After Anna Mikháylovna had driven off with her son to visit Count Cyril Vladímirovich Bezúkhov, Countess Rostóva sat for a long time all alone applying her handkerchief to her eyes. At last she rang.
“What is the matter with you, my dear?” she said crossly to the maid who kept her waiting some minutes. “Don’t you wish to serve me? Then I’ll find you another place.”
The countess was upset by her friend’s sorrow and humiliating poverty, and was therefore out of sorts, a state of mind which with her always found expression in calling her maid “my dear” and speaking to her with exaggerated politeness.
“I am very sorry, ma’am,” answered the maid.
“Ask the count to come to me.”
The count came waddling in to see his wife with a rather guilty look as usual.
“Well, little countess? What a sauté of game au madère we are to have, my dear! I tasted it. The thousand rubles I paid for Tarás were not ill-spent. He is worth it!”
He sat down by his wife, his elbows on his knees and his hands ruffling his gray hair.
“What are your commands, little countess?”
“You see, my dear... What’s that mess?” she said, pointing to his waistcoat. “It’s the sauté, most likely,” she added with a smile. “Well, you see, Count, I want some money.”
Her face became sad.
“Oh, little countess!” ... and the count began bustling to get out his pocketbook.
“I want a great deal, Count! I want five hundred rubles,” and taking out her cambric handkerchief she began wiping her husband’s waistcoat.
“Yes, immediately, immediately! Hey, who’s there?” he called out in a tone only used by persons who are certain that those they call will rush to obey the summons. “Send Dmítri to me!”
Dmítri, a man of good family who had been brought up in the count’s house and now managed all his affairs, stepped softly into the room.
“This is what I want, my dear fellow,” said the count to the deferential young man who had entered. “Bring me...” he reflected a moment, “yes, bring me seven hundred rubles, yes! But mind, don’t bring me such tattered and dirty notes as last time, but nice clean ones for the countess.”
“Yes, Dmítri, clean ones, please,” said the countess, sighing deeply.
“When would you like them, your excellency?” asked Dmítri. “Allow me to inform you... But, don’t be uneasy,” he added, noticing that the count was beginning to breathe heavily and quickly which was always a sign of approaching anger. “I was forgetting... Do you wish it brought at once?”
“Yes, yes; just so! Bring it. Give it to the countess.”
“What a treasure that Dmítri is,” added the count with a smile when the young man had departed. “There is never any ‘impossible’ with him. That’s a thing I hate! Everything is possible.”
“Ah, money, Count, money! How much sorrow it causes in the world,” said the countess. “But I am in great need of this sum.”
“You, my little countess, are a notorious spendthrift,” said the count, and having kissed his wife’s hand he went back to his study.
When Anna Mikháylovna returned from Count Bezúkhov’s the money, all in clean notes, was lying ready under a handkerchief on the countess’ little table, and Anna Mikháylovna noticed that something was agitating her.
“Well, my dear?” asked the countess.
“Oh, what a terrible state he is in! One would not know him, he is so ill! I was only there a few moments and hardly said a word...”
“Annette, for heaven’s sake don’t refuse me,” the countess began, with a blush that looked very strange on her thin, dignified, elderly face, and she took the money from under the handkerchief.
Anna Mikháylovna instantly guessed her intention and stooped to be ready to embrace the countess at the appropriate moment.
“This is for Borís from me, for his outfit.”
Anna Mikháylovna was already embracing her and weeping. The countess wept too. They wept because they were friends, and because they were kindhearted, and because they—friends from childhood—had to think about such a base thing as money, and because their youth was over.... But those tears were pleasant to them both.
Countess Rostóva, with her daughters and a large number of guests, was already seated in the drawing room. The count took the gentlemen into his study and showed them his choice collection of Turkish pipes. From time to time he went out to ask: “Hasn’t she come yet?” They were expecting Márya Dmítrievna Akhrosímova, known in society as le terrible dragon, a lady distinguished not for wealth or rank, but for common sense and frank plainness of speech. Márya Dmítrievna was known to the Imperial family as well as to all Moscow and Petersburg, and both cities wondered at her, laughed privately at her rudenesses, and told good stories about her, while none the less all without exception respected and feared her.
