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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 3
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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 3 Post by :neonsight Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2990

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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 3

Old Prince Nicholas Bolkonski received a letter from Prince Vasili
in November, 1805, announcing that he and his son would be paying
him a visit. "I am starting on a journey of inspection, and of
course I shall think nothing of an extra seventy miles to come and see
you at the same time, my honored benefactor," wrote Prince Vasili. "My
son Anatole is accompanying me on his way to the army, so I hope you
will allow him personally to express the deep respect that,
emulating his father, he feels for you."

"It seems that there will be no need to bring Mary out, suitors
are coming to us of their own accord," incautiously remarked the
little princess on hearing the news.

Prince Nicholas frowned, but said nothing.

A fortnight after the letter Prince Vasili's servants came one
evening in advance of him, and he and his son arrived next day.

Old Bolkonski had always had a poor opinion of Prince Vasili's
character, but more so recently, since in the new reigns of Paul and
Alexander Prince Vasili had risen to high position and honors. And
now, from the hints contained in his letter and given by the little
princess, he saw which way the wind was blowing, and his low opinion
changed into a feeling of contemptuous ill will. He snorted whenever
he mentioned him. On the day of Prince Vasili's arrival, Prince
Bolkonski was particularly discontented and out of temper. Whether
he was in a bad temper because Prince Vasili was coming, or whether
his being in a bad temper made him specially annoyed at Prince
Vasili's visit, he was in a bad temper, and in the morning Tikhon
had already advised the architect not to go the prince with his
report.

"Do you hear how he's walking?" said Tikhon, drawing the architect's
attention to the sound of the prince's footsteps. "Stepping flat on
his heels- we know what that means...."

However, at nine o'clock the prince, in his velvet coat with a sable
collar and cap, went out for his usual walk. It had snowed the day
before and the path to the hothouse, along which the prince was in the
habit of walking, had been swept: the marks of the broom were still
visible in the snow and a shovel had been left sticking in one of
the soft snowbanks that bordered both sides of the path. The prince
went through the conservatories, the serfs' quarters, and the
outbuildings, frowning and silent.

"Can a sleigh pass?" he asked his overseer, a venerable man,
resembling his master in manners and looks, who was accompanying him
back to the house.

"The snow is deep. I am having the avenue swept, your honor."

The prince bowed his head and went up to the porch. "God be
thanked," thought the overseer, "the storm has blown over!"

"It would have been hard to drive up, your honor," he added. "I
heard, your honor, that a minister is coming to visit your honor."

The prince turned round to the overseer and fixed his eyes on him,
frowning.

"What? A minister? What minister? Who gave orders?" he said in his
shrill, harsh voice. "The road is not swept for the princess my
daughter, but for a minister! For me, there are no ministers!"

"Your honor, I thought..."

"You thought!" shouted the prince, his words coming more and more
rapidly and indistinctly. "You thought!... Rascals! Blackgaurds!...
I'll teach you to think!" and lifting his stick he swung it and
would have hit Alpatych, the overseer, had not the latter
instinctively avoided the blow. "Thought... Blackguards..." shouted
the prince rapidly.

But although Alpatych, frightened at his own temerity in avoiding
the stroke, came up to the prince, bowing his bald head resignedly
before him, or perhaps for that very reason, the prince, though he
continued to shout: "Blackgaurds!... Throw the snow back on the road!"
did not lift his stick again but hurried into the house.

Before dinner, Princess Mary and Mademoiselle Bourienne, who knew
that the prince was in a bad humor, stood awaiting him; Mademoiselle
Bourienne with a radiant face that said: "I know nothing, I am the
same as usual," and Princess Mary pale, frightened, and with
downcast eyes. What she found hardest to bear was to know that on such
occasions she ought to behave like Mademoiselle Bourienne, but could
not. She thought: "If I seem not to notice he will think that I do not
sympathize with him; if I seem sad and out of spirits myself, he
will say (as he has done before) that I'm in the dumps."

The prince looked at his daughter's frightened face and snorted.

"Fool... or dummy!" he muttered.

"And the other one is not here. They've been telling tales," he
thought- referring to the little princess who was not in the dining
room.

