BOOK THREE: 1805
Prince Vasili was not a man who deliberately thought out his plans. Still less did he think of injuring anyone for his own advantage. He was merely a man of the world who had got on and to whom getting on had become a habit. Schemes and devices for which he never rightly accounted to himself, but which formed the whole interest of his life, were constantly shaping themselves in his mind, arising from the circumstances and persons he met. Of these plans he had not merely one or two in his head but dozens, some only beginning to form themselves, some approaching achievement, and some in course of disintegration. He did not, for instance, say to himself: "This man now has influence, I must gain his confidence and friendship and through him obtain a special grant." Nor did he say to himself: "Pierre is a rich man, I must entice him to marry my daughter and lend me the forty thousand rubles I need." But when he came across a man of position his instinct immediately told him that this man could be useful, and without any premeditation Prince Vasili took the first opportunity to gain his confidence, flatter him, become intimate with him, and finally make his request.
He had Pierre at hand in Moscow and procured for him an appointment as Gentleman of the Bedchamber, which at that time conferred the status of Councilor of State, and insisted on the young man accompanying him to Petersburg and staying at his house. With apparent absent-mindedness, yet with unhesitating assurance that he was doing the right thing, Prince Vasili did everything to get Pierre to marry his daughter. Had he thought out his plans beforehand he could not have been so natural and shown such unaffected familiarity in intercourse with everybody both above and below him in social standing. Something always drew him toward those richer and more powerful than himself and he had rare skill in seizing the most opportune moment for making use of people.
Pierre, on unexpectedly becoming Count Bezukhov and a rich man, felt himself after his recent loneliness and freedom from cares so beset and preoccupied that only in bed was he able to be by himself. He had to sign papers, to present himself at government offices, the purpose of which was not clear to him, to question his chief steward, to visit his estate near Moscow, and to receive many people who formerly did not even wish to know of his existence but would now have been offended and grieved had he chosen not to see them. These different people--businessmen, relations, and acquaintances alike--were all disposed to treat the young heir in the most friendly and flattering manner: they were all evidently firmly convinced of Pierre's noble qualities. He was always hearing such words as: "With your remarkable kindness," or, "With your excellent heart," "You are yourself so honorable Count," or, "Were he as clever as you," and so on, till he began sincerely to believe in his own exceptional kindness and extraordinary intelligence, the more so as in the depth of his heart it had always seemed to him that he really was very kind and intelligent. Even people who had formerly been spiteful toward him and evidently unfriendly now became gentle and affectionate. The angry eldest princess, with the long waist and hair plastered down like a doll's, had come into Pierre's room after the funeral. With drooping eyes and frequent blushes she told him she was very sorry about their past misunderstandings and did not now feel she had a right to ask him for anything, except only for permission, after the blow she had received, to remain for a few weeks longer in the house she so loved and where she had sacrificed so much. She could not refrain from weeping at these words. Touched that this statuesque princess could so change, Pierre took her hand and begged her forgiveness, without knowing what for. From that day the eldest princess quite changed toward Pierre and began knitting a striped scarf for him.
"Do this for my sake, mon cher; after all, she had to put up with a great deal from the deceased," said Prince Vasili to him, handing him a deed to sign for the princess' benefit.
Prince Vasili had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to throw this bone--a bill for thirty thousand rubles--to the poor princess that it might not occur to her to speak of his share in the affair of the inlaid portfolio. Pierre signed the deed and after that the princess grew still kinder. The younger sisters also became affectionate to him, especially the youngest, the pretty one with the mole, who often made him feel confused by her smiles and her own confusion when meeting him.
It seemed so natural to Pierre that everyone should like him, and it would have seemed so unnatural had anyone disliked him, that he could not but believe in the sincerity of those around him. Besides, he had no time to ask himself whether these people were sincere or not. He was always busy and always felt in a state of mild and cheerful intoxication. He felt as though he were the center of some important and general movement; that something was constantly expected of him, that if he did not do it he would grieve and disappoint many people, but if he did this and that, all would be well; and he did what was demanded of him, but still that happy result always remained in the future.
More than anyone else, Prince Vasili took possession of Pierre's affairs and of Pierre himself in those early days. From the death of Count Bezukhov he did not let go his hold of the lad. He had the air of a man oppressed by business, weary and suffering, who yet would not, for pity's sake, leave this helpless youth who, after all, was the son of his old friend and the possessor of such enormous wealth, to the caprice of fate and the designs of rogues. During the few days he spent in Moscow after the death of Count Bezukhov, he would call Pierre, or go to him himself, and tell him what ought to be done in a tone of weariness and assurance, as if he were adding every time: "You know I am overwhelmed with business and it is purely out of charity that I trouble myself about you, and you also know quite well that what I propose is the only thing possible."
"Well, my dear fellow, tomorrow we are off at last," said Prince Vasili one day, closing his eyes and fingering Pierre's elbow, speaking as if he were saying something which had long since been agreed upon and could not now be altered. "We start tomorrow and I'm giving you a place in my carriage. I am very glad. All our important business here is now settled, and I ought to have been off long ago. Here is something I have received from the chancellor. I asked him for you, and you have been entered in the diplomatic corps and made a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. The diplomatic career now lies open before you."
Notwithstanding the tone of wearied assurance with which these words were pronounced, Pierre, who had so long been considering his career, wished to make some suggestion. But Prince Vasili interrupted him in the special deep cooing tone, precluding the possibility of interrupting his speech, which he used in extreme cases when special persuasion was needed.
"Mais, mon cher, I did this for my own sake, to satisfy my conscience, and there is nothing to thank me for. No one has ever complained yet of being too much loved; and besides, you are free, you could throw it up tomorrow. But you will see everything for yourself when you get to Petersburg. It is high time for you to get away from these terrible recollections." Prince Vasili sighed. "Yes, yes, my boy. And my valet can go in your carriage. Ah! I was nearly forgetting," he added. "You know, mon cher, your father and I had some accounts to settle, so I have received what was due from the Ryazan estate and will keep it; you won't require it. We'll go into the accounts later."
By "what was due from the Ryazan estate" Prince Vasili meant several thousand rubles quitrent received from Pierre's peasants, which the prince had retained for himself.
In Petersburg, as in Moscow, Pierre found the same atmosphere of gentleness and affection. He could not refuse the post, or rather the rank (for he did nothing), that Prince Vasili had procured for him, and acquaintances, invitations, and social occupations were so numerous that, even more than in Moscow, he felt a sense of bewilderment, bustle, and continual expectation of some good, always in front of him but never attained.
Of his former bachelor acquaintances many were no longer in Petersburg. The Guards had gone to the front; Dolokhov had been reduced to the ranks; Anatole was in the army somewhere in the provinces; Prince Andrew was abroad; so Pierre had not the opportunity to spend his nights as he used to like to spend them, or to open his mind by intimate talks with a friend older than himself and whom he respected. His whole time was taken up with dinners and balls and was spent chiefly at Prince Vasili's house in the company of the stout princess, his wife, and his beautiful daughter Helene.
Like the others, Anna Pavlovna Scherer showed Pierre the change of attitude toward him that had taken place in society.
Formerly in Anna Pavlovna's presence, Pierre had always felt that what he was saying was out of place, tactless and unsuitable, that remarks which seemed to him clever while they formed in his mind became foolish as soon as he uttered them, while on the contrary Hippolyte's stupidest remarks came out clever and apt. Now everything Pierre said was charmant. Even if Anna Pavlovna did not say so, he could see that she wished to and only refrained out of regard for his modesty.
In the beginning of the winter of 1805-6 Pierre received one of Anna Pavlovna's usual pink notes with an invitation to which was added: "You will find the beautiful Helene here, whom it is always delightful to see."
When he read that sentence, Pierre felt for the first time that some link which other people recognized had grown up between himself and Helene, and that thought both alarmed him, as if some obligation were being imposed on him which he could not fulfill, and pleased him as an entertaining supposition.
Anna Pavlovna's "At Home" was like the former one, only the novelty she offered her guests this time was not Mortemart, but a diplomatist fresh from Berlin with the very latest details of the Emperor Alexander's visit to Potsdam, and of how the two august friends had pledged themselves in an indissoluble alliance to uphold the cause of justice against the enemy of the human race. Anna Pavlovna received Pierre with a shade of melancholy, evidently relating to the young man's recent loss by the death of Count Bezukhov (everyone constantly considered it a duty to assure Pierre that he was greatly afflicted by the death of the father he had hardly known), and her melancholy was just like the august melancholy she showed at the mention of her most august Majesty the Empress Marya Fedorovna. Pierre felt flattered by this. Anna Pavlovna arranged the different groups in her drawing room with her habitual skill. The large group, in which were Prince Vasili and the generals, had the benefit of the diplomat. Another group was at the tea table. Pierre wished to join the former, but Anna Pavlovna--who was in the excited condition of a commander on a battlefield to whom thousands of new and brilliant ideas occur which there is hardly time to put in action--seeing Pierre, touched his sleeve with her finger, saying:
"Wait a bit, I have something in view for you this evening." (She glanced at Helene and smiled at her.) "My dear Helene, be charitable to my poor aunt who adores you. Go and keep her company for ten minutes. And that it will not be too dull, here is the dear count who will not refuse to accompany you."
