War and Peace
At the appointed hour the prince, powdered and shaven, entered the
dining room where his daughter-in-law, Princess Mary, and Mademoiselle
Bourienne were already awaiting him together with his architect, who
by a strange caprice of his employer's was admitted to table though
the position of that insignificant individual was such as could
certainly not have caused him to expect that honor. The prince, who
generally kept very strictly to social distinctions and rarely
admitted even important government officials to his table, had
unexpectedly selected Michael Ivanovich (who always went into a corner
to blow his nose on his checked handkerchief) to illustrate the theory
that all men are equals, and had more than once impressed on his
daughter that Michael Ivanovich was "not a whit worse than you or
I." At dinner the prince usually spoke to the taciturn Michael
Ivanovich more often than to anyone else.
In the dining room, which like all the rooms in the house was
exceedingly lofty, the members of the household and the footmen- one
behind each chair- stood waiting for the prince to enter. The head
butler, napkin on arm, was scanning the setting of the table, making
signs to the footmen, and anxiously glancing from the clock to the
door by which the prince was to enter. Prince Andrew was looking at
a large gilt frame, new to him, containing the genealogical tree of
the Princes Bolkonski, opposite which hung another such frame with a
badly painted portrait (evidently by the hand of the artist
belonging to the estate) of a ruling prince, in a crown- an alleged
descendant of Rurik and ancestor of the Bolkonskis. Prince Andrew,
looking again at that genealogical tree, shook his head, laughing as a
man laughs who looks at a portrait so characteristic of the original
as to be amusing.
"How thoroughly like him that is!" he said to Princess Mary, who had
come up to him.
Princess Mary looked at her brother in surprise. She did not
understand what he was laughing at. Everything her father did inspired
her with reverence and was beyond question.
"Everyone has his Achilles' heel," continued Prince Andrew.
"Fancy, with his powerful mind, indulging in such nonsense!"
Princess Mary could not understand the boldness of her brother's
criticism and was about to reply, when the expected footsteps were
heard coming from the study. The prince walked in quickly and jauntily
as was his wont, as if intentionally contrasting the briskness of
his manners with the strict formality of his house. At that moment the
great clock struck two and another with a shrill tone joined in from
the drawing room. The prince stood still; his lively glittering eyes
from under their thick, bushy eyebrows sternly scanned all present and
rested on the little princess. She felt, as courtiers do when the Tsar
enters, the sensation of fear and respect which the old man inspired
in all around him. He stroked her hair and then patted her awkwardly
on the back of her neck.
"I'm glad, glad, to see you," he said, looking attentively into
her eyes, and then quickly went to his place and sat down. "Sit
down, sit down! Sit down, Michael Ianovich!"
He indicated a place beside him to his daughter-in-law. A footman
moved the chair for her.
"Ho, ho!" said the old man, casting his eyes on her rounded
figure. "You've been in a hurry. That's bad!"
He laughed in his usual dry, cold, unpleasant way, with his lips
only and not with his eyes.
"You must walk, walk as much as possible, as much as possible," he
The little princess did not, or did not wish to, hear his words. She
was silent and seemed confused. The prince asked her about her father,
and she began to smile and talk. He asked about mutual
acquaintances, and she became still more animated and chattered away
giving him greetings from various people and retailing the town
"Countess Apraksina, poor thing, has lost her husband and she has
cried her eyes out," she said, growing more and more lively.
As she became animated the prince looked at her more and more
sternly, and suddenly, as if he had studied her sufficiently and had
formed a definite idea of her, he turned away and addressed Michael
"Well, Michael Ivanovich, our Bonaparte will be having a bad time of
it. Prince Andrew" (he always spoke thus of his son) "has been telling
me what forces are being collected against him! While you and I
never thought much of him."
Michael Ivanovich did not at all know when "you and I" had said such
things about Bonaparte, but understanding that he was wanted as a
peg on which to hang the prince's favorite topic, he looked
inquiringly at the young prince, wondering what would follow.