In the count’s room, which was full of tobacco smoke, they talked of the war that had been announced in a manifesto, and about the recruiting. None of them had yet seen the manifesto, but they all knew it had appeared. The count sat on the sofa between two guests who were smoking and talking. He neither smoked nor talked, but bending his head first to one side and then to the other watched the smokers with evident pleasure and listened to the conversation of his two neighbors, whom he egged on against each other.
One of them was a sallow, clean-shaven civilian with a thin and wrinkled face, already growing old, though he was dressed like a most fashionable young man. He sat with his legs up on the sofa as if quite at home and, having stuck an amber mouthpiece far into his mouth, was inhaling the smoke spasmodically and screwing up his eyes. This was an old bachelor, Shinshín, a cousin of the countess’, a man with “a sharp tongue” as they said in Moscow society. He seemed to be condescending to his companion. The latter, a fresh, rosy officer of the Guards, irreproachably washed, brushed, and buttoned, held his pipe in the middle of his mouth and with red lips gently inhaled the smoke, letting it escape from his handsome mouth in rings. This was Lieutenant Berg, an officer in the Semënov regiment with whom Borís was to travel to join the army, and about whom Natásha had teased her elder sister Véra, speaking of Berg as her “intended.” The count sat between them and listened attentively. His favorite occupation when not playing boston, a card game he was very fond of, was that of listener, especially when he succeeded in setting two loquacious talkers at one another.
“Well, then, old chap, mon très honorable Alphonse Kárlovich,” said Shinshín, laughing ironically and mixing the most ordinary Russian expressions with the choicest French phrases—which was a peculiarity of his speech. “Vous comptez vous faire des rentes sur l’état; * you want to make something out of your company?”
“No, Peter Nikoláevich; I only want to show that in the cavalry the advantages are far less than in the infantry. Just consider my own position now, Peter Nikoláevich...”
Berg always spoke quietly, politely, and with great precision. His conversation always related entirely to himself; he would remain calm and silent when the talk related to any topic that had no direct bearing on himself. He could remain silent for hours without being at all put out of countenance himself or making others uncomfortable, but as soon as the conversation concerned himself he would begin to talk circumstantially and with evident satisfaction.
“Consider my position, Peter Nikoláevich. Were I in the cavalry I should get not more than two hundred rubles every four months, even with the rank of lieutenant; but as it is I receive two hundred and thirty,” said he, looking at Shinshín and the count with a joyful, pleasant smile, as if it were obvious to him that his success must always be the chief desire of everyone else.
“Besides that, Peter Nikoláevich, by exchanging into the Guards I shall be in a more prominent position,” continued Berg, “and vacancies occur much more frequently in the Foot Guards. Then just think what can be done with two hundred and thirty rubles! I even manage to put a little aside and to send something to my father,” he went on, emitting a smoke ring.
“La balance y est... * A German knows how to skin a flint, as the proverb says,” remarked Shinshín, moving his pipe to the other side of his mouth and winking at the count.
The count burst out laughing. The other guests seeing that Shinshín was talking came up to listen. Berg, oblivious of irony or indifference, continued to explain how by exchanging into the Guards he had already gained a step on his old comrades of the Cadet Corps; how in wartime the company commander might get killed and he, as senior in the company, might easily succeed to the post; how popular he was with everyone in the regiment, and how satisfied his father was with him. Berg evidently enjoyed narrating all this, and did not seem to suspect that others, too, might have their own interests. But all he said was so prettily sedate, and the naïveté of his youthful egotism was so obvious, that he disarmed his hearers.
“Well, my boy, you’ll get along wherever you go—foot or horse—that I’ll warrant,” said Shinshín, patting him on the shoulder and taking his feet off the sofa.
Berg smiled joyously. The count, followed by his guests, went into the drawing room.
It was just the moment before a big dinner when the assembled guests, expecting the summons to zakúska, * avoid engaging in any long conversation but think it necessary to move about and talk, in order to show that they are not at all impatient for their food. The host and hostess look toward the door, and now and then glance at one another, and the visitors try to guess from these glances who, or what, they are waiting for—some important relation who has not yet arrived, or a dish that is not yet ready.
Pierre had come just at dinnertime and was sitting awkwardly in the middle of the drawing room on the first chair he had come across, blocking the way for everyone. The countess tried to make him talk, but he went on naïvely looking around through his spectacles as if in search of somebody and answered all her questions in monosyllables. He was in the way and was the only one who did not notice the fact. Most of the guests, knowing of the affair with the bear, looked with curiosity at this big, stout, quiet man, wondering how such a clumsy, modest fellow could have played such a prank on a policeman.
