the count. “She’s as good as many a man!”
“Of course! It’s marvelous. So bold, so easy!”
“And Nicholas? Where is he? By the Lyadov upland, isn’t he?”
“Yes, sir. He knows where to stand. He understands the matter so well that Daniel and I are often quite astounded,” said Simon, well knowing what would please his master.
“Rides well, eh? And how well he looks on his horse, eh?”
“A perfect picture! How he chased a fox out of the rank grass by the Zavarzinsk thicket the other day! Leaped a fearful place; what a sight when they rushed from the covert… the horse worth a thousand rubles and the rider beyond all price! Yes, one would have to search far to find another as smart.”
“To search far…” repeated the count, evidently sorry Simon had not said more. “To search far,” he said, turning back the skirt of his coat to get at his snuffbox.
“The other day when he came out from Mass in full uniform, Michael Sidorych…” Simon did not finish, for on the still air he had distinctly caught the music of the hunt with only two or three hounds giving tongue. He bent down his head and listened, shaking a warning finger at his master. “They are on the scent of the cubs… ” he whispered, “straight to the Lyadov uplands.”
The count, forgetting to smooth out the smile on his face, looked into the distance straight before him, down the narrow open space, holding the snuffbox in his hand but not taking any. After the cry of the hounds came the deep tones of the wolf call from Daniel’s hunting horn; the pack joined the first three hounds and they could be heard in full cry, with that peculiar lift in the note that indicates that they are after a wolf. The whippers-in no longer set on the hounds, but changed to the cry of ulyulyu, and above the others rose Daniel’s voice, now a deep bass, now piercingly shrill. His voice seemed to fill the whole wood and carried far beyond out into the open field.
After listening a few moments in silence, the count and his attendant convinced themselves that the hounds had separated into two packs: the sound of the larger pack, eagerly giving tongue, began to die away in the distance, the other pack rushed by the wood past the count, and it was with this that Daniel’s voice was heard calling ulyulyu. The sounds of both packs mingled and broke apart again, but both were becoming more distant.
Simon sighed and stooped to straighten the leash a young borzoi had entangled; the count too sighed and, noticing the snuffbox in his hand, opened it and took a pinch. “Back!” cried Simon to a borzoi that was pushing forward out of the wood. The count started and dropped the snuffbox. Nastasya Ivanovna dismounted to pick it up. The count and Simon were looking at him.
Then, unexpectedly, as often happens, the sound of the hunt suddenly approached, as if the hounds in full cry and Daniel ulyulyuing were just in front of them.
The count turned and saw on his right Mitka staring at him with eyes starting out of his head, raising his cap and pointing before him to the other side.
“Look out!” he shouted, in a voice plainly showing that he had long fretted to utter that word, and letting the borzois slip he galloped toward the count.
The count and Simon galloped out of the wood and saw on their left a wolf which, softly swaying from side to side, was coming at a quiet lope farther to the left to the very place where they were standing. The angry borzois whined and getting free of the leash rushed past the horses’ feet at the wolf.
The wolf paused, turned its heavy forehead toward the dogs awkwardly, like a man suffering from the quinsy, and, still slightly swaying from side to side, gave a couple of leaps and with a swish of its tail disappeared into the skirt of the wood. At the same instant, with a cry like a wail, first one hound, then another, and then another, sprang helter-skelter from the wood opposite and the whole pack rushed across the field toward the very spot where the wolf had disappeared. The hazel bushes parted behind the hounds and Daniel’s chestnut horse appeared, dark with sweat. On its long back sat Daniel, hunched forward, capless, his disheveled gray hair hanging over his flushed, perspiring face.
“Ulyulyulyu! ulyulyu!…” he cried. When he caught sight of the count his eyes flashed lightning.
“Blast you!” he shouted, holding up his whip threateningly at the count.
“You’ve let the wolf go!… What sportsmen! and as if scorning to say more to the frightened and shamefaced count, he lashed the heaving flanks of his sweating chestnut gelding with all the anger the count had aroused and flew off after the hounds. The count, like a punished schoolboy, looked round, trying by a smile to win Simon’s sympathy for his plight. But Simon was no longer there. He was galloping round by the bushes while the field was coming up on both sides, all trying to head the wolf, but it vanished into the wood before they could do so.
