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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 1
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War And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 1 Post by :isalihu2001 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2155

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 1 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 1

Early in the year 1806 Nicholas Rostov returned home on leave.
Denisov was going home to Voronezh and Rostov persuaded him to
travel with him as far as Moscow and to stay with him there. Meeting a
comrade at the last post station but one before Moscow, Denisov had
drunk three bottles of wine with him and, despite the jolting ruts
across the snow-covered road, did not once wake up on the way to
Moscow, but lay at the bottom of the sleigh beside Rostov, who grew
more and more impatient the nearer they got to Moscow.

"How much longer? How much longer? Oh, these insufferable streets,
shops, bakers' signboards, street lamps, and sleighs!" thought Rostov,
when their leave permits had been passed at the town gate and they had
entered Moscow.

"Denisov! We're here! He's asleep," he added, leaning forward with
his whole body as if in that position he hoped to hasten the speed
of the sleigh.

Denisov gave no answer.

"There's the corner at the crossroads, where the cabman, Zakhar, has
his stand, and there's Zakhar himself and still the same horse! And
here's the little shop where we used to buy gingerbread! Can't you
hurry up? Now then!"

"Which house is it?" asked the driver.

"Why, that one, right at the end, the big one. Don't you see? That's
our house," said Rostov. "Of course, it's our house! Denisov, Denisov!
We're almost there!"

Denisov raised his head, coughed, and made no answer.

"Dmitri," said Rostov to his valet on the box, "those lights are
in our house, aren't they?"

"Yes, sir, and's a light in your father's study."

"Then they've not gone to bed yet? What do you think? Mind now,
don't forget to put out my new coat," added Rostov, fingering his
new mustache. "Now then, get on," he shouted to the driver. "Do wake
up, Vaska!" he went on, turning to Denisov, whose head was again
nodding. "Come, get on! You shall have three rubles for vodka- get
on!" Rostov shouted, when the sleigh was only three houses from his
door. It seemed to him the horses were not moving at all. At last
the sleigh bore to the right, drew up at an entrance, and Rostov saw
overhead the old familiar cornice with a bit of plaster broken off,
the porch, and the post by the side of the pavement. He sprang out
before the sleigh stopped, and ran into the hall. The house stood cold
and silent, as if quite regardless of who had come to it. There was no
one in the hall. "Oh God! Is everyone all right?" he thought, stopping
for a moment with a sinking heart, and then immediately starting to
run along the hall and up the warped steps of the familiar
staircase. The well-known old door handle, which always angered the
countess when it was not properly cleaned, turned as loosely as
ever. A solitary tallow candle burned in the anteroom.

Old Michael was asleep on the chest. Prokofy, the footman, who was
so strong that he could lift the back of the carriage from behind, sat
plaiting slippers out of cloth selvedges. He looked up at the
opening door and his expression of sleepy indifference suddenly
changed to one of delighted amazement.

"Gracious heavens! The young count!" he cried, recognizing his young
master. "Can it be? My treasure!" and Prokofy, trembling with
excitement, rushed toward the drawing-room door, probably in order
to announce him, but, changing his mind, came back and stooped to kiss
the young man's shoulder.

"All well?" asked Rostov, drawing away his arm.

"Yes, God be thanked! Yes! They've just finished supper. Let me have
a look at you, your excellency."

"Is everything quite all right?"

"The Lord be thanked, yes!"

Rostov, who had completely forgotten Denisov, not wishing anyone
to forestall him, threw off his fur coat and ran on tiptoe through the
large dark ballroom. All was the same: there were the same old card
tables and the same chandelier with a cover over it; but someone had
already seen the young master, and, before he had reached the
drawing room, something flew out from a side door like a tornado and
began hugging and kissing him. Another and yet another creature of the
same kind sprang from a second door and a third; more hugging, more
kissing, more outcries, and tears of joy. He could not distinguish
which was Papa, which Natasha, and which Petya. Everyone shouted,
talked, and kissed him at the same time. Only his mother was not
there, he noticed that.

"And I did not know... Nicholas... My darling!..."

"Here he is... our own... Kolya,* dear fellow... How he has
changed!... Where are the candles?... Tea!..."


*Nicholas.


"And me, kiss me!"

"Dearest... and me!"

Sonya, Natasha, Petya, Anna Mikhaylovna, Vera, and the old count
were all hugging him, and the serfs, men and maids, flocked into the
room, exclaiming and oh-ing and ah-ing.

Petya, clinging to his legs, kept shouting, "And me too!"

Natasha, after she had pulled him down toward her and covered his
face with kisses, holding him tight by the skirt of his coat, sprang
away and pranced up and down in one place like a goat and shrieked
piercingly.

All around were loving eyes glistening with tears of joy, and all
around were lips seeking a kiss.

