Chapter 19

FROM THE DAY of his wife’s arrival in Moscow, Pierre had been intending to go away somewhere else, simply not to be with her. Soon after the Rostovs’ arrival in Moscow, the impression made upon him by Natasha had impelled him to hasten in carrying out his intention. He went to Tver to see the widow of Osip Alexyevitch, who had long before promised to give him papers of the deceased’s.

When Pierre came back to Moscow, he was handed a letter from Marya Dmitryevna, who summoned him to her on a matter of great importance, concerning Andrey Bolkonsky and his betrothed. Pierre had been avoiding Natasha. It seemed to him that he had for her a feeling stronger than a married man should have for a girl betrothed to his friend. And some fate was continually throwing him into her company.

“What has happened? And what do they want with me?” he thought as he dressed to go to Marya Dmitryevna’s. “If only Prince Andrey would make haste home and marry her,” thought Pierre on the way to the house.

In the Tverskoy Boulevard some one shouted his name.

“Pierre! Been back long?” a familiar voice called to him. Pierre raised his head. Anatole, with his everlasting companion Makarin, dashed by in a sledge with a pair of grey trotting-horses, who were kicking up the snow on to the forepart of the sledge. Anatole was sitting in the classic pose of military dandies, the lower part of his face muffled in his beaver collar, and his head bent a little forward. His face was fresh and rosy; his hat, with its white plume, was stuck on one side, showing his curled, pomaded hair, sprinkled with fine snow.

“Indeed, he is the real philosopher!” thought Pierre. “He sees nothing beyond the present moment of pleasure; nothing worries him, and so he is always cheerful, satisfied, and serene. What would I not give to be just like him!” Pierre mused with envy.

In Marya Dmitryevna’s entrance-hall the footman, as he took off Pierre’s fur coat, told him that his mistress begged him to come to her in her bedroom.

As he opened the door into the reception-room, Pierre caught sight of Natasha, sitting at the window with a thin, pale, and ill-tempered face. She looked round at him, frowned, and with an expression of frigid dignity walked out of the room.

“What has happened?” asked Pierre, going in to Marya Dmitryevna.

“Fine doings,” answered Marya Dmitryevna. “Fifty-eight years I have lived in the world—never have I seen anything so disgraceful.” And exacting from Pierre his word of honour not to say a word about all he was to hear, Marya Dmitryevna informed him that Natasha had broken off her engagement without the knowledge of her parents; that the cause of her doing so was Anatole Kuragin, with whom Pierre’s wife had thrown her, and with whom Natasha had attempted to elope in her father’s absence in order to be secretly married to him.

Pierre, with hunched shoulders and open mouth, listened to what Marya Dmitryevna was saying, hardly able to believe his ears. That Prince Andrey’s fiancée, so passionately loved by him, Natasha Rostov, hitherto so charming, should give up Bolkonsky for that fool Anatole, who was married already (Pierre knew the secret of his marriage), and be so much in love with him as to consent to elope with him—that Pierre could not conceive and could not comprehend. He could not reconcile the sweet impression he had in his soul of Natasha, whom he had known from childhood, with this new conception of her baseness, folly, and cruelty. He thought of his wife. “They are all alike,” he said to himself, reflecting he was not the only man whose unhappy fate it was to be bound to a low woman. But still he felt ready to weep with sorrow for Prince Andrey, with sorrow for his pride. And the more he felt for his friend, the greater was the contempt and even aversion with which he thought of Natasha, who had just passed him with such an expression of rigid dignity. He could not know that Natasha’s heart was filled with despair,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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