Chapter 1: Sonya Rostov
The small dark-haired, dark-eyed girl stood in the shadow of the half-opened door, watching as the Count and his wife spoke with the doctor who had been attending her mother.
“…there was nothing to be done. She was already half-gone.”
The Count pinched the brim of his nose. “The child?”
“She was only six months along.”
“One less orphan in the world,” the Countess said quietly. “All this because Alexander put a pistol in his mouth.”
“He was in debt.”
“Which we will be too if we take the girl.”
“Natalie, we must. We’re the only family Sonya has now.”
For as long as Natasha could remember, Sonya had been her constant companion. It didn’t make sense that they weren’t [i]really[/i] sisters. Sonya was older in both years and maturity even if Natasha was the more loved. Though, Sonya figured, that was best for both their sanities. This way she could keep an eye on the wild and unpredictable Rostov darling with a legitimate excuse.
“We have no secrets, do we, Sonya?” a ten-yea-old Natasha would ask.
Twelve-year-old Sonya would nodd and smile. “I sure hope not.” In her girlhood Sonya never feared of being cast aside by her companion.
Nicholas has a habit of being quiet when he’s nervous. He’ll stand, leaning on the balcony rail, arms folded, staring out blankly in front of himself. He won’t say a world and there’s hardly any knowing what he’s thinking.
Sonya stands in the doorway, the candlelight from the room softly framing her face and dark curls. “What are you thinking?” Why won’t you looks at me?”
“I…oh…it’s nothing. I’m fine, uh, it’s fine,” he stumbles and falls quiet again. She thinks she knows what he’s thinking. But for now she’ll wait for him to mull it over. They have time.
Nicholas always puts space between them when the Countess is around. “Mama does not need to know,” he tells Sonya repeatedly when she confronts him about it. “Not yet.”
“But why must we hide? If you really intend to marry me… How do you expect me to feel when you say one thing but then go and sit on the other side of the room when Mama walks in and flirt with Julie Karagin?”
“I do intend to marry you.” He closes the space between them and takes her hands in his. “I…I just want to wait. Please?”
“I hate geometry,” Petya complained, perching next to Sonya on the windowsill. “My tutor will ask me for the work tomorrow and there’s no one to help me. Vera’s busy with her [i]beau[/i] and Nicholas is out somewhere and Natasha says she’s occupied though I know she’s not.”
Sonya laughed softly at the petulant tone of her young cousin’s voice. “Are you implying that I should help you?”
Petya nodded and eagerly shoved the notebook into her hands. “Please? It’s just dimensions and things.”
Sonya sighed. “I can try but math…well they teach [i]boys[/i] math.”
Petya shrugged. “Better than nothing.”
Chapter 2: Pierre Bezukhov & Anatole Kuragin
They use to call it “The Island.” It was a lump of grassy land in the middle of the lake they use to go to during their summer holidays, just several kilometers outside of Paris. Half a day’s drive would land them outside the bustling capital and into peaceful countryside where they would take rooms at the local inn and fill their days with sunshine-filled leisure. They would get a rowboat and Anatole’s valet would row them out to The Island where they would make picnic and sunbathe until the shadows lengthened. In those days, neither missed Petersburg very much.
When Anatole came over that day, Pierre’s books were scattered all over the floor and the young Prince made a face at the evidence of intense intellectual processes. “Goodness, what have you been studying?”
“Philosophy.” Pierre said, putting aside one of the fat books and making his way to Anatole. “It’s all about what a person needs to survive. The body, as we know, needs food and water… Perhaps shelter. But the soul, the survival of the soul requires something more…extraordinary.”
Anatole smirked, holding up a bottle of finb]e red whine. “And I have just what it needs right here.”
Once a friendship is lost it’s hard to regain. Something so precious and delicate is hard to rebuild, to reconstruct because the pain caused by the shards of broken trust is too acute to be forgotten and forgiven. Sometimes, it is easier to forget and pretend like what had been was only a dream saturated in smiles and sunlight, in fine whine and useless talk. The truth is Petersburg, the reality is his loyalty and rekindled childhood bond with Theodore. Paris and Pierre were nothing but a delusion of adolescence, a torn and tarnished memory. Or so Anatole tells himself.
Pierre had always felt like the social “other.” An illegitimate son for one – and therefore mostly disregarded by his mother who also died when he was young – mostly penniless for another. He did not belong with intellectuals for, especially in his youth, he was bored by all the theory and lack of action, yet he never had the nerve of the bachelor lot who spent their night drinking and making love. Anatole had made him feel like he belonged but Andrei convinced him to “leave that life” and Pierre found himself without the one source of belonging he’d ever had.
They see each other at one social function or another rather often. Not surprising since they revolve in the same closed-off society. Sometimes they pretend to not see each other. Other times, they will stare each other down from opposite sides of the room, Pierre beside Andrei and Anatole faithfully at Theodore’s side. In these moments the ballroom or crowded drawing room will fade away and between them will pass a flash of brilliant summer sunlight and the taste of Champaign will be replaced by the phantom trace of expensive, Paris wine. But it’s only a single flash. Nothing more.