Sonya too, all rosy red, clung to his arm and, radiant with bliss,
looked eagerly toward his eyes, waiting for the look for which she
longed. Sonya now was sixteen and she was very pretty, especially at
this moment of happy, rapturous excitement. She gazed at him, not
taking her eyes off him, and smiling and holding her breath. He gave
her a grateful look, but was still expectant and looking for
someone. The old countess had not yet come. But now steps were heard
at the door, steps so rapid that they could hardly be his mother's.

Yet it was she, dressed in a new gown which he did not know, made
since he had left. All the others let him go, and he ran to her.
When they met, she fell on his breast, sobbing. She could not lift her
face, but only pressed it to the cold braiding of his hussar's jacket.
Denisov, who had come into the room unnoticed by anyone, stood there
and wiped his eyes at the sight.

"Vasili Denisov, your son's friend," he said, introducing himself to
the count, who was looking inquiringly at him.

"You are most welcome! I know, I know," said the count, kissing
and embracing Denisov. "Nicholas wrote us... Natasha, Vera, look! Here
is Denisov!"

The same happy, rapturous faces turned to the shaggy figure of
Denisov.

"Darling Denisov!" screamed Natasha, beside herself with rapture,
springing to him, putting her arms round him, and kissing him. This
escapade made everybody feel confused. Denisov blushed too, but smiled
and, taking Natasha's hand, kissed it.

Denisov was shown to the room prepared for him, and the Rostovs
all gathered round Nicholas in the sitting room.

The old countess, not letting go of his hand and kissing it every
moment, sat beside him: the rest, crowding round him, watched every
movement, word, or look of his, never taking their blissfully
adoring eyes off him. His brother and sisters struggled for the places
nearest to him and disputed with one another who should bring him
his tea, handkerchief, and pipe.

Rostov was very happy in the love they showed him; but the first
moment of meeting had been so beatific that his present joy seemed
insufficient, and he kept expecting something more, more and yet more.

Next morning, after the fatigues of their journey, the travelers
slept till ten o'clock.

In the room next their bedroom there was a confusion of sabers,
satchels, sabretaches, open portmanteaus, and dirty boots. Two freshly
cleaned pairs with spurs had just been placed by the wall. The
servants were bringing in jugs and basins, hot water for shaving,
and their well-brushed clothes. There was a masculine odor and a smell
of tobacco.

"Hallo, Gwiska- my pipe!" came Vasili Denisov's husky voice.
"Wostov, get up!"

Rostov, rubbing his eyes that seemed glued together, raised his
disheveled head from the hot pillow.

"Why, is it late?"

"Late! It's nearly ten o'clock," answered Natasha's voice. A
rustle of starched petticoats and the whispering and laughter of
girls' voices came from the adjoining room. The door was opened a
crack and there was a glimpse of something blue, of ribbons, black
hair, and merry faces. It was Natasha, Sonya, and Petya, who had
come to see whether they were getting up.

"Nicholas! Get up!" Natasha's voice was again heard at the door.

"Directly!"

Meanwhile, Petya, having found and seized the sabers in the outer
room, with the delight boys feel at the sight of a military elder
brother, and forgetting that it was unbecoming for the girls to see
men undressed, opened the bedroom door.

"Is this your saber?" he shouted.

The girls sprang aside. Denisov hid his hairy legs under the
blanket, looking with a scared face at his comrade for help. The door,
having let Petya in, closed again. A sound of laughter came from
behind it.

"Nicholas! Come out in your dressing gown!" said Natasha's voice.

"Is this your saber?" asked Petya. "Or is it yours?" he said,
addressing the black-mustached Denisov with servile deference.

Rostov hurriedly put something on his feet, drew on his dressing
gown, and went out. Natasha had put on one spurred boot and was just
getting her foot into the other. Sonya, when he came in, was
twirling round and was about to expand her dresses into a balloon
and sit down. They were dressed alike, in new pale-blue frocks, and
were both fresh, rosy, and bright. Sonya ran away, but Natasha, taking
her brother's arm, led him into the sitting room, where they began
talking. They hardly gave one another time to ask questions and give
replies concerning a thousand little matters which could not
interest anyone but themselves. Natasha laughed at every word he
said or that she said herself, not because what they were saying was
amusing, but because she felt happy and was unable to control her
joy which expressed itself by laughter.

"Oh, how nice, how splendid!" she said to everything.

Rostov felt that, under the influence of the warm rays of love, that
childlike smile which had not once appeared on his face since he
left home now for the first time after eighteen months again
brightened his soul and his face.

"No, but listen," she said, "now you are quite a man, aren't you?
I'm awfully glad you're my brother." She touched his mustache. "I want
to know what you men are like. Are you the same as we? No?"

"Why did Sonya run away?" asked Rostov.

"Ah, yes! That's a whole long story! How are you going to speak to
her- thou or you?"

"As may happen," said Rostov.

"No, call her you, please! I'll tell you all about it some other
time. No, I'll tell you now. You know Sonya's my dearest friend.
Such a friend that I burned my arm for her sake. Look here!"

She pulled up her muslin sleeve and showed him a red scar on her
long, slender, delicate arm, high above the elbow on that part that is
covered even by a ball dress.

