After that Anna Pávlovna led up to the courage and firmness of the King of Prussia, in order to draw Borís into the conversation.
Borís listened attentively to each of the speakers, awaiting his turn, but managed meanwhile to look round repeatedly at his neighbor, the beautiful Hélène, whose eyes several times met those of the handsome young aide-de-camp with a smile.
Speaking of the position of Prussia, Anna Pávlovna very naturally asked Borís to tell them about his journey to Glogau and in what state he found the Prussian army. Borís, speaking with deliberation, told them in pure, correct French many interesting details about the armies and the court, carefully abstaining from expressing an opinion of his own about the facts he was recounting. For some time he engrossed the general attention, and Anna Pávlovna felt that the novelty she had served up was received with pleasure by all her visitors. The greatest attention of all to Borís’ narrative was shown by Hélène. She asked him several questions about his journey and seemed greatly interested in the state of the Prussian army. As soon as he had finished she turned to him with her usual smile.
“You absolutely must come and see me,” she said in a tone that implied that, for certain considerations he could not know of, this was absolutely necessary.
“On Tuesday between eight and nine. It will give me great pleasure.”
Borís promised to fulfill her wish and was about to begin a conversation with her, when Anna Pávlovna called him away on the pretext that her aunt wished to hear him.
“You know her husband, of course?” said Anna Pávlovna, closing her eyes and indicating Hélène with a sorrowful gesture. “Ah, she is such an unfortunate and charming woman! Don’t mention him before her—please don’t! It is too painful for her!”
When Borís and Anna Pávlovna returned to the others Prince Hippolyte had the ear of the company.
Bending forward in his armchair he said: “Le Roi de Prusse!” and having said this laughed. Everyone turned toward him.
“Le Roi de Prusse?” Hippolyte said interrogatively, again laughing, and then calmly and seriously sat back in his chair. Anna Pávlovna waited for him to go on, but as he seemed quite decided to say no more she began to tell of how at Potsdam the impious Bonaparte had stolen the sword of Frederick the Great.
“It is the sword of Frederick the Great which I...” she began, but Hippolyte interrupted her with the words: “Le Roi de Prusse...” and again, as soon as all turned toward him, excused himself and said no more.
Anna Pávlovna frowned. Mortemart, Hippolyte’s friend, addressed him firmly.
“Come now, what about your Roi de Prusse?”
Hippolyte laughed as if ashamed of laughing.
“Oh, it’s nothing. I only wished to say...” (he wanted to repeat a joke he had heard in Vienna and which he had been trying all that evening to get in) “I only wished to say that we are wrong to fight pour le Roi de Prusse!”
Borís smiled circumspectly, so that it might be taken as ironical or appreciative according to the way the joke was received. Everybody laughed.
“Your joke is too bad, it’s witty but unjust,” said Anna Pávlovna, shaking her little shriveled finger at him.
“We are not fighting pour le Roi de Prusse, but for right principles. Oh, that wicked Prince Hippolyte!” she said.
The conversation did not flag all evening and turned chiefly on the political news. It became particularly animated toward the end of the evening when the rewards bestowed by the Emperor were mentioned.
“You know N— N— received a snuffbox with the portrait last year?” said “the man of profound intellect.” “Why shouldn’t S— S— get the same distinction?”
“Pardon me! A snuffbox with the Emperor’s portrait is a reward but not a distinction,” said the diplomatist—“a gift, rather.”
“There are precedents, I may mention Schwarzenberg.”
“It’s impossible,” replied another.
“Will you bet? The ribbon of the order is a different matter....”
When everybody rose to go, Hélène who had spoken very little all the evening again turned to Borís, asking him in a tone of caressing significant command to come to her on Tuesday.
“It is of great importance to me,” she said, turning with a smile toward Anna Pávlovna, and Anna Pávlovna, with the same sad smile with which she spoke of her exalted patroness, supported Hélène’s wish.
It seemed as if from some words Borís had spoken that evening about the Prussian army, Hélène had suddenly found it necessary to see him. She seemed to promise to explain that necessity to him when he came on Tuesday.
But on Tuesday evening, having come to Hélène’s splendid salon, Borís received no clear explanation of why it had been necessary for him to come. There were other guests and the countess talked little to him, and only as he kissed her hand on taking leave said unexpectedly and in a whisper, with a strangely unsmiling face: “Come to dinner tomorrow... in the evening. You must come.... Come!”
During that stay in Petersburg, Borís became an intimate in the countess’ house.
The war was flaming up and nearing the Russian frontier. Everywhere one heard curses on Bonaparte, “the enemy of mankind.” Militiamen and recruits were being enrolled in the villages, and from the seat of war came contradictory news, false as usual and therefore variously interpreted. The life of old Prince Bolkónski, Prince Andrew, and Princess Mary had greatly changed since 1805.
In 1806 the old prince was made one of the eight commanders in chief then appointed to supervise the enrollment decreed throughout Russia. Despite the weakness of age, which had become particularly noticeable since the time when he thought his son had been killed, he did not think it right to refuse a duty to which he had been appointed by the Emperor himself, and this fresh opportunity for action gave him new energy and strength. He was continually traveling through the three provinces entrusted to him, was pedantic in the fulfillment of his duties, severe to cruel with his subordinates, and went into everything down to the minutest details himself. Princess Mary had ceased taking lessons in mathematics from her father, and when the old prince was at home went to his study with the wet nurse and little Prince Nicholas (as his grandfather called him). The baby Prince Nicholas lived with his wet nurse and nurse Sávishna in the late princess’ rooms and Princess Mary spent most of the day in the nursery, taking a mother’s place to her little nephew as best she could. Mademoiselle Bourienne, too, seemed passionately fond of the boy, and Princess Mary often deprived herself to give her friend the pleasure of dandling the little angel—as she called her nephew—and playing with him.
