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


When Princess Mary came down, Prince Vasili and his son were already in the drawing room, talking to the little princess and Mademoiselle Bourienne. When she entered with her heavy step, treading on her heels, the gentlemen and Mademoiselle Bourienne rose and the little princess, indicating her to the gentlemen, said:"Voila Marie!" Princess Mary saw them all and saw them in detail. She saw Prince Vasili's face, serious for an instant at the sight of her, but immediately smiling again, and the little princess curiously noting the impression"Marie" produced on the visitors. And she saw Mademoiselle Bourienne, with her ribbon and pretty face, and her unusually animated look which was fixed on him, but him she could not see, she only saw something large, brilliant, and handsome moving toward her as she entered the room. Prince Vasili approached first, and she kissed the bold forehead that bent over her hand and answered his question by saying that, on the contrary, she remembered him quite well. Then Anatole came up to her. She still could not see him. She only felt a soft hand taking hers firmly, and she touched with her lips a white forehead, over which was beautiful light-brown hair smelling of pomade. When she looked up at him she was struck by his beauty. Anatole stood with his right thumb under a button of his uniform, his chest expanded and his back drawn in, slightly swinging one foot, and, with his head a little bent, looked with beaming face at the princess without speaking and evidently not thinking about her at all. Anatole was not quick-witted, nor ready or eloquent in conversation, but he had the faculty, so invaluable in society, of composure and imperturbable self-possession. If a man lacking in self-confidence remains dumb on a first introduction and betrays a consciousness of the impropriety of such silence and an anxiety to find something to say, the effect is bad. But Anatole was dumb, swung his foot, and smilingly examined the princess' hair. It was evident that he could be silent in this way for a very long time."If anyone finds this silence inconvenient, let him talk, but I don't want to," he seemed to say. Besides this, in his behavior to women Anatole had a manner which particularly inspires in them curiosity, awe, and even love — a supercilious consciousness of his own superiority. It was was as if he said to them:"I know you, I know you, but why should I bother about you? You'd be only too glad, of course." Perhaps he did not really think this when he met women- even probably he did not, for in general he thought very little — but his looks and manner gave that impression. The princess felt this, and as if wishing to show him that she did not even dare expect to interest him, she turned to his father. The conversation was general and animated, thanks to Princess Lise's voice and little downy lip that lifted over her white teeth. She met Prince Vasili with that playful manner often employed by lively chatty people, and consisting in the assumption that between the person they so address and themselves there are some semi-private, long-established jokes and amusing reminiscences, though no such reminiscences really exist — just as none existed in this case. Prince Vasili readily adopted her tone and the little princess also drew Anatole, whom she hardly knew, into these amusing recollections of things that had never occurred. Mademoiselle Bourienne also shared them and even Princess Mary felt herself pleasantly made to share in these merry reminiscences.

"Here at least we shall have the benefit of your company all to ourselves, dear prince," said the little princess (of course, in French) to Prince Vasili."It's not as at Annette's* receptions where you always ran away; you remember cette chere Annette!"

*Anna Pavlovna.

"Ah, but you won't talk politics to me like Annette!"

"And our little tea table?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Why is it you were never at Annette's?" the little princess asked Anatole."Ah, I know, I know," she said with a sly glance,"your brother Hippolyte told me about your goings on. Oh!" and she shook her finger at him,"I have even heard of your doings in Paris!"

"And didn't Hippolyte tell you?" asked Prince Vasili, turning to his son and seizing the little princess' arm as if she would have run away and he had just managed to catch her,"didn't he tell you how he himself was pining for the dear princess, and how she showed him the door? Oh, she is a pearl among women, Princess," he added, turning to Princess Mary.

When Paris was mentioned, Mademoiselle Bourienne for her part seized the opportunity of joining in the general current of recollections.

She took the liberty of inquiring whether it was long since Anatole had left Paris and how he had liked that city. Anatole answered the Frenchwoman very readily and, looking at her with a smile, talked to her about her native land. When he saw the pretty little Bourienne, Anatole came to the conclusion that he would not find Bald Hills dull either."Not at all bad!" he thought, examining her,"not at all bad, that little companion! I hope she will bring her along with her when we're married, la petite est gentille."

* *The little one is charming.

The old prince dressed leisurely in his study, frowning and considering what he was to do. The coming of these visitors annoyed him."What are Prince Vasili and that son of his to me? Prince Vasili is a shallow braggart and his son, no doubt, is a fine specimen," he grumbled to himself. What angered him was that the coming of these visitors revived in his mind an unsettled question he always tried to stifle, one about which he always deceived himself. The question was whether he could ever bring himself to part from his daughter and give her to a husband. The prince never directly asked himself that question, knowing beforehand that he would have to answer it justly, and justice clashed not only with his feelings but with the very possibility of life. Life without Princess Mary, little as he seemed to value her, was unthinkable to him."And why should she marry?" he thought."To be unhappy for certain. There's Lise, married to Andrew — a better husband one would think could hardly be found nowadays — but is she contented with her lot? And who would marry Marie for love? Plain and awkward! They'll take her for her connections and wealth. Are there no women living unmarried, and even the happier for it?" So thought Prince Bolkonski while dressing, and yet the question he was always putting off demanded an immediate answer. Prince Vasili had brought his son with the evident intention of proposing, and today or tomorrow he would probably ask for an answer. His birth and position in society were not bad."Well, I've nothing against it," the prince said to himself,"but he must be worthy of her. And that is what we shall see."

"That is what we shall see! That is what we shall see!" he added aloud.

He entered the drawing room with his usual alert step, glancing rapidly round the company. He noticed the change in the little princess' dress, Mademoiselle Bourienne's ribbon, Princess Mary's unbecoming coiffure, Mademoiselle Bourienne's and Anatole's smiles, and the loneliness of his daughter amid the general conversation."Got herself up like a fool!" he thought, looking irritably at her."She is shameless, and he ignores her!"

He went straight up to Prince Vasili.

"Well! How d'ye do? How d'ye do? Glad to see you!"

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After leaving his wife, what does Pierre do that gives him new hope?