“You have only lately arrived?” the countess asked him.
“Oui, madame,” replied he, looking around him.
“You have not yet seen my husband?”
“Non, madame.” He smiled quite inappropriately.
“You have been in Paris recently, I believe? I suppose it’s very interesting.”
The countess exchanged glances with Anna Mikháylovna. The latter understood that she was being asked to entertain this young man, and sitting down beside him she began to speak about his father; but he answered her, as he had the countess, only in monosyllables. The other guests were all conversing with one another. “The Razumóvskis... It was charming... You are very kind... Countess Apráksina...” was heard on all sides. The countess rose and went into the ballroom.
“Márya Dmítrievna?” came her voice from there.
“Herself,” came the answer in a rough voice, and Márya Dmítrievna entered the room.
All the unmarried ladies and even the married ones except the very oldest rose. Márya Dmítrievna paused at the door. Tall and stout, holding high her fifty-year-old head with its gray curls, she stood surveying the guests, and leisurely arranged her wide sleeves as if rolling them up. Márya Dmítrievna always spoke in Russian.
“Health and happiness to her whose name day we are keeping and to her children,” she said, in her loud, full-toned voice which drowned all others. “Well, you old sinner,” she went on, turning to the count who was kissing her hand, “you’re feeling dull in Moscow, I daresay? Nowhere to hunt with your dogs? But what is to be done, old man? Just see how these nestlings are growing up,” and she pointed to the girls. “You must look for husbands for them whether you like it or not....”
“Well,” said she, “how’s my Cossack?” (Márya Dmítrievna always called Natásha a Cossack) and she stroked the child’s arm as she came up fearless and gay to kiss her hand. “I know she’s a scamp of a girl, but I like her.”
She took a pair of pear-shaped ruby earrings from her huge reticule and, having given them to the rosy Natásha, who beamed with the pleasure of her saint’s-day fete, turned away at once and addressed herself to Pierre.
“Eh, eh, friend! Come here a bit,” said she, assuming a soft high tone of voice. “Come here, my friend...” and she ominously tucked up her sleeves still higher. Pierre approached, looking at her in a childlike way through his spectacles.
“Come nearer, come nearer, friend! I used to be the only one to tell your father the truth when he was in favor, and in your case it’s my evident duty.” She paused. All were silent, expectant of what was to follow, for this was clearly only a prelude.
“A fine lad! My word! A fine lad!... His father lies on his deathbed and he amuses himself setting a policeman astride a bear! For shame, sir, for shame! It would be better if you went to the war.”
She turned away and gave her hand to the count, who could hardly keep from laughing.
“Well, I suppose it is time we were at table?” said Márya Dmítrievna.
The count went in first with Márya Dmítrievna, the countess followed on the arm of a colonel of hussars, a man of importance to them because Nicholas was to go with him to the regiment; then came Anna Mikháylovna with Shinshín. Berg gave his arm to Véra. The smiling Julie Karágina went in with Nicholas. After them other couples followed, filling the whole dining hall, and last of all the children, tutors, and governesses followed singly. The footmen began moving about, chairs scraped, the band struck up in the gallery, and the guests settled down in their places. Then the strains of the count’s household band were replaced by the clatter of knives and forks, the voices of visitors, and the soft steps of the footmen. At one end of the table sat the countess with Márya Dmítrievna on her right and Anna Mikháylovna on her left, the other lady visitors were farther down. At the other end sat the count, with the hussar colonel on his left and Shinshín and the other male visitors on his right. Midway down the long table on one side sat the grown-up young people: Véra beside Berg, and Pierre beside Borís; and on the other side, the children, tutors, and governesses. From behind the crystal decanters and fruit vases, the count kept glancing at his wife and her tall cap with its light-blue ribbons, and busily filled his neighbors’ glasses, not neglecting his own. The countess in turn, without omitting her duties as hostess, threw significant glances from behind the pineapples at her husband whose face and bald head seemed by their redness to contrast more than usual with his gray hair. At the ladies’ end an even chatter of voices was heard all the time, at the men’s end the voices sounded louder and louder, especially that of the colonel of hussars who, growing more and more flushed, ate and drank so much that the count held him up as a pattern to the other guests. Berg with tender smiles was saying to Véra that love is not an earthly but a heavenly feeling. Borís was telling his new friend Pierre who the guests were and exchanging glances with Natásha, who was sitting opposite. Pierre spoke little but examined the new faces, and ate a great deal. Of the two soups he chose turtle with savory patties and went on to the game without omitting a single dish or one of the wines. These latter the butler thrust mysteriously forward, wrapped in a napkin, from behind the next man’s shoulders and whispered: “Dry Madeira”... “Hungarian”... or “Rhine wine” as the case might be. Of the four crystal glasses engraved with the count’s monogram that stood before his plate, Pierre held out one at random and drank with enjoyment, gazing with ever-increasing amiability at the other guests. Natásha, who sat opposite, was looking at Borís as girls of thirteen look at the boy they are in love with and have just kissed for the first time. Sometimes that same look fell on Pierre, and that funny lively little girl’s look made him inclined to laugh without knowing why.
