War And Peace

CHAPTER XVII

Chinese

BY TWO O'CLOCK the Rostovs' four carriages, packed and ready to start, stood in the approach. The waggon-loads of wounded were filing one after another out of the yard.

The coach in which Prince Andrey was being taken drove by the front door, and attracted the attention of Sonya, who was helping a maid to arrange the countess's seat comfortably in her huge, high carriage.

“Whose carriage is that?” asked Sonya, popping her head out of the carriage window.

“Why, haven't you heard, miss?” answered the maid. “The wounded prince; he stayed the night in the house, and is going on with us.”

“Oh, who is he? what's his name?”

“Our betrothed that was … Prince Bolkonsky himself!” answered the maid, sighing. “They say he is dying.”

Sonya jumped out of the carriage and ran in to the countess. The countess, dressed for the journey, in her hat and shawl, was walking wearily about the drawing-room, waiting for the rest of the household to come in and sit down with closed doors, for the usual silent prayer before setting out. Natasha was not in the room.

“Mamma,” said Sonya. “Prince Andrey is here, wounded and dying; He is going with us.”

The countess opened her eyes in dismay, and clutching Sonya's arm, looked about her.

“Natasha,” she said.

Both to Sonya and the countess this news had for the first moment but one significance. They knew their Natasha, and alarm at the thought of the effect the news might have on her outweighed all sympathy for the man, though they both liked him.

“Natasha does not know yet, but he is going with us,” said Sonya.

“You say he is dying?”

Sonya nodded.

The countess embraced Sonya and burst into tears. “The ways of the Lord are past our finding out!” she thought, feeling that in all that was passing now the Hand of the Almighty, hitherto unseen, was beginning to be manifest.

“Well, mamma, it's all ready. What is it? …” asked Natasha, running with her eager face into the room.

“Nothing,” said the countess. “If we're ready, then do let us start.” And the countess bent over her reticule to hide her agitated face. Sonya embraced Natasha and kissed her.

Natasha looked inquisitively at her.

“What is it? What has happened?”

“Nothing, … oh, no, …”

“Something very bad, concerning me? … What is it?” asked the keen-witted Natasha.

Sonya sighed, and made no reply. The count, Petya, Madame Schoss, Mavra Kuzminishna, and Vassilitch came into the drawing-room; and closing the doors, they all sat down, and sat so in silence, without looking at each other for several seconds.

The count was the first to get up. With a loud sigh he crossed himself before the holy picture. All the others did the same. Then the count proceeded to embrace Mavra Kuzminishna and Vassilitch, who were to remain in Moscow; and while they caught at his hand and kissed his shoulder, he patted them on the back with vaguely affectionate and reassuring phrases. The countess went off to the little chapel, and Sonya found her there on her knees before the holy pictures, that were still left here and there on the walls. All the holy pictures most precious through association with the traditions of the family were being taken with them.

In the porch and in the yard the servants who were going—all of whom had been armed with swords and daggers by Petya—with their trousers tucked in their boots, and their sashes or leather belts tightly braced, took leave of those who were left behind.

As is invariably the case at starting on a journey, a great many things were found to have been forgotten, or packed in the wrong place; and two grooms were kept a long while standing, one each side of the open carriage door, ready to help the countess up the carriage steps, while maids were flying with pillows and bags from the house to the carriages, the coach, and the covered gig, and back again.

“They will always forget everything as long as they live!” said the countess. “You know that I can't sit like that.” And Dunyasha, with clenched teeth and an aggrieved look on her face, rushed to the carriage to arrange the cushions again without a word.

“Ah, those servants,” said the count, shaking his head.

The old coachman Efim, the only one whom the countess could trust to drive her, sat perched up on the box, and did not even look round at what was passing behind him. His thirty years' experience had taught him that it would be some time yet before they would say, “Now, in God's name, start!” and that when they had said it, they would stop him at least twice again to send back for things that had been forgotten; and after that he would have to pull up once more for the countess herself to put her head out of window and beg him, for Christ's sake, to drive carefully downhill. He knew this, and therefore awaited what was to come with more patience than his horses, especially the left one, the chestnut Falcon, who was continually pawing the ground and champing at the bit. At last all were seated; the carriage steps were pulled up, and the door slammed, and the forgotten travelling-case had been sent for and the countess had popped her head out and given the usual injunctions. Then Efim deliberately took his hat off and began crossing himself. The postillion and all the servants did the same.

