War And Peace

CHAPTER VIII

Chinese

AFTER HIS INTERVIEW with Pierre in Moscow, Prince Andrey went away to Petersburg, telling his family that he had business there. In reality his object was to meet Anatole Kuragin there. He thought it necessary to meet him, but on inquiring for him when he reached Petersburg, he found he was no longer there. Pierre had let his brother-in-law know that Prince Andrey was on his track. Anatole Kuragin had promptly obtained a commission from the minister of war, and had gone to join the army in Moldavia. While in Petersburg Prince Andrey met Kutuzov, his old general, who was always friendly to him, and Kutuzov proposed that he should accompany him to Moldavia, where the old general was being sent to take command of the army. Prince Andrey received an appointment on the staff of the commander, and went to Turkey.

Prince Andrey did not think it proper to write to Kuragin to challenge him to a duel. He thought that a challenge coming from him, without any new pretext for a duel, would be compromising for the young Countess Rostov, and therefore he was seeking to encounter Kuragin in person in order to pick a quarrel with him that would serve as a pretext for a duel. But in the Turkish army too Prince Andrey failed to come across Kuragin. The latter had returned to Russia shortly after Prince Andrey reached the Turkish army. In a new country, amid new surroundings, Prince Andrey found life easier to bear. After his betrothed's betrayal of him, which he felt the more keenly, the more studiously he strove to conceal its effect on him from others, he found it hard to bear the conditions of life in which he had been happy, and felt still more irksome the freedom and independence he had once prized so highly. He could not now think the thoughts that had come to him for the first time on the field of Austerlitz, that he had loved to develop with Pierre, and that had enriched his solitude at Bogutcharovo, and later on in Switzerland and in Rome. Now he dreaded indeed those ideas that had then opened to him boundless vistas of light. Now he was occupied only with the most practical interests lying close at hand, and in no way associated with those old ideals. He clutched at these new interests the more eagerly the more the old ideals were hidden from him. It was as though the infinite, fathomless arch of heaven that had once stood over him had been suddenly transformed into a low, limited vault weighing upon him, with everything in it clear, but nothing eternal and mysterious.

Of the pursuits that presented themselves, military service was the simplest and the most familiar to him. He performed the duties of a general on duty on Kutuzov's staff with zeal and perseverance, surprising Kutuzov by his eagerness for work and his conscientiousness. When he missed Kuragin in Turkey, Prince Andrey did not feel it necessary to gallop back to Russia in search of him. Yet in spite of all his contempt for Kuragin, in spite of all the arguments by which he sought to persuade himself that Kuragin was not worth his stooping to quarrel with him, he knew that whatever length of time might elapse, when he did meet him, he would be unable to help challenging him as a starving man cannot help rushing upon food. And the consciousness that the insult was not yet avenged, that his wrath had not been expended, but was still stored up in his heart, poisoned the artificial composure, which Prince Andrey succeeded in obtaining in Turkey in the guise of studiously busy and somewhat ambitious and vain energy.

In 1812, when the news of the war with Napoleon reached Bucharest (where Kutuzov had been fourteen months, spending days and nights together with his Wallachian mistress), Prince Andrey asked to be transferred to the western army. Kutuzov, who was by now sick of Bolkonsky's energy, and felt it a standing reproach to his sloth, was very ready to let him go, and gave him a commission for Barclay de Tolly.