Nicholas sat at some distance from Sónya, beside Julie Karágina, to whom he was again talking with the same involuntary smile. Sónya wore a company smile but was evidently tormented by jealousy; now she turned pale, now blushed and strained every nerve to overhear what Nicholas and Julie were saying to one another. The governess kept looking round uneasily as if preparing to resent any slight that might be put upon the children. The German tutor was trying to remember all the dishes, wines, and kinds of dessert, in order to send a full description of the dinner to his people in Germany; and he felt greatly offended when the butler with a bottle wrapped in a napkin passed him by. He frowned, trying to appear as if he did not want any of that wine, but was mortified because no one would understand that it was not to quench his thirst or from greediness that he wanted it, but simply from a conscientious desire for knowledge.
At the men’s end of the table the talk grew more and more animated. The colonel told them that the declaration of war had already appeared in Petersburg and that a copy, which he had himself seen, had that day been forwarded by courier to the commander in chief.
“And why the deuce are we going to fight Bonaparte?” remarked Shinshín. “He has stopped Austria’s cackle and I fear it will be our turn next.”
The colonel was a stout, tall, plethoric German, evidently devoted to the service and patriotically Russian. He resented Shinshín’s remark.
“It is for the reasson, my goot sir,” said he, speaking with a German accent, “for the reasson zat ze Emperor knows zat. He declares in ze manifessto zat he cannot fiew wiz indifference ze danger vreatening Russia and zat ze safety and dignity of ze Empire as vell as ze sanctity of its alliances...” he spoke this last word with particular emphasis as if in it lay the gist of the matter.
Then with the unerring official memory that characterized him he repeated from the opening words of the manifesto:
... and the wish, which constitutes the Emperor’s sole and absolute aim—to establish peace in Europe on firm foundations—has now decided him to despatch part of the army abroad and to create a new condition for the attainment of that purpose.
“Zat, my dear sir, is vy...” he concluded, drinking a tumbler of wine with dignity and looking to the count for approval.
“Connaissez-vous le Proverbe:* ‘Jerome, Jerome, do not roam, but turn spindles at home!’?” said Shinshín, puckering his brows and smiling. “Cela nous convient à merveille.*(2) Suvórov now—he knew what he was about; yet they beat him à plate couture,*(3) and where are we to find Suvórovs now? Je vous demande un peu,” *(4) said he, continually changing from French to Russian.
*(2) That suits us down to the ground.
*(4) I just ask you that.
“Ve must vight to the last tr-r-op of our plood!” said the colonel, thumping the table; “and ve must tie for our Emperor, and zen all vill pe vell. And ve must discuss it as little as po-o-ossible”... he dwelt particularly on the word possible... “as po-o-ossible,” he ended, again turning to the count. “Zat is how ve old hussars look at it, and zere’s an end of it! And how do you, a young man and a young hussar, how do you judge of it?” he added, addressing Nicholas, who when he heard that the war was being discussed had turned from his partner with eyes and ears intent on the colonel.
“I am quite of your opinion,” replied Nicholas, flaming up, turning his plate round and moving his wineglasses about with as much decision and desperation as though he were at that moment facing some great danger. “I am convinced that we Russians must die or conquer,” he concluded, conscious—as were others—after the words were uttered that his remarks were too enthusiastic and emphatic for the occasion and were therefore awkward.
“What you said just now was splendid!” said his partner Julie.
Sónya trembled all over and blushed to her ears and behind them and down to her neck and shoulders while Nicholas was speaking.
