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Chapter 9

  • It was the eve of St. Nicholas, the fifth of December, 1820. Natasha had bee_taying at her brother's with her husband and children since early autumn.
  • Pierre had gone to Petersburg on business of his own for three weeks as h_aid, but had remained there nearly seven weeks and was expected back ever_inute.
  • Besides the Bezukhov family, Nicholas' old friend the retired General Vasil_mitrich Denisov was staying with the Rostovs this fifth of December.
  • On the sixth, which was his name day when the house would be full of visitors, Nicholas knew he would have to exchange his Tartar tunic for a tail coat, an_ut on narrow boots with pointed toes, and drive to the new church he ha_uilt, and then receive visitors who would come to congratulate him, offe_hem refreshments, and talk about the elections of the nobility; but h_onsidered himself entitled to spend the eve of that day in his usual way. H_xamined the bailiff's accounts of the village in Ryazan which belonged to hi_ife's nephew, wrote two business letters, and walked over to the granaries, cattle yards and stables before dinner. Having taken precautions against th_eneral drunkenness to be expected on the morrow because it was a grea_aint's day, he returned to dinner, and without having time for a private tal_ith his wife sat down at the long table laid for twenty persons, at which th_hole household had assembled. At that table were his mother, his mother's ol_ady companion Belova, his wife, their three children with their governess an_utor, his wife's nephew with his tutor, Sonya, Denisov, Natasha, her thre_hildren, their governess, and old Michael Ivanovich, the late prince'_rchitect, who was living on in retirement at Bald Hills.
  • Countess Mary sat at the other end of the table. When her husband took hi_lace she concluded, from the rapid manner in which after taking up his tabl_apkin he pushed back the tumbler and wineglass standing before him, that h_as out of humor, as was sometimes the case when he came in to dinner straigh_rom the farm—especially before the soup. Countess Mary well knew that mood o_is, and when she herself was in a good frame of mind quietly waited till h_ad had his soup and then began to talk to him and make him admit that ther_as no cause for his ill-humor. But today she quite forgot that and was hur_hat he should be angry with her without any reason, and she felt unhappy. Sh_sked him where he had been. He replied. She again inquired whether everythin_as going well on the farm. Her unnatural tone made him wince unpleasantly an_e replied hastily.
  • "Then I'm not mistaken," thought Countess Mary. "Why is he cross with me?" Sh_oncluded from his tone that he was vexed with her and wished to end th_onversation. She knew her remarks sounded unnatural, but could not refrai_rom asking some more questions.
  • Thanks to Denisov the conversation at table soon became general and lively, and she did not talk to her husband. When they left the table and went a_sual to thank the old countess, Countess Mary held out her hand and kisse_er husband, and asked him why he was angry with her.
  • "You always have such strange fancies! I didn't even think of being angry," h_eplied.
  • But the word always seemed to her to imply: "Yes, I am angry but I won't tel_ou why."
  • Nicholas and his wife lived together so happily that even Sonya and the ol_ountess, who felt jealous and would have liked them to disagree, could fin_othing to reproach them with; but even they had their moments of antagonism.
  • Occasionally, and it was always just after they had been happiest together, they suddenly had a feeling of estrangement and hostility, which occurred mos_requently during Countess Mary's pregnancies, and this was such a time.
  • "Well, messieurs et mesdames," said Nicholas loudly and with apparen_heerfulness (it seemed to Countess Mary that he did it on purpose to ve_er), "I have been on my feet since six this morning. Tomorrow I shall have t_uffer, so today I'll go and rest."
  • And without a word to his wife he went to the little sitting room and lay dow_n the sofa.
  • "That's always the way," thought Countess Mary. "He talks to everyone excep_e. I see… I see that I am repulsive to him, especially when I am in thi_ondition." She looked down at her expanded figure and in the glass at he_ale, sallow, emaciated face in which her eyes now looked larger than ever.
  • And everything annoyed her—Denisov's shouting and laughter, Natasha's talk, and especially a quick glance Sonya gave her.
  • Sonya was always the first excuse Countess Mary found for feeling irritated.
  • Having sat awhile with her visitors without understanding anything of wha_hey were saying, she softly left the room and went to the nursery.
  • The children were playing at "going to Moscow" in a carriage made of chair_nd invited her to go with them. She sat down and played with them a little, but the thought of her husband and his unreasonable crossness worried her. Sh_ot up and, walking on tiptoe with difficulty, went to the small sitting room.
  • "Perhaps he is not asleep; I'll have an explanation with him," she said t_erself. Little Andrew, her eldest boy, imitating his mother, followed her o_iptoe. She not notice him.
  • "Mary, dear, I think he is asleep—he was so tired," said Sonya, meeting her i_he large sitting room (it seemed to Countess Mary that she crossed her pat_verywhere). "Andrew may wake him."
  • Countess Mary looked round, saw little Andrew following her, felt that Sony_as right, and for that very reason flushed and with evident difficult_efrained from saying something harsh. She made no reply, but to avoid obeyin_onya beckoned to Andrew to follow her quietly and went to the door. Sony_ent away by another door. From the room in which Nicholas was sleeping cam_he sound of his even breathing, every slightest tone of which was familiar t_is wife. As she listened to it she saw before her his smooth handsom_orehead, his mustache, and his whole face, as she had so often seen it in th_tillness of the night when he slept. Nicholas suddenly moved and cleared hi_hroat. And at that moment little Andrew shouted from outside the door: "Papa!
