Chapter 15

AT THE END of January Pierre arrived in Moscow and settled in the lodge of his mansion, as that had escaped the fire. He called on Count Rastoptchin and several acquaintances, and was intending in three days to set off to Petersburg. Every one was triumphant at victory; the ruined and reviving city was bubbling over with life. Every one was glad to see Pierre; everybody was eager to see him, and to ask him about all he had seen. Pierre had a particularly friendly feeling towards every one he met. But unconsciously he was a little on his guard with people to avoid fettering his freedom in any way. To all the questions put to him—important or trivial—whether they asked him where he meant to live, whether he were going to build, when he was starting for Petersburg, or whether he could take a parcel there for someone, he answered, “Yes, very possibly,” “I dare say I may,” and so on.

He heard that the Rostovs were in Kostroma, and the thought of Natasha rarely came to his mind, and when it did occur to him it was as a pleasant memory of time long past. He felt himself set free, not only from the cares of daily life, but also from that feeling which, it seemed to him, he had voluntarily brought upon himself.

The third day after his arrival in Moscow he learnt from the Drubetskoys that Princess Marya was in Moscow. The death, the sufferings, and the last days of Prince Andrey had often engaged Pierre’s thoughts, and now recurred to him with fresh vividness. He heard at dinner that Princess Marya was in Moscow, and living in her own house in Vosdvizhenka, which had escaped the fire, and he went to call upon her the same evening.

On the way to Princess Marya’s Pierre’s mind was full of Prince Andrey, of his friendship for him, of the different occasions when they had met, and especially of their last interview at Borodino.

“Can he possibly have died in the bitter mood he was in then? Was not the meaning of life revealed to him before death?” Pierre wondered. He thought of Karataev, of his death, and unconsciously compared those two men, so different, and yet alike, in the love he had felt for both, and in that both had lived, and both were dead.

In the most serious frame of mind Pierre drove up to the old prince’s house. The house had remained entire. There were traces to be seen of the havoc wrought in it, but the character of the house was unchanged. The old footman met Pierre with a stern face, that seemed to wish to make the guest feel that the absence of the old prince did make no difference in the severe routine of the household, and said that the princess had retired to her own apartments, and received on Sundays.

“Take my name to her, perhaps she will see me,” said Pierre.

“Yes, your excellency,” answered the footman; “kindly walk into the portrait-gallery.”

A few minutes later the footman returned accompanied by Dessalle. Dessalle brought a message from the princess that she would be very glad to see Pierre, and begged him, if he would excuse the lack of ceremony, to come upstairs to her apartment.

In a low-pitched room, lighted by a single candle, he found the princess, and some one with her in a black dress. Pierre recollected that the princess had always had lady-companions of some sort with her, but who those companions were, and what they were like, he did not remember. “That is one of her companions,” he thought, glancing at the lady in the black dress.

The princess rose swiftly to meet him, and held out her hand.

“Yes,” she said, scrutinising his altered face, after he had kissed her hand; “so this is how we meet again. He often talked of you at the last,” she said, turning her eyes from Pierre to the companion with a sort of bashfulness that struck him.

“I was so glad to hear of your safety. It was the only piece of good news we had had for a long time.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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