Chapter 1

AFTER PRINCE ANDREY’S ENGAGEMENT to Natasha, Pierre suddenly, for no apparent reason, felt it impossible to go on living in the same way as before. Firm as his belief was in the truths revealed to him by his benefactor, the old freemason, and happy as he had been at first in the task of perfecting his inner spiritual self, to which he had devoted himself with such ardour, yet after Prince Andrey’s engagement to Natasha, and the death of Osip Alexyevitch, the news of which reached him almost simultaneously, the whole zest of his religious life seemed to have suddenly vanished. Nothing but the skeleton of life remained: his house with his brilliant wife, now basking in the favours of a very grand personage indeed, the society of all Petersburg, and his service at court with its tedious formalities. And that life suddenly filled Pierre with unexpected loathing. He gave up keeping his diary, avoided the society of brother- masons, took to visiting the club again and to drinking a great deal; associated once more with gay bachelor companions, and began to lead a life so dissipated that Countess Elena Vassilyevna thought it necessary to make severe observations to him on the subject. Pierre felt that she was right; and to avoid compromising his wife he went away to Moscow.

In Moscow, as soon as he entered his huge house with the faded and fading princesses, his cousins, and the immense retinue of servants, as soon as, driving through the town, he saw the Iversky chapel with the lights of innumerable candles before the golden setting of the Madonna, the square of the Kremlin with its untrodden snow, the sledge-drivers, and the hovels of Sivtsev Vrazhok; saw the old Moscow gentlemen quietly going on with their daily round, without hurry or desire of change; saw the old Moscow ladies, the Moscow balls, and the English Club—he felt himself at home, in a quiet haven of rest. In Moscow he felt comfortable, warm, at home, and snugly dirty, as in an old dressing-gown.

All Moscow society, from the old ladies to the children, welcomed Pierre back like a long-expected guest, whose place was always ready for him, and had never been filled up. For the Moscow world, Pierre was the most delightful, kind-hearted, intellectual, good-humoured, and generous eccentric, and a heedless and genial Russian gentleman of the good old school. His purse was always empty, because it was always open to every one.

Benefit-entertainments, poor pictures and statues, benevolent societies, gypsy choruses, schools, subscription dinners, drinking parties, the masons, churches, and books—no one and nothing ever met with a refusal, and had it not been for two friends, who had borrowed large sums of money from Pierre and constituted themselves guardians of a sort over him, he would have parted with everything. Not a dinner, not a soirée took place at the club without him.

As soon as he was lolling in his place on the sofa, after a couple of bottles of Margaux, he was surrounded by a circle of friends, and arguments, disputes, and jokes sprang up round him. Where there were quarrels, his kindly smile and casually uttered jokes were enough to reconcile the antagonists. The masonic dining lodges were dull and dreary when he was absent.

When after a bachelor supper, with a weak and good-natured smile, he yielded to the entreaties of the festive party that he would drive off with them to share their revels, there were shouts of delight and triumph. At balls he danced if there were a lack of partners. Girls and young married ladies liked him, because he paid no special attention to any one, but was equally amiable to all, especially after supper. “He is charming; he is of no sex,” they used to say of him.

Pierre was just a kammerherr, retired to end his days in Moscow, like hundreds of others. How horrified he would have been if, seven years before, when he had just come home from abroad, any one had told him that there was no need for him to look about him and rack his brains, that the track had long ago been trodden, marked out from all eternity for him, and that, struggle as he would, he would be just such another as all men in his position. He could not have believed it then! Had he not longed with his whole heart to establish a republic in Russia; then to be himself a Napoleon; then to be a philosopher; and then a great strategist and the conqueror of Napoleon? Had he not passionately desired and believed in the regeneration of the sinful race of man and the schooling of himself to the highest point of perfect virtue? Had he not founded schools and hospitals and liberated his serfs?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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