Book 9 Chapter 18

AT THE BEGINNING of July the rumours as to the progress of the war current in Moscow became more and more alarming; and there was talk of the Tsar's appeal to the people, and the Tsar himself was said to be coming from the army to Moscow. And as up to the 11th of July the manifesto and appeal to the people had not been received, the most exaggerated reports about them and the position of Russia were common. It was said that the Tsar was coming away because the army was in danger; it was said that Smolensk had surrendered; that Napoleon had millions of troops, and that nothing short of a miracle could save Russia.

On Saturday, the 11th of July, the manifesto was received, but was not yet in print; and Pierre, who happened to be at the Rostovs', promised to come next day, Sunday, to dinner, and to bring the manifesto, which he could obtain from Count Rastoptchin.

That Sunday the Rostovs attended service as usual in the private chapel of the Razumovskys. It was a hot July day. Even by ten o'clock, when the Rostovs got out of their carriage before the chapel, the sultry air, the shouts of the street hawkers, the gay, light summer dresses of the crowd, the dusty leaves of the trees on the boulevard, the martial music and white trousers of the battalion marching by to parade, the rattle of the pavements, and the brilliant, hot sunshine, were all full of that summer languor, that content and discontent with the present, which is felt particularly vividly on a bright, hot day in town. All the fashionable world of Moscow, all the Rostovs' acquaintances were in the chapel. A great number of wealthy families, who usually spent the summer in the country, were staying on in Moscow that year, as though in vague anticipation of something.

As Natasha walked beside her mother, behind a footman in livery, who made way for them through the crowd, she heard the voice of some young man speaking in too loud a whisper about her:

“That's the young Countess Rostov, the very girl!”

“She's ever so much thinner, but still pretty!” she caught, and fancied that the names of Kuragin and Bolkonsky were mentioned. But that was always happening. She was always fancying that any one who looked at her could be thinking of nothing but what happened to her. With a sinking heart, wretched as she always was now in a crowd, Natasha, in her lilac silk dress, trimmed with black lace, walked on, as only women know how to do, with an air of ease and dignity all the greater for the pain and shame in her heart. She knew for a fact that she was pretty, but that did not give her pleasure now, as once it had. On the contrary, it had been a source of more misery than anything of late, and especially so on this bright, hot summer day in town. “Another Sunday, another week,” she said to herself, recalling how she had been here on that memorable Sunday; “and still the same life that is no life, and still the same circumstances in which life used to seem so easy once. Young and pretty, and I know that now I am good, and before I was wicked! But now I am good,” she mused, “but yet the best years, the best of my life, are all being wasted, and no good to any one.” She stood by her mother's side, and nodded to the acquaintances who were standing near. From force of habit Natasha scrutinised the dresses of the ladies, and criticised the tenue of a lady standing near her, and the awkward and cramped way in which she was crossing herself. Then she thought with vexation that she was herself being criticised again, and was criticising others; and at the first sounds of the service she was horrified at her sinfulness, horrified that her purity of heart should be lost again.

A handsome, clean-looking old priest read the service with the mild solemnity that has such an elevating and soothing effect on the souls of those who pray. The sanctuary doors were closed, the curtain was slowly drawn, and a voice, mysteriously subdued, uttered some word from it. Tears, that she could not herself have explained, rose to Natasha's eyes, and a feeling of joyful agitation came upon her.

“Teach me what to do, how to live my life, how to conquer my sins for ever, for ever!”…she prayed. The deacon came out to the steps before the altar screen; with his thumb held out apart from the rest, he pulled his long hair out from under his surplice, and laying the cross on his breast, he began in a loud voice solemnly reading the prayer:

“As one community let us pray to the Lord.”

“As one community, all together without distinction of class, free from enmity, all united in brotherly love, let us pray,” thought Natasha.

“For the world above and the salvation of our souls!”

“For the world of angels and the souls of all spiritual beings who live above us,” prayed Natasha.

When they prayed for the army, she thought of her brother and Denisov. When they prayed for all travelling by sea and by land, she thought of Prince Andrey, and prayed for him, and prayed that God would forgive her the wrong she had done him. When they prayed for all who love us, she prayed for all her family, her father and mother, and Sonya—for the first time feeling all the shortcomings in her behaviour to them, and all the strength of her own love for them. When they prayed for those who hate us, she tried to think of enemies, to pray for them. She reckoned as enemies all her father's creditors, and every one who had business relations with him; and always at the thought of enemies who hated her she thought of Anatole, who had done her so cruel an injury, and though he had not hated her, she prayed gladly for him, as an enemy. It was only at her prayers that she felt able to think calmly and clearly either of Prince Andrey or of Anatole, with a sense that her feelings for them were as nothing compared with her feeling of worship and awe of God. When they prayed for the Imperial family and the Synod, she bowed and crossed herself more devoutly than ever, telling herself that if she did not comprehend, she could not doubt, and anyway loved the Holy Synod and prayed for it.

