Next day the field marshal gave a dinner and ball which the Emperor honored by his presence. Kutúzov had received the Order of St. George of the First Class and the Emperor showed him the highest honors, but everyone knew of the imperial dissatisfaction with him. The proprieties were observed and the Emperor was the first to set that example, but everybody understood that the old man was blameworthy and good-for-nothing. When Kutúzov, conforming to a custom of Catherine’s day, ordered the standards that had been captured to be lowered at the Emperor’s feet on his entering the ballroom, the Emperor made a wry face and muttered something in which some people caught the words, “the old comedian.”
The Emperor’s displeasure with Kutúzov was specially increased at Vílna by the fact that Kutúzov evidently could not or would not understand the importance of the coming campaign.
When on the following morning the Emperor said to the officers assembled about him: “You have not only saved Russia, you have saved Europe!” they all understood that the war was not ended.
Kutúzov alone would not see this and openly expressed his opinion that no fresh war could improve the position or add to the glory of Russia, but could only spoil and lower the glorious position that Russia had gained. He tried to prove to the Emperor the impossibility of levying fresh troops, spoke of the hardships already endured by the people, of the possibility of failure and so forth.
This being the field marshal’s frame of mind he was naturally regarded as merely a hindrance and obstacle to the impending war.
To avoid unpleasant encounters with the old man, the natural method was to do what had been done with him at Austerlitz and with Barclay at the beginning of the Russian campaign—to transfer the authority to the Emperor himself, thus cutting the ground from under the commander in chief’s feet without upsetting the old man by informing him of the change.
With this object his staff was gradually reconstructed and its real strength removed and transferred to the Emperor. Toll, Konovnítsyn, and Ermólov received fresh appointments. Everyone spoke loudly of the field marshal’s great weakness and failing health.
His health had to be bad for his place to be taken away and given to another. And in fact his health was poor.
So naturally, simply, and gradually—just as he had come from Turkey to the Treasury in Petersburg to recruit the militia, and then to the army when he was needed there—now when his part was played out, Kutúzov’s place was taken by a new and necessary performer.
The war of 1812, besides its national significance dear to every Russian heart, was now to assume another, a European, significance.
The movement of peoples from west to east was to be succeeded by a movement of peoples from east to west, and for this fresh war another leader was necessary, having qualities and views differing from Kutúzov’s and animated by different motives.
Alexander I was as necessary for the movement of the peoples from east to west and for the refixing of national frontiers as Kutúzov had been for the salvation and glory of Russia.
Kutúzov did not understand what Europe, the balance of power, or Napoleon meant. He could not understand it. For the representative of the Russian people, after the enemy had been destroyed and Russia had been liberated and raised to the summit of her glory, there was nothing left to do as a Russian. Nothing remained for the representative of the national war but to die, and Kutúzov died.
As generally happens, Pierre did not feel the full effects of the physical privation and strain he had suffered as prisoner until after they were over. After his liberation he reached Orël, and on the third day there, when preparing to go to Kiev, he fell ill and was laid up for three months. He had what the doctors termed “bilious fever.” But despite the fact that the doctors treated him, bled him, and gave him medicines to drink, he recovered.
Scarcely any impression was left on Pierre’s mind by all that happened to him from the time of his rescue till his illness. He remembered only the dull gray weather now rainy and now snowy, internal physical distress, and pains in his feet and side. He remembered a general impression of the misfortunes and sufferings of people and of being worried by the curiosity of officers and generals who questioned him, he also remembered his difficulty in procuring a conveyance and horses, and above all he remembered his incapacity to think and feel all that time. On the day of his rescue he had seen the body of Pétya Rostóv. That same day he had learned that Prince Andrew, after surviving the battle of Borodinó for more than a month had recently died in the Rostóvs’ house at Yaroslávl, and Denísov who told him this news also mentioned Hélène’s death, supposing that Pierre had heard of it long before. All this at the time seemed merely strange to Pierre: he felt he could not grasp its significance. Just then he was only anxious to get away as quickly as possible from places where people were killing one another, to some peaceful refuge where he could recover himself, rest, and think over all the strange new facts he had learned; but on reaching Orël he immediately fell ill. When he came to himself after his illness he saw in attendance on him two of his servants, Terénty and Váska, who had come from Moscow; and also his cousin the eldest princess, who had been living on his estate at Eléts and hearing of his rescue and illness had come to look after him.
It was only gradually during his convalescence that Pierre lost the impressions he had become accustomed to during the last few months and got used to the idea that no one would oblige him to go anywhere tomorrow, that no one would deprive him of his warm bed, and that he would be sure to get his dinner, tea, and supper. But for a long time in his dreams he still saw himself in the conditions of captivity. In the same way little by little he came to understand the news he had been told after his rescue, about the death of Prince Andrew, the death of his wife, and the destruction of the French.
