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