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War and Peace

At Bald Hills, Prince Nicholas Andreevich Bolkonski's estate, the arrival of young Prince Andrew and his wife was daily expected, but this expectation did not upset the regular routine of life in the old prince's household. General in Chief Prince Nicholas Andreevich (nicknamed in society, "the King of Prussia") ever since the Emperor Paul had exiled him to his country estate had lived there continuously with his daughter, Princess Mary, and her companion, Mademoiselle Bourienne. Though in the new reign he was free to return to the capitals, he still continued to live in the country, remarking that anyone who wanted to see him could come the hundred miles from Moscow to Bald Hills, while he himself needed no one and nothing. He used to say that there are only two sources of human vice- idleness and superstition, and only two virtues- activity and intelligence. He himself undertook his daughter's education, and to develop these two cardinal virtues in her gave her lessons in algebra and geometry till she was twenty, and arranged her life so that her whole time was occupied. He was himself always occupied: writing his memoirs, solving problems in higher mathematics, turning snuffboxes on a lathe, working in the garden, or superintending the building that was always going on at his estate. As regularity is a prime condition facilitating activity, regularity in his household was carried to the highest point of exactitude. He always came to table under precisely the same conditions, and not only at the same hour but at the same minute. With those about him, from his daughter to his serfs, the prince was sharp and invariably exacting, so that without being a hardhearted man he inspired such fear and respect as few hardhearted men would have aroused. Although he was in retirement and had now no influence in political affairs, every high official appointed to the province in which the prince's estate lay considered it his duty to visit him and waited in the lofty antechamber ante chamber just as the architect, gardener, or Princess Mary did, till the prince appeared punctually to the appointed hour. Everyone sitting in this antechamber experienced the same feeling of respect and even fear when the enormously high study door opened and showed the figure of a rather small old man, with powdered wig, small withered hands, and bushy gray eyebrows which, when he frowned, sometimes hid the gleam of his shrewd, youthfully glittering eyes.

On the morning of the day that the young couple were to arrive, Princess Mary entered the antechamber as usual at the time appointed for the morning greeting, crossing herself with trepidation and repeating a silent prayer. Every morning she came in like that, and every morning prayed that the daily interview might pass off well.

An old powdered manservant who was sitting in the antechamber rose quietly and said in a whisper: "Please walk in."

Through the door came the regular hum of a lathe. The princess timidly opened the door which moved noiselessly and easily. She paused at the entrance. The prince was working at the lathe and after glancing round continued his work.

The enormous study was full of things evidently in constant use. The large table covered with books and plans, the tall glass-fronted bookcases with keys in the locks, the high desk for writing while standing up, on which lay an open exercise book, and the lathe with tools laid ready to hand and shavings scattered around- all indicated continuous, varied, and orderly activity. The motion of the small foot shod in a Tartar boot embroidered with silver, and the firm pressure of the lean sinewy hand, showed that the prince still possessed the tenacious endurance and vigor of hardy old age. After a few more turns of the lathe he removed his foot from the pedal, wiped his chisel, dropped it into a leather pouch attached to the lathe, and, approaching the table, summoned his daughter. He never gave his children a blessing, so he simply held out his bristly cheek (as yet unshaven) and, regarding her tenderly and attentively, said severely:

"Quite well? All right then, sit down." He took the exercise book containing lessons in geometry written by himself and drew up a chair with his foot.

"For tomorrow!" said he, quickly finding the page and making a scratch from one paragraph to another with his hard nail.

The princess bent over the exercise book on the table.

"Wait a bit, here's a letter for you," said the old man suddenly, taking a letter addressed in a woman's hand from a bag hanging above the table, onto which he threw it.

At the sight of the letter red patches showed themselves on the princess' face. She took it quickly and bent her head over it.

"From Heloise?" asked the prince with a cold smile that showed his still sound, yellowish teeth.

"Yes, it's from Julie," replied the princess with a timid glance and a timid smile.

"I'll let two more letters pass, but the third I'll read," said the prince sternly; "I'm afraid you write much nonsense. I'll read the third!"

"Read this if you like, Father," said the princess, blushing still more and holding out the letter.

