Returning from his journey through South Russia in the happiest state of mind, Pierre carried out an intention he had long had of visiting his frien_olkonski, whom he had not seen for two years.
Bogucharovo lay in a flat uninteresting part of the country among fields an_orests of fir and birch, which were partly cut down. The house lay behind _ewly dug pond filled with water to the brink and with banks still bare o_rass. It was at the end of a village that stretched along the highroad in th_idst of a young copse in which were a few fir trees.
The homestead consisted of a threshing floor, outhouses, stables, a bathhouse, a lodge, and a large brick house with semicircular facade still in course o_onstruction. Round the house was a garden newly laid out. The fences an_ates were new and solid; two fire pumps and a water cart, painted green, stood in a shed; the paths were straight, the bridges were strong and ha_andrails. Everything bore an impress of tidiness and good management. Som_omestic serfs Pierre met, in reply to inquiries as to where the prince lived, pointed out a small newly built lodge close to the pond. Anton, a man who ha_ooked after Prince Andrew in his boyhood, helped Pierre out of his carriage, said that the prince was at home, and showed him into a clean little anteroom.
Pierre was struck by the modesty of the small though clean house after th_rilliant surroundings in which he had last met his friend in Petersburg.
He quickly entered the small reception room with its still-unplastered woode_alls redolent of pine, and would have gone farther, but Anton ran ahead o_iptoe and knocked at a door.
"Well, what is it?" came a sharp, unpleasant voice.
"A visitor," answered Anton.
"Ask him to wait," and the sound was heard of a chair being pushed back.
Pierre went with rapid steps to the door and suddenly came face to face wit_rince Andrew, who came out frowning and looking old. Pierre embraced him an_ifting his spectacles kissed his friend on the cheek and looked at hi_losely.
"Well, I did not expect you, I am very glad," said Prince Andrew.
Pierre said nothing; he looked fixedly at his friend with surprise. He wa_truck by the change in him. His words were kindly and there was a smile o_is lips and face, but his eyes were dull and lifeless and in spite of hi_vident wish to do so he could not give them a joyous and glad sparkle. Princ_ndrew had grown thinner, paler, and more manly-looking, but what amazed an_stranged Pierre till he got used to it were his inertia and a wrinkle on hi_row indicating prolonged concentration on some one thought.
As is usually the case with people meeting after a prolonged separation, i_as long before their conversation could settle on anything. They pu_uestions and gave brief replies about things they knew ought to be talke_ver at length. At last the conversation gradually settled on some of th_opics at first lightly touched on: their past life, plans for the future, Pierre's journeys and occupations, the war, and so on. The preoccupation an_espondency which Pierre had noticed in his friend's look was now still mor_learly expressed in the smile with which he listened to Pierre, especiall_hen he spoke with joyful animation of the past or the future. It was as i_rince Andrew would have liked to sympathize with what Pierre was saying, bu_ould not. The latter began to feel that it was in bad taste to speak of hi_nthusiasms, dreams, and hopes of happiness or goodness, in Prince Andrew'_resence. He was ashamed to express his new Masonic views, which had bee_articularly revived and strengthened by his late tour. He checked himself, fearing to seem naive, yet he felt an irresistible desire to show his frien_s soon as possible that he was now a quite different, and better, Pierre tha_e had been in Petersburg.
"I can't tell you how much I have lived through since then. I hardly kno_yself again."
"Yes, we have altered much, very much, since then," said Prince Andrew.
"Well, and you? What are your plans?"
"Plans!" repeated Prince Andrew ironically. "My plans?" he said, as i_stonished at the word. "Well, you see, I'm building. I mean to settle her_ltogether next year… ."
Pierre looked silently and searchingly into Prince Andrew's face, which ha_rown much older.
"No, I meant to ask… " Pierre began, but Prince Andrew interrupted him.
"But why talk of me?… Talk to me, yes, tell me about your travels and all yo_ave been doing on your estates."
Pierre began describing what he had done on his estates, trying as far a_ossible to conceal his own part in the improvements that had been made.
Prince Andrew several times prompted Pierre's story of what he had been doing, as though it were all an old-time story, and he listened not only withou_nterest but even as if ashamed of what Pierre was telling him.
Pierre felt uncomfortable and even depressed in his friend's company and a_ast became silent.
"I'll tell you what, my dear fellow," said Prince Andrew, who evidently als_elt depressed and constrained with his visitor, "I am only bivouacking her_nd have just come to look round. I am going back to my sister today. I wil_ntroduce you to her. But of course you know her already," he said, evidentl_rying to entertain a visitor with whom he now found nothing in common. "W_ill go after dinner. And would you now like to look round my place?"
They went out and walked about till dinnertime, talking of the political new_nd common acquaintances like people who do not know each other intimately.
Prince Andrew spoke with some animation and interest only of the new homestea_e was constructing and its buildings, but even here, while on th_caffolding, in the midst of a talk explaining the future arrangements of th_ouse, he interrupted himself:
"However, this is not at all interesting. Let us have dinner, and then we'l_et off."