"Where is the princess?" he asked. "Hiding?"

"She is not very well," answered Mademoiselle Bourienne with a
bright smile, "so she won't come down. It is natural in her state."

"Hm! Hm!" muttered the prince, sitting down.

His plate seemed to him not quite clean, and pointing to a spot he
flung it away. Tikhon caught it and handed it to a footman. The little
princess was not unwell, but had such an overpowering fear of the
prince that, hearing he was in a bad humor, she had decided not to
appear.

"I am afraid for the baby," she said to Mademoiselle Bourienne:
"Heaven knows what a fright might do."

In general at Bald Hills the little princess lived in constant fear,
and with a sense of antipathy to the old prince which she did not
realize because the fear was so much the stronger feeling. The
prince reciprocated this antipathy, but it was overpowered by his
contempt for her. When the little princess had grown accustomed to
life at Bald Hills, she took a special fancy to Mademoiselle
Bourienne, spent whole days with her, asked her to sleep in her
room, and often talked with her about the old prince and criticized
him.

"So we are to have visitors, mon prince?" remarked Mademoiselle
Bourienne, unfolding her white napkin with her rosy fingers. "His
Excellency Prince Vasili Kuragin and his son, I understand?" she
said inquiringly.

"Hm!- his excellency is a puppy.... I got him his appointment in the
service," said the prince disdainfully. "Why his son is coming I don't
understand. Perhaps Princess Elizabeth and Princess Mary know. I don't
want him." (He looked at his blushing daughter.) "Are you unwell
today? Eh? Afraid of the 'minister' as that idiot Alpatych called
him this morning?"

"No, mon pere."

Though Mademoiselle Bourienne had been so unsuccessful in her choice
of a subject, she did not stop talking, but chattered about the
conservatories and the beauty of a flower that had just opened, and
after the soup the prince became more genial.

After dinner, he went to see his daughter-in-law. The little
princess was sitting at a small table, chattering with Masha, her
maid. She grew pale on seeing her father-in-law.

She was much altered. She was now plain rather than pretty. Her
cheeks had sunk, her lip was drawn up, and her eyes drawn down.

"Yes, I feel a kind of oppression," she said in reply to the
prince's question as to how she felt.

"Do you want anything?"

"No, merci, mon pere."

"Well, all right, all right."

He left the room and went to the waiting room where Alpatych stood
with bowed head.

"Has the snow been shoveled back?"

"Yes, your excellency. Forgive me for heaven's sake... It was only
my stupidity."

"All right, all right," interrupted the prince, and laughing his
unnatural way, he stretched out his hand for Alpatych to kiss, and
then proceeded to his study.

Prince Vasili arrived that evening. He was met in the avenue by
coachmen and footmen, who, with loud shouts, dragged his sleighs up to
one of the lodges over the road purposely laden with snow.

Prince Vasili and Anatole had separate rooms assigned to them.

Anatole, having taken off his overcoat, sat with arms akimbo
before a table on a corner of which he smilingly and absent-mindedly
fixed his large and handsome eyes. He regarded his whole life as a
continual round of amusement which someone for some reason had to
provide for him. And he looked on this visit to a churlish old man and
a rich and ugly heiress in the same way. All this might, he thought,
turn out very well and amusingly. "And why not marry her if she really
has so much money? That never does any harm," thought Anatole.

He shaved and scented himself with the care and elegance which had
become habitual to him and, his handsome head held high, entered his
father's room with the good-humored and victorious air natural to him.
Prince Vasili's two valets were busy dressing him, and he looked round
with much animation and cheerfully nodded to his son as the latter
entered, as if to say: "Yes, that's how I want you to look."

"I say, Father, joking apart, is she very hideous?" Anatole asked,
as if continuing a conversation the subject of which had often been
mentioned during the journey.

"Enough! What nonsense! Above all, try to be respectful and cautious
with the old prince."

"If he starts a row I'll go away," said Prince Anatole. "I can't
bear those old men! Eh?"

"Remember, for you everything depends on this."

In the meantime, not only was it known in the maidservants' rooms
that the minister and his son had arrived, but the appearance of
both had been minutely described. Princess Mary was sitting alone in
her room, vainly trying to master her agitation.