“With God's blessing!” said Efim, putting his hat on. “Off!” The postillion started his horse. The right-shaft horse began to pull, the high springs creaked, and the carriage swayed. The footman jumped up on the box while it was moving. The carriage jolted as it drove out of the yard on to the uneven pavement; the other vehicles jolted in the same way as they followed in a procession up the street. All the occupants of the carriages, the coach and the covered gig, crossed themselves on seeing the church opposite. The servants, who were staying in Moscow, walked along on both sides of the carriages to see them off.

Natasha had rarely felt such a joyful sensation as she experienced at that moment sitting in the carriage by the countess and watching, as they slowly moved by her, the walls of forsaken, agitated Moscow. Now and then she put her head out of the carriage window and looked back, and then in front of the long train of waggons full of wounded soldiers preceding them. Foremost of them all she could see Prince Andrey's closed carriage. She did not know who was in it, and every time she took stock of the procession of waggons she looked out for that coach. She knew it would be the foremost. In Kudrino and from Nikitsky Street, from Pryesny, and from Podnovinsky several trains of vehicles, similar to the Rostovs', came driving out, and by the time they reached Sadovoy Street the carriages and carts were two deep all along the road.

As they turned round Suharev Tower, Natasha, who was quickly and inquisitively scrutinising the crowd driving and walking by, uttered a cry of delight and surprise:

“Good Heavens! Mamma, Sonya, look; it's he!”

“Who? who?”

“Look, do look! Bezuhov,” said Natasha, putting her head out of the carriage window and staring at a tall, stout man in a coachman's long coat, obviously a gentleman disguised, from his carriage and gait. He was passing under the arch of the Suharev Tower beside a yellow-looking, beardless, little old man in a frieze cloak.

“Only fancy! Bezuhov in a coachman's coat, with a queer sort of old-looking boy,” said Natasha. “Do look; do look!”

“No, it's not he. How can you be so absurd!”

“Mamma,” cried Natasha. “On my word of honour, I assure you, it is he. Stop, stop,” she shouted to the coachman; but the coachman could not stop, because more carts and carriages were coming out of Myeshtchansky Street, and people were shouting at the Rostovs to move on, and not to keep the rest of the traffic waiting.

All the Rostovs did, however, though now at a much greater distance, see Pierre, or a man extraordinarily like him, wearing a coachman's coat, and walking along the street with bent head and a serious face beside a little, beardless old man, who looked like a footman. This old man noticed a face poked out of the carriage window staring at them, and respectfully touching Pierre's elbow, he said something to him, pointing towards the carriage. It was some time before Pierre understood what he was saying; he was evidently deeply absorbed in his own thoughts. At last he looked in the direction indicated, and recognising Natasha, he moved instantly towards the carriage, as though yielding to the first impulse. But after taking a dozen steps towards it, he stopped short, apparently recollecting something. Natasha's head beamed out of the carriage window with friendly mockery.

“Pyotr Kirillitch, come here! We recognized you, you see! It's a wonder!” she cried, stretching out a hand to him. “How is it? Why are you like this?”

Pierre took her outstretched hand, and awkwardly kissed it as he ran beside the still moving carriage.

“What has happened, count?” the countess asked him, in a surprised and commiserating tone.

“Eh? Why? Don't ask me,” said Pierre, and he looked up at Natasha, the charm of whose radiant, joyous eyes he felt upon him without looking at her.

“What are you doing, or are you staying in Moscow?”

Pierre was silent.

“In Moscow?” he queried. “Yes, in Moscow. Good-bye.”

“Oh, how I wish I were a man, I would stay with you. Ah, how splendid that is!” said Natasha. “Mamma, do let me stay.”

Pierre looked absently at Natasha, and was about to say something, but the countess interrupted him.

“You were at the battle, we have been told.”

“Yes, I was there,” answered Pierre. “To-morrow there will be a battle again …” he was beginning, but Natasha interposed:

“But what is the matter, count? You are not like yourself …”

“Oh, don't ask me, don't ask me, I don't know myself. To-morrow … No! Good-bye; good-bye,” he said; “it's an awful time!” And he left the carriage and walked away to the pavement.

For a long while Natasha's head was still thrust out of the carriage window, and she beamed at him with a kindly and rather mocking, joyous smile.

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