"I burned this to prove my love for her. I just heated a ruler in
the fire and pressed it there!"

Sitting on the sofa with the little cushions on its arms, in what
used to be his old schoolroom, and looking into Natasha's wildly
bright eyes, Rostov re-entered that world of home and childhood
which had no meaning for anyone else, but gave him some of the best
joys of his life; and the burning of an arm with a ruler as a proof of
love did not seem to him senseless, he understood and was not
surprised at it.

"Well, and is that all?" he asked.

"We are such friends, such friends! All that ruler business was just
nonsense, but we are friends forever. She, if she loves anyone, does
it for life, but I don't understand that, I forget quickly."

"Well, what then?"

"Well, she loves me and you like that."

Natasha suddenly flushed.

"Why, you remember before you went away?... Well, she says you are
to forget all that.... She says: 'I shall love him always, but let him
be free.' Isn't that lovely and noble! Yes, very noble? Isn't it?"
asked Natasha, so seriously and excitedly that it was evident that
what she was now saying she had talked of before, with tears.

Rostov became thoughtful.

"I never go back on my word," he said. "Besides, Sonya is so
charming that only a fool would renounce such happiness."

"No, no!" cried Natasha, "she and I have already talked it over.
We knew you'd say so. But it won't do, because you see, if you say
that- if you consider yourself bound by your promise- it will seem
as if she had not meant it seriously. It makes it as if you were
marrying her because you must, and that wouldn't do at all."

Rostov saw that it had been well considered by them. Sonya had
already struck him by her beauty on the preceding day. Today, when
he had caught a glimpse of her, she seemed still more lovely. She
was a charming girl of sixteen, evidently passionately in love with
him (he did not doubt that for an instant). Why should he not love her
now, and even marry her, Rostov thought, but just now there were so
many other pleasures and interests before him! "Yes, they have taken a
wise decision," he thought, "I must remain free."

"Well then, that's excellent," said he. "We'll talk it over later
on. Oh, how glad I am to have you!

"Well, and are you still true to Boris?" he continued.

"Oh, what nonsense!" cried Natasha, laughing. "I don't think about
him or anyone else, and I don't want anything of the kind."

"Dear me! Then what are you up now?"

"Now?" repeated Natasha, and a happy smile lit up her face. "Have
you seen Duport?"

"No."

"Not seen Duport- the famous dancer? Well then, you won't
understand. That's what I'm up to."

Curving her arms, Natasha held out her skirts as dancers do, ran
back a few steps, turned, cut a caper, brought her little feet sharply
together, and made some steps on the very tips of her toes.

"See, I'm standing! See!" she said, but could not maintain herself
on her toes any longer. "So that's what I'm up to! I'll never marry
anyone, but will be a dancer. Only don't tell anyone."

Rostov laughed so loud and merrily that Denisov, in his bedroom,
felt envious and Natasha could not help joining in.

"No, but don't you think it's nice?" she kept repeating.

"Nice! And so you no longer wish to marry Boris?"

Natasha flared up. "I don't want to marry anyone. And I'll tell
him so when I see him!"

"Dear me!" said Rostov.

"But that's all rubbish," Natasha chattered on. "And is Denisov
nice?" she asked.

"Yes, indeed!"

"Oh, well then, good-by: go and dress. Is he very terrible,
Denisov?"

"Why terrible?" asked Nicholas. "No, Vaska is a splendid fellow."

"You call him Vaska? That's funny! And is he very nice?"

"Very."

"Well then, be quick. We'll all have breakfast together."

And Natasha rose and went out of the room on tiptoe, like a ballet
dancer, but smiling as only happy girls of fifteen can smile. When
Rostov met Sonya in the drawing room, he reddened. He did not know how
to behave with her. The evening before, in the first happy moment of
meeting, they had kissed each other, but today they felt it could
not be done; he felt that everybody, including his mother and sisters,
was looking inquiringly at him and watching to see how he would behave
with her. He kissed her hand and addressed her not as thou but as you-
Sonya. But their eyes met and said thou, and exchanged tender
kisses. Her looks asked him to forgive her for having dared, by
Natasha's intermediacy, to remind him of his promise, and then thanked
him for his love. His looks thanked her for offering him his freedom
and told her that one way or another he would never cease to love her,
for that would be impossible.

"How strange it is," said Vera, selecting a moment when all were
silent, "that Sonya and Nicholas now say you to one another and meet
like strangers."

Vera's remark was correct, as her remarks always were, but, like
most of her observations, it made everyone feel uncomfortable, not
only Sonya, Nicholas, and Natasha, but even the old countess, who-
dreading this love affair which might hinder Nicholas from making a
brilliant match- blushed like a girl.

Denisov, to Rostov's surprise, appeared in the drawing room with
pomaded hair, perfumed, and in a new uniform, looking just as smart as
he made himself when going into battle, and he was more amiable to the
ladies and gentlemen than Rostov had ever expected to see him.

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