The Rostovs' monetary affairs had not improved during the two years they ha_pent in the country.
Though Nicholas Rostov had kept firmly to his resolution and was still servin_odestly in an obscure regiment, spending comparatively little, the way o_ife at Otradnoe—Mitenka's management of affairs, in particular—was such tha_he debts inevitably increased every year. The only resource obviousl_resenting itself to the old count was to apply for an official post, so h_ad come to Petersburg to look for one and also, as he said, to let th_assies enjoy themselves for the last time.
Soon after their arrival in Petersburg Berg proposed to Vera and was accepted.
Though in Moscow the Rostovs belonged to the best society without themselve_iving it a thought, yet in Petersburg their circle of acquaintances was _ixed and indefinite one. In Petersburg they were provincials, and the ver_eople they had entertained in Moscow without inquiring to what set the_elonged, here looked down on them.
The Rostovs lived in the same hospitable way in Petersburg as in Moscow, an_he most diverse people met at their suppers. Country neighbors from Otradnoe,
impoverished old squires and their daughters, Peronskaya a maid of honor,
Pierre Bezukhov, and the son of their district postmaster who had obtained _ost in Petersburg. Among the men who very soon became frequent visitors a_he Rostovs' house in Petersburg were Boris, Pierre whom the count had met i_he street and dragged home with him, and Berg who spent whole days at th_ostovs' and paid the eldest daughter, Countess Vera, the attentions a youn_an pays when he intends to propose.
Not in vain had Berg shown everybody his right hand wounded at Austerlitz an_eld a perfectly unnecessary sword in his left. He narrated that episode s_ersistently and with so important an air that everyone believed in the meri_nd usefulness of his deed, and he had obtained two decorations fo_usterlitz.
In the Finnish war he also managed to distinguish himself. He had picked u_he scrap of a grenade that had killed an aide-de-camp standing near th_ommander in chief and had taken it to his commander. Just as he had don_fter Austerlitz, he related this occurrence at such length and so insistentl_hat everyone again believed it had been necessary to do this, and he receive_wo decorations for the Finnish war also. In 1809 he was a captain in th_uards, wore medals, and held some special lucrative posts in Petersburg.
Though some skeptics smiled when told of Berg's merits, it could not be denie_hat he was a painstaking and brave officer, on excellent terms with hi_uperiors, and a moral young man with a brilliant career before him and a_ssured position in society.
Four years before, meeting a German comrade in the stalls of a Moscow theater,
Berg had pointed out Vera Rostova to him and had said in German, "das sol_ein Weib werden,"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_60) and from that moment ha_ade up his mind to marry her. Now in Petersburg, having considered th_ostovs' position and his own, he decided that the time had come to propose.
Berg's proposal was at first received with a perplexity that was no_lattering to him. At first it seemed strange that the son of an obscur_ivonian gentleman should propose marriage to a Countess Rostova; but Berg'_hief characteristic was such a naive and good natured egotism that th_ostovs involuntarily came to think it would be a good thing, since he himsel_as so firmly convinced that it was good, indeed excellent. Moreover, th_ostovs' affairs were seriously embarrassed, as the suitor could not but know;
and above all, Vera was twenty-four, had been taken out everywhere, and thoug_he was certainly good-looking and sensible, no one up to now had proposed t_er. So they gave their consent. "You see," said Berg to his comrade, whom h_alled "friend" only because he knew that everyone has friends, "you see, _ave considered it all, and should not marry if I had not thought it all ou_r if it were in any way unsuitable. But on the contrary, my papa and mamm_re now provided for—I have arranged that rent for them in the Balti_rovinces—and I can live in Petersburg on my pay, and with her fortune and m_ood management we can get along nicely. I am not marrying for money—_onsider that dishonorable—but a wife should bring her share and a husban_is. I have my position in the service, she has connections and some means. I_ur times that is worth something, isn't it? But above all, she is a handsome,
estimable girl, and she loves me… " Berg blushed and smiled. "And I love her,
because her character is sensible and very good. Now the other sister, thoug_hey are the same family, is quite different—an unpleasant character and ha_ot the same intelligence. She is so… you know?… Unpleasant… But my fiancee!…
Well, you will be coming," he was going to say, "to dine," but changed hi_ind and said "to take tea with us," and quickly doubling up his tongue h_lew a small round ring of tobacco smoke, perfectly embodying his dream o_appiness. After the first feeling of perplexity aroused in the parents b_erg's proposal, the holiday tone of joyousness usual at such times too_ossession of the family, but the rejoicing was external and insincere. In th_amily's feeling toward this wedding a certain awkwardness and constraint wa_vident, as if they were ashamed of not having loved Vera sufficiently and o_eing so ready to get her off their hands. The old count felt this most. H_ould probably have been unable to state the cause of his embarrassment, bu_t resulted from the state of his affairs. He did not know at all how much h_ad, what his debts amounted to, or what dowry he could give Vera. When hi_aughters were born he had assigned to each of them, for her dowry, an estat_ith three hundred serfs; but one of these estates had already been sold, an_he other was mortgaged and the interest so much in arrears that it would hav_o be sold, so that it was impossible to give it to Vera. Nor had he an_oney. Berg had already been engaged a month, and only a week remained befor_he wedding, but the count had not yet decided in his own mind the question o_he dowry, nor spoken to his wife about it. At one time the count thought o_iving her the Ryazan estate or of selling a forest, at another time o_orrowing money on a note of hand. A few days before the wedding Berg entere_he count's study early one morning and, with a pleasant smile, respectfull_sked his future father-in-law to let him know what Vera's dowry would be. Th_ount was so disconcerted by this long-foreseen inquiry that withou_onsideration he gave the first reply that came into his head. "I like you_eing businesslike about it… . I like it. You shall be satisfied… ." An_atting Berg on the shoulder he got up, wishing to end the conversation. Bu_erg, smiling pleasantly, explained that if he did not know for certain ho_uch Vera would have and did not receive at least part of the dowry i_dvance, he would have to break matters off. "Because, consider, Count—if _llowed myself to marry now without having definite means to maintain my wife,
I should be acting badly… ." The conversation ended by the count, who wishe_o be generous and to avoid further importunity, saying that he would give _ote of hand for eighty thousand rubles. Berg smiled meekly, kissed the coun_n the shoulder, and said that he was very grateful, but that it wa_mpossible for him to arrange his new life without receiving thirty thousan_n ready money. "Or at least twenty thousand, Count," he added, "and then _ote of hand for only sixty thousand." "Yes, yes, all right!" said the coun_urriedly. "Only excuse me, my dear fellow, I'll give you twenty thousand an_ note of hand for eighty thousand as well. Yes, yes! Kiss me."