Princess Mary as she sat listening to the old men’s talk and faultfinding, understood nothing of what she heard; she only wondered whether the guests had all observed her father’s hostile attitude toward her. She did not even notice the special attentions and amiabilities shown her during dinner by Borís Drubetskóy, who was visiting them for the third time already.
Princess Mary turned with absent-minded questioning look to Pierre, who hat in hand and with a smile on his face was the last of the guests to approach her after the old prince had gone out and they were left alone in the drawing room.
“May I stay a little longer?” he said, letting his stout body sink into an armchair beside her.
“Oh yes,” she answered. “You noticed nothing?” her look asked.
Pierre was in an agreeable after-dinner mood. He looked straight before him and smiled quietly.
“Have you known that young man long, Princess?” he asked.
“No, not long....”
“Do you like him?”
“Yes, he is an agreeable young man.... Why do you ask me that?” said Princess Mary, still thinking of that morning’s conversation with her father.
“Because I have noticed that when a young man comes on leave from Petersburg to Moscow it is usually with the object of marrying an heiress.”
“You have observed that?” said Princess Mary.
“Yes,” returned Pierre with a smile, “and this young man now manages matters so that where there is a wealthy heiress there he is too. I can read him like a book. At present he is hesitating whom to lay siege to—you or Mademoiselle Julie Karágina. He is very attentive to her.”
“He visits them?”
“Yes, very often. And do you know the new way of courting?” said Pierre with an amused smile, evidently in that cheerful mood of good humored raillery for which he so often reproached himself in his diary.
“No,” replied Princess Mary.
“To please Moscow girls nowadays one has to be melancholy. He is very melancholy with Mademoiselle Karágina,” said Pierre.
“Really?” asked Princess Mary, looking into Pierre’s kindly face and still thinking of her own sorrow. “It would be a relief,” thought she, “if I ventured to confide what I am feeling to someone. I should like to tell everything to Pierre. He is kind and generous. It would be a relief. He would give me advice.”
“Would you marry him?”
“Oh, my God, Count, there are moments when I would marry anybody!” she cried suddenly to her own surprise and with tears in her voice. “Ah, how bitter it is to love someone near to you and to feel that...” she went on in a trembling voice, “that you can do nothing for him but grieve him, and to know that you cannot alter this. Then there is only one thing left—to go away, but where could I go?”
“What is wrong? What is it, Princess?”
But without finishing what she was saying, Princess Mary burst into tears.
“I don’t know what is the matter with me today. Don’t take any notice—forget what I have said!”
Pierre’s gaiety vanished completely. He anxiously questioned the princess, asked her to speak out fully and confide her grief to him; but she only repeated that she begged him to forget what she had said, that she did not remember what she had said, and that she had no trouble except the one he knew of—that Prince Andrew’s marriage threatened to cause a rupture between father and son.
“Have you any news of the Rostóvs?” she asked, to change the subject. “I was told they are coming soon. I am also expecting Andrew any day. I should like them to meet here.”
“And how does he now regard the matter?” asked Pierre, referring to the old prince.
Princess Mary shook her head.
“What is to be done? In a few months the year will be up. The thing is impossible. I only wish I could spare my brother the first moments. I wish they would come sooner. I hope to be friends with her. You have known them a long time,” said Princess Mary. “Tell me honestly the whole truth: what sort of girl is she, and what do you think of her?—The real truth, because you know Andrew is risking so much doing this against his father’s will that I should like to know....”
An undefined instinct told Pierre that these explanations, and repeated requests to be told the whole truth, expressed ill-will on the princess’ part toward her future sister-in-law and a wish that he should disapprove of Andrew’s choice; but in reply he said what he felt rather than what he thought.
“I don’t know how to answer your question,” he said, blushing without knowing why. “I really don’t know what sort of girl she is; I can’t analyze her at all. She is enchanting, but what makes her so I don’t know. That is all one can say about her.”
Princess Mary sighed, and the expression on her face said: “Yes, that’s what I expected and feared.”
“Is she clever?” she asked.
“I think not,” he said, “and yet—yes. She does not deign to be clever.... Oh no, she is simply enchanting, and that is all.”
Princess Mary again shook her head disapprovingly.
“Ah, I so long to like her! Tell her so if you see her before I do.”
“I hear they are expected very soon,” said Pierre.
Princess Mary told Pierre of her plan to become intimate with her future sister-in-law as soon as the Rostóvs arrived and to try to accustom the old prince to her.
Borís had not succeeded in making a wealthy match in Petersburg, so with the same object in view he came to Moscow. There he wavered between the two richest heiresses, Julie and Princess Mary. Though Princess Mary despite her plainness seemed to him more attractive than Julie, he, without knowing why, felt awkward about paying court to her. When they had last met on the old prince’s name day, she had answered at random all his attempts to talk sentimentally, evidently not listening to what he was saying.
Julie on the contrary accepted his attentions readily, though in a manner peculiar to herself.
