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War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER IX


作者: Leo Tolstoy



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  • Author: Leo Tolstoy

IT was on the eve of St. Nikolay's day, the 5th of December, 1820. That year

Natasha with her husband and children had been staying at Bleak Hills since the

beginning of autumn. Pierre was in Petersburg, where he had gone on private

business of his own, as he said, for three weeks. He had already been away for

six, and was expected home every minute.



On this 5th of December there was also staying with the Rostovs Nikolay's old

friend, the general on half-pay, Vassily Fedorovitch Denisov.



Next day visitors were coming in celebration of his nameday, and Nikolay knew

that he would have to take off his loose Tatar coat, to put on a frock coat, and

narrow boots with pointed toes, and to go to the new church he had built, and

there to receive congratulations, and to offer refreshments to his guests, and

to talk about the provincial elections and the year's crops. But the day before

he considered he had a right to spend as usual. Before dinner-time Nikolay had

gone over the bailiff's accounts from the Ryazan estate, the property of his

wife's nephew; written two business letters, and walked through the corn barns,

the cattleyard, and the stables. After taking measures against the general

drunkenness he expected next day among his peasants in honour of the fête, he

came in to dinner, without having had a moment's conversation alone with his

wife all day. He sat down to a long table laid with twenty covers, at which all

the household were assembled, consisting of his mother, old Madame Byelov, who

lived with her as a companion, his wife and three children, their governess and

tutor, his wife's nephew with his tutor, Sonya, Denisov, Natasha, her three

children, their governess, and Mihail Ivanitch, the old prince's architect, who

was living out his old age in peace at Bleak Hills.



Countess Marya was sitting at the opposite end of the table. As soon as her

husband sat down to the table, from the gesture with which he took up his

table-napkin and quickly pushed back the tumbler and wineglass set at his place,

she knew that he was out of humour, as he sometimes was, particularly before the

soup, and when he came straight in to dinner from his work. Countess Marya

understood this mood in her husband very well, and when she was herself in a

good temper, she used to wait quietly till he had swallowed his soup, and only

then began to talk to him and to make him admit that he had no reason to be out

of temper. But to-day she totally forgot this principle of hers; she had a

miserable sense of his being vexed with her without cause, and she felt

wretched. She asked him where he had been. He answered. She asked again whether

everything were going well on the estate. He frowned disagreeably at her

unnatural tone, and made a hasty reply.



“I was right then,” thought Countess Marya, “and what is he cross with me

for?” In the tone of his answer she read ill-will towards her and a desire to

cut short the conversation. She felt that her words were unnatural; but she

could not restrain herself, and asked a few more questions.



The conversation at dinner, thanks to Denisov, soon became general and

animated, and she did not say more to her husband. When they rose from table,

and according to custom came up to thank the old countess, Countess Marya kissed

her husband, offering him her hand, and asked why he was cross with her.



“You always have such strange ideas; I never thought of being cross,” he

said.



But that word always answered her: Yes, I am angry, and I don't choose

to say.



Nikolay lived on such excellent terms with his wife that even Sonya and the

old countess, who from jealousy would have been pleased to see disagreement

between them, could find nothing to reproach them with; but there were moments

of antagonism even between them. Sometimes, particularly just after their

happiest periods, they had a sudden feeling of estrangement and antagonism; that

feeling was most frequent during the times when Countess Marya was with child.

They happened to be just now at such a period of antagonism.



“Well, messieurs et mesdames,” said Nikolay loudly, and with a show

of cheerfulness (it seemed to his wife that this was on purpose to mortify her),

“I have been since six o'clock on my legs. To-morrow will be an infliction, so

to-day I'll go and rest.” And saying nothing more to Countess Marya, he went

off to the little divan-room, and lay down on the sofa.



“That's how it always is,” thought his wife. “He talks to everybody but

not to me. I see, I see that I am repulsive to him, especially in this

condition.” She looked down at her high waist and then into the looking-glass

at her sallow and sunken face, in which the eyes looked bigger than ever.



And everything jarred upon her: Denisov's shout and guffaw and Natasha's

chatter, and above all the hasty glance Sonya stole at her.



Sonya was always the first excuse Countess Marya pitched on for her

irritability.



After sitting a little while with her guests, not understanding a word they

were saying, she slipped out and went to the nursery.



The children were sitting on chairs playing at driving to Moscow, and invited

her to join them. She sat down and played with them, but the thought of her

husband and his causeless ill-temper worried her all the time. She got up, and

walked with difficulty on tiptoe to the little divan-room



“Perhaps he is not asleep. I will speak plainly to him,” she said to

herself. Andryusha, her elder boy, followed her on tiptoe, imitating her. His

mother did not notice him.



“Dear Marie, I believe he is asleep; he was so tired,” said Sonya, meeting

her in the next room (it seemed to Countess Marya that she was everywhere).

“Andryusha had better not wake him.”



Countess Marya looked round, saw Andryusha behind her, felt that Sonya was

right, and for that very reason flushed angrily, and with evident difficulty

restrained herself from a cruel retort. She said nothing, and, so as not to obey

her, let Andryusha follow her, but signed to him to be quiet, and went up to the

door. Sonya went out by the other door. From the room where Nikolay was asleep,

his wife could hear his even breathing, every tone of which was so familiar. As

she listened to it, she could see his smooth, handsome brow, his moustaches, the

whole face she had so often gazed at in the stillness of the night when he was

asleep. Nikolay suddenly stirred and cleared his throat. And at the same instant

Andryusha shouted from the door, “Papa, mamma's here!” His mother turned pale

with dismay and made signs to the boy. He was quiet, and there followed a

terrible silence that lasted a minute. She knew how Nikolay disliked being

waked. Suddenly she heard him stir and clear his throat again, and in a tone of

displeasure he said:



“I'm never given a moment's peace. Marie, is it you? Why did you bring him

here?”