The beauty went to the aunt, but Anna Pavlovna detained Pierre, looking as if she had to give some final necessary instructions.
"Isn't she exquisite?" she said to Pierre, pointing to the stately beauty as she glided away. "And how she carries herself! For so young a girl, such tact, such masterly perfection of manner! It comes from her heart. Happy the man who wins her! With her the least worldly of men would occupy a most brilliant position in society. Don't you think so? I only wanted to know your opinion," and Anna Pavlovna let Pierre go.
Pierre, in reply, sincerely agreed with her as to Helene's perfection of manner. If he ever thought of Helene, it was just of her beauty and her remarkable skill in appearing silently dignified in society.
The old aunt received the two young people in her corner, but seemed desirous of hiding her adoration for Helene and inclined rather to show her fear of Anna Pavlovna. She looked at her niece, as if inquiring what she was to do with these people. On leaving them, Anna Pavlovna again touched Pierre's sleeve, saying: "I hope you won't say that it is dull in my house again," and she glanced at Helene.
Helene smiled, with a look implying that she did not admit the possibility of anyone seeing her without being enchanted. The aunt coughed, swallowed, and said in French that she was very pleased to see Helene, then she turned to Pierre with the same words of welcome and the same look. In the middle of a dull and halting conversation, Helene turned to Pierre with the beautiful bright smile that she gave to everyone. Pierre was so used to that smile, and it had so little meaning for him, that he paid no attention to it. The aunt was just speaking of a collection of snuffboxes that had belonged to Pierre's father, Count Bezukhov, and showed them her own box. Princess Helene asked to see the portrait of the aunt's husband on the box lid.
"That is probably the work of Vinesse," said Pierre, mentioning a celebrated miniaturist, and he leaned over the table to take the snuffbox while trying to hear what was being said at the other table.
He half rose, meaning to go round, but the aunt handed him the snuffbox, passing it across Helene's back. Helene stooped forward to make room, and looked round with a smile. She was, as always at evening parties, wearing a dress such as was then fashionable, cut very low at front and back. Her bust, which had always seemed like marble to Pierre, was so close to him that his shortsighted eyes could not but perceive the living charm of her neck and shoulders, so near to his lips that he need only have bent his head a little to have touched them. He was conscious of the warmth of her body, the scent of perfume, and the creaking of her corset as she moved. He did not see her marble beauty forming a complete whole with her dress, but all the charm of her body only covered by her garments. And having once seen this he could not help being aware it, just as we cannot renew an illusion we have once seen through.
"So you have never noticed before how beautiful I am?" Helene seemed to say. "You had not noticed that I am a woman? Yes, I am a woman who may belong to anyone--to you too," said her glance. And at that moment Pierre felt that Helene not only could, but must, be his wife, and that it could not be otherwise.
He knew this at that moment as surely as if he had been standing at the altar with her. How and when this would be he did not know, he did not even know if it would be a good thing (he even felt, he knew not why, that it would be a bad thing), but he knew it would happen.
Pierre dropped his eyes, lifted them again, and wished once more to see her as a distant beauty far removed from him, as he had seen her every day until then, but he could no longer do it. He could not, any more than a man who has been looking at a tuft of steppe grass through the mist and taking it for a tree can again take it for a tree after he has once recognized it to be a tuft of grass. She was terribly close to him. She already had power over him, and between them there was no longer any barrier except the barrier of his own will.
"Well, I will leave you in your little corner," came Anna Pavlovna's voice, "I see you are all right there."
And Pierre, anxiously trying to remember whether he had done anything reprehensible, looked round with a blush. It seemed to him that everyone knew what had happened to him as he knew it himself.
A little later when he went up to the large circle, Anna Pavlovna said to him: "I hear you are refitting your Petersburg house?"
This was true. The architect had told him that it was necessary, and Pierre, without knowing why, was having his enormous Petersburg house done up.
"That's a good thing, but don't move from Prince Vasili's. It is good to have a friend like the prince," she said, smiling at Prince Vasili. "I know something about that. Don't I? And you are still so young. You need advice. Don't be angry with me for exercising an old woman's privilege."
She paused, as women always do, expecting something after they have mentioned their age. "If you marry it will be a different thing," she continued, uniting them both in one glance. Pierre did not look at Helene nor she at him. But she was just as terribly close to him. He muttered something and colored.
When he got home he could not sleep for a long time for thinking of what had happened. What had happened? Nothing. He had merely understood that the woman he had known as a child, of whom when her beauty was mentioned he had said absent-mindedly: "Yes, she's good looking," he had understood that this woman might belong to him.
"But she's stupid. I have myself said she is stupid," he thought. "There is something nasty, something wrong, in the feeling she excites in me. I have been told that her brother Anatole was in love with her and she with him, that there was quite a scandal and that that's why he was sent away. Hippolyte is her brother... Prince Vasili is her father... It's bad...." he reflected, but while he was thinking this (the reflection was still incomplete), he caught himself smiling and was conscious that another line of thought had sprung up, and while thinking of her worthlessness he was also dreaming of how she would be his wife, how she would love him become quite different, and how all he had thought and heard of her might be false. And he again saw her not as the daughter of Prince Vasili, but visualized her whole body only veiled by its gray dress. "But no! Why did this thought never occur to me before?" and again he told himself that it was impossible, that there would be something unnatural, and as it seemed to him dishonorable, in this marriage. He recalled her former words and looks and the words and looks of those who had seen them together. He recalled Anna Pavlovna's words and looks when she spoke to him about his house, recalled thousands of such hints from Prince Vasili and others, and was seized by terror lest he had already, in some way, bound himself to do something that was evidently wrong and that he ought not to do. But at the very time he was expressing this conviction to himself, in another part of his mind her image rose in all its womanly beauty.
In November, 1805, Prince Vasili had to go on a tour of inspection in four different provinces. He had arranged this for himself so as to visit his neglected estates at the same time and pick up his son Anatole where his regiment was stationed, and take him to visit Prince Nicholas Bolkonski in order to arrange a match for him with the daughter of that rich old man. But before leaving home and undertaking these new affairs, Prince Vasili had to settle matters with Pierre, who, it is true, had latterly spent whole days at home, that is, in Prince Vasili's house where he was staying, and had been absurd, excited, and foolish in Helene's presence (as a lover should be), but had not yet proposed to her.
"This is all very fine, but things must be settled," said Prince Vasili to himself, with a sorrowful sigh, one morning, feeling that Pierre who was under such obligations to him ("But never mind that") was not behaving very well in this matter. "Youth, frivolity... well, God be with him," thought he, relishing his own goodness of heart, "but it must be brought to a head. The day after tomorrow will be Lelya's name day. I will invite two or three people, and if he does not understand what he ought to do then it will be my affair- yes, my affair. I am her father."
Six weeks after Anna Pavlovna's "At Home" and after the sleepless night when he had decided that to marry Helene would be a calamity and that he ought to avoid her and go away, Pierre, despite that decision, had not left Prince Vasili's and felt with terror that in people's eyes he was every day more and more connected with her, that it was impossible for him to return to his former conception of her, that he could not break away from her, and that though it would be a terrible thing he would have to unite his fate with hers. He might perhaps have been able to free himself but that Prince Vasili (who had rarely before given receptions) now hardly let a day go by without having an evening party at which Pierre had to be present unless he wished to spoil the general pleasure and disappoint everyone's expectation. Prince Vasili, in the rare moments when he was at home, would take Pierre's hand in passing and draw it downwards, or absent-mindedly hold out his wrinkled, clean-shaven cheek for Pierre to kiss and would say: "Till tomorrow," or, "Be in to dinner or I shall not see you," or, "I am staying in for your sake," and so on. And though Prince Vasili, when he stayed in (as he said) for Pierre's sake, hardly exchanged a couple of words with him, Pierre felt unable to disappoint him. Every day he said to himself one and the same thing: "It is time I understood her and made up my mind what she really is. Was I mistaken before, or am I mistaken now? No, she is not stupid, she is an excellent girl," he sometimes said to himself "she never makes a mistake, never says anything stupid. She says little, but what she does say is always clear and simple, so she is not stupid. She never was abashed and is not abashed now, so she cannot be a bad woman!" He had often begun to make reflections or think aloud in her company, and she had always answered him either by a brief but appropriate remark--showing that it did not interest her--or by a silent look and smile which more palpably than anything else showed Pierre her superiority. She was right in regarding all arguments as nonsense in comparison with that smile.