She was twenty-seven. After the death of her brothers she had become very wealthy. She was by now decidedly plain, but thought herself not merely as good-looking as before but even far more attractive. She was confirmed in this delusion by the fact that she had become a very wealthy heiress and also by the fact that the older she grew the less dangerous she became to men, and the more freely they could associate with her and avail themselves of her suppers, soirees, and the animated company that assembled at her house, without incurring any obligation. A man who would have been afraid ten years before of going every day to the house when there was a girl of seventeen there, for fear of compromising her and committing himself, would now go boldly every day and treat her not as a marriageable girl but as a sexless acquaintance.
That winter the Karágins’ house was the most agreeable and hospitable in Moscow. In addition to the formal evening and dinner parties, a large company, chiefly of men, gathered there every day, supping at midnight and staying till three in the morning. Julie never missed a ball, a promenade, or a play. Her dresses were always of the latest fashion. But in spite of that she seemed to be disillusioned about everything and told everyone that she did not believe either in friendship or in love, or any of the joys of life, and expected peace only “yonder.” She adopted the tone of one who has suffered a great disappointment, like a girl who has either lost the man she loved or been cruelly deceived by him. Though nothing of the kind had happened to her she was regarded in that light, and had even herself come to believe that she had suffered much in life. This melancholy, which did not prevent her amusing herself, did not hinder the young people who came to her house from passing the time pleasantly. Every visitor who came to the house paid his tribute to the melancholy mood of the hostess, and then amused himself with society gossip, dancing, intellectual games, and bouts rimés, which were in vogue at the Karágins’. Only a few of these young men, among them Borís, entered more deeply into Julie’s melancholy, and with these she had prolonged conversations in private on the vanity of all worldly things, and to them she showed her albums filled with mournful sketches, maxims, and verses.
To Borís, Julie was particularly gracious: she regretted his early disillusionment with life, offered him such consolation of friendship as she who had herself suffered so much could render, and showed him her album. Borís sketched two trees in the album and wrote: “Rustic trees, your dark branches shed gloom and melancholy upon me.”
On another page he drew a tomb, and wrote:
Ah! contre les douleurs il n’y a pas d’autre asile. *
Ah! from suffering there is no other refuge.
Julie said this was charming
“There is something so enchanting in the smile of melancholy,” she said to Borís, repeating word for word a passage she had copied from a book. “It is a ray of light in the darkness, a shade between sadness and despair, showing the possibility of consolation.”
In reply Borís wrote these lines:
Toi, sans qui le bonheur me serait impossible,
Tendre mélancholie, ah, viens me consoler,
Viens calmer les tourments de ma sombre retraite,
Et mêle une douceur secrète
A ces pleurs que je sens couler. *
Thou, without whom happiness would for me be impossible,
Tender melancholy, ah, come to console me,
Come to calm the torments of my gloomy retreat,
And mingle a secret sweetness
With these tears that I feel to be flowing.
For Borís, Julie played most doleful nocturnes on her harp. Borís read Poor Liza aloud to her, and more than once interrupted the reading because of the emotions that choked him. Meeting at large gatherings Julie and Borís looked on one another as the only souls who understood one another in a world of indifferent people.
Anna Mikháylovna, who often visited the Karágins, while playing cards with the mother made careful inquiries as to Julie’s dowry (she was to have two estates in Pénza and the Nizhegórod forests). Anna Mikháylovna regarded the refined sadness that united her son to the wealthy Julie with emotion, and resignation to the Divine will.
“You are always charming and melancholy, my dear Julie,” she said to the daughter. “Borís says his soul finds repose at your house. He has suffered so many disappointments and is so sensitive,” said she to the mother. “Ah, my dear, I can’t tell you how fond I have grown of Julie latterly,” she said to her son. “But who could help loving her? She is an angelic being! Ah, Borís, Borís!”—she paused. “And how I pity her mother,” she went on; “today she showed me her accounts and letters from Pénza (they have enormous estates there), and she, poor thing, has no one to help her, and they do cheat her so!”
Borís smiled almost imperceptibly while listening to his mother. He laughed blandly at her naïve diplomacy but listened to what she had to say, and sometimes questioned her carefully about the Pénza and Nizhegórod estates.
Julie had long been expecting a proposal from her melancholy adorer and was ready to accept it; but some secret feeling of repulsion for her, for her passionate desire to get married, for her artificiality, and a feeling of horror at renouncing the possibility of real love still restrained Borís. His leave was expiring. He spent every day and whole days at the Karágins’, and every day on thinking the matter over told himself that he would propose tomorrow. But in Julie’s presence, looking at her red face and chin (nearly always powdered), her moist eyes, and her expression of continual readiness to pass at once from melancholy to an unnatural rapture of married bliss, Borís could not utter the decisive words, though in imagination he had long regarded himself as the possessor of those Pénza and Nizhegórod estates and had apportioned the use of the income from them. Julie saw Borís’ indecision, and sometimes the thought occurred to her that she was repulsive to him, but her feminine self-deception immediately supplied her with consolation, and she told herself that he was only shy from love. Her melancholy, however, began to turn to irritability, and not long before Borís’ departure she formed a definite plan of action. Just as Borís’ leave of absence was expiring, Anatole Kurágin made his appearance in Moscow, and of course in the Karágins’ drawing room, and Julie, suddenly abandoning her melancholy, became cheerful and very attentive to Kurágin.