Pierre listened to the colonel’s speech and nodded approvingly.
“That’s fine,” said he.
“The young man’s a real hussar!” shouted the colonel, again thumping the table.
“What are you making such a noise about over there?” Márya Dmítrievna’s deep voice suddenly inquired from the other end of the table. “What are you thumping the table for?” she demanded of the hussar, “and why are you exciting yourself? Do you think the French are here?”
“I am speaking ze truce,” replied the hussar with a smile.
“It’s all about the war,” the count shouted down the table. “You know my son’s going, Márya Dmítrievna? My son is going.”
“I have four sons in the army but still I don’t fret. It is all in God’s hands. You may die in your bed or God may spare you in a battle,” replied Márya Dmítrievna’s deep voice, which easily carried the whole length of the table.
Once more the conversations concentrated, the ladies’ at the one end and the men’s at the other.
“You won’t ask,” Natásha’s little brother was saying; “I know you won’t ask!”
“I will,” replied Natásha.
Her face suddenly flushed with reckless and joyous resolution. She half rose, by a glance inviting Pierre, who sat opposite, to listen to what was coming, and turning to her mother:
“Mamma!” rang out the clear contralto notes of her childish voice, audible the whole length of the table.
“What is it?” asked the countess, startled; but seeing by her daughter’s face that it was only mischief, she shook a finger at her sternly with a threatening and forbidding movement of her head.
The conversation was hushed.
“Mamma! What sweets are we going to have?” and Natásha’s voice sounded still more firm and resolute.
The countess tried to frown, but could not. Márya Dmítrievna shook her fat finger.
“Cossack!” she said threateningly.
Most of the guests, uncertain how to regard this sally, looked at the elders.
“You had better take care!” said the countess.
“Mamma! What sweets are we going to have?” Natásha again cried boldly, with saucy gaiety, confident that her prank would be taken in good part.
Sónya and fat little Pétya doubled up with laughter.
“You see! I have asked,” whispered Natásha to her little brother and to Pierre, glancing at him again.
“Ice pudding, but you won’t get any,” said Márya Dmítrievna.
Natásha saw there was nothing to be afraid of and so she braved even Márya Dmítrievna.
“Márya Dmítrievna! What kind of ice pudding? I don’t like ice cream.”
“No! What kind, Márya Dmítrievna? What kind?” she almost screamed; “I want to know!”
Márya Dmítrievna and the countess burst out laughing, and all the guests joined in. Everyone laughed, not at Márya Dmítrievna’s answer but at the incredible boldness and smartness of this little girl who had dared to treat Márya Dmítrievna in this fashion.
Natásha only desisted when she had been told that there would be pineapple ice. Before the ices, champagne was served round. The band again struck up, the count and countess kissed, and the guests, leaving their seats, went up to “congratulate” the countess, and reached across the table to clink glasses with the count, with the children, and with one another. Again the footmen rushed about, chairs scraped, and in the same order in which they had entered but with redder faces, the guests returned to the drawing room and to the count’s study.
The card tables were drawn out, sets made up for boston, and the count’s visitors settled themselves, some in the two drawing rooms, some in the sitting room, some in the library.
The count, holding his cards fanwise, kept himself with difficulty from dropping into his usual after-dinner nap, and laughed at everything. The young people, at the countess’ instigation, gathered round the clavichord and harp. Julie by general request played first. After she had played a little air with variations on the harp, she joined the other young ladies in begging Natásha and Nicholas, who were noted for their musical talent, to sing something. Natásha, who was treated as though she were grown up, was evidently very proud of this but at the same time felt shy.
“What shall we sing?” she said.
“‘The Brook,’” suggested Nicholas.
“Well, then, let’s be quick. Borís, come here,” said Natásha. “But where is Sónya?”
She looked round and seeing that her friend was not in the room ran to look for her.
Running into Sónya’s room and not finding her there, Natásha ran to the nursery, but Sónya was not there either. Natásha concluded that she must be on the chest in the passage. The chest in the passage was the place of mourning for the younger female generation in the Rostóv household. And there in fact was Sónya lying face downward on Nurse’s dirty feather bed on the top of the chest, crumpling her gauzy pink dress under her, hiding her face with her slender fingers, and sobbing so convulsively that her bare little shoulders shook. Natásha’s face, which had been so radiantly happy all that saint’s day, suddenly changed: her eyes became fixed, and then a shiver passed down her broad neck and the corners of her mouth drooped.
