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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 1
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War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 1 Post by :jennm Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2409

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 1 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 1

The Bible legend tells us that the absence of labor- idleness- was a
condition of the first man's blessedness before the Fall. Fallen man
has retained a love of idleness, but the curse weighs on the race
not only because we have to seek our bread in the sweat of our
brows, but because our moral nature is such that we cannot be both
idle and at ease. An inner voice tells us we are in the wrong if we
are idle. If man could find a state in which he felt that though
idle he was fulfilling his duty, he would have found one of the
conditions of man's primitive blessedness. And such a state of
obligatory and irreproachable idleness is the lot of a whole class-
the military. The chief attraction of military service has consisted
and will consist in this compulsory and irreproachable idleness.

Nicholas Rostov experienced this blissful condition to the full
when, after 1807, he continued to serve in the Pavlograd regiment,
in which he already commanded the squadron he had taken over from
Denisov.

Rostov had become a bluff, good-natured fellow, whom his Moscow
acquaintances would have considered rather bad form, but who was liked
and respected by his comrades, subordinates, and superiors, and was
well contented with his life. Of late, in 1809, he found in letters
from home more frequent complaints from his mother that their
affairs were falling into greater and greater disorder, and that it
was time for him to come back to gladden and comfort his old parents.

Reading these letters, Nicholas felt a dread of their wanting to
take him away from surroundings in which, protected from all the
entanglements of life, he was living so calmly and quietly. He felt
that sooner or later he would have to re-enter that whirlpool of life,
with its embarrassments and affairs to be straightened out, its
accounts with stewards, quarrels, and intrigues, its ties, society,
and with Sonya's love and his promise to her. It was all dreadfully
difficult and complicated; and he replied to his mother in cold,
formal letters in French, beginning: "My dear Mamma," and ending:
"Your obedient son," which said nothing of when he would return. In
1810 he received letters from his parents, in which they told him of
Natasha's engagement to Bolkonski, and that the wedding would be in
a year's time because the old prince made difficulties. This letter
grieved and mortified Nicholas. In the first place he was sorry that
Natasha, for whom he cared more than for anyone else in the family,
should be lost to the home; and secondly, from his hussar point of
view, he regretted not to have been there to show that fellow
Bolkonski that connection with him was no such great honor after
all, and that if he loved Natasha he might dispense with permission
from his dotard father. For a moment he hesitated whether he should
not apply for leave in order to see Natasha before she was married,
but then came the maneuvers, and considerations about Sonya and
about the confusion of their affairs, and Nicholas again put it off.
But in the spring of that year, he received a letter from his
mother, written without his father's knowledge, and that letter
persuaded him to return. She wrote that if he did not come and take
matters in hand, their whole property would be sold by auction and
they would all have to go begging. The count was so weak, and
trusted Mitenka so much, and was so good-natured, that everybody
took advantage of him and things were going from bad to worse. "For
God's sake, I implore you, come at once if you do not wish to make
me and the whole family wretched," wrote the countess.

This letter touched Nicholas. He had that common sense of a
matter-of-fact man which showed him what he ought to do.

The right thing now was, if not to retire from the service, at any
rate to go home on leave. Why he had to go he did not know; but
after his after-dinner nap he gave orders to saddle Mars, an extremely
vicious gray stallion that had not been ridden for a long time, and
when he returned with the horse all in a lather, he informed Lavrushka
(Denisov's servant who had remained with him) and his comrades who
turned up in the evening that he was applying for leave and was
going home. Difficult and strange as it was for him to reflect that he
would go away without having heard from the staff- and this interested
him extremely- whether he was promoted to a captaincy or would receive
the Order of St. Anne for the last maneuvers; strange as it was to
think that he would go away without having sold his three roans to the
Polish Count Golukhovski, who was bargaining for the horses Rostov had
betted he would sell for two thousand rubles; incomprehensible as it
seemed that the ball the hussars were giving in honor of the Polish
Mademoiselle Przazdziecka (out of rivalry to the Uhlans who had
given one in honor of their Polish Mademoiselle Borzozowska) would
take place without him- he knew he must go away from this good, bright
world to somewhere where everything was stupid and confused. A week
later he obtained his leave. His hussar comrades- not only those of
his own regiment, but the whole brigade- gave Rostov a dinner to which
the subscription was fifteen rubles a head, and at which there were
two bands and two choirs of singers. Rostov danced the Trepak with
Major Basov; the tipsy officers tossed, embraced, and dropped
Rostov; the soldiers of the third squadron tossed him too, and shouted
"hurrah!" and then they put him in his sleigh and escorted him as
far as the first post station.