A joyous feeling of freedom—that complete inalienable freedom natural to man which he had first experienced at the first halt outside Moscow—filled Pierre’s soul during his convalescence. He was surprised to find that this inner freedom, which was independent of external conditions, now had as it were an additional setting of external liberty. He was alone in a strange town, without acquaintances. No one demanded anything of him or sent him anywhere. He had all he wanted: the thought of his wife which had been a continual torment to him was no longer there, since she was no more.
“Oh, how good! How splendid!” said he to himself when a cleanly laid table was moved up to him with savory beef tea, or when he lay down for the night on a soft clean bed, or when he remembered that the French had gone and that his wife was no more. “Oh, how good, how splendid!”
And by old habit he asked himself the question: “Well, and what then? What am I going to do?” And he immediately gave himself the answer: “Well, I shall live. Ah, how splendid!”
The very question that had formerly tormented him, the thing he had continually sought to find—the aim of life—no longer existed for him now. That search for the aim of life had not merely disappeared temporarily—he felt that it no longer existed for him and could not present itself again. And this very absence of an aim gave him the complete, joyous sense of freedom which constituted his happiness at this time.
He could not see an aim, for he now had faith—not faith in any kind of rule, or words, or ideas, but faith in an ever-living, ever-manifest God. Formerly he had sought Him in aims he set himself. That search for an aim had been simply a search for God, and suddenly in his captivity he had learned not by words or reasoning but by direct feeling what his nurse had told him long ago: that God is here and everywhere. In his captivity he had learned that in Karatáev God was greater, more infinite and unfathomable than in the Architect of the Universe recognized by the Freemasons. He felt like a man who after straining his eyes to see into the far distance finds what he sought at his very feet. All his life he had looked over the heads of the men around him, when he should have merely looked in front of him without straining his eyes.
In the past he had never been able to find that great inscrutable infinite something. He had only felt that it must exist somewhere and had looked for it. In everything near and comprehensible he had seen only what was limited, petty, commonplace, and senseless. He had equipped himself with a mental telescope and looked into remote space, where petty worldliness hiding itself in misty distance had seemed to him great and infinite merely because it was not clearly seen. And such had European life, politics, Freemasonry, philosophy, and philanthropy seemed to him. But even then, at moments of weakness as he had accounted them, his mind had penetrated to those distances and he had there seen the same pettiness, worldliness, and senselessness. Now, however, he had learned to see the great, eternal, and infinite in everything, and therefore—to see it and enjoy its contemplation—he naturally threw away the telescope through which he had till now gazed over men’s heads, and gladly regarded the ever-changing, eternally great, unfathomable, and infinite life around him. And the closer he looked the more tranquil and happy he became. That dreadful question, “What for?” which had formerly destroyed all his mental edifices, no longer existed for him. To that question, “What for?” a simple answer was now always ready in his soul: “Because there is a God, that God without whose will not one hair falls from a man’s head.”
In external ways Pierre had hardly changed at all. In appearance he was just what he used to be. As before he was absent-minded and seemed occupied not with what was before his eyes but with something special of his own. The difference between his former and present self was that formerly when he did not grasp what lay before him or was said to him, he had puckered his forehead painfully as if vainly seeking to distinguish something at a distance. At present he still forgot what was said to him and still did not see what was before his eyes, but he now looked with a scarcely perceptible and seemingly ironic smile at what was before him and listened to what was said, though evidently seeing and hearing something quite different. Formerly he had appeared to be a kindhearted but unhappy man, and so people had been inclined to avoid him. Now a smile at the joy of life always played round his lips, and sympathy for others shone in his eyes with a questioning look as to whether they were as contented as he was, and people felt pleased by his presence.
Previously he had talked a great deal, grew excited when he talked, and seldom listened; now he was seldom carried away in conversation and knew how to listen so that people readily told him their most intimate secrets.
The princess, who had never liked Pierre and had been particularly hostile to him since she had felt herself under obligations to him after the old count’s death, now after staying a short time in Orël—where she had come intending to show Pierre that in spite of his ingratitude she considered it her duty to nurse him—felt to her surprise and vexation that she had become fond of him. Pierre did not in any way seek her approval, he merely studied her with interest. Formerly she had felt that he regarded her with indifference and irony, and so had shrunk into herself as she did with others and had shown him only the combative side of her nature; but now he seemed to be trying to understand the most intimate places of her heart, and, mistrustfully at first but afterwards gratefully, she let him see the hidden, kindly sides of her character.
The most cunning man could not have crept into her confidence more successfully, evoking memories of the best times of her youth and showing sympathy with them. Yet Pierre’s cunning consisted simply in finding pleasure in drawing out the human qualities of the embittered, hard, and (in her own way) proud princess.
“Yes, he is a very, very kind man when he is not under the influence of bad people but of people such as myself,” thought she.
His servants too—Terénty and Váska—in their own way noticed the change that had taken place in Pierre. They considered that he had become much “simpler.” Terénty, when he had helped him undress and wished him good night, often lingered with his master’s boots in his hands and clothes over his arm, to see whether he would not start a talk. And Pierre, noticing that Terénty wanted a chat, generally kept him there.