Before joining the army of the west, which was in May encamped at Drissa, Prince Andrey went to Bleak Hills, which was directly in his road, only three versts from the Smolensk high-road. The last three years of Prince Andrey's life had been so full of vicissitudes, he had passed through such changes of thought and feeling, and seen such varied life (he had travelled both in the east and the west), that it struck him as strange and amazing to find at Bleak Hills life going on in precisely the same routine as ever. He rode up the avenue to the stone gates of the house, feeling as though it were the enchanted, sleeping castle. The same sedateness, the same cleanliness, the same silence reigned in the house; there was the same furniture, the same walls, the same sounds, the same smell, and the same timid faces, only a little older. Princess Marya was just the same timid, plain girl, no longer in her first youth, wasting the best years of her life in continual dread and suffering, and getting no benefit or happiness out of her existence. Mademoiselle Bourienne was just the same self-satisfied, coquettish girl, enjoying every moment of her life, and filled with the most joyous hopes for the future. She seemed only to have gained boldness, so Prince Andrey thought. The tutor he had brought back from Switzerland, Dessalle, was wearing a coat of Russian cut, and talked broken Russian to the servants, but he was just the same narrow-minded, cultivated, conscientious, pedantic preceptor. The only physical change apparent in the old prince was the loss of a tooth, that left a gap at the side of his mouth. In character he was the same as ever, only showing even more irritability and scepticism as to everything that happened in the world. Nikolushka was the only one who had changed: he had grown taller, and rosy, and had curly dark hair. When he was merry and laughing, he unconsciously lifted the upper lip of his pretty little mouth, just as his dead mother, the little princess, used to do. He was the only one not in bondage to the law of sameness that reigned in that spellbound sleeping castle. But though externally all was exactly as of old, the inner relations of all the persons concerned had changed since Prince Andrey had seen them last. The household was split up into two hostile camps, which held aloof from one another, and only now came together in his presence, abandoning their ordinary habits on his account. To one camp belonged the old prince, Mademoiselle Bourienne, and the architect; to the other—Princess Marya, Dessalle, Nikolushka, and all the nurses.

During his stay at Bleak Hills all the family dined together, but every one was ill at ease, and Prince Andrey felt that he was being treated as a guest for whom an exception was being made, and that his presence made all of them feel awkward. The first day Prince Andrey could not help being aware of this at dinner, and sat in silence. The old prince noticed his unnatural dumbness, and he, too, preserved a sullen silence, and immediately after dinner withdrew to his own room. Later in the evening when Prince Andrey went in to him, and began telling him about the campaign of the young Prince Kamensky to try and rouse him, the old prince, to his surprise, began talking about Princess Marya, grumbling at her superstitiousness, and her dislike of Mademoiselle Bourienne, who was, he said, the only person really attached to him.

The old prince declared that it was all Princess Marya's doing if he were ill; that she plagued and worried him on purpose, and that she was spoiling little Prince Nikolay by the way she petted him, and the silly tales she told him. The old prince knew very well that he tormented his daughter, and that her life was a very hard one. But he knew, too, that he could not help tormenting her, and considered that she deserved it. “Why is it Andrey, who sees it, says nothing about his sister?” the old prince wondered. “Why, does he suppose I'm a scoundrel or an old fool to be alienated from my daughter and friendly with this Frenchwoman for no good reason? He doesn't understand, and so I must explain it to him; he must hear what I have to say about it,” thought the old prince, and so he began to explain the reason why he could not put up with his daughter's unreasonable character.

“If you ask me,” said Prince Andrey, not looking at his father (it was the first time in his life that he had blamed his father), “I did not wish to speak of it—but, if you ask me, I'll tell you my opinion frankly in regard to the whole matter. If there is any misunderstanding and estrangement between you and Masha, I can't blame her for it—I know how she loves and respects you. If you ask me,” Prince Andrey continued, losing his temper, as he very readily did in these latter days, “I can only say one thing; if there are misunderstandings, the cause of them is that worthless woman, who is not fit to be my sister's companion.”

The old man stared for a moment at his son, and a forced smile revealed the loss of a tooth, to which Prince Andrey could not get accustomed, in his face.

“What companion, my dear fellow? Eh! So you've talked it over already! Eh?”