During the first half of the journey- from Kremenchug to Kiev- all
Rostov's thoughts, as is usual in such cases, were behind him, with
the squadron; but when he had gone more than halfway he began to
forget his three roans and Dozhoyveyko, his quartermaster, and to
wonder anxiously how things would be at Otradnoe and what he would
find there. Thoughts of home grew stronger the nearer he approached
it- far stronger, as though this feeling of his was subject to the law
by which the force of attraction is in inverse proportion to the
square of the distance. At the last post station before Otradnoe he
gave the driver a three-ruble tip, and on arriving he ran
breathlessly, like a boy, up the steps of his home.

After the rapture of meeting, and after that odd feeling of
unsatisfied expectation- the feeling that "everything is just the
same, so why did I hurry?"- Nicholas began to settle down in his old
home world. His father and mother were much the same, only a little
older. What was new in them was a certain uneasiness and occasional
discord, which there used not to be, and which, as Nicholas soon found
out, was due to the bad state of their affairs. Sonya was nearly
twenty; she had stopped growing prettier and promised nothing more
than she was already, but that was enough. She exhaled happiness and
love from the time Nicholas returned, and the faithful, unalterable
love of this girl had a gladdening effect on him. Petya and Natasha
surprised Nicholas most. Petya was a big handsome boy of thirteen,
merry, witty, and mischievous, with a voice that was already breaking.
As for Natasha, for a long while Nicholas wondered and laughed
whenever he looked at her.

"You're not the same at all," he said.

"How? Am I uglier?"

"On the contrary, but what dignity? A princess!" he whispered to
her.

"Yes, yes, yes!" cried Natasha, joyfully.

She told him about her romance with Prince Andrew and of his visit
to Otradnoe and showed him his last letter.

"Well, are you glad?" Natasha asked. "I am so tranquil and happy
now."

"Very glad," answered Nicholas. "He is an excellent fellow.... And
are you very much in love?"

"How shall I put it?" replied Natasha. "I was in love with Boris,
with my teacher, and with Denisov, but this is quite different. I feel
at peace and settled. I know that no better man than he exists, and
I am calm and contented now. Not at all as before."

Nicholas expressed his disapproval of the postponement of the
marriage for a year; but Natasha attacked her brother with
exasperation, proving to him that it could not be otherwise, and
that it would be a bad thing to enter a family against the father's
will, and that she herself wished it so.

"You don't at all understand," she said.

Nicholas was silent and agreed with her.

Her brother often wondered as he looked at her. She did not seem
at all like a girl in love and parted from her affianced husband.
She was even-tempered and calm and quite as cheerful as of old. This
amazed Nicholas and even made him regard Bolkonski's courtship
skeptically. He could not believe that her fate was sealed, especially
as he had not seen her with Prince Andrew. It always seemed to him
that there was something not quite right about this intended marriage.

"Why this delay? Why no betrothal?" he thought. Once, when he had
touched on this topic with his mother, he discovered, to his
surprise and somewhat to his satisfaction, that in the depth of her
soul she too had doubts about this marriage.

"You see he writes," said she, showing her son a letter of Prince
Andrew's, with that latent grudge a mother always has in regard to a
daughter's future married happiness, "he writes that he won't come
before December. What can be keeping him? Illness, probably! His
health is very delicate. Don't tell Natasha. And don't attach
importance to her being so bright: that's because she's living through
the last days of her girlhood, but I know what she is like every
time we receive a letter from him! However, God grant that
everything turns out well!" (She always ended with these words.) "He
is an excellent man!"

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