In the November of 1805 Prince Vassily was obliged to go on a tour of inspection through four provinces. He had secured this appointment for himself, in order to be able and at the same time to visit his estates, which were in a neglected state. He intended to pick up his son, Anatole, on the way (where his regiment was stationed), and to pay a visit to Prince Nikolay Andreivitch Bolkonsky, with a view to marrying his son to the rich old man's daughter. But before going away and entering on those new affairs, Prince Vassily wanted to settle matters with Pierre, who had, it was true, of late spent whole days at home, that is, at Prince Vassily's, where he was staying, and was as absurd, as agitated, and as stupid in Ellen's presence, as a young man in love should be, but still made no offer.
'This is all very fine, but the thing must come to a conclusion,' Prince Vassily said to himself one morning, with a melancholy sigh, recognizing that Pierre, who was so greatly indebted to him (But there! God bless the fellow!) was not behaving quite nicely to him in the matter. 'Youth . . . frivolity . . . well, God be with him,' thought Prince Vassily, enjoying the sense of his own goodness of heart, 'but the thing must come to a conclusion. The day after to-morrow is Ellen's name-day., I'll invite some people, and if he doesn't understand what he's to do, then it will be my affair to see to it. Yes, my affair. I'm her father.'
Six weeks after Anna Pavlovna's party, and the sleepless and agitated night after it, in which Pierre had made up his mind that a marriage with Ellen would be a calamity, and that he must avoid her and go away; six weeks after that decision Pierre had still not left Prince Vasily's and felt with horror that every day he ws more and more connected with her in people's minds, that he could not go back to his former view of her, that he could not tear himself away from her even, that it would be an awful thing, but that he would have to unite his life to hers. Perhaps he might have mastered himself, but not a day passed without a party at Prince Vassily's(where receptions had not been frequent), and Pierre was bound to be present if he did not want to disturb the general satisfaction and disappoint every one. At the rare moments when Prince Vassily was at home, he took Pierre's handoff he passed him, carelessly offered him his shaven, wrinkled cheek for a kiss, and said, 'till to-morrow,' or 'be in to dinner, or I shan't see you,' or 'I shall stay at home on your account,' or some such remark. But although, when Prince Vassily did stay at home for Pierre (as he said), he never spoke two words to him, Pierre did not feel equal to disappointing him. Every day he said the same thing over and over to himself. 'I must, really understand her and make up my mind, what she is. Was I mistaken before, or am I mistaken now? No, she's not stupid; no, she's a good girl,' he said to himself sometimes. 'She never makes a mistake, nor has said anything clear. So she's not stupid. She has never been abashed, and she is not abashed now. So she isn't a bad woman.' It often happened that he began to make reflections, to think aloud in her company, and every ime she had relied either by a brief, but appropriate remark, that showed she was not interested in the matter, or by a mute smile and glance, which more palpably than anything proved to Pierre her superiority. She was right in regarding all reflections as nonsense in comparison with that smile.
She always addressed him now with a glad, confiding smile--a smile having reference to him alone, and full of something more significant than the society smile that always adorned her face. Pierre knew that every one was only waiting for him to say one word, to cross a certain line, and he knew that sooner or later he would cross it. But a kind of uncomprehended horror seized upon him at the mere thought of his fearful step. A thousand times in the course of those six weeks, during which he felt himself being drawn on further and further toward the abyss that horrified him, Pierre had said to himself: 'But what does it mean? I must act with decision! Can it be that I haven't any?' He tried to come to a decision, but felt with dismay that he had not in this case the strength of will which he had known in himself and really did possess. Pierre belonged to that class of persons who are only strong when they feel themselves perfectly pure. And ever since the day when he had been overcome by the sensation of desire, that he had felt stooping over the snuff-box at Anna Pavlovna's, an unconscious sense of the sinfulness of that impulse paralyzed his will.
On Ellen's name-day, Prince Vassily answered laughing. '"Sergey Kuzmitch . . . from all sides." "From all sides . . . Sergey Kuzmitch. . . ." Poor Vyazmitinov could not get any further. Several times he started upon the letter again, but no sooner did he utter "Sergey,' . . . then a sniff . . . "Kuz . . . mi . . . itch"--tears . . . and "from all sides" is smothered in sobs, and he can get no further. And again the handkerchief and again "Sergey Kuzmitch from all sides" and tears, . . . so that we begged some one else to read it. . . .'
'"Kuzmitch . . . from all sides" . . . and tears. . . .' some one repeated, laughing.
'Don't be naughty,' said Anna Pavlovna, from the other end of the table, shaking her finger at him. 'He is such a worthy, excellent man, our good Vyazmitinov.'