"The third, I said the third!" cried the prince abruptly, pushing the letter away, and leaning his elbows on the table he drew toward him the exercise book containing geometrical figures.

"Well, madam," he began, stooping over the book close to his daughter and placing an arm on the back of the chair on which she sat, so that she felt herself surrounded on all sides by the acrid scent of old age and tobacco, which she had known so long. "Now, madam, these triangles are equal; please note that the angle ABC..."

The princess looked in a scared way at her father's eyes glittering close to her; the red patches on her face came and went, and it was plain that she understood nothing and was so frightened that her fear would prevent her understanding any of her father's further explanations, however clear they might be. Whether it was the teacher's fault or the pupil's, this same thing happened every day: the princess' eyes grew dim, she could not see and could not hear anything, but was only conscious of her stern father's withered face close to her, of his breath and the smell of him, and could think only of how to get away quickly to her own room to make out the problem in peace. The old man was beside himself: moved the chair on which he was sitting noisily backward and forward, made efforts to control himself and not become vehement, but almost always did become vehement, scolded, and sometimes flung the exercise book away.

The princess gave a wrong answer.

"Well now, isn't she a fool!" shouted the prince, pushing the book aside and turning sharply away; but rising immediately, he paced up and down, lightly touched his daughter's hair and sat down again.

He drew up his chair. and continued to explain.

"This won't do, Princess; it won't do," said he, when Princess Mary, having taken and closed the exercise book with the next day's lesson, was about to leave: "Mathematics are most important, madam! I don't want to have you like our silly ladies. Get used to it and you'll like it," and he patted her cheek. "It will drive all the nonsense out of your head."

She turned to go, but he stopped her with a gesture and took an uncut book from the high desk.

"Here is some sort of Key to the Mysteries that your Heloise has sent you. Religious! I don't interfere with anyone's belief... I have looked at it. Take it. Well, now go. Go."

He patted her on the shoulder and himself closed the door after her.

Princess Mary went back to her room with the sad, scared expression that rarely left her and which made her plain, sickly face yet plainer. She sat down at her writing table, on which stood miniature portraits and which was littered with books and papers. The princess was as untidy as her father was tidy. She put down the geometry book and eagerly broke the seal of her letter. It was from her most intimate friend from childhood; that same Julie Karagina who had been at the Rostovs' name-day party.

Julie wrote in French:

Dear and precious Friend, How terrible and frightful a thing is
separation! Though I tell myself that half my life and half my
happiness are wrapped up in you, and that in spite of the distance
separating us our hearts are united by indissoluble bonds, my heart
rebels against fate and in spite of the pleasures and distractions
around me I cannot overcome a certain secret sorrow that has been in
my heart ever since we parted. Why are we not together as we were last
summer, in your big study, on the blue sofa, the confidential sofa?
Why cannot I now, as three months ago, draw fresh moral strength
from your look, so gentle, calm, and penetrating, a look I loved so
well and seem to see before me as I write?

Having read thus far, Princess Mary sighed and glanced into the mirror which stood on her right. It reflected a weak, ungraceful figure and thin face. Her eyes, always sad, now looked with particular hopelessness at her reflection in the glass. "She flatters me," thought the princess, turning away and continuing to read. But Julie did not flatter her friend, the princess' eyes- large, deep and luminous (it seemed as if at times there radiated from them shafts of warm light)- were so beautiful that very often in spite of the plainness of her face they gave her an attraction more powerful than that of beauty. But the princess never saw the beautiful expression of her own eyes- the look they had when she was not thinking of herself. As with everyone, her face assumed a forced unnatural expression as soon as she looked in a glass. She went on reading:

     All Moscow talks of nothing but war. One of my two brothers is
already abroad, the other is with the Guards, who are starting on
their march to the frontier. Our dear Emperor has left Petersburg
and it is thought intends to expose his precious person to the chances
of war. God grant that the Corsican monster who is destroying the
peace of Europe may be overthrown by the angel whom it has pleased the
Almighty, in His goodness, to give us as sovereign! To say nothing
of my brothers, this war has deprived me of one of the associations
nearest my heart. I mean young Nicholas Rostov, who with his
enthusiasm could not bear to remain inactive and has left the
university to join the army. I will confess to you, dear Mary, that in
spite of his extreme youth his departure for the army was a great
grief to me. This young man, of whom I spoke to you last summer, is so
noble-minded and full of that real youthfulness which one seldom finds
nowadays among our old men of twenty and, particularly, he is so frank
and has so much heart. He is so pure and poetic that my relations with
him, transient as they were, have been one of the sweetest comforts to
my poor heart, which has already suffered so much. Someday I will tell
you about our parting and all that was said then. That is still too
fresh. Ah, dear friend, you are happy not to know these poignant
joys and sorrows. You are fortunate, for the latter are generally
the stronger! I know very well that Count Nicholas is too young ever
to be more to me than a friend, but this sweet friendship, this poetic
and pure intimacy, were what my heart needed. But enough of this!
The chief news, about which all Moscow gossips, is the death of old
Count Bezukhov, and his inheritance. Fancy! The three princesses
have received very little, Prince Vasili nothing, and it is Monsieur
Pierre who has inherited all the property and has besides been
recognized as legitimate; so that he is now Count Bezukhov and
possessor of the finest fortune in Russia. It is rumored that Prince
Vasili played a very despicable part in this affair and that he
returned to Petersburg quite crestfallen.
     I confess I understand very little about all these matters of
wills and inheritance; but I do know that since this young man, whom
we all used to know as plain Monsieur Pierre, has become Count
Bezukhov and the owner of one of the largest fortunes in Russia, I
am much amused to watch the change in the tone and manners of the
mammas burdened by marriageable daughters, and of the young ladies
themselves, toward him, though, between you and me, he always seemed
to me a poor sort of fellow. As for the past two years people have
amused themselves by finding husbands for me (most of whom I don't
even know), the matchmaking chronicles of Moscow now speak of me as
the future Countess Bezukhova. But you will understand that I have
no desire for the post. A propos of marriages: do you know that a
while ago that universal auntie Anna Mikhaylovna told me, under the
seal of strict secrecy, of a plan of marriage for you. It is neither
more nor less than with Prince Vasili's son Anatole, whom they wish to
reform by marrying him to someone rich and distinguee, and it is on
you that his relations' choice has fallen. I don't know what you
will think of it, but I consider it my duty to let you know of it.
He is said to be very handsome and a terrible scapegrace. That is
all I have been able to find out about him.
     But enough of gossip. I am at the end of my second sheet of paper,
and Mamma has sent for me to go and dine at the Apraksins'. Read the
mystical book I am sending you; it has an enormous success here.
Though there are things in it difficult for the feeble human mind to
grasp, it is an admirable book which calms and elevates the soul.
Adieu! Give my respects to monsieur your father and my compliments
to Mademoiselle Bourienne. I embrace you as I love you.

P.S. Let me have news of your brother and his charming little wife.

The princess pondered awhile with a thoughtful smile and her luminous eyes lit up so that her face was entirely transformed. Then she suddenly rose and with her heavy tread went up to the table. She took a sheet of paper and her hand moved rapidly over it. This is the reply she wrote, also in French:

Dear and precious Friend, Your letter of the 13th has given me great
delight. So you still love me, my romantic Julie? Separation, of which
you say so much that is bad, does not seem to have had its usual
effect on you. You complain of our separation. What then should I say,
if I dared complain, I who am deprived of all who are dear to me?
Ah, if we had not religion to console us life would be very sad. Why
do you suppose that I should look severely on your affection for
that young man? On such matters I am only severe with myself. I
understand such feelings in others, and if never having felt them I
cannot approve of them, neither do I condemn them. Only it seems to me
that Christian love, love of one's neighbor, love of one's enemy, is
worthier, sweeter, and better than the feelings which the beautiful
eyes of a young man can inspire in a romantic and loving young girl
like yourself.
     The news of Count Bezukhov's death reached us before your letter and
my father was much affected by it. He says the count was the last
representative but one of the great century, and that it is his own
turn now, but that he will do all he can to let his turn come as
late as possible. God preserve us from that terrible misfortune!
     I cannot agree with you about Pierre, whom I knew as a child. He
always seemed to me to have an excellent heart, and that is the
quality I value most in people. As to his inheritance and the part
played by Prince Vasili, it is very sad for both. Ah, my dear
friend, our divine Saviour's words, that it is easier for a camel to
go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
Kingdom of God, are terribly true. I pity Prince Vasili but am still
more sorry for Pierre. So young, and burdened with such riches- to
what temptations he will be exposed! If I were asked what I desire
most on earth, it would be to be poorer than the poorest beggar. A
thousand thanks, dear friend, for the volume you have sent me and
which has such success in Moscow. Yet since you tell me that among
some good things it contains others which our weak human understanding
cannot grasp, it seems to me rather useless to spend time in reading
what is unintelligible and can therefore bear no fruit. I never
could understand the fondness some people have for confusing their
minds by dwelling on mystical books that merely awaken their doubts
and excite their imagination, giving them a bent for exaggeration
quite contrary to Christian simplicity. Let us rather read the
Epistles and Gospels. Let us not seek to penetrate what mysteries they
contain; for how can we, miserable sinners that we are, know the
terrible and holy secrets of Providence while we remain in this
flesh which forms an impenetrable veil between us and the Eternal? Let
us rather confine ourselves to studying those sublime rules which
our divine Saviour has left for our guidance here below. Let us try to
conform to them and follow them, and let us be persuaded that the less
we let our feeble human minds roam, the better we shall please God,
who rejects all knowledge that does not come from Him; and the less we
seek to fathom what He has been pleased to conceal from us, the sooner
will He vouchsafe its revelation to us through His divine Spirit.
     My father has not spoken to me of a suitor, but has only told me
that he has received a letter and is expecting a visit from Prince
Vasili. In regard to this project of marriage for me, I will tell you,
dear sweet friend, that I look on marriage as a divine institution
to which we must conform. However painful it may be to me, should
the Almighty lay the duties of wife and wife and mother upon me I
shall try to perform them as faithfully as I can, without
disquieting myself by examining my feelings toward him whom He may
give me for husband.
     I have had a letter from my brother, who announces his speedy
arrival at Bald Hills with his wife. This pleasure will be but a brief
one, however, for he will leave, us again to take part in this unhappy
war into which we have been drawn, God knows how or why. Not only
where you are- at the heart of affairs and of the world- is the talk
all of war, even here amid fieldwork and the calm of nature- which
townsfolk consider characteristic of the country- rumors of war are
heard and painfully felt. My father talks of nothing but marches and
countermarches, things of which I understand nothing; and the day
before yesterday during my daily walk through the village I
witnessed a heartrending scene.... It was a convoy of conscripts
enrolled from our people and starting to join the army. You should
have seen the state of the mothers, wives, and children of the men who
were going and should have heard the sobs. It seems as though
mankind has forgotten the laws of its divine Saviour, Who preached
love and forgiveness of injuries- and that men attribute the
greatest merit to skill in killing one another.

Adieu, dear and kind friend; may our divine Saviour and His most Holy Mother keep you in their holy and all-powerful care!

"Ah, you are sending off a letter, Princess? I have already dispatched mine. I have written to my poor mother," said the smiling Mademoiselle Bourienne rapidly, in her pleasant mellow tones and with guttural r's. She brought into Princess Mary's strenuous, mournful, and gloomy world a quite different atmosphere, careless, lighthearted, and self-satisfied.

"Princess, I must warn you," she added, lowering her voice and evidently listening to herself with pleasure, and speaking with exaggerated grasseyement, "the prince has been scolding Michael Ivanovich. He is in a very bad humor, very morose. Be prepared."

"Ah, dear friend," replied Princess Mary, "I have asked you never to warn me of the humor my father is in. I do not allow myself to judge him and would not have others do so."

The princess glanced at her watch and, seeing that she was five minutes late in starting her practice on the clavichord, went into the sitting room with a look of alarm. Between twelve and two o'clock, as the day was mapped out, the prince rested and the princess played the clavichord.

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