Chapter 11

RETURNING from his southern tour in the happiest frame of mind, Pierre carried out an intention he had long had, of visiting his friend Bolkonsky, whom he had not seen for two years.

Bogutcharovo lay in a flat, ugly part of the country, covered with fields and copses of fir and birch-trees, in parts cut down. The manor house was at the end of the straight village that ran along each side of the high road, behind an overflowing pond newly dug, and still bare of grass on its banks in the midst of a young copse, with several large pines standing among the smaller trees.

The homestead consisted of a threshing floor, serfs’ quarters, stables, bath-houses, lodges, and a large stone house with a semicircular façade, still in course of erection. Round the house a garden had been newly laid out. The fences and gates were solid and new; under a shed stood two fire-engines and a tub painted green. The paths were straight, the bridges were strong and furnished with stone parapets. Everything had an air of being cared for and looked after. The house serfs on the way, in reply to inquiries where the prince was living, pointed to a small new lodge at the very edge of the pond. Prince Andrey’s old body-servant, Anton, after assisting Pierre out of his carriage, said that the prince was at home, and conducted him into a clean little lobby.

Pierre was struck by the modesty of this little, clean house, after the splendid surroundings in which he had last seen his friend in Petersburg.

He went hurriedly into the little parlour, still unplastered and smelling of pine wood, and would have gone further, but Anton ran ahead on tip-toe and knocked at the door.

“What is it?” he heard a harsh, unpleasant voice.

“A visitor,” answered Anton.

“Ask him to wait”; and there was the sound of a chair being pushed back.

Pierre went with rapid steps to the door, and came face to face with Prince Andrey, who came out frowning and looking older. Pierre embraced him, and taking off his spectacles, kissed him and looked close at him.

“Well, I didn’t expect you; I am glad,” said Prince Andrey.

Pierre said nothing; he was looking in wonder at his friend, and could not take his eyes off him. He was struck by the change in Prince Andrey. His words were warm, there was a smile on the lips and the face, but there was a lustreless, dead look in his eyes, into which, in spite of his evident desire to seem glad, Prince Andrey could not throw a gleam of happiness. It was not only that his friend was thinner, paler, more manly looking, but the look in his eyes and the line on his brow, that expressed prolonged concentration on some one subject, struck Pierre and repelled him till he got used to it.

On meeting after a long separation, the conversation, as is always the case, did not for a long while rest on one subject. They asked questions and gave brief replies about things of which they knew themselves they must talk at length. At last the conversation began gradually to revolve more slowly about the questions previously touched only in passing, their life in the past, their plans for the future, Pierre’s journeys, and what he had been doing, the war, and so on. The concentrated and crushed look which Pierre had noticed in Prince Andrey’s eyes was still more striking now in the smile with which he listened to him, especially when he was telling him with earnestness and delight of his past or his future. It was as though Prince Andrey would have liked to take interest in what he was telling him, but could not. Pierre began to feel that to express enthusiasm, ideals, and hopes of happiness and goodness was unseemly before Prince Andrey. He felt ashamed of giving expression to all the new ideas he had gained from the masons, which had been revived and strengthened in him by his last tour. He restrained himself, afraid of seeming naïve. At the same time he felt an irresistible desire to show his friend at once that he was now a quite different Pierre, better than the one he had known in Petersburg.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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