War and Peace
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| CHAPTER I
“WELL, PRINCE, Genoa and Lucca are now no more than private estates of the Bonaparte family. No, I warn you, that if you do not tell me we are at war, if you again allow yourself to palliate all the infamies and atrocities of this Antichrist (upon my word, I believe he is), I don't know you in future, you are no longer my friend, no longer my faithful slave, as you say. There, how do you do, how do you do? I see I'm scaring you, sit down and talk to me.”
These words were uttered in July 1805 by Anna Pavlovna Scherer, a distinguished lady of the court, and confidential maid-of-honour to the Empress Marya Fyodorovna. It was her greeting to Prince Vassily, a man high in rank and office, who was the first to arrive at her soirée. Anna Pavlovna had been coughing for the last few days; she had an attack of la grippe, as she said—grippe was then a new word only used by a few people. In the notes she had sent round in the morning by a footman in red livery, she had written to all indiscriminately: “If you have nothing better to do, count (or prince), and if the prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too alarming to you, I shall be charmed to see you at my house between 7 and 10. Annette Scherer.”
“Heavens! what a violent outburst!” the prince responded, not in the least disconcerted at such a reception. He was wearing an embroidered court uniform, stockings and slippers, and had stars on his breast, and a bright smile on his flat face.
He spoke in that elaborately choice French, in which our forefathers not only spoke but thought, and with those slow, patronising intonations peculiar to a man of importance who has grown old in court society. He went up to Anna Pavlovna, kissed her hand, presenting her with a view of his perfumed, shining bald head, and complacently settled himself on the sofa.
“First of all, tell me how you are, dear friend. Relieve a friend's anxiety,”
he said, with no change of his voice and tone, in which indifference, and even irony, was perceptible through the veil of courtesy and sympathy.
“How can one be well when one is in moral suffering? How can one help being worried in these times, if one has any feeling?” said Anna Pavlovna. “You'll spend the whole evening with me, I hope?”
“And the fête at the English ambassador's? To-day is Wednesday. I must put in an appearance there,” said the prince. “My daughter is coming to fetch me and take me there.”
“I thought to-day's fête had been put off. I confess that all these festivities and fireworks are beginning to pall.”
“If they had known that it was your wish, the fête would have been put off,”
said the prince, from habit, like a wound-up clock, saying things he did not even wish to be believed.
“Don't tease me. Well, what has been decided in regard to the Novosiltsov dispatch? You know everything.”
“What is there to tell?” said the prince in a tired, listless tone. “What has been decided? It has been decided that Bonaparte has burnt his ships, and I think that we are about to burn ours.”
Prince Vassily always spoke languidly, like an actor repeating his part in an old play. Anna Pavlovna Scherer, in spite of her forty years, was on the contrary brimming over with excitement and impulsiveness. To be enthusiastic had become her pose in society, and at times even when she had, indeed, no inclination to be so, she was enthusiastic so as not to disappoint the expectations of those who knew her. The affected smile which played continually about Anna Pavlovna's face, out of keeping as it was with her faded looks, expressed a spoilt child's continual consciousness of a charming failing of which she had neither the wish nor the power to correct herself, which, indeed, she saw no need to correct.
In the midst of a conversation about politics, Anna Pavlovna became greatly excited.
“Ah, don't talk to me about Austria! I know nothing about it, perhaps, but Austria has never wanted, and doesn't want war. She is betraying us. Russia alone is to be the saviour of Europe. Our benefactor knows his lofty destiny, and will be true to it. That's the one thing I have faith in. Our good and sublime emperor has the greatest part in the world to play, and he is so virtuous and noble that God will not desert him, and he will fulfil his mission—to strangle the hydra of revolution, which is more horrible than ever now in the person of this murderer and miscreant.… Whom can we reckon on, I ask you? … England with her commercial spirit will not comprehend and cannot comprehend all the loftiness of soul of the Emperor Alexander. She has refused to evacuate Malta. She tries to detect, she seeks a hidden motive in our actions. What have they said to Novosiltsov? Nothing. They didn't understand, they're incapable of understanding the self-sacrifice of our emperor, who desires nothing for himself, and everything for the good of humanity. And what have they promised? Nothing. What they have promised even won't come to anything! Prussia has declared that Bonaparte is invincible, and that all Europe can do nothing against him.… And I don't believe a single word of what was said by Hardenberg or Haugwitz. That famous Prussian neutrality is a mere snare. I have no faith but in God and the lofty destiny of our adored emperor. He will save Europe!” She stopped short abruptly, with a smile of amusement at her own warmth.
“I imagine,” said the prince, smiling, “that if you had been sent instead of our dear Wintsengerode, you would have carried the Prussian king's consent by storm,—you are so eloquent. Will you give me some tea?”
