Prince Vasili was not a man who deliberately thought out his plans. Still les_id he think of injuring anyone for his own advantage. He was merely a man o_he world who had got on and to whom getting on had become a habit. Scheme_nd devices for which he never rightly accounted to himself, but which forme_he whole interest of his life, were constantly shaping themselves in hi_ind, arising from the circumstances and persons he met. Of these plans he ha_ot merely one or two in his head but dozens, some only beginning to for_hemselves, some approaching achievement, and some in course o_isintegration. He did not, for instance, say to himself: "This man now ha_nfluence, I must gain his confidence and friendship and through him obtain _pecial grant." Nor did he say to himself: "Pierre is a rich man, I mus_ntice him to marry my daughter and lend me the forty thousand rubles I need."
But when he came across a man of position his instinct immediately told hi_hat this man could be useful, and without any premeditation Prince Vasil_ook the first opportunity to gain his confidence, flatter him, becom_ntimate with him, and finally make his request.
He had Pierre at hand in Moscow and procured for him an appointment a_entleman of the Bedchamber, which at that time conferred the status o_ouncilor of State, and insisted on the young man accompanying him t_etersburg and staying at his house. With apparent absent-mindedness, yet wit_nhesitating assurance that he was doing the right thing, Prince Vasili di_verything to get Pierre to marry his daughter. Had he thought out his plan_eforehand he could not have been so natural and shown such unaffecte_amiliarity in intercourse with everybody both above and below him in socia_tanding. Something always drew him toward those richer and more powerful tha_imself and he had rare skill in seizing the most opportune moment for makin_se of people.
Pierre, on unexpectedly becoming Count Bezukhov and a rich man, felt himsel_fter his recent loneliness and freedom from cares so beset and preoccupie_hat only in bed was he able to be by himself. He had to sign papers, t_resent himself at government offices, the purpose of which was not clear t_im, to question his chief steward, to visit his estate near Moscow, and t_eceive many people who formerly did not even wish to know of his existenc_ut would now have been offended and grieved had he chosen not to see them.
These different people—businessmen, relations, and acquaintances alike—wer_ll disposed to treat the young heir in the most friendly and flatterin_anner: they were all evidently firmly convinced of Pierre's noble qualities.
He was always hearing such words as: "With your remarkable kindness," or,
"With your excellent heart," "You are yourself so honorable Count," or, "Wer_e as clever as you," and so on, till he began sincerely to believe in his ow_xceptional kindness and extraordinary intelligence, the more so as in th_epth of his heart it had always seemed to him that he really was very kin_nd intelligent. Even people who had formerly been spiteful toward him an_vidently unfriendly now became gentle and affectionate. The angry eldes_rincess, with the long waist and hair plastered down like a doll's, had com_nto Pierre's room after the funeral. With drooping eyes and frequent blushe_he told him she was very sorry about their past misunderstandings and did no_ow feel she had a right to ask him for anything, except only for permission,
after the blow she had received, to remain for a few weeks longer in the hous_he so loved and where she had sacrificed so much. She could not refrain fro_eeping at these words. Touched that this statuesque princess could so change,
Pierre took her hand and begged her forgiveness, without knowing what for.
From that day the eldest princess quite changed toward Pierre and bega_nitting a striped scarf for him.
"Do this for my sake, mon cher; after all, she had to put up with a great dea_rom the deceased," said Prince Vasili to him, handing him a deed to sign fo_he princess' benefit.
Prince Vasili had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to throw thi_one—a bill for thirty thousand rubles—to the poor princess that it might no_ccur to her to speak of his share in the affair of the inlaid portfolio.
Pierre signed the deed and after that the princess grew still kinder. Th_ounger sisters also became affectionate to him, especially the youngest, th_retty one with the mole, who often made him feel confused by her smiles an_er own confusion when meeting him.
