W&P Week 4: One/One/23

For 2/2/2021 * OUP Edition to p. 107

Chapter 13

Ever since being recalled from St. Petersburg after the drunken bear stunt, Pierre is holed up in his room at his father’s house, since he is being treated like a leper by the daughters (3) and Prince Vasili when he joins them. He is pleased when Boris comes to see him, although he does not remember him. Boris tries to make clear (lying, actually, at least partly) that he doesn’t have any financial interest in Pierre’s father’s death, but Pierre doesn’t really understand what he is getting at. But he is glad for this friendship (crush? man-crush? Dennis D says the Russian connotations are not sexual, but there is a suggestion that this is an alternate way to create intimacy) and accepts the dinner invitation.

Chapter 14

Meanwhile, at the Rostovs, the Countess is sad because Anna M is struggling financially, and asks her husband for money, which he readily gives her (500 rubles) even though the demeanor of his steward, Mitenka, implies that money isn’t easy to come by (we already know Count Rostov is supposed to be a gambler). The Countess and Anna weep tears of happiness when the Countess gives her the money.

Chapter 15

The big name-day dinner at the Rostovs is happening, and a couple of new characters get introduced. The DRAGON, Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, who is feared because she is very direct, and the bachelor-cousin of the Rostovs, Shinshin, as well as Vera’s fiance, Berg, who is going to be going off to war and can think of everything just in terms of what it means for him. Pierre comes at dinner time, awkward and odd as usual, and Marya the dragon tells him he ought to be ashamed of himself about the bear as his father is dying. All go down to dinner, and while Natasha is making googly eyes at her Boris, and laughing at Pierre’s bumbling, Sonya is watching Nikolai talking to another young woman, Julie Karagin, getting rather jealous.

Chapter 16

As they eat, the conversation turns to Napoleon and the question of whether Russia should be involved. Nikolai brashly says “we Russians must die or conquer” (67) and the soldiers and girls cheer him on. Then Natasha cheekily redirects the conversation by asking what dessert there will be, apparently a big challenge to the Dragon in particular.

Chapter 17

After dinner, there is card-playing, but Natasha finds Sonya on the chest in the corridor, “the place of mourning for the younger generation” (70), sobbing with jealousy and also hopeless, because cousin marriage with Nikolai would need special dispensation from the church. Natasha guesses correctly that it was Vera who made Sonya miserable intentionally, and consoles her. She herself says she feels happy because “fat Pierre who sat opposite me is so funny!” (71). Sonya and Natasha rejoin the drawing room, sing for everyone, and then there’s dancing. Natasha is dancing with awkward Pierre, and then Marya D and the Count cause quite a sensation by dancing an older dance a l’anglaise.

Chapter 18

Meanwhile, Pierre’s father has taken a turn for the worse, suffering another stroke, and the doctors think he is dying. Pierre is summoned from the dinner because the count has pointed at his picture and indicated he wants to see him. Prince Vasili goes to see the oldest daughter, Katishe, in her chambers, to find out whether there is a letter along with a will that would make Pierre legitimate and the sole heir of his father. He has a hard time making her understand fully that this is a serious  threat (also to him, because he is the next male of kin). Katishe says that he did write such a letter and a new will recently, under the influence of Anna Mikhaelovna, and that they are under his pillow in a portfolio.

Chapter 19

As they talk, Anna M comes back with Pierre and leads him through the back entrances of the house to the prince’s antechamber. Pierre doesn’t really know what is going on (why is he so very dense about this?) but he has decided to follow Anna M’s direction and guidance. He squirms because everyone is looking at him, and sits there “with the naive attitude of an Egyptian statue” and determined “that he must not act on his own ideas tonight.” They wait until summoned to enter the room where the Count has just been given the last unction.

Chapter 20

Pierre doesn’t really know how to behave at the deathbed, where the three sisters and Prince Vasili as well as Anna, he himself, the Count’s aide de camp, doctors, servants, etc. are all present. Katishe and Prince Vasili move about in ways Pierre does not understand (they are taking the portfolio out from under the pillow in the bed, while the Count is actually in an invalid chair on the other side of the room). Then the dying man is moved to his bed, and Anna signals to Pierre to go to his side, never sure whether Count Bezukhov actually looks at him or just stares into space. He helps turn him on his side and actually does cry a little. When the count dozes off, all go to the reception room and then have tea

Chapter 21

Katishe is foiled in an attempt to take the portfolio by the ever-observant Anna, but Pierre is just clueless when he is being appealed to, or after everyone (except him) goes back into the bedroom to see the Count die, or when Katishe tells him: “this is what you have been waiting for” and rushes from the room in tears (91), while Anna says that the will is going to impose new duties on him, and to not forget her and her Boris.

SCENE CHANGE: Bald Hills, Prince Bolkonsky’s estate in the country, 100 miles from Moscow

Chapter 22

Andrei and the pregnant Liza are awaited at Bald Hills, where his dad, Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky, has been living away from court since earlier days in exile, in extreme and stern regularity, educating his daughter Marya (and her French companion M’elle Bourienne), confusing her with his geometry instructions. She is (or pretends to be) very religious, but is exchanging gossipy letters with her best friend, Julie Karagin, who writes from Moscow about the war, Pierre’s new status as heir, and that people want to make a match between her and Pierre, even as she is all about a “sweet friendship” and flirtation with Nikolai Rostov. She also tells Marya that there is a plan afoot of marrying Marya herself of to Anatole, Prince Vasili’s son, so that he can be reformed. Marya writes back to tell her, with much religious language (but also anti-mysticism; very orthodox) that she’s known Pierre since childhood, and that if her father wants her to marry, she will gladly accept whoever is chosen for her husband. She is upset that Andrei, who is expected any time now with Liza, will be going to war, and describes the “heartrending scene” of conscripts among their serfs taking leave of their families.

Chapter 23

Marya goes off to practice her clavichord (as she does regularly every day at the same time) as the carriage with Prince Andrei and his wife arrives. They talk to Marya, knowing better than to disturb their father during his nap. The two women greet each other emotionally like old friends (which they are not), and Marya shows her sadness about Andrei’s going to war, but he just thinks they are crybabies. Then the father joins them, and has his son tell him the current plan of attack (107). Andrei is supposed to leave the following day, while Marya will take Liza to her estate, where she will presumably stay to have her baby.

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