Near the altar of the church at Bald Hills there was a chapel over the tomb of the little princess, and in this chapel was a marble monument brought from Italy, representing an angel with outspread wings ready to fly upwards. The angel’s upper lip was slightly raised as though about to smile, and once on coming out of the chapel Prince Andrew and Princess Mary admitted to one another that the angel’s face reminded them strangely of the little princess. But what was still stranger, though of this Prince Andrew said nothing to his sister, was that in the expression the sculptor had happened to give the angel’s face, Prince Andrew read the same mild reproach he had read on the face of his dead wife: “Ah, why have you done this to me?”
Soon after Prince Andrew’s return the old prince made over to him a large estate, Boguchárovo, about twenty-five miles from Bald Hills. Partly because of the depressing memories associated with Bald Hills, partly because Prince Andrew did not always feel equal to bearing with his father’s peculiarities, and partly because he needed solitude, Prince Andrew made use of Boguchárovo, began building and spent most of his time there.
After the Austerlitz campaign Prince Andrew had firmly resolved not to continue his military service, and when the war recommenced and everybody had to serve, he took a post under his father in the recruitment so as to avoid active service. The old prince and his son seemed to have changed roles since the campaign of 1805. The old man, roused by activity, expected the best results from the new campaign, while Prince Andrew on the contrary, taking no part in the war and secretly regretting this, saw only the dark side.
On February 26, 1807, the old prince set off on one of his circuits. Prince Andrew remained at Bald Hills as usual during his father’s absence. Little Nicholas had been unwell for four days. The coachman who had driven the old prince to town returned bringing papers and letters for Prince Andrew.
Not finding the young prince in his study the valet went with the letters to Princess Mary’s apartments, but did not find him there. He was told that the prince had gone to the nursery.
“If you please, your excellency, Pétrusha has brought some papers,” said one of the nursemaids to Prince Andrew who was sitting on a child’s little chair while, frowning and with trembling hands, he poured drops from a medicine bottle into a wineglass half full of water.
“What is it?” he said crossly, and, his hand shaking unintentionally, he poured too many drops into the glass. He threw the mixture onto the floor and asked for some more water. The maid brought it.
There were in the room a child’s cot, two boxes, two armchairs, a table, a child’s table, and the little chair on which Prince Andrew was sitting. The curtains were drawn, and a single candle was burning on the table, screened by a bound music book so that the light did not fall on the cot.
“My dear,” said Princess Mary, addressing her brother from beside the cot where she was standing, “better wait a bit... later...”
“Oh, leave off, you always talk nonsense and keep putting things off—and this is what comes of it!” said Prince Andrew in an exasperated whisper, evidently meaning to wound his sister.
“My dear, really... it’s better not to wake him... he’s asleep,” said the princess in a tone of entreaty.
Prince Andrew got up and went on tiptoe up to the little bed, wineglass in hand.
“Perhaps we’d really better not wake him,” he said hesitating.
“As you please... really... I think so... but as you please,” said Princess Mary, evidently intimidated and confused that her opinion had prevailed. She drew her brother’s attention to the maid who was calling him in a whisper.
It was the second night that neither of them had slept, watching the boy who was in a high fever. These last days, mistrusting their household doctor and expecting another for whom they had sent to town, they had been trying first one remedy and then another. Worn out by sleeplessness and anxiety they threw their burden of sorrow on one another and reproached and disputed with each other.
“Pétrusha has come with papers from your father,” whispered the maid.
Prince Andrew went out.
“Devil take them!” he muttered, and after listening to the verbal instructions his father had sent and taking the correspondence and his father’s letter, he returned to the nursery.
“Well?” he asked.
“Still the same. Wait, for heaven’s sake. Karl Ivánich always says that sleep is more important than anything,” whispered Princess Mary with a sigh.
Prince Andrew went up to the child and felt him. He was burning hot.
“Confound you and your Karl Ivánich!” He took the glass with the drops and again went up to the cot.
“Andrew, don’t!” said Princess Mary.
But he scowled at her angrily though also with suffering in his eyes, and stooped glass in hand over the infant.
“But I wish it,” he said. “I beg you—give it him!”
Princess Mary shrugged her shoulders but took the glass submissively and calling the nurse began giving the medicine. The child screamed hoarsely. Prince Andrew winced and, clutching his head, went out and sat down on a sofa in the next room.
He still had all the letters in his hand. Opening them mechanically he began reading. The old prince, now and then using abbreviations, wrote in his large elongated hand on blue paper as follows:
Have just this moment received by special messenger very joyful news—if it’s not false. Bennigsen seems to have obtained a complete victory over Buonaparte at Eylau. In Petersburg everyone is rejoicing, and the rewards sent to the army are innumerable. Though he is a German—I congratulate him! I can’t make out what the commander at Kórchevo—a certain Khandrikóv—is up to; till now the additional men and provisions have not arrived. Gallop off to him at once and say I’ll have his head off if everything is not here in a week. Have received another letter about the Preussisch-Eylau battle from Pétenka—he took part in it—and it’s all true. When mischief-makers don’t meddle even a German beats Buonaparte. He is said to be fleeing in great disorder. Mind you gallop off to Kórchevo without delay and carry out instructions!
