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Chapter I.16

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Pierre, after all, had not managed to choose a career for himself in Petersburg, and had been expelled from there for riotous conduct and sent to Moscow. The story told about him at Count Rostov's was true. Pierre had taken part in tying a policeman to a bear. He had now been for some days in Moscow and was staying as usual at his father's house. Though he expected that the story of his escapade would be already known in Moscow and that the ladies about his father- who were never favorably disposed toward him- would have used it to turn the count against him, he nevertheless on the day of his arrival went to his father's part of the house. Entering the drawing room, where the princesses spent most of their time, he greeted the ladies, two of whom were sitting at embroidery frames while a third read aloud. It was the eldest who was reading- the one who had met Anna Mikhaylovna. The two younger ones were embroidering: both were rosy and pretty and they differed only in that one had a little mole on her lip which made her much prettier. Pierre was received as if he were a corpse or a leper. The eldest princess paused in her reading and silently stared at him with frightened eyes; the second assumed precisely the same expression; while the youngest, the one with the mole, who was of a cheerful and lively disposition, bent over her frame to hide a smile probably evoked by the amusing scene she foresaw. She drew her wool down through the canvas and, scarcely able to refrain from laughing, stooped as if trying to make out the pattern.

"How do you do, cousin?" said Pierre. "You don't recognize me?"

"I recognize you only too well, too well."

"How is the count? Can I see him?" asked Pierre, awkwardly as usual, but unabashed.

"The count is suffering physically and mentally, and apparently you have done your best to increase his mental sufferings."

"Can I see the count?" Pierre again asked.

"Hm.... If you wish to kill him, to kill him outright, you can see him... Olga, go and see whether Uncle's beef tea is ready- it is almost time," she added, giving Pierre to understand that they were busy, and busy making his father comfortable, while evidently he, Pierre, was only busy causing him annoyance.

Olga went out. Pierre stood looking at the sisters; then he bowed and said: "Then I will go to my rooms. You will let me know when I can see him."

And he left the room, followed by the low but ringing laughter of the sister with the mole.

Next day Prince Vasili had arrived and settled in the count's house. He sent for Pierre and said to him: "My dear fellow, if you are going to behave here as you did in Petersburg, you will end very badly; that is all I have to say to you. The count is very, very ill, and you must not see him at all."

Since then Pierre had not been disturbed and had spent the whole time in his rooms upstairs.

When Boris appeared at his door Pierre was pacing up and down his room, stopping occasionally at a corner to make menacing gestures at the wall, as if running a sword through an invisible foe, and glaring savagely over his spectacles, and then again resuming his walk, muttering indistinct words, shrugging his shoulders and gesticulating.

"England is done for," said he, scowling and pointing his finger at someone unseen. "Mr. Pitt, as a traitor to the nation and to the rights of man, is sentenced to..." But before Pierre- who at that moment imagined himself to be Napoleon in person and to have just effected the dangerous crossing of the Straits of Dover and captured London- could pronounce Pitt's sentence, he saw a well-built and handsome young officer entering his room. Pierre paused. He had left Moscow when Boris was a boy of fourteen, and had quite forgotten him, but in his usual impulsive and hearty way he took Boris by the hand with a friendly smile.

"Do you remember me?" asked Boris quietly with a pleasant smile. "I have come with my mother to see the count, but it seems he is not well."

"Yes, it seems he is ill. People are always disturbing him," answered Pierre, trying to remember who this young man was.

Boris felt that Pierre did not recognize him but did not consider it necessary to introduce himself, and without experiencing the least embarrassment looked Pierre straight in the face.

"Count Rostov asks you to come to dinner today," said he, after a considerable pause which made Pierre feel uncomfortable.

"Ah, Count Rostov!" exclaimed Pierre joyfully. "Then you are his son, Ilya? Only fancy, I didn't know you at first. Do you remember how we went to the Sparrow Hills with Madame Jacquot?... It's such an age..."

"You are mistaken," said Boris deliberately, with a bold and slightly sarcastic smile. "I am Boris, son of Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya. Rostov, the father, is Ilya, and his son is Nicholas. I never knew any Madame Jacquot."

Pierre shook his head and arms as if attacked by mosquitoes or bees.

"Oh dear, what am I thinking about? I've mixed everything up. One has so many relatives in Moscow! So you are Boris? Of course. Well, now we know where we are. And what do you think of the Boulogne expedition? The English will come off badly, you know, if Napoleon gets across the Channel. I think the expedition is quite feasible. If only Villeneuve doesn't make a mess of things!

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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