She always addressed him with a radiantly confiding smile meant for him alone, in which there was something more significant than in the general smile that usually brightened her face. Pierre knew that everyone was waiting for him to say a word and cross a certain line, and he knew that sooner or later he would step across it, but an incomprehensible terror seized him at the thought of that dreadful step. A thousand times during that month and a half while he felt himself drawn nearer and nearer to that dreadful abyss, Pierre said to himself: "What am I doing? I need resolution. Can it be that I have none?"
He wished to take a decision, but felt with dismay that in this matter he lacked that strength of will which he had known in himself and really possessed. Pierre was one of those who are only strong when they feel themselves quite innocent, and since that day when he was overpowered by a feeling of desire while stooping over the snuffbox at Anna Pavlovna's, an unacknowledged sense of the guilt of that desire paralyzed his will.
On Helene's name day, a small party of just their own people--as his wife said--met for supper at Prince Vasili's. All these friends and relations had been given to understand that the fate of the young girl would be decided that evening. The visitors were seated at supper. Princess Kuragina, a portly imposing woman who had once been handsome, was sitting at the head of the table. On either side of her sat the more important guests--an old general and his wife, and Anna Pavlovna Scherer. At the other end sat the younger and less important guests, and there too sat the members of the family, and Pierre and Helene, side by side. Prince Vasili was not having any supper: he went round the table in a merry mood, sitting down now by one, now by another, of the guests. To each of them he made some careless and agreeable remark except to Pierre and Helene, whose presence he seemed not to notice. He enlivened the whole party. The wax candles burned brightly, the silver and crystal gleamed, so did the ladies' toilets and the gold and silver of the men's epaulets; servants in scarlet liveries moved round the table, the clatter of plates, knives, and glasses mingled with the animated hum of several conversations. At one end of the table, the old chamberlain was heard assuring an old baroness that he loved her passionately, at which she laughed; at the other could be heard the story of the misfortunes of some Mary Viktorovna or other. At the center of the table, Prince Vasili attracted everybody's attention. With a facetious smile on his face, he was telling the ladies about last Wednesday's meeting of the Imperial Council, at which Sergey Kuzmich Vyazmitinov, the new military governor general of Petersburg, had received and read the then famous rescript of the Emperor Alexander from the army to Sergey Kuzmich, in which the Emperor said that he was receiving from all sides declarations of the people's loyalty, that the declaration from Petersburg gave him particular pleasure, and that he was proud to be at the head of such a nation and would endeavor to be worthy of it. This rescript began with the words: "Sergey Kuzmich, From all sides reports reach me," etc.
"Well, and so he never got farther than: 'Sergey Kuzmich'?" asked one of the ladies.
"Exactly, not a hair's breadth farther," answered Prince Vasili, laughing, "'Sergey Kuzmich... From all sides... From all sides... Sergey Kuzmich...' Poor Vyazmitinov could not get any farther! He began the rescript again and again, but as soon as he uttered 'Sergey' he sobbed, 'Kuz-mi-ch,' tears, and 'From all sides' was smothered in sobs and he could get no farther. And again his handkerchief, and again: 'Sergey Kuzmich, From all sides,'... and tears, till at last somebody else was asked to read it."
"Kuzmich... From all sides... and then tears," someone repeated laughing.
"Don't be unkind," cried Anna Pavlovna from her end of the table holding up a threatening finger. "He is such a worthy and excellent man, our dear Vyazmitinov...."
Everybody laughed a great deal. At the head of the table, where the honored guests sat, everyone seemed to be in high spirits and under the influence of a variety of exciting sensations. Only Pierre and Helene sat silently side by side almost at the bottom of the table, a suppressed smile brightening both their faces, a smile that had nothing to do with Sergey Kuzmich--a smile of bashfulness at their own feelings. But much as all the rest laughed, talked, and joked, much as they enjoyed their Rhine wine, saute, and ices, and however they avoided looking at the young couple, and heedless and unobservant as they seemed of them, one could feel by the occasional glances they gave that the story about Sergey Kuzmich, the laughter, and the food were all a pretense, and that the whole attention of that company was directed to--Pierre and Helene. Prince Vasili mimicked the sobbing of Sergey Kuzmich and at the same time his eyes glanced toward his daughter, and while he laughed the expression on his face clearly said: "Yes... it's getting on, it will all be settled today." Anna Pavlovna threatened him on behalf of "our dear Vyazmitinov," and in her eyes, which, for an instant, glanced at Pierre, Prince Vasili read a congratulation on his future son-in-law and on his daughter's happiness. The old princess sighed sadly as she offered some wine to the old lady next to her and glanced angrily at her daughter, and her sigh seemed to say: "Yes, there's nothing left for you and me but to sip sweet wine, my dear, now that the time has come for these young ones to be thus boldly, provocatively happy." "And what nonsense all this is that I am saying!" thought a diplomatist, glancing at the happy faces of the lovers. "That's happiness!"
Into the insignificant, trifling, and artificial interests uniting that society had entered the simple feeling of the attraction of a healthy and handsome young man and woman for one another. And this human feeling dominated everything else and soared above all their affected chatter. Jests fell flat, news was not interesting, and the animation was evidently forced. Not only the guests but even the footmen waiting at table seemed to feel this, and they forgot their duties as they looked at the beautiful Helene with her radiant face and at the red, broad, and happy though uneasy face of Pierre. It seemed as if the very light of the candles was focused on those two happy faces alone.
Pierre felt that he was the center of it all, and this both pleased and embarrassed him. He was like a man entirely absorbed in some occupation. He did not see, hear, or understand anything clearly. Only now and then detached ideas and impressions from the world of reality shot unexpectedly through his mind.
"So it is all finished!" he thought. "And how has it all happened? How quickly! Now I know that not because of her alone, nor of myself alone, but because of everyone, it must inevitably come about. They are all expecting it, they are so sure that it will happen that I cannot, I cannot, disappoint them. But how will it be? I do not know, but it will certainly happen!" thought Pierre, glancing at those dazzling shoulders close to his eyes.
Or he would suddenly feel ashamed of he knew not what. He felt it awkward to attract everyone's attention and to be considered a lucky man and, with his plain face, to be looked on as a sort of Paris possessed of a Helen. "But no doubt it always is and must be so!" he consoled himself. "And besides, what have I done to bring it about? How did it begin? I traveled from Moscow with Prince Vasili. Then there was nothing. So why should I not stay at his house? Then I played cards with her and picked up her reticule and drove out with her. How did it begin, when did it all come about?" And here he was sitting by her side as her betrothed, seeing, hearing, feeling her nearness, her breathing, her movements, her beauty. Then it would suddenly seem to him that it was not she but he was so unusually beautiful, and that that was why they all looked so at him, and flattered by this general admiration he would expand his chest, raise his head, and rejoice at his good fortune. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice repeating something to him a second time. But Pierre was so absorbed that he did not understand what was said.
"I am asking you when you last heard from Bolkonski," repeated Prince Vasili a third time. "How absent-minded you are, my dear fellow."
Prince Vasili smiled, and Pierre noticed that everyone was smiling at him and Helene. "Well, what of it, if you all know it?" thought Pierre. "What of it? It's the truth!" and he himself smiled his gentle childlike smile, and Helene smiled too.
"When did you get the letter? Was it from Olmutz?" repeated Prince Vasili, who pretended to want to know this in order to settle a dispute.
"How can one talk or think of such trifles?" thought Pierre.
"Yes, from Olmutz," he answered, with a sigh.
After supper Pierre with his partner followed the others into the drawing room. The guests began to disperse, some without taking leave of Helene. Some, as if unwilling to distract her from an important occupation, came up to her for a moment and made haste to go away, refusing to let her see them off. The diplomatist preserved a mournful silence as he left the drawing room. He pictured the vanity of his diplomatic career in comparison with Pierre's happiness. The old general grumbled at his wife when she asked how his leg was. "Oh, the old fool," he thought. "That Princess Helene will be beautiful still when she's fifty."
"I think I may congratulate you," whispered Anna Pavlovna to the old princess, kissing her soundly. "If I hadn't this headache I'd have stayed longer."