Prince Andrew sighed and broke the seal of another envelope. It was a closely written letter of two sheets from Bilíbin. He folded it up without reading it and reread his father’s letter, ending with the words: “Gallop off to Kórchevo and carry out instructions!”
“No, pardon me, I won’t go now till the child is better,” thought he, going to the door and looking into the nursery.
Princess Mary was still standing by the cot, gently rocking the baby.
“Ah yes, and what else did he say that’s unpleasant?” thought Prince Andrew, recalling his father’s letter. “Yes, we have gained a victory over Bonaparte, just when I’m not serving. Yes, yes, he’s always poking fun at me.... Ah, well! Let him!” And he began reading Bilíbin’s letter which was written in French. He read without understanding half of it, read only to forget, if but for a moment, what he had too long been thinking of so painfully to the exclusion of all else.
Bilíbin was now at army headquarters in a diplomatic capacity, and though he wrote in French and used French jests and French idioms, he described the whole campaign with a fearless self-censure and self-derision genuinely Russian. Bilíbin wrote that the obligation of diplomatic discretion tormented him, and he was happy to have in Prince Andrew a reliable correspondent to whom he could pour out the bile he had accumulated at the sight of all that was being done in the army. The letter was old, having been written before the battle at Preussisch-Eylau.
“Since the day of our brilliant success at Austerlitz,” wrote Bilíbin, “as you know, my dear prince, I never leave headquarters. I have certainly acquired a taste for war, and it is just as well for me; what I have seen during these last three months is incredible.
“I begin ab ovo. ‘The enemy of the human race,’ as you know, attacks the Prussians. The Prussians are our faithful allies who have only betrayed us three times in three years. We take up their cause, but it turns out that ‘the enemy of the human race’ pays no heed to our fine speeches and in his rude and savage way throws himself on the Prussians without giving them time to finish the parade they had begun, and in two twists of the hand he breaks them to smithereens and installs himself in the palace at Potsdam.
“‘I most ardently desire,’ writes the King of Prussia to Bonaparte, ‘that Your Majesty should be received and treated in my palace in a manner agreeable to yourself, and in so far as circumstances allowed, I have hastened to take all steps to that end. May I have succeeded!’ The Prussian generals pride themselves on being polite to the French and lay down their arms at the first demand.
“The head of the garrison at Glogau, with ten thousand men, asks the King of Prussia what he is to do if he is summoned to surrender.... All this is absolutely true.
“In short, hoping to settle matters by taking up a warlike attitude, it turns out that we have landed ourselves in war, and what is more, in war on our own frontiers, with and for the King of Prussia. We have everything in perfect order, only one little thing is lacking, namely, a commander in chief. As it was considered that the Austerlitz success might have been more decisive had the commander in chief not been so young, all our octogenarians were reviewed, and of Prozoróvski and Kámenski the latter was preferred. The general comes to us, Suvórov-like, in a kibítka, and is received with acclamations of joy and triumph.
“On the 4th, the first courier arrives from Petersburg. The mails are taken to the field marshal’s room, for he likes to do everything himself. I am called in to help sort the letters and take those meant for us. The field marshal looks on and waits for letters addressed to him. We search, but none are to be found. The field marshal grows impatient and sets to work himself and finds letters from the Emperor to Count T., Prince V., and others. Then he bursts into one of his wild furies and rages at everyone and everything, seizes the letters, opens them, and reads those from the Emperor addressed to others. ‘Ah! So that’s the way they treat me! No confidence in me! Ah, ordered to keep an eye on me! Very well then! Get along with you!’ So he writes the famous order of the day to General Bennigsen:
“‘I am wounded and cannot ride and consequently cannot command the army. You have brought your army corps to Pultúsk, routed: here it is exposed, and without fuel or forage, so something must be done, and, as you yourself reported to Count Buxhöwden yesterday, you must think of retreating to our frontier—which do today.’
“‘From all my riding,’ he writes to the Emperor, ‘I have got a saddle sore which, coming after all my previous journeys, quite prevents my riding and commanding so vast an army, so I have passed on the command to the general next in seniority, Count Buxhöwden, having sent him my whole staff and all that belongs to it, advising him if there is a lack of bread, to move farther into the interior of Prussia, for only one day’s ration of bread remains, and in some regiments none at all, as reported by the division commanders, Ostermann and Sedmorétzki, and all that the peasants had has been eaten up. I myself will remain in hospital at Ostrolenka till I recover. In regard to which I humbly submit my report, with the information that if the army remains in its present bivouac another fortnight there will not be a healthy man left in it by spring.
“‘Grant leave to retire to his country seat to an old man who is already in any case dishonored by being unable to fulfill the great and glorious task for which he was chosen. I shall await your most gracious permission here in hospital, that I may not have to play the part of a secretary rather than commander in the army. My removal from the army does not produce the slightest stir—a blind man has left it. There are thousands such as I in Russia.’
“The field marshal is angry with the Emperor and he punishes us all, isn’t it logical?