“Well, tell me... now, how did you get food?” he would ask.
And Terénty would begin talking of the destruction of Moscow, and of the old count, and would stand for a long time holding the clothes and talking, or sometimes listening to Pierre’s stories, and then would go out into the hall with a pleasant sense of intimacy with his master and affection for him.
The doctor who attended Pierre and visited him every day, though he considered it his duty as a doctor to pose as a man whose every moment was of value to suffering humanity, would sit for hours with Pierre telling him his favorite anecdotes and his observations on the characters of his patients in general, and especially of the ladies.
“It’s a pleasure to talk to a man like that; he is not like our provincials,” he would say.
There were several prisoners from the French army in Orël, and the doctor brought one of them, a young Italian, to see Pierre.
This officer began visiting Pierre, and the princess used to make fun of the tenderness the Italian expressed for him.
The Italian seemed happy only when he could come to see Pierre, talk with him, tell him about his past, his life at home, and his love, and pour out to him his indignation against the French and especially against Napoleon.
“If all Russians are in the least like you, it is sacrilege to fight such a nation,” he said to Pierre. “You, who have suffered so from the French, do not even feel animosity toward them.”
Pierre had evoked the passionate affection of the Italian merely by evoking the best side of his nature and taking a pleasure in so doing.
During the last days of Pierre’s stay in Orël his old Masonic acquaintance Count Willarski, who had introduced him to the lodge in 1807, came to see him. Willarski was married to a Russian heiress who had a large estate in Orël province, and he occupied a temporary post in the commissariat department in that town.
Hearing that Bezúkhov was in Orël, Willarski, though they had never been intimate, came to him with the professions of friendship and intimacy that people who meet in a desert generally express for one another. Willarski felt dull in Orël and was pleased to meet a man of his own circle and, as he supposed, of similar interests.
But to his surprise Willarski soon noticed that Pierre had lagged much behind the times, and had sunk, as he expressed it to himself, into apathy and egotism.
“You are letting yourself go, my dear fellow,” he said.
But for all that Willarski found it pleasanter now than it had been formerly to be with Pierre, and came to see him every day. To Pierre as he looked at and listened to Willarski, it seemed strange to think that he had been like that himself but a short time before.
Willarski was a married man with a family, busy with his family affairs, his wife’s affairs, and his official duties. He regarded all these occupations as hindrances to life, and considered that they were all contemptible because their aim was the welfare of himself and his family. Military, administrative, political, and Masonic interests continually absorbed his attention. And Pierre, without trying to change the other’s views and without condemning him, but with the quiet, joyful, and amused smile now habitual to him, was interested in this strange though very familiar phenomenon.
There was a new feature in Pierre’s relations with Willarski, with the princess, with the doctor, and with all the people he now met, which gained for him the general good will. This was his acknowledgment of the impossibility of changing a man’s convictions by words, and his recognition of the possibility of everyone thinking, feeling, and seeing things each from his own point of view. This legitimate peculiarity of each individual which used to excite and irritate Pierre now became a basis of the sympathy he felt for, and the interest he took in, other people. The difference, and sometimes complete contradiction, between men’s opinions and their lives, and between one man and another, pleased him and drew from him an amused and gentle smile.
In practical matters Pierre unexpectedly felt within himself a center of gravity he had previously lacked. Formerly all pecuniary questions, especially requests for money to which, as an extremely wealthy man, he was very exposed, produced in him a state of hopeless agitation and perplexity. “To give or not to give?” he had asked himself. “I have it and he needs it. But someone else needs it still more. Who needs it most? And perhaps they are both impostors?” In the old days he had been unable to find a way out of all these surmises and had given to all who asked as long as he had anything to give. Formerly he had been in a similar state of perplexity with regard to every question concerning his property, when one person advised one thing and another something else.
Now to his surprise he found that he no longer felt either doubt or perplexity about these questions. There was now within him a judge who by some rule unknown to him decided what should or should not be done.
He was as indifferent as heretofore to money matters, but now he felt certain of what ought and what ought not to be done. The first time he had recourse to his new judge was when a French prisoner, a colonel, came to him and, after talking a great deal about his exploits, concluded by making what amounted to a demand that Pierre should give him four thousand francs to send to his wife and children. Pierre refused without the least difficulty or effort, and was afterwards surprised how simple and easy had been what used to appear so insurmountably difficult. At the same time that he refused the colonel’s demand he made up his mind that he must have recourse to artifice when leaving Orël, to induce the Italian officer to accept some money of which he was evidently in need. A further proof to Pierre of his own more settled outlook on practical matters was furnished by his decision with regard to his wife’s debts and to the rebuilding of his houses in and near Moscow.
His head steward came to him at Orël and Pierre reckoned up with him his diminished income. The burning of Moscow had cost him, according to the head steward’s calculation, about two million rubles.