“Father, I had no wish to judge you,” said Prince Andrey, in a hard and spiteful tone, “but you have provoked me, and I have said, and shall always say, that Marie is not to blame, but the people to blame—the person to blame—is that Frenchwoman …”

“Ah, he has passed judgment! … he has passed judgment!” said the old man, in a low voice, and Prince Andrey fancied, with embarrassment. But immediately after he leapt up and screamed, “Go away, go away! Let me never set eyes on you again! …”

Prince Andrey would have set off at once, but Princess Marya begged him to stay one day more. During that day Prince Andrey did not see his father, who never left his room, and admitted no one to see him but Mademoiselle Bourienne and Tihon, from which he inquired several times whether his son had gone. The following day before starting, Prince Andrey went to the part of the house where his son was to be found. The sturdy little boy, with curls like his mother's, sat on his knee. Prince Andrey began telling him the story of Bluebeard, but he sank into dreamy meditation before he had finished the story. He was not thinking of the pretty boy, his child, even while he held him on his knee; he was thinking of himself. He sought and was horrified not to find in himself either remorse for having provoked his father's anger, or regret at leaving home (for the first time in his life) on bad terms with him. What meant still more to him was that he could not detect in himself a trace of the tender affection he had once felt for his boy, and had hoped to revive in his heart, when he petted the child and put him on his knee.

“Come, tell me the rest,” said the boy. Prince Andrey took him off his knee without answering, and went out of the room.

As soon as Prince Andrey gave up his daily pursuits, especially to return to the old surroundings in which he had been when he was happy, weariness of life seized upon him as intensely as ever, and he made haste to escape from these memories, and to find some work to do as quickly as possible.

“Are you really going, Andrey?” his sister said to him.

“Thank God that I can go,” said Prince Andrey. “I am very sorry you can't too.”

“What makes you say that?” said Princess Marya. “How can you say that when you are going to this awful war, and he is so old? Mademoiselle Bourienne told me he keeps asking about you.…” As soon as she spoke of that, her lips quivered, and tears began to fall. Prince Andrey turned away and began walking up and down the room.

“Ah, my God! my God!” he said. “And to think what and who—what scum can be the cause of misery to people!” he said with a malignance that terrified Princess Marya.

She felt that when he uttered the word “scum,” he was thinking not only of Mademoiselle Bourienne, who was the cause of her misery, but also of the man who had ruined his own happiness. “Andrey, one thing I beg, I beseech of you,” she said, touching his elbow and looking at him with eyes that shone through her tears. “I understand you.” (Princess Marya dropped her eyes.) “Don't imagine that sorrow is the work of men. Men are His instruments.” She glanced upwards a little above Prince Andrey's head with the confident, accustomed glance with which one looks towards a familiar portrait. “Sorrow is sent by Him, and not by men. Men are the instrument of His will, they are not to blame. If it seems to you that some one has wronged you—forget it, and forgive. We have no right to punish. And you will know the happiness of forgiveness.”

“If I were a woman, I would, Marie. That's woman's virtue. But a man must not, and cannot, forgive and forget,” he said, and though till that minute he had not been thinking of Kuragin, all his unsatisfied revenge rose up again in his heart. “If Marie is beginning to persuade me to forgive, it means that I ought long ago to have punished him,” he thought.

And making no further reply to Princess Marya, he began dreaming now of the happy moment of satisfied hate when he would meet Kuragin. He knew he was with the army.

Princess Marya besought her brother to stay another day, telling him how wretched her father would be, she knew, if Andrey went away without being reconciled to him. But Prince Andrey answered that he would probably soon be back from the army, that he would certainly write to his father, and that their quarrel would only be more embittered by his staying longer now. “Remember that misfortunes come from God, and that men are never to blame,” were the last words he heard from his sister, as he said good-bye to her.

“So it must be so!” thought Prince Andrey, as he drove out of the avenue. “She, poor innocent creature, is left to be victimised by an old man, who has outlived his wits. The old man feels he is wrong, but he can't help himself. My boy is growing up and enjoying life in which he will be deceived or deceiving like every one else. I am going to the army—what for? I don't know myself; and I want to meet that man whom I despise, so as to give him a chance to kill me and sneer at me!” All the conditions of life had been the same before, but before they had all seemed to him coherent, and now they had all fallen apart. Life seemed to Prince Andrey a series of senseless phenomena following one another without any connection.

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