“This is the first act. Those that follow are naturally increasingly interesting and entertaining. After the field marshal’s departure it appears that we are within sight of the enemy and must give battle. Buxhöwden is commander in chief by seniority, but General Bennigsen does not quite see it; more particularly as it is he and his corps who are within sight of the enemy and he wishes to profit by the opportunity to fight a battle ‘on his own hand’ as the Germans say. He does so. This is the battle of Pultúsk, which is considered a great victory but in my opinion was nothing of the kind. We civilians, as you know, have a very bad way of deciding whether a battle was won or lost. Those who retreat after a battle have lost it is what we say; and according to that it is we who lost the battle of Pultúsk. In short, we retreat after the battle but send a courier to Petersburg with news of a victory, and General Bennigsen, hoping to receive from Petersburg the post of commander in chief as a reward for his victory, does not give up the command of the army to General Buxhöwden. During this interregnum we begin a very original and interesting series of maneuvers. Our aim is no longer, as it should be, to avoid or attack the enemy, but solely to avoid General Buxhöwden who by right of seniority should be our chief. So energetically do we pursue this aim that after crossing an unfordable river we burn the bridges to separate ourselves from our enemy, who at the moment is not Bonaparte but Buxhöwden. General Buxhöwden was all but attacked and captured by a superior enemy force as a result of one of these maneuvers that enabled us to escape him. Buxhöwden pursues us—we scuttle. He hardly crosses the river to our side before we recross to the other. At last our enemy, Buxhöwden, catches us and attacks. Both generals are angry, and the result is a challenge on Buxhöwden’s part and an epileptic fit on Bennigsen’s. But at the critical moment the courier who carried the news of our victory at Pultúsk to Petersburg returns bringing our appointment as commander in chief, and our first foe, Buxhöwden, is vanquished; we can now turn our thoughts to the second, Bonaparte. But as it turns out, just at that moment a third enemy rises before us—namely the Orthodox Russian soldiers, loudly demanding bread, meat, biscuits, fodder, and whatnot! The stores are empty, the roads impassable. The Orthodox begin looting, and in a way of which our last campaign can give you no idea. Half the regiments form bands and scour the countryside and put everything to fire and sword. The inhabitants are totally ruined, the hospitals overflow with sick, and famine is everywhere. Twice the marauders even attack our headquarters, and the commander in chief has to ask for a battalion to disperse them. During one of these attacks they carried off my empty portmanteau and my dressing gown. The Emperor proposes to give all commanders of divisions the right to shoot marauders, but I much fear this will oblige one half the army to shoot the other.”
At first Prince Andrew read with his eyes only, but after a while, in spite of himself (although he knew how far it was safe to trust Bilíbin), what he had read began to interest him more and more. When he had read thus far, he crumpled the letter up and threw it away. It was not what he had read that vexed him, but the fact that the life out there in which he had now no part could perturb him. He shut his eyes, rubbed his forehead as if to rid himself of all interest in what he had read, and listened to what was passing in the nursery. Suddenly he thought he heard a strange noise through the door. He was seized with alarm lest something should have happened to the child while he was reading the letter. He went on tiptoe to the nursery door and opened it.
Just as he went in he saw that the nurse was hiding something from him with a scared look and that Princess Mary was no longer by the cot.
“My dear,” he heard what seemed to him her despairing whisper behind him.
As often happens after long sleeplessness and long anxiety, he was seized by an unreasoning panic—it occurred to him that the child was dead. All that he saw and heard seemed to confirm this terror.
“All is over,” he thought, and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He went to the cot in confusion, sure that he would find it empty and that the nurse had been hiding the dead baby. He drew the curtain aside and for some time his frightened, restless eyes could not find the baby. At last he saw him: the rosy boy had tossed about till he lay across the bed with his head lower than the pillow, and was smacking his lips in his sleep and breathing evenly.
Prince Andrew was as glad to find the boy like that, as if he had already lost him. He bent over him and, as his sister had taught him, tried with his lips whether the child was still feverish. The soft forehead was moist. Prince Andrew touched the head with his hand; even the hair was wet, so profusely had the child perspired. He was not dead, but evidently the crisis was over and he was convalescent. Prince Andrew longed to snatch up, to squeeze, to hold to his heart, this helpless little creature, but dared not do so. He stood over him, gazing at his head and at the little arms and legs which showed under the blanket. He heard a rustle behind him and a shadow appeared under the curtain of the cot. He did not look round, but still gazing at the infant’s face listened to his regular breathing. The dark shadow was Princess Mary, who had come up to the cot with noiseless steps, lifted the curtain, and dropped it again behind her. Prince Andrew recognized her without looking and held out his hand to her. She pressed it.
“He has perspired,” said Prince Andrew.
“I was coming to tell you so.”
The child moved slightly in his sleep, smiled, and rubbed his forehead against the pillow.
Prince Andrew looked at his sister. In the dim shadow of the curtain her luminous eyes shone more brightly than usual from the tears of joy that were in them. She leaned over to her brother and kissed him, slightly catching the curtain of the cot. Each made the other a warning gesture and stood still in the dim light beneath the curtain as if not wishing to leave that seclusion where they three were shut off from all the world. Prince Andrew was the first to move away, ruffling his hair against the muslin of the curtain.
“Yes, this is the one thing left me now,” he said with a sigh.
Soon after his admission to the Masonic Brotherhood, Pierre went to the Kiev province, where he had the greatest number of serfs, taking with him full directions which he had written down for his own guidance as to what he should do on his estates.