The old princess did not reply, she was tormented by jealousy of her daughter's happiness.
While the guests were taking their leave Pierre remained for a long time alone with Helene in the little drawing room where they were sitting. He had often before, during the last six weeks, remained alone with her, but had never spoken to her of love. Now he felt that it was inevitable, but he could not make up his mind to take the final step. He felt ashamed; he felt that he was occupying someone else's place here beside Helene. "This happiness is not for you," some inner voice whispered to him. "This happiness is for those who have not in them what there is in you."
But, as he had to say something, he began by asking her whether she was satisfied with the party. She replied in her usual simple manner that this name day of hers had been one of the pleasantest she had ever had.
Some of the nearest relatives had not yet left. They were sitting in the large drawing room. Prince Vasili came up to Pierre with languid footsteps. Pierre rose and said it was getting late. Prince Vasili gave him a look of stern inquiry, as though what Pierre had just said was so strange that one could not take it in. But then the expression of severity changed, and he drew Pierre's hand downwards, made him sit down, and smiled affectionately.
"Well, Lelya?" he asked, turning instantly to his daughter and addressing her with the careless tone of habitual tenderness natural to parents who have petted their children from babyhood, but which Prince Vasili had only acquired by imitating other parents.
And he again turned to Pierre.
"Sergey Kuzmich--From all sides-" he said, unbuttoning the top button of his waistcoat.
Pierre smiled, but his smile showed that he knew it was not the story about Sergey Kuzmich that interested Prince Vasili just then, and Prince Vasili saw that Pierre knew this. He suddenly muttered something and went away. It seemed to Pierre that even the prince was disconcerted. The sight of the discomposure of that old man of the world touched Pierre: he looked at Helene and she too seemed disconcerted, and her look seemed to say: "Well, it is your own fault."
"The step must be taken but I cannot, I cannot!" thought Pierre, and he again began speaking about indifferent matters, about Sergey Kuzmich, asking what the point of the story was as he had not heard it properly. Helene answered with a smile that she too had missed it.
When Prince Vasili returned to the drawing room, the princess, his wife, was talking in low tones to the elderly lady about Pierre.
"Of course, it is a very brilliant match, but happiness, my dear..."
"Marriages are made in heaven," replied the elderly lady.
Prince Vasili passed by, seeming not to hear the ladies, and sat down on a sofa in a far corner of the room. He closed his eyes and seemed to be dozing. His head sank forward and then he roused himself.
"Aline," he said to his wife, "go and see what they are about."
The princess went up to the door, passed by it with a dignified and indifferent air, and glanced into the little drawing room. Pierre and Helene still sat talking just as before.
"Still the same," she said to her husband.
Prince Vasili frowned, twisting his mouth, his cheeks quivered and his face assumed the coarse, unpleasant expression peculiar to him. Shaking himself, he rose, threw back his head, and with resolute steps went past the ladies into the little drawing room. With quick steps he went joyfully up to Pierre. His face was so unusually triumphant that Pierre rose in alarm on seeing it.
"Thank God!" said Prince Vasili. "My wife has told me everything!" (He put one arm around Pierre and the other around his daughter.)--"My dear boy... Lelya... I am very pleased." (His voice trembled.) "I loved your father... and she will make you a good wife... God bless you!..."
He embraced his daughter, and then again Pierre, and kissed him with his malodorous mouth. Tears actually moistened his cheeks.
"Princess, come here!" he shouted.
The old princess came in and also wept. The elderly lady was using her handkerchief too. Pierre was kissed, and he kissed the beautiful Helene's hand several times. After a while they were left alone again.
"All this had to be and could not be otherwise," thought Pierre, "so it is useless to ask whether it is good or bad. It is good because it's definite and one is rid of the old tormenting doubt." Pierre held the hand of his betrothed in silence, looking at her beautiful bosom as it rose and fell.
"Helene!" he said aloud and paused.
"Something special is always said in such cases," he thought, but could not remember what it was that people say. He looked at her face. She drew nearer to him. Her face flushed.
"Oh, take those off... those..." she said, pointing to his spectacles.
Pierre took them off, and his eyes, besides the strange look eyes have from which spectacles have just been removed, had also a frightened and inquiring look. He was about to stoop over her hand and kiss it, but with a rapid, almost brutal movement of her head, she intercepted his lips and met them with her own. Her face struck Pierre, by its altered, unpleasantly excited expression.
"It is too late now, it's done; besides I love her," thought Pierre.
"Je vous aime!"* he said, remembering what has to be said at such moments: but his words sounded so weak that he felt ashamed of himself.
*"I love you."
Six weeks later he was married, and settled in Count Bezukhov's large, newly furnished Petersburg house, the happy possessor, as people said, of a wife who was a celebrated beauty and of millions of money.
Old Prince Nicholas Bolkonski received a letter from Prince Vasili in November, 1805, announcing that he and his son would be paying him a visit. "I am starting on a journey of inspection, and of course I shall think nothing of an extra seventy miles to come and see you at the same time, my honored benefactor," wrote Prince Vasili. "My son Anatole is accompanying me on his way to the army, so I hope you will allow him personally to express the deep respect that, emulating his father, he feels for you."
"It seems that there will be no need to bring Mary out, suitors are coming to us of their own accord," incautiously remarked the little princess on hearing the news.
Prince Nicholas frowned, but said nothing.
A fortnight after the letter Prince Vasili's servants came one evening in advance of him, and he and his son arrived next day.
Old Bolkonski had always had a poor opinion of Prince Vasili's character, but more so recently, since in the new reigns of Paul and Alexander Prince Vasili had risen to high position and honors. And now, from the hints contained in his letter and given by the little princess, he saw which way the wind was blowing, and his low opinion changed into a feeling of contemptuous ill will. He snorted whenever he mentioned him. On the day of Prince Vasili's arrival, Prince Bolkonski was particularly discontented and out of temper. Whether he was in a bad temper because Prince Vasili was coming, or whether his being in a bad temper made him specially annoyed at Prince Vasili's visit, he was in a bad temper, and in the morning Tikhon had already advised the architect not to go to the prince with his report.
"Do you hear how he's walking?" said Tikhon, drawing the architect's attention to the sound of the prince's footsteps. "Stepping flat on his heels--we know what that means...."
However, at nine o'clock the prince, in his velvet coat with a sable collar and cap, went out for his usual walk. It had snowed the day before and the path to the hothouse, along which the prince was in the habit of walking, had been swept: the marks of the broom were still visible in the snow and a shovel had been left sticking in one of the soft snowbanks that bordered both sides of the path. The prince went through the conservatories, the serfs' quarters, and the outbuildings, frowning and silent.
"Can a sleigh pass?" he asked his overseer, a venerable man, resembling his master in manners and looks, who was accompanying him back to the house.
"The snow is deep. I am having the avenue swept, your honor."
The prince bowed his head and went up to the porch. "God be thanked," thought the overseer, "the storm has blown over!"
"It would have been hard to drive up, your honor," he added. "I heard, your honor, that a minister is coming to visit your honor."
The prince turned round to the overseer and fixed his eyes on him, frowning.
"What? A minister? What minister? Who gave orders?" he said in his shrill, harsh voice. "The road is not swept for the princess my daughter, but for a minister! For me, there are no ministers!"
"Your honor, I thought..."
"You thought!" shouted the prince, his words coming more and more rapidly and indistinctly. "You thought!... Rascals! Blackgaurds!... I'll teach you to think!" and lifting his stick he swung it and would have hit Alpatych, the overseer, had not the latter instinctively avoided the blow. "Thought... Blackguards..." shouted the prince rapidly.
But although Alpatych, frightened at his own temerity in avoiding the stroke, came up to the prince, bowing his bald head resignedly before him, or perhaps for that very reason, the prince, though he continued to shout: "Blackgaurds!... Throw the snow back on the road!" did not lift his stick again but hurried into the house.
Before dinner, Princess Mary and Mademoiselle Bourienne, who knew that the prince was in a bad humor, stood awaiting him; Mademoiselle Bourienne with a radiant face that said: "I know nothing, I am the same as usual," and Princess Mary pale, frightened, and with downcast eyes. What she found hardest to bear was to know that on such occasions she ought to behave like Mademoiselle Bourienne, but could not. She thought: "If I seem not to notice he will think that I do not sympathize with him; if I seem sad and out of spirits myself, he will say (as he has done before) that I'm in the dumps."
The prince looked at his daughter's frightened face and snorted.
"Fool... or dummy!" he muttered.
"And the other one is not here. They've been telling tales," he thought--referring to the little princess who was not in the dining room.
"Where is the princess?" he asked. "Hiding?"