“My dear,” said Anna Mikháylovna to her son, “I know from a reliable source that Prince Vasíli has sent his son to Moscow to get him married to Julie. I am so fond of Julie that I should be sorry for her. What do you think of it, my dear?”
The idea of being made a fool of and of having thrown away that whole month of arduous melancholy service to Julie, and of seeing all the revenue from the Pénza estates which he had already mentally apportioned and put to proper use fall into the hands of another, and especially into the hands of that idiot Anatole, pained Borís. He drove to the Karágins’ with the firm intention of proposing. Julie met him in a gay, careless manner, spoke casually of how she had enjoyed yesterday’s ball, and asked when he was leaving. Though Borís had come intentionally to speak of his love and therefore meant to be tender, he began speaking irritably of feminine inconstancy, of how easily women can turn from sadness to joy, and how their moods depend solely on who happens to be paying court to them. Julie was offended and replied that it was true that a woman needs variety, and the same thing over and over again would weary anyone.
“Then I should advise you...” Borís began, wishing to sting her; but at that instant the galling thought occurred to him that he might have to leave Moscow without having accomplished his aim, and have vainly wasted his efforts—which was a thing he never allowed to happen.
He checked himself in the middle of the sentence, lowered his eyes to avoid seeing her unpleasantly irritated and irresolute face, and said:
“I did not come here at all to quarrel with you. On the contrary...”
He glanced at her to make sure that he might go on. Her irritability had suddenly quite vanished, and her anxious, imploring eyes were fixed on him with greedy expectation. “I can always arrange so as not to see her often,” thought Borís. “The affair has been begun and must be finished!” He blushed hotly, raised his eyes to hers, and said:
“You know my feelings for you!”
There was no need to say more: Julie’s face shone with triumph and self-satisfaction; but she forced Borís to say all that is said on such occasions—that he loved her and had never loved any other woman more than her. She knew that for the Pénza estates and Nizhegórod forests she could demand this, and she received what she demanded.
The affianced couple, no longer alluding to trees that shed gloom and melancholy upon them, planned the arrangements of a splendid house in Petersburg, paid calls, and prepared everything for a brilliant wedding.
At the end of January old Count Rostóv went to Moscow with Natásha and Sónya. The countess was still unwell and unable to travel but it was impossible to wait for her recovery. Prince Andrew was expected in Moscow any day, the trousseau had to be ordered and the estate near Moscow had to be sold, besides which the opportunity of presenting his future daughter-in-law to old Prince Bolkónski while he was in Moscow could not be missed. The Rostóvs’ Moscow house had not been heated that winter and, as they had come only for a short time and the countess was not with them, the count decided to stay with Márya Dmítrievna Akhrosímova, who had long been pressing her hospitality on them.
Late one evening the Rostóvs’ four sleighs drove into Márya Dmítrievna’s courtyard in the old Konyúsheny street. Márya Dmítrievna lived alone. She had already married off her daughter, and her sons were all in the service.
She held herself as erect, told everyone her opinion as candidly, loudly, and bluntly as ever, and her whole bearing seemed a reproach to others for any weakness, passion, or temptation—the possibility of which she did not admit. From early in the morning, wearing a dressing jacket, she attended to her household affairs, and then she drove out: on holy days to church and after the service to jails and prisons on affairs of which she never spoke to anyone. On ordinary days, after dressing, she received petitioners of various classes, of whom there were always some. Then she had dinner, a substantial and appetizing meal at which there were always three or four guests; after dinner she played a game of boston, and at night she had the newspapers or a new book read to her while she knitted. She rarely made an exception and went out to pay visits, and then only to the most important persons in the town.
She had not yet gone to bed when the Rostóvs arrived and the pulley of the hall door squeaked from the cold as it let in the Rostóvs and their servants. Márya Dmítrievna, with her spectacles hanging down on her nose and her head flung back, stood in the hall doorway looking with a stern, grim face at the new arrivals. One might have thought she was angry with the travelers and would immediately turn them out, had she not at the same time been giving careful instructions to the servants for the accommodation of the visitors and their belongings.
“The count’s things? Bring them here,” she said, pointing to the portmanteaus and not greeting anyone. “The young ladies’? There to the left. Now what are you dawdling for?” she cried to the maids. “Get the samovar ready!... You’ve grown plumper and prettier,” she remarked, drawing Natásha (whose cheeks were glowing from the cold) to her by the hood. “Foo! You are cold! Now take off your things, quick!” she shouted to the count who was going to kiss her hand. “You’re half frozen, I’m sure! Bring some rum for tea!... Bonjour, Sónya dear!” she added, turning to Sónya and indicating by this French greeting her slightly contemptuous though affectionate attitude toward her.
When they came in to tea, having taken off their outdoor things and tidied themselves up after their journey, Márya Dmítrievna kissed them all in due order.