When he reached Kiev he sent for all his stewards to the head office and explained to them his intentions and wishes. He told them that steps would be taken immediately to free his serfs—and that till then they were not to be overburdened with labor, women while nursing their babies were not to be sent to work, assistance was to be given to the serfs, punishments were to be admonitory and not corporal, and hospitals, asylums, and schools were to be established on all the estates. Some of the stewards (there were semiliterate foremen among them) listened with alarm, supposing these words to mean that the young count was displeased with their management and embezzlement of money, some after their first fright were amused by Pierre’s lisp and the new words they had not heard before, others simply enjoyed hearing how the master talked, while the cleverest among them, including the chief steward, understood from this speech how they could best handle the master for their own ends.
The chief steward expressed great sympathy with Pierre’s intentions, but remarked that besides these changes it would be necessary to go into the general state of affairs which was far from satisfactory.
Despite Count Bezúkhov’s enormous wealth, since he had come into an income which was said to amount to five hundred thousand rubles a year, Pierre felt himself far poorer than when his father had made him an allowance of ten thousand rubles. He had a dim perception of the following budget:
About 80,000 went in payments on all the estates to the Land Bank, about 30,000 went for the upkeep of the estate near Moscow, the town house, and the allowance to the three princesses; about 15,000 was given in pensions and the same amount for asylums; 150,000 alimony was sent to the countess; about 70,000 went for interest on debts. The building of a new church, previously begun, had cost about 10,000 in each of the last two years, and he did not know how the rest, about 100,000 rubles, was spent, and almost every year he was obliged to borrow. Besides this the chief steward wrote every year telling him of fires and bad harvests, or of the necessity of rebuilding factories and workshops. So the first task Pierre had to face was one for which he had very little aptitude or inclination—practical business.
He discussed estate affairs every day with his chief steward. But he felt that this did not forward matters at all. He felt that these consultations were detached from real affairs and did not link up with them or make them move. On the one hand, the chief steward put the state of things to him in the very worst light, pointing out the necessity of paying off the debts and undertaking new activities with serf labor, to which Pierre did not agree. On the other hand, Pierre demanded that steps should be taken to liberate the serfs, which the steward met by showing the necessity of first paying off the loans from the Land Bank, and the consequent impossibility of a speedy emancipation.
The steward did not say it was quite impossible, but suggested selling the forests in the province of Kostromá, the land lower down the river, and the Crimean estate, in order to make it possible: all of which operations according to him were connected with such complicated measures—the removal of injunctions, petitions, permits, and so on—that Pierre became quite bewildered and only replied:
“Yes, yes, do so.”
Pierre had none of the practical persistence that would have enabled him to attend to the business himself and so he disliked it and only tried to pretend to the steward that he was attending to it. The steward for his part tried to pretend to the count that he considered these consultations very valuable for the proprietor and troublesome to himself.
In Kiev Pierre found some people he knew, and strangers hastened to make his acquaintance and joyfully welcomed the rich newcomer, the largest landowner of the province. Temptations to Pierre’s greatest weakness—the one to which he had confessed when admitted to the Lodge—were so strong that he could not resist them. Again whole days, weeks, and months of his life passed in as great a rush and were as much occupied with evening parties, dinners, lunches, and balls, giving him no time for reflection, as in Petersburg. Instead of the new life he had hoped to lead he still lived the old life, only in new surroundings.
Of the three precepts of Freemasonry Pierre realized that he did not fulfill the one which enjoined every Mason to set an example of moral life, and that of the seven virtues he lacked two—morality and the love of death. He consoled himself with the thought that he fulfilled another of the precepts—that of reforming the human race—and had other virtues—love of his neighbor, and especially generosity.
In the spring of 1807 he decided to return to Petersburg. On the way he intended to visit all his estates and see for himself how far his orders had been carried out and in what state were the serfs whom God had entrusted to his care and whom he intended to benefit.
The chief steward, who considered the young count’s attempts almost insane—unprofitable to himself, to the count, and to the serfs—made some concessions. Continuing to represent the liberation of the serfs as impracticable, he arranged for the erection of large buildings—schools, hospitals, and asylums—on all the estates before the master arrived. Everywhere preparations were made not for ceremonious welcomes (which he knew Pierre would not like), but for just such gratefully religious ones, with offerings of icons and the bread and salt of hospitality, as, according to his understanding of his master, would touch and delude him.
The southern spring, the comfortable rapid traveling in a Vienna carriage, and the solitude of the road, all had a gladdening effect on Pierre. The estates he had not before visited were each more picturesque than the other; the serfs everywhere seemed thriving and touchingly grateful for the benefits conferred on them. Everywhere were receptions, which though they embarrassed Pierre awakened a joyful feeling in the depth of his heart. In one place the peasants presented him with bread and salt and an icon of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, asking permission, as a mark of their gratitude for the benefits he had conferred on them, to build a new chantry to the church at their own expense in honor of Peter and Paul, his patron saints. In another place the women with infants in arms met him to thank him for releasing them from hard work. On a third estate the priest, bearing a cross, came to meet him surrounded by children whom, by the count’s generosity, he was instructing in reading, writing, and religion. On all his estates Pierre saw with his own eyes brick buildings erected or in course of erection, all on one plan, for hospitals, schools, and almshouses, which were soon to be opened. Everywhere he saw the stewards’ accounts, according to which the serfs’ manorial labor had been diminished, and heard the touching thanks of deputations of serfs in their full-skirted blue coats.