Nicholas Rostov meanwhile remained at his post, waiting for the wolf. By the way the hunt approached and receded, by the cries of the dogs whose notes were familiar to him, by the way the voices of the huntsmen approached, receded, and rose, he realized what was happening at the copse. He knew that young and old wolves were there, that the hounds had separated into two packs, that somewhere a wolf was being chased, and that something had gone wrong. He expected the wolf to come his way any moment. He made thousands of different conjectures as to where and from what side the beast would come and how he would set upon it. Hope alternated with despair. Several times he addressed a prayer to God that the wolf should come his way. He prayed with that passionate and shame-faced feeling with which men pray at moments of great excitement arising from trivial causes. “What would it be to Thee to do this for me?” he said to God. “I know Thou art great, and that it is a sin to ask this of Thee, but for God’s sake do let the old wolf come my way and let Karay spring at it- in sight of ‘Uncle’ who is watching from over there- and seize it by the throat in a death grip!” A thousand times during that half-hour Rostov cast eager and restless glances over the edge of the wood, with the two scraggy oaks rising above the aspen undergrowth and the gully with its water-worn side and “Uncle’s” cap just visible above the bush on his right.
“No, I shan’t have such luck,” thought Rostov, “yet what wouldn’t it be worth! It is not to be! Everywhere, at cards and in war, I am always unlucky.” Memories of Austerlitz and of Dolokhov flashed rapidly and clearly through his mind. “Only once in my life to get an old wolf, I want only that!” thought he, straining eyes and ears and looking to the left and then to the right and listening to the slightest variation of note in the cries of the dogs.
Again he looked to the right and saw something running toward him across the deserted field. “No, it can’t be!” thought Rostov, taking a deep breath, as a man does at the coming of something long hoped for. The height of happiness was reached- and so simply, without warning, or noise, or display, that Rostov could not believe his eyes and remained in doubt for over a second. The wolf ran forward and jumped heavily over a gully that lay in her path. She was an old animal with a gray back and big reddish belly. She ran without hurry, evidently feeling sure that no one saw her. Rostov, holding his breath, looked round at the borzois. They stood or lay not seeing the wolf or understanding the situation. Old Karay had turned his head and was angrily searching for fleas, baring his yellow teeth and snapping at his hind legs.
“Ulyulyulyu!” whispered Rostov, pouting his lips. The borzois jumped up, jerking the rings of the leashes and pricking their ears. Karay finished scratching his hindquarters and, cocking his ears, got up with quivering tail from which tufts of matted hair hung down.
“Shall I loose them or not?” Nicholas asked himself as the wolf approached him coming from the copse. Suddenly the wolf’s whole physiognomy changed: she shuddered, seeing what she had probably never seen before- human eyes fixed upon her- and turning her head a little toward Rostov, she paused.
“Back or forward? Eh, no matter, forward…” the wolf seemed to say to herself, and she moved forward without again looking round and with a quiet, long, easy yet resolute lope.
“Ulyulyu!” cried Nicholas, in a voice not his own, and of its own accord his good horse darted headlong downhill, leaping over gullies to head off the wolf, and the borzois passed it, running faster still. Nicholas did not hear his own cry nor feel that he was galloping, nor see the borzois, nor the ground over which he went: he saw only the wolf, who, increasing her speed, bounded on in the same direction along the hollow. The first to come into view was Milka, with her black markings and powerful quarters, gaining upon the wolf. Nearer and nearer… now she was ahead of it; but the wolf turned its head to face her, and instead of putting on speed as she usually did Milka suddenly raised her tail and stiffened her forelegs.
“Ulyulyulyulyu!” shouted Nicholas.
The reddish Lyubim rushed forward from behind Milka, sprang impetuously at the wolf, and seized it by its hindquarters, but immediately jumped aside in terror. The wolf crouched, gnashed her teeth, and again rose and bounded forward, followed at the distance of a couple of feet by all the borzois, who did not get any closer to her.
“She’ll get away! No, it’s impossible!” thought Nicholas, still shouting with a hoarse voice.
