Chapter 18

AT THE BEGINNING of July the rumours as to the progress of the war current in Moscow became more and more alarming; and there was talk of the Tsar’s appeal to the people, and the Tsar himself was said to be coming from the army to Moscow. And as up to the 11th of July the manifesto and appeal to the people had not been received, the most exaggerated reports about them and the position of Russia were common. It was said that the Tsar was coming away because the army was in danger; it was said that Smolensk had surrendered; that Napoleon had millions of troops, and that nothing short of a miracle could save Russia.

On Saturday, the 11th of July, the manifesto was received, but was not yet in print; and Pierre, who happened to be at the Rostovs’, promised to come next day, Sunday, to dinner, and to bring the manifesto, which he could obtain from Count Rastoptchin.

That Sunday the Rostovs attended service as usual in the private chapel of the Razumovskys. It was a hot July day. Even by ten o’clock, when the Rostovs got out of their carriage before the chapel, the sultry air, the shouts of the street hawkers, the gay, light summer dresses of the crowd, the dusty leaves of the trees on the boulevard, the martial music and white trousers of the battalion marching by to parade, the rattle of the pavements, and the brilliant, hot sunshine, were all full of that summer languor, that content and discontent with the present, which is felt particularly vividly on a bright, hot day in town. All the fashionable world of Moscow, all the Rostovs’ acquaintances were in the chapel. A great number of wealthy families, who usually spent the summer in the country, were staying on in Moscow that year, as though in vague anticipation of something.

As Natasha walked beside her mother, behind a footman in livery, who made way for them through the crowd, she heard the voice of some young man speaking in too loud a whisper about her:

“That’s the young Countess Rostov, the very girl!”

“She’s ever so much thinner, but still pretty!” she caught, and fancied that the names of Kuragin and Bolkonsky were mentioned. But that was always happening. She was always fancying that any one who looked at her could be thinking of nothing but what happened to her. With a sinking heart, wretched as she always was now in a crowd, Natasha, in her lilac silk dress, trimmed with black lace, walked on, as only women know how to do, with an air of ease and dignity all the greater for the pain and shame in her heart. She knew for a fact that she was pretty, but that did not give her pleasure now, as once it had. On the contrary, it had been a source of more misery than anything of late, and especially so on this bright, hot summer day in town. “Another Sunday, another week,” she said to herself, recalling how she had been here on that memorable Sunday; “and still the same life that is no life, and still the same circumstances in which life used to seem so easy once. Young and pretty, and I know that now I am good, and before I was wicked! But now I am good,” she mused, “but yet the best years, the best of my life, are all being wasted, and no good to any one.” She stood by her mother’s side, and nodded to the acquaintances who were standing near. From force of habit Natasha scrutinised the dresses of the ladies, and criticised the tenue of a lady standing near her, and the awkward and cramped way in which she was crossing herself. Then she thought with vexation that she was herself being criticised again, and was criticising others; and at the first sounds of the service she was horrified at her sinfulness, horrified that her purity of heart should be lost again.

A handsome, clean-looking old priest read the service with the mild solemnity that has such an elevating and soothing effect on the souls of those who pray. The sanctuary doors were closed, the curtain was slowly drawn, and a voice, mysteriously subdued, uttered some word from it. Tears, that she could not herself have explained, rose to Natasha’s eyes, and a feeling of joyful agitation came upon her.

“Teach me what to do, how to live my life, how to conquer my sins for ever, for ever!”…she prayed. The deacon came out to the steps before the altar screen; with his thumb held out apart from the rest, he pulled his long hair out from under his surplice, and laying the cross on his breast, he began in a loud voice solemnly reading the prayer:

  By PanEris using Melati.

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