War and Peace
After receiving her visitors, the countess was so tired that she
gave orders to admit no more, but the porter was told to be sure to
invite to dinner all who came "to congratulate." The countess wished
to have a tete-a-tete talk with the friend of her childhood,
Princess Anna Mikhaylovna, whom she had not seen properly since she
returned from Petersburg. Anna Mikhaylovna, with her tear-worn but
pleasant face, drew her chair nearer to that of the countess.
"With you I will be quite frank," said Anna Mikhaylovna. "There
are not many left of us old friends! That's why I so value your
Anna Mikhaylovna looked at Vera and paused. The countess pressed her
"Vera," she said to her eldest daughter who was evidently not a
favorite, "how is it you have so little tact? Don't you see you are
not wanted here? Go to the other girls, or..."
The handsome Vera smiled contemptuously but did not seem at all
"If you had told me sooner, Mamma, I would have gone," she replied
as she rose to go to her own room.
But as she passed the sitting room she noticed two couples
sitting, one pair at each window. She stopped and smiled scornfully.
Sonya was sitting close to Nicholas who was copying out some verses
for her, the first he had ever written. Boris and Natasha were at
the other window and ceased talking when Vera entered. Sonya and
Natasha looked at Vera with guilty, happy faces.
It was pleasant and touching to see these little girls in love;
but apparently the sight of them roused no pleasant feeling in Vera.
"How often have I asked you not to take my things?" she said. "You
have a room of your own," and she took the inkstand from Nicholas.
"In a minute, in a minute," he said, dipping his pen.
"You always manage to do things at the wrong time," continued
Vera. "You came rushing into the drawing room so that everyone felt
ashamed of you."
Though what she said was quite just, perhaps for that very reason no
one replied, and the four simply looked at one another. She lingered
in the room with the inkstand in her hand.
"And at your age what secrets can there be between Natasha and
Boris, or between you two? It's all nonsense!"
"Now, Vera, what does it matter to you?" said Natasha in defense,
speaking very gently.
She seemed that day to be more than ever kind and affectionate to
"Very silly," said Vera. "I am ashamed of you. Secrets indeed!"
"All have secrets of their own," answered Natasha, getting warmer.
"We don't interfere[ with you and Berg."
"I should think not," said Vera, "because there can never be
anything wrong in my behavior. But I'll just tell Mamma how you are
behaving with Boris."
"Natalya Ilynichna behaves very well to me," remarked Boris. "I have
nothing to complain of."
"Don't, Boris! You are such a diplomat that it is really
tiresome," said Natasha in a mortified voice that trembled slightly.
(She used the word "diplomat," which was just then much in vogue among
the children, in the special sense they attached to it.) "Why does she
bother me?" And she added, turning to Vera, "You'll never understand
it, because you've never loved anyone. You have no heart! You are a
Madame de Genlis and nothing more" (this nickname, bestowed on Vera by
Nicholas, was considered very stinging), "and your greatest pleasure
is to be unpleasant to people! Go and flirt with Berg as much as you
please," she finished quickly.
"I shall at any rate not run after a young man before visitors..."
"Well, now you've done what you wanted," put in Nicholas- "said
unpleasant things to everyone and upset them. Let's go to the
All four, like a flock of scared birds, got up and left the room.
"The unpleasant things were said to me," remarked Vera, "I said none
"Madame de Genlis! Madame de Genlis!" shouted laughing voices
through the door.
The handsome Vera, who produced such an irritating and unpleasant
effect on everyone, smiled and, evidently unmoved by what had been
said to her, went to the looking glass and arranged her hair and
scarf. Looking at her own handsome face she seemed to become still
colder and calmer.
In the drawing room the conversation was still going on.
"Ah, my dear," said the countess, "my life is not all roses
either. Don't I know that at the rate we are living our means won't
last long? It's all the Club and his easygoing nature. Even in the
country do we get any rest? Theatricals, hunting, and heaven knows
what besides! But don't let's talk about me; tell me how you managed
everything. I often wonder at you, Annette- how at your age you can
rush off alone in a carriage to Moscow, to Petersburg, to those
ministers and great people, and know how to deal with them all! It's
quite astonishing. How did you get things settled? I couldn't possibly
"Ah, my love," answered Anna Mikhaylovna, "God grant you never
know what it is to be left a widow without means and with a son you
love to distraction! One learns many things then," she added with a
certain pride. "That lawsuit taught me much. When I want to see one of
those big people I write a note: 'Princess So-and-So desires an
interview with So and-So,' and then I take a cab and go myself two,
three, or four times- till I get what I want. I don't mind what they
think of me."
"Well, and to whom did you apply about Bory?" asked the countess.
"You see yours is already an officer in the Guards, while my
Nicholas is going as a cadet. There's no one to interest himself for
him. To whom did you apply?"
"To Prince Vasili. He was so kind. He at once agreed to
everything, and put the matter before the Emperor," said Princess Anna
Mikhaylovna enthusiastically, quite forgetting all the humiliation she
had endured to gain her end.
"Has Prince Vasili aged much?" asked the countess. "I have not
seen him since we acted together at the Rumyantsovs' theatricals. I
expect he has forgotten me. He paid me attentions in those days," said
the countess, with a smile.
"He is just the same as ever," replied Anna Mikhaylovna,
"overflowing with amiability. His position has not turned his head
at all. He said to me, 'I am sorry I can do so little for you, dear
Princess. I am at your command.' Yes, he is a fine fellow and a very
kind relation. But, Nataly, you know my love for my son: I would do
anything for his happiness! And my affairs are in such a bad way
that my position is now a terrible one," continued Anna Mikhaylovna,
sadly, dropping her voice. "My wretched lawsuit takes all I have and
makes no progress. Would you believe it, I have literally not a
penny and don't know how to equip Boris." She took out her
handkerchief and began to cry. "I need five hundred rubles, and have
only one twenty-five-ruble note. I am in such a state.... My only hope
now is in Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov. If he will not assist
his godson- you know he is Bory's godfather- and allow him something
for his maintenance, all my trouble will have been thrown away.... I
shall not be able to equip him."
The countess' eyes filled with tears and she pondered in silence.
"I often think, though, perhaps it's a sin," said the princess,
"that here lives Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov so rich, all
alone... that tremendous fortune... and what is his life worth? It's a
burden to him, and Bory's life is only just beginning...."
"Surely he will leave something to Boris," said the countess.
"Heaven only knows, my dear! These rich grandees are so selfish.
Still, I will take Boris and go to see him at once, and I shall
speak to him straight out. Let people think what they will of me, it's
really all the same to me when my son's fate is at stake." The
princess rose. "It's now two o'clock and you dine at four. There
will just be time."
And like a practical Petersburg lady who knows how to make the
most of time, Anna Mikhaylovna sent someone to call her son, and
went into the anteroom with him.
"Good-by, my dear," said she to the countess who saw her to the
door, and added in a whisper so that her son should not hear, "Wish me
"Are you going to Count Cyril Vladimirovich, my dear?" said the
count coming out from the dining hall into the anteroom, and he added:
"If he is better, ask Pierre to dine with us. He has been to the
house, you know, and danced with the children. Be sure to invite
him, my dear. We will see how Taras distinguishes himself today. He
says Count Orlov never gave such a dinner as ours will be!"
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