War and Peace
Countess Rostova, with her daughters and a large number of guests,
was already seated in the drawing room. The count took the gentlemen
into his study and showed them his choice collection of Turkish pipes.
From time to time he went out to ask: "Hasn't she come yet?" They were
expecting Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, known in society as le
terrible dragon, a lady distinguished not for wealth or rank, but
for common sense and frank plainness of speech. Marya Dmitrievna was
known to the Imperial family as well as to all Moscow and
Petersburg, and both cities wondered at her, laughed privately at
her rudenesses, and told good stories about her, while none the less
all without exception respected and feared her.
In the count's room, which was full of tobacco smoke, they talked of
war that had been announced in a manifesto, and about the
recruiting. None of them had yet seen the manifesto, but they all knew
it had appeared. The count sat on the sofa between two guests who were
smoking and talking. He neither smoked nor talked, but bending his
head first to one side and then to the other watched the smokers
with evident pleasure and listened to the conversation of his two
neighbors, whom he egged on against each other.
One of them was a sallow, clean-shaven civilian with a thin and
wrinkled face, already growing old, though he was dressed like a
most fashionable young man. He sat with his legs up on the sofa as
if quite at home and, having stuck an amber mouthpiece far into his
mouth, was inhaling the smoke spasmodically and screwing up his
eyes. This was an old bachelor, Shinshin, a cousin of the countess', a
man with "a sharp tongue" as they said in Moscow society. He seemed to
be condescending to his companion. The latter, a fresh, rosy officer
of the Guards, irreproachably washed, brushed, and buttoned, held
his pipe in the middle of his mouth and with red lips gently inhaled
the smoke, letting it escape from his handsome mouth in rings. This
was Lieutenant Berg, an officer in the Semenov regiment with whom
Boris was to travel to join the army, and about whom Natasha had,
teased her elder sister Vera, speaking of Berg as her "intended."
The count sat between them and listened attentively. His favorite
occupation when not playing boston, a card game he was very fond of,
was that of listener, especially when he succeeded in setting two
loquacious talkers at one another.
"Well, then, old chap, mon tres honorable Alphonse Karlovich,"
said Shinshin, laughing ironically and mixing the most ordinary
Russian expressions with the choicest French phrases- which was a
peculiarity of his speech. "Vous comptez vous faire des rentes sur
l'etat;* you want to make something out of your company?"
*You expect to make an income out of the government.
"No, Peter Nikolaevich; I only want to show that in the cavalry
the advantages are far less than in the infantry. Just consider my own
position now, Peter Nikolaevich..."
Berg always spoke quietly, politely, and with great precision. His
conversation always related entirely to himself; he would remain
calm and silent when the talk related to any topic that had no
direct bearing on himself. He could remain silent for hours without
being at all put out of countenance himself or making others
uncomfortable, but as soon as the conversation concerned himself he
would begin to talk circumstantially and with evident satisfaction.
"Consider my position, Peter Nikolaevich. Were I in the cavalry I
should get not more than two hundred rubles every four months, even
with the rank of lieutenant; but as it is I receive two hundred and
thirty," said he, looking at Shinshin and the count with a joyful,
pleasant smile, as if it were obvious to him that his success must
always be the chief desire of everyone else.
"Besides that, Peter Nikolaevich, by exchanging into the Guards I
shall be in a more prominent position," continued Berg, "and vacancies
occur much more frequently in the Foot Guards. Then just think what
can be done with two hundred and thirty rubles! I even manage to put a
little aside and to send something to my father," he went on, emitting
a smoke ring.
"La balance y est...* A German knows how to skin a flint, as the
proverb says," remarked Shinshin, moving his pipe to the other side of
his mouth and winking at the count.
*So that squares matters.
The count burst out laughing. The other guests seeing that
Shinshin was talking came up to listen. Berg, oblivious of irony or
indifference, continued to explain how by exchanging into the Guards
he had already gained a step on his old comrades of the Cadet Corps;
how in wartime the company commander might get killed and he, as
senior in the company, might easily succeed to the post; how popular
he was with everyone in the regiment, and how satisfied his father was
with him. Berg evidently enjoyed narrating all this, and did not
seem to suspect that others, too, might have their own interests.
But all he said was so prettily sedate, and the naivete of his
youthful egotism was so obvious, that he disarmed his hearers.
"Well, my boy, you'll get along wherever you go- foot or horse- that
I'll warrant," said Shinshin, patting him on the shoulder and taking
his feet off the sofa.
Berg smiled joyously. The count, by his guests, went into the
It was just the moment before a big dinner when the assembled
guests, expecting the summons to zakuska,* avoid engaging in any
long conversation but think it necessary to move about and talk, in
order to show that they are not at all impatient for their food. The
host and hostess look toward the door, and now and then glance at
one another, and the visitors try to guess from these glances who,
or what, they are waiting for- some important relation who has not yet
arrived, or a dish that is not yet ready.
Pierre had come just at dinnertime and was sitting awkwardly in
the middle of the drawing room on the first chair he had come
across, blocking the way for everyone. The countess tried to make
him talk, but he went on naively looking around through his spectacles
as if in search of somebody and answered all her questions in
monosyllables. He was in the way and was the only one who did not
notice the fact. Most of the guests, knowing of the affair with the
bear, looked with curiosity at this big, stout, quiet man, wondering
how such a clumsy, modest fellow could have played such a prank on a
"You have only lately arrived?" the countess asked him.
"Oui, madame," replied he, looking around him.
"You have not yet seen my husband?"
"Non, madame." He smiled quite inappropriately.
