War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book III: Chapters 1–5

A little later when he went up to the large circle, Anna Pavlovna said to him:"I hear you are refitting your Petersburg house?"

This was true. The architect had told him that it was necessary, and Pierre, without knowing why, was having his enormous Petersburg house done up.

"That's a good thing, but don't move from Prince Vasili's. It is good to have a friend like the prince," she said, smiling at Prince Vasili."I know something about that. Don't I? And you are still so young. You need advice. Don't be angry with me for exercising an old woman's privilege."

She paused, as women always do, expecting something after they have mentioned their age."If you marry it will be a different thing," she continued, uniting them both in one glance. Pierre did not look at Helene nor she at him. But she was just as terribly close to him. He muttered something and colored.

When he got home he could not sleep for a long time for thinking of what had happened. What had happened? Nothing. He had merely understood that the woman he had known as a child, of whom when her beauty was mentioned he had said absent-mindedly:"Yes, she's good looking," he had understood that this woman might belong to him.

"But she's stupid. I have myself said she is stupid," he thought."There is something nasty, something wrong, in the feeling she excites in me. I have been told that her brother Anatole was in love with her and she with him, that there was quite a scandal and that that's why he was sent away. Hippolyte is her brother . . . Prince Vasili is her father . . . It's bad . . . ." he reflected, but while he was thinking this (the reflection was still incomplete), he caught himself smiling and was conscious that another line of thought had sprung up, and while thinking of her worthlessness he was also dreaming of how she would be his wife, how she would love him become quite different, and how all he had thought and heard of her might be false. And he again saw her not as the daughter of Prince Vasili, but visualized her whole body only veiled by its gray dress."But no! Why did this thought never occur to me before?" and again he told himself that it was impossible, that there would be something unnatural, and as it seemed to him dishonorable, in this marriage. He recalled her former words and looks and the words and looks of those who had seen them together. He recalled Anna Pavlovna's words and looks when she spoke to him about his house, recalled thousands of such hints from Prince Vasili and others, and was seized by terror lest he had already, in some way, bound himself to do something that was evidently wrong and that he ought not to do. But at the very time he was expressing this conviction to himself, in another part of his mind her image rose in all its womanly beauty.

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