War And Peace

CHAPTER XIX

Chinese

FROM THE DAY of his wife's arrival in Moscow, Pierre had been intending to go away somewhere else, simply not to be with her. Soon after the Rostovs' arrival in Moscow, the impression made upon him by Natasha had impelled him to hasten in carrying out his intention. He went to Tver to see the widow of Osip Alexyevitch, who had long before promised to give him papers of the deceased's.

When Pierre came back to Moscow, he was handed a letter from Marya Dmitryevna, who summoned him to her on a matter of great importance, concerning Andrey Bolkonsky and his betrothed. Pierre had been avoiding Natasha. It seemed to him that he had for her a feeling stronger than a married man should have for a girl betrothed to his friend. And some fate was continually throwing him into her company.

“What has happened? And what do they want with me?” he thought as he dressed to go to Marya Dmitryevna's. “If only Prince Andrey would make haste home and marry her,” thought Pierre on the way to the house.

In the Tverskoy Boulevard some one shouted his name.

“Pierre! Been back long?” a familiar voice called to him. Pierre raised his head. Anatole, with his everlasting companion Makarin, dashed by in a sledge with a pair of grey trotting-horses, who were kicking up the snow on to the forepart of the sledge. Anatole was sitting in the classic pose of military dandies, the lower part of his face muffled in his beaver collar, and his head bent a little forward. His face was fresh and rosy; his hat, with its white plume, was stuck on one side, showing his curled, pomaded hair, sprinkled with fine snow.

“Indeed, he is the real philosopher!” thought Pierre. “He sees nothing beyond the present moment of pleasure; nothing worries him, and so he is always cheerful, satisfied, and serene. What would I not give to be just like him!” Pierre mused with envy.

In Marya Dmitryevna's entrance-hall the footman, as he took off Pierre's fur coat, told him that his mistress begged him to come to her in her bedroom.

As he opened the door into the reception-room, Pierre caught sight of Natasha, sitting at the window with a thin, pale, and ill-tempered face. She looked round at him, frowned, and with an expression of frigid dignity walked out of the room.

“What has happened?” asked Pierre, going in to Marya Dmitryevna.

“Fine doings,” answered Marya Dmitryevna. “Fifty-eight years I have lived in the world—never have I seen anything so disgraceful.” And exacting from Pierre his word of honour not to say a word about all he was to hear, Marya Dmitryevna informed him that Natasha had broken off her engagement without the knowledge of her parents; that the cause of her doing so was Anatole Kuragin, with whom Pierre's wife had thrown her, and with whom Natasha had attempted to elope in her father's absence in order to be secretly married to him.

Pierre, with hunched shoulders and open mouth, listened to what Marya Dmitryevna was saying, hardly able to believe his ears. That Prince Andrey's fiancée, so passionately loved by him, Natasha Rostov, hitherto so charming, should give up Bolkonsky for that fool Anatole, who was married already (Pierre knew the secret of his marriage), and be so much in love with him as to consent to elope with him—that Pierre could not conceive and could not comprehend. He could not reconcile the sweet impression he had in his soul of Natasha, whom he had known from childhood, with this new conception of her baseness, folly, and cruelty. He thought of his wife. “They are all alike,” he said to himself, reflecting he was not the only man whose unhappy fate it was to be bound to a low woman. But still he felt ready to weep with sorrow for Prince Andrey, with sorrow for his pride. And the more he felt for his friend, the greater was the contempt and even aversion with which he thought of Natasha, who had just passed him with such an expression of rigid dignity. He could not know that Natasha's heart was filled with despair, shame, and humiliation, and that it was not her fault that her face accidentally expressed dignity and severity.

“What! get married?” cried Pierre at Marya Dmitryevna's words. “He can't get married; he is married.”

“Worse and worse,” said Marya Dmitryevna. “He's a nice youth. A perfect scoundrel. And she's expecting him; she's been expecting him these two days. We must tell her; at least she will leave off expecting him.”

After learning from Pierre the details of Anatole's marriage, and pouring out her wrath against him in abusive epithets, Marya Dmitryevna informed Pierre of her object in sending for him. Marya Dmitryevna was afraid that the count or Bolkonsky, who might arrive any moment, might hear of the affair, though she intended to conceal it from them, and might challenge Kuragin, and she therefore begged Pierre to bid his brother-in-law from her to leave Moscow and not to dare to show himself in her presence. Pierre promised to do as she desired him, only then grasping the danger menacing the old count, and Nikolay, and Prince Andrey. After briefly and precisely explaining to him her wishes, she let him go to the drawing-room.

“Mind, the count knows nothing of it. You behave as though you know nothing,” she said to him. “And I'll go and tell her it's no use for her to expect him! And stay to dinner, if you care to,” Marya Dmitryevna called after Pierre.

Pierre met the old count. He seemed upset and anxious. That morning Natasha had told him that she had broken off her engagement to Bolkonsky.

“I'm in trouble, in trouble, my dear fellow,” he said to Pierre, “with those girls without the mother. I do regret now that I came. I will be open with you. Have you heard she has broken off her engagement without a word to any one? I never did, I'll admit, feel very much pleased at the marriage. He's an excellent man, of course, but still there could be no happiness against a father's will, and Natasha will never want for suitors. Still it had been going on so long, and then such a step, without her father's or her mother's knowledge! And now she's ill, and God knows what it is. It's a bad thing, count, a bad thing to have a daughter away from her mother.…” Pierre saw the count was greatly troubled, and tried to change the conversation to some other subject, but the count went back again to his troubles.

Sonya came into the drawing-room with an agitated face.

“Natasha is not very well; she is in her room and would like to see you. Marya Dmitryevna is with her and she asks you to come too.”

“Why, yes, you're such a great friend of Bolkonsky's; no doubt she wants to send him some message,” said the count. “Ah, my God, my God! How happy it all was!” And clutching at his sparse locks, the count went out of the room.

Marya Dmitryevna had told Natasha that Anatole was married. Natasha would not believe her, and insisted on the statement being confirmed by Pierre himself. Sonya told Pierre this as she led him across the corridor to Natasha's room.

Natasha, pale and stern, was sitting beside Marya Dmitryevna, and she met Pierre at the door with eyes of feverish brilliance and inquiry. She did not smile nor nod to him. She simply looked hard at him, and that look asked him simply: was he a friend or an enemy like the rest, as regards Anatole? Pierre in himself had evidently no existence for her.

“He knows everything,” said Marya Dmitryevna, addressing Natasha. “Let him tell you whether I have spoken the truth.”

As a hunted, wounded beast looks at the approaching dogs and hunters, Natasha looked from one to the other.

“Natalya Ilyinitchna,” Pierre began, dropping his eyes and conscious of a feeling of pity for her and loathing for the operation he had to perform, “whether it is true or not cannot affect you since …”

“Then it is not true that he is married?”

“No; it is true.”

“Has he been married long?” she asked. “On your word of honour?”

Pierre told her so on his word of honour.

“Is he still here?” she asked rapidly.

“Yes, I have just seen him.”

She was obviously incapable of speaking; she made a sign with her hands for them to leave her alone.

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