War And Peace

CHAPTER XI

Chinese

ANATOLE KURAGIN was staying in Moscow because his father had sent him away from Petersburg, where he had been spending twenty thousand a year in hard cash and running up bills for as much more, and his creditors had been dunning his father. The father informed his son that for the last time he would pay half his debts; but only on condition that he would go away to Moscow, where his father had, by much exertion, secured a post for him as adjutant to the commander-in-chief, and would try finally to make a good match there. He suggested to him either Princess Marya or Julie Karagin.

Anatole consented, and went away to Moscow, where he stayed with Pierre. Pierre at first was by no means pleased to receive Anatole, but after a while he got used to his presence; sometimes accompanied him on his carousals, and by way of loans gave him money.

As Shinshin had with truth said of him, Anatole had won the hearts of all the Moscow ladies, especially by the nonchalance with which he treated them and the preference he openly showed for gypsy girls and actresses, with the most prominent of whom, Mademoiselle George, he was said to have an intrigue. He never missed a single drinking party at Danilov's, or any other Moscow festivity, spent whole nights drinking, outdoing all the rest, and was at every soirée and ball in the best society. There were rumours of several intrigues of his with Moscow ladies, and at balls he flirted with a few of them. But he fought shy of unmarried ladies, especially the wealthy heiresses, who were most of them plain. He had a good reason for this, of which no one knew but his most intimate friends: he had been for the last two years married. Two years previously, while his regiment had been stationed in Poland, a Polish landowner, by no means well-to-do, had forced Anatole to marry his daughter.

Anatole had very shortly afterwards abandoned his wife, and in consideration of a sum of money, which he agreed to send his father-in-law, he was allowed by the latter to pass as a bachelor unmolested.

Anatole was very well satisfied with his position, with himself, and with other people. He was instinctively and thoroughly convinced that he could not possibly live except just in the way he did live, and that he had never in his life done anything base. He was incapable of considering either how his actions might be judged by others, or what might be the result of this or that action on his part. He was convinced that just as the duck is created so that it must always live in the water, so he was created by God such that he must spend thirty thousand a year, and always take a good position in society. He had such perfect faith in this that, looking at him, others too were persuaded of it, and refused him neither the exalted position in society nor the money, which he borrowed right and left, obviously with no notion of repaying it.

He was not a gambler, at least he never greatly cared about winning money at cards. He was not vain. He did not care a straw what people thought of him. Still less could he have been reproached with ambition. Several times he had, to his father's irritation, spoiled his best chances of a career, and he laughed at distinctions of all kinds. He was not stingy, and never refused any one who asked him for anything. What he loved was dissipation and women; and as, according to his ideas, there was nothing dishonourable in these tastes, and as he was incapable of considering the effect on others of the gratification of his tastes, he believed himself in his heart to be an irreproachable man, felt a genuine contempt for scoundrels and mean persons, and with an untroubled conscience held his head high. Rakes, those masculine Magdalens, have a secret feeling of their own guiltlessness, just as have women Magdalens, founded on the same hope of forgiveness. “All will be forgiven her, because she loved much; and all will be forgiven him, because he has enjoyed himself much.”

Dolohov had that year reappeared in Moscow after his exile and his Persian adventures. He spent his time in luxury, gambling, and dissipation; renewed his friendship with his old Petersburg comrade Kuragin, and made use of him for his own objects.

Anatole sincerely liked Dolohov for his cleverness and daring. Dolohov, for whom Anatole's name and rank and connections were of use in ensnaring wealthy young men into his society for gambling purposes, made use of Kuragin without letting him feel it, and was amused by him too. Apart from interested motives, for which he needed Anatole, the process itself of controlling another man's will was an enjoyment, a habit, and a necessity for Dolohov.

Natasha had made a great impression on Kuragin. At supper, after the theatre, he analysed to Dolohov, with the manner of a connoisseur, the points of her arms, her shoulders, her foot, and her hair, and announced his intention of getting up a flirtation with her. What might come of such a flirtation—Anatole was incapable of considering, and had no notion, as he never had a notion of what would come of any of his actions.

“She's pretty, my lad, but she's not for us,” Dolohov said to him.

“I'll tell my sister to ask her to dinner,” said Anatole. “Eh?”

“You'd better wait till she's married.…”

“You know I adore little girls,” said Anatole; “they're all confusion in a minute.”

“You've come to grief once already over a ‘little girl,' ” said Dolohov, who knew of Anatole's marriage. “Beware.”

“Well, one can't do it twice! Eh?” said Anatole, laughing good-humouredly.

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