Chapter 13

PIERRE was hardly changed in his external habits. In appearance he was just the same as before. He was, as he had always been, absent-minded, and seemed preoccupied with something of his own, something apart from what was before his eyes. The difference was that in old days, when he was unconscious of what was before his eyes, or what was being said to him, he would seem with painfully knitted brows to be striving unsuccessfully to discern something far away from him. He was just as unconscious now of what was said to him, or of what was before him. But now with a faint, apparently ironical smile, he gazed at what was before him, or listened to what was said, though he was obviously seeing and hearing something quite different. In old days he had seemed a good-hearted man, but unhappy. And so people had unconsciously held a little aloof from him. Now a smile of joy in life was continually playing about his mouth, and his eyes were bright with sympathy for others, and the question: Were they all as happy as he? And people felt at ease in his presence.

In old days he had talked a great deal, and had got hot when he talked, and he had listened very little. Now he was rarely carried away in conversation, and knew how to listen, so that people were very ready to tell him the inmost secrets of their hearts.

The princess, who had never liked Pierre, and had cherished a particularly hostile feeling towards him, since after the old count’s death she had felt herself under obligation to him, had come to Orel with the intention of proving to him that in spite of his ingratitude she felt it her duty to nurse him, but after a short time she felt, to her own surprise and annoyance, that she was growing fond of him. Pierre did nothing to try and win his cousin’s favour; he simply looked at her with curiosity. In old days she had felt that there was mockery and indifference in his eyes, and she had shrunk into herself before him, as she did before other people, and had shown him only her aggressive side. Now she felt on the contrary as though he were delving into the most secret recesses of her life. It was at first mistrustfully, and then with gratitude, that she let him see now the latent good side of her character.

The most artful person could not have stolen into the princess’s confidence more cunningly, by arousing her recollections of the best time of her youth, and showing sympathy with them. And yet all Pierre’s artfulness consisted in seeking to please himself by drawing out human qualities in the bitter, hard, and, in her own way, proud princess.

“Yes, he is a very, very good-hearted fellow when he is not under bad influence, but under the influence of people like me,” thought the princess.

The change that had taken place in Pierre was noticed in their own way by his servants too—Terenty and Vaska. They considered that he had grown much more good-natured. Often after undressing his master, and wishing him good night, Terenty would linger with his boots and his clothes in his hand, in the hope that his master would begin a conversation with him. And as a rule Pierre kept Terenty, seeing he was longing for a chat.

“Come, tell me, then … how did you manage to get anything to eat?” he would ask. And Terenty would begin his tales of the destruction of Moscow and of the late count, and would stand a long while with the clothes, talking away or listening to Pierre; and it was with a pleasant sense of his master’s close intimacy with him and affection for him that he finally withdrew.

The doctor, who was attending Pierre, and came to see him every day, though he thought it his duty as a doctor to pose as a man every minute of whose time is of value for suffering humanity, used to sit on with him for hours together, repeating his favourite anecdotes and observations on the peculiarities of patients in general, and of ladies in particular.

“Yes, it’s a pleasure to talk to a man like that; it’s not what we are used to in the provinces,” he would say.

In Orel there happened to be several French prisoners, and the doctor brought one of them, a young Italian officer, to see Pierre.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.