Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

War and Peace »


By graf Leo Tolstoy

“How do you expect him to answer you all at once?” said Prince Andrew. “Besides, in the actions of a statesman one has to distinguish between his acts as a private person, as a general, and as an emperor. So it seems to me.”

“Yes, yes, of course!” Pierre chimed in, pleased at the arrival of this reinforcement.

“One must admit,” continued Prince Andrew, “that Napoleon as a man was great on the bridge of Arcola, and in the hospital at Jaffa where he gave his hand to the plague—stricken; but... but there are other acts which it is difficult to justify.”

Prince Andrew, who had evidently wished to tone down the awkwardness of Pierre’s remarks, rose and made a sign to his wife that it was time to go.

Suddenly Prince Hippolyte started up making signs to everyone to attend, and asking them all to be seated began:

“I was told a charming Moscow story today and must treat you to it. Excuse me, Vicomte–I must tell it in Russian or the point will be lost....” And Prince Hippolyte began to tell his story in such Russian as a Frenchman would speak after spending about a year in Russia. Everyone waited, so emphatically and eagerly did he demand their attention to his story.

“There is in Moscow a lady, une dame, and she is very stingy. She must have two footmen behind her carriage, and very big ones. That was her taste. And she had a lady’s maid, also big. She said...”

Here Prince Hippolyte paused, evidently collecting his ideas with difficulty.

“She said... Oh yes! She said, ’Girl,’ to the maid, ’put on a livery, get up behind the carriage, and come with me while I make some calls.’”

Here Prince Hippolyte spluttered and burst out laughing long before his audience, which produced an effect unfavorable to the narrator. Several persons, among them the elderly lady and Anna Pavlovna, did however smile.

“She went. Suddenly there was a great wind. The girl lost her hat and her long hair came down....” Here he could contain himself no longer and went on, between gasps of laughter: “And the whole world knew....”

And so the anecdote ended. Though it was unintelligible why he had told it, or why it had to be told in Russian, still Anna Pavlovna and the others appreciated Prince Hippolyte’s social tact in so agreeably ending Pierre’s unpleasant and unamiable outburst. After the anecdote the conversation broke up into insignificant small talk about the last and next balls, about theatricals, and who would meet whom, and when and where.

CHAPTER VI

Having thanked Anna Pavlovna for her charming soiree, the guests began to take their leave.

Pierre was ungainly. Stout, about the average height, broad, with huge red hands; he did not know, as the saying is, how to enter a drawing room and still less how to leave one; that is, how to say something particularly agreeable before going away. Besides this he was absent—minded. When he rose to go, he took up instead of his own, the general’s three—cornered hat, and held it, pulling at the plume, till the general asked him to restore it. All his absent—mindedness and inability to enter a room and converse in it was, however, redeemed by his kindly, simple, and modest expression. Anna Pavlovna turned toward him and, with a Christian mildness that expressed forgiveness of his indiscretion, nodded and said: “I hope to see you again, but I also hope you will change your opinions, my dear Monsieur Pierre.”

When she said this, he did not reply and only bowed, but again everybody saw his smile, which said nothing, unless perhaps, “Opinions are opinions, but you see what a capital, good—natured fellow I am.” And everyone, including Anna Pavlovna, felt this.

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