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Chapter 12

  • As in every large household, there were at Bald Hills several perfectl_istinct worlds which merged into one harmonious whole, though each retaine_ts own peculiarities and made concessions to the others. Every event, joyfu_r sad, that took place in that house was important to all these worlds, bu_ach had its own special reasons to rejoice or grieve over that occurrenc_ndependently of the others.
  • For instance, Pierre's return was a joyful and important event and they al_elt it to be so.
  • The servants—the most reliable judges of their masters because they judge no_y their conversation or expressions of feeling but by their acts and way o_ife—were glad of Pierre's return because they knew that when he was ther_ount Nicholas would cease going every day to attend to the estate, and woul_e in better spirits and temper, and also because they would all receiv_andsome presents for the holidays.
  • The children and their governesses were glad of Pierre's return because no on_lse drew them into the social life of the household as he did. He alone coul_lay on the clavichord that ecossaise (his only piece) to which, as he said,
  • all possible dances could be danced, and they felt sure he had brough_resents for them all.
  • Young Nicholas, now a slim lad of fifteen, delicate and intelligent, wit_urly light-brown hair and beautiful eyes, was delighted because Uncle Pierr_s he called him was the object of his rapturous and passionate affection. N_ne had instilled into him this love for Pierre whom he saw only occasionally.
  • Countess Mary who had brought him up had done her utmost to make him love he_usband as she loved him, and little Nicholas did love his uncle, but love_im with just a shade of contempt. Pierre, however, he adored. He did not wan_o be an hussar or a Knight of St. George like his uncle Nicholas; he wante_o be learned, wise, and kind like Pierre. In Pierre's presence his fac_lways shone with pleasure and he flushed and was breathless when Pierre spok_o him. He did not miss a single word he uttered, and would afterwards, wit_essalles or by himself, recall and reconsider the meaning of everythin_ierre had said. Pierre's past life and his unhappiness prior to 1812 (o_hich young Nicholas had formed a vague poetic picture from some words he ha_verheard), his adventures in Moscow, his captivity, Platon Karataev (of who_e had heard from Pierre), his love for Natasha (of whom the lad was als_articularly fond), and especially Pierre's friendship with the father who_icholas could not remember—all this made Pierre in his eyes a hero and _aint.
  • From broken remarks about Natasha and his father, from the emotion with whic_ierre spoke of that dead father, and from the careful, reverent tendernes_ith which Natasha spoke of him, the boy, who was only just beginning to gues_hat love is, derived the notion that his father had loved Natasha and whe_ying had left her to his friend. But the father whom the boy did not remembe_ppeared to him a divinity who could not be pictured, and of whom he neve_hought without a swelling heart and tears of sadness and rapture. So the bo_lso was happy that Pierre had arrived.
  • The guests welcomed Pierre because he always helped to enliven and unite an_ompany he was in.
  • The grown-up members of the family, not to mention his wife, were pleased t_ave back a friend whose presence made life run more smoothly and peacefully.
  • The old ladies were pleased with the presents he brought them, and especiall_hat Natasha would now be herself again.
  • Pierre felt the different outlooks of these various worlds and made haste t_atisfy all their expectations.
  • Though the most absent-minded and forgetful of men, Pierre, with the aid of _ist his wife drew up, had now bought everything, not forgetting hi_other—and brother-in-law's commissions, nor the dress material for a presen_o Belova, nor toys for his wife's nephews. In the early days of his marriag_t had seemed strange to him that his wife should expect him not to forget t_rocure all the things he undertook to buy, and he had been taken aback by he_erious annoyance when on his first trip he forgot everything. But in time h_rew used to this demand. Knowing that Natasha asked nothing for herself, an_ave him commissions for others only when he himself had offered to undertak_hem, he now found an unexpected and childlike pleasure in this purchase o_resents for everyone in the house, and never forgot anything. If he no_ncurred Natasha's censure it was only for buying too many and too expensiv_hings. To her other defects (as most people thought them, but which to Pierr_ere qualities) of untidiness and neglect of herself, she now adde_tinginess.
  • From the time that Pierre began life as a family man on a footing entailin_eavy expenditure, he had noticed to his surprise that he spent only half a_uch as before, and that his affairs—which had been in disorder of late,
  • chiefly because of his first wife's debts- had begun to improve.
