At the end of January old Count Rostov went to Moscow with Natasha and Sonya.
The countess was still unwell and unable to travel but it was impossible t_ait for her recovery. Prince Andrew was expected in Moscow any day, th_rousseau had to be ordered and the estate near Moscow had to be sold, beside_hich the opportunity of presenting his future daughter-in-law to old Princ_olkonski while he was in Moscow could not be missed. The Rostovs' Mosco_ouse had not been heated that winter and, as they had come only for a shor_ime and the countess was not with them, the count decided to stay with Mary_mitrievna Akhrosimova, who had long been pressing her hospitality on them.
Late one evening the Rostovs' four sleighs drove into Marya Dmitrievna'_ourtyard in the old Konyusheny street. Marya Dmitrievna lived alone. She ha_lready married off her daughter, and her sons were all in the service.
She held herself as erect, told everyone her opinion as candidly, loudly, an_luntly as ever, and her whole bearing seemed a reproach to others for an_eakness, passion, or temptation—the possibility of which she did not admit.
From early in the morning, wearing a dressing jacket, she attended to he_ousehold affairs, and then she drove out: on holy days to church and afte_he service to jails and prisons on affairs of which she never spoke t_nyone. On ordinary days, after dressing, she received petitioners of variou_lasses, of whom there were always some. Then she had dinner, a substantia_nd appetizing meal at which there were always three or four guests; afte_inner she played a game of boston, and at night she had the newspapers or _ew book read to her while she knitted. She rarely made an exception and wen_ut to pay visits, and then only to the most important persons in the town.
She had not yet gone to bed when the Rostovs arrived and the pulley of th_all door squeaked from the cold as it let in the Rostovs and their servants.
Marya Dmitrievna, with her spectacles hanging down on her nose and her hea_lung back, stood in the hall doorway looking with a stern, grim face at th_ew arrivals. One might have thought she was angry with the travelers an_ould immediately turn them out, had she not at the same time been givin_areful instructions to the servants for the accommodation of the visitors an_heir belongings.
"The count's things? Bring them here," she said, pointing to the portmanteau_nd not greeting anyone. "The young ladies'? There to the left. Now what ar_ou dawdling for?" she cried to the maids. "Get the samovar ready!… You'v_rown plumper and prettier," she remarked, drawing Natasha (whose cheeks wer_lowing from the cold) to her by the hood. "Foo! You are cold! Now take of_our things, quick!" she shouted to the count who was going to kiss her hand.
"You're half frozen, I'm sure! Bring some rum for tea!… Bonjour, Sonya dear!"
she added, turning to Sonya and indicating by this French greeting he_lightly contemptuous though affectionate attitude toward her.
When they came in to tea, having taken off their outdoor things and tidie_hemselves up after their journey, Marya Dmitrievna kissed them all in du_rder.
"I'm heartily glad you have come and are staying with me. It was high time,"
she said, giving Natasha a significant look. "The old man is here and hi_on's expected any day. You'll have to make his acquaintance. But we'll spea_f that later on," she added, glancing at Sonya with a look that showed sh_id not want to speak of it in her presence. "Now listen," she said to th_ount. "What do you want tomorrow? Whom will you send for? Shinshin?" sh_rooked one of her fingers. "The sniveling Anna Mikhaylovna? That's two. She'_ere with her son. The son is getting married! Then Bezukhov, eh? He is her_oo, with his wife. He ran away from her and she came galloping after him. H_ined with me on Wednesday. As for them"—and she pointed to th_irls—"tomorrow I'll take them first to the Iberian shrine of the Mother o_od, and then we'll drive to the Super-Rogue's. I suppose you'll hav_verything new. Don't judge by me: sleeves nowadays are this size! The othe_ay young Princess Irina Vasilevna came to see me; she was an awfu_ight—looked as if she had put two barrels on her arms. You know not a da_asses now without some new fashion… . And what have you to do yourself?" sh_sked the count sternly.
"One thing has come on top of another: her rags to buy, and now a purchase_as turned up for the Moscow estate and for the house. If you will be so kind,
I'll fix a time and go down to the estate just for a day, and leave my lassie_ith you."
"All right. All right. They'll be safe with me, as safe as in Chancery! I'l_ake them where they must go, scold them a bit, and pet them a bit," sai_arya Dmitrievna, touching her goddaughter and favorite, Natasha, on the chee_ith her large hand.
Next morning Marya Dmitrievna took the young ladies to the Iberian shrine o_he Mother of God and to Madame Suppert-Roguet, who was so afraid of Mary_mitrievna that she always let her have costumes at a loss merely to get ri_f her. Marya Dmitrievna ordered almost the whole trousseau. When they go_ome she turned everybody out of the room except Nataisha, and then called he_et to her armchair.
"Well, now we'll talk. I congratulate you on your betrothed. You've hooked _ine fellow! I am glad for your sake and I've known him since he was so high."
She held her hand a couple of feet from the ground. Natasha blushed happily.
"I like him and all his family. Now listen! You know that old Prince Nichola_uch dislikes his son's marrying. The old fellow's crotchety! Of course Princ_ndrew is not a child and can shift without him, but it's not nice to enter _amily against a father's will. One wants to do it peacefully and lovingly.
You're a clever girl and you'll know how to manage. Be kind, and use you_its. Then all will be well."
Natasha remained silent, from shyness Marya Dmitrievna supposed, but reall_ecause she disliked anyone interfering in what touched her love of Princ_ndrew, which seemed to her so apart from all human affairs that no one coul_nderstand it. She loved and knew Prince Andrew, he loved her only, and was t_ome one of these days and take her. She wanted nothing more.
"You see I have known him a long time and am also fond of Mary, your futur_ister-in-law. 'Husbands' sisters bring up blisters,' but this one wouldn'_urt a fly. She has asked me to bring you two together. Tomorrow you'll g_ith your father to see her. Be very nice and affectionate to her: you'r_ounger than she. When he comes, he'll find you already know his sister an_ather and are liked by them. Am I right or not? Won't that be best?"