“I’m heartily glad you have come and are staying with me. It was high time,” she said, giving Natásha a significant look. “The old man is here and his son’s expected any day. You’ll have to make his acquaintance. But we’ll speak of that later on,” she added, glancing at Sónya with a look that showed she did not want to speak of it in her presence. “Now listen,” she said to the count. “What do you want tomorrow? Whom will you send for? Shinshín?” she crooked one of her fingers. “The sniveling Anna Mikháylovna? That’s two. She’s here with her son. The son is getting married! Then Bezúkhov, eh? He is here too, with his wife. He ran away from her and she came galloping after him. He dined with me on Wednesday. As for them”—and she pointed to the girls—“tomorrow I’ll take them first to the Iberian shrine of the Mother of God, and then we’ll drive to the Super-Rogue’s. I suppose you’ll have everything new. Don’t judge by me: sleeves nowadays are this size! The other day young Princess Irína Vasílevna came to see me; she was an awful sight—looked as if she had put two barrels on her arms. You know not a day passes now without some new fashion.... And what have you to do yourself?” she asked the count sternly.
“One thing has come on top of another: her rags to buy, and now a purchaser has turned up for the Moscow estate and for the house. If you will be so kind, I’ll fix a time and go down to the estate just for a day, and leave my lassies with you.”
“All right. All right. They’ll be safe with me, as safe as in Chancery! I’ll take them where they must go, scold them a bit, and pet them a bit,” said Márya Dmítrievna, touching her goddaughter and favorite, Natásha, on the cheek with her large hand.
Next morning Márya Dmítrievna took the young ladies to the Iberian shrine of the Mother of God and to Madame Suppert-Roguet, who was so afraid of Márya Dmítrievna that she always let her have costumes at a loss merely to get rid of her. Márya Dmítrievna ordered almost the whole trousseau. When they got home she turned everybody out of the room except Natásha, and then called her pet to her armchair.
“Well, now we’ll talk. I congratulate you on your betrothed. You’ve hooked a fine fellow! I am glad for your sake and I’ve known him since he was so high.” She held her hand a couple of feet from the ground. Natásha blushed happily. “I like him and all his family. Now listen! You know that old Prince Nicholas much dislikes his son’s marrying. The old fellow’s crotchety! Of course Prince Andrew is not a child and can shift without him, but it’s not nice to enter a family against a father’s will. One wants to do it peacefully and lovingly. You’re a clever girl and you’ll know how to manage. Be kind, and use your wits. Then all will be well.”
Natásha remained silent, from shyness Márya Dmítrievna supposed, but really because she disliked anyone interfering in what touched her love of Prince Andrew, which seemed to her so apart from all human affairs that no one could understand it. She loved and knew Prince Andrew, he loved her only, and was to come one of these days and take her. She wanted nothing more.
“You see I have known him a long time and am also fond of Mary, your future sister-in-law. ‘Husbands’ sisters bring up blisters,’ but this one wouldn’t hurt a fly. She has asked me to bring you two together. Tomorrow you’ll go with your father to see her. Be very nice and affectionate to her: you’re younger than she. When he comes, he’ll find you already know his sister and father and are liked by them. Am I right or not? Won’t that be best?”
“Yes, it will,” Natásha answered reluctantly.
Next day, by Márya Dmítrievna’s advice, Count Rostóv took Natásha to call on Prince Nicholas Bolkónski. The count did not set out cheerfully on this visit, at heart he felt afraid. He well remembered the last interview he had had with the old prince at the time of the enrollment, when in reply to an invitation to dinner he had had to listen to an angry reprimand for not having provided his full quota of men. Natásha, on the other hand, having put on her best gown, was in the highest spirits. “They can’t help liking me,” she thought. “Everybody always has liked me, and I am so willing to do anything they wish, so ready to be fond of him—for being his father—and of her—for being his sister—that there is no reason for them not to like me....”
They drove up to the gloomy old house on the Vozdvízhenka and entered the vestibule.
“Well, the Lord have mercy on us!” said the count, half in jest, half in earnest; but Natásha noticed that her father was flurried on entering the anteroom and inquired timidly and softly whether the prince and princess were at home.
When they had been announced a perturbation was noticeable among the servants. The footman who had gone to announce them was stopped by another in the large hall and they whispered to one another. Then a maidservant ran into the hall and hurriedly said something, mentioning the princess. At last an old, cross looking footman came and announced to the Rostóvs that the prince was not receiving, but that the princess begged them to walk up. The first person who came to meet the visitors was Mademoiselle Bourienne. She greeted the father and daughter with special politeness and showed them to the princess’ room. The princess, looking excited and nervous, her face flushed in patches, ran in to meet the visitors, treading heavily, and vainly trying to appear cordial and at ease. From the first glance Princess Mary did not like Natásha. She thought her too fashionably dressed, frivolously gay and vain. She did not at all realize that before having seen her future sister-in-law she was prejudiced against her by involuntary envy of her beauty, youth, and happiness, as well as by jealousy of her brother’s love for her. Apart from this insuperable antipathy to her, Princess Mary was agitated just then because on the Rostóvs’ being announced, the old prince had shouted that he did not wish to see them, that Princess Mary might do so if she chose, but they were not to be admitted to him. She had decided to receive them, but feared lest the prince might at any moment indulge in some freak, as he seemed much upset by the Rostóvs’ visit.