To console Pierre for these losses the head steward gave him an estimate showing that despite these losses his income would not be diminished but would even be increased if he refused to pay his wife’s debts which he was under no obligation to meet, and did not rebuild his Moscow house and the country house on his Moscow estate, which had cost him eighty thousand rubles a year and brought in nothing.
“Yes, of course that’s true,” said Pierre with a cheerful smile. “I don’t need all that at all. By being ruined I have become much richer.”
But in January Savélich came from Moscow and gave him an account of the state of things there, and spoke of the estimate an architect had made of the cost of rebuilding the town and country houses, speaking of this as of a settled matter. About the same time he received letters from Prince Vasíli and other Petersburg acquaintances speaking of his wife’s debts. And Pierre decided that the steward’s proposals which had so pleased him were wrong and that he must go to Petersburg and settle his wife’s affairs and must rebuild in Moscow. Why this was necessary he did not know, but he knew for certain that it was necessary. His income would be reduced by three fourths, but he felt it must be done.
Willarski was going to Moscow and they agreed to travel together.
During the whole time of his convalescence in Orël Pierre had experienced a feeling of joy, freedom, and life; but when during his journey he found himself in the open world and saw hundreds of new faces, that feeling was intensified. Throughout his journey he felt like a schoolboy on holiday. Everyone—the stagecoach driver, the post-house overseers, the peasants on the roads and in the villages—had a new significance for him. The presence and remarks of Willarski who continually deplored the ignorance and poverty of Russia and its backwardness compared with Europe only heightened Pierre’s pleasure. Where Willarski saw deadness Pierre saw an extraordinary strength and vitality—the strength which in that vast space amid the snows maintained the life of this original, peculiar, and unique people. He did not contradict Willarski and even seemed to agree with him—an apparent agreement being the simplest way to avoid discussions that could lead to nothing—and he smiled joyfully as he listened to him.
It would be difficult to explain why and whither ants whose heap has been destroyed are hurrying: some from the heap dragging bits of rubbish, larvae, and corpses, others back to the heap, or why they jostle, overtake one another, and fight, and it would be equally difficult to explain what caused the Russians after the departure of the French to throng to the place that had formerly been Moscow. But when we watch the ants round their ruined heap, the tenacity, energy, and immense number of the delving insects prove that despite the destruction of the heap, something indestructible, which though intangible is the real strength of the colony, still exists; and similarly, though in Moscow in the month of October there was no government and no churches, shrines, riches, or houses—it was still the Moscow it had been in August. All was destroyed, except something intangible yet powerful and indestructible.
The motives of those who thronged from all sides to Moscow after it had been cleared of the enemy were most diverse and personal, and at first for the most part savage and brutal. One motive only they all had in common: a desire to get to the place that had been called Moscow, to apply their activities there.
Within a week Moscow already had fifteen thousand inhabitants, in a fortnight twenty-five thousand, and so on. By the autumn of 1813 the number, ever increasing and increasing, exceeded what it had been in 1812.
The first Russians to enter Moscow were the Cossacks of Wintzingerode’s detachment, peasants from the adjacent villages, and residents who had fled from Moscow and had been hiding in its vicinity. The Russians who entered Moscow, finding it plundered, plundered it in their turn. They continued what the French had begun. Trains of peasant carts came to Moscow to carry off to the villages what had been abandoned in the ruined houses and the streets. The Cossacks carried off what they could to their camps, and the householders seized all they could find in other houses and moved it to their own, pretending that it was their property.
But the first plunderers were followed by a second and a third contingent, and with increasing numbers plundering became more and more difficult and assumed more definite forms.
The French found Moscow abandoned but with all the organizations of regular life, with diverse branches of commerce and craftsmanship, with luxury, and governmental and religious institutions. These forms were lifeless but still existed. There were bazaars, shops, warehouses, market stalls, granaries—for the most part still stocked with goods—and there were factories and workshops, palaces and wealthy houses filled with luxuries, hospitals, prisons, government offices, churches, and cathedrals. The longer the French remained the more these forms of town life perished, until finally all was merged into one confused, lifeless scene of plunder.
The more the plundering by the French continued, the more both the wealth of Moscow and the strength of its plunderers was destroyed. But plundering by the Russians, with which the reoccupation of the city began, had an opposite effect: the longer it continued and the greater the number of people taking part in it the more rapidly was the wealth of the city and its regular life restored.
Besides the plunderers, very various people, some drawn by curiosity, some by official duties, some by self-interest—house owners, clergy, officials of all kinds, tradesmen, artisans, and peasants—streamed into Moscow as blood flows to the heart.