“Sónya! What is it? What is the matter?... Oo... Oo... Oo...!” And Natásha’s large mouth widened, making her look quite ugly, and she began to wail like a baby without knowing why, except that Sónya was crying. Sónya tried to lift her head to answer but could not, and hid her face still deeper in the bed. Natásha wept, sitting on the blue-striped feather bed and hugging her friend. With an effort Sónya sat up and began wiping her eyes and explaining.
“Nicholas is going away in a week’s time, his... papers... have come... he told me himself... but still I should not cry,” and she showed a paper she held in her hand—with the verses Nicholas had written, “still, I should not cry, but you can’t... no one can understand... what a soul he has!”
And she began to cry again because he had such a noble soul.
“It’s all very well for you... I am not envious... I love you and Borís also,” she went on, gaining a little strength; “he is nice... there are no difficulties in your way.... But Nicholas is my cousin... one would have to... the Metropolitan himself... and even then it can’t be done. And besides, if she tells Mamma” (Sónya looked upon the countess as her mother and called her so) “that I am spoiling Nicholas’ career and am heartless and ungrateful, while truly... God is my witness,” and she made the sign of the cross, “I love her so much, and all of you, only Véra... And what for? What have I done to her? I am so grateful to you that I would willingly sacrifice everything, only I have nothing....”
Sónya could not continue, and again hid her face in her hands and in the feather bed. Natásha began consoling her, but her face showed that she understood all the gravity of her friend’s trouble.
“Sónya,” she suddenly exclaimed, as if she had guessed the true reason of her friend’s sorrow, “I’m sure Véra has said something to you since dinner? Hasn’t she?”
“Yes, these verses Nicholas wrote himself and I copied some others, and she found them on my table and said she’d show them to Mamma, and that I was ungrateful, and that Mamma would never allow him to marry me, but that he’ll marry Julie. You see how he’s been with her all day... Natásha, what have I done to deserve it?...”
And again she began to sob, more bitterly than before. Natásha lifted her up, hugged her, and, smiling through her tears, began comforting her.
“Sónya, don’t believe her, darling! Don’t believe her! Do you remember how we and Nicholas, all three of us, talked in the sitting room after supper? Why, we settled how everything was to be. I don’t quite remember how, but don’t you remember that it could all be arranged and how nice it all was? There’s Uncle Shinshín’s brother has married his first cousin. And we are only second cousins, you know. And Borís says it is quite possible. You know I have told him all about it. And he is so clever and so good!” said Natásha. “Don’t you cry, Sónya, dear love, darling Sónya!” and she kissed her and laughed. “Véra’s spiteful; never mind her! And all will come right and she won’t say anything to Mamma. Nicholas will tell her himself, and he doesn’t care at all for Julie.”
Natásha kissed her on the hair.
Sónya sat up. The little kitten brightened, its eyes shone, and it seemed ready to lift its tail, jump down on its soft paws, and begin playing with the ball of worsted as a kitten should.
“Do you think so?... Really? Truly?” she said, quickly smoothing her frock and hair.
“Really, truly!” answered Natásha, pushing in a crisp lock that had strayed from under her friend’s plaits.
“Well, let’s go and sing ‘The Brook.’”
“Do you know, that fat Pierre who sat opposite me is so funny!” said Natásha, stopping suddenly. “I feel so happy!”
And she set off at a run along the passage.
Sónya, shaking off some down which clung to her and tucking away the verses in the bosom of her dress close to her bony little chest, ran after Natásha down the passage into the sitting room with flushed face and light, joyous steps. At the visitors’ request the young people sang the quartette, “The Brook,” with which everyone was delighted. Then Nicholas sang a song he had just learned:
How sweet, as fancies wander free,
To feel that in this world there’s one
Who still is thinking but of thee!
That while her fingers touch the harp
Wafting sweet music o’er the lea,
It is for thee thus swells her heart,
Sighing its message out to thee...
A day or two, then bliss unspoilt,
But oh! till then I cannot live!...
He had not finished the last verse before the young people began to get ready to dance in the large hall, and the sound of the feet and the coughing of the musicians were heard from the gallery.
