Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 20

  • 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."
  • "That's capital!"
  • "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.