Within a week the peasants who came with empty carts to carry off plunder were stopped by the authorities and made to cart the corpses out of the town. Other peasants, having heard of their comrades’ discomfiture, came to town bringing rye, oats, and hay, and beat down one another’s prices to below what they had been in former days. Gangs of carpenters hoping for high pay arrived in Moscow every day, and on all sides logs were being hewn, new houses built, and old, charred ones repaired. Tradesmen began trading in booths. Cookshops and taverns were opened in partially burned houses. The clergy resumed the services in many churches that had not been burned. Donors contributed Church property that had been stolen. Government clerks set up their baize-covered tables and their pigeonholes of documents in small rooms. The higher authorities and the police organized the distribution of goods left behind by the French. The owners of houses in which much property had been left, brought there from other houses, complained of the injustice of taking everything to the Faceted Palace in the Krémlin; others insisted that as the French had gathered things from different houses into this or that house, it would be unfair to allow its owner to keep all that was found there. They abused the police and bribed them, made out estimates at ten times their value for government stores that had perished in the fire, and demanded relief. And Count Rostopchín wrote proclamations.
At the end of January Pierre went to Moscow and stayed in an annex of his house which had not been burned. He called on Count Rostopchín and on some acquaintances who were back in Moscow, and he intended to leave for Petersburg two days later. Everybody was celebrating the victory, everything was bubbling with life in the ruined but reviving city. Everyone was pleased to see Pierre, everyone wished to meet him, and everyone questioned him about what he had seen. Pierre felt particularly well disposed toward them all, but was now instinctively on his guard for fear of binding himself in any way. To all questions put to him—whether important or quite trifling—such as: Where would he live? Was he going to rebuild? When was he going to Petersburg and would he mind taking a parcel for someone?—he replied: “Yes, perhaps,” or, “I think so,” and so on.
He had heard that the Rostóvs were at Kostromá but the thought of Natásha seldom occurred to him. If it did it was only as a pleasant memory of the distant past. He felt himself not only free from social obligations but also from that feeling which, it seemed to him, he had aroused in himself.
On the third day after his arrival he heard from the Drubetskóys that Princess Mary was in Moscow. The death, sufferings, and last days of Prince Andrew had often occupied Pierre’s thoughts and now recurred to him with fresh vividness. Having heard at dinner that Princess Mary was in Moscow and living in her house—which had not been burned—in Vozdvízhenka Street, he drove that same evening to see her.
On his way to the house Pierre kept thinking of Prince Andrew, of their friendship, of his various meetings with him, and especially of the last one at Borodinó.
“Is it possible that he died in the bitter frame of mind he was then in? Is it possible that the meaning of life was not disclosed to him before he died?” thought Pierre. He recalled Karatáev and his death and involuntarily began to compare these two men, so different, and yet so similar in that they had both lived and both died and in the love he felt for both of them.
Pierre drove up to the house of the old prince in a most serious mood. The house had escaped the fire; it showed signs of damage but its general aspect was unchanged. The old footman, who met Pierre with a stern face as if wishing to make the visitor feel that the absence of the old prince had not disturbed the order of things in the house, informed him that the princess had gone to her own apartments, and that she received on Sundays.
“Announce me. Perhaps she will see me,” said Pierre.
“Yes, sir,” said the man. “Please step into the portrait gallery.”
A few minutes later the footman returned with Dessalles, who brought word from the princess that she would be very glad to see Pierre if he would excuse her want of ceremony and come upstairs to her apartment.
In a rather low room lit by one candle sat the princess and with her another person dressed in black. Pierre remembered that the princess always had lady companions, but who they were and what they were like he never knew or remembered. “This must be one of her companions,” he thought, glancing at the lady in the black dress.
The princess rose quickly to meet him and held out her hand.
“Yes,” she said, looking at his altered face after he had kissed her hand, “so this is how we meet again. He spoke of you even at the very last,” she went on, turning her eyes from Pierre to her companion with a shyness that surprised him for an instant.
“I was so glad to hear of your safety. It was the first piece of good news we had received for a long time.”
Again the princess glanced round at her companion with even more uneasiness in her manner and was about to add something, but Pierre interrupted her.
“Just imagine—I knew nothing about him!” said he. “I thought he had been killed. All I know I heard at second hand from others. I only know that he fell in with the Rostóvs.... What a strange coincidence!”
Pierre spoke rapidly and with animation. He glanced once at the companion’s face, saw her attentive and kindly gaze fixed on him, and, as often happens when one is talking, felt somehow that this companion in the black dress was a good, kind, excellent creature who would not hinder his conversing freely with Princess Mary.
But when he mentioned the Rostóvs, Princess Mary’s face expressed still greater embarrassment. She again glanced rapidly from Pierre’s face to that of the lady in the black dress and said:
“Do you really not recognize her?”
Pierre looked again at the companion’s pale, delicate face with its black eyes and peculiar mouth, and something near to him, long forgotten and more than sweet, looked at him from those attentive eyes.
“But no, it can’t be!” he thought. “This stern, thin, pale face that looks so much older! It cannot be she. It merely reminds me of her.” But at that moment Princess Mary said, “Natásha!” And with difficulty, effort, and stress, like the opening of a door grown rusty on its hinges, a smile appeared on the face with the attentive eyes, and from that opening door came a breath of fragrance which suffused Pierre with a happiness he had long forgotten and of which he had not even been thinking—especially at that moment. It suffused him, seized him, and enveloped him completely. When she smiled doubt was no longer possible, it was Natásha and he loved her.