Chapter 3: Theodore Dolokhov & Vasili Denisov
Vasili Denisov and Theodore Dolokhov had known each other well in their childhood and even more so in their early youth when they joined the army together at the age of sixteen. But somewhere along the way they had parted ways and with that partition came an irreparable rift. When they met each other again, this time through Nicholas Rostov, there was little to salvage. They had grown too far apart in their understand of the world, in their held principles and ideals. They were so far from the people they had been…or perhaps, that’s what they wanted to believe.
“I don’t take prisoners,” Dolokhov bit out spitefully. Denisov flinched at the harshness of his tone. Not that Theodore hadn’t always been intense but something about the look in his eyes was so incredibly terrible – not just cruelty but pain. Raw grief, in fact. “No one asked them to come here. They chose to come, to plunder, murder…. They deserve every bullet, damn it.”
Denisov raised a hand to stall his friend’s tirade. He glanced briefly at the boy, Petya, who is watching Dolokhov with wide-eyed wonder. “Well, I do,” he said firmly, leaving no room for argument. “Please. Enough.”
When they had played war games as boys, Denisov had always wanted them to be peacekeepers or something of the sort. In fact, Denisov loved the adventure, the heroism, the inherent patriotism in the games. What he didn’t enjoy much was the violence. The truth, as Theodore saw it. So, because Denisov could only function properly under “just war” assumptions, Theodore was stuck being the invader, the bandit time after time. If he had bothered to think about it, he would have realized that he didn’t much mind. It was certainly much more exciting, more REAL than being a “peacekeeper.”
“…and we’re here.” Theodore put an X on the map, indicating their location, just to the Southwest of the retreating French army. “We should find another place where to make camp; we’re to close to the main road here. Deeper into the woods and then we can make expedition from there.”
“What about here?” Denisov leaned over the edge of the rough-made table and pointed at a blank spot on the map, just barely South of their location.
Dolokhov’s eyebrows furrowed. “That territory is uncharted for a reason most likely.”
Denisov snorted. “What are you? Scared?”
Theodore sneered back. “Never.”
The two ten year old boys stared in childish curiosity at the one flower stem that stood bare among its colorful and blooming fellows. It looked naked and cold, a weed, an abnormality among the beautiful field flowers. It was a step like any other flower would have but there was not even a hint at a flower there. “I think that’s called a scape,” Theodore said after a moment of contemplation.
“A what?” Denisov asked; he seemed in awe of the bare stem.
“A scape. A stem that doesn’t bloom for one reason or another.”
Chapter 4: Helene Kuragin
Helen was a smart woman. Perhaps not in the “fresh-out-of-grammar-school-or-university” way that young men were but she was smart. Life smart, Anatole called it. She was practical and assertive, always pro-active and searching for – and finding – a solution to any situation. Much of her way was very feminine – coquetry and games with men’s hearts mostly, but it got her where she needed to be. She knew little of business and didn’t care much for most politics. But she did know her society and how to get where she wanted in it. In that sense, she was a very smart woman.
“Count to a hundred.”
Helene tipped her head to the side and looked at the young officer before her in slight amazement. “Why?”
Theodore shook his head. “Just…trust me. Close your eyes and count to 100.”
“That’s a very long ways to count, Monsieur Dolokhov. I demand to know why I must,” she insisted, making a face of displeasure at his secretiveness.
He just smirked at her. “I have another birthday present for you.”
Helene sighed, closed her eyes, and began to count. She – or his patience – didn’t make it to 100. Theodore kissed her just as she reached 99.
As a child, Anatole loved to play “American Indians.” Especially with the older boys and strangely enough in the winter. So when Theodore Dolokhov was around, Anatole would beg him to come with his friends and play. Hippolyte would usually be chief of one tribe, Theodore of the other. Helene would stand mournfully on the front porch, not understanding why she wasn’t allowed to play with the boys. But her mother insisted she maintain “proper” behavior. Helene watched and pouted. She would make as good a chief of snowball throwers as her older brother. If she could just play too.
Helene had learned to identify the agents of various happenings, feelings and fortunes that would come upon her at an early age, back as a young girl, wearing short skirts. Her father’s frown and her mother’s slightly trembling hands were an agent of an oncoming quarrel. Hippolyte coming home later than usual meant a new lady introduced to the household.
In her teenage years, at the ball where she met Theodore Dolokhov, she learned that butterflies in her stomach was the agent of romance.
A letter from Anatole’s regiment coming a week later that expected became the agent of tragedy.
Anatole watched his older sister pick out shoes to match with her newest ball gown. At twenty-one, Helene was at the perfect age to be married and all of her, and their father’s, efforts were thrown at securing a brilliant match.
“Why did you take me and not Mother?” Anatole complained.
“I’d think that after spending so many years in Paris you would make more fashion sense than Mother.”
“What of these?” He pointed to a pair. Helene shook her head. “Those, then?”
“How do you expect me to dance in those?”
Anatole sighed, shrugging. “You should have brought Mother.”
Chapter 5: Petya Rostov
For the youngest child in the family there are always a lot of things to live up to. The older siblings and their achievements hang over the youngest as super-ideals and super-idols that must be lived up to.
