Book 6 Chapter 2

PRINCE ANDREY'S DUTIES as trustee of his son's Ryazan estates necessitated an interview with the marshal of the district. This marshal was Count Ilya Andreivitch Rostov, and in the middle of May Prince Andrey went to see him.

It was by now the hot period of spring. The forest was already in full leaf. It was dusty, and so hot that at the sight of water one longed to bathe.

Prince Andrey drove along the avenue leading to the Rostovs' house at Otradnoe, depressed and absorbed in considering what questions he must ask the marshal about his business. Behind some trees on the right he heard merry girlish cries, and caught sight of a party of girls running across the avenue along which his coach was driving. In front of all the rest there ran towards the coach a black-haired, very slender, strangely slender, black-eyed girl in a yellow cotton gown. On her head was a white pocket-handkerchief, from under which strayed locks of her loose hair. The girl was shouting something, but perceiving a stranger, she ran back laughing, without glancing at him.

Prince Andrey for some reason felt a sudden pang. The day was so lovely, the sun so bright, everything around him so gay, and that slim and pretty girl knew nothing of his existence, and cared to know nothing, and was content and happy in her own life—foolish doubtless—but gay and happy and remote from him. What was she so glad about? What was she thinking of? Not of army regulations; not of the organisation of the Ryazan rent-paying peasants. “What is she thinking about, and why is she so happy?” Prince Andrey could not help wondering with interest.

Count Ilya Andreivitch was living in the year 1809 at Otradnoe, exactly as he had always done in previous years; that is to say, entertaining almost the whole province with hunts, theatricals, dinner parties and concerts. He was delighted to see Prince Andrey, as he always was to see any new guest, and quite forced him to stay the night.

Prince Andrey spent a tedious day, entertained by his elderly host and hostess and the more honoured among the guests, of whom the count's house was full in honour of an approaching name-day. Several times in the course of it, Bolkonsky glanced at Natasha, continually laughing and full of gaiety among the younger members of the company, and asked himself each time, “What is she thinking of? What is she so glad about?”

In the evening, alone in a new place, he was for a long while unable to sleep. He read for a time, then put out his candle, and afterwards lighted it again. It was hot in the bedroom with the shutters closed on the inside. He felt irritated with this foolish old gentleman (so he mentally called Count Rostov) who had detained him, declaring that the necessary deeds had not yet come from the town, and he was vexed with himself for staying.

Prince Andrey got up and went to the window to open it. As soon as he opened the shutter, the moonlight broke into the room as though it had been waiting a long while outside on the watch for this chance. He opened the window. The night was fresh and bright and still. Just in front of the window stood a row of pollard-trees, black on one side, silvery bright on the other. Under the trees were rank, moist, bushy, growing plants of some kind, with leaves and stems touched here and there with silver. Further away, beyond the black trees, was the roof of something glistening with dew; to the right was a great, leafy tree, with its trunk and branches brilliantly white, and above it the moon, almost full, in a clear, almost starless, spring sky. Prince Andrey leaned his elbow on the window, and his eyes rested on that sky.

His room was on the second story; there were people in the room over his head, and awake too. He heard girls' chatter overhead.

“Only this once more,” said a girlish voice, which Prince Andrey recognised at once.

“But when are you coming to bed?” answered another voice.

“I'm not coming! I can't sleep; what's the use? Come, for the last time.…”

Two feminine voices sang a musical phrase, the finale of some song.

“Oh, it's exquisite! Well, now go to sleep, and there's an end of it.”

“You go to sleep, but I can't,” responded the first voice, coming nearer to the window. She was evidently leaning right out of the window, for he could hear the rustle of her garments and even her breathing. All was hushed and stonily still, like the moon and its lights and shadows. Prince Andrey dared not stir for fear of betraying his unintentional presence.

“Sonya! Sonya!” he heard the first voice again. “Oh, how can you sleep! Do look how exquisite! Oh, how exquisite! Do wake up, Sonya!” she said, almost with tears in her voice. “Do you know such an exquisite night has never, never been before.”

Sonya made some reluctant reply.

“No, do look what a moon!…Oh, how lovely it is! Do come here. Darling, precious, do come here. There, do you see? One has only to squat on one's heels like this—see—and to hold one's knees—as tight, as tight as one can—give a great spring and one would fly away.… Like this—see!”

“Mind, you'll fall.”

He heard sounds of a scuffle and Sonya's voice in a tone of vexation: “Why, it's past one o'clock.”

“Oh, you only spoil it all for me. Well, go to bed then, go along.”

All was hushed again; but Prince Andrey knew she was still sitting there. He heard at times a soft rustle, and at times a sigh.

“O my God! my God! what does it mean?” she cried suddenly. “To bed then, if it must be so!” and she closed the window with a slam.

“And nothing to do with my existence!” thought Prince Andrey while he had been listening to her talk, for some reason hoping and dreading she might say something about him. “And she again! As though it were on purpose!” he thought. All at once there stirred within his soul such a wholly unexpected medley of youthful hopes and ideas, running counter to the whole tenor of his life, that he made haste to fall asleep, feeling incapable of seeing clearly into his own state of mind.