War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book IV: Chapters 1–6

BOOK FOUR: 1806

CHAPTER I

Early in the year 1806 Nicholas Rostov returned home on leave. Denisov was going home to Voronezh and Rostov persuaded him to travel with him as far as Moscow and to stay with him there. Meeting a comrade at the last post station but one before Moscow, Denisov had drunk three bottles of wine with him and, despite the jolting ruts across the snow-covered road, did not once wake up on the way to Moscow, but lay at the bottom of the sleigh beside Rostov, who grew more and more impatient the nearer they got to Moscow.

"How much longer? How much longer? Oh, these insufferable streets, shops, bakers' signboards, street lamps, and sleighs!" thought Rostov, when their leave permits had been passed at the town gate and they had entered Moscow.

"Denisov! We're here! He's asleep," he added, leaning forward with his whole body as if in that position he hoped to hasten the speed of the sleigh.

Denisov gave no answer.

"There's the corner at the crossroads, where the cabman, Zakhar, has his stand, and there's Zakhar himself and still the same horse! And here's the little shop where we used to buy gingerbread! Can't you hurry up? Now then!"

"Which house is it?" asked the driver.

"Why, that one, right at the end, the big one. Don't you see? That's our house," said Rostov."Of course, it's our house! Denisov, Denisov! We're almost there!"

Denisov raised his head, coughed, and made no answer.

"Dmitri," said Rostov to his valet on the box,"those lights are in our house, aren't they?"

"Yes, sir, and there's a light in your father's study."

"Then they've not gone to bed yet? What do you think? Mind now, don't forget to put out my new coat," added Rostov, fingering his new mustache."Now then, get on," he shouted to the driver."Do wake up, Vaska!" he went on, turning to Denisov, whose head was again nodding."Come, get on! You shall have three rubles for vodka — get on!" Rostov shouted, when the sleigh was only three houses from his door. It seemed to him the horses were not moving at all. At last the sleigh bore to the right, drew up at an entrance, and Rostov saw overhead the old familiar cornice with a bit of plaster broken off, the porch, and the post by the side of the pavement. He sprang out before the sleigh stopped, and ran into the hall. The house stood cold and silent, as if quite regardless of who had come to it. There was no one in the hall."Oh God! Is everyone all right?" he thought, stopping for a moment with a sinking heart, and then immediately starting to run along the hall and up the warped steps of the familiar staircase. The well-known old door handle, which always angered the countess when it was not properly cleaned, turned as loosely as ever. A solitary tallow candle burned in the anteroom.

Old Michael was asleep on the chest. Prokofy, the footman, who was so strong that he could lift the back of the carriage from behind, sat plaiting slippers out of cloth selvedges. He looked up at the opening door and his expression of sleepy indifference suddenly changed to one of delighted amazement.

"Gracious heavens! The young count!" he cried, recognizing his young master."Can it be? My treasure!" and Prokofy, trembling with excitement, rushed toward the drawing-room door, probably in order to announce him, but, changing his mind, came back and stooped to kiss the young man's shoulder.

"All well?" asked Rostov, drawing away his arm.

"Yes, God be thanked! Yes! They've just finished supper. Let me have a look at you, your excellency."

"Is everything quite all right?"

"The Lord be thanked, yes!"

Rostov, who had completely forgotten Denisov, not wishing anyone to forestall him, threw off his fur coat and ran on tiptoe through the large dark ballroom. All was the same: there were the same old card tables and the same chandelier with a cover over it; but someone had already seen the young master, and, before he had reached the drawing room, something flew out from a side door like a tornado and began hugging and kissing him. Another and yet another creature of the same kind sprang from a second door and a third; more hugging, more kissing, more outcries, and tears of joy. He could not distinguish which was Papa, which Natasha, and which Petya. Everyone shouted, talked, and kissed him at the same time. Only his mother was not there, he noticed that.

"And I did not know . . . Nicholas . . . My darling! . . ."

"Here he is . . . our own . . . Kolya,* dear fellow . . . How he has changed! . . . Where are the candles? . . . Tea! . . ."

*Nicholas.

"And me, kiss me!"

"Dearest . . . and me!"

Sonya, Natasha, Petya, Anna Mikhaylovna, Vera, and the old count were all hugging him, and the serfs, men and maids, flocked into the room, exclaiming and oh-ing and ah-ing.

Petya, clinging to his legs, kept shouting,"And me too!"

Natasha, after she had pulled him down toward her and covered his face with kisses, holding him tight by the skirt of his coat, sprang away and pranced up and down in one place like a goat and shrieked piercingly.

All around were loving eyes glistening with tears of joy, and all around were lips seeking a kiss.

Sonya too, all rosy red, clung to his arm and, radiant with bliss, looked eagerly toward his eyes, waiting for the look for which she longed. Sonya now was sixteen and she was very pretty, especially at this moment of happy, rapturous excitement. She gazed at him, not taking her eyes off him, and smiling and holding her breath. He gave her a grateful look, but was still expectant and looking for someone. The old countess had not yet come. But now steps were heard at the door, steps so rapid that they could hardly be his mother's.

Yet it was she, dressed in a new gown which he did not know, made since he had left. All the others let him go, and he ran to her. When they met, she fell on his breast, sobbing. She could not lift her face, but only pressed it to the cold braiding of his hussar's jacket. Denisov, who had come into the room unnoticed by anyone, stood there and wiped his eyes at the sight.

"Vasili Denisov, your son's friend," he said, introducing himself to the count, who was looking inquiringly at him.

"You are most welcome! I know, I know," said the count, kissing and embracing Denisov."Nicholas wrote us . . . Natasha, Vera, look! Here is Denisov!"

The same happy, rapturous faces turned to the shaggy figure of Denisov.

"Darling Denisov!" screamed Natasha, beside herself with rapture, springing to him, putting her arms round him, and kissing him. This escapade made everybody feel confused. Denisov blushed too, but smiled and, taking Natasha's hand, kissed it.

Denisov was shown to the room prepared for him, and the Rostovs all gathered round Nicholas in the sitting room.

The old countess, not letting go of his hand and kissing it every moment, sat beside him: the rest, crowding round him, watched every movement, word, or look of his, never taking their blissfully adoring eyes off him. His brother and sisters struggled for the places nearest to him and disputed with one another who should bring him his tea, handkerchief, and pipe.

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