When the litany was over, the deacon crossed his stole over his breast and pronounced:

“Ourselves and our life we offer up to Christ the Lord!”

“Ourselves we offer up to God,” Natasha repeated in her heart. “My God, I give myself unto Thy keeping!” she thought. “I ask for nothing, I desire nothing; teach me how to act, how to do Thy will! Yes, take me; take me to Thee!” Natasha said, with devout impatience in her heart. She did not cross herself, but stood with her thin arms hanging down, as though in expectation every moment that an unseen force would come and carry her off and rescue her from herself, from her regrets and desires and remorse and hopes and sins.

Several times during the service the countess looked round at her daughter's devout face and shining eyes, and prayed to God to help her.

To the general surprise, in the middle of the service, which Natasha knew so well, the deacon brought forward the little bench, from which they repeated the prayers, kneeling, on Trinity Day, and set it before the sanctuary doors. The priest advanced in his lilac velvet calotte, threw back his hair, and, with an effort, dropped on his knees. All the congregation did the same, looking at one another in surprise. There followed the prayer, which had just been received from the Synod, the prayer for the delivery of Russia out of the hands of the enemy.

“Lord God of our might, God of our salvation,” began the priest in that clear, mild, unemphatic voice, that is only used by the Slavonic priesthood, and has such an indescribable effect on the Russian heart.

“Lord God of might, God of our salvation! Look in grace and blessing on Thy humble people, and hear with loving-kindness, and spare and have mercy on us. The foe is confounding Thy land, and is fain to rise up against all the earth and lay it waste. These lawless men are gathered together to overwhelm Thy kingdom, to destroy Thy holy Jerusalem, Thy beloved Russia: to defile Thy temples, to overturn the altars and violate our holy shrines. How long, O Lord, how long shall the wicked prevail? How long shall they wreak their sinful will?

“Almighty God! Hear us when we pray to Thee, strengthen with Thy might our most gracious and supreme sovereign, Emperor Alexander Pavlovitch. Be mindful of his truth and mercy, recompense him according to his good deeds, and let them preserve Thy chosen Israel. Bless his counsels, his undertakings, and his deeds; fortify his kingdom with Thy Almighty hand, and vouchsafe him victory over the enemy, even as Thou gavest Moses victory over Amalek, and Gideon over Midian, and David over Goliath. Preserve his army; put weapons of brass in the hands that wage war in Thy name, and gird them about with strength for the battle. Take Thou the lance and shield, and rise up to succour us, and put to shame and to confusion them that devise evil against us, and let them be scattered before the face of Thy faithful armament like dust before the wind; and may Thy mighty angel put them to flight and to confusion. And let the net ensnare them when they wot not of it, and their plots that they have hatched in secret be turned against them. And let them be laid low before the feet of Thy servants and vanquished by our hosts. Lord! it is nought for Thee to save both great and small. Thou art God, and man can do nought against Thee!

“God of our Fathers! Remember Thy mercy and loving-kindness, that are everlasting. Turn not Thy face away from us; be gracious to our unworthiness; but in the greatness of Thy mercy and the infinity of Thy goodness, overlook our transgressions and our iniquities. Purify our hearts, and renew the true spirit within us; strengthen us all by faith in Thee; fortify us with hope; breathe into us true love for one another; arm us with unity of spirit in the righteous defence of the heritage Thou hast given us and our fathers; and let not the sceptre of the unrighteous be exalted above the destinies of Thy holy people.

“O Lord our God, in Whom we believe, and in Whom we put our trust, let us not be confounded in our faith in Thy mercy, and give us a sign for our blessing that they that hate us and our holy faith may see it and be put to shame and confusion, and that all lands may know that the Lord is Thy Name, and we are Thy people. Show Thy mercy upon us this day, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation. Rejoice the hearts of Thy servants with Thy mercy; strike down our enemies and trample them swiftly under the feet of Thy faithful. Thou art the defence, the succour, and the victory of them that put their trust in Thee; and to Thee be the glory, to Father, and to Son, and to Holy Ghost, now and ever has been, for ever and ever. Amen!”

In Natasha's religiously impressionable state, this prayer affected her strongly. She heard every word about Moses's victory over Amalek, and Gideon's over Midian, and David's over Goliath, and about the destruction of Thy Jerusalem; and she prayed to God with all the tenderness and fervour with which her heart was overflowing, but she had no distinct idea what she was asking for in this prayer. With all her soul she joined in the petition for the true spirit, for the strengthening of hearts with faith and hope, and the breathing into them of love. But she could not pray for the trampling of her enemies underfoot, when she had only a few minutes before been wishing she had more of them to forgive and pray for. But yet she could have no doubts of the righteousness of this prayer that had been read by the priest on his knees. She felt in her heart a thrill of awe and horror at the punishment in store for men's sins, and especially for her sins, and prayed to God to forgive them all, and her too, and give them all and her peace and happiness. And it seemed to her that God heard her prayer.