Chapter 3

It was the beginning of June when Prince Andrey, on his return journey, drove again into the birch forest, in which the old, gnarled oak had made upon him so strange and memorable an impression. The ringing of the bells did not carry so far now in the forest as six weeks before. Everything was fully out, thick, and shut in. And the young firs, dotted about the forest, did not break the general beauty, but, subdued to the same character as the rest, were softly green with their feathery bunches of young needles.

The whole day had been hot; a storm was gathering, but only a small rain-cloud had sprinkled the dust of the road and the sappy leaves. The left side of the forest was dark, lying in shadow. The right side, glistening with the raindrops, gleamed in the sunlight, faintly undulating in the wind. Everything was in flower, the nightingales twittered and carolled, now close, now far away.

“Yes, it was here, in this forest, I saw that oak, with whom I was in sympathy,” thought Prince Andrey. “But where is he?” he thought again as he gazed at the left side of the road, and, all unaware and unrecognising, he was admiring the very oak he was seeking. The old oak, utterly transformed, draped in a tent of sappy dark green, basked faintly, undulating in the rays of the evening sun. Of the knotted fingers, the gnarled excrescences, the aged grief and mistrust—nothing was to be seen. Through the rough, century- old bark, where there were no twigs, leaves had burst out so sappy, so young, that it was hard to believe that aged creature had borne them.

“Yes, that is the same tree,” thought Prince Andrey, and all at once there came upon him an irrational, spring feeling of joy and of renewal. All the best moments of his life rose to his memory at once. Austerlitz, with that lofty sky, and the dead, reproachful face of his wife, and Pierre on the ferry, and the girl, thrilled by the beauty of the night, and that night and moon—it all rushed at once into his mind.

“No, life is not over at thirty-one,” Prince Andrey decided all at once, finally and absolutely. “It’s not enough for me to know all there is in me, every one must know it too; Pierre and that girl, who wanted to fly away into the sky; every one must know me so that my life may not be spent only on myself; they must not live so apart from my life, it must be reflected in all of them and they must all share my life with me!”

On getting home after his journey, Prince Andrey made up his mind to go to Petersburg in the autumn, and began inventing all sorts of reasons for this decision. A whole chain of sensible, logical reasons, making it essential for him to visit Petersburg, and even to re-enter the service, was at every moment ready at his disposal. He could not indeed comprehend now how he could ever have doubted of the necessity of taking an active share in life, just as a month before he could not have understood how the idea of leaving the country could ever occur to him. It seemed clear to him that all his experience of life would be wasted and come to naught, if he did not apply it in practice and take an active part in life again. He could not understand indeed how on a basis of such poor arguments it could have seemed so incontestable to him that he would be lowering himself, if after the lessons he had received from life, he were to put faith again in the possibility of being useful and in the possibility of happiness and of love. Reason now gave its whole support to the other side. After his journey to Ryazan, Prince Andrey began to weary of life in the country; his former pursuits ceased to interest him, and often sitting alone in his study, he got up, went to the looking-glass and gazed a long while at his own face. Then he turned away to the portrait of Liza, who, with her curls tied up à la grecque, looked gaily and tenderly out of the gold frame at him. She did not say those terrible words to him; she looked curiously and merrily at him. And, clasping his hands behind him, Prince Andrey would walk a long while up and down his room, frowning and smiling by turns, as he brooded over those irrational ideas, that could not be put into words, and were secret as a crime—the ideas connected with Pierre, with glory, with the girl at the window, with the oak, with woman’s beauty, and love, which had changed the whole current of his life. And if any one came into his room at such moments, he would be particularly short, severely decided and disagreeably logical.

Mon cher,” Princess Marya would say coming in at such a moment, “Nikolushka cannot go out for a walk to-day; it is very cold.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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