Every one laughed heartily. At the upper end of the table, the place of honor, every one seemed in good spirits, under the influence of various enlivening tendencies. Only Pierre and Ellen sat mutely side by side almost at the bottom of the table. The faces of both wore a restrained but beaming smile that had n connection with Sergey Kuzmitch--the smile of bashfulness at their own feelings. Gaily as the others laughed and talked and jested, appetizing as were the Rhine wine, the sauté, and the ices they were discussing, carefully as they avoided glancing at the young couple, heedless and unobservant as they seemed of them, yet it was somehow perceptible from the glances stolen at times at them, that the anecdote about Sergey Kuzmitch, and the laughter and the dishes, really concentrated simply on that pair--Pierre and Ellen. Prince Vassily mimicked the sniffs of Sergey Kuzmitch, and at the same time avoided glancing at his daughter, and at the very time that he was laughing, his expression seemed to say: 'Yes, yes, it's all going well, it will all be settled to-day.' Anna Pavlovna shook her finger at him for laughing at'our good Vyazmitinov,' but in her eyes, which at that second flashed a future son-in-law and his daughter's felicity. Old Princess Kuragin, offering wine to the lady next her with a pensive sigh, looking angrily at her daughter, seemed in that sigh to be saying: 'Yes, there's nothing left for you and me now, my dear, but to drink sweet wine, now that the time has come for young people to be so indecently, provokingly happy!' 'And what stupid stuff it all is that I'm talking about, as though it interested me,' thought the diplomat, glancing at the happy faces of the lovers. 'That's happiness!'
Into the midst of the petty trivialities, the conventional interests, which made the common tie uniting that company, had fallen the simple feeling of the attraction of two beautiful and healthy young creatures to one another. And this human feeling dominated everything and triumphed over all their conventional chatter. The jests fell flat, the news was not interesting, the liveliness was unmistakably forced. Not the guests only, but the footmen waiting at table seemed to feel the same and forget their duties, glancing at the lovely Ellen with her radiant face and the broad, red, happy and uneasy face of Pierre. The very light of the candles seemed concentrated on those two happy faces.
Pierre felt that he was the centre of it all, and this position both pleased him and embarrassed him. He was like a man absorbed in some engrossing occupation. He had no clear sight, nor hearing; no understanding of anything. Only from time to time disconnected ideas and impressions of the reality flashed unexpectedly into his mind.
'So it is all over!' he thought. And how has it all been done? So quickly! Now I know that not for her sake, nor for my sake alone, but for every one it must inevitably come to pass. They all expect it so, they are all so convinced that it will be, that I cannot, I cannot, disappoint them. But how will it be? I don't know, but it will be infallibly, it will be!' mused Pierre, glancing at the dazzling shoulders that were so close to his eyes.
Then he suddenly felt a vague shame. He felt awkward at being the sole object of the general attention, at being a happy man in the eyes of others, with his ugly face being a sort of Paris in possession of a Helen. 'But, no doubt, it's always like this, and must be so,' he consoled himself. 'And yet what have I done to bring it about? When did it begin? Afterwards what reason as there for not staying with him? Then I played cards with her and picked up her reticule, and went skating with her. When did it begin, when did it all come about?' And here he was sitting beside her as her betrothed, hearing, seeing, feeling her closeness, her breathing, her movements, her beauty. Then it suddenly seemed to him that it was not she, but he who was himself extraordinary beautiful, that that was why they were looking at him so, and he, happy in the general admiration, was drawing himself up, lifting his head and rejoicing in his happiness. All at once he heard a voice, a familiar voice, addressing him for the second time.
But Pierre was so absorbed that he did not understand what was said to him.
'I'm asking you, when you heard from Bolkonsky,' Prince Vasily repeated a third time. 'How absent-minded you are, my dear boy.' Prince Vassily smiled, and Pierre saw that every one, every one was smiling at him and at Ellen
'Well, what of it, since you all know,' Pierre was saying to himself. 'What of it? it's the truth,' and he smiled to himself his gentle, childlike smile, and Ellen smiled.
'When did you get a letter? From Olmütz?' repeated Prince Vassily, who wanted to know in order to settle some disputed question.
'How can people talk and think of such trifles?' thought Pierre.
'Yes, from Olmütz,' he answered with a sigh.
Pierre took his lady in behind the rest from supper to the drawing-room. The guests began to take leave, and several went away without saying good-bye to Ellen. As though unwilling to take her away from a serious occupation, several went up to her for an instant and made haste to retire again, refusing to let her accompany them out. The diplomat went out of the drawing-room in dumb dejection. He felt vividly all the vanity of his diplomatic career in comparison with Pierre's happiness. The old general growled angrily at his wife when she inquired how his leg was. 'The old fool,' he thought, 'Look at Elena Vassilyevna; she'll be beautiful at fifty.'
'I believe I may congratulate you,' Anna Pavlovna whispered to Princess Kuragin, as she kissed her warmly. 'If I hadn't a headache, I would stay on.' The princess made no answer; she was tormented by envy of her daughter's happiness.