What Pierre did not know was that the place where they presented him with bread and salt and wished to build a chantry in honor of Peter and Paul was a market village where a fair was held on St. Peter’s day, and that the richest peasants (who formed the deputation) had begun the chantry long before, but that nine tenths of the peasants in that villages were in a state of the greatest poverty. He did not know that since the nursing mothers were no longer sent to work on his land, they did still harder work on their own land. He did not know that the priest who met him with the cross oppressed the peasants by his exactions, and that the pupils’ parents wept at having to let him take their children and secured their release by heavy payments. He did not know that the brick buildings, built to plan, were being built by serfs whose manorial labor was thus increased, though lessened on paper. He did not know that where the steward had shown him in the accounts that the serfs’ payments had been diminished by a third, their obligatory manorial work had been increased by a half. And so Pierre was delighted with his visit to his estates and quite recovered the philanthropic mood in which he had left Petersburg, and wrote enthusiastic letters to his “brother-instructor” as he called the Grand Master.
“How easy it is, how little effort it needs, to do so much good,” thought Pierre, “and how little attention we pay to it!”
He was pleased at the gratitude he received, but felt abashed at receiving it. This gratitude reminded him of how much more he might do for these simple, kindly people.
The chief steward, a very stupid but cunning man who saw perfectly through the naïve and intelligent count and played with him as with a toy, seeing the effect these prearranged receptions had on Pierre, pressed him still harder with proofs of the impossibility and above all the uselessness of freeing the serfs, who were quite happy as it was.
Pierre in his secret soul agreed with the steward that it would be difficult to imagine happier people, and that God only knew what would happen to them when they were free, but he insisted, though reluctantly, on what he thought right. The steward promised to do all in his power to carry out the count’s wishes, seeing clearly that not only would the count never be able to find out whether all measures had been taken for the sale of the land and forests and to release them from the Land Bank, but would probably never even inquire and would never know that the newly erected buildings were standing empty and that the serfs continued to give in money and work all that other people’s serfs gave—that is to say, all that could be got out of them.
Returning from his journey through South Russia in the happiest state of mind, Pierre carried out an intention he had long had of visiting his friend Bolkónski, whom he had not seen for two years.
Boguchárovo lay in a flat uninteresting part of the country among fields and forests of fir and birch, which were partly cut down. The house lay behind a newly dug pond filled with water to the brink and with banks still bare of grass. It was at the end of a village that stretched along the highroad in the midst of a young copse in which were a few fir trees.
The homestead consisted of a threshing floor, outhouses, stables, a bathhouse, a lodge, and a large brick house with semicircular façade still in course of construction. Round the house was a garden newly laid out. The fences and gates were new and solid; two fire pumps and a water cart, painted green, stood in a shed; the paths were straight, the bridges were strong and had handrails. Everything bore an impress of tidiness and good management. Some domestic serfs Pierre met, in reply to inquiries as to where the prince lived, pointed out a small newly built lodge close to the pond. Antón, a man who had looked after Prince Andrew in his boyhood, helped Pierre out of his carriage, said that the prince was at home, and showed him into a clean little anteroom.
Pierre was struck by the modesty of the small though clean house after the brilliant surroundings in which he had last met his friend in Petersburg.
He quickly entered the small reception room with its still-unplastered wooden walls redolent of pine, and would have gone farther, but Antón ran ahead on tiptoe and knocked at a door.
“Well, what is it?” came a sharp, unpleasant voice.
“A visitor,” answered Antón.
“Ask him to wait,” and the sound was heard of a chair being pushed back.
Pierre went with rapid steps to the door and suddenly came face to face with Prince Andrew, who came out frowning and looking old. Pierre embraced him and lifting his spectacles kissed his friend on the cheek and looked at him closely.
“Well, I did not expect you, I am very glad,” said Prince Andrew.
Pierre said nothing; he looked fixedly at his friend with surprise. He was struck by the change in him. His words were kindly and there was a smile on his lips and face, but his eyes were dull and lifeless and in spite of his evident wish to do so he could not give them a joyous and glad sparkle. Prince Andrew had grown thinner, paler, and more manly-looking, but what amazed and estranged Pierre till he got used to it were his inertia and a wrinkle on his brow indicating prolonged concentration on some one thought.
As is usually the case with people meeting after a prolonged separation, it was long before their conversation could settle on anything. They put questions and gave brief replies about things they knew ought to be talked over at length. At last the conversation gradually settled on some of the topics at first lightly touched on: their past life, plans for the future, Pierre’s journeys and occupations, the war, and so on. The preoccupation and despondency which Pierre had noticed in his friend’s look was now still more clearly expressed in the smile with which he listened to Pierre, especially when he spoke with joyful animation of the past or the future. It was as if Prince Andrew would have liked to sympathize with what Pierre was saying, but could not. The latter began to feel that it was in bad taste to speak of his enthusiasms, dreams, and hopes of happiness or goodness, in Prince Andrew’s presence. He was ashamed to express his new Masonic views, which had been particularly revived and strengthened by his late tour. He checked himself, fearing to seem naïve, yet he felt an irresistible desire to show his friend as soon as possible that he was now a quite different, and better, Pierre than he had been in Petersburg.
“I can’t tell you how much I have lived through since then. I hardly know myself again.”
“Yes, we have altered much, very much, since then,” said Prince Andrew.
“Well, and you? What are your plans?”
