Chapter 14

SOON AFTER THIS the children came in to say good-night. The children kissed every one, the tutors and governesses said good-night and went away. Dessalle alone remained with his pupil. The tutor whispered to his young charge to come downstairs.

‘‘No, M. Dessalle, I will ask my aunt for leave to stay,’’ Nikolinka Bolkonsky answered, also in a whisper.

‘‘Ma tante, will you let me stay?’’ said Nikolinka, going up to his aunt. His face was full of entreaty, excitement, and enthusiasm. Countess Marya looked at him and turned to Pierre

‘‘When you are here, there is no tearing him away …’’ she said.

‘‘I will bring him directly, M. Dessalle. Good-night,’’ said Pierre, giving his hand to the Swiss tutor, and he turned smiling to Nikolinka. ‘‘We have not seen each other at all yet. Marie, how like he is growing,’’ he added, turning to Countess Marya.

‘‘Like my father?’’ said the boy, flushing crimson and looking up at Pierre with rapturous, shining eyes.

Pierre nodded to him, and went on with the conversation that had been interrupted by the children. Countess Marya had some canvas embroidery in her hands; Natasha sat with her eyes fixed on her husband. Nikolay and Denisov got up, asked for pipes, smoked, and took cups of tea from Sonya, still sitting with weary pertinacity at the samovar, and asked questions of Pierre. The curly-headed, delicate boy, with his shining eyes, sat unnoticed by any one in a corner. Turning the curly head and the slender neck above his laydown collar to follow Pierre’s movements, he trembled now and then, and murmured something to himself, evidently thrilled by some new and violent emotion.

The conversation turned on the scandals of the day in the higher government circles, a subject in which the majority of people usually find the chief interest of home politics. Denisov, who was dissatisfied with the government on account of his own disappointments in the service, heard with glee of all the follies, as he considered them, that were going on now in Petersburg, and made his comments on Pierre’s words in harsh and in cutting phrases.

‘‘In old days you had to be a German to be anybody, nowadays you have to dance with the Tatarinov woman and Madame Krüdner, to read …Eckartshausen, and the rest of that crew. Ugh! I would let good old Bonaparte loose again! He would knock all the nonsense out of them. Why, isn’t it beyond everything to have given that fellow Schwartz the Semyonovsky regiment?’’ he shouted.

Though Nikolay had not Denisov’s disposition to find everything amiss, he too thought it dignified and becoming to criticise the government, and he believed that the fact, that A. had been appointed minister of such a department, and B. had been made governor of such a province, and the Tsar had said this, and the minister had said that, were all matters of the greatest importance. And he thought it incumbent upon him to take an interest in the subject and to question Pierre about it. So the questions put by Nikolay and Denisov kept the conversation on the usual lines of gossip about the higher government circles.

But Natasha, who knew every thought and expression in her husband, saw that Pierre all the while wanted to lead the conversation into another channel, and to open his heart on his own idea, the idea which he had gone to Petersburg to consult his new friend Prince Fyodor about. She saw too that he could not lead up to this, and she came to the rescue with a question: How had he settled things with Prince Fyodor?

‘‘What was that?’’ asked Nikolay.

‘‘All the same thing over and over again,’’ said Pierre, looking about him. ‘‘Every one sees that things are all going so wrong that they can’t be endured, and that it’s the duty of all honest men to oppose it to the utmost of their power.’’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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