“Karay, ulyulyu!…” he shouted, looking round for the old borzoi who was now his only hope. Karay, with all the strength age had left him, stretched himself to the utmost and, watching the wolf, galloped heavily aside to intercept it. But the quickness of the wolf’s lope and the borzoi’s slower pace made it plain that Karay had miscalculated. Nicholas could already see not far in front of him the wood where the wolf would certainly escape should she reach it. But, coming toward him, he saw hounds and a huntsman galloping almost straight at the wolf. There was still hope. A long, yellowish young borzoi, one Nicholas did not know, from another leash, rushed impetuously at the wolf from in front and almost knocked her over. But the wolf jumped up more quickly than anyone could have expected and, gnashing her teeth, flew at the yellowish borzoi, which, with a piercing yelp, fell with its head on the ground, bleeding from a gash in its side.
“Karay? Old fellow!…” wailed Nicholas.
Thanks to the delay caused by this crossing of the wolf’s path, the old dog with its felted hair hanging from its thigh was within five paces of it. As if aware of her danger, the wolf turned her eyes on Karay, tucked her tail yet further between her legs, and increased her speed. But here Nicholas only saw that something happened to Karay- the borzoi was suddenly on the wolf, and they rolled together down into a gully just in front of them.
That instant, when Nicholas saw the wolf struggling in the gully with the dogs, while from under them could be seen her gray hair and outstretched hind leg and her frightened choking head, with her ears laid back (Karay was pinning her by the throat), was the happiest moment of his life. With his hand on his saddlebow, he was ready to dismount and stab the wolf, when she suddenly thrust her head up from among that mass of dogs, and then her forepaws were on the edge of the gully. She clicked her teeth (Karay no longer had her by the throat), leaped with a movement of her hind legs out of the gully, and having disengaged herself from the dogs, with tail tucked in again, went forward. Karay, his hair bristling, and probably bruised or wounded, climbed with difficulty out of the gully.
“Oh my God! Why?” Nicholas cried in despair.
“Uncle’s” huntsman was galloping from the other side across the wolf’s path and his borzois once more stopped the animal’s advance. She was again hemmed in.
Nicholas and his attendant, with “Uncle” and his huntsman, were all riding round the wolf, crying “ulyulyu!” shouting and preparing to dismount each moment that the wolf crouched back, and starting forward again every time she shook herself and moved toward the wood where she would be safe.
Already, at the beginning of this chase, Daniel, hearing the ulyulyuing, had rushed out from the wood. He saw Karay seize the wolf, and checked his horse, supposing the affair to be over. But when he saw that the horsemen did not dismount and that the wolf shook herself and ran for safety, Daniel set his chestnut galloping, not at the wolf but straight toward the wood, just as Karay had run to cut the animal off. As a result of this, he galloped up to the wolf just when she had been stopped a second time by “Uncle’s” borzois.
Daniel galloped up silently, holding a naked dagger in his left hand and thrashing the laboring sides of his chestnut horse with his whip as if it were a flail.
Nicholas neither saw nor heard Daniel until the chestnut, breathing heavily, panted past him, and he heard the fall of a body and saw Daniel lying on the wolf’s back among the dogs, trying to seize her by the ears. It was evident to the dogs, the hunters, and to the wolf herself that all was now over. The terrified wolf pressed back her ears and tried to rise, but the borzois stuck to her. Daniel rose a little, took a step, and with his whole weight, as if lying down to rest, fell on the wolf, seizing her by the ears. Nicholas was about to stab her, but Daniel whispered, “Don’t! We’ll gag her!” and, changing his position, set his foot on the wolf’s neck. A stick was thrust between her jaws and she was fastened with a leash, as if bridled, her legs were bound together, and Daniel rolled her over once or twice from side to side.
With happy, exhausted faces, they laid the old wolf, alive, on a shying and snorting horse and, accompanied by the dogs yelping at her, took her to the place where they were all to meet. The hounds had killed two of the cubs and the borzois three. The huntsmen assembled with their booty and their stories, and all came to look at the wolf, which, with her broad-browed head hanging down and the bitten stick between her jaws, gazed with great glassy eyes at this crowd of dogs and men surrounding her. When she was touched, she jerked her bound legs and looked wildly yet simply at everybody. Old Count Rostov also rode up and touched the wolf.
“Oh, what a formidable one!” said he. “A formidable one, eh?” he asked Daniel, who was standing near.
“Yes, your excellency,” answered Daniel, quickly doffing his cap.
The count remembered the wolf he had let slip and his encounter with Daniel.