“Plans!” repeated Prince Andrew ironically. “My plans?” he said, as if astonished at the word. “Well, you see, I’m building. I mean to settle here altogether next year....”
Pierre looked silently and searchingly into Prince Andrew’s face, which had grown much older.
“No, I meant to ask...” Pierre began, but Prince Andrew interrupted him.
“But why talk of me?... Talk to me, yes, tell me about your travels and all you have been doing on your estates.”
Pierre began describing what he had done on his estates, trying as far as possible to conceal his own part in the improvements that had been made. Prince Andrew several times prompted Pierre’s story of what he had been doing, as though it were all an old-time story, and he listened not only without interest but even as if ashamed of what Pierre was telling him.
Pierre felt uncomfortable and even depressed in his friend’s company and at last became silent.
“I’ll tell you what, my dear fellow,” said Prince Andrew, who evidently also felt depressed and constrained with his visitor, “I am only bivouacking here and have just come to look round. I am going back to my sister today. I will introduce you to her. But of course you know her already,” he said, evidently trying to entertain a visitor with whom he now found nothing in common. “We will go after dinner. And would you now like to look round my place?”
They went out and walked about till dinnertime, talking of the political news and common acquaintances like people who do not know each other intimately. Prince Andrew spoke with some animation and interest only of the new homestead he was constructing and its buildings, but even here, while on the scaffolding, in the midst of a talk explaining the future arrangements of the house, he interrupted himself:
“However, this is not at all interesting. Let us have dinner, and then we’ll set off.”
At dinner, conversation turned on Pierre’s marriage.
“I was very much surprised when I heard of it,” said Prince Andrew.
Pierre blushed, as he always did when it was mentioned, and said hurriedly: “I will tell you some time how it all happened. But you know it is all over, and forever.”
“Forever?” said Prince Andrew. “Nothing’s forever.”
“But you know how it all ended, don’t you? You heard of the duel?”
“And so you had to go through that too!”
“One thing I thank God for is that I did not kill that man,” said Pierre.
“Why so?” asked Prince Andrew. “To kill a vicious dog is a very good thing really.”
“No, to kill a man is bad—wrong.”
“Why is it wrong?” urged Prince Andrew. “It is not given to man to know what is right and what is wrong. Men always did and always will err, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.”
“What does harm to another is wrong,” said Pierre, feeling with pleasure that for the first time since his arrival Prince Andrew was roused, had begun to talk, and wanted to express what had brought him to his present state.
“And who has told you what is bad for another man?” he asked.
“Bad! Bad!” exclaimed Pierre. “We all know what is bad for ourselves.”
“Yes, we know that, but the harm I am conscious of in myself is something I cannot inflict on others,” said Prince Andrew, growing more and more animated and evidently wishing to express his new outlook to Pierre. He spoke in French. “I only know two very real evils in life: remorse and illness. The only good is the absence of those evils. To live for myself avoiding those two evils is my whole philosophy now.”
“And love of one’s neighbor, and self-sacrifice?” began Pierre. “No, I can’t agree with you! To live only so as not to do evil and not to have to repent is not enough. I lived like that, I lived for myself and ruined my life. And only now when I am living, or at least trying” (Pierre’s modesty made him correct himself) “to live for others, only now have I understood all the happiness of life. No, I shall not agree with you, and you do not really believe what you are saying.” Prince Andrew looked silently at Pierre with an ironic smile.
“When you see my sister, Princess Mary, you’ll get on with her,” he said. “Perhaps you are right for yourself,” he added after a short pause, “but everyone lives in his own way. You lived for yourself and say you nearly ruined your life and only found happiness when you began living for others. I experienced just the reverse. I lived for glory.—And after all what is glory? The same love of others, a desire to do something for them, a desire for their approval.—So I lived for others, and not almost, but quite, ruined my life. And I have become calmer since I began to live only for myself.”
“But what do you mean by living only for yourself?” asked Pierre, growing excited. “What about your son, your sister, and your father?”
“But that’s just the same as myself—they are not others,” explained Prince Andrew. “The others, one’s neighbors, le prochain, as you and Princess Mary call it, are the chief source of all error and evil. Le prochain—your Kiev peasants to whom you want to do good.”
And he looked at Pierre with a mocking, challenging expression. He evidently wished to draw him on.
“You are joking,” replied Pierre, growing more and more excited. “What error or evil can there be in my wishing to do good, and even doing a little—though I did very little and did it very badly? What evil can there be in it if unfortunate people, our serfs, people like ourselves, were growing up and dying with no idea of God and truth beyond ceremonies and meaningless prayers and are now instructed in a comforting belief in future life, retribution, recompense, and consolation? What evil and error are there in it, if people were dying of disease without help while material assistance could so easily be rendered, and I supplied them with a doctor, a hospital, and an asylum for the aged? And is it not a palpable, unquestionable good if a peasant, or a woman with a baby, has no rest day or night and I give them rest and leisure?” said Pierre, hurrying and lisping. “And I have done that though badly and to a small extent; but I have done something toward it and you cannot persuade me that it was not a good action, and more than that, you can’t make me believe that you do not think so yourself. And the main thing is,” he continued, “that I know, and know for certain, that the enjoyment of doing this good is the only sure happiness in life.”
“Yes, if you put it like that it’s quite a different matter,” said Prince Andrew. “I build a house and lay out a garden, and you build hospitals. The one and the other may serve as a pastime. But what’s right and what’s good must be judged by one who knows all, but not by us. Well, you want an argument,” he added, “come on then.”
