A few intimate friends were dining with the Rostovs that day, as usual o_undays.
Pierre came early so as to find them alone.
He had grown so stout this year that he would have been abnormal had he no_een so tall, so broad of limb, and so strong that he carried his bulk wit_vident ease.
He went up the stairs, puffing and muttering something. His coachman did no_ven ask whether he was to wait. He knew that when his master was at th_ostovs' he stayed till midnight. The Rostovs' footman rushed eagerly forwar_o help him off with his cloak and take his hat and stick. Pierre, from clu_abit, always left both hat and stick in the anteroom.
The first person he saw in the house was Natasha. Even before he saw her, while taking off his cloak, he heard her. She was practicing solfa exercise_n the music room. He knew that she had not sung since her illness, and so th_ound of her voice surprised and delighted him. He opened the door softly an_aw her, in the lilac dress she had worn at church, walking about the roo_inging. She had her back to him when he opened the door, but when, turnin_uickly, she saw his broad, surprised face, she blushed and came rapidly up t_im.
"I want to try to sing again," she said, adding as if by way of excuse, "i_s, at least, something to do."
"How glad I am you've come! I am so happy today," she said, with the ol_nimation Pierre had not seen in her for along time. "You know Nicholas ha_eceived a St. George's Cross? I am so proud of him."
"Oh yes, I sent that announcement. But I don't want to interrupt you," h_dded, and was about to go to the drawing room.
Natasha stopped him.
"Count, is it wrong of me to sing?" she said blushing, and fixing her eye_nquiringly on him.
"No… Why should it be? On the contrary… But why do you ask me?"
"I don't know myself," Natasha answered quickly, "but I should not like to d_nything you disapproved of. I believe in you completely. You don't know ho_mportant you are to me, how much you've done for me… ." She spoke rapidly an_id not notice how Pierre flushed at her words. "I saw in that same army orde_hat he, Bolkonski" (she whispered the name hastily), "is in Russia, and i_he army again. What do you think?"—she was speaking hurriedly, evidentl_fraid her strength might fail her—"Will he ever forgive me? Will he no_lways have a bitter feeling toward me? What do you think? What do you think?"
"I think… " Pierre replied, "that he has nothing to forgive… . If I were i_is place… "
By association of ideas, Pierre was at once carried back to the day when, trying to comfort her, he had said that if he were not himself but the bes_an in the world and free, he would ask on his knees for her hand; and th_ame feeling of pity, tenderness, and love took possession of him and the sam_ords rose to his lips. But she did not give him time to say them.
"Yes, you… you… " she said, uttering the word you rapturously- "that's _ifferent thing. I know no one kinder, more generous, or better than you; nobody could be! Had you not been there then, and now too, I don't know wha_ould have become of me, because… "
Tears suddenly rose in her eyes, she turned away, lifted her music before he_yes, began singing again, and again began walking up and down the room.
Just then Petya came running in from the drawing room.
Petya was now a handsome rosy lad of fifteen with full red lips and resemble_atasha. He was preparing to enter the university, but he and his frien_bolenski had lately, in secret, agreed to join the hussars.
Petya had come rushing out to talk to his namesake about this affair. He ha_sked Pierre to find out whether he would be accepted in the hussars.
Pierre walked up and down the drawing room, not listening to what Petya wa_aying.
Petya pulled him by the arm to attract his attention.
"Well, what about my plan? Peter Kirilych, for heaven's sake! You are my onl_ope," said Petya.
"Oh yes, your plan. To join the hussars? I'll mention it, I'll bring it all u_oday."
"Well, mon cher, have you got the manifesto?" asked the old count. "Th_ountess has been to Mass at the Razumovskis' and heard the new prayer. Sh_ays it's very fine."
"Yes, I've got it," said Pierre. "The Emperor is to be here tomorrow… there'_o be an Extraordinary Meeting of the nobility, and they are talking of a lev_f ten men per thousand. Oh yes, let me congratulate you!"
"Yes, yes, thank God! Well, and what news from the army?"
"We are again retreating. They say we're already near Smolensk," replie_ierre.
"O Lord, O Lord!" exclaimed the count. "Where is the manifesto?"
"The Emperor's appeal? Oh yes!"
Pierre began feeling in his pockets for the papers, but could not find them.
Still slapping his pockets, he kissed the hand of the countess who entered th_oom and glanced uneasily around, evidently expecting Natasha, who had lef_ff singing but had not yet come into the drawing room.
"On my word, I don't know what I've done with it," he said.
"There he is, always losing everything!" remarked the countess.
Natasha entered with a softened and agitated expression of face and sat dow_ooking silently at Pierre. As soon as she entered, Pierre's features, whic_ad been gloomy, suddenly lighted up, and while still searching for the paper_e glanced at her several times.
"No, really! I'll drive home, I must have left them there. I'll certainly… "
"But you'll be late for dinner."
"Oh! And my coachman has gone."
But Sonya, who had gone to look for the papers in the anteroom, had found the_n Pierre's hat, where he had carefully tucked them under the lining. Pierr_as about to begin reading.
"No, after dinner," said the old count, evidently expecting much enjoymen_rom that reading.
At dinner, at which champagne was drunk to the health of the new chevalier o_t. George, Shinshin told them the town news, of the illness of the ol_eorgian princess, of Metivier's disappearance from Moscow, and of how som_erman fellow had been brought to Rostopchin and accused of being a French
"spyer" (so Count Rostopchin had told the story), and how Rostopchin let hi_o and assured the people that he was "not a spire at all, but only an ol_erman ruin."
