On his return to Moscow from the army, Nicholas Rostov was welcomed by his home circle as the best of sons, a hero, and their darling Nikolenka; by his relations as a charming, attractive, and polite young man; by his acquaintances as a handsome lieutenant of hussars, a good dancer, and one of the best matches in the city.
The Rostovs knew everybody in Moscow. The old count had money enough that year, as all his estates had been remortgaged, and so Nicholas, acquiring a trotter of his own, very stylish riding breeches of the latest cut, such as no one else yet had in Moscow, and boots of the latest fashion, with extremely pointed toes and small silver spurs, passed his time very gaily. After a short period of adapting himself to the old conditions of life, Nicholas found it very pleasant to be at home again. He felt that he had grown up and matured very much. His despair at failing in a Scripture examination, his borrowing money from Gavril to pay a sleigh driver, his kissing Sonya on the sly — he now recalled all this as childishness he had left immeasurably behind. Now he was a lieutenant of hussars, in a jacket laced with silver, and wearing the Cross of St. George, awarded to soldiers for bravery in action, and in the company of well-known, elderly, and respected racing men was training a trotter of his own for a race. He knew a lady on one of the boulevards whom he visited of an evening. He led the mazurka at the Arkharovs' ball, talked about the war with Field Marshal Kamenski, visited the English Club, and was on intimate terms with a colonel of forty to whom Denisov had introduced him.
His passion for the Emperor had cooled somewhat in Moscow. But still, as he did not see him and had no opportunity of seeing him, he often spoke about him and about his love for him, letting it be understood that he had not told all and that there was something in his feelings for the Emperor not everyone could understand, and with his whole soul he shared the adoration then common in Moscow for the Emperor, who was spoken of as the"angel incarnate."
During Rostov's short stay in Moscow, before rejoining the army, he did not draw closer to Sonya, but rather drifted away from her. She was very pretty and sweet, and evidently deeply in love with him, but he was at the period of youth when there seems so much to do that there is no time for that sort of thing and a young man fears to bind himself and prizes his freedom which he needs for so many other things. When he thought of Sonya, during this stay in Moscow, he said to himself,"Ah, there will be, and there are, many more such girls somewhere whom I do not yet know. There will be time enough to think about love when I want to, but now I have no time." Besides, it seemed to him that the society of women was rather derogatory to his manhood. He went to balls and into ladies' society with an affectation of doing so against his will. The races, the English Club, sprees with Denisov, and visits to a certain house — that was another matter and quite the thing for a dashing young hussar!
At the beginning of March, old Count Ilya Rostov was very busy arranging a dinner in honor of Prince Bagration at the English Club.
The count walked up and down the hall in his dressing gown, giving orders to the club steward and to the famous Feoktist, the Club's head cook, about asparagus, fresh cucumbers, strawberries, veal, and fish for this dinner. The count had been a member and on the committee of the Club from the day it was founded. To him the Club entrusted the arrangement of the festival in honor of Bagration, for few men knew so well how to arrange a feast on an open-handed, hospitable scale, and still fewer men would be so well able and willing to make up out of their own resources what might be needed for the success of the fete. The club cook and the steward listened to the count's orders with pleased faces, for they knew that under no other management could they so easily extract a good profit for themselves from a dinner costing several thousand rubles.
"Well then, mind and have cocks' comb in the turtle soup, you know!"
"Shall we have three cold dishes then?" asked the cook.
The count considered.
"We can't have less — yes, three . . . the mayonnaise, that's one," said he, bending down a finger.
"Then am I to order those large sterlets?" asked the steward.
"Yes, it can't be helped if they won't take less. Ah, dear me! I was forgetting. We must have another entree. Ah, goodness gracious!" he clutched at his head."Who is going to get me the flowers? Dmitri! Eh, Dmitri! Gallop off to our Moscow estate," he said to the factotum who appeared at his call."Hurry off and tell Maksim, the gardener, to set the serfs to work. Say that everything out of the hothouses must be brought here well wrapped up in felt. I must have two hundred pots here on Friday."
Having given several more orders, he was about to go to his"little countess" to have a rest, but remembering something else of importance, he returned again, called back the cook and the club steward, and again began giving orders. A light footstep and the clinking of spurs were heard at the door, and the young count, handsome, rosy, with a dark little mustache, evidently rested and made sleeker by his easy life in Moscow, entered the room.
"Ah, my boy, my head's in a whirl!" said the old man with a smile, as if he felt a little confused before his son."Now, if you would only help a bit! I must have singers too. I shall have my own orchestra, but shouldn't we get the gypsy singers as well? You military men like that sort of thing."
"Really, Papa, I believe Prince Bagration worried himself less before the battle of Schon Grabern than you do now," said his son with a smile.
The old count pretended to be angry.
"Yes, you talk, but try it yourself!"
And the count turned to the cook, who, with a shrewd and respectful expression, looked observantly and sympathetically at the father and son.
"What have the young people come to nowadays, eh, Feoktist?" said he."Laughing at us old fellows!"
"That's so, your excellency, all they have to do is to eat a good dinner, but providing it and serving it all up, that's not their business!"
"That's it, that's it!" exclaimed the count, and gaily seizing his son by both hands, he cried,"Now I've got you, so take the sleigh and pair at once, and go to Bezukhob's, and tell him 'Count Ilya has sent you to ask for strawberries and fresh pineapples.' We can't get them from anyone else. He's not there himself, so you'll have to go in and ask the princesses; and from there go on to the Rasgulyay — the coachman Ipatka knows — and look up the gypsy Ilyushka, the one who danced at Count Orlov's, you remember, in a white Cossack coat, and bring him along to me."
"And am I to bring the gypsy girls along with him?" asked Nicholas, laughing."Dear, dear! . . ."
At that moment, with noiseless footsteps and with the businesslike, preoccupied, yet meekly Christian look which never left her face, Anna Mikhaylovna entered the hall. Though she came upon the count in his dressing gown every day, he invariably became confused and begged her to excuse his costume.
"No matter at all, my dear count," she said, meekly closing her eyes."But I'll go to Bezukhov's myself. Pierre has arrived, and now we shall get anything we want from his hothouses. I have to see him in any case. He has forwarded me a letter from Boris. Thank God, Boris is now on the staff."
The count was delighted at Anna Mikhaylovna's taking upon herself one of his commissions and ordered the small closed carriage for her.
"Tell Bezukhov to come. I'll put his name down. Is his wife with him?" he asked.