At that moment Pierre involuntarily betrayed to her, to Princess Mary, and above all to himself, a secret of which he himself had been unaware. He flushed joyfully yet with painful distress. He tried to hide his agitation. But the more he tried to hide it the more clearly—clearer than any words could have done—did he betray to himself, to her, and to Princess Mary that he loved her.
“No, it’s only the unexpectedness of it,” thought Pierre. But as soon as he tried to continue the conversation he had begun with Princess Mary he again glanced at Natásha, and a still-deeper flush suffused his face and a still-stronger agitation of mingled joy and fear seized his soul. He became confused in his speech and stopped in the middle of what he was saying.
Pierre had failed to notice Natásha because he did not at all expect to see her there, but he had failed to recognize her because the change in her since he last saw her was immense. She had grown thin and pale, but that was not what made her unrecognizable; she was unrecognizable at the moment he entered because on that face whose eyes had always shone with a suppressed smile of the joy of life, now when he first entered and glanced at her there was not the least shadow of a smile: only her eyes were kindly attentive and sadly interrogative.
Pierre’s confusion was not reflected by any confusion on Natásha’s part, but only by the pleasure that just perceptibly lit up her whole face.
“She has come to stay with me,” said Princess Mary. “The count and countess will be here in a few days. The countess is in a dreadful state; but it was necessary for Natásha herself to see a doctor. They insisted on her coming with me.”
“Yes, is there a family free from sorrow now?” said Pierre, addressing Natásha. “You know it happened the very day we were rescued. I saw him. What a delightful boy he was!”
Natásha looked at him, and by way of answer to his words her eyes widened and lit up.
“What can one say or think of as a consolation?” said Pierre. “Nothing! Why had such a splendid boy, so full of life, to die?”
“Yes, in these days it would be hard to live without faith...” remarked Princess Mary.
“Yes, yes, that is really true,” Pierre hastily interrupted her.
“Why is it true?” Natásha asked, looking attentively into Pierre’s eyes.
“How can you ask why?” said Princess Mary. “The thought alone of what awaits...”
Natásha without waiting for Princess Mary to finish again looked inquiringly at Pierre.
“And because,” Pierre continued, “only one who believes that there is a God ruling us can bear a loss such as hers and... yours.”
Natásha had already opened her mouth to speak but suddenly stopped. Pierre hurriedly turned away from her and again addressed Princess Mary, asking about his friend’s last days.
Pierre’s confusion had now almost vanished, but at the same time he felt that his freedom had also completely gone. He felt that there was now a judge of his every word and action whose judgment mattered more to him than that of all the rest of the world. As he spoke now he was considering what impression his words would make on Natásha. He did not purposely say things to please her, but whatever he was saying he regarded from her standpoint.
Princess Mary—reluctantly as is usual in such cases—began telling of the condition in which she had found Prince Andrew. But Pierre’s face quivering with emotion, his questions and his eager restless expression, gradually compelled her to go into details which she feared to recall for her own sake.
“Yes, yes, and so...?” Pierre kept saying as he leaned toward her with his whole body and eagerly listened to her story. “Yes, yes... so he grew tranquil and softened? With all his soul he had always sought one thing—to be perfectly good—so he could not be afraid of death. The faults he had—if he had any—were not of his making. So he did soften?... What a happy thing that he saw you again,” he added, suddenly turning to Natásha and looking at her with eyes full of tears.
Natásha’s face twitched. She frowned and lowered her eyes for a moment. She hesitated for an instant whether to speak or not.
“Yes, that was happiness,” she then said in her quiet voice with its deep chest notes. “For me it certainly was happiness.” She paused. “And he... he... he said he was wishing for it at the very moment I entered the room....”
Natásha’s voice broke. She blushed, pressed her clasped hands on her knees, and then controlling herself with an evident effort lifted her head and began to speak rapidly.
“We knew nothing of it when we started from Moscow. I did not dare to ask about him. Then suddenly Sónya told me he was traveling with us. I had no idea and could not imagine what state he was in, all I wanted was to see him and be with him,” she said, trembling, and breathing quickly.
And not letting them interrupt her she went on to tell what she had never yet mentioned to anyone—all she had lived through during those three weeks of their journey and life at Yaroslávl.
Pierre listened to her with lips parted and eyes fixed upon her full of tears. As he listened he did not think of Prince Andrew, nor of death, nor of what she was telling. He listened to her and felt only pity for her, for what she was suffering now while she was speaking.
Princess Mary, frowning in her effort to hold back her tears, sat beside Natásha, and heard for the first time the story of those last days of her brother’s and Natásha’s love.
Evidently Natásha needed to tell that painful yet joyful tale.
She spoke, mingling most trifling details with the intimate secrets of her soul, and it seemed as if she could never finish. Several times she repeated the same thing twice.