"She is not very well," answered Mademoiselle Bourienne with a bright smile, "so she won't come down. It is natural in her state."
"Hm! Hm!" muttered the prince, sitting down.
His plate seemed to him not quite clean, and pointing to a spot he flung it away. Tikhon caught it and handed it to a footman. The little princess was not unwell, but had such an overpowering fear of the prince that, hearing he was in a bad humor, she had decided not to appear.
"I am afraid for the baby," she said to Mademoiselle Bourienne: "Heaven knows what a fright might do."
In general at Bald Hills the little princess lived in constant fear, and with a sense of antipathy to the old prince which she did not realize because the fear was so much the stronger feeling. The prince reciprocated this antipathy, but it was overpowered by his contempt for her. When the little princess had grown accustomed to life at Bald Hills, she took a special fancy to Mademoiselle Bourienne, spent whole days with her, asked her to sleep in her room, and often talked with her about the old prince and criticized him.
"So we are to have visitors, mon prince?" remarked Mademoiselle Bourienne, unfolding her white napkin with her rosy fingers. "His Excellency Prince Vasili Kuragin and his son, I understand?" she said inquiringly.
"Hm!--his excellency is a puppy.... I got him his appointment in the service," said the prince disdainfully. "Why his son is coming I don't understand. Perhaps Princess Elizabeth and Princess Mary know. I don't want him." (He looked at his blushing daughter.) "Are you unwell today? Eh? Afraid of the 'minister' as that idiot Alpatych called him this morning?"
"No, mon pere."
Though Mademoiselle Bourienne had been so unsuccessful in her choice of a subject, she did not stop talking, but chattered about the conservatories and the beauty of a flower that had just opened, and after the soup the prince became more genial.
After dinner, he went to see his daughter-in-law. The little princess was sitting at a small table, chattering with Masha, her maid. She grew pale on seeing her father-in-law.
She was much altered. She was now plain rather than pretty. Her cheeks had sunk, her lip was drawn up, and her eyes drawn down.
"Yes, I feel a kind of oppression," she said in reply to the prince's question as to how she felt.
"Do you want anything?"
"No, merci, mon pere."
"Well, all right, all right."
He left the room and went to the waiting room where Alpatych stood with bowed head.
"Has the snow been shoveled back?"
"Yes, your excellency. Forgive me for heaven's sake... It was only my stupidity."
"All right, all right," interrupted the prince, and laughing his unnatural way, he stretched out his hand for Alpatych to kiss, and then proceeded to his study.
Prince Vasili arrived that evening. He was met in the avenue by coachmen and footmen, who, with loud shouts, dragged his sleighs up to one of the lodges over the road purposely laden with snow.
Prince Vasili and Anatole had separate rooms assigned to them.
Anatole, having taken off his overcoat, sat with arms akimbo before a table on a corner of which he smilingly and absent-mindedly fixed his large and handsome eyes. He regarded his whole life as a continual round of amusement which someone for some reason had to provide for him. And he looked on this visit to a churlish old man and a rich and ugly heiress in the same way. All this might, he thought, turn out very well and amusingly. "And why not marry her if she really has so much money? That never does any harm," thought Anatole.
He shaved and scented himself with the care and elegance which had become habitual to him and, his handsome head held high, entered his father's room with the good-humored and victorious air natural to him. Prince Vasili's two valets were busy dressing him, and he looked round with much animation and cheerfully nodded to his son as the latter entered, as if to say: "Yes, that's how I want you to look."
"I say, Father, joking apart, is she very hideous?" Anatole asked, as if continuing a conversation the subject of which had often been mentioned during the journey.
"Enough! What nonsense! Above all, try to be respectful and cautious with the old prince."
"If he starts a row I'll go away," said Prince Anatole. "I can't bear those old men! Eh?"
"Remember, for you everything depends on this."
In the meantime, not only was it known in the maidservants' rooms that the minister and his son had arrived, but the appearance of both had been minutely described. Princess Mary was sitting alone in her room, vainly trying to master her agitation.
"Why did they write, why did Lise tell me about it? It can never happen!" she said, looking at herself in the glass. "How shall I enter the drawing room? Even if I like him I can't now be myself with him." The mere thought of her father's look filled her with terror. The little princess and Mademoiselle Bourienne had already received from Masha, the lady's maid, the necessary report of how handsome the minister's son was, with his rosy cheeks and dark eyebrows, and with what difficulty the father had dragged his legs upstairs while the son had followed him like an eagle, three steps at a time. Having received this information, the little princess and Mademoiselle Bourienne, whose chattering voices had reached her from the corridor, went into Princess Mary's room.
"You know they've come, Marie?" said the little princess, waddling in, and sinking heavily into an armchair.
She was no longer in the loose gown she generally wore in the morning, but had on one of her best dresses. Her hair was carefully done and her face was animated, which, however, did not conceal its sunken and faded outlines. Dressed as she used to be in Petersburg society, it was still more noticeable how much plainer she had become. Some unobtrusive touch had been added to Mademoiselle Bourienne's toilet which rendered her fresh and pretty face yet more attractive.
"What! Are you going to remain as you are, dear princess?" she began. "They'll be announcing that the gentlemen are in the drawing room and we shall have to go down, and you have not smartened yourself up at all!"
The little princess got up, rang for the maid, and hurriedly and merrily began to devise and carry out a plan of how Princess Mary should be dressed. Princess Mary's self-esteem was wounded by the fact that the arrival of a suitor agitated her, and still more so by both her companions' not having the least conception that it could be otherwise. To tell them that she felt ashamed for herself and for them would be to betray her agitation, while to decline their offers to dress her would prolong their banter and insistence. She flushed, her beautiful eyes grew dim, red blotches came on her face, and it took on the unattractive martyrlike expression it so often wore, as she submitted herself to Mademoiselle Bourienne and Lise. Both these women quite sincerely tried to make her look pretty. She was so plain that neither of them could think of her as a rival, so they began dressing her with perfect sincerity, and with the naive and firm conviction women have that dress can make a face pretty.
"No really, my dear, this dress is not pretty," said Lise, looking sideways at Princess Mary from a little distance. "You have a maroon dress, have it fetched. Really! You know the fate of your whole life may be at stake. But this one is too light, it's not becoming!"
It was not the dress, but the face and whole figure of Princess Mary that was not pretty, but neither Mademoiselle Bourienne nor the little princess felt this; they still thought that if a blue ribbon were placed in the hair, the hair combed up, and the blue scarf arranged lower on the best maroon dress, and so on, all would be well. They forgot that the frightened face and the figure could not be altered, and that however they might change the setting and adornment of that face, it would still remain piteous and plain. After two or three changes to which Princess Mary meekly submitted, just as her hair had been arranged on the top of her head (a style that quite altered and spoiled her looks) and she had put on a maroon dress with a pale-blue scarf, the little princess walked twice round her, now adjusting a fold of the dress with her little hand, now arranging the scarf and looking at her with her head bent first on one side and then on the other.
"No, it will not do," she said decidedly, clasping her hands. "No, Mary, really this dress does not suit you. I prefer you in your little gray everyday dress. Now please, do it for my sake. Katie," she said to the maid, "bring the princess her gray dress, and you'll see, Mademoiselle Bourienne, how I shall arrange it," she added, smiling with a foretaste of artistic pleasure.
But when Katie brought the required dress, Princess Mary remained sitting motionless before the glass, looking at her face, and saw in the mirror her eyes full of tears and her mouth quivering, ready to burst into sobs.
"Come, dear princess," said Mademoiselle Bourienne, "just one more little effort."
The little princess, taking the dress from the maid, came up to Princess Mary.
"Well, now we'll arrange something quite simple and becoming," she said.
The three voices, hers, Mademoiselle Bourienne's, and Katie's, who was laughing at something, mingled in a merry sound, like the chirping of birds.
"No, leave me alone," said Princess Mary.
Her voice sounded so serious and so sad that the chirping of the birds was silenced at once. They looked at the beautiful, large, thoughtful eyes full of tears and of thoughts, gazing shiningly and imploringly at them, and understood that it was useless and even cruel to insist.
"At least, change your coiffure," said the little princess. "Didn't I tell you," she went on, turning reproachfully to Mademoiselle Bourienne, "Mary's is a face which such a coiffure does not suit in the least. Not in the least! Please change it."
"Leave me alone, please leave me alone! It is all quite the same to me," answered a voice struggling with tears.
Mademoiselle Bourienne and the little princess had to own to themselves that Princess Mary in this guise looked very plain, worse than usual, but it was too late. She was looking at them with an expression they both knew, an expression thoughtful and sad. This expression in Princess Mary did not frighten them (she never inspired fear in anyone), but they knew that when it appeared on her face, she became mute and was not to be shaken in her determination.