It seemed so natural to Pierre that everyone should like him, and it woul_ave seemed so unnatural had anyone disliked him, that he could not bu_elieve in the sincerity of those around him. Besides, he had no time to as_imself whether these people were sincere or not. He was always busy an_lways felt in a state of mild and cheerful intoxication. He felt as though h_ere the center of some important and general movement; that something wa_onstantly expected of him, that if he did not do it he would grieve an_isappoint many people, but if he did this and that, all would be well; and h_id what was demanded of him, but still that happy result always remained i_he future.
More than anyone else, Prince Vasili took possession of Pierre's affairs an_f Pierre himself in those early days. From the death of Count Bezukhov he di_ot let go his hold of the lad. He had the air of a man oppressed by business,
weary and suffering, who yet would not, for pity's sake, leave this helples_outh who, after all, was the son of his old friend and the possessor of suc_normous wealth, to the caprice of fate and the designs of rogues. During th_ew days he spent in Moscow after the death of Count Bezukhov, he would cal_ierre, or go to him himself, and tell him what ought to be done in a tone o_eariness and assurance, as if he were adding every time: "You know I a_verwhelmed with business and it is purely out of charity that I troubl_yself about you, and you also know quite well that what I propose is the onl_hing possible."
"Well, my dear fellow, tomorrow we are off at last," said Prince Vasili on_ay, closing his eyes and fingering Pierre's elbow, speaking as if he wer_aying something which had long since been agreed upon and could not now b_ltered. "We start tomorrow and I'm giving you a place in my carriage. I a_ery glad. All our important business here is now settled, and I ought to hav_een off long ago. Here is something I have received from the chancellor. _sked him for you, and you have been entered in the diplomatic corps and mad_ Gentleman of the Bedchamber. The diplomatic career now lies open befor_ou."
Notwithstanding the tone of wearied assurance with which these words wer_ronounced, Pierre, who had so long been considering his career, wished t_ake some suggestion. But Prince Vasili interrupted him in the special dee_ooing tone, precluding the possibility of interrupting his speech, which h_sed in extreme cases when special persuasion was needed.
"Mais, mon cher, I did this for my own sake, to satisfy my conscience, an_here is nothing to thank me for. No one has ever complained yet of being to_uch loved; and besides, you are free, you could throw it up tomorrow. But yo_ill see everything for yourself when you get to Petersburg. It is high tim_or you to get away from these terrible recollections." Prince Vasili sighed.
"Yes, yes, my boy. And my valet can go in your carriage. Ah! I was nearl_orgetting," he added. "You know, mon cher, your father and I had som_ccounts to settle, so I have received what was due from the Ryazan estate an_ill keep it; you won't require it. We'll go into the accounts later."
By "what was due from the Ryazan estate" Prince Vasili meant several thousan_ubles quitrent received from Pierre's peasants, which the prince had retaine_or himself.
In Petersburg, as in Moscow, Pierre found the same atmosphere of gentlenes_nd affection. He could not refuse the post, or rather the rank (for he di_othing), that Prince Vasili had procured for him, and acquaintances,
invitations, and social occupations were so numerous that, even more than i_oscow, he felt a sense of bewilderment, bustle, and continual expectation o_ome good, always in front of him but never attained.
Of his former bachelor acquaintances many were no longer in Petersburg. Th_uards had gone to the front; Dolokhov had been reduced to the ranks; Anatol_as in the army somewhere in the provinces; Prince Andrew was abroad; s_ierre had not the opportunity to spend his nights as he used to like to spen_hem, or to open his mind by intimate talks with a friend older than himsel_nd whom he respected. His whole time was taken up with dinners and balls an_as spent chiefly at Prince Vasili's house in the company of the stou_rincess, his wife, and his beautiful daughter Helene.
Like the others, Anna Pavlovna Scherer showed Pierre the change of attitud_oward him that had taken place in society.
Formerly in Anna Pavlovna's presence, Pierre had always felt that what he wa_aying was out of place, tactless and unsuitable, that remarks which seemed t_im clever while they formed in his mind became foolish as soon as he uttere_hem, while on the contrary Hippolyte's stupidest remarks came out clever an_pt. Now everything Pierre said was charmant. Even if Anna Pavlovna did no_ay so, he could see that she wished to and only refrained out of regard fo_is modesty.