“Ah, but you are a crusty fellow, friend!” said the count.
For sole reply Daniel gave him a shy, childlike, meek, and amiable smile.
The old count went home, and Natasha and Petya promised to return very soon, but as it was still early the hunt went farther. At midday they put the hounds into a ravine thickly overgrown with young trees. Nicholas standing in a fallow field could see all his whips.
Facing him lay a field of winter rye, there his own huntsman stood alone in a hollow behind a hazel bush. The hounds had scarcely been loosed before Nicholas heard one he knew, Voltorn, giving tongue at intervals; other hounds joined in, now pausing and now again giving tongue. A moment later he heard a cry from the wooded ravine that a fox had been found, and the whole pack, joining together, rushed along the ravine toward the ryefield and away from Nicholas.
He saw the whips in their red caps galloping along the edge of the ravine, he even saw the hounds, and was expecting a fox to show itself at any moment on the ryefield opposite.
The huntsman standing in the hollow moved and loosed his borzois, and Nicholas saw a queer, short-legged red fox with a fine brush going hard across the field. The borzois bore down on it…. Now they drew close to the fox which began to dodge between the field in sharper and sharper curves, trailing its brush, when suddenly a strange white borzoi dashed in followed by a black one, and everything was in confusion; the borzois formed a star-shaped figure, scarcely swaying their bodies and with tails turned away from the center of the group. Two huntsmen galloped up to the dogs; one in a red cap, the other, a stranger, in a green coat.
“What’s this?” thought Nicholas. “Where’s that huntsman from? He is not ‘Uncle’s’ man.”
The huntsmen got the fox, but stayed there a long time without strapping it to the saddle. Their horses, bridled and with high saddles, stood near them and there too the dogs were lying. The huntsmen waved their arms and did something to the fox. Then from that spot came the sound of a horn, with the signal agreed on in case of a fight.
“That’s Ilagin’s huntsman having a row with our Ivan,” said Nicholas’ groom.
Nicholas sent the man to call Natasha and Petya to him, and rode at a footpace to the place where the whips were getting the hounds together. Several of the field galloped to the spot where the fight was going on.
Nicholas dismounted, and with Natasha and Petya, who had ridden up, stopped near the hounds, waiting to see how the matter would end. Out of the bushes came the huntsman who had been fighting and rode toward his young master, with the fox tied to his crupper. While still at a distance he took off his cap and tried to speak respectfully, but he was pale and breathless and his face was angry. One of his eyes was black, but he probably was not even aware of it.
“What has happened?” asked Nicholas.
“A likely thing, killing a fox our dogs had hunted! And it was my gray bitch that caught it! Go to law, indeed!… He snatches at the fox! I gave him one with the fox. Here it is on my saddle! Do you want a taste of this?…” said the huntsman, pointing to his dagger and probably imagining himself still speaking to his foe.
Nicholas, not stopping to talk to the man, asked his sister and Petya to wait for him and rode to the spot where the enemy’s, Ilagin’s, hunting party was.
The victorious huntsman rode off to join the field, and there, surrounded by inquiring sympathizers, recounted his exploits.
The facts were that Ilagin, with whom the Rostovs had a quarrel and were at law, hunted over places that belonged by custom to the Rostovs, and had now, as if purposely, sent his men to the very woods the Rostovs were hunting and let his man snatch a fox their dogs had chased.
Nicholas, though he had never seen Ilagin, with his usual absence of moderation in judgment, hated him cordially from reports of his arbitrariness and violence, and regarded him as his bitterest foe. He rode in angry agitation toward him, firmly grasping his whip and fully prepared to take the most resolute and desperate steps to punish his enemy.
Hardly had he passed an angle of the wood before a stout gentleman in a beaver cap came riding toward him on a handsome raven-black horse, accompanied by two hunt servants.
Instead of an enemy, Nicholas found in Ilagin a stately and courteous gentleman who was particularly anxious to make the young count’s acquaintance. Having ridden up to Nicholas, Ilagin raised his beaver cap and said he much regretted what had occurred and would have the man punished who had allowed himself to seize a fox hunted by someone else’s borzois. He hoped to become better acquainted with the count and invited him to draw his covert.