  • Life was cheaper because it was circumscribed: that most expensive luxury, th_ind of life that can be changed at any moment, was no longer his nor did h_ish for it. He felt that his way of life had now been settled once for al_ill death and that to change it was not in his power, and so that way of lif_roved economical.
  • With a merry, smiling face Pierre was sorting his purchases.
  • "What do you think of this?" said he, unrolling a piece of stuff like _hopman.
  • Natasha, who was sitting opposite to him with her eldest daughter on her lap,
  • turned her sparkling eyes swiftly from her husband to the things he showe_er.
  • "That's for Belova? Excellent!" She felt the quality of the material. "It wa_ ruble an arshin, I suppose?"
  • Pierre told her the price.
  • "Too dear!" Natasha remarked. "How pleased the children will be and Mamma too!
  • Only you need not have bought me this," she added, unable to suppress a smil_s she gazed admiringly at a gold comb set with pearls, of a kind then jus_oming into fashion.
  • "Adele tempted me: she kept on telling me to buy it," returned Pierre.
  • "When am I to wear it?" and Natasha stuck it in her coil of hair. "When I tak_ittle Masha into society? Perhaps they will be fashionable again by then.
  • Well, let's go now."
  • And collecting the presents they went first to the nursery and then to the ol_ountess' rooms.
  • The countess was sitting with her companion Belova, playing grand-patience a_sual, when Pierre and Natasha came into the drawing room with parcels unde_heir arms.
  • The countess was now over sixty, was quite gray, and wore a cap with a fril_hat surrounded her face. Her face had shriveled, her upper lip had sunk in,
  • and her eyes were dim.
  • After the deaths of her son and husband in such rapid succession, she fel_erself a being accidentally forgotten in this world and left without aim o_bject for her existence. She ate, drank, slept, or kept awake, but did no_ive. Life gave her no new impressions. She wanted nothing from life bu_ranquillity, and that tranquillity only death could give her. But until deat_ame she had to go on living, that is, to use her vital forces. A peculiarit_ne sees in very young children and very old people was particularly eviden_n her. Her life had no external aims—only a need to exercise her variou_unctions and inclinations was apparent. She had to eat, sleep, think, speak,
  • weep, work, give vent to her anger, and so on, merely because she had _tomach, a brain, muscles, nerves, and a liver. She did these things not unde_ny external impulse as people in the full vigor of life do, when behind th_urpose for which they strive that of exercising their functions remain_nnoticed. She talked only because she physically needed to exercise he_ongue and lungs. She cried as a child does, because her nose had to b_leared, and so on. What for people in their full vigor is an aim was for he_vidently merely a pretext.
  • Thus in the morning—especially if she had eaten anything rich the da_efore—she felt a need of being angry and would choose as the handiest pretex_elova's deafness.
  • She would begin to say something to her in a low tone from the other end o_he room.
  • "It seems a little warmer today, my dear," she would murmur.
  • And when Belova replied: "Oh yes, they've come," she would mutter angrily: "_ord! How stupid and deaf she is!"
  • Another pretext would be her snuff, which would seem too dry or too damp o_ot rubbed fine enough. After these fits of irritability her face would gro_ellow, and her maids knew by infallible symptoms when Belova would again b_eaf, the snuff damp, and the countess' face yellow. Just as she needed t_ork off her spleen so she had sometimes to exercise her still-existin_aculty of thinking—and the pretext for that was a game of patience. When sh_eeded to cry, the deceased count would be the pretext. When she wanted to b_gitated, Nicholas and his health would be the pretext, and when she felt _eed to speak spitefully, the pretext would be Countess Mary. When her voca_rgans needed exercise, which was usually toward seven o'clock when she ha_ad an after-dinner rest in a darkened room, the pretext would be th_etelling of the same stories over and over again to the same audience.
  • The old lady's condition was understood by the whole household though no on_ver spoke of it, and they all made every possible effort to satisfy he_eeds. Only by a rare glance exchanged with a sad smile between Nicholas,
  • Pierre, Natasha, and Countess Mary was the common understanding of he_ondition expressed.
  • But those glances expressed something more: they said that she had played he_art in life, that what they now saw was not her whole self, that we must al_ecome like her, and that they were glad to yield to her, to restrai_hemselves for this once precious being formerly as full of life a_hemselves, but now so much to be pitied. "Memento mori," said these glances.
  • Only the really heartless, the stupid ones of that household, and the littl_hildren failed to understand this and avoided her.