Dessalles’ voice was heard outside the door asking whether little Nicholas might come in to say good night.
“Well, that’s all—everything,” said Natásha.
She got up quickly just as Nicholas entered, almost ran to the door which was hidden by curtains, struck her head against it, and rushed from the room with a moan either of pain or sorrow.
Pierre gazed at the door through which she had disappeared and did not understand why he suddenly felt all alone in the world.
Princess Mary roused him from his abstraction by drawing his attention to her nephew who had entered the room.
At that moment of emotional tenderness young Nicholas’ face, which resembled his father’s, affected Pierre so much that when he had kissed the boy he got up quickly, took out his handkerchief, and went to the window. He wished to take leave of Princess Mary, but she would not let him go.
“No, Natásha and I sometimes don’t go to sleep till after two, so please don’t go. I will order supper. Go downstairs, we will come immediately.”
Before Pierre left the room Princess Mary told him: “This is the first time she has talked of him like that.”
Pierre was shown into the large, brightly lit dining room; a few minutes later he heard footsteps and Princess Mary entered with Natásha. Natásha was calm, though a severe and grave expression had again settled on her face. They all three of them now experienced that feeling of awkwardness which usually follows after a serious and heartfelt talk. It is impossible to go back to the same conversation, to talk of trifles is awkward, and yet the desire to speak is there and silence seems like affectation. They went silently to table. The footmen drew back the chairs and pushed them up again. Pierre unfolded his cold table napkin and, resolving to break the silence, looked at Natásha and at Princess Mary. They had evidently both formed the same resolution; the eyes of both shone with satisfaction and a confession that besides sorrow life also has joy.
“Do you take vodka, Count?” asked Princess Mary, and those words suddenly banished the shadows of the past. “Now tell us about yourself,” said she. “One hears such improbable wonders about you.”
“Yes,” replied Pierre with the smile of mild irony now habitual to him. “They even tell me wonders I myself never dreamed of! Mary Abrámovna invited me to her house and kept telling me what had happened, or ought to have happened, to me. Stepán Stepánych also instructed me how I ought to tell of my experiences. In general I have noticed that it is very easy to be an interesting man (I am an interesting man now); people invite me out and tell me all about myself.”
Natásha smiled and was on the point of speaking.
“We have been told,” Princess Mary interrupted her, “that you lost two millions in Moscow. Is that true?”
“But I am three times as rich as before,” returned Pierre.
Though the position was now altered by his decision to pay his wife’s debts and to rebuild his houses, Pierre still maintained that he had become three times as rich as before.
“What I have certainly gained is freedom,” he began seriously, but did not continue, noticing that this theme was too egotistic.
“And are you building?”
“Yes. Savélich says I must!”
“Tell me, you did not know of the countess’ death when you decided to remain in Moscow?” asked Princess Mary and immediately blushed, noticing that her question, following his mention of freedom, ascribed to his words a meaning he had perhaps not intended.
“No,” answered Pierre, evidently not considering awkward the meaning Princess Mary had given to his words. “I heard of it in Orël and you cannot imagine how it shocked me. We were not an exemplary couple,” he added quickly, glancing at Natásha and noticing on her face curiosity as to how he would speak of his wife, “but her death shocked me terribly. When two people quarrel they are always both in fault, and one’s own guilt suddenly becomes terribly serious when the other is no longer alive. And then such a death... without friends and without consolation! I am very, very sorry for her,” he concluded, and was pleased to notice a look of glad approval on Natásha’s face.
“Yes, and so you are once more an eligible bachelor,” said Princess Mary.
Pierre suddenly flushed crimson and for a long time tried not to look at Natásha. When he ventured to glance her way again her face was cold, stern, and he fancied even contemptuous.
“And did you really see and speak to Napoleon, as we have been told?” said Princess Mary.
“No, not once! Everybody seems to imagine that being taken prisoner means being Napoleon’s guest. Not only did I never see him but I heard nothing about him—I was in much lower company!”
Supper was over, and Pierre who at first declined to speak about his captivity was gradually led on to do so.
“But it’s true that you remained in Moscow to kill Napoleon?” Natásha asked with a slight smile. “I guessed it then when we met at the Súkharev tower, do you remember?”
Pierre admitted that it was true, and from that was gradually led by Princess Mary’s questions and especially by Natásha’s into giving a detailed account of his adventures.
At first he spoke with the amused and mild irony now customary with him toward everybody and especially toward himself, but when he came to describe the horrors and sufferings he had witnessed he was unconsciously carried away and began speaking with the suppressed emotion of a man re-experiencing in recollection strong impressions he has lived through.