Petya Rostov had three siblings. Vera was the example of intelligence, elegance, virtue and propriety. Natasha was exemplary at keeping an optimistic mood and charming everyone who came to the house. Most important was his older brother, Nicholas. A university student, then an army officer who’d seen battle and a superior swordsman, was something Petya wanted to be and Nicholas already was.
Petya sat on the wide windowsill, a drawing pad balanced evenly on his knees. A science book lay open before him. It was open to a page with a large diagram of a bat. The descriptions printed on the sides of the diagram seemed to discuss the wings of the bat. But Petya wasn’t reading them. Rather he was carefully copying the diagram, disregarding the internal structures of the creature and concentrating on the shape, and external details. Behind the bat he sketched the silhouette of clouds and a moon.
Petya was, undoubtedly, the most artistic of the Rostov children.
Petya stared up at Captain Theodore Dolokhov with a sense of overwhelming, boyish awe. He had heard so many great, wonderful things about this man, about his heroism and valor in battle.
Captain Denisov stood between them with a dissatisfied frown. “I won’t let you take the boy, Theodore. He’s young and inexperienced.”
“But I already said he could. Besides, why not? He’ll be with me and I’ve done this plenty of times.”
Petya, unable to wait anymore, jumped to his feat. “I’m going with you, sir!” he told Dolokhov enthusiastically, his eyes shinning feverishly. “Either way, I’m with you.”
Petya traced the hawk design on the pearly-white, silken handkerchief. At sixteen he was in such a place for the first time. Obalenski had said that before going to the front they had to experience what it was to be men. Petya had always thought the best way be a man was to fight, to serve.
Now, fidgeting with the handkerchief of the young prostitute spread out on the bed before him, he felt scared, incompetent. Perhaps his father was right saying he wasn’t ready to fight, to be a man, if he couldn’t even make love to a girl.
Petya sat on the edge of a cart, dangling his feet of the side, waiting patiently for his sword to be sharpened. After his excursion with Dolokhov into the enemy camp he had been in a state of exaltation. He felt completed and important, like he was making a different.
In the distance, where Denisov was still holding council, a lantern hung of a hook and dangled in the cold winter breeze. It swayed languidly and Petya felt in tune with its peaceful pace. It lulled him into sleep where he dreamed of soft light and a wonderful, colorful universe.
Chapter 6: Kuragin Siblings & Theodore Dolokhov
This was NOT happening.
Helene held the letter written in Theodore Dolokhov’s hand – My dear Helene, today I write to you with a heavy heart… – in a crushing grip, crinkling the paper and sending creases through the sheet. This was not happening. She was dreaming or Theodore was wrong. But her baby brother was NOT dead. She attempted to pull herself together. Helene took a deep breath and began to re-read the letter but the words blurred in front of her eyes and they still didn’t make any sense. Borodino, casualties, Anatole wounded… dead.
It HAD to be a mistake.
“Helene…I’m so sorry.”
Theodore takes her into his arms as she meets him at the gate, already in mourning. He can’t look at her. She looks too much like her brother. The memory of Anatole’s face haunts him The boy looked almost like he had simply fallen asleep. Almost. Disregarding the creases at the corners of his mouth that spoke of the excruciating pain he’d suffered.
Helene pulls back and looks into his eyes with such a heartbroken expression that Theodore begins to lose the fight against tears. “Why him?”
He shakes his head and whispers brokenly, “I don’t know.”
God, he just wanted to forget. Why wasn’t getting drunk working?
Theodore stared into the half empty bottle of Vodka, swirling the clear liquid around gloomily. As though he could actually glare a solution out of it. They had been so happy. Him, Helen, Anatole… Everything was just starting to work itself out. Then the war came and took… What? His youth, firstly. What sentiments he’d had left had been destroyed. Now Anatole was gone and so was Helene.
“Damn it! Why us?” He picked up an empty wine bottle and chucked it against the wall. The bottle hit. Shattered.
Since the war, Hippolyte couldn’t get rid of the same horrible, nagging feeling. He knew what it was – guilt – but he could admit it to himself. Admit that all the excuses he had made to himself and to others were all false and fake. Cardboard walls that couldn’t keep him warm in the cold winter. He, as the older brother, should have been the one to fight. Not Anatole. Never that foolish, young boy who had no clue of anything beyond his socialite activities and parties. It was too late now. Anatole was gone and Hippolyte could never forgive himself.
At some point, Anatole accepted that he was going to die. The pain was eating him alive, burning like fire through his vanes. He didn’t want to die but he thought it might be better than the agony he was suffering. He thought of home and all the friends he would never see. He thought of Helene. Where was Theodore? Would they see each other again? Anatole tried to accept that they wouldn’t. He could still hear the canonfire in the distance and Theodore was probably still out there. He would have to accept that dying alone was his fate.
Chapter 7: Theodore Dolokhov
The cool metal of the pistol felt almost comforting under his hands, hard and sure like nothing else in life. Nothing, except that he would not be taken advantage of, that he would never let anyone offend his pride. Certainly not a rich, snobbish, daddy’s boy like Bolkonski.
“Dolokhov, put the gun down and lets talk sensibly.” His second-to-be stood leaning against the doorframe and shifting uncomfortably. “You don’t have to do this.”