“There, my dear princess, I’ve brought you my songstress,” said the count, bowing and looking round uneasily as if afraid the old prince might appear. “I am so glad you should get to know one another... very sorry the prince is still ailing,” and after a few more commonplace remarks he rose. “If you’ll allow me to leave my Natásha in your hands for a quarter of an hour, Princess, I’ll drive round to see Anna Semënovna, it’s quite near in the Dogs’ Square, and then I’ll come back for her.”
The count had devised this diplomatic ruse (as he afterwards told his daughter) to give the future sisters-in-law an opportunity to talk to one another freely, but another motive was to avoid the danger of encountering the old prince, of whom he was afraid. He did not mention this to his daughter, but Natásha noticed her father’s nervousness and anxiety and felt mortified by it. She blushed for him, grew still angrier at having blushed, and looked at the princess with a bold and defiant expression which said that she was not afraid of anybody. The princess told the count that she would be delighted, and only begged him to stay longer at Anna Semënovna’s, and he departed.
Despite the uneasy glances thrown at her by Princess Mary—who wished to have a tête-à-tête with Natásha—Mademoiselle Bourienne remained in the room and persistently talked about Moscow amusements and theaters. Natásha felt offended by the hesitation she had noticed in the anteroom, by her father’s nervousness, and by the unnatural manner of the princess who—she thought—was making a favor of receiving her, and so everything displeased her. She did not like Princess Mary, whom she thought very plain, affected, and dry. Natásha suddenly shrank into herself and involuntarily assumed an offhand air which alienated Princess Mary still more. After five minutes of irksome, constrained conversation, they heard the sound of slippered feet rapidly approaching. Princess Mary looked frightened.
The door opened and the old prince, in a dressing gown and a white nightcap, came in.
“Ah, madam!” he began. “Madam, Countess... Countess Rostóva, if I am not mistaken... I beg you to excuse me, to excuse me... I did not know, madam. God is my witness, I did not know you had honored us with a visit, and I came in such a costume only to see my daughter. I beg you to excuse me... God is my witness, I didn’t know—” he repeated, stressing the word “God” so unnaturally and so unpleasantly that Princess Mary stood with downcast eyes not daring to look either at her father or at Natásha.
Nor did the latter, having risen and curtsied, know what to do. Mademoiselle Bourienne alone smiled agreeably.
“I beg you to excuse me, excuse me! God is my witness, I did not know,” muttered the old man, and after looking Natásha over from head to foot he went out.
Mademoiselle Bourienne was the first to recover herself after this apparition and began speaking about the prince’s indisposition. Natásha and Princess Mary looked at one another in silence, and the longer they did so without saying what they wanted to say, the greater grew their antipathy to one another.
When the count returned, Natásha was impolitely pleased and hastened to get away: at that moment she hated the stiff, elderly princess, who could place her in such an embarrassing position and had spent half an hour with her without once mentioning Prince Andrew. “I couldn’t begin talking about him in the presence of that Frenchwoman,” thought Natásha. The same thought was meanwhile tormenting Princess Mary. She knew what she ought to have said to Natásha, but she had been unable to say it because Mademoiselle Bourienne was in the way, and because, without knowing why, she felt it very difficult to speak of the marriage. When the count was already leaving the room, Princess Mary went up hurriedly to Natásha, took her by the hand, and said with a deep sigh:
“Wait, I must...”
Natásha glanced at her ironically without knowing why.
“Dear Natalie,” said Princess Mary, “I want you to know that I am glad my brother has found happiness....”
She paused, feeling that she was not telling the truth. Natásha noticed this and guessed its reason.
“I think, Princess, it is not convenient to speak of that now,” she said with external dignity and coldness, though she felt the tears choking her.
“What have I said and what have I done?” thought she, as soon as she was out of the room.
They waited a long time for Natásha to come to dinner that day. She sat in her room crying like a child, blowing her nose and sobbing. Sónya stood beside her, kissing her hair.
“Natásha, what is it about?” she asked. “What do they matter to you? It will all pass, Natásha.”
“But if you only knew how offensive it was... as if I...”
“Don’t talk about it, Natásha. It wasn’t your fault so why should you mind? Kiss me,” said Sónya.
Natásha raised her head and, kissing her friend on the lips, pressed her wet face against her.
“I can’t tell you, I don’t know. No one’s to blame,” said Natásha—“It’s my fault. But it all hurts terribly. Oh, why doesn’t he come?...”
She came in to dinner with red eyes. Márya Dmítrievna, who knew how the prince had received the Rostóvs, pretended not to notice how upset Natásha was and jested resolutely and loudly at table with the count and the other guests.
That evening the Rostóvs went to the Opera, for which Márya Dmítrievna had taken a box.
Natásha did not want to go, but could not refuse Márya Dmítrievna’s kind offer which was intended expressly for her. When she came ready dressed into the ballroom to await her father, and looking in the large mirror there saw that she was pretty, very pretty, she felt even more sad, but it was a sweet, tender sadness.