Pierre was sitting in the drawing room where Shinshín had engaged him, as a man recently returned from abroad, in a political conversation in which several others joined but which bored Pierre. When the music began Natásha came in and walking straight up to Pierre said, laughing and blushing:
“Mamma told me to ask you to join the dancers.”
“I am afraid of mixing the figures,” Pierre replied; “but if you will be my teacher...” And lowering his big arm he offered it to the slender little girl.
While the couples were arranging themselves and the musicians tuning up, Pierre sat down with his little partner. Natásha was perfectly happy; she was dancing with a grown-up man, who had been abroad. She was sitting in a conspicuous place and talking to him like a grown-up lady. She had a fan in her hand that one of the ladies had given her to hold. Assuming quite the pose of a society woman (heaven knows when and where she had learned it) she talked with her partner, fanning herself and smiling over the fan.
“Dear, dear! Just look at her!” exclaimed the countess as she crossed the ballroom, pointing to Natásha.
Natásha blushed and laughed.
“Well, really, Mamma! Why should you? What is there to be surprised at?”
In the midst of the third écossaise there was a clatter of chairs being pushed back in the sitting room where the count and Márya Dmítrievna had been playing cards with the majority of the more distinguished and older visitors. They now, stretching themselves after sitting so long, and replacing their purses and pocketbooks, entered the ballroom. First came Márya Dmítrievna and the count, both with merry countenances. The count, with playful ceremony somewhat in ballet style, offered his bent arm to Márya Dmítrievna. He drew himself up, a smile of debonair gallantry lit up his face and as soon as the last figure of the écossaise was ended, he clapped his hands to the musicians and shouted up to their gallery, addressing the first violin:
“Semën! Do you know the Daniel Cooper?”
This was the count’s favorite dance, which he had danced in his youth. (Strictly speaking, Daniel Cooper was one figure of the anglaise.)
“Look at Papa!” shouted Natásha to the whole company, and quite forgetting that she was dancing with a grown-up partner she bent her curly head to her knees and made the whole room ring with her laughter.
And indeed everybody in the room looked with a smile of pleasure at the jovial old gentleman, who standing beside his tall and stout partner, Márya Dmítrievna, curved his arms, beat time, straightened his shoulders, turned out his toes, tapped gently with his foot, and, by a smile that broadened his round face more and more, prepared the onlookers for what was to follow. As soon as the provocatively gay strains of Daniel Cooper (somewhat resembling those of a merry peasant dance) began to sound, all the doorways of the ballroom were suddenly filled by the domestic serfs—the men on one side and the women on the other—who with beaming faces had come to see their master making merry.
“Just look at the master! A regular eagle he is!” loudly remarked the nurse, as she stood in one of the doorways.
The count danced well and knew it. But his partner could not and did not want to dance well. Her enormous figure stood erect, her powerful arms hanging down (she had handed her reticule to the countess), and only her stern but handsome face really joined in the dance. What was expressed by the whole of the count’s plump figure, in Márya Dmítrievna found expression only in her more and more beaming face and quivering nose. But if the count, getting more and more into the swing of it, charmed the spectators by the unexpectedness of his adroit maneuvers and the agility with which he capered about on his light feet, Márya Dmítrievna produced no less impression by slight exertions—the least effort to move her shoulders or bend her arms when turning, or stamp her foot—which everyone appreciated in view of her size and habitual severity. The dance grew livelier and livelier. The other couples could not attract a moment’s attention to their own evolutions and did not even try to do so. All were watching the count and Márya Dmítrievna. Natásha kept pulling everyone by sleeve or dress, urging them to “look at Papa!” though as it was they never took their eyes off the couple. In the intervals of the dance the count, breathing deeply, waved and shouted to the musicians to play faster. Faster, faster, and faster; lightly, more lightly, and yet more lightly whirled the count, flying round Márya Dmítrievna, now on his toes, now on his heels; until, turning his partner round to her seat, he executed the final pas, raising his soft foot backwards, bowing his perspiring head, smiling and making a wide sweep with his arm, amid a thunder of applause and laughter led by Natásha. Both partners stood still, breathing heavily and wiping their faces with their cambric handkerchiefs.
“That’s how we used to dance in our time, ma chère,” said the count.
“That was a Daniel Cooper!” exclaimed Márya Dmítrievna, tucking up her sleeves and puffing heavily.