Theodore didn’t look up from his examination of the dueling pistol. “Yes, I do.” He was sixteen and about to fight his fist duel. First of many.
Pierre’s challenge came out of nowhere, like a slap in the face or a sudden downpour of freezing, autumn rain. Theodore wasn’t prepared for this; he hadn’t meant for it go so far. Who would have thought that Bezukhov was THAT immature. He regarded Pierre across the table with bemused curiosity. Had the silly boy ever HELD a gun? Did he even OWN one? And everyone said Anatole was the fool.
“I’ll be your second!” Nicholas Rostov offered enthusiastically. Dolokhov looked over at the boy, regarding him appraisingly. He seemed alright, this Rostov boy.
“Well, why not, if you want.”
The stadion is a Greek measurement of about 200 meters. This was the length of the stadium that hosted the Olympic games of ancient Greece. The “games” consisted of one even – a sprint the length of the stadium…
“…and then she drops her hankerchief and gives me this look, obviously wanting me to pick it up. So I… Theodore, what are you doing?”
“Reading, Anatole. Something you rarely do.” Dolokhov held up the book on ancient Greece.
“So you WEREN’T listening to me!”
“Go to hell!”
“I love you too.”
Anatole muttered something unintelligible and rang for more wine.
“I hate the bureaucracy,” Nicholas Rostov complains rather passionately.
Theodore scoffs, taking another sip of tea. “Who doesn’t?”
“Well some people love the government work.”
Theodore shrugs, looking rather indifferent though Nicholas doesn’t seem to notice. “Well, think about it. If you could make a career of it, become chair of some big department, imagine the influence you could have. Not just on politics but on people. Everyone would know they need to go to you to get things done. Good way to make money on the side as well.”
Nicholas looks scandalized. Theodore laughs inwardly at the boy’s naïveté.
The Kuragins brought a new French chef to the house around Christmas. Anatole spent too much time in the kitchens finding out what sweets would be served for dessert and practicing his French, which, at his eleven, wasn’t as perfect as his father wanted.
Theodore stood at the door waiting until Anatole would finish talking circles around the baffled chef who was both annoyed and enchanted by the boy. The conversation was mostly going over Dolokhov’s head. At sixteen, his French was even worse than Anatole’s. Embarrassed of this, he hung back until he could be back in safer territory.
Chapter 8: Theodore and Anatole Dolokhov
“Daddy, look!” The strawberry-blonde boy of six tossed another bit of bread into the lake, watching with delight as the ducks swam forth to fight over the morsel. “They like it!”
The boy’s father took a step forward through the tall grass of the meadow and placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Yes, Anatole, they do.”
Anatole Dolokhov gave his father a brilliant smile and turned back to the lake and the ducks. Theodore watched the boy with a tearing sense of nostalgia for his own youth and the company of Anatole’s uncle in whose honor he was named.
Money wasn’t as much of a problem for the Dolokhovs as it had been in Theodore’s youth. His mother’s death and sister’s marriage probably had something to do with it, but more significant were the money Vasili Kuragin had left as inheritance to his grandson – illegitimate though he may be – and the business deals Theodore had successfully made himself.
The new, relative, abundance of money allowed Theodore to acquire a small but picturesque country estate where he chose to live with his son. Away from society was a nice change – no more pompous pretences. He was hardly leaving anyone behind.
“You never talk about my uncle. Why? You’ve told me about Mother but never him.”
Theodore looks up from the papers he has been reading and regards his son, now nine – already nine – thoughtfully. Anatole is standing in the doorway to his study, fidgeting with the cuff of his linen shirt and he looks every bit the Kuragin. “What would you like to know?”
Anatole shrugs. “Anything. You were friends, right?”
Theodore beckons the boy over and he runs to sit on his father’s knee, beautiful blue eyes – the only Dolokhov thing about him – overflowing with curiosity.
Teaching Anatole to ride was something Theodore had looked forward to. Now that the boy had turned six, he figured it was about time to put him on a pony independently. Anatole watched with great curiosity as “his horsey” was saddled. The boy looked around at the different equipment with a state of newfound interest. He picked up a hoof pick and examined it carefully. “Daddy, what is this thingy for?”
“That is called a hoof pick. It is used for cleaning the horse’s hooves so that they stay clean and healthy.”
Anatole nodded seriously, committing the information to memory.
Anatole loved being read to. He would curl up in bed, pull the blanket up to his chin and listen to his father read some story book to him. For Theodore, putting Anatole to bed was probably the most peaceful time of day, the most gratifying and satisfying. He would read until the boy fell asleep, drifting off into a realm of dreams where he didn’t need a book to create adventures for himself. After the boy fell asleep, Theodore would sit for some time longer, watching his son and vowing that he would never let the child slip away.
Chapter 9: Pierre Bezukhov
The duel with Dolokhov was a horrible affair, as far as Pierre was concerned. Terribly silly, terribly useless. He really had no need to murder Theodore – Pierre saw dueling as nothing more than glorified murder – but it couldn’t be helped once he’d challenged the man. But there was no need. He blamed his wife. Yes, it was Helene’s fault. She was so beautiful, how could he blame any man for wanting her. But she, she should have never allowed this to happen. So when Helene screamed at him that he’d killed a much better man than himself, something snapped inside.