“O God, if he were here now I would not behave as I did then, but differently. I would not be silly and afraid of things, I would simply embrace him, cling to him, and make him look at me with those searching inquiring eyes with which he has so often looked at me, and then I would make him laugh as he used to laugh. And his eyes—how I see those eyes!” thought Natásha. “And what do his father and sister matter to me? I love him alone, him, him, with that face and those eyes, with his smile, manly and yet childlike.... No, I had better not think of him; not think of him but forget him, quite forget him for the present. I can’t bear this waiting and I shall cry in a minute!” and she turned away from the glass, making an effort not to cry. “And how can Sónya love Nicholas so calmly and quietly and wait so long and so patiently?” thought she, looking at Sónya, who also came in quite ready, with a fan in her hand. “No, she’s altogether different. I can’t!”
Natásha at that moment felt so softened and tender that it was not enough for her to love and know she was beloved, she wanted now, at once, to embrace the man she loved, to speak and hear from him words of love such as filled her heart. While she sat in the carriage beside her father, pensively watching the lights of the street lamps flickering on the frozen window, she felt still sadder and more in love, and forgot where she was going and with whom. Having fallen into the line of carriages, the Rostóvs’ carriage drove up to the theater, its wheels squeaking over the snow. Natásha and Sónya, holding up their dresses, jumped out quickly. The count got out helped by the footmen, and, passing among men and women who were entering and the program sellers, they all three went along the corridor to the first row of boxes. Through the closed doors the music was already audible.
“Natásha, your hair!...” whispered Sónya.
An attendant deferentially and quickly slipped before the ladies and opened the door of their box. The music sounded louder and through the door rows of brightly lit boxes in which ladies sat with bare arms and shoulders, and noisy stalls brilliant with uniforms, glittered before their eyes. A lady entering the next box shot a glance of feminine envy at Natásha. The curtain had not yet risen and the overture was being played. Natásha, smoothing her gown, went in with Sónya and sat down, scanning the brilliant tiers of boxes opposite. A sensation she had not experienced for a long time—that of hundreds of eyes looking at her bare arms and neck—suddenly affected her both agreeably and disagreeably and called up a whole crowd of memories, desires and emotions associated with that feeling.
The two remarkably pretty girls, Natásha and Sónya, with Count Rostóv who had not been seen in Moscow for a long time, attracted general attention. Moreover, everybody knew vaguely of Natásha’s engagement to Prince Andrew, and knew that the Rostóvs had lived in the country ever since, and all looked with curiosity at a fiancée who was making one of the best matches in Russia.
Natásha’s looks, as everyone told her, had improved in the country, and that evening thanks to her agitation she was particularly pretty. She struck those who saw her by her fullness of life and beauty, combined with her indifference to everything about her. Her black eyes looked at the crowd without seeking anyone, and her delicate arm, bare to above the elbow, lay on the velvet edge of the box, while, evidently unconsciously, she opened and closed her hand in time to the music, crumpling her program. “Look, there’s Alénina,” said Sónya, “with her mother, isn’t it?”
“Dear me, Michael Kirílovich has grown still stouter!” remarked the count.
“Look at our Anna Mikháylovna—what a headdress she has on!”
“The Karágins, Julie—and Borís with them. One can see at once that they’re engaged....”
“Drubetskóy has proposed?”
“Oh yes, I heard it today,” said Shinshín, coming into the Rostóvs’ box.
Natásha looked in the direction in which her father’s eyes were turned and saw Julie sitting beside her mother with a happy look on her face and a string of pearls round her thick red neck—which Natásha knew was covered with powder. Behind them, wearing a smile and leaning over with an ear to Julie’s mouth, was Borís’ handsome smoothly brushed head. He looked at the Rostóvs from under his brows and said something, smiling, to his betrothed.
“They are talking about us, about me and him!” thought Natásha. “And he no doubt is calming her jealousy of me. They needn’t trouble themselves! If only they knew how little I am concerned about any of them.”
Behind them sat Anna Mikháylovna wearing a green headdress and with a happy look of resignation to the will of God on her face. Their box was pervaded by that atmosphere of an affianced couple which Natásha knew so well and liked so much. She turned away and suddenly remembered all that had been so humiliating in her morning’s visit.
“What right has he not to wish to receive me into his family? Oh, better not think of it—not till he comes back!” she told herself, and began looking at the faces, some strange and some familiar, in the stalls. In the front, in the very center, leaning back against the orchestra rail, stood Dólokhov in a Persian dress, his curly hair brushed up into a huge shock. He stood in full view of the audience, well aware that he was attracting everyone’s attention, yet as much at ease as though he were in his own room. Around him thronged Moscow’s most brilliant young men, whom he evidently dominated.
The count, laughing, nudged the blushing Sónya and pointed to her former adorer.
“Do you recognize him?” said he. “And where has he sprung from?” he asked, turning to Shinshín. “Didn’t he vanish somewhere?”
“He did,” replied Shinshín. “He was in the Caucasus and ran away from there. They say he has been acting as minister to some ruling prince in Persia, where he killed the Shah’s brother. Now all the Moscow ladies are mad about him! It’s ‘Dólokhov the Persian’ that does it! We never hear a word but Dólokhov is mentioned. They swear by him, they offer him to you as they would a dish of choice sterlet. Dólokhov and Anatole Kurágin have turned all our ladies’ heads.”
A tall, beautiful woman with a mass of plaited hair and much exposed plump white shoulders and neck, round which she wore a double string of large pearls, entered the adjoining box rustling her heavy silk dress and took a long time settling into her place.