At dinner, conversation turned on Pierre's marriage.
"I was very much surprised when I heard of it," said Prince Andrew.
Pierre blushed, as he always did when it was mentioned, and said hurriedly: "_ill tell you some time how it all happened. But you know it is all over, an_orever."
"Forever?" said Prince Andrew. "Nothing's forever."
"But you know how it all ended, don't you? You heard of the duel?"
"And so you had to go through that too!"
"One thing I thank God for is that I did not kill that man," said Pierre.
"Why so?" asked Prince Andrew. "To kill a vicious dog is a very good thin_eally."
"No, to kill a man is bad—wrong."
"Why is it wrong?" urged Prince Andrew. "It is not given to man to know wha_s right and what is wrong. Men always did and always will err, and in nothin_ore than in what they consider right and wrong."
"What does harm to another is wrong," said Pierre, feeling with pleasure tha_or the first time since his arrival Prince Andrew was roused, had begun t_alk, and wanted to express what had brought him to his present state.
"And who has told you what is bad for another man?" he asked.
"Bad! Bad!" exclaimed Pierre. "We all know what is bad for ourselves."
"Yes, we know that, but the harm I am conscious of in myself is something _annot inflict on others," said Prince Andrew, growing more and more animate_nd evidently wishing to express his new outlook to Pierre. He spoke i_rench. "I only know two very real evils in life: remorse and illness. Th_nly good is the absence of those evils. To live for myself avoiding those tw_vils is my whole philosophy now."
"And love of one's neighbor, and self-sacrifice?" began Pierre. "No, I can'_gree with you! To live only so as not to do evil and not to have to repent i_ot enough. I lived like that, I lived for myself and ruined my life. And onl_ow when I am living, or at least trying" (Pierre's modesty made him correc_imself) "to live for others, only now have I understood all the happiness o_ife. No, I shall not agree with you, and you do not really believe what yo_re saying." Prince Andrew looked silently at Pierre with an ironic smile.
"When you see my sister, Princess Mary, you'll get on with her," he said.
"Perhaps you are right for yourself," he added after a short pause, "bu_veryone lives in his own way. You lived for yourself and say you nearl_uined your life and only found happiness when you began living for others. _xperienced just the reverse. I lived for glory.—And after all what is glory?
The same love of others, a desire to do something for them, a desire for thei_pproval.—So I lived for others, and not almost, but quite, ruined my life.
And I have become calmer since I began to live only for myself."
"But what do you mean by living only for yourself?" asked Pierre, growin_xcited. "What about your son, your sister, and your father?"
"But that's just the same as myself—they are not others," explained Princ_ndrew. "The others, one's neighbors, le prochain, as you and Princess Mar_all it, are the chief source of all error and evil. Le prochain—your Kie_easants to whom you want to do good."
And he looked at Pierre with a mocking, challenging expression. He evidentl_ished to draw him on.
"You are joking," replied Pierre, growing more and more excited. "What erro_r evil can there be in my wishing to do good, and even doing a little—thoug_ did very little and did it very badly? What evil can there be in it i_nfortunate people, our serfs, people like ourselves, were growing up an_ying with no idea of God and truth beyond ceremonies and meaningless prayer_nd are now instructed in a comforting belief in future life, retribution, recompense, and consolation? What evil and error are there in it, if peopl_ere dying of disease without help while material assistance could so easil_e rendered, and I supplied them with a doctor, a hospital, and an asylum fo_he aged? And is it not a palpable, unquestionable good if a peasant, or _oman with a baby, has no rest day or night and I give them rest and leisure?"
said Pierre, hurrying and lisping. "And I have done that though badly and to _mall extent; but I have done something toward it and you cannot persuade m_hat it was not a good action, and more than that, you can't make me believ_hat you do not think so yourself. And the main thing is," he continued, "tha_ know, and know for certain, that the enjoyment of doing this good is th_nly sure happiness in life."
"Yes, if you put it like that it's quite a different matter," said Princ_ndrew. "I build a house and lay out a garden, and you build hospitals. Th_ne and the other may serve as a pastime. But what's right and what's goo_ust be judged by one who knows all, but not by us. Well, you want a_rgument," he added, "come on then."
They rose from the table and sat down in the entrance porch which served as _eranda.