In the beginning of the winter of 1805-6 Pierre received one of Ann_avlovna's usual pink notes with an invitation to which was added: "You wil_ind the beautiful Helene here, whom it is always delightful to see."
When he read that sentence, Pierre felt for the first time that some lin_hich other people recognized had grown up between himself and Helene, an_hat thought both alarmed him, as if some obligation were being imposed on hi_hich he could not fulfill, and pleased him as an entertaining supposition.
Anna Pavlovna's "At Home" was like the former one, only the novelty sh_ffered her guests this time was not Mortemart, but a diplomatist fresh fro_erlin with the very latest details of the Emperor Alexander's visit t_otsdam, and of how the two august friends had pledged themselves in a_ndissoluble alliance to uphold the cause of justice against the enemy of th_uman race. Anna Pavlovna received Pierre with a shade of melancholy,
evidently relating to the young man's recent loss by the death of Coun_ezukhov (everyone constantly considered it a duty to assure Pierre that h_as greatly afflicted by the death of the father he had hardly known), and he_elancholy was just like the august melancholy she showed at the mention o_er most august Majesty the Empress Marya Fedorovna. Pierre felt flattered b_his. Anna Pavlovna arranged the different groups in her drawing room with he_abitual skill. The large group, in which were Prince Vasili and the generals,
had the benefit of the diplomat. Another group was at the tea table. Pierr_ished to join the former, but Anna Pavlovna—who was in the excited conditio_f a commander on a battlefield to whom thousands of new and brilliant idea_ccur which there is hardly time to put in action—seeing Pierre, touched hi_leeve with her finger, saying:
"Wait a bit, I have something in view for you this evening." (She glanced a_elene and smiled at her.) "My dear Helene, be charitable to my poor aunt wh_dores you. Go and keep her company for ten minutes. And that it will not b_oo dull, here is the dear count who will not refuse to accompany you."
The beauty went to the aunt, but Anna Pavlovna detained Pierre, looking as i_he had to give some final necessary instructions.
"Isn't she exquisite?" she said to Pierre, pointing to the stately beauty a_he glided away. "And how she carries herself! For so young a girl, such tact,
such masterly perfection of manner! It comes from her heart. Happy the man wh_ins her! With her the least worldly of men would occupy a most brillian_osition in society. Don't you think so? I only wanted to know your opinion,"
and Anna Pavlovna let Pierre go.
Pierre, in reply, sincerely agreed with her as to Helene's perfection o_anner. If he ever thought of Helene, it was just of her beauty and he_emarkable skill in appearing silently dignified in society.
The old aunt received the two young people in her corner, but seemed desirou_f hiding her adoration for Helene and inclined rather to show her fear o_nna Pavlovna. She looked at her niece, as if inquiring what she was to d_ith these people. On leaving them, Anna Pavlovna again touched Pierre'_leeve, saying: "I hope you won't say that it is dull in my house again," an_he glanced at Helene.
Helene smiled, with a look implying that she did not admit the possibility o_nyone seeing her without being enchanted. The aunt coughed, swallowed, an_aid in French that she was very pleased to see Helene, then she turned t_ierre with the same words of welcome and the same look. In the middle of _ull and halting conversation, Helene turned to Pierre with the beautifu_right smile that she gave to everyone. Pierre was so used to that smile, an_t had so little meaning for him, that he paid no attention to it. The aun_as just speaking of a collection of snuffboxes that had belonged to Pierre'_ather, Count Bezukhov, and showed them her own box. Princess Helene asked t_ee the portrait of the aunt's husband on the box lid.
"That is probably the work of Vinesse," said Pierre, mentioning a celebrate_iniaturist, and he leaned over the table to take the snuffbox while trying t_ear what was being said at the other table.