Natásha involuntarily gazed at that neck, those shoulders, and pearls and coiffure, and admired the beauty of the shoulders and the pearls. While Natásha was fixing her gaze on her for the second time the lady looked round and, meeting the count’s eyes, nodded to him and smiled. She was the Countess Bezúkhova, Pierre’s wife, and the count, who knew everyone in society, leaned over and spoke to her.
“Have you been here long, Countess?” he inquired. “I’ll call, I’ll call to kiss your hand. I’m here on business and have brought my girls with me. They say Semënova acts marvelously. Count Pierre never used to forget us. Is he here?”
“Yes, he meant to look in,” answered Hélène, and glanced attentively at Natásha.
Count Rostóv resumed his seat.
“Handsome, isn’t she?” he whispered to Natásha.
“Wonderful!” answered Natásha. “She’s a woman one could easily fall in love with.”
Just then the last chords of the overture were heard and the conductor tapped with his stick. Some latecomers took their seats in the stalls, and the curtain rose.
As soon as it rose everyone in the boxes and stalls became silent, and all the men, old and young, in uniform and evening dress, and all the women with gems on their bare flesh, turned their whole attention with eager curiosity to the stage. Natásha too began to look at it.
The floor of the stage consisted of smooth boards, at the sides was some painted cardboard representing trees, and at the back was a cloth stretched over boards. In the center of the stage sat some girls in red bodices and white skirts. One very fat girl in a white silk dress sat apart on a low bench, to the back of which a piece of green cardboard was glued. They all sang something. When they had finished their song the girl in white went up to the prompter’s box and a man with tight silk trousers over his stout legs, and holding a plume and a dagger, went up to her and began singing, waving his arms about.
First the man in the tight trousers sang alone, then she sang, then they both paused while the orchestra played and the man fingered the hand of the girl in white, obviously awaiting the beat to start singing with her. They sang together and everyone in the theater began clapping and shouting, while the man and woman on the stage—who represented lovers—began smiling, spreading out their arms, and bowing.
After her life in the country, and in her present serious mood, all this seemed grotesque and amazing to Natásha. She could not follow the opera nor even listen to the music; she saw only the painted cardboard and the queerly dressed men and women who moved, spoke, and sang so strangely in that brilliant light. She knew what it was all meant to represent, but it was so pretentiously false and unnatural that she first felt ashamed for the actors and then amused at them. She looked at the faces of the audience, seeking in them the same sense of ridicule and perplexity she herself experienced, but they all seemed attentive to what was happening on the stage, and expressed delight which to Natásha seemed feigned. “I suppose it has to be like this!” she thought. She kept looking round in turn at the rows of pomaded heads in the stalls and then at the seminude women in the boxes, especially at Hélène in the next box, who—apparently quite unclothed—sat with a quiet tranquil smile, not taking her eyes off the stage. And feeling the bright light that flooded the whole place and the warm air heated by the crowd, Natásha little by little began to pass into a state of intoxication she had not experienced for a long while. She did not realize who and where she was, nor what was going on before her. As she looked and thought, the strangest fancies unexpectedly and disconnectedly passed through her mind: the idea occurred to her of jumping onto the edge of the box and singing the air the actress was singing, then she wished to touch with her fan an old gentleman sitting not far from her, then to lean over to Hélène and tickle her.
At a moment when all was quiet before the commencement of a song, a door leading to the stalls on the side nearest the Rostóvs’ box creaked, and the steps of a belated arrival were heard. “There’s Kurágin!” whispered Shinshín. Countess Bezúkhova turned smiling to the newcomer, and Natásha, following the direction of that look, saw an exceptionally handsome adjutant approaching their box with a self-assured yet courteous bearing. This was Anatole Kurágin whom she had seen and noticed long ago at the ball in Petersburg. He was now in an adjutant’s uniform with one epaulet and a shoulder knot. He moved with a restrained swagger which would have been ridiculous had he not been so good-looking and had his handsome face not worn such an expression of good-humored complacency and gaiety. Though the performance was proceeding, he walked deliberately down the carpeted gangway, his sword and spurs slightly jingling and his handsome perfumed head held high. Having looked at Natásha he approached his sister, laid his well gloved hand on the edge of her box, nodded to her, and leaning forward asked a question, with a motion toward Natásha.
“Mais charmante!” said he, evidently referring to Natásha, who did not exactly hear his words but understood them from the movement of his lips. Then he took his place in the first row of the stalls and sat down beside Dólokhov, nudging with his elbow in a friendly and offhand way that Dólokhov whom others treated so fawningly. He winked at him gaily, smiled, and rested his foot against the orchestra screen.
“How like the brother is to the sister,” remarked the count. “And how handsome they both are!”
Shinshín, lowering his voice, began to tell the count of some intrigue of Kurágin’s in Moscow, and Natásha tried to overhear it just because he had said she was “charmante.”
The first act was over. In the stalls everyone began moving about, going out and coming in.
