War And Peace

CHAPTER XXII

Chinese

THAT EVENING Pierre went to the Rostovs' to fulfil Prince Andrey's commission. Natasha was in bed, the count was at the club, and Pierre, after giving the letters to Sonya, went in to see Marya Dmitryevna, who was interested to know how Prince Andrey had taken the news. Ten minutes later, Sonya came in to Marya Dmitryevna.

“Natasha insists on seeing Count Pyotr Kirillitch,” she said.

“Why, are we to take him up to her, eh? Why, you are all in a muddle there,” said Marya Dmitryevna.

“No, she has dressed and gone into the drawing-room,” said Sonya.

Marya Dmitryevna could only shrug her shoulders. “When will the countess come? She has quite worn me out! You mind now, don't tell her everything,” she said to Pierre. “One hasn't the heart to scold her, she's so piteous, poor thing.”

Natasha was standing in the middle of the drawing-room, looking thinner, and with a pale, set face (not at all overcome with shame, as Pierre had expected to see her). When Pierre appeared in the doorway, she made a hurried movement, evidently in uncertainty whether to go to meet him, or to wait for him to come to her.

Pierre went hurriedly towards her. He thought she would give him her hand as usual. But coming near him she stopped, breathing hard, and letting her hands hang lifelessly, exactly in the same pose in which she used to stand in the middle of the room to sing, but with an utterly different expression.

“Pyotr Kirillitch,” she began, speaking quickly, “Prince Bolkonsky was your friend—he is your friend,” she corrected herself. (It seemed to her that everything was in the past, and now all was changed.) “He told me to apply to you …”

Pierre choked dumbly as he looked at her. Till then he had in his heart blamed her, and tried to despise her; but now he felt so sorry for her, that there was no room in his heart for blame.

“He is here now, tell him … to for … to forgive me.” She stopped short and breathed even more quickly, but she did not weep.

“Yes … I will tell him,” said Pierre; “but …” He did not know what to say.

Natasha was evidently dismayed at the idea that might have occurred to Pierre.

“No, I know that everything is over,” she said hurriedly. “No, that can never be. I'm only wretched at the wrong I have done him. Only tell him that I beg him to forgive, to forgive, forgive me for everything …” Her whole body was heaving; she sat down on a chair.

A feeling of pity he had never known before flooded Pierre's heart.

“I will tell him, I will tell him everything once more,” said Pierre; “but … I should like to know one thing…”

“To know what?” Natasha's eyes asked.

“I should like to know, did you love …” Pierre did not know what to call Anatole, and flushed at the thought of him—“did you love that bad man?”

“Don't call him bad,” said Natasha. “But I don't … know, I don't know …” She began crying again, and Pierre was more than ever overwhelmed with pity, tenderness, and love. He felt the tears trickling under his spectacles, and hoped they would not be noticed.

“We won't talk any more of it, my dear,” he said. It seemed suddenly so strange to Natasha to hear the gentle, tender, sympathetic voice in which he spoke. “We won't talk of it, my dear, I'll tell him everything. But one thing I beg you, look on me as your friend; and if you want help, advice, or simply want to open your heart to some one—not now, but when things are clearer in your heart—think of me.” He took her hand and kissed it. “I shall be happy, if I am able …” Pierre was confused.

“Don't speak to me like that; I'm not worth it!” cried Natasha, and she would have left the room, but Pierre held her hand. He knew there was something more he must say to her. But when he said it, he was surprised at his own words.

“Hush, hush, your whole life lies before you,” he said to her.

“Before me! No! All is over for me,” she said, with shame and self-humiliation.

“All over?” he repeated. “If I were not myself, but the handsomest, cleverest, best man in the world, and if I were free I would be on my knees this minute to beg for your hand and your love.”

For the first time for many days Natasha wept with tears of gratitude and softened feeling, and glancing at Pierre, she went out of the room.

Pierre followed her, almost running into the vestibule, and restraining the tears of tenderness and happiness that made a lump in his throat. He flung on his fur coat, unable to find the armholes, and got into his sledge.

“Now where, your excellency?” asked the coachman.

“Where?” Pierre asked himself. “Where can I go now? Not to the club or to pay calls.” All men seemed to him so pitiful, so poor in comparison with the feeling of tenderness and love in his heart, in comparison with that softened, grateful glance she had turned upon him that last minute through her tears.

“Home,” said Pierre, throwing open the bearskin coat over his broad, joyously breathing chest in spite of ten degrees of frost.

It was clear and frosty. Over the dirty, half-dark streets, over the black roofs was a dark, starlit sky. It was only looking at the sky that Pierre forgot the mortifying meanness of all things earthly in comparison with the height his soul had risen to. As he drove into Arbatsky Square, the immense expanse of dark, starlit sky lay open before Pierre's eyes. Almost in the centre of it above the Prechistensky Boulevard, surrounded on all sides by stars, but distinguished from all by its nearness to the earth, its white light and long, upturned tail, shone the huge, brilliant comet of 1812; the comet which betokened, it was said, all manner of horrors and the end of the world. But in Pierre's heart that bright comet, with its long, luminous tail, aroused no feeling of dread. On the contrary, his eyes wet with tears, Pierre looked joyously at this bright comet, which seemed as though after flying with inconceivable swiftness through infinite space in a parabola, it had suddenly, like an arrow piercing the earth, stuck fast at one chosen spot in the black sky, and stayed there, vigorously tossing up its tail, shining and playing with its white light among the countless other twinkling stars. It seemed to Pierre that it was in full harmony with what was in his softened and emboldened heart, that had gained vigour to blossom into a new life.

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