"Friendship laughs at distance," began Prince Vasili in his usual rapid, self-confident, familiar tone."Here is my second son; please love and befriend him."
Prince Bolkonski surveyed Anatole.
"Fine young fellow! Fine young fellow!" he said."Well, come and kiss me," and he offered his cheek.
Anatole kissed the old man, and looked at him with curiosity and perfect composure, waiting for a display of the eccentricities his father had told him to expect.
Prince Bolkonski sat down in his usual place in the corner of the sofa and, drawing up an armchair for Prince Vasili, pointed to it and began questioning him about political affairs and news. He seemed to listen attentively to what Prince Vasili said, but kept glancing at Princess Mary.
"And so they are writing from Potsdam already?" he said, repeating Prince Vasili's last words. Then rising, he suddenly went up to his daughter.
"Is it for visitors you've got yourself up like that, eh?" said he."Fine, very fine! You have done up your hair in this new way for the visitors, and before the visitors I tell you that in future you are never to dare to change your way of dress without my consent."
"It was my fault, mon pere," interceded the little princess, with a blush.
"You must do as you please," said Prince Bolkonski, bowing to his daughter-in-law,"but she need not make a fool of herself, she's plain enough as it is."
And he sat down again, paying no more attention to his daughter, who was reduced to tears.
"On the contrary, that coiffure suits the princess very well," said Prince Vasili.
"Now you, young prince, what's your name?" said Prince Bolkonski, turning to Anatole,"come here, let us talk and get acquainted."
"Now the fun begins," thought Anatole, sitting down with a smile beside the old prince.
"Well, my dear boy, I hear you've been educated abroad, not taught to read and write by the deacon, like your father and me. Now tell me, my dear boy, are you serving in the Horse Guards?" asked the old man, scrutinizing Anatole closely and intently.
"No, I have been transferred to the line," said Anatole, hardly able to restrain his laughter.
"Ah! That's a good thing. So, my dear boy, you wish to serve the Tsar and the country? It is wartime. Such a fine fellow must serve. Well, are you off to the front?"
"No, Prince, our regiment has gone to the front, but I am attached . . . what is it I am attached to, Papa?" said Anatole, turning to his father with a laugh.
"A splendid soldier, splendid! 'What am I attached to!' Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Prince Bolkonski, and Anatole laughed still louder. Suddenly Prince Bolkonski frowned.
"You may go," he said to Anatole.
Anatole returned smiling to the ladies.
"And so you've had him educated abroad, Prince Vasili, haven't you?" said the old prince to Prince Vasili.
"I have done my best for him, and I can assure you the education there is much better than ours."
"Yes, everything is different nowadays, everything is changed. The lad's a fine fellow, a fine fellow! Well, come with me now." He took Prince Vasili's arm and led him to his study. As soon as they were alone together, Prince Vasili announced his hopes and wishes to the old prince.
"Well, do you think I shall prevent her, that I can't part from her?" said the old prince angrily."What an idea! I'm ready for it tomorrow! Only let me tell you, I want to know my son-in-law better. You know my principles — everything aboveboard? I will ask her tomorrow in your presence; if she is willing, then he can stay on. He can stay and I'll see." The old prince snorted."Let her marry, it's all the same to me!" he screamed in the same piercing tone as when parting from his son.
"I will tell you frankly," said Prince Vasili in the tone of a crafty man convinced of the futility of being cunning with so keen-sighted companion."You know, you see right through people. Anatole is no genius, but he is an honest, goodhearted lad; an excellent son or kinsman."
"All right, all right, we'll see!"
As always happens when women lead lonely lives for any length of time without male society, on Anatole's appearance all the three women of Prince Bolkonski's household felt that their life had not been real till then. Their powers of reasoning, feeling, and observing immediately increased tenfold, and their life, which seemed to have been passed in darkness, was suddenly lit up by a new brightness, full of significance.