Life was such a mystery to Pierre. There were so many unanswered questions, so many things to deal with and to be resolved. He didn’t understand how Anatole, and other friends of his youth, could look at it in such a simplified, materialistic way. Pierre longed to understand life and its mysteries, longed to answer its questions. Perhaps that is why he listened to Andrei in the end and broke with the friends of his early youth – because Andrei made sense, seemed to be searching for the answers to the same questions. So Pierre followed his advice almost unquestioningly. Almost.
Pierre had to admit to himself that he was no writer. He would have loved to write down all his ideas, theories, thoughts, discoveries and inspirations. But every time he sat down to write it all came out wrong. So how was he supposed to write to Natasha. How was he supposed to tell a girl like her just what he wanted to say, that he loved her. He remembered how scornful she’d been of Andrei’s cut-and-dry letters. But there were so many things he wanted to say. She was right for him, he knew. But how to tell her?
When Pierre married Natasha he knew that they would be living in Petersburg for some time. He knew he wouldn’t be able to escape a government position any longer. He didn’t mind since the future of the country interested him. But his vision was of later, when he was done with his duties. He and Natasha would move to the country and live in one of his estates with their children. She would be happy too, Pierre knew, since Natasha had lost interest in society since the end of the war and their wedding. All would be perfect and peaceful.
The children’s new governess was a very pretty woman. She was graceful and elegant and obviously intelligent. Her dignity and confidence were entrancing; Pierre couldn’t help but have the utmost respect for her. He also reckoned that feeling attracted to her was only natural. He tried to hide his admiration for her from Natasha, though. Natasha got terribly jealous over the smallest thing – she’d always been like that – and Pierre didn’t want her to worry over nothing. He was never going to trade his family for any woman, no matter how lovely. Natasha had no reason to know his weaknesses.
Chapter 10: Theodore Dolokhov
The third dictionary.com definition for “mechanic” reads thus: “Slang . a person skilled in the dishonest handling of cards, dice, or other objects used in games of chance.” I shall use this definition.
The positions that Theodore Dolokhov managed to acquire in the army were always given to him for either exemplary conduct and a status of “due for promotion” or for great valor in battle. He would rise and fall from the title of Captain not once or even twice throughout his career but he hardly ever regretted the reasons for his demotions. As long as he could rise back to an officer’s rank, he saw a need to stifle himself too greatly merely to avoid demotion. And he’d hardly be granted a rank of real importance. Society’s favor was beyond him.
The Generals were still demanding that they join with the main forces. Of course, that wasn’t happening. Both Dolokhov and Denisov had no desire to be put back under the yoke of Headquarters which was often slow if not incompetent. Out in the woods with their Cossacks they were quite free to do as they pleased. And harassing the retreating French column was what they pleased. Here, Dolokhov got the full command he was never able to attain in the main army and he clung to it. Every mission was his. His plan, his people, his victory. Solely his lead.
Theodore was surprised how easily being a cardsharp came to him. He learned a lot of the tricks in his adolescence. By the time he was seventeen, he hardly ever lost a game of cards he chose to play. If there had been any guilt initially it was swept away by the thought that his family – his mother and sister – needed him, needed the money he brought in after his nights of gambling. Dishonorable? Perhaps. But was it really more honorable to sit by and watch as two endlessly dear women in his life suffered in economic deficiency and humiliation?
It was true that many, if not most, of Theodore’s motives were mercenary. Money was of high interest and importance to him, had been since his father was killed in a duel when he was thirteen. But how could it not be for a poor but very proud boy of the gentry who saw that, despite all his brilliance and natural talents, other people always got the bigger, better piece of the pie simply because they had money and the connections that come with money and power. Money became an ambition, a goal, a cause and a reason.
There was something almost magical about the countryside in the autumn. The leaves that drifted down to carpet the ground in bright colors and float on the tranquil waters of the lake, the stillness of the air – no longer populated by insects – and the steady drizzle of the first rains. The only disturbance to nature’s serenity might be a galloping troika, bearing with it an equipage and kicking up dust and mud off the country road. Theodore liked to take walks arm-in-arm with his sister at these times. She allowed him the emotional peace he rarely felt with anyone else.
Chapter 11: Pierre Bezukhov
Pierre had never needed to spend very much time in his study before his father died. Sometimes he did – at the university, when he attempted to get some serious reading or writing done, at some points of serious consideration. But he rarely actually needed to be there. However, after he became Count Bezuhov in his own right, there became a necessity for long hours at his desk signing papers, transactions, petitions, agreements and other various nonsense that he knew very little of. Sometimes, Pierre realized with unease that if it wasn’t for Prince Vasili he would be utterly lost altogether.
Of all the transactions that Pierre had to handle in his new position as a very wealthy man with large and various properties and numerous surfs, the ones that had to do with the sale and acquisition of peasants bothered him the most. He would have left it to his bailiffs and Prince Vasili but something within him felt that he owed the surfs he traded, bought and sold like coats and boots at least the respect of being personally aware of their fate. As normal as these transactions with human property were, they bothered Pierre to a terrible extent.