“In a moment. By the way,” she added subsiding into calm again, “there are two very interesting men to be here to-night, the vicomte de Mortemart; he is connected with the Montmorencies through the Rohans, one of the best families in France. He is one of the good emigrants, the real ones. Then Abbé Morio; you know that profound intellect? He has been received by the emperor. Do you know him?”
“Ah! I shall be delighted,” said the prince. “Tell me,” he added, as though he had just recollected something, speaking with special non-chalance, though the question was the chief motive of his visit: “is it true that the dowager empress desires the appointment of Baron Funke as first secretary to the Vienna legation? He is a poor creature, it appears, that baron.” Prince Vassily would have liked to see his son appointed to the post, which people were trying, through the Empress Marya Fyodorovna, to obtain for the baron.
Anna Pavlovna almost closed her eyes to signify that neither she nor any one else could pass judgment on what the empress might be pleased or see fit to do.
“Baron Funke has been recommended to the empress-mother by her sister,” was all she said in a dry, mournful tone. When Anna Pavlovna spoke of the empress her countenance suddenly assumed a profound and genuine expression of devotion and respect, mingled with melancholy, and this happened whenever she mentioned in conversation her illustrious patroness. She said that her Imperial Majesty had been graciously pleased to show great esteem to Baron Funke, and again a shade of melancholy passed over her face. The prince preserved an indifferent silence. Anna Pavlovna, with the adroitness and quick tact of a courtier and a woman, felt an inclination to chastise the prince for his temerity in referring in such terms to a person recommended to the empress, and at the same time to console him.
“But about your own family,” she said, “do you know that your daughter, since she has come out, charms everybody? People say she is as beautiful as the day.”
The prince bowed in token of respect and acknowledgment.
“I often think,” pursued Anna Pavlovna, moving up to the prince and smiling cordially to him, as though to mark that political and worldly conversation was over and now intimate talk was to begin: “I often think how unfairly the blessings of life are sometimes apportioned. Why has fate given you two such splendid children—I don't include Anatole, your youngest—him I don't like” (she put in with a decision admitting of no appeal, raising her eyebrows)—“such charming children? And you really seem to appreciate them less than any one, and so you don't deserve them.”
And she smiled her ecstatic smile.
“What would you have? Lavater would have said that I have not the bump of paternity,” said the prince.
“Don't keep on joking. I wanted to talk to you seriously. Do you know I'm not pleased with your youngest son. Between ourselves” (her face took its mournful expression), “people have been talking about him to her majesty and commiserating you…”
The prince did not answer, but looking at him significantly, she waited in silence for his answer. Prince Vassily frowned.
“What would you have me do?” he said at last. “You know I have done everything for their education a father could do, and they have both turned out des imbéciles. Ippolit is at least a quiet fool, while Anatole's a fool that won't keep quiet, that's the only difference,” he said, with a smile, more unnatural and more animated than usual, bringing out with peculiar prominence something surprisingly brutal and unpleasant in the lines about his mouth.
“Why are children born to men like you? If you weren't a father, I could find no fault with you,” said Anna Pavlovna, raising her eyes pensively.
“I am your faithful slave and to you alone I can confess. My children are the bane of my existence. It's the cross I have to bear, that's how I explain it to myself. What would you have?” … He broke off with a gesture expressing his resignation to a cruel fate. Anna Pavlovna pondered a moment.
“Have you never thought of marrying your prodigal son Anatole? People say,”
she said, “that old maids have a mania for matchmaking. I have never been conscious of this failing before, but I have a little person in my mind, who is very unhappy with her father, a relation of ours, the young Princess Bolkonsky.”
Prince Vassily made no reply, but with the rapidity of reflection and memory characteristic of worldly people, he signified by a motion of the head that he had taken in and was considering what she said.
“No, do you know that that boy is costing me forty thousand roubles a year?”
he said, evidently unable to restrain the gloomy current of his thoughts. He paused. “What will it be in five years if this goes on? These are the advantages of being a father.… Is she rich, your young princess?”
“Her father is very rich and miserly. He lives in the country. You know that notorious Prince Bolkonsky, retired under the late emperor, and nicknamed the ‘Prussian King.' He's a very clever man, but eccentric and tedious. The poor little thing is as unhappy as possible. Her brother it is who has lately been married to Liza Meinen, an adjutant of Kutuzov's. He'll be here this evening.”
“Listen, dear Annette,” said the prince, suddenly taking his companion's hand, and for some reason bending it downwards. “Arrange this matter for me and I am your faithful slave for ever and ever. She's of good family and well off.
That's all I want.”
And with the freedom, familiarity, and grace that distinguished him, he took the maid-of-honour's hand, kissed it, and as he kissed it waved her hand, while he stretched forward in his low chair and gazed away into the distance.
“Wait,” said Anna Pavlovna, considering. “I'll talk to Lise (the wife of young Bolkonsky) this very evening, and perhaps it can be arranged. I'll try my prentice hand as an old maid in your family.”
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