War and Peace
The friends were silent. Neither cared to begin talking. Pierre
continually glanced at Prince Andrew; Prince Andrew rubbed his
forehead with his small hand.
"Let us go and have supper," he said with a sigh, going to the door.
They entered the elegant, newly decorated, and luxurious dining
room. Everything from the table napkins to the silver, china, and
glass bore that imprint of newness found in the households of the
newly married. Halfway through supper Prince Andrew leaned his
elbows on the table and, with a look of nervous agitation such as
Pierre had never before seen on his face, began to talk- as one who
has long had something on his mind and suddenly determines to speak
"Never, never marry, my dear fellow! That's my advice: never marry
till you can say to yourself that you have done all you are capable
of, and until you have ceased to love the woman of your choice and
have seen her plainly as she is, or else you will make a cruel and
irrevocable mistake. Marry when you are old and good for nothing- or
all that is good and noble in you will be lost. It will all be
wasted on trifles. Yes! Yes! Yes! Don't look at me with such surprise.
If you marry expecting anything from yourself in the future, you
will feel at every step that for you all is ended, all is closed
except the drawing room, where you will be ranged side by side with
a court lackey and an idiot!... But what's the good?..." and he
waved his arm.
Pierre took off his spectacles, which made his face seem different
and the good-natured expression still more apparent, and gazed at
his friend in amazement.
"My wife," continued Prince Andrew, "is an excellent woman, one of
those rare women with whom a man's honor is safe; but, O God, what
would I not give now to be unmarried! You are the first and only one
to whom I mention this, because I like you."
As he said this Prince Andrew was less than ever like that Bolkonski
who had lolled in Anna Pavlovna's easy chairs and with half-closed
eyes had uttered French phrases between his teeth. Every muscle of his
thin face was now quivering with nervous excitement; his eyes, in
which the fire of life had seemed extinguished, now flashed with
brilliant light. It was evident that the more lifeless he seemed at
ordinary times, the more impassioned he became in these moments of
almost morbid irritation.
"You don't understand why I say this," he continued, "but it is
the whole story of life. You talk of Bonaparte and his career," said
he (though Pierre had not mentioned Bonaparte), "but Bonaparte when he
worked went step by step toward his goal. He was free, he had
nothing but his aim to consider, and he reached it. But tie yourself
up with a woman and, like a chained convict, you lose all freedom! And
all you have of hope and strength merely weighs you down and
torments you with regret. Drawing rooms, gossip, balls, vanity, and
triviality- these are the enchanted circle I cannot escape from. I
am now going to the war, the greatest war there ever was, and I know
nothing and am fit for nothing. I am very amiable and have a caustic
wit," continued Prince Andrew, "and at Anna Pavlovna's they listen
to me. And that stupid set without whom my wife cannot exist, and
those women... If you only knew what those society women are, and
women in general! My father is right. Selfish, vain, stupid, trivial
in everything- that's what women are when you see them in their true
colors! When you meet them in society it seems as if there were
something in them, but there's nothing, nothing, nothing! No, don't
marry, my dear fellow; don't marry!" concluded Prince Andrew.
"It seems funny to me," said Pierre, "that you, you should
consider yourself incapable and your life a spoiled life. You have
everything before you, everything. And you..."
He did not finish his sentence, but his tone showed how highly he
thought of his friend and how much he expected of him in the future.
"How can he talk like that?" thought Pierre. He considered his
friend a model of perfection because Prince Andrew possessed in the
highest degree just the very qualities Pierre lacked, and which
might be best described as strength of will. Pierre was always
astonished at Prince Andrew's calm manner of treating everybody, his
extraordinary memory, his extensive reading (he had read everything,
knew everything, and had an opinion about everything), but above all
at his capacity for work and study. And if Pierre was often struck
by Andrew's lack of capacity for philosophical meditation (to which he
himself was particularly addicted), he regarded even this not as a
defect but as a sign of strength.
Even in the best, most friendly and simplest relations of life,
praise and commendation are essential, just as grease is necessary
to wheels that they may run smoothly.
"My part is played out," said Prince Andrew. "What's the use of
talking about me? Let us talk about you," he added after a silence,
smiling at his reassuring thoughts.
That smile was immediately reflected on Pierre's face.
"But what is there to say about me?" said Pierre, his face
relaxing into a careless, merry smile. "What am I? An illegitimate
son!" He suddenly blushed crimson, and it was plain that he had made a
great effort to say this. "Without a name and without means... And
it really..." But he did not say what "it really" was. "For the
present I am free and am all right. Only I haven't the least idea what
I am to do; I wanted to consult you seriously."
Prince Andrew looked kindly at him, yet his glance- friendly and
affectionate as it was- expressed a sense of his own superiority.
"I am fond of you, especially as you are the one live man among
our whole set. Yes, you're all right! Choose what you will; it's all
the same. You'll be all right anywhere. But look here: give up
visiting those Kuragins and leading that sort of life. It suits you so
badly- all this debauchery, dissipation, and the rest of it!"
"What would you have, my dear fellow?" answered Pierre, shrugging
his shoulders. "Women, my dear fellow; women!"
"I don't understand it," replied Prince Andrew. "Women who are comme
il faut, that's a different matter; but the Kuragins' set of women,
'women and wine' I don't understand!"
Pierre was staying at Prince Vasili Kuragin's and sharing the
dissipated life of his son Anatole, the son whom they were planning to
reform by marrying him to Prince Andrew's sister.
"Do you know?" said Pierre, as if suddenly struck by a happy
thought, "seriously, I have long been thinking of it.... Leading
such a life I can't decide or think properly about anything. One's
head aches, and one spends all one's money. He asked me for tonight,
but I won't go."
"You give me your word of honor not to go?"
"On my honor!"
Previous Chapter Next Chapter