Chapter 1

AT THE BEGINNING of the year 1806, Nikolay Rostov was coming home on leave. Denisov, too, was going home to Voronezh, and Rostov persuaded him to go with him to Moscow and to pay him a visit there. Denisov met his comrade at the last posting station but one, drank three bottles of wine with him, and, in spite of the jolting of the road on the journey to Moscow, slept soundly lying at the bottom of the posting sledge beside Rostov, who grew more and more impatient, as they got nearer to Moscow.

“Will it come soon? Soon? Oh, these insufferable streets, bunshops, street lamps, and sledge drivers!” thought Rostov, when they had presented their papers at the town gates and were driving into Moscow.

“Denisov, we’re here! Asleep!” he kept saying, flinging his whole person forward as though by that position he hoped to hasten the progress of the sledge. Denisov made no response.

“Here’s the corner of the cross-roads, where Zahar the sledge-driver used to stand; and here is Zahar, too, and still the same horse. And here’s the little shop where we used to buy cakes. Make haste! Now!”

“Which house is it?” asked the driver.

“Over there, at the end, the big one; how is it you don’t see it? That’s our house,” Rostov kept saying; “that’s our house, of course.”

“Denisov! Denisov! we shall be there in a minute.”

Denisov raised his head, cleared his throat, and said nothing.

“Dmitry,” said Rostov to his valet on the box, “surely that light is home?”

“To be sure it is; it’s the light in your papa’s study, too.”

“They’ve not gone to bed yet? Eh? What do you think?”

“Mind now, don’t forget to get me out my new tunic,” added Rostov, fingering his new moustaches.

“Come, get on,” he shouted to the driver. “And do wake up, Vasya,” he said to Denisov, who had begun nodding again.

“Come, get on, three silver roubles for vodka—get on!” shouted Rostov, when they were only three houses from the entrance. It seemed to him that the horses were not moving. At last the sledge turned to the right into the approach, Rostov saw the familiar cornice with the broken plaster overhead, the steps, the lamp-post. He jumped out of the sledge while it was moving and ran into the porch. The house stood so inhospitably, as though it were no concern of its who had come into it. There was no one in the porch. “My God! is everything all right?” wondered Rostov, stopping for a moment with a sinking heart, and then running on again along the porch and up the familiar, crooked steps. Still the same door handle, the dirtiness of which so often angered the countess, turned in the same halting fashion. In the hall there was a single tallow candle burning.

Old Mihailo was asleep on his perch.

Prokofy, the footman, a man so strong that he had lifted up a carriage, was sitting there in his list shoes. He glanced towards the opening door and his expression of sleepy indifference was suddenly transformed into one of frightened ecstasy.

“Merciful Heavens! The young count!” he cried, recognising his young master. “Can it be? my darling?” And Prokofy, shaking with emotion, made a dash towards the drawing-room door, probably with the view of announcing him; but apparently he changed his mind, for he came back and fell on his young master’s shoulder.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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