"People are being arrested… " said the count. "I've told the countess sh_hould not speak French so much. It's not the time for it now."
"And have you heard?" Shinshin asked. "Prince Golitsyn has engaged a master t_each him Russian. It is becoming dangerous to speak French in the streets."
"And how about you, Count Peter Kirilych? If they call up the militia, you to_ill have to mount a horse," remarked the old count, addressing Pierre.
Pierre had been silent and preoccupied all through dinner, seeming not t_rasp what was said. He looked at the count.
"Oh yes, the war," he said. "No! What sort of warrior should I make? And ye_verything is so strange, so strange! I can't make it out. I don't know, I a_ery far from having military tastes, but in these times no one can answer fo_imself."
After dinner the count settled himself comfortably in an easy chair and with _erious face asked Sonya, who was considered an excellent reader, to read th_ppeal.
"To Moscow, our ancient Capital!
"The enemy has entered the borders of Russia with immense forces. He comes t_espoil our beloved country,"
Sonya read painstakingly in her high-pitched voice. The count listened wit_losed eyes, heaving abrupt sighs at certain passages.
Natasha sat erect, gazing with a searching look now at her father and now a_ierre.
Pierre felt her eyes on him and tried not to look round. The countess shoo_er head disapprovingly and angrily at every solemn expression in th_anifesto. In all these words she saw only that the danger threatening her so_ould not soon be over. Shinshin, with a sarcastic smile on his lips, wa_vidently preparing to make fun of anything that gave him the opportunity: Sonya's reading, any remark of the count's, or even the manifesto itsel_hould no better pretext present itself.
After reading about the dangers that threatened Russia, the hopes the Empero_laced on Moscow and especially on its illustrious nobility, Sonya, with _uiver in her voice due chiefly to the attention that was being paid to her, read the last words:
"We ourselves will not delay to appear among our people in that Capital and i_thers parts of our realm for consultation, and for the direction of all ou_evies, both those now barring the enemy's path and those freshly formed t_efeat him wherever he may appear. May the ruin he hopes to bring upon u_ecoil on his own head, and may Europe delivered from bondage glorify the nam_f Russia!"
"Yes, that's it!" cried the count, opening his moist eyes and sniffin_epeatedly, as if a strong vinaigrette had been held to his nose; and h_dded, "Let the Emperor but say the word and we'll sacrifice everything an_egrudge nothing."
Before Shinshin had time to utter the joke he was ready to make on the count'_atriotism, Natasha jumped up from her place and ran to her father.
"What a darling our Papa is!" she cried, kissing him, and she again looked a_ierre with the unconscious coquetry that had returned to her with her bette_pirits.
"There! Here's a patriot for you!" said Shinshin.
"Not a patriot at all, but simply… " Natasha replied in an injured tone.
"Everything seems funny to you, but this isn't at all a joke… ."
"A joke indeed!" put in the count. "Let him but say the word and we'll all go… . We're not Germans!"
"But did you notice, it says, 'for consultation'?" said Pierre.
"Never mind what it's for… ."
At this moment, Petya, to whom nobody was paying any attention, came up to hi_ather with a very flushed face and said in his breaking voice that was no_eep and now shrill:
"Well, Papa, I tell you definitely, and Mamma too, it's as you please, but _ay definitely that you must let me enter the army, because I can't… that'_ll… ."
The countess, in dismay, looked up to heaven, clasped her hands, and turne_ngrily to her husband.
"That comes of your talking!" said she.
But the count had already recovered from his excitement.
"Come, come!" said he. "Here's a fine warrior! No! Nonsense! You must study."
"It's not nonsense, Papa. Fedya Obolenski is younger than I, and he's goin_oo. Besides, all the same I can't study now when… " Petya stopped short, flushed till he perspired, but still got out the words, "when our Fatherlan_s in danger."
"That'll do, that'll do—nonsense… ."
"But you said yourself that we would sacrifice everything."
"Petya! Be quiet, I tell you!" cried the count, with a glance at his wife, wh_ad turned pale and was staring fixedly at her son.
"And I tell you—Peter Kirilych here will also tell you… "
"Nonsense, I tell you. Your mother's milk has hardly dried on your lips an_ou want to go into the army! There, there, I tell you," and the count move_o go out of the room, taking the papers, probably to reread them in his stud_efore having a nap.
"Well, Peter Kirilych, let's go and have a smoke," he said.
Pierre was agitated and undecided. Natasha's unwontedly brilliant eyes, continually glancing at him with a more than cordial look, had reduced him t_his condition.
"No, I think I'll go home."
"Home? Why, you meant to spend the evening with us… . You don't often com_owadays as it is, and this girl of mine," said the count good-naturedly, pointing to Natasha, "only brightens up when you're here."
"Yes, I had forgotten… I really must go home… business… " said Pierr_urriedly.
"Well, then, au revoir!" said the count, and went out of the room.
"Why are you going? Why are you upset?" asked Natasha, and she looke_hallengingly into Pierre's eyes.
"Because I love you!" was what he wanted to say, but he did not say it, an_nly blushed till the tears came, and lowered his eyes.
"Because it is better for me to come less often… because… No, simply I hav_usiness… ."
"Why? No, tell me!" Natasha began resolutely and suddenly stopped.
They looked at each other with dismayed and embarrassed faces. He tried t_mile but could not: his smile expressed suffering, and he silently kissed he_and and went out.
Pierre made up his mind not to go to the Rostovs' any more.