Natasha, afraid that her brother would do something dreadful, had followed him in some excitement. Seeing the enemies exchanging friendly greetings, she rode up to them. Ilagin lifted his beaver cap still higher to Natasha and said, with a pleasant smile, that the young countess resembled Diana in her passion for the chase as well as in her beauty, of which he had heard much.
To expiate his huntsman’s offense, Ilagin pressed the Rostovs to come to an upland of his about a mile away which he usually kept for himself and which, he said, swarmed with hares. Nicholas agreed, and the hunt, now doubled, moved on.
The way to Iligin’s upland was across the fields. The hunt servants fell into line. The masters rode together. “Uncle,” Rostov, and Ilagin kept stealthily glancing at one another’s dogs, trying not to be observed by their companions and searching uneasily for rivals to their own borzois.
Rostov was particularly struck by the beauty of a small, pure-bred, red-spotted bitch on Ilagin’s leash, slender but with muscles like steel, a delicate muzzle, and prominent black eyes. He had heard of the swiftness of Ilagin’s borzois, and in that beautiful bitch saw a rival to his own Milka.
In the middle of a sober conversation begun by Ilagin about the year’s harvest, Nicholas pointed to the red-spotted bitch.
“A fine little bitch, that!” said he in a careless tone. “Is she swift?”
“That one? Yes, she’s a good dog, gets what she’s after,” answered Ilagin indifferently, of the red-spotted bitch Erza, for which, a year before, he had given a neighbor three families of house serfs. “So in your parts, too, the harvest is nothing to boast of, Count?” he went on, continuing the conversation they had begun. And considering it polite to return the young count’s compliment, Ilagin looked at his borzois and picked out Milka who attracted his attention by her breadth. “That black-spotted one of yours is fine- well shaped!” said he.
“Yes, she’s fast enough,” replied Nicholas, and thought: “If only a full-grown hare would cross the field now I’d show you what sort of borzoi she is,” and turning to his groom, he said he would give a ruble to anyone who found a hare.
“I don’t understand,” continued Ilagin, “how some sportsmen can be so jealous about game and dogs. For myself, I can tell you, Count, I enjoy riding in company such as this… what could be better?” (he again raised his cap to Natasha) “but as for counting skins and what one takes, I don’t care about that.”
“Of course not!”
“Or being upset because someone else’s borzoi and not mine catches something. All I care about is to enjoy seeing the chase, is it not so, Count? For I consider that…”
“A-tu!” came the long-drawn cry of one of the borzoi whippers-in, who had halted. He stood on a knoll in the stubble, holding his whip aloft, and again repeated his long-drawn cry, “A-tu!” (This call and the uplifted whip meant that he saw a sitting hare.)
“Ah, he has found one, I think,” said Ilagin carelessly. “Yes, we must ride up…. Shall we both course it?” answered Nicholas, seeing in Erza and “Uncle’s” red Rugay two rivals he had never yet had a chance of pitting against his own borzois. “And suppose they outdo my Milka at once!” he thought as he rode with “Uncle” and Ilagin toward the hare.
“A full-grown one?” asked Ilagin as he approached the whip who had sighted the hare- and not without agitation he looked round and whistled to Erza.
“And you, Michael Nikanorovich?” he said, addressing “Uncle.”
The latter was riding with a sullen expression on his face.
“How can I join in? Why, you’ve given a village for each of your borzois! That’s it, come on! Yours are worth thousands. Try yours against one another, you two, and I’ll look on!”
“Rugay, hey, hey!” he shouted. “Rugayushka!” he added, involuntarily by this diminutive expressing his affection and the hopes he placed on this red borzoi. Natasha saw and felt the agitation the two elderly men and her brother were trying to conceal, and was herself excited by it.
The huntsman stood halfway up the knoll holding up his whip and the gentlefolk rode up to him at a footpace; the hounds that were far off on the horizon turned away from the hare, and the whips, but not the gentlefolk, also moved away. All were moving slowly and sedately.
“How is it pointing?” asked Nicholas, riding a hundred paces toward the whip who had sighted the hare.
