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.