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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 2
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War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 2 Post by :Brian_Kowalczyk Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2706

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 2 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 2

At the beginning of winter Prince Nicholas Bolkonski and his
daughter moved to Moscow. At that time enthusiasm for the Emperor
Alexander's regime had weakened and a patriotic and anti-French
tendency prevailed there, and this, together with his past and his
intellect and his originality, at once made Prince Nicholas
Bolkonski an object of particular respect to the Moscovites and the
center of the Moscow opposition to the government.

The prince had aged very much that year. He showed marked signs of
senility by a tendency to fall asleep, forgetfulness of quite recent
events, remembrance of remote ones, and the childish vanity with which
he accepted the role of head of the Moscow opposition. In spite of
this the old man inspired in all his visitors alike a feeling of
respectful veneration- especially of an evening when he came in to tea
in his old-fashioned coat and powdered wig and, aroused by anyone,
told his abrupt stories of the past, or uttered yet more abrupt and
scathing criticisms of the present. For them all, that old-fashioned
house with its gigantic mirrors, pre-Revolution furniture, powdered
footmen, and the stern shrewd old man (himself a relic of the past
century) with his gentle daughter and the pretty Frenchwoman who
were reverently devoted to him presented a majestic and agreeable
spectacle. But the visitors did not reflect that besides the couple of
hours during which they saw their host, there were also twenty-two
hours in the day during which the private and intimate life of the
house continued.

Latterly that private life had become very trying for Princess Mary.
There in Moscow she was deprived of her greatest pleasures- talks with
the pilgrims and the solitude which refreshed her at Bald Hills- and
she had none of the advantages and pleasures of city life. She did not
go out into society; everyone knew that her father would not let her
go anywhere without him, and his failing health prevented his going
out himself, so that she was not invited to dinners and evening
parties. She had quite abandoned the hope of getting married. She
saw the coldness and malevolence with which the old prince received
and dismissed the young men, possible suitors, who sometimes
appeared at their house. She had no friends: during this visit to
Moscow she had been disappointed in the two who had been nearest to
her. Mademoiselle Bourienne, with whom she had never been able to be
quite frank, had now become unpleasant to her, and for various reasons
Princess Mary avoided her. Julie, with whom she had corresponded for
the last five years, was in Moscow, but proved to be quite alien to
her when they met. Just then Julie, who by the death of her brothers
had become one of the richest heiresses in Moscow, was in the full
whirl of society pleasures. She was surrounded by young men who, she
fancied, had suddenly learned to appreciate her worth. Julie was at
that stage in the life of a society woman when she feels that her last
chance of marrying has come and that her fate must be decided now or
never. On Thursdays Princess Mary remembered with a mournful smile
that she now had no one to write to, since Julie- whose presence
gave her no pleasure was here and they met every week. Like the old
emigre who declined to marry the lady with whom he had spent his
evenings for years, she regretted Julie's presence and having no one
to write to. In Moscow Princess Mary had no one to talk to, no one
to whom to confide her sorrow, and much sorrow fell to her lot just
then. The time for Prince Andrew's return and marriage was
approaching, but his request to her to prepare his father for it had
not been carried out; in fact, it seemed as if matters were quite
hopeless, for at every mention of the young Countess Rostova the old
prince (who apart from that was usually in a bad temper) lost
control of himself. Another lately added sorrow arose from the lessons
she gave her six year-old nephew. To her consternation she detected in
herself in relation to little Nicholas some symptoms of her father's
irritability. However often she told herself that she must not get
irritable when teaching her nephew, almost every time that, pointer in
hand, she sat down to show him the French alphabet, she so longed to
pour her own knowledge quickly and easily into the child- who was
already afraid that Auntie might at any moment get angry- that at
his slightest inattention she trembled, became flustered and heated,
raised her voice, and sometimes pulled him by the arm and put him in
the corner. Having put him in the corner she would herself begin to
cry over her cruel, evil nature, and little Nicholas, following her
example, would sob, and without permission would leave his corner,
come to her, pull her wet hands from her face, and comfort her. But
what distressed the princess most of all was her father's
irritability, which was always directed against her and had of late
amounted to cruelty. Had he forced her to prostrate herself to the
ground all night, had he beaten her or made her fetch wood or water,
it would never have entered her mind to think her position hard; but
this loving despot- the more cruel because he loved her and for that
reason tormented himself and her- knew how not merely to hurt and
humiliate her deliberately, but to show her that she was always to
blame for everything. Of late he had exhibited a new trait that
tormented Princess Mary more than anything else; this was his
ever-increasing intimacy with Mademoiselle Bourienne. The idea that at
the first moment of receiving the news of his son's intentions had
occurred to him in jest- that if Andrew got married he himself would
marry Bourienne- had evidently pleased him, and latterly he had
persistently, and as it seemed to Princess Mary merely to offend
her, shown special endearments to the companion and expressed his
dissatisfaction with his daughter by demonstrations of love of
Bourienne.

One day in Moscow in Princess Mary's presence (she thought her
father did it purposely when she was there) the old prince kissed
Mademoiselle Bourienne's hand and, drawing her to him, embraced her
affectionately. Princess Mary flushed and ran out of the room. A few
minutes later Mademoiselle Bourienne came into Princess Mary's room
smiling and making cheerful remarks in her agreeable voice. Princess
Mary hastily wiped away her tears, went resolutely up to
Mademoiselle Bourienne, and evidently unconscious of what she was
doing began shouting in angry haste at the Frenchwoman, her voice
breaking: "It's horrible, vile, inhuman, to take advantage of the
weakness..." She did not finish. "Leave my room," she exclaimed, and
burst into sobs.

Next day the prince did not say a word to his daughter, but she
noticed that at dinner he gave orders that Mademoiselle Bourienne
should be served first. After dinner, when the footman handed coffee
and from habit began with the princess, the prince suddenly grew
furious, threw his stick at Philip, and instantly gave instructions to
have him conscripted for the army.

"He doesn't obey... I said it twice... and he doesn't obey! She is
the first person in this house; she's my best friend," cried the
prince. "And if you allow yourself," he screamed in a fury, addressing
Princess Mary for the first time, "to forget yourself again before her
as you dared to do yesterday, I will show you who is master in this
house. Go! Don't let me set eyes on you; beg her pardon!"

Princess Mary asked Mademoiselle Bourienne's pardon, and also her
father's pardon for herself and for Philip the footman, who had begged
for her intervention.

At such moments something like a pride of sacrifice gathered in
her soul. And suddenly that father whom she had judged would look
for his spectacles in her presence, fumbling near them and not
seeing them, or would forget something that had just occurred, or take
a false step with his failing legs and turn to see if anyone had
noticed his feebleness, or, worst of all, at dinner when there were no
visitors to excite him would suddenly fall asleep, letting his
napkin drop and his shaking head sink over his plate. "He is old and
feeble, and I dare to condemn him!" she thought at such moments,
with a feeling of revulsion against herself.

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