"He is a great tactician!" said the prince to his son, pointing to
And the conversation again turned on the war, on Bonaparte, and
the generals and statesmen of the day. The old prince seemed convinced
not only that all the men of the day were mere babies who did not know
the A B C of war or of politics, and that Bonaparte was an
insignificant little Frenchy, successful only because there were no
longer any Potemkins or Suvorovs left to oppose him; but he was also
convinced that there were no political difficulties in Europe and no
real war, but only a sort of puppet show at which the men of the day
were playing, pretending to do something real. Prince Andrew gaily
bore with his father's ridicule of the new men, and drew him on and
listened to him with evident pleasure.
"The past always seems good," said he, "but did not Suvorov
himself fall into a trap Moreau set him, and from which he did not
know how to escape?"
"Who told you that? Who?" cried the prince. "Suvorov!" And he jerked
away his plate, which Tikhon briskly caught. "Suvorov!... Consider,
Prince Andrew. Two... Frederick and Suvorov; Moreau!... Moreau would
have been a prisoner if Suvorov had had a free hand; but he had the
Hofs-kriegs-wurst-schnapps-Rath on his hands. It would have puzzled
the devil himself! When you get there you'll find out what those
Hofs-kriegs-wurst-Raths are! Suvorov couldn't manage them so what
chance has Michael Kutuzov? No, my dear boy," he continued, "you and
your generals won't get on against Buonaparte; you'll have to call
in the French, so that birds of a feather may fight together. The
German, Pahlen, has been sent to New York in America, to fetch the
Frenchman, Moreau," he said, alluding to the invitation made that year
to Moreau to enter the Russian service.... "Wonderful!... Were the
Potemkins, Suvorovs, and Orlovs Germans? No, lad, either you fellows
have all lost your wits, or I have outlived mine. May God help you,
but we'll see what will happen. Buonaparte has become a great
commander among them! Hm!..."
"I don't at all say that all the plans are good," said Prince
Andrew, "I am only surprised at your opinion of Bonaparte. You may
laugh as much as you like, but all the same Bonaparte is a great
"Michael Ivanovich!" cried the old prince to the architect who, busy
with his roast meat, hoped he had been forgotten: "Didn't I tell you
Buonaparte was a great tactician? Here, he says same thing."
"To be sure, your excellency." replied the architect.
The prince again laughed his frigid laugh.
"Buonaparte was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He has got
splendid soldiers. Besides he began by attacking Germans. And only
idlers have failed to beat the Germans. Since the world began
everybody has beaten the Germans. They beat no one- except one
another. He made his reputation fighting them."
And the prince began explaining all the blunders which, according to
him, Bonaparte had made in his campaigns and even in politics. His son
made no rejoinder, but it was evident that whatever arguments were
presented he was as little able as his father to change his opinion.
He listened, refraining from a reply, and involuntarily wondered how
this old man, living alone in the country for so many years, could
know and discuss so minutely and acutely all the recent European
military and political events.
"You think I'm an old man and don't understand the present state
of affairs?" concluded his father. "But it troubles me. I don't
sleep at night. Come now, where has this great commander of yours
shown his skill?" he concluded.
"That would take too long to tell," answered the son.
"Well, then go to your Buonaparte! Mademoiselle Bourienne, here's
another admirer of that powder-monkey emperor of yours," he
exclaimed in excellent French.
"You know, Prince, I am not a Bonapartist!"
"Dieu sait quand reviendra"... hummed the prince out of tune and,
with a laugh still more so, he quitted the table.
The little princess during the whole discussion and the rest of
the dinner sat silent, glancing with a frightened look now at her
father-in-law and now at Princess Mary. When they left the table she
took her sister-in-law's arm and drew her into another room.
"What a clever man your father is," said she; "perhaps that is why I
am afraid of him."
"Oh, he is so kind!" answered Princess Mary.
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