Borís came to the Rostóvs’ box, received their congratulations very simply, and raising his eyebrows with an absent-minded smile conveyed to Natásha and Sónya his fiancée’s invitation to her wedding, and went away. Natásha with a gay, coquettish smile talked to him, and congratulated on his approaching wedding that same Borís with whom she had formerly been in love. In the state of intoxication she was in, everything seemed simple and natural.
The scantily clad Hélène smiled at everyone in the same way, and Natásha gave Borís a similar smile.
Hélène’s box was filled and surrounded from the stalls by the most distinguished and intellectual men, who seemed to vie with one another in their wish to let everyone see that they knew her.
During the whole of that entr’acte Kurágin stood with Dólokhov in front of the orchestra partition, looking at the Rostóvs’ box. Natásha knew he was talking about her and this afforded her pleasure. She even turned so that he should see her profile in what she thought was its most becoming aspect. Before the beginning of the second act Pierre appeared in the stalls. The Rostóvs had not seen him since their arrival. His face looked sad, and he had grown still stouter since Natásha last saw him. He passed up to the front rows, not noticing anyone. Anatole went up to him and began speaking to him, looking at and indicating the Rostóvs’ box. On seeing Natásha Pierre grew animated and, hastily passing between the rows, came toward their box. When he got there he leaned on his elbows and, smiling, talked to her for a long time. While conversing with Pierre, Natásha heard a man’s voice in Countess Bezúkhova’s box and something told her it was Kurágin. She turned and their eyes met. Almost smiling, he gazed straight into her eyes with such an enraptured caressing look that it seemed strange to be so near him, to look at him like that, to be so sure he admired her, and not to be acquainted with him.
In the second act there was scenery representing tombstones, there was a round hole in the canvas to represent the moon, shades were raised over the footlights, and from horns and contrabass came deep notes while many people appeared from right and left wearing black cloaks and holding things like daggers in their hands. They began waving their arms. Then some other people ran in and began dragging away the maiden who had been in white and was now in light blue. They did not drag her away at once, but sang with her for a long time and then at last dragged her off, and behind the scenes something metallic was struck three times and everyone knelt down and sang a prayer. All these things were repeatedly interrupted by the enthusiastic shouts of the audience.
During this act every time Natásha looked toward the stalls she saw Anatole Kurágin with an arm thrown across the back of his chair, staring at her. She was pleased to see that he was captivated by her and it did not occur to her that there was anything wrong in it.
When the second act was over Countess Bezúkhova rose, turned to the Rostóvs’ box—her whole bosom completely exposed—beckoned the old count with a gloved finger, and paying no attention to those who had entered her box began talking to him with an amiable smile.
“Do make me acquainted with your charming daughters,” said she. “The whole town is singing their praises and I don’t even know them!”
Natásha rose and curtsied to the splendid countess. She was so pleased by praise from this brilliant beauty that she blushed with pleasure.
“I want to become a Moscovite too, now,” said Hélène. “How is it you’re not ashamed to bury such pearls in the country?”
Countess Bezúkhova quite deserved her reputation of being a fascinating woman. She could say what she did not think—especially what was flattering—quite simply and naturally.
“Dear count, you must let me look after your daughters! Though I am not staying here long this time—nor are you—I will try to amuse them. I have already heard much of you in Petersburg and wanted to get to know you,” said she to Natásha with her stereotyped and lovely smile. “I had heard about you from my page, Drubetskóy. Have you heard he is getting married? And also from my husband’s friend Bolkónski, Prince Andrew Bolkónski,” she went on with special emphasis, implying that she knew of his relation to Natásha. To get better acquainted she asked that one of the young ladies should come into her box for the rest of the performance, and Natásha moved over to it.
The scene of the third act represented a palace in which many candles were burning and pictures of knights with short beards hung on the walls. In the middle stood what were probably a king and a queen. The king waved his right arm and, evidently nervous, sang something badly and sat down on a crimson throne. The maiden who had been first in white and then in light blue, now wore only a smock, and stood beside the throne with her hair down. She sang something mournfully, addressing the queen, but the king waved his arm severely, and men and women with bare legs came in from both sides and began dancing all together. Then the violins played very shrilly and merrily and one of the women with thick bare legs and thin arms, separating from the others, went behind the wings, adjusted her bodice, returned to the middle of the stage, and began jumping and striking one foot rapidly against the other. In the stalls everyone clapped and shouted “bravo!” Then one of the men went into a corner of the stage. The cymbals and horns in the orchestra struck up more loudly, and this man with bare legs jumped very high and waved his feet about very rapidly. (He was Duport, who received sixty thousand rubles a year for this art.) Everybody in the stalls, boxes, and galleries began clapping and shouting with all their might, and the man stopped and began smiling and bowing to all sides. Then other men and women danced with bare legs. Then the king again shouted to the sound of music, and they all began singing. But suddenly a storm came on, chromatic scales and diminished sevenths were heard in the orchestra, everyone ran off, again dragging one of their number away, and the curtain dropped. Once more there was a terrible noise and clatter among the audience, and with rapturous faces everyone began shouting: “Duport! Duport! Duport!” Natásha no longer thought this strange. She looked about with pleasure, smiling joyfully.
“Isn’t Duport delightful?” Hélène asked her.
“Oh, yes,” replied Natásha.