"Why did they write, why did Lise tell me about it? It can never
happen!" she said, looking at herself in the glass. "How shall I enter
the drawing room? Even if I like him I can't now be myself with
him." The mere thought of her father's look filled her with terror.
The little princess and Mademoiselle Bourienne had already received
from Masha, the lady's maid, the necessary report of how handsome
the minister's son was, with his rosy cheeks and dark eyebrows, and
with what difficulty the father had dragged his legs upstairs while
the son had followed him like an eagle, three steps at a time.
Having received this information, the little princess and Mademoiselle
Bourienne, whose chattering voices had reached her from the
corridor, went into Princess Mary's room.

"You know they've come, Marie?" said the little princess, waddling
in, and sinking heavily into an armchair.

She was no longer in the loose gown she generally wore in the
morning, but had on one of her best dresses. Her hair was carefully
done and her face was animated, which, however, did not conceal its
sunken and faded outlines. Dressed as she used to be in Petersburg
society, it was still more noticeable how much plainer she had become.
Some unobtrusive touch had been added to Mademoiselle Bourienne's
toilet which rendered her fresh and prettyface yet more attractive.

"What! Are you going to remain as you are, dear princess?" she
began. "They'll be announcing that the gentlemen are in the drawing
room and we shall have to go down, and you have not smartened yourself
up at all!"

The little princess got up, rang for the maid, and hurriedly and
merrily began to devise and carry out a plan of how Princess Mary
should be dressed. Princess Mary's self-esteem was wounded by the fact
that the arrival of a suitor agitated her, and still more so by both
her companions' not having the least conception that it could be
otherwise. To tell them that she felt ashamed for herself and for them
would be to betray her agitation, while to decline their offers to
dress her would prolong their banter and insistence. She flushed,
her beautiful eyes grew dim, red blotches came on her face, and it
took on the unattractive martyrlike expression it so often wore, as
she submitted herself to Mademoiselle Bourienne and Lise. Both these
women quite sincerely tried to make her look pretty. She was so
plain that neither of them could think of her as a rival, so they
began dressing her with perfect sincerity, and with the naive and firm
conviction women have that dress can make a face pretty.

"No really, my dear, this dress is not pretty," said Lise, looking
sideways at Princess Mary from a little distance. "You have a maroon
dress, have it fetched. Really! You know the fate of your whole life
may be at stake. But this one is too light, it's not becoming!"

It was not the dress, but the face and whole figure of Princess Mary
that was not pretty, but neither Mademoiselle Bourienne nor the little
princess felt this; they still thought that if a blue ribbon were
placed in the hair, the hair combed up, and the blue scarf arranged
lower on the best maroon dress, and so on, all would be well. They
forgot that the frightened face and the figure could not be altered,
and that however they might change the setting and adornment of that
face, it would still remain piteous and plain. After two or three
changes to which Princess Mary meekly submitted, just as her hair
had been arranged on the top of her head (a style that quite altered
and spoiled her looks) and she had put on a maroon dress with a
pale-blue scarf, the little princess walked twice round her, now
adjusting a fold of the dress with her little hand, now arranging
the scarf and looking at her with her head bent first on one side
and then on the other.

"No, it will not do," she said decidedly, clasping her hands. "No,
Mary, really this dress does not suit you. I prefer you in your little
gray everyday dress. Now please, do it for my sake. Katie," she said
to the maid, "bring the princess her gray dress, and you'll see,
Mademoiselle Bourienne, how I shall arrange it," she added, smiling
with a foretaste of artistic pleasure.

But when Katie brought the required dress, Princess Mary remained
sitting motionless before the glass, looking at her face, and saw in
the mirror her eyes full of tears and her mouth quivering, ready to
burst into sobs.

"Come, dear princess," said Mademoiselle Bourienne, "just one more
little effort."

The little princess, taking the dress from the maid, came up to
Princess Mary.

"Well, now we'll arrange something quite simple and becoming," she
said.

The three voices, hers, Mademoiselle Bourienne's, and Katie's, who
was laughing at something, mingled in a merry sound, like the chirping
of birds.