While the guests were taking leave, Pierre was left a long while alone with Ellen in the little drawing room, where they were sitting. Often before, during the last six weeks he had been eft alone with Ellen, but he had never spoke of love to her. Now he felt that this was inevitable, but he could not make up his mind to this final step. He felt ashamed; it seemed to him that here at Ellen's side he was filling some other man's place. 'This happiness is not for you, ' some inner voice said to him. 'This happiness is for those who have not in them what you have within you.' But he had to say something, and he began to speak He asked her whether she had enjoyed the evening. With her habitual directness in replying, she answered that this name-day had been one of the pleasantest she had ever had.
A few of the nearest relations were still lingering on. They were sitting in the big drawing-room. Prince Vassily walked with languid steps towards Pierre. Pierre rose and observed that it was getting late. Prince Vassily leveled a look of stern inquiry upon him, as though what he had said was so strange that one could not believe one's ears. But the expression of severity immediately passed away, and Prince Vassily taking Pierre's hand drew him down into a seat and smiled affectionately.
'Well, Ellen?' he said at once, addressing his daughter in that careless tone of habitual tenderness which comes natural to parents who have petted their children from infancy, but in Prince Vassily's case it was only arrived at by imitation of other parents. And he turned to Pierre again: '"Sergey Kuzmitch on all sides,"' he repeated, unbuttoning the top button of his waistcoat.
Pierre smiled, but his smile betrayed that he understood that it was not the anecdote of Sergey Kuzmitch that interested Prince Vassily at that moment, and Prince Vassily knew that Pierre knew it. Prince Vassily all at once muttered something and went away. It seemed to Pierre that Prince Vassily was positively disconcerted. The sight of the discomfiture of this elderly man of the world touched Pierre; he looked round at Ellen--and she, he fancied, was disconcerted too, and her glance seemed to say: 'Well, it's your own fault.'
'I must inevitably cross the barrier, but I can't, I can't,' thought Pierre, and he began again speaking of extraneous subjects, of Sergey Kuzmitch, inquiring what was the point of the anecdote, and he had not caught it all. Ellen, with a smile, replied that she did not know it either.
When Prince Vassily went into the drawing-room, the princess was talking in subdued tones with an elderly lady about Pierre.
'Of course it is a very brilliant match, but happiness, my dear . . ."
'Marriages are made in heaven,' responded the elderly lady.
Prince Vassily walked to the furthest corner and sat down on a sofa as though he had not heard the ladies. He closed his eyes and seemed to doze. His head began to droop, and he roused himself.
'Aine,' he said to his wife, 'go and see what they are doing.'
The princess went up to the door, walked by it with a countenance full of meaning and affected nonchalance, and glanced into the little drawing-room. Pierre and Ellen were sitting and talking as before.
'Just the same,' she said in answer to her husband. Prince Vassily frowned, twisting his mouth on one side, his cheeks twitched with the unpleasant, brutal expression peculiar to him at such moments. He shook himself, got up, flung his head back, and with results steps passed the ladies and crossed over to the little drawing room. He walked quickly, joyfully up to Pierre. The prince's face was so extraordinarily solemn that Pierre got up in alarm on seeing him.
"Thank God!' he said, 'My wife told me all about it.' He put one arm round Pierre, the other round his daughter. 'My dear boy! Ellen! I am very, very glad.' His voice quavered. 'I loved your father . . . and she will make you a good wife . . . God's blessing on you! . . .' He embraced his daughter, then Pierre again, and kissed him with his elderly lips. Tears were actually moist on his cheeks. 'Aline, come here,' he called.
The princess went in and wept too. The elderly lady also put her handkerchief to her eye. They kissed Pierre, and he several times kissed the hand of the lovely Ellen. A little later they were again left alone.
'All this had to be so and could not have been otherwise,' thought Pierre, 'so that it's no use to inquire whether it was a good thing or not. It's a good thing because it's definite, and there's none o the agonizing suspense there was before.' Pierre held his betrothed's hand in silence, and gazed at the heaving and falling of her lovely bosom.
'Ellen!' he said aloud, and stopped. 'There's something special is said on these occasions,' he thought; but he could not recollect precisely what it was that was said on these occasions. He glanced into her face. She bent forward closer to him. Her face flushed rosy red.
'Ah, take off those . . . those . . .' she points to his spectacles.
Pierre took off his spectacles, and there was in his eyes besisdes the strange look people's eyes always have when they remove spectacles, a look of dismay and inquiry. He would have bent over her hand and have kissed it. But with an almost brutal movement of her head, she caught at his lips and pressed them to her own. Pierre was struck by the transformed, the unpleasantly confused expression of her face.
'Now it's too late, it's all over, and besides I love her,' thought Pierre.
'I love you!' he said, remembering what had to be said on these occasions. But the words sounded so poor that he felt ashamed of himself.
Six weeks later he was married, and the lucky possessor of a lovely wife and millions of money, as people said; he took up his abode in the great, newly decorated Petersburg mansion of the Counts Bezuhov.
Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace
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