Money was not something that Pierre had ever been very aware of. His youth had gone by in a flurry of university and Petersburg bachelorhood. He was hardly bothered by statuses so his constant lack of money was not something that pervaded his thoughts very often as he always had the very necessary things. Then, just as he was growing into a young man where responsibility would be of the essence, his large inheritance once again relieved him of the need to take his finances very serious and he was always very liberal in his attention to the accounting books.
After Helene’s infidelity came out and the scandalous duel, Pierre took a strange sort of pleasure from managing his estates. He seemed to seek comfort in his own reforms and in the sense that he was doing something good for the people he was responsible for. It was almost a self-righteous comfort in which he sought, though subconsciously, to reaffirm his moral superiority over his wife and her lover. Not that he wouldn’t have been employing these reforms if Helene had been faithful and Dolokhov more trustworthy, but in the present circumstances, there was a special pleasure in his doings.
While he had been courting her, Pierre had been constantly consumed by the nagging and discomforting feeling that Helene’s pleasant and attentive, if not loving, attitude toward him was a temporary thing, a transitory illusion. He felt as if he was there mostly for her and her father’s disposal. He knew that all of society was watching their courtship, guessing at what would happen. His future was to be decided by the outcome of this courtship – a halfhearted and not really intentional one at that – on many levels and they all treated it like a seasonal entertainment. It was disheartening.
Chapter 12: Next Generation
Maria is a canon character, the oldest daughter of Pierre and Natasha, introduced in the epilogue. Obviously, Nicholas Bolkonski is obviously canon as well. Eugene is supposedly Eugene Onegin, therefore constituting a slight cross-over for this set. The rest are OCs -- children of canon characters.
They would become known as the Decembrists but at that moment they were simply rebels and traitors. Nicholas Bolkonski watched the situation unfold and unravel with a terribly sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was young and Uncle Pierre had made sure he wasn’t directly involved with anything. But he knew why they did what they did and he also knew that their cause was noble and deserved to be praised not punished by exile or death. He spent that night burning letters and papers as his aunt prayed in the next room. Shamefully, he was scared.
The time to take exams for the University was fast approaching and Anatole felt as if he was being buried under large quantities of books. His friends hardly understood why he was so worried. “You are smart enough,” his cousin, Alexander Kuragin, would say with a slightly disdainful edge. Eugene would just smirk. But Anatole felt like he owed it to his father to make University. There was also the intense desire to go to Petersburg which he had only been to a handful of times in his life. His father always seemed terribly uncomfortable and miserable on those trips…
“Where did you even learn this game?” Alexander asked, sorting a deck of cards for Euchre.
“From his father,” Eugene smirked. “Where else.”
“Leave Papa out of this,” Anatole demanded good-naturedly. “I learned it from a German fellow and his American fiancé who were here a few weeks ago.”
“Who’d ever heard of a card game where Jacks are so terribly important,” Alexander persisted, as he began to deal.
“Just deal, Sasha.”
The cards were dealt and the top card of the kitty turned over. Lisov, Alexander’s partner, looked between Eugene and Anatole carefully. “I’m watching you two this time.”
“No, Maria, that’s final.”
The young Countess Bezukhov burst into tears. “Why can’t I marry whom ever I choose, Papa?”
Pierre looked down at his oldest daughter sternly as she glared back defiantly at him. He could hear Natasha’s continuing hysteric in the other room. “Maria, this man… is not a match for you.”
“I love Anatole!”
“I will marry him! No matter what you do!” She ran from the room before Pierre could hold her back. He hoped, desperately, that the girl had more sense than her mother at her age and would not try to elope.
Twenty-four hours until his engagement would be announced. Anatole could hardly believe it. Why had he given into his father? His cousin, Annette Kuragin, was a lovely girl – he could clearly picture her golden curls and pretty little hat – but he didn’t want to marry her. Not that his father didn’t make sense. All of his arguments were sensible and maybe Anatole would be dishonoring the family in a way, but Maria… Anatole played absentmindedly with a quill, longing to at least write to her, but he wasn’t aloud. She would hardly have him after tomorrow anyway. It was over.
Chapter 13: Nicholas Rostov
Dictionary.com’s 5th definition of Federation: "a union of several parties, groups, etc." This is the one I will use.
The snow fell hard that morning, covering the ground and gathered on tree branches. Nicholas stood next to Theodore as Denisov and Pierre’s second measured out the paces. He glanced nervously at his new friend and shifted from one foot to the other. This was the first duel he was ever involved in and for all his excitement he saw plainly its dangers. And over what? A misunderstanding? “Listen,” Nicholas started slowly, looking over at Dolokhov. “This whole affair – is it worth it?”
Dolokhov looked back at Nicholas with a determination that amazed the younger boy. “No apologies. None whatsoever.”
For all Nicholas knew, Sonya was the most beautiful, perfect girl in the world. The world, stars and galaxy – she outshone everything and everyone. She was his angel and when he held her in the shadows of the evening, in the garden under an apple tree with the warm, spring breeze rippling the skirt of her simple dress, there was nowhere he would rather be. Of course, as Nicholas got older, there were other women – half of these he saw under the influence of his bachelor friends – but there was no woman he took as seriously as he took Sonya.