"You will change it, won't you?" said Lise. And as Princess Mary gave no answer, she left the room.
Princess Mary was left alone. She did not comply with Lise's request, she not only left her hair as it was, but did not even look in her glass. Letting her arms fall helplessly, she sat with downcast eyes and pondered. A husband, a man, a strong dominant and strangely attractive being rose in her imagination, and carried her into a totally different happy world of his own. She fancied a child, her own--such as she had seen the day before in the arms of her nurse's daughter--at her own breast, the husband standing by and gazing tenderly at her and the child. "But no, it is impossible, I am too ugly," she thought.
"Please come to tea. The prince will be out in a moment," came the maid's voice at the door.
She roused herself, and felt appalled at what she had been thinking, and before going down she went into the room where the icons hung and, her eyes fixed on the dark face of a large icon of the Saviour lit by a lamp, she stood before it with folded hands for a few moments. A painful doubt filled her soul. Could the joy of love, of earthly love for a man, be for her? In her thoughts of marriage Princess Mary dreamed of happiness and of children, but her strongest, most deeply hidden longing was for earthly love. The more she tried to hide this feeling from others and even from herself, the stronger it grew. "O God," she said, "how am I to stifle in my heart these temptations of the devil? How am I to renounce forever these vile fancies, so as peacefully to fulfill Thy will?" And scarcely had she put that question than God gave her the answer in her own heart. "Desire nothing for thyself, seek nothing, be not anxious or envious. Man's future and thy own fate must remain hidden from thee, but live so that thou mayest be ready for anything. If it be God's will to prove thee in the duties of marriage, be ready to fulfill His will." With this consoling thought (but yet with a hope for the fulfillment of her forbidden earthly longing) Princess Mary sighed, and having crossed herself went down, thinking neither of her gown and coiffure nor of how she would go in nor of what she would say. What could all that matter in comparison with the will of God, without Whose care not a hair of man's head can fall?
When Princess Mary came down, Prince Vasili and his son were already in the drawing room, talking to the little princess and Mademoiselle Bourienne. When she entered with her heavy step, treading on her heels, the gentlemen and Mademoiselle Bourienne rose and the little princess, indicating her to the gentlemen, said: "Voila Marie!" Princess Mary saw them all and saw them in detail. She saw Prince Vasili's face, serious for an instant at the sight of her, but immediately smiling again, and the little princess curiously noting the impression "Marie" produced on the visitors. And she saw Mademoiselle Bourienne, with her ribbon and pretty face, and her unusually animated look which was fixed on him, but him she could not see, she only saw something large, brilliant, and handsome moving toward her as she entered the room. Prince Vasili approached first, and she kissed the bold forehead that bent over her hand and answered his question by saying that, on the contrary, she remembered him quite well. Then Anatole came up to her. She still could not see him. She only felt a soft hand taking hers firmly, and she touched with her lips a white forehead, over which was beautiful light-brown hair smelling of pomade. When she looked up at him she was struck by his beauty. Anatole stood with his right thumb under a button of his uniform, his chest expanded and his back drawn in, slightly swinging one foot, and, with his head a little bent, looked with beaming face at the princess without speaking and evidently not thinking about her at all. Anatole was not quick-witted, nor ready or eloquent in conversation, but he had the faculty, so invaluable in society, of composure and imperturbable self-possession. If a man lacking in self-confidence remains dumb on a first introduction and betrays a consciousness of the impropriety of such silence and an anxiety to find something to say, the effect is bad. But Anatole was dumb, swung his foot, and smilingly examined the princess' hair. It was evident that he could be silent in this way for a very long time. "If anyone finds this silence inconvenient, let him talk, but I don't want to," he seemed to say. Besides this, in his behavior to women Anatole had a manner which particularly inspires in them curiosity, awe, and even love--a supercilious consciousness of his own superiority. It was was as if he said to them: "I know you, I know you, but why should I bother about you? You'd be only too glad, of course." Perhaps he did not really think this when he met women- even probably he did not, for in general he thought very little--but his looks and manner gave that impression. The princess felt this, and as if wishing to show him that she did not even dare expect to interest him, she turned to his father. The conversation was general and animated, thanks to Princess Lise's voice and little downy lip that lifted over her white teeth. She met Prince Vasili with that playful manner often employed by lively chatty people, and consisting in the assumption that between the person they so address and themselves there are some semi-private, long-established jokes and amusing reminiscences, though no such reminiscences really exist--just as none existed in this case. Prince Vasili readily adopted her tone and the little princess also drew Anatole, whom she hardly knew, into these amusing recollections of things that had never occurred. Mademoiselle Bourienne also shared them and even Princess Mary felt herself pleasantly made to share in these merry reminiscences.
"Here at least we shall have the benefit of your company all to ourselves, dear prince," said the little princess (of course, in French) to Prince Vasili. "It's not as at Annette's* receptions where you always ran away; you remember cette chere Annette!"
"Ah, but you won't talk politics to me like Annette!"
"And our little tea table?"
"Why is it you were never at Annette's?" the little princess asked Anatole. "Ah, I know, I know," she said with a sly glance, "your brother Hippolyte told me about your goings on. Oh!" and she shook her finger at him, "I have even heard of your doings in Paris!"
"And didn't Hippolyte tell you?" asked Prince Vasili, turning to his son and seizing the little princess' arm as if she would have run away and he had just managed to catch her, "didn't he tell you how he himself was pining for the dear princess, and how she showed him the door? Oh, she is a pearl among women, Princess," he added, turning to Princess Mary.
When Paris was mentioned, Mademoiselle Bourienne for her part seized the opportunity of joining in the general current of recollections.
She took the liberty of inquiring whether it was long since Anatole had left Paris and how he had liked that city. Anatole answered the Frenchwoman very readily and, looking at her with a smile, talked to her about her native land. When he saw the pretty little Bourienne, Anatole came to the conclusion that he would not find Bald Hills dull either. "Not at all bad!" he thought, examining her, "not at all bad, that little companion! I hope she will bring her along with her when we're married, la petite est gentille."*
*The little one is charming.
The old prince dressed leisurely in his study, frowning and considering what he was to do. The coming of these visitors annoyed him. "What are Prince Vasili and that son of his to me? Prince Vasili is a shallow braggart and his son, no doubt, is a fine specimen," he grumbled to himself. What angered him was that the coming of these visitors revived in his mind an unsettled question he always tried to stifle, one about which he always deceived himself. The question was whether he could ever bring himself to part from his daughter and give her to a husband. The prince never directly asked himself that question, knowing beforehand that he would have to answer it justly, and justice clashed not only with his feelings but with the very possibility of life. Life without Princess Mary, little as he seemed to value her, was unthinkable to him. "And why should she marry?" he thought. "To be unhappy for certain. There's Lise, married to Andrew--a better husband one would think could hardly be found nowadays--but is she contented with her lot? And who would marry Marie for love? Plain and awkward! They'll take her for her connections and wealth. Are there no women living unmarried, and even the happier for it?" So thought Prince Bolkonski while dressing, and yet the question he was always putting off demanded an immediate answer. Prince Vasili had brought his son with the evident intention of proposing, and today or tomorrow he would probably ask for an answer. His birth and position in society were not bad. "Well, I've nothing against it," the prince said to himself, "but he must be worthy of her. And that is what we shall see."
"That is what we shall see! That is what we shall see!" he added aloud.
He entered the drawing room with his usual alert step, glancing rapidly round the company. He noticed the change in the little princess' dress, Mademoiselle Bourienne's ribbon, Princess Mary's unbecoming coiffure, Mademoiselle Bourienne's and Anatole's smiles, and the loneliness of his daughter amid the general conversation. "Got herself up like a fool!" he thought, looking irritably at her. "She is shameless, and he ignores her!"
He went straight up to Prince Vasili.
"Well! How d'ye do? How d'ye do? Glad to see you!"
"Friendship laughs at distance," began Prince Vasili in his usual rapid, self-confident, familiar tone. "Here is my second son; please love and befriend him."
Prince Bolkonski surveyed Anatole.
"Fine young fellow! Fine young fellow!" he said. "Well, come and kiss me," and he offered his cheek.
Anatole kissed the old man, and looked at him with curiosity and perfect composure, waiting for a display of the eccentricities his father had told him to expect.
Prince Bolkonski sat down in his usual place in the corner of the sofa and, drawing up an armchair for Prince Vasili, pointed to it and began questioning him about political affairs and news. He seemed to listen attentively to what Prince Vasili said, but kept glancing at Princess Mary.
