Princess Mary with a gentle smile looked now at Pierre and now at Natasha. In the whole narrative she saw only Pierre and his goodness. Natasha, leaning on her elbow, the expression of her face constantly changing with the narrative, watched Pierre with an attention that never wandered- evidently herself experiencing all that he described. Not only her look, but her exclamations and the brief questions she put, showed Pierre that she understood just what he wished to convey. It was clear that she understood not only what he said but also what he wished to, but could not, express in words. The account Pierre gave of the incident with the child and the woman for protecting whom he was arrested was this: "It was an awful sight- children abandoned, some in the flames... One was snatched out before my eyes... and there were women who had their things snatched off and their earrings torn out..." he flushed and grew confused. "Then a patrol arrived and all the men- all those who were not looting, that is- were arrested, and I among them."
"I am sure you're not telling us everything; I am sure you did something..." said Natasha and pausing added, "something fine?"
Pierre continued. When he spoke of the execution he wanted to pass over the horrible details, but Natasha insisted that he should not omit anything.
Pierre began to tell about Karataev, but paused. By this time he had risen from the table and was pacing the room, Natasha following him with her eyes. Then he added:
"No, you can't understand what I learned from that illiterate man- that simple fellow."
"Yes, yes, go on!" said Natasha. "Where is he?"
"They killed him almost before my eyes."
And Pierre, his voice trembling continually, went on to tell of the last days of their retreat, of Karataev's illness and his death.
He told of his adventures as he had never yet recalled them. He now, as it were, saw a new meaning in all he had gone through. Now that he was telling it all to Natasha he experienced that pleasure which a man has when women listen to him- not clever women who when listening either try to remember what they hear to enrich their minds and when opportunity offers to retell it, or who wish to adopt it to some thought of their own and promptly contribute their own clever comments prepared in their little mental workshop- but the pleasure given by real women gifted with a capacity to select and absorb the very best a man shows of himself. Natasha without knowing it was all attention: she did not lose a word, no single quiver in Pierre's voice, no look, no twitch of a muscle in his face, nor a single gesture. She caught the unfinished word in its flight and took it straight into her open heart, divining the secret meaning of all Pierre's mental travail.
Princess Mary understood his story and sympathized with him, but she now saw something else that absorbed all her attention. She saw the possibility of love and happiness between Natasha and Pierre, and the first thought of this filled her heart with gladness.
It was three o'clock in the morning. The footmen came in with sad and stern faces to change the candles, but no one noticed them.
Pierre finished his story. Natasha continued to look at him intently with bright, attentive, and animated eyes, as if trying to understand something more which he had perhaps left untold. Pierre in shamefaced and happy confusion glanced occasionally at her, and tried to think what to say next to introduce a fresh subject. Princess Mary was silent. It occurred to none of them that it was three o'clock and time to go to bed.
"People speak of misfortunes and sufferings," remarked Pierre, "but if at this moment I were asked: 'Would you rather be what you were before you were taken prisoner, or go through all this again?' then for heaven's sake let me again have captivity and horseflesh! We imagine that when we are thrown out of our usual ruts all is lost, but it is only then that what is new and good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is much, much before us. I say this to you," he added, turning to Natasha.
"Yes, yes," she said, answering something quite different. "I too should wish nothing but to relive it all from the beginning."
Pierre looked intently at her.
"Yes, and nothing more." said Natasha.
"It's not true, not true!" cried Pierre. "I am not to blame for being alive and wishing to live- nor you either."
Suddenly Natasha bent her head, covered her face with her hands, and began to cry.
"What is it, Natasha?" said Princess Mary.
"Nothing, nothing." She smiled at Pierre through her tears. "Good night! It is time for bed."
Pierre rose and took his leave.
Princess Mary and Natasha met as usual in the bedroom. They talked of what Pierre had told them. Princess Mary did not express her opinion of Pierre nor did Natasha speak of him.
"Well, good night, Mary!" said Natasha. "Do you know, I am often afraid that by not speaking of him" (she meant Prince Andrew) "for fear of not doing justice to our feelings, we forget him."
Princess Mary sighed deeply and thereby acknowledged the justice of Natasha's remark, but she did not express agreement in words.
"Is it possible to forget?" said she.
"It did me so much good to tell all about it today. It was hard and painful, but good, very good!" said Natasha. "I am sure he really loved him. That is why I told him... Was it all right?" she added, suddenly blushing.
"To tell Pierre? Oh, yes. What a splendid man he is!" said Princess Mary.
"Do you know, Mary..." Natasha suddenly said with a mischievous smile such as Princess Mary had not seen on her face for a long time, "he has somehow grown so clean, smooth, and fresh- as if he had just come out of a Russian bath; do you understand? Out of a moral bath. Isn't it true?"
"Yes," replied Princess Mary. "He has greatly improved."
"With a short coat and his hair cropped; just as if, well, just as if he had come straight from the bath... Papa used to..."
"I understand why he" (Prince Andrew) "liked no one so much as him," said Princess Mary.
"Yes, and yet he is quite different. They say men are friends when they are quite different. That must be true. Really he is quite unlike him- in everything."
"Yes, but he's wonderful."
"Well, good night," said Natasha.
And the same mischievous smile lingered for a long time on her face as if it had been forgotten there.
War and Peace -by- Leo TolstoyBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.