"No, leave me alone," said Princess Mary.

Her voice sounded so serious and so sad that the chirping of the
birds was silenced at once. They looked at the beautiful, large,
thoughtful eyes full of tears and of thoughts, gazing shiningly and
imploringly at them, and understood that it was useless and even cruel
to insist.

"At least, change your coiffure," said the little princess.
"Didn't I tell you," she went on, turning reproachfully to
Mademoiselle Bourienne, "Mary's is a face which such a coiffure does
not suit in the least. Not in the least! Please change it."

"Leave me alone, please leave me alone! It is all quite the same
to me," answered a voice struggling with tears.

Mademoiselle Bourienne and the little princess had to own to
themselves that Princess Mary in this guise looked very plain, worse
than usual, but it was too late. She was looking at them with an
expression they both knew, an expression thoughtful and sad. This
expression in Princess Mary did not frighten them (she never
inspired fear in anyone), but they knew that when it appeared on her
face, she became mute and was not to be shaken in her determination.

"You will change it, won't you?" said Lise. And as Princess Mary
gave no answer, she left the room.

Princess Mary was left alone. She did not comply with Lise's
request, she not only left her hair as it was, but did not even look
in her glass. Letting her arms fall helplessly, she sat with
downcast eyes and pondered. A husband, a man, a strong dominant and
strangely attractive being rose in her imagination, and carried her
into a totally different happy world of his own. She fancied a
child, her own- such as she had seen the day before in the arms of her
nurse's daughter- at her own breast, the husband standing by and
gazing tenderly at her and the child. "But no, it is impossible, I
am too ugly," she thought.

"Please come to tea. The prince will be out in a moment," came the
maid's voice at the door.

She roused herself, and felt appalled at what she had been thinking,
and before going down she went into the room where the icons hung and,
her eyes fixed on the dark face of a large icon of the Saviour lit
by a lamp, she stood before it with folded hands for a few moments.
A painful doubt filled her soul. Could the joy of love, of earthly
love for a man, be for her? In her thoughts of marriage Princess
Mary dreamed of happiness and of children, but her strongest, most
deeply hidden longing was for earthly love. The more she tried to hide
this feeling from others and even from herself, the stronger it
grew. "O God," she said, "how am I to stifle in my heart these
temptations of the devil? How am I to renounce forever these vile
fancies, so as peacefully to fulfill Thy will?" And scarcely had she
put that question than God gave her the answer in her own heart.
"Desire nothing for thyself, seek nothing, be not anxious or
envious. Man's future and thy own fate must remain hidden from thee,
but live so that thou mayest be ready for anything. If it be God's
will to prove thee in the duties of marriage, be ready to fulfill
His will." With this consoling thought (but yet with a hope for the
fulfillment of her forbidden earthly longing) Princess Mary sighed,
and having crossed herself went down, thinking neither of her gown and
coiffure nor of how she would go in nor of what she would say. What
could all that matter in comparison with the will of God, without
Whose care not a hair of man's head can fall?

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When Princess Mary came down, Prince Vasili and his son were alreadyin the drawing room, talking to the little princess and MademoiselleBourienne. When she entered with her heavy step, treading on herheels, the gentlemen and Mademoiselle Bourienne rose and the littleprincess, indicating her to the gentlemen, said: "Voila Marie!"Princess Mary saw them all and saw them in detail. She saw PrinceVasili's face, serious for an instant at the sight of her, butimmediately smiling again, and the little princess curiously notingthe impression "Marie" produced on the visitors. And she sawMademoiselle Bourienne, with her ribbon and pretty face, and herunusually animated look which
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In November, 1805, Prince Vasili had to go on a tour of inspectionin four different provinces. He had arranged this for himself so as tovisit his neglected estates at the same time and pick up his sonAnatole where his regiment was stationed, and take him to visit PrinceNicholas Bolkonski in order to arrange a match for him with thedaughter of that rich old man. But before leaving home and undertakingthese new affairs, Prince Vasili had to settle matters with Pierre,who, it is true, had latterly spent whole days at home, that is, inPrince Vasili's house where he was staying, and had
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