"And so they are writing from Potsdam already?" he said, repeating Prince Vasili's last words. Then rising, he suddenly went up to his daughter.
"Is it for visitors you've got yourself up like that, eh?" said he. "Fine, very fine! You have done up your hair in this new way for the visitors, and before the visitors I tell you that in future you are never to dare to change your way of dress without my consent."
"It was my fault, mon pere," interceded the little princess, with a blush.
"You must do as you please," said Prince Bolkonski, bowing to his daughter-in-law, "but she need not make a fool of herself, she's plain enough as it is."
And he sat down again, paying no more attention to his daughter, who was reduced to tears.
"On the contrary, that coiffure suits the princess very well," said Prince Vasili.
"Now you, young prince, what's your name?" said Prince Bolkonski, turning to Anatole, "come here, let us talk and get acquainted."
"Now the fun begins," thought Anatole, sitting down with a smile beside the old prince.
"Well, my dear boy, I hear you've been educated abroad, not taught to read and write by the deacon, like your father and me. Now tell me, my dear boy, are you serving in the Horse Guards?" asked the old man, scrutinizing Anatole closely and intently.
"No, I have been transferred to the line," said Anatole, hardly able to restrain his laughter.
"Ah! That's a good thing. So, my dear boy, you wish to serve the Tsar and the country? It is wartime. Such a fine fellow must serve. Well, are you off to the front?"
"No, Prince, our regiment has gone to the front, but I am attached... what is it I am attached to, Papa?" said Anatole, turning to his father with a laugh.
"A splendid soldier, splendid! 'What am I attached to!' Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Prince Bolkonski, and Anatole laughed still louder. Suddenly Prince Bolkonski frowned.
"You may go," he said to Anatole.
Anatole returned smiling to the ladies.
"And so you've had him educated abroad, Prince Vasili, haven't you?" said the old prince to Prince Vasili.
"I have done my best for him, and I can assure you the education there is much better than ours."
"Yes, everything is different nowadays, everything is changed. The lad's a fine fellow, a fine fellow! Well, come with me now." He took Prince Vasili's arm and led him to his study. As soon as they were alone together, Prince Vasili announced his hopes and wishes to the old prince.
"Well, do you think I shall prevent her, that I can't part from her?" said the old prince angrily. "What an idea! I'm ready for it tomorrow! Only let me tell you, I want to know my son-in-law better. You know my principles--everything aboveboard? I will ask her tomorrow in your presence; if she is willing, then he can stay on. He can stay and I'll see." The old prince snorted. "Let her marry, it's all the same to me!" he screamed in the same piercing tone as when parting from his son.
"I will tell you frankly," said Prince Vasili in the tone of a crafty man convinced of the futility of being cunning with so keen-sighted companion. "You know, you see right through people. Anatole is no genius, but he is an honest, goodhearted lad; an excellent son or kinsman."
"All right, all right, we'll see!"
As always happens when women lead lonely lives for any length of time without male society, on Anatole's appearance all the three women of Prince Bolkonski's household felt that their life had not been real till then. Their powers of reasoning, feeling, and observing immediately increased tenfold, and their life, which seemed to have been passed in darkness, was suddenly lit up by a new brightness, full of significance.
Princess Mary grew quite unconscious of her face and coiffure. The handsome open face of the man who might perhaps be her husband absorbed all her attention. He seemed to her kind, brave, determined, manly, and magnanimous. She felt convinced of that. Thousands of dreams of a future family life continually rose in her imagination. She drove them away and tried to conceal them.
"But am I not too cold with him?" thought the princess. "I try to be reserved because in the depth of my soul I feel too near to him already, but then he cannot know what I think of him and may imagine that I do not like him."
And Princess Mary tried, but could not manage, to be cordial to her new guest. "Poor girl, she's devilish ugly!" thought Anatole.
Mademoiselle Bourienne, also roused to great excitement by Anatole's arrival, thought in another way. Of course, she, a handsome young woman without any definite position, without relations or even a country, did not intend to devote her life to serving Prince Bolkonski, to reading aloud to him and being friends with Princess Mary. Mademoiselle Bourienne had long been waiting for a Russian prince who, able to appreciate at a glance her superiority to the plain, badly dressed, ungainly Russian princesses, would fall in love with her and carry her off; and here at last was a Russian prince. Mademoiselle Bourienne knew a story, heard from her aunt but finished in her own way, which she liked to repeat to herself. It was the story of a girl who had been seduced, and to whom her poor mother (sa pauvre mere) appeared, and reproached her for yielding to a man without being married. Mademoiselle Bourienne was often touched to tears as in imagination she told this story to him, her seducer. And now he, a real Russian prince, had appeared. He would carry her away and then sa pauvre mere would appear and he would marry her. So her future shaped itself in Mademoiselle Bourienne's head at the very time she was talking to Anatole about Paris. It was not calculation that guided her (she did not even for a moment consider what she should do), but all this had long been familiar to her, and now that Anatole had appeared it just grouped itself around him and she wished and tried to please him as much as possible.
The little princess, like an old war horse that hears the trumpet, unconsciously and quite forgetting her condition, prepared for the familiar gallop of coquetry, without any ulterior motive or any struggle, but with naive and lighthearted gaiety.
Although in female society Anatole usually assumed the role of a man tired of being run after by women, his vanity was flattered by the spectacle of his power over these three women. Besides that, he was beginning to feel for the pretty and provocative Mademoiselle Bourienne that passionate animal feeling which was apt to master him with great suddenness and prompt him to the coarsest and most reckless actions.
After tea, the company went into the sitting room and Princess Mary was asked to play on the clavichord. Anatole, laughing and in high spirits, came and leaned on his elbows, facing her and beside Mademoiselle Bourienne. Princess Mary felt his look with a painfully joyous emotion. Her favorite sonata bore her into a most intimately poetic world and the look she felt upon her made that world still more poetic. But Anatole's expression, though his eyes were fixed on her, referred not to her but to the movements of Mademoiselle Bourienne's little foot, which he was then touching with his own under the clavichord. Mademoiselle Bourienne was also looking at Princess Mary, and in her lovely eyes there was a look of fearful joy and hope that was also new to the princess.
"How she loves me!" thought Princess Mary. "How happy I am now, and how happy I may be with such a friend and such a husband! Husband? Can it be possible?" she thought, not daring to look at his face, but still feeling his eyes gazing at her.
In the evening, after supper, when all were about to retire, Anatole kissed Princess Mary's hand. She did not know how she found the courage, but she looked straight into his handsome face as it came near to her shortsighted eyes. Turning from Princess Mary he went up and kissed Mademoiselle Bourienne's hand. (This was not etiquette, but then he did everything so simply and with such assurance!) Mademoiselle Bourienne flushed, and gave the princess a frightened look.
"What delicacy!" thought the princess. "Is it possible that Amelie" (Mademoiselle Bourienne) "thinks I could be jealous of her, and not value her pure affection and devotion to me?" She went up to her and kissed her warmly. Anatole went up to kiss the little princess' hand.
"No! No! No! When your father writes to tell me that you are behaving well I will give you my hand to kiss. Not till then!" she said. And smilingly raising a finger at him, she left the room.
They all separated, but, except Anatole who fell asleep as soon as he got into bed, all kept awake a long time that night.
"Is he really to be my husband, this stranger who is so kind--yes, kind, that is the chief thing," thought Princess Mary; and fear, which she had seldom experienced, came upon her. She feared to look round, it seemed to her that someone was there standing behind the screen in the dark corner. And this someone was he--the devil--and he was also this man with the white forehead, black eyebrows, and red lips.
She rang for her maid and asked her to sleep in her room.
Mademoiselle Bourienne walked up and down the conservatory for a long time that evening, vainly expecting someone, now smiling at someone, now working herself up to tears with the imaginary words of her pauvre mere rebuking her for her fall.
The little princess grumbled to her maid that her bed was badly made. She could not lie either on her face or on her side. Every position was awkward and uncomfortable, and her burden oppressed her now more than ever because Anatole's presence had vividly recalled to her the time when she was not like that and when everything was light and gay. She sat in an armchair in her dressing jacket and nightcap and Katie, sleepy and disheveled, beat and turned the heavy feather bed for the third time, muttering to herself.
"I told you it was all lumps and holes!" the little princess repeated. "I should be glad enough to fall asleep, so it's not my fault!" and her voice quivered like that of a child about to cry.
The old prince did not sleep either. Tikhon, half asleep, heard him pacing angrily about and snorting. The old prince felt as though he had been insulted through his daughter. The insult was the more pointed because it concerned not himself but another, his daughter, whom he loved more than himself. He kept telling himself that he would consider the whole matter and decide what was right and how he should act, but instead of that he only excited himself more and more.