Princess Mary grew quite unconscious of her face and coiffure. The handsome open face of the man who might perhaps be her husband absorbed all her attention. He seemed to her kind, brave, determined, manly, and magnanimous. She felt convinced of that. Thousands of dreams of a future family life continually rose in her imagination. She drove them away and tried to conceal them.
"But am I not too cold with him?" thought the princess."I try to be reserved because in the depth of my soul I feel too near to him already, but then he cannot know what I think of him and may imagine that I do not like him."
And Princess Mary tried, but could not manage, to be cordial to her new guest."Poor girl, she's devilish ugly!" thought Anatole.
Mademoiselle Bourienne, also roused to great excitement by Anatole's arrival, thought in another way. Of course, she, a handsome young woman without any definite position, without relations or even a country, did not intend to devote her life to serving Prince Bolkonski, to reading aloud to him and being friends with Princess Mary. Mademoiselle Bourienne had long been waiting for a Russian prince who, able to appreciate at a glance her superiority to the plain, badly dressed, ungainly Russian princesses, would fall in love with her and carry her off; and here at last was a Russian prince. Mademoiselle Bourienne knew a story, heard from her aunt but finished in her own way, which she liked to repeat to herself. It was the story of a girl who had been seduced, and to whom her poor mother (sa pauvre mere) appeared, and reproached her for yielding to a man without being married. Mademoiselle Bourienne was often touched to tears as in imagination she told this story to him, her seducer. And now he, a real Russian prince, had appeared. He would carry her away and then sa pauvre mere would appear and he would marry her. So her future shaped itself in Mademoiselle Bourienne's head at the very time she was talking to Anatole about Paris. It was not calculation that guided her (she did not even for a moment consider what she should do), but all this had long been familiar to her, and now that Anatole had appeared it just grouped itself around him and she wished and tried to please him as much as possible.
The little princess, like an old war horse that hears the trumpet, unconsciously and quite forgetting her condition, prepared for the familiar gallop of coquetry, without any ulterior motive or any struggle, but with naive and lighthearted gaiety.
Although in female society Anatole usually assumed the role of a man tired of being run after by women, his vanity was flattered by the spectacle of his power over these three women. Besides that, he was beginning to feel for the pretty and provocative Mademoiselle Bourienne that passionate animal feeling which was apt to master him with great suddenness and prompt him to the coarsest and most reckless actions.
After tea, the company went into the sitting room and Princess Mary was asked to play on the clavichord. Anatole, laughing and in high spirits, came and leaned on his elbows, facing her and beside Mademoiselle Bourienne. Princess Mary felt his look with a painfully joyous emotion. Her favorite sonata bore her into a most intimately poetic world and the look she felt upon her made that world still more poetic. But Anatole's expression, though his eyes were fixed on her, referred not to her but to the movements of Mademoiselle Bourienne's little foot, which he was then touching with his own under the clavichord. Mademoiselle Bourienne was also looking at Princess Mary, and in her lovely eyes there was a look of fearful joy and hope that was also new to the princess.
"How she loves me!" thought Princess Mary."How happy I am now, and how happy I may be with such a friend and such a husband! Husband? Can it be possible?" she thought, not daring to look at his face, but still feeling his eyes gazing at her.
In the evening, after supper, when all were about to retire, Anatole kissed Princess Mary's hand. She did not know how she found the courage, but she looked straight into his handsome face as it came near to her shortsighted eyes. Turning from Princess Mary he went up and kissed Mademoiselle Bourienne's hand. (This was not etiquette, but then he did everything so simply and with such assurance!) Mademoiselle Bourienne flushed, and gave the princess a frightened look.
"What delicacy!" thought the princess."Is it possible that Amelie" (Mademoiselle Bourienne)"thinks I could be jealous of her, and not value her pure affection and devotion to me?" She went up to her and kissed her warmly. Anatole went up to kiss the little princess' hand.
"No! No! No! When your father writes to tell me that you are behaving well I will give you my hand to kiss. Not till then!" she said. And smilingly raising a finger at him, she left the room.