"You have been in Paris recently, I believe? I suppose it's very
The countess exchanged glances with Anna Mikhaylovna. The latter
understood that she was being asked to entertain this young man, and
sitting down beside him she began to speak about his father; but he
answered her, as he had the countess, only in monosyllables. The other
guests were all conversing with one another. "The Razumovskis... It
was charming... You are very kind... Countess Apraksina..." was
heard on all sides. The countess rose and went into the ballroom.
"Marya Dmitrievna?" came her voice from there.
"Herself," came the answer in a rough voice, and Marya Dmitrievna
entered the room.
All the unmarried ladies and even the married ones except the very
oldest rose. Marya Dmitrievna paused at the door. Tall and stout,
holding high her fifty-year-old head with its gray curls, she stood
surveying the guests, and leisurely arranged her wide sleeves as if
rolling them up. Marya Dmitrievna always spoke in Russian.
"Health and [happiness to her whose name day we are keeping and to
her children," she said, in her loud, full-toned voice which drowned
all others. "Well, you old sinner," she went on, turning to the
count who was kissing her hand, "you're feeling dull in Moscow, I
daresay? Nowhere to hunt with your dogs? But what is to be done, old
man? Just see how these nestlings are growing up," and she pointed
to the girls. "You must look for husbands for them whether you like it
Well," said she, "how's my Cossack?" (Marya Dmitrievna always called
Natasha a Cossack) and she stroked the child's arm as she came up
fearless and gay to kiss her hand. "I know she's a scamp of a girl,
but I like her."
She took a pair of pear-shaped ruby earrings from her huge
reticule and, having given them to the rosy Natasha, who beamed with
the pleasure of her saint's-day fete, turned away at once and
addressed herself to Pierre.
"Eh, eh, friend! Come here a bit," said she, assuming a soft high
tone of voice. "Come here, my friend..." and she ominously tucked up
her sleeves still higher. Pierre approached, looking at her in a
childlike way through his spectacles.
"Come nearer, come nearer, friend! I used to be the only one to tell
your father the truth when he was in favor, and in your case it's my
evident duty." She paused. All were silent, expectant of what was to
follow, for this was dearly only a prelude.
"A fine lad! My word! A fine lad!... His father lies on his deathbed
and he amuses himself setting a policeman astride a bear! For shame,
sir, for shame! It would be better if you went to the war."
She turned away and gave her hand to the count, who could hardly
keep from laughing.
"Well, I suppose it is time we were at table?" said Marya
The count went in first with Marya Dmitrievna, the countess followed
on the arm of a colonel of hussars, a man of importance to them
because Nicholas was to go with him to the regiment; then came Anna
Mikhaylovna with Shinshin. Berg gave his arm to Vera. The smiling
Julie Karagina went in with Nicholas. After them other couples
followed, filling the whole dining hall, and last of all the children,
tutors, and governesses followed singly. The footmen began moving
about, chairs scraped, the band struck up in the gallery, and the
guests settled down in their places. Then the strains of the count's
household band were replaced by the clatter of knives and forks, the
voices of visitors, and the soft steps of the footmen. At one end of
the table sat the countess with Marya Dmitrievna on her right and Anna
Mikhaylovna on her left, the other lady visitors were farther down. At
the other end sat the count, with the hussar colonel on his left and
Shinshin and the other male visitors on his right. Midway down the
long table on one side sat the grownup young people: Vera beside Berg,
and Pierre beside Boris; and on the other side, the children,
tutors, and governesses. From behind the crystal decanters and fruit
vases the count kept glancing at his wife and her tall cap with its
light-blue ribbons, and busily filled his neighbors' glasses, not
neglecting his own. The countess in turn, without omitting her
duties as hostess, threw significant glances from behind the
pineapples at her husband whose face and bald head seemed by their
redness to contrast more than usual with his gray hair. At the ladies'
end an even chatter of voices was heard all the time, at the men's end
the voices sounded louder and louder, especially that of the colonel
of hussars who, growing more and more flushed, ate and drank so much
that the count held him up as a pattern to the other guests. Berg with
tender smiles was saying to Vera that love is not an earthly but a
heavenly feeling. Boris was telling his new friend Pierre who the
guests were and exchanging glances with Natasha, who was sitting
opposite. Pierre spoke little but examined the new faces, and ate a
great deal. Of the two soups he chose turtle with savory patties and
went on to the game without omitting a single dish or one of the
wines. These latter the butler thrust mysteriously forward, wrapped in
a napkin, from behind the next man's shoulders and whispered: "Dry
Madeira"... "Hungarian"... or "Rhine wine" as the case might be. Of
the four crystal glasses engraved with the count's monogram that stood
before his plate, Pierre held out one at random and drank with
enjoyment, gazing with ever-increasing amiability at the other guests.
Natasha, who sat opposite, was looking at Boris as girls of thirteen
look at the boy they are in love with and have just kissed for the
first time. Sometimes that same look fell on Pierre, and that funny
lively little girl's look made him inclined to laugh without knowing
Nicholas sat at some distance from Sonya, beside Julie Karagina,
to whom he was again talking with the same involuntary smile. Sonya
wore a company smile but was evidently tormented by jealousy; now
she turned pale, now blushed and strained every nerve to overhear what
Nicholas and Julie were saying to one another. The governess kept
looking round uneasily as if preparing to resent any slight that might
be put upon the children. The German tutor was trying to remember
all the dishes, wines, and kinds of dessert, in order to send a full
description of the dinner to his people in Germany; and he felt
greatly offended when the butler with a bottle wrapped in a napkin
passed him by. He frowned, trying to appear as if he did not want
any of that wine, but was mortified because no one would understand
that it was not to quench his thirst or from greediness that he wanted
it, but simply from a conscientious desire for knowledge.
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