“I don’t see why we are bothering with the Polish,” Nicholas complained as Denisov lip up a cigar and Dolokhov, refilling their glasses from the Vodka bottle he’d procured earlier, began to deal the deck of cards in front of him.
“Does it matter to you,” Theodore asked, hardly looking up from the cards he was dealing.
“Of course it matters!’ Nicholas continued indignantly. “An alliance with them would only hold us back! We need to have freedom of movement of tactic, if we’re going to defeat Napoleon.”
Theodore glanced over at Denisov, smirking. “They’re so idealistic at his age.”
The next game he’ll win, Nicholas tells himself for the tenth time that night. The next round, the next hand. He has to hope for the best. He’d already lost so much money – he has to keep trying to win it back. Luck had to turn his way eventually. How was it that he was here? What had he done to deserve this slow death, this humiliation. He looks across the table at Theodore, but his friend is too busy dealing the next hand to notice. Or maybe he simply chooses to not notice. Somehow Nicholas knows: this is revenge.
Nicholas watched his two sons fencing on an open patch of grass. Andrew took a little more after his mother in looks that Dmitri and, if Nicholas thought about it, in character as well. Their two sisters Natasha and Anastasia – stood to the side, picking apart daisies and giggling quietly, not paying their brothers much attention. Despite the generation gap between him and his children, Nicholas thought that there really wasn’t that much difference between their interests, behaviors and desires and those of him and his friends and siblings in their childhood. It’s comforting – knowing he can relate to them.
Chapter 14: Natasha Rostov
“Don’t get mad, Nicholas, but I know you won’t marry her.”
“Now you don’t know that.”
“No, I know, I don’t know how, but I know.” When Natasha had told her brother that she was going by a simple feeling. It was intuition or something else. She couldn’t know, of course, but she felt it was true. Even if she didn’t want Sonya marrying Dolokhov.
When Nicholas brought Marya Bolkonski into their lives, she didn’t remember her words right away. But Nicholas seemed to remembered because he had looked at her with a sheepish, surrendering smile. She had been right.
Natasha knew that spying and eavesdropping wasn’t polite or honest. She also knew that craning her neck to peek over Sonya’s or Nicholas’ shoulder to see what one or the other was writing was rude. But she couldn’t help it. She knew her brother and her cousin were madly in love with each other; that wasn’t difficult to see. But she liked finding the evidence for it. Re-discovering their romance was a great pleasure every time.
It was much less pleasant when those same detective skills revealed that Nicholas’ new officer friend, Dolokhov, was also madly in love with Sonya.
Natasha could have never suspected anything false about Anatole and his motives. That was, perhaps, because there was nothing false about them to begin with, He was in love and ready to whisk her away. The little thought he gave to the consequences of such impulsiveness were more due to carelessness that wickedness of any sort. Regardless, finding out he was married was heartbreaking. She watched the world spin nauseatingly around her, not understand how such a thing could be. All their love, all his words, all the feelings that she’d put so much stake in, suddenly became worthless, empty.
When Natasha realized just what the nature of her feelings for Pierre was, it scared her. She wasn’t sure when this realization came exactly – after Andrei died and she was suddenly alone, empty. Or, perhaps, it had been before the evacuation of Moscow when Pierre told her he was staying behind and she had feared for his life. All she knew was that when Pierre re-entered her life she suddenly saw him in a new light. A feeling much brighter than anything she had felt for Andrei but more steadfast than the wild passion she had once felt for Anatole.
It had been a stupid idea – suicide. But in that instant, Natasha had seen her life as irrevocable over, useless. She was ashamed and frightened of the fate that had almost befallen her and her family, of the hurt she had caused Prince Andrei who had been so kind to her. But even beyond that, she was simply heartbroken. She could still see Anatole’s beautiful grey eyes when she closed hers, hear his voice in her head and feel his lips on hers. She had never felt that way before and the rat poison would insure she never would again.
Chapter 15: Theodore Dolokhov & Anatole Kuragin
The warm summer sun shines brightly, bathing the world in a yellow glow. They run through the tall grass, flushed and content, laughing and carefree in a game of tag. Theodore catches Anatole from behind, arms wrapping around the younger boy’s waist as they go down among the wildflowers. Anatole throws his head back and laughs until he can hardly breathe and Theodore watches him with tender eyes and an amused smile. Anatole swipes soft, silky strands of strawberry-blonde hair out of his face and looks up at his older friend, grinning, eyes bright, delighted. “Can we do that again?”
The sky broods and darkens, rainclouds floating ominously overhead in deep shades of stone-grey. Somewhere in the distance, thunder rumbles and growls, accompanied by sporadic flashes of lightning. Paris is murky and unpleasantly chilly, pregnant with a storm. Anatole moves closer to the fire and wraps himself in a blanket. He bites down on the top of quill he’s been twirling and begins his first letter back home to Theodore, carefully drawing out each sentence, taking care to be neither too childish, nor too dull. The result is rather comical and awkward but Anatole doesn’t notice and Theodore doesn’t care.