  • Mamma's standing here!" Countess Mary turned pale with fright and made sign_o the boy. He grew silent, and quiet ensued for a moment, terrible t_ountess Mary. She knew how Nicholas disliked being waked. Then through th_oor she heard Nicholas clearing his throat again and stirring, and his voic_aid crossly:
  • "I can't get a moment's peace… . Mary, is that you? Why did you bring hi_ere?"
  • "I only came in to look and did not notice… forgive me… "
  • Nicholas coughed and said no more. Countess Mary moved away from the door an_ook the boy back to the nursery. Five minutes later little black-eyed three- year-old Natasha, her father's pet, having learned from her brother that Pap_as asleep and Mamma was in the sitting room, ran to her father unobserved b_er mother. The dark-eyed little girl boldly opened the creaking door, went u_o the sofa with energetic steps of her sturdy little legs, and havin_xamined the position of her father, who was asleep with his back to her, ros_n tiptoe and kissed the hand which lay under his head. Nicholas turned with _ender smile on his face.
  • "Natasha, Natasha!" came Countess Mary's frightened whisper from the door.
  • "Papa wants to sleep."
  • "No, Mamma, he doesn't want to sleep," said little Natasha with conviction.
  • "He's laughing."
  • Nicholas lowered his legs, rose, and took his daughter in his arms.
  • "Come in, Mary," he said to his wife.
  • She went in and sat down by her husband.
  • "I did not notice him following me," she said timidly. "I just looked in."
  • Holding his little girl with one arm, Nicholas glanced at his wife and, seein_er guilty expression, put his other arm around her and kissed her hair.
  • "May I kiss Mamma?" he asked Natasha.
  • Natasha smiled bashfully.
  • "Again!" she commanded, pointing with a peremptory gesture to the spot wher_icholas had placed the kiss.
  • "I don't know why you think I am cross," said Nicholas, replying to th_uestion he knew was in his wife's mind.
  • "You have no idea how unhappy, how lonely, I feel when you are like that. I_lways seems to me… "
  • "Mary, don't talk nonsense. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" he sai_aily.
  • "It seems to be that you can't love me, that I am so plain… always… and now… in this cond… "
  • "Oh, how absurd you are! It is not beauty that endears, it's love that make_s see beauty. It is only Malvinas and women of that kind who are loved fo_heir beauty. But do I love my wife? I don't love her, but… I don't know ho_o put it. Without you, or when something comes between us like this, I see_ost and can't do anything. Now do I love my finger? I don't love it, but jus_ry to cut it off!"
  • "I'm not like that myself, but I understand. So you're not angry with me?"
  • "Awfully angry!" he said, smiling and getting up. And smoothing his hair h_egan to pace the room.
  • "Do you know, Mary, what I've been thinking?" he began, immediately thinkin_loud in his wife's presence now that they had made it up.
  • He did not ask if she was ready to listen to him. He did not care. A though_ad occurred to him and so it belonged to her also. And he told her of hi_ntention to persuade Pierre to stay with them till spring.
  • Countess Mary listened till he had finished, made some remark, and in her tur_egan thinking aloud. Her thoughts were about the children.
  • "You can see the woman in her already," she said in French, pointing to littl_atasha. "You reproach us women with being illogical. Here is our logic. _ay: 'Papa wants to sleep!' but she says, 'No, he's laughing.' And she wa_ight," said Countess Mary with a happy smile.
  • "Yes, yes." And Nicholas, taking his little daughter in his strong hand, lifted her high, placed her on his shoulder, held her by the legs, and pace_he room with her. There was an expression of carefree happiness on the face_f both father and daughter.
  • "But you know you may be unfair. You are too fond of this one," his wif_hispered in French.
  • "Yes, but what am I to do?… I try not to show… "
  • At that moment they heard the sound of the door pulley and footsteps in th_all and anteroom, as if someone had arrived.
  • "Somebody has come."
  • "I am sure it is Pierre. I will go and see," said Countess Mary and left th_oom.
  • In her absence Nicholas allowed himself to give his little daughter a gallo_ound the room. Out of breath, he took the laughing child quickly from hi_houlder and pressed her to his heart. His capers reminded him of dancing, an_ooking at the child's round happy little face he thought of what she would b_ike when he was an old man, taking her into society and dancing the mazurk_ith her as his old father had danced Daniel Cooper with his daughter.
  • "It is he, it is he, Nicholas!" said Countess Mary, re-entering the room a fe_inutes later. "Now our Natasha has come to life. You should have seen he_cstasy, and how he caught it for having stayed away so long. Well, come alon_ow, quick, quick! It's time you two were parted," she added, lookin_milingly at the little girl who clung to her father.
  • Nicholas went out holding the child by the hand.
  • Countess Mary remained in the sitting room.
  • "I should never, never have believed that one could be so happy," sh_hispered to herself. A smile lit up her face but at the same time she sighed, and her deep eyes expressed a quiet sadness as though she felt, through he_appiness, that there is another sort of happiness unattainable in this lif_nd of which she involuntarily thought at that instant.