“I only came to look … I did not see … I'm so sorry …”



Nikolay coughed and said no more. His wife went away, and took her son back

to the nursery. Five minutes later little, black-eyed, three-year-old Natasha,

her father's favourite, hearing from her brother that papa was asleep, and mamma

in the next room, ran in to her father, unnoticed by her mother.



The black-eyed little girl boldly rattled at the door, and her fat, little

feet ran with vigorous steps up to the sofa. After examining the position of her

father, who was asleep with his back to her, she stood on tiptoe and kissed the

hand that lay under his head. Nikolay turned round to her with a smile of

tenderness on his face.



“Natasha, Natasha!” he heard his wife whisper in dismay from the door.

“Papa is sleepy.”



“No, mamma, he isn't sleepy,” little Natasha answered with conviction.

“He's laughing.”



Nikolay set his feet down, got up, and picked his little daughter up in his

arms.



“Come in, Masha,” he said to his wife. She went in and sat down beside

him.



“I did not see him run in after me,” she said timidly. “I just looked in

…”



Holding his little girl on one arm, Nikolay looked at his wife, and noticing

her guilty expression, he put the other arm round her and kissed her on the

hair.



“May I kiss mamma?” he asked Natasha. The little girl smiled demurely.

“Again,” she said, with a peremptory gesture, pointing to the spot where

Nikolay had kissed her mother.



“I don't know why you should think I am cross,” said Nikolay, replying to

the question which he knew was in his wife's heart.



“You can't imagine how unhappy, how lonely, I am when you are like that. It

always seems to me …”



“Marie, hush, nonsense! You ought to be ashamed,” he said gaily.



“It seems to me that you can't care for me; that I am so ugly … at all

times, and now in this …”



“Oh, how absurd you are! It's not those who are handsome we love, but those

we love who are handsome. It is only Malvinas and such heroines who are loved

because they are beautiful. And do you suppose I love my wife? Oh no, I don't

love you, but only … I don't know how to tell you. When you are away, and any

misunderstanding like this comes between us, I feel as though I were lost, and

can do nothing. Why, do I love my finger? I don't love it, but only try cutting

it off …”



“No, I don't feel like that, but I understand. Then you are not angry with

me?”



“I am awfully angry!” he said, smiling, and getting up, and smoothing his

hair, he began pacing up and down the room.



“Do you know, Marie, what I have been thinking?” he began, beginning at

once now that peace was made between them, thinking aloud before his wife. He

did not inquire whether she were disposed to listen; that did not matter to him.

An idea occurred to him; and so it must to her, too. And he told her that he

meant to persuade Pierre to stay with them till the spring.



Countess Marya listened to him, made some comments, and then in her turn

began thinking her thoughts aloud. Her thoughts were of the children.



“How one can see the woman in her already,” she said in French, pointing to

little Natasha. “You reproach us women for being illogical. You see in her our

logic. I say, papa is sleepy, and she says, no, he's laughing. And she is

right,” said Countess Marya, smiling blissfully.



“Yes, yes,” said Nikolay, lifting up his little girl in his strong arm,

raised her high in the air, sat her on his shoulder, holding her little feet,

and began walking up and down with her. There was just the same look of

thoughtless happiness on the faces of father and daughter.



“But do you know, you may be unfair. You are too fond of this one,” his

wife whispered in French.



“Yes, but what can I do? … I try not to show it …”



At that moment there was heard from the hall and the vestibule the sound of

the block of the door, and footsteps, as though some one had arrived.



“Somebody has come.”



“I am sure it is Pierre. I will go and find out,” said Countess Marya, and

she went out of the room.



While she was gone Nikolay allowed himself to gallop round the room with his

little girl. Panting for breath, he quickly lowered the laughing child, and

hugged her to his breast. His capers made him think of dancing; and looking at

the childish, round, happy little face, he wondered what she would be like when

he would be an old man, taking her out to dances, and he remembered how his

father used to dance Daniel Cooper and the mazurka with his daughter.



“It is he, it is he, Nikolay!” said Countess Marya, returning a few minutes

later. “Now our Natasha is herself again. You should have seen her delight, and

what a scolding he came in for at once for having out-stayed his time. Come, let

us go; make haste; come along! You must part at last,” she said, smiling, as

she looked at the little girl nestling up to her father. Nikolay went out,

holding his daughter by the hand.



Countess Marya lingered behind.



“Never, never could I have believed,” she murmured to herself, “that one

could be so happy.” Her face lighted up with a smile; but at the same moment

she sighed, and a soft melancholy came into her thoughtful glance. It was as

though, apart from the happiness she was feeling there was another happiness

unattainable in this life, which she could not help remembering at that

moment.



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  4. War And Peace: Book 15 - CHAPTER IV
  5. War And Peace: Book 15 - CHAPTER III
  6. War And Peace: Book 15 - CHAPTER II
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  10. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER XIV
  11. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER XIII
  12. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER XII
  13. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER XI
  14. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER X
  15. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER VIII
  16. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER VII
  17. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER VI
  18. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER V
  19. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER IV
  20. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER III
  21. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER II
  22. War And Peace: Epilogue 1 - CHAPTER I
  23. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER XII
  24. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER XI
  25. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER X
  26. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER IX
  27. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER VIII
  28. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER VII
  29. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER VI
  30. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER V
  31. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER IV
  32. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER III
  33. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER II
  34. War And Peace: Epilogue 2 - CHAPTER I

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