He half rose, meaning to go round, but the aunt handed him the snuffbox,
passing it across Helene's back. Helene stooped forward to make room, an_ooked round with a smile. She was, as always at evening parties, wearing _ress such as was then fashionable, cut very low at front and back. Her bust,
which had always seemed like marble to Pierre, was so close to him that hi_hortsighted eyes could not but perceive the living charm of her neck an_houlders, so near to his lips that he need only have bent his head a littl_o have touched them. He was conscious of the warmth of her body, the scent o_erfume, and the creaking of her corset as she moved. He did not see he_arble beauty forming a complete whole with her dress, but all the charm o_er body only covered by her garments. And having once seen this he could no_elp being aware it, just as we cannot renew an illusion we have once see_hrough.
"So you have never noticed before how beautiful I am?" Helene seemed to say.
"You had not noticed that I am a woman? Yes, I am a woman who may belong t_nyone—to you too," said her glance. And at that moment Pierre felt tha_elene not only could, but must, be his wife, and that it could not b_therwise.
He knew this at that moment as surely as if he had been standing at the alta_ith her. How and when this would be he did not know, he did not even know i_t would be a good thing (he even felt, he knew not why, that it would be _ad thing), but he knew it would happen.
Pierre dropped his eyes, lifted them again, and wished once more to see her a_ distant beauty far removed from him, as he had seen her every day unti_hen, but he could no longer do it. He could not, any more than a man who ha_een looking at a tuft of steppe grass through the mist and taking it for _ree can again take it for a tree after he has once recognized it to be a tuf_f grass. She was terribly close to him. She already had power over him, an_etween them there was no longer any barrier except the barrier of his ow_ill.
"Well, I will leave you in your little corner," came Anna Pavlovna's voice, "_ee you are all right there."
And Pierre, anxiously trying to remember whether he had done anythin_eprehensible, looked round with a blush. It seemed to him that everyone kne_hat had happened to him as he knew it himself.
A little later when he went up to the large circle, Anna Pavlovna said to him:
"I hear you are refitting your Petersburg house?"
This was true. The architect had told him that it was necessary, and Pierre,
without knowing why, was having his enormous Petersburg house done up.
"That's a good thing, but don't move from Prince Vasili's. It is good to hav_ friend like the prince," she said, smiling at Prince Vasili. "I kno_omething about that. Don't I? And you are still so young. You need advice.
Don't be angry with me for exercising an old woman's privilege."
She paused, as women always do, expecting something after they have mentione_heir age. "If you marry it will be a different thing," she continued, unitin_hem both in one glance. Pierre did not look at Helene nor she at him. But sh_as just as terribly close to him. He muttered something and colored.
When he got home he could not sleep for a long time for thinking of what ha_appened. What had happened? Nothing. He had merely understood that the woma_e had known as a child, of whom when her beauty was mentioned he had sai_bsent-mindedly: "Yes, she's good looking," he had understood that this woma_ight belong to him.
"But she's stupid. I have myself said she is stupid," he thought. "There i_omething nasty, something wrong, in the feeling she excites in me. I hav_een told that her brother Anatole was in love with her and she with him, tha_here was quite a scandal and that that's why he was sent away. Hippolyte i_er brother… Prince Vasili is her father… It's bad… ." he reflected, but whil_e was thinking this (the reflection was still incomplete), he caught himsel_miling and was conscious that another line of thought had sprung up, an_hile thinking of her worthlessness he was also dreaming of how she would b_is wife, how she would love him become quite different, and how all he ha_hought and heard of her might be false. And he again saw her not as th_aughter of Prince Vasili, but visualized her whole body only veiled by it_ray dress. "But no! Why did this thought never occur to me before?" and agai_e told himself that it was impossible, that there would be somethin_nnatural, and as it seemed to him dishonorable, in this marriage. He recalle_er former words and looks and the words and looks of those who had seen the_ogether. He recalled Anna Pavlovna's words and looks when she spoke to hi_bout his house, recalled thousands of such hints from Prince Vasili an_thers, and was seized by terror lest he had already, in some way, boun_imself to do something that was evidently wrong and that he ought not to do.
But at the very time he was expressing this conviction to himself, in anothe_art of his mind her image rose in all its womanly beauty.