COUNT ILYA ANDREITCH ROSTOV arrived in Moscow towards the end of January with Natasha and Sonya. The countess was still unwell, and unable to travel, but they could not put off coming till she recovered, for Prince Andrey was expected in Moscow every day. They had, besides, to order the trousseau, to sell the estate in the suburbs of Moscow, and to take advantage of old Prince Bolkonsky's presence in Moscow to present his future daughter-in-law to him. The Rostovs' house in Moscow had not been heated all the winter; and as they were coming only for a short time, and the countess was not with them, Count Ilya Andreitch made up his mind to stay with Marya Dmitryevna Ahrostimov, who had long been pressing her hospitality upon the count.
Late in the evening the four loaded sledges of the Rostovs drove into the courtyard of Marya Dmitryevna in Old Equerrys' Place. Marya Dmitryevna lived alone. She had by now married off her daughter. Her sons were all in the service.
She still held herself as erect; still gave every one her opinions in the same loud, outspoken, decided fashion; and her whole bearing seemed a reproof to other people for every sort of weakness, passion, and temptation, of which she would not admit the bare possibility. In the early morning, in a house-jacket, she looked after the management of her household. Then she drove on saints' days to Mass, and from Mass to the gaols and prisons; and of what she did there, she never spoke to any one.
On ordinary days she dressed and received petitioners of various classes, of whom some sought her aid every day. Then she had dinner, an abundant and appetising meal, at which some three or four guests were always present. After dinner she played a game of boston; and at night had the newspapers and new books read aloud to her while she knitted. It was only as a rare exception that she went out in the evening; if she did so, it was only to visit the most important people in the town.
She had not gone to bed when the Rostovs arrived, and the door in the vestibule squeaked on the block, as the Rostovs and their servants came in from the cold outside. Marya Dmitryevna stood in the doorway of the hall, with her spectacles slipping down on her nose, and her head flung back, looking with a stern and irate face at the new-comers. It might have been supposed that she was irritated at their arrival, and would pack them off again at once, had she not at the very time been giving careful instructions to her servants where to install her guests and their belongings.
“The count's things? Bring them here,” she said, pointing to the trunks, and not bestowing a greeting on any one. “The young ladies', this way to the left. Well, what are we pottering about for?” she called to her maids. “Warm the samovar! She's plumper, prettier,” she pronounced of Natasha, flushed from the frosty air, as she drew her closer by her hood. “Foo! she is cold! You make haste and get your wraps off,” she shouted to the count, who would have kissed her hand. “You're frozen, I warrant. Rum for the tea! Sonyushka, bonjour,” she said to Sonya, indicating by this French phrase the slightly contemptuous affectionateness of her attitude to Sonya.
When they had all taken off their outdoor things, set themselves straight after the journey, and come in to tea, Marya Dmitryevna kissed them all in due course.
“Heartily glad you have come, and are staying with me,” she said. “It's long been time you were here,” she said, with a significant glance at Natasha.… “The old fellow's here, and his son's expected from day to day. You must, you must make their acquaintance. Oh, well, we shall talk of that later on,” she added, with a glance at Sonya, showing that she did not care to talk of it before her. “Now, listen,” she turned to the count, “what do you want to do to-morrow? Whom will you send for? Shinshin?”—she crooked one finger. “The tearful Anna Mihalovna— two. She's here with her son. The son's to be married too! Then Bezuhov. He's here, too, with his wife. He ran away from her, and she has come trotting after him. He dined with me last Wednesday. Well, and I'll take them”—she indicated the young ladies—“to-morrow to Iversky chapel, and then we shall go to Aubert-Chalmey. You'll be getting everything now, I expect! Don't judge by me—the sleeves nowadays are like this! The other day the young princess, Irina Vassilyevna, came to see me, just as though she had put two barrels on her arms, a dreadful fright. Every day there's a new fashion. And what sort of business is it you have come for yourself?” she said severely, addressing the count.
“Everything has come together,” answered the count. “There's the girl's rags to buy; and now there's a purchaser turned up for the Moscow estate and the house. If you'll graciously permit it, I'll choose an opportunity and drive over to Maryinskoe for a day, leaving my girls on your hands.”
“Very good, very good, they'll be safe enough with me. I'm as safe as the Mortgage Bank. I'll take them where they must go, and scold them and pet them too,” said Marya Dmitryevna, putting her big hand on the cheek of her favourite and god-daughter Natasha.
Next morning Marya Dmitryevna bore the young ladies off to Iversky chapel and to Madame Aubert-Chalmey, who was so frightened of Marya Dmitryevna that she always sold her dresses at a loss simply to get rid of her as soon as possible. Marya Dmitryevna ordered almost the whole trousseau. On their return, she sent every one out of the room but Natasha, and called her favourite to sit beside her arm-chair.
“Well, now we can have a chat. I congratulate you on your betrothed. A fine fellow you have hooked! I'm glad of it for your sake, and I have known him since he was that high”—she held her hand a yard from the floor. Natasha flushed joyfully. “I like him and all his family. Now, listen! You know, of course, that old Prince Nikolay was very much against his son's marrying. He's a whimsical old fellow! Of course, Prince Andrey is not a child, he can get on without him, but to enter a family against the father's will is not a nice thing to do. One wants peace and love in a family. You're a clever girl, you'll know how to manage things. You must use your wits and your kind heart. And every thing will come right.”
Natasha was silent, not as Marya Dmitryevna supposed from shyness. In reality Natasha disliked any one's interfering in what touched her love for Prince Andrey, which seemed to her something so apart from all human affairs, that no one, as she imagined, could understand it. She loved Prince Andrey, and only him, and knew only him; he loved her, and was to arrive in a day or two and carry her off. She did not care about anything else.
“I have known him a long while, do you see; and Masha, your sister-in-law, I love. Sisters-in-law are said to be mischief-makers, but she— well, she wouldn't hurt a fly. She has begged me to bring you two together. You must go to see her to-morrow with your father, and be as nice as possible; you are younger than she is. By the time your young man comes back, you'll be friends with his sister and his father, and they will have learned to love you. Yes or no? It will be better so, eh?”
“Oh yes!” Natasha responded reluctantly.