War and Peace
The only young people remaining in the drawing room, not counting
the young lady visitor and the countess' eldest daughter (who was four
years older than her sister and behaved already like a grown-up
person), were Nicholas and Sonya, the niece. Sonya was a slender
little brunette with a tender look in her eyes which were veiled by
long lashes, thick black plaits coiling twice round her head, and a
tawny tint in her complexion and especially in the color of her
slender but graceful and muscular arms and neck. By the grace of her
movements, by the softness and flexibility of her small limbs, and
by a certain coyness and reserve of manner, she reminded one of a
pretty, half-grown kitten which promises to become a beautiful
little cat. She evidently considered it proper to show an interest
in the general conversation by smiling, but in spite of herself her
eyes under their thick long lashes watched her cousin who was going to
join the army, with such passionate girlish adoration that her smile
could not for a single instant impose upon anyone, and it was clear
that the kitten had settled down only to spring up with more energy
and again play with her cousin as soon as they too could, like Natasha
and Boris, escape from the drawing room.
"Ah yes, my dear," said the count, addressing the visitor and
pointing to Nicholas, "his friend Boris has become an officer, and
so for friendship's sake he is leaving the university and me, his
old father, and entering the military service, my dear. And there
was a place and everything waiting for him in the Archives Department!
Isn't that friendship?" remarked the count in an inquiring tone.
"But they say that war has been declared," replied the visitor.
"They've been saying so a long while," said the count, "and
they'll say so again and again, and that will be the end of it. My
dear, there's friendship for you," he repeated. "He's joining the
The visitor, not knowing what to say, shook her head.
"It's not at all from friendship," declared Nicholas, flaring up and
turning away as if from a shameful aspersion. "It is not from
friendship at all; I simply feel that the army is my vocation."
He glanced at his cousin and the young lady visitor; and they were
both regarding him with a smile of approbation.
"Schubert, the colonel of the Pavlograd Hussars, is dining with us
today. He has been here on leave and is taking Nicholas back with him.
It can't be helped!" said the count, shrugging his shoulders and
speaking playfully of a matter that evidently distressed him.
"I have already told you, Papa," said his son, "that if you don't
wish to let me go, I'll stay. But I know I am no use anywhere except
in the army; I am not a diplomat or a government clerk.- I don't
know how to hide what I feel." As he spoke he kept glancing with the
flirtatiousness of a handsome youth at Sonya and the young lady
The little kitten, feasting her eyes on him, seemed ready at any
moment to start her gambols again and display her kittenish nature.
"All right, all right!" said the old count. "He always flares up!
This Buonaparte has turned all their heads; they all think of how he
rose from an ensign and became Emperor. Well, well, God grant it,"
he added, not noticing his visitor's sarcastic smile.
The elders began talking about Bonaparte. Julie Karagina turned to
"What a pity you weren't at the Arkharovs' on Thursday. It was so
dull without you," said she, giving him a tender smile.
The young man, flattered, sat down nearer to her with a coquettish
smile, and engaged the smiling Julie in a confidential conversation
without at all noticing that his involuntary smile had stabbed the
heart of Sonya, who blushed and smiled unnaturally. In the midst of
his talk he glanced round at her. She gave him a passionately angry
glance, and hardly able to restrain her tears and maintain the
artificial smile on her lips, she got up and left the room. All
Nicholas' animation vanished. He waited for the first pause in the
conversation, and then with a distressed face left the room to find
"How plainly all these young people wear their hearts on their
sleeves!" said Anna Mikhaylovna, pointing to Nicholas as he went
out. "Cousinage- dangereux voisinage;" * she added.
* Cousinhood is a dangerous neighborhood.
"Yes," said the countess when the brightness these young people
had brought into the room had vanished; and as if answering a question
no one had put but which was always in her mind, "and how much
suffering, how much anxiety one has had to go through that we might
rejoice in them now! And yet really the anxiety is greater now than
the joy. One is always, always anxious! Especially just at this age,
so dangerous both for girls and boys."
"It all depends on the bringing up," remarked the visitor.
"Yes, you're quite right," continued the countess. "Till now I
have always, thank God, been my children's friend and had their full
confidence," said she, repeating the mistake of so many parents who
imagine that their children have no secrets from them. "I know I shall
always be my daughters' first confidante, and that if Nicholas, with
his impulsive nature, does get into mischief (a boy can't help it), he
will all the same never be like those Petersburg young men."
"Yes, they are splendid, splendid youngsters," chimed in the
count, who always solved questions that seemed to him perplexing by
deciding that everything was splendid. "Just fancy: wants to be an
hussar. What's one to do, my dear?"
"What a charming creature your younger girl is," said the visitor;
"a little volcano!"
"Yes, a regular volcano," said the count. "Takes after me! And
what a voice she has; though she's my daughter, I tell the truth
when I say she'll be a singer, a second Salomoni! We have engaged an
Italian to give her lessons."
"Isn't she too young? I have heard that it harms the voice to
train it at that age."
"Oh no, not at all too young!" replied the count. "Why, our
mothers used to be married at twelve or thirteen."
"And she's in love with Boris already. Just fancy!" said the
countess with a gentle smile, looking at Boris' and went on, evidently
concerned with a thought that always occupied her: "Now you see if I
were to be severe with her and to forbid it... goodness knows what
they might be up to on the sly" (she meant that they would be
kissing), "but as it is, I know every word she utters. She will come
running to me of her own accord in the evening and tell me everything.
Perhaps I spoil her, but really that seems the best plan. With her
elder sister I was stricter."
"Yes, I was brought up quite differently," remarked the handsome
elder daughter, Countess Vera, with a smile.
But the smile did not enhance Vera's beauty as smiles generally
do; on the contrary it gave her an unnatural, and therefore
unpleasant, expression. Vera was good-looking, not at all stupid,
quick at learning, was well brought up, and had a pleasant voice; what
she said was true and appropriate, yet, strange to say, everyone-
the visitors and countess alike- turned to look at her as if wondering
why she had said it, and they all felt awkward.
"People are always too clever with their eldest children and try
to make something exceptional of them," said the visitor.
"What's the good of denying it, my dear? Our dear countess was too
clever with Vera," said the count. "Well, what of that? She's turned
out splendidly all the same," he added, winking at Vera.
The guests got up and took their leave, promising to return to
"What manners! I thought they would never go," said the countess,
when she had seen her guests out.
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