But before the whip could reply, the hare, scenting the frost coming next morning, was unable to rest and leaped up. The pack on leash rushed downhill in full cry after the hare, and from all sides the borzois that were not on leash darted after the hounds and the hare. All the hunt, who had been moving slowly, shouted, “Stop!” calling in the hounds, while the borzoi whips, with a cry of “A-tu!”galloped across the field setting the borzois on the hare. The tranquil Ilagin, Nicholas, Natasha, and “Uncle” flew, reckless of where and how they went, seeing only the borzois and the hare and fearing only to lose sight even for an instant of the chase. The hare they had started was a strong and swift one. When he jumped up he did not run at once, but pricked his ears listening to the shouting and trampling that resounded from all sides at once. He took a dozen bounds, not very quickly, letting the borzois gain on him, and, finally having chosen his direction and realized his danger, laid back his ears and rushed off headlong. He had been lying in the stubble, but in front of him was the autumn sowing where the ground was soft. The two borzois of the huntsman who had sighted him, having been the nearest, were the first to see and pursue him, but they had not gone far before Ilagin’s red-spotted Erza passed them, got within a length, flew at the hare with terrible swiftness aiming at his scut, and, thinking she had seized him, rolled over like a ball. The hare arched his back and bounded off yet more swiftly. From behind Erza rushed the broad-haunched, black-spotted Milka and began rapidly gaining on the hare.
“Milashka, dear!” rose Nicholas’ triumphant cry. It looked as if Milka would immediately pounce on the hare, but she overtook him and flew past. The hare had squatted. Again the beautiful Erza reached him, but when close to the hare’s scut paused as if measuring the distance, so as not to make a mistake this time but seize his hind leg.
“Erza, darling! Ilagin wailed in a voice unlike his own. Erza did not hearken to his appeal. At the very moment when she would have seized her prey, the hare moved and darted along the balk between the winter rye and the stubble. Again Erza and Milka were abreast, running like a pair of carriage horses, and began to overtake the hare, but it was easier for the hare to run on the balk and the borzois did not overtake him so quickly.
“Rugay, Rugayushka! That’s it, come on!” came a third voice just then, and “Uncle’s” red borzoi, straining and curving its back, caught up with the two foremost borzois, pushed ahead of them regardless of the terrible strain, put on speed close to the hare, knocked it off the balk onto the ryefield, again put on speed still more viciously, sinking to his knees in the muddy field, and all one could see was how, muddying his back, he rolled over with the hare. A ring of borzois surrounded him. A moment later everyone had drawn up round the crowd of dogs. Only the delighted “Uncle” dismounted, and cut off a pad, shaking the hare for the blood to drip off, and anxiously glancing round with restless eyes while his arms and legs twitched. He spoke without himself knowing whom to or what about. “That’s it, come on! That’s a dog!… There, it has beaten them all, the thousand-ruble as well as the one-ruble borzois. That’s it, come on!” said he, panting and looking wrathfully around as if he were abusing someone, as if they were all his enemies and had insulted him, and only now had he at last succeeded in justifying himself. “There are your thousand-ruble ones…. That’s it, come on!…”
“Rugay, here’s a pad for you!” he said, throwing down the hare’s muddy pad. “You’ve deserved it, that’s it, come on!”
“She’d tired herself out, she’d run it down three times by herself,” said Nicholas, also not listening to anyone and regardless of whether he were heard or not.
“But what is there in running across it like that?” said Ilagin’s groom.
“Once she had missed it and turned it away, any mongrel could take it,” Ilagin was saying at the same time, breathless from his gallop and his excitement. At the same moment Natasha, without drawing breath, screamed joyously, ecstatically, and so piercingly that it set everyone’s ear tingling. By that shriek she expressed what the others expressed by all talking at once, and it was so strange that she must herself have been ashamed of so wild a cry and everyone else would have been amazed at it at any other time. “Uncle” himself twisted up the hare, threw it neatly and smartly across his horse’s back as if by that gesture he meant to rebuke everybody, and, with an air of not wishing to speak to anyone, mounted his bay and rode off. The others all followed, dispirited and shamefaced, and only much later were they able to regain their former affectation of indifference. For a long time they continued to look at red Rugay who, his arched back spattered with mud and clanking the ring of his leash, walked along just behind “Uncle’s” horse with the serene air of a conqueror.
“Well, I am like any other dog as long as it’s not a question of coursing. But when it is, then look out!” his appearance seem to Nicholas to be saying.
When, much later, “Uncle” rode up to Nicholas and began talking to him, he felt flattered that, after what had happened, “Uncle” deigned to speak to him.