While in the Rostóvs’ ballroom the sixth anglaise was being danced, to a tune in which the weary musicians blundered, and while tired footmen and cooks were getting the supper, Count Bezúkhov had a sixth stroke. The doctors pronounced recovery impossible. After a mute confession, communion was administered to the dying man, preparations made for the sacrament of unction, and in his house there was the bustle and thrill of suspense usual at such moments. Outside the house, beyond the gates, a group of undertakers, who hid whenever a carriage drove up, waited in expectation of an important order for an expensive funeral. The Military Governor of Moscow, who had been assiduous in sending aides-de-camp to inquire after the count’s health, came himself that evening to bid a last farewell to the celebrated grandee of Catherine’s court, Count Bezúkhov.
The magnificent reception room was crowded. Everyone stood up respectfully when the Military Governor, having stayed about half an hour alone with the dying man, passed out, slightly acknowledging their bows and trying to escape as quickly as possible from the glances fixed on him by the doctors, clergy, and relatives of the family. Prince Vasíli, who had grown thinner and paler during the last few days, escorted him to the door, repeating something to him several times in low tones.
When the Military Governor had gone, Prince Vasíli sat down all alone on a chair in the ballroom, crossing one leg high over the other, leaning his elbow on his knee and covering his face with his hand. After sitting so for a while he rose, and, looking about him with frightened eyes, went with unusually hurried steps down the long corridor leading to the back of the house, to the room of the eldest princess.
Those who were in the dimly lit reception room spoke in nervous whispers, and, whenever anyone went into or came from the dying man’s room, grew silent and gazed with eyes full of curiosity or expectancy at his door, which creaked slightly when opened.
“The limits of human life ... are fixed and may not be o’erpassed,” said an old priest to a lady who had taken a seat beside him and was listening naïvely to his words.
“I wonder, is it not too late to administer unction?” asked the lady, adding the priest’s clerical title, as if she had no opinion of her own on the subject.
“Ah, madam, it is a great sacrament,” replied the priest, passing his hand over the thin grizzled strands of hair combed back across his bald head.
“Who was that? The Military Governor himself?” was being asked at the other side of the room. “How young-looking he is!”
“Yes, and he is over sixty. I hear the count no longer recognizes anyone. They wished to administer the sacrament of unction.”
“I knew someone who received that sacrament seven times.”
The second princess had just come from the sickroom with her eyes red from weeping and sat down beside Dr. Lorrain, who was sitting in a graceful pose under a portrait of Catherine, leaning his elbow on a table.
“Beautiful,” said the doctor in answer to a remark about the weather. “The weather is beautiful, Princess; and besides, in Moscow one feels as if one were in the country.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied the princess with a sigh. “So he may have something to drink?”
“Has he taken his medicine?”
The doctor glanced at his watch.
“Take a glass of boiled water and put a pinch of cream of tartar,” and he indicated with his delicate fingers what he meant by a pinch.
“Dere has neffer been a gase,” a German doctor was saying to an aide-de-camp, “dat one liffs after de sird stroke.”
“And what a well-preserved man he was!” remarked the aide-de-camp. “And who will inherit his wealth?” he added in a whisper.
“It von’t go begging,” replied the German with a smile.
Everyone again looked toward the door, which creaked as the second princess went in with the drink she had prepared according to Lorrain’s instructions. The German doctor went up to Lorrain.
“Do you think he can last till morning?” asked the German, addressing Lorrain in French which he pronounced badly.
Lorrain, pursing up his lips, waved a severely negative finger before his nose.
“Tonight, not later,” said he in a low voice, and he moved away with a decorous smile of self-satisfaction at being able clearly to understand and state the patient’s condition.
Meanwhile Prince Vasíli had opened the door into the princess’ room.
In this room it was almost dark; only two tiny lamps were burning before the icons and there was a pleasant scent of flowers and burnt pastilles. The room was crowded with small pieces of furniture, whatnots, cupboards, and little tables. The quilt of a high, white feather bed was just visible behind a screen. A small dog began to bark.
“Ah, is it you, cousin?”
She rose and smoothed her hair, which was as usual so extremely smooth that it seemed to be made of one piece with her head and covered with varnish.
“Has anything happened?” she asked. “I am so terrified.”
“No, there is no change. I only came to have a talk about business, Catiche,” * muttered the prince, seating himself wearily on the chair she had just vacated. “You have made the place warm, I must say,” he remarked. “Well, sit down: let’s have a talk.”