They rose from the table and sat down in the entrance porch which served as a veranda.
“Come, let’s argue then,” said Prince Andrew, “You talk of schools,” he went on, crooking a finger, “education and so forth; that is, you want to raise him” (pointing to a peasant who passed by them taking off his cap) “from his animal condition and awaken in him spiritual needs, while it seems to me that animal happiness is the only happiness possible, and that is just what you want to deprive him of. I envy him, but you want to make him what I am, without giving him my means. Then you say, ‘lighten his toil.’ But as I see it, physical labor is as essential to him, as much a condition of his existence, as mental activity is to you or me. You can’t help thinking. I go to bed after two in the morning, thoughts come and I can’t sleep but toss about till dawn, because I think and can’t help thinking, just as he can’t help plowing and mowing; if he didn’t, he would go to the drink shop or fall ill. Just as I could not stand his terrible physical labor but should die of it in a week, so he could not stand my physical idleness, but would grow fat and die. The third thing—what else was it you talked about?” and Prince Andrew crooked a third finger. “Ah, yes, hospitals, medicine. He has a fit, he is dying, and you come and bleed him and patch him up. He will drag about as a cripple, a burden to everybody, for another ten years. It would be far easier and simpler for him to die. Others are being born and there are plenty of them as it is. It would be different if you grudged losing a laborer—that’s how I regard him—but you want to cure him from love of him. And he does not want that. And besides, what a notion that medicine ever cured anyone! Killed them, yes!” said he, frowning angrily and turning away from Pierre.
Prince Andrew expressed his ideas so clearly and distinctly that it was evident he had reflected on this subject more than once, and he spoke readily and rapidly like a man who has not talked for a long time. His glance became more animated as his conclusions became more hopeless.
“Oh, that is dreadful, dreadful!” said Pierre. “I don’t understand how one can live with such ideas. I had such moments myself not long ago, in Moscow and when traveling, but at such times I collapsed so that I don’t live at all—everything seems hateful to me... myself most of all. Then I don’t eat, don’t wash... and how is it with you?...”
“Why not wash? That is not cleanly,” said Prince Andrew; “on the contrary one must try to make one’s life as pleasant as possible. I’m alive, that is not my fault, so I must live out my life as best I can without hurting others.”
“But with such ideas what motive have you for living? One would sit without moving, undertaking nothing....”
“Life as it is leaves one no peace. I should be thankful to do nothing, but here on the one hand the local nobility have done me the honor to choose me to be their marshal; it was all I could do to get out of it. They could not understand that I have not the necessary qualifications for it—the kind of good-natured, fussy shallowness necessary for the position. Then there’s this house, which must be built in order to have a nook of one’s own in which to be quiet. And now there’s this recruiting.”
“Why aren’t you serving in the army?”
“After Austerlitz!” said Prince Andrew gloomily. “No, thank you very much! I have promised myself not to serve again in the active Russian army. And I won’t—not even if Bonaparte were here at Smolénsk threatening Bald Hills—even then I wouldn’t serve in the Russian army! Well, as I was saying,” he continued, recovering his composure, “now there’s this recruiting. My father is chief in command of the Third District, and my only way of avoiding active service is to serve under him.”
“Then you are serving?”
He paused a little while.
“And why do you serve?”
“Why, for this reason! My father is one of the most remarkable men of his time. But he is growing old, and though not exactly cruel he has too energetic a character. He is so accustomed to unlimited power that he is terrible, and now he has this authority of a commander in chief of the recruiting, granted by the Emperor. If I had been two hours late a fortnight ago he would have had a paymaster’s clerk at Yúkhnovna hanged,” said Prince Andrew with a smile. “So I am serving because I alone have any influence with my father, and now and then can save him from actions which would torment him afterwards.”
“Well, there you see!”
“Yes, but it is not as you imagine,” Prince Andrew continued. “I did not, and do not, in the least care about that scoundrel of a clerk who had stolen some boots from the recruits; I should even have been very glad to see him hanged, but I was sorry for my father—that again is for myself.”
Prince Andrew grew more and more animated. His eyes glittered feverishly while he tried to prove to Pierre that in his actions there was no desire to do good to his neighbor.
“There now, you wish to liberate your serfs,” he continued; “that is a very good thing, but not for you—I don’t suppose you ever had anyone flogged or sent to Siberia—and still less for your serfs. If they are beaten, flogged, or sent to Siberia, I don’t suppose they are any the worse off. In Siberia they lead the same animal life, and the stripes on their bodies heal, and they are happy as before. But it is a good thing for proprietors who perish morally, bring remorse upon themselves, stifle this remorse and grow callous, as a result of being able to inflict punishments justly and unjustly. It is those people I pity, and for their sake I should like to liberate the serfs. You may not have seen, but I have seen, how good men brought up in those traditions of unlimited power, in time when they grow more irritable, become cruel and harsh, are conscious of it, but cannot restrain themselves and grow more and more miserable.”
Prince Andrew spoke so earnestly that Pierre could not help thinking that these thoughts had been suggested to Prince Andrew by his father’s case.
He did not reply.
“So that’s what I’m sorry for—human dignity, peace of mind, purity, and not the serfs’ backs and foreheads, which, beat and shave as you may, always remain the same backs and foreheads.”
“No, no! A thousand times no! I shall never agree with you,” said Pierre.