Princess Mary with a gentle smile looked now at Pierre and now at Natásha. In the whole narrative she saw only Pierre and his goodness. Natásha, leaning on her elbow, the expression of her face constantly changing with the narrative, watched Pierre with an attention that never wandered—evidently herself experiencing all that he described. Not only her look, but her exclamations and the brief questions she put, showed Pierre that she understood just what he wished to convey. It was clear that she understood not only what he said but also what he wished to, but could not, express in words. The account Pierre gave of the incident with the child and the woman for protecting whom he was arrested was this: “It was an awful sight—children abandoned, some in the flames... One was snatched out before my eyes... and there were women who had their things snatched off and their earrings torn out...” he flushed and grew confused. “Then a patrol arrived and all the men—all those who were not looting, that is—were arrested, and I among them.”
“I am sure you’re not telling us everything; I am sure you did something...” said Natásha and pausing added, “something fine?”
Pierre continued. When he spoke of the execution he wanted to pass over the horrible details, but Natásha insisted that he should not omit anything.
Pierre began to tell about Karatáev, but paused. By this time he had risen from the table and was pacing the room, Natásha following him with her eyes. Then he added:
“No, you can’t understand what I learned from that illiterate man—that simple fellow.”
“Yes, yes, go on!” said Natásha. “Where is he?”
“They killed him almost before my eyes.”
And Pierre, his voice trembling continually, went on to tell of the last days of their retreat, of Karatáev’s illness and his death.
He told of his adventures as he had never yet recalled them. He now, as it were, saw a new meaning in all he had gone through. Now that he was telling it all to Natásha he experienced that pleasure which a man has when women listen to him—not clever women who when listening either try to remember what they hear to enrich their minds and when opportunity offers to retell it, or who wish to adopt it to some thought of their own and promptly contribute their own clever comments prepared in their little mental workshop—but the pleasure given by real women gifted with a capacity to select and absorb the very best a man shows of himself. Natásha without knowing it was all attention: she did not lose a word, no single quiver in Pierre’s voice, no look, no twitch of a muscle in his face, nor a single gesture. She caught the unfinished word in its flight and took it straight into her open heart, divining the secret meaning of all Pierre’s mental travail.
Princess Mary understood his story and sympathized with him, but she now saw something else that absorbed all her attention. She saw the possibility of love and happiness between Natásha and Pierre, and the first thought of this filled her heart with gladness.
It was three o’clock in the morning. The footmen came in with sad and stern faces to change the candles, but no one noticed them.
Pierre finished his story. Natásha continued to look at him intently with bright, attentive, and animated eyes, as if trying to understand something more which he had perhaps left untold. Pierre in shamefaced and happy confusion glanced occasionally at her, and tried to think what to say next to introduce a fresh subject. Princess Mary was silent. It occurred to none of them that it was three o’clock and time to go to bed.
“People speak of misfortunes and sufferings,” remarked Pierre, “but if at this moment I were asked: ‘Would you rather be what you were before you were taken prisoner, or go through all this again?’ then for heaven’s sake let me again have captivity and horseflesh! We imagine that when we are thrown out of our usual ruts all is lost, but it is only then that what is new and good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is much, much before us. I say this to you,” he added, turning to Natásha.
“Yes, yes,” she said, answering something quite different. “I too should wish nothing but to relive it all from the beginning.”
Pierre looked intently at her.
“Yes, and nothing more,” said Natásha.
“It’s not true, not true!” cried Pierre. “I am not to blame for being alive and wishing to live—nor you either.”
Suddenly Natásha bent her head, covered her face with her hands, and began to cry.
“What is it, Natásha?” said Princess Mary.
“Nothing, nothing.” She smiled at Pierre through her tears. “Good night! It is time for bed.”
Pierre rose and took his leave.
Princess Mary and Natásha met as usual in the bedroom. They talked of what Pierre had told them. Princess Mary did not express her opinion of Pierre nor did Natásha speak of him.
“Well, good night, Mary!” said Natásha. “Do you know, I am often afraid that by not speaking of him” (she meant Prince Andrew) “for fear of not doing justice to our feelings, we forget him.”
Princess Mary sighed deeply and thereby acknowledged the justice of Natásha’s remark, but she did not express agreement in words.
“Is it possible to forget?” said she.
“It did me so much good to tell all about it today. It was hard and painful, but good, very good!” said Natásha. “I am sure he really loved him. That is why I told him... Was it all right?” she added, suddenly blushing.
“To tell Pierre? Oh, yes. What a splendid man he is!” said Princess Mary.
“Do you know, Mary...” Natásha suddenly said with a mischievous smile such as Princess Mary had not seen on her face for a long time, “he has somehow grown so clean, smooth, and fresh—as if he had just come out of a Russian bath; do you understand? Out of a moral bath. Isn’t it true?”
“Yes,” replied Princess Mary. “He has greatly improved.”
“With a short coat and his hair cropped; just as if, well, just as if he had come straight from the bath... Papa used to...”
“I understand why he” (Prince Andrew) “liked no one so much as him,” said Princess Mary.
“Yes, and yet he is quite different. They say men are friends when they are quite different. That must be true. Really he is quite unlike him—in everything.”
“Yes, but he’s wonderful.”
“Well, good night,” said Natásha.
And the same mischievous smile lingered for a long time on her face as if it had been forgotten there.