ON THE 3RD OF MARCH all the rooms of the English Club were full of the hum of voices, and the members and guests of the club, in uniforms and frock-coats, some even in powder and Russian kaftans, were standing meeting, parting, and running to and fro like bees swarming in spring. Powdered footmen in livery, wearing slippers and stockings, stood at every door, anxiously trying to follow every movement of the guests and club members, so as to proffer their services. The majority of those present were elderly and respected persons, with broad, self-confident faces, fat fingers, and resolute gestures and voices. Guests and members of this class sat in certain habitual places, and met together in certain habitual circles. A small proportion of those present were casual guests—chiefly young men, among them Denisov, Rostov, and Dolohov, who was now an officer in the Semyonovsky regiment again. The faces of the younger men, especially the officers, wore that expression of condescending deference to their elders which seems to say to the older generation, “Respect and deference we are prepared to give you, but remember all the same the future is for us.” Nesvitsky, an old member of the club, was there too. Pierre, who at his wife's command had let his hair grow and left off spectacles, was walking about the rooms dressed in the height of the fashion, but looking melancholy and depressed. Here, as everywhere, he was surrounded by the atmosphere of people paying homage to his wealth, and he behaved to them with the careless, contemptuous air of sovereignty that had become habitual with him.
In years, he belonged to the younger generation, but by his wealth and connections he was a member of the older circles, and so he passed from one set to the other. The most distinguished of the elder members formed the centres of circles, which even strangers respectfully approached to listen to the words of well-known men. The larger groups were formed round Count Rostoptchin, Valuev, and Naryshkin. Rostoptchin was describing how the Russians had been trampled underfoot by the fleeing Austrians, and had had to force a way with the bayonet through the fugitives. Valuev was confidentially informing his circle that Uvarov had been sent from Petersburg to ascertain the state of opinion in Moscow in regard to Austerlitz.
In the third group Naryshkin was repeating the tale of the meeting of the Austrian council of war, at which, in reply to the stupidity of the Austrian general, Suvorov crowed like a cock. Shinshin, who stood near, tried to make a joke, saying that Kutuzov, it seemed, had not even been able to learn from Suvorov that not very difficult art of crowing like a cock—but the elder club members looked sternly at the wit, giving him thereby to understand that even such a reference to Kutuzov was out of place on that day.
Count Ilya Andreitch Rostov kept anxiously hurrying in his soft boots to and fro from the dining-room to the drawing-room, giving hasty greetings to important and unimportant persons, all of whom he knew, and all of whom he treated alike, on an equal footing. Now and then his eyes sought out the graceful, dashing figure of his young son, rested gleefully on him, and winked to him. Young Rostov was standing at the window with Dolohov, whose acquaintance he had lately made, and greatly prized. The old count went up to them, and shook hands with Dolohov.
“I beg you will come and see us; so you're a friend of my youngster's … been together, playing the hero together out there.… Ah! Vassily Ignatitch … a good day to you, old man,” he turned to an old gentleman who had just come in, but before he had time to finish his greetings to him there was a general stir, and a footman running in with an alarmed countenance, announced: “He had arrived!”
Bells rang; the stewards rushed forward; the guests, scattered about the different rooms, gathered together in one mass, like rye shaken together in a shovel, and waited at the door of the great drawing-room.
At the door of the ante-room appeared the figure of Bagration, without his hat or sword, which, in accordance with the club custom, he had left with the hall porter. He was not wearing an Astrachan cap, and had not a riding-whip over his shoulder, as Rostov had seen him on the night before the battle of Austerlitz, but wore a tight new uniform with Russian and foreign orders and the star of St. George on the left side of his chest. He had, obviously with a view to the banquet, just had his hair cut and his whiskers clipped, which changed his appearance for the worse. He had a sort of naïvely festive air, which, in conjunction with his determined, manly features, gave an expression positively rather comic to his face. Bekleshov and Fyodor Petrovitch Uvarov, who had come with him, stood still in the doorway trying to make him, as the guest of most importance, precede them. Bagration was embarrassed, and unwilling to avail himself of their courtesy; there was a hitch in the proceedings at the door, but finally Bagration did, after all, enter first. He walked shyly and awkwardly over the parquet of the reception-room, not knowing what to do with his hands. He would have been more at home and at his ease walking over a ploughed field under fire, as he had walked at the head of the Kursk regiment at Schöngraben. The stewards met him at the first door, and saying a few words of their pleasure at seeing such an honoured guest, they surrounded him without waiting for an answer, and, as it were, taking possession of him, led him off to the drawing-room. There was no possibility of getting in at the drawing-room door from the crowds of members and guests, who were crushing one another in their efforts to get a look over each other's shoulders at Bagration, as if he were some rare sort of beast. Count Ilya Andreitch laughed more vigorously than any one, and continually repeating, “Make way for him, my dear boy, make way, make way,” shoved the crowd aside, led the guests into the drawing-room, and seated them on the sofa in the middle of it. The great men, and the more honoured members of the club, surrounded the newly arrived guests. Count Ilya Andreitch, shoving his way again through the crowd, went out of the drawing-room, and reappeared a minute later with another steward carrying a great silver dish, which he held out to Prince Bagration. On the dish lay a poem, composed and printed in the hero's honour. Bagration, on seeing the dish, looked about him in dismay, as though seeking assistance. But in all eyes he saw the expectation that he would submit. Feeling himself in their power, Bagration resolutely took the dish in both hands, and looked angrily and reproachfully at the count, who had brought it. Some one officiously took the dish from Bagration (or he would, it seemed, have held it so till nightfall, and have carried it with him to the table), and drew his attention to the poem. “Well, I'll read it then,” Bagration seemed to say, and fixing his weary eyes on the paper, he began reading it with a serious and concentrated expression. The author of the verses took them, and began to read them aloud himself. Prince Bagration bowed his head and listened.