"Come, let's argue then," said Prince Andrew, "You talk of schools," he wen_n, crooking a finger, "education and so forth; that is, you want to rais_im" (pointing to a peasant who passed by them taking off his cap) "from hi_nimal condition and awaken in him spiritual needs, while it seems to me tha_nimal happiness is the only happiness possible, and that is just what yo_ant to deprive him of. I envy him, but you want to make him what I am, without giving him my means. Then you say, 'lighten his toil.' But as I se_t, physical labor is as essential to him, as much a condition of hi_xistence, as mental activity is to you or me. You can't help thinking. I g_o bed after two in the morning, thoughts come and I can't sleep but tos_bout till dawn, because I think and can't help thinking, just as he can'_elp plowing and mowing; if he didn't, he would go to the drink shop or fal_ll. Just as I could not stand his terrible physical labor but should die o_t in a week, so he could not stand my physical idleness, but would grow fa_nd die. The third thing—what else was it you talked about?" and Prince Andre_rooked a third finger. "Ah, yes, hospitals, medicine. He has a fit, he i_ying, and you come and bleed him and patch him up. He will drag about as _ripple, a burden to everybody, for another ten years. It would be far easie_nd simpler for him to die. Others are being born and there are plenty of the_s it is. It would be different if you grudged losing a laborer—that's how _egard him—but you want to cure him from love of him. And he does not wan_hat. And besides, what a notion that medicine ever cured anyone! Killed them, yes!" said he, frowning angrily and turning away from Pierre.
Prince Andrew expressed his ideas so clearly and distinctly that it wa_vident he had reflected on this subject more than once, and he spoke readil_nd rapidly like a man who has not talked for a long time. His glance becam_ore animated as his conclusions became more hopeless.
"Oh, that is dreadful, dreadful!" said Pierre. "I don't understand how one ca_ive with such ideas. I had such moments myself not long ago, in Moscow an_hen traveling, but at such times I collapsed so that I don't live a_ll—everything seems hateful to me… myself most of all. Then I don't eat, don't wash… and how is it with you?… "
"Why not wash? That is not cleanly," said Prince Andrew; "on the contrary on_ust try to make one's life as pleasant as possible. I'm alive, that is not m_ault, so I must live out my life as best I can without hurting others."
"But with such ideas what motive have you for living? One would sit withou_oving, undertaking nothing… ."
"Life as it is leaves one no peace. I should be thankful to do nothing, bu_ere on the one hand the local nobility have done me the honor to choose me t_e their marshal; it was all I could do to get out of it. They could no_nderstand that I have not the necessary qualifications for it—the kind o_ood-natured, fussy shallowness necessary for the position. Then there's thi_ouse, which must be built in order to have a nook of one's own in which to b_uiet. And now there's this recruiting."
"Why aren't you serving in the army?"
"After Austerlitz!" said Prince Andrew gloomily. "No, thank you very much! _ave promised myself not to serve again in the active Russian army. And _on't—not even if Bonaparte were here at Smolensk threatening Bald Hills—eve_hen I wouldn't serve in the Russian army! Well, as I was saying," h_ontinued, recovering his composure, "now there's this recruiting. My fathe_s chief in command of the Third District, and my only way of avoiding activ_ervice is to serve under him."
"Then you are serving?"
He paused a little while.
"And why do you serve?"
"Why, for this reason! My father is one of the most remarkable men of hi_ime. But he is growing old, and though not exactly cruel he has too energeti_ character. He is so accustomed to unlimited power that he is terrible, an_ow he has this authority of a commander in chief of the recruiting, grante_y the Emperor. If I had been two hours late a fortnight ago he would have ha_ paymaster's clerk at Yukhnovna hanged," said Prince Andrew with a smile. "S_ am serving because I alone have any influence with my father, and now an_hen can save him from actions which would torment him afterwards."
"Well, there you see!"
"Yes, but it is not as you imagine," Prince Andrew continued. "I did not, an_o not, in the least care about that scoundrel of a clerk who had stolen som_oots from the recruits; I should even have been very glad to see him hanged, but I was sorry for my father—that again is for myself."
Prince Andrew grew more and more animated. His eyes glittered feverishly whil_e tried to prove to Pierre that in his actions there was no desire to do goo_o his neighbor.
"There now, you wish to liberate your serfs," he continued; "that is a ver_ood thing, but not for you—I don't suppose you ever had anyone flogged o_ent to Siberia—and still less for your serfs. If they are beaten, flogged, o_ent to Siberia, I don't suppose they are any the worse off. In Siberia the_ead the same animal life, and the stripes on their bodies heal, and they ar_appy as before. But it is a good thing for proprietors who perish morally, bring remorse upon themselves, stifle this remorse and grow callous, as _esult of being able to inflict punishments justly and unjustly. It is thos_eople I pity, and for their sake I should like to liberate the serfs. You ma_ot have seen, but I have seen, how good men brought up in those traditions o_nlimited power, in time when they grow more irritable, become cruel an_arsh, are conscious of it, but cannot restrain themselves and grow more an_ore miserable."
Prince Andrew spoke so earnestly that Pierre could not help thinking tha_hese thoughts had been suggested to Prince Andrew by his father's case.
He did not reply.
"So that's what I'm sorry for—human dignity, peace of mind, purity, and no_he serfs' backs and foreheads, which, beat and shave as you may, alway_emain the same backs and foreheads."
"No, no! A thousand times no! I shall never agree with you," said Pierre.