Chapter 2

ON HIS RETURN to Moscow from the army, Nikolay Rostov was received by his family as a hero, as the best of sons, their idolised Nikolenka; by his relations, as a charming, agreeable, and polite young man; by his acquaintances as a handsome lieutenant of hussars, a good dancer, and one of the best matches in Moscow.

All Moscow was acquainted with the Rostovs; the old count had plenty of money that year, because all his estates had been mortgaged, and so Nikolenka, who kept his own racehorse, and wore the most fashionable riding-breeches of a special cut, unlike any yet seen in Moscow, and the most fashionable boots, with extremely pointed toes, and little silver spurs, was able to pass his time very agreeably. After the first brief interval of adapting himself to the old conditions of life, Rostov felt very happy at being home again. He felt that he had grown up and become a man. His despair at failing in a Scripture examination, his borrowing money from Gavrilo for his sledge-drivers, his stolen kisses with Sonya—all that he looked back upon as childishness from which he was now immeasurably remote. Now he was a lieutenant of hussars with a silver-braided jacket, and a soldier’s cross of St. George, he had a horse in training for a race, and kept company with well-known racing men, elderly and respected persons. He had struck up an acquaintance too, with a lady living in a boulevard, whom he used to visit in the evening. He led the mazurka at the Arharovs’ balls, talked to Field-Marshal Kamensky about the war, and used familiar forms of address to a colonel of forty, to whom he had been introduced by Denisov.

His passion for the Tsar flagged a little in Moscow, as he did not see him, and had no chance of seeing him all that time. But still he often used to talk about the Emperor and his love for him, always with a suggestion in his tone that he was not saying all that there was in his feeling for the Emperor, something that every one could not understand; and with his whole heart he shared the general feeling in Moscow of adoration for the Emperor Alexander Pavlovitch, who was spoken of at that time in Moscow by the designation of the “angel incarnate.”

During this brief stay in Moscow, before his return to the army, Rostov did not come nearer to Sonya, but on the contrary drifted further away from her. She was very pretty and charming, and it was obvious that she was passionately in love with him. But he was at that stage of youth when there seems so much to do, that one has not time to pay attention to love, and a young man dreads being bound, and prizes his liberty, which he wants for so much else. When he thought about Sonya during this stay at Moscow, he said to himself: “Ah! there are many, many more like her to come, and there are many of them somewhere now, though I don’t know them yet. There’s plenty of time before me to think about love when I want to, but I have not the time now.” Moreover, it seemed to him that feminine society was somewhat beneath his manly dignity. He went to balls, and into ladies’ society with an affection of doing so against his will. Races, the English club, carousals with Denisov, and the nocturnal visits that followed—all that was different, all that was the correct thing for a dashing young hussar.

At the beginning of March the old count, Ilya Andreivitch Rostov, was very busily engaged in arranging a dinner at the English Club, to be given in honour of Prince Bagration.

The count, in his dressing-gown, was continually walking up and down in the big hall, seeing the club manager, the celebrated Feoktista, and the head cook, and giving them instructions relative to asparagus, fresh cucumbers, strawberries, veal, and fish, for Prince Bagration’s dinner. From the day of its foundation, the count had been a member of the club, and was its steward. He had been entrusted with the organisation of the banquet to Bagration by the club, because it would have been hard to find any one so well able to organise a banquet on a large and hospitable scale, and still more hard to find any one so able and willing to advance his own money, if funds were needed, for the organisation of the fête. The cook and the club manager listened to the count’s orders with good-humoured faces, because they knew that with no one better than with him could one make a handsome profit out of a dinner costing several thousands.

“Well, then, mind there are scallops, scallops in pie-crust, you know.”

“Cold entrées, I suppose—three? …” questioned the cook.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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