And save for us our Titus on the throne!
Be thou our champion and our country's stay!
A noble heart, a Caesar in the fray!
Napoleon in the zenith of his fame
Learns to his cost to fear Bagration's name,
Nor dares provoke a Russian foe again,” etc. etc.
But he had not finished the poem, when the butler boomed out sonorously: “Dinner is ready!” The door opened, from the dining-room thundered the strains of the Polonaise: “Raise the shout of victory, valiant Russian, festive sing,” and Count Ilya Andreitch, looking angrily at the author, who still went on reading his verses, bowed to Bagration as a signal to go in. All the company rose, feeling the dinner of more importance than the poem, and Bagration, again preceding all the rest, went in to dinner. In the place of honour between two Alexanders— Bekleshov and Naryshkin—(this, too, was intentional, in allusion to the name of the Tsar) they put Bagration: three hundred persons were ranged about the tables according to their rank and importance, those of greater consequence, nearer to the distinguished guest—as naturally as water flows to find its own level.
Just before dinner, Count Ilya Andreitch presented his son to the prince. Bagration recognised him, and uttered a few words, awkward and incoherent, as were indeed all he spoke that day. Count Ilya Andreitch looked about at every one in gleeful pride while Bagration was speaking to his son.
Nikolay Rostov, with Denisov and his new acquaintance Dolohov, sat together almost in the middle of the table. Facing them sat Pierre with Prince Nesvitsky. Count Ilya Andreitch was sitting with the other stewards facing Bagration, and, the very impersonation of Moscow hospitality, did his utmost to regale the prince.
His labours had not been in vain. All the banquet—the meat dishes and the Lenten fare alike—was sumptuous, but still he could not be perfectly at ease till the end of dinner. He made signs to the carver, gave whispered directions to the footmen, and not without emotion awaited the arrival of each anticipated dish. Everything was capital. At the second course, with the gigantic sturgeon (at the sight of which Ilya Andreitch flushed with shamefaced delight), the footman began popping corks and pouring out champagne. After the fish, which made a certain sensation, Count Ilya Andreitch exchanged glances with the other stewards. “There will be a great many toasts, it's time to begin!” he whispered, and, glass in hand, he got up. All were silent, waiting for what he would say.
“To the health of our sovereign, the Emperor!” he shouted, and at the moment his kindly eyes grew moist with tears of pleasure and enthusiasm. At that instant they began playing: “Raise the shout of victory!” All rose from their seats and shouted “Hurrah!” And Bagration shouted “Hurrah!” in the same voice in which he had shouted it in the field at Schöngraben. The enthusiastic voice of young Rostov could be heard above the three hundred other voices. He was on the very point of tears. “The health of our sovereign, the Emperor,” he roared, “hurrah!” Emptying his glass at one gulp, he flung it on the floor. Many followed his example. And the loud shouts lasted for a long while. When the uproar subsided, the footmen cleared away the broken glass, and all began settling themselves again; and smiling at the noise they had made, began talking. Count Ilya Andreitch rose once more, glanced at a note that lay beside his plate, and proposed a toast to the health of the hero of our last campaign, Prince Pyotr Ivanovitch Bagration, and again the count's blue eyes were dimmed with tears. “Hurrah!” was shouted again by the three hundred voices of the guests, and instead of music this time a chorus of singers began to sing a cantata composed by Pavel Ivanovitch Kutuzov:
Valour's the pledge of victory,
We have our Bagrations.
Our foes will all be at our feet,” etc. etc.
As soon as the singers had finished, more and more toasts followed, at which Count Ilya Andreitch became more and more moved, and more glass was broken and even more uproar was made. They drank to the health of Bekleshov, of Naryshkin, of Uvarov, of Dolgorukov, of Apraxin, of Valuev, to the health of the stewards, to the health of the committee, to the health of all the club members, to the health of all the guests of the club, and finally and separately to the health of the organiser of the banquet, Count Ilya Andreitch. At that toast the count took out his handkerchief and, hiding his face in it, fairly broke down.