"The first man that turns up--she forgets her father and everything else, runs upstairs and does up her hair and wags her tail and is unlike herself! Glad to throw her father over! And she knew I should notice it. Fr... fr... fr! And don't I see that that idiot had eyes only for Bourienne--I shall have to get rid of her. And how is it she has not pride enough to see it? If she has no pride for herself she might at least have some for my sake! She must be shown that the blockhead thinks nothing of her and looks only at Bourienne. No, she has no pride... but I'll let her see...."
The old prince knew that if he told his daughter she was making a mistake and that Anatole meant to flirt with Mademoiselle Bourienne, Princess Mary's self-esteem would be wounded and his point (not to be parted from her) would be gained, so pacifying himself with this thought, he called Tikhon and began to undress.
"What devil brought them here?" thought he, while Tikhon was putting the nightshirt over his dried-up old body and gray-haired chest. "I never invited them. They came to disturb my life--and there is not much of it left."
"Devil take 'em!" he muttered, while his head was still covered by the shirt.
Tikhon knew his master's habit of sometimes thinking aloud, and therefore met with unaltered looks the angrily inquisitive expression of the face that emerged from the shirt.
"Gone to bed?" asked the prince.
Tikhon, like all good valets, instinctively knew the direction of his master's thoughts. He guessed that the question referred to Prince Vasili and his son.
"They have gone to bed and put out their lights, your excellency."
"No good... no good..." said the prince rapidly, and thrusting his feet into his slippers and his arms into the sleeves of his dressing gown, he went to the couch on which he slept.
Though no words had passed between Anatole and Mademoiselle Bourienne, they quite understood one another as to the first part of their romance, up to the appearance of the pauvre mere; they understood that they had much to say to one another in private and so they had been seeking an opportunity since morning to meet one another alone. When Princess Mary went to her father's room at the usual hour, Mademoiselle Bourienne and Anatole met in the conservatory.
Princess Mary went to the door of the study with special trepidation. It seemed to her that not only did everybody know that her fate would be decided that day, but that they also knew what she thought about it. She read this in Tikhon's face and in that of Prince Vasili's valet, who made her a low bow when she met him in the corridor carrying hot water.
The old prince was very affectionate and careful in his treatment of his daughter that morning. Princess Mary well knew this painstaking expression of her father's. His face wore that expression when his dry hands clenched with vexation at her not understanding a sum in arithmetic, when rising from his chair he would walk away from her, repeating in a low voice the same words several times over.
He came to the point at once, treating her ceremoniously.
"I have had a proposition made me concerning you," he said with an unnatural smile. "I expect you have guessed that Prince Vasili has not come and brought his pupil with him" (for some reason Prince Bolkonski referred to Anatole as a "pupil") "for the sake of my beautiful eyes. Last night a proposition was made me on your account and, as you know my principles, I refer it to you."
"How am I to understand you, mon pere?" said the princess, growing pale and then blushing.
"How understand me!" cried her father angrily. "Prince Vasili finds you to his taste as a daughter-in-law and makes a proposal to you on his pupil's behalf. That's how it's to be understood! 'How understand it'!... And I ask you!"
"I do not know what you think, Father," whispered the princess.
"I? I? What of me? Leave me out of the question. I'm not going to get married. What about you? That's what I want to know."
The princess saw that her father regarded the matter with disapproval, but at that moment the thought occurred to her that her fate would be decided now or never. She lowered her eyes so as not to see the gaze under which she felt that she could not think, but would only be able to submit from habit, and she said: "I wish only to do your will, but if I had to express my own desire..." She had no time to finish. The old prince interrupted her.
"That's admirable!" he shouted. "He will take you with your dowry and take Mademoiselle Bourienne into the bargain. She'll be the wife, while you..."
The prince stopped. He saw the effect these words had produced on his daughter. She lowered her head and was ready to burst into tears.
"Now then, now then, I'm only joking!" he said. "Remember this, Princess, I hold to the principle that a maiden has a full right to choose. I give you freedom. Only remember that your life's happiness depends on your decision. Never mind me!"
"But I do not know, Father!"
"There's no need to talk! He receives his orders and will marry you or anybody; but you are free to choose.... Go to your room, think it over, and come back in an hour and tell me in his presence: yes or no. I know you will pray over it. Well, pray if you like, but you had better think it over. Go! Yes or no, yes or no, yes or no!" he still shouted when the princess, as if lost in a fog, had already staggered out of the study.
Her fate was decided and happily decided. But what her father had said about Mademoiselle Bourienne was dreadful. It was untrue to be sure, but still it was terrible, and she could not help thinking of it. She was going straight on through the conservatory, neither seeing nor hearing anything, when suddenly the well-known whispering of Mademoiselle Bourienne aroused her. She raised her eyes, and two steps away saw Anatole embracing the Frenchwoman and whispering something to her. With a horrified expression on his handsome face, Anatole looked at Princess Mary, but did not at once take his arm from the waist of Mademoiselle Bourienne who had not yet seen her.
"Who's that? Why? Wait a moment!" Anatole's face seemed to say. Princess Mary looked at them in silence. She could not understand it. At last Mademoiselle Bourienne gave a scream and ran away. Anatole bowed to Princess Mary with a gay smile, as if inviting her to join in a laugh at this strange incident, and then shrugging his shoulders went to the door that led to his own apartments.
An hour later, Tikhon came to call Princess Mary to the old prince; he added that Prince Vasili was also there. When Tikhon came to her Princess Mary was sitting on the sofa in her room, holding the weeping Mademoiselle Bourienne in her arms and gently stroking her hair. The princess' beautiful eyes with all their former calm radiance were looking with tender affection and pity at Mademoiselle Bourienne's pretty face.
"No, Princess, I have lost your affection forever!" said Mademoiselle Bourienne.
"Why? I love you more than ever," said Princess Mary, "and I will try to do all I can for your happiness."
"But you despise me. You who are so pure can never understand being so carried away by passion. Oh, only my poor mother..."
"I quite understand," answered Princess Mary, with a sad smile. "Calm yourself, my dear. I will go to my father," she said, and went out.
Prince Vasili, with one leg thrown high over the other and a snuffbox in his hand, was sitting there with a smile of deep emotion on his face, as if stirred to his heart's core and himself regretting and laughing at his own sensibility, when Princess Mary entered. He hurriedly took a pinch of snuff.
"Ah, my dear, my dear!" he began, rising and taking her by both hands. Then, sighing, he added: "My son's fate is in your hands. Decide, my dear, good, gentle Marie, whom I have always loved as a daughter!"
He drew back and a real tear appeared in his eye.
"Fr... fr..." snorted Prince Bolkonski. "The prince is making a proposition to you in his pupil's--I mean, his son's--name. Do you wish or not to be Prince Anatole Kuragin's wife? Reply: yes or no," he shouted, "and then I shall reserve the right to state my opinion also. Yes, my opinion, and only my opinion," added Prince Bolkonski, turning to Prince Vasili and answering his imploring look. "Yes, or no?"
"My desire is never to leave you, Father, never to separate my life from yours. I don't wish to marry," she answered positively, glancing at Prince Vasili and at her father with her beautiful eyes.
"Humbug! Nonsense! Humbug, humbug, humbug!" cried Prince Bolkonski, frowning and taking his daughter's hand; he did not kiss her, but only bending his forehead to hers just touched it, and pressed her hand so that she winced and uttered a cry.
Prince Vasili rose.
"My dear, I must tell you that this is a moment I shall never, never forget. But, my dear, will you not give us a little hope of touching this heart, so kind and generous? Say 'perhaps'... The future is so long. Say 'perhaps.'"
"Prince, what I have said is all there is in my heart. I thank you for the honor, but I shall never be your son's wife."
"Well, so that's finished, my dear fellow! I am very glad to have seen you. Very glad! Go back to your rooms, Princess. Go!" said the old prince. "Very, very glad to have seen you," repeated he, embracing Prince Vasili.
"My vocation is a different one," thought Princess Mary. "My vocation is to be happy with another kind of happiness, the happiness of love and self-sacrifice. And cost what it may, I will arrange poor Amelie's happiness, she loves him so passionately, and so passionately repents. I will do all I can to arrange the match between them. If he is not rich I will give her the means; I will ask my father and Andrew. I shall be so happy when she is his wife. She is so unfortunate, a stranger, alone, helpless! And, oh God, how passionately she must love him if she could so far forget herself! Perhaps I might have done the same!..." thought Princess Mary.