The past days had been rainy and morose, a fine match for Theodore’s mood. He’s short on money again with no foreseeable opportunity to fix the matter. He sits fidgeting with a deck of cards as Anatole paces wine glass in hand, stealing nervous glances at his friend. “Teddy…” Anatole ventures finally, going to sit by Dolokhov. “If you need money so badly, I could loan you—“
“I don’t need your money,” Theodore cuts off tonelessly. Anatole sighs and reaches out to grab his hand until Theodore looks up.
“You don’t have to be quite so brave around me.”
The snow seems dangerous. The large drifts might swallow one if he were to wonder too far alone, the cold freeze any unwary traveler. Just days ago it seemed the very opposite – a virginal blanket covering Anatole’s hat and shoulders, a clean slate on which to draw snow angels, a bright essence of happiness, an almost magical beauty. Theodore drinks his brandy and watches Anatole pack. “Don’t go, Anatole; it’s dangerous. I helped you, but I must tell you the truth. This – this kidnapping – isn’t no joke.” Anatole tells him to go to hell and Theodore pretends he doesn’t care.
The wind comes in cold wisps and howls, strangely icy after the hot day. Theodore finds himself without his cloak – he has wrapped Anatole in it for warmth and comfort. The boy lies in his arms, head against his shoulder, as Theodore strokes damp strands of hair from his face. Anatole hardly comes to consciousness anymore and Theodore, resigned to watching him die, has stopped hoping. There’s little he can do to provide comfort, only hold Anatole close and gently force him to swallow down gulps of water when he comes to occasionally. In the Borodino aftermath, time has stopped.
Chapter 16: Nicholas Rostov
I will use the second dictionary.com definition of Acrobat: “a person who readily changes viewpoints or opinions.”
Scouting had never been a favorite exercise of Nicholas’. He thought he would like the adventure of it, but patrols turned up to be horribly dull, as Denisov had warned him actually. Patrolling, however, was worth it if he got to serve instead of attending the university. The scholarly life had never been for him; he felt his calling to be that of an army man. His parents didn’t like the idea but they would change their mind once he became a renowned hero. He would. The patrols were just a side-step, an inconvenient detour on his way to glory.
“Why are you sitting? Don’t you see the tsar’s health is being toasted?” Nicholas shouts at a morose Pierre who sites across from Nicholas and his friends at the long table. Pierre, baffled, mumbles something about not having recognized him but Nicholas is too busy shouting “hurrah!”
“Why don’t you renew the friendship?” Dolokhov asks with a smirk.
Nicholas tosses his head, flippantly cavalier, glancing between himself and his officer friends, then to civilian-Pierre with some disdain. “Forget him, he’s a fool.”
Dolokhov smirks approvingly, despite his comment about obliging husbands of pretty women. Nicholas knows he’s doing everything right.
As a child, Nicholas had once stolen a piece of pie from the kitchen because Vera had dared him. Of course, he’d found out which led to a punishment and Mother’s disappointed. His father had given him a stern lecture on how stealing was bad and unworthy. Nicholas had tried to defend himself by saying that he had not wanted to look like he was scared and his father explained that people would always try to goad him into doing dishonorable things. Years later, accepting Dolokhov’s silent dare at cards, he wondered if he was falling into the same trap.
Nicholas had never meant things to turn out so painfully for Sonya. He never meant to stop loving her. It wasn’t even that he had stopped loving her, she was still as beautiful and perfect to him as always. Nicholas hated the thought that he had married Maria for money. She was such a nice woman, and he cared for her so much. He could not have possibly given into such a dishonorable urge as to marry for profit… Perhaps it was better to not compare his feelings for the two women, to not linger in the possibilities and reasons.
It took a lot of self-control for Nicholas not to charge the rebelling peasants straight with his sword drawn. That would make him just a step closer to them and he did not want anything to do with those ungrateful savages who would dare rebel against such a refined and elegant woman as Princess Bolkonski. What was her name? Yes, Maria. She looked up at him with large, doe eyes, perhaps the most attractive feature of her entire face, and Nicholas felt a tingling in his stomach that made him wish to protect her far beyond what duty called for.
Chapter 17: Siblings (Rostovs, Bolkonskis, Bezukhovs, Kuragins, Dolokhovs)
Pierre’s family situation had always been awkward. He knew his father from boyhood but their relationship and situation was neither proper nor typical. His mother was half-present, half-absent from his life, always hysterical, emotionally unbalanced. He spent most of his time between aunts and governesses, who all whispered and looked shifty when they took him to his father.
One time, when leaving his father’s house, he had encountered a woman with two boys slightly older than him in the hall. He did not know them. “Who are they?” he had asked the woman-relative accompanying him.
“Your brothers,” she had said.
Andrei and Maria had grown up in Bald Hills with their father. Their mother had died when both were young. Andrei had the vaguest memories of her and Maria did not remember her at all. Their life was quiet and sheltered; they were very close, partially because of Maria’s sweet nature and Andrei’s awe of her and partially because they had no other children to play with. Their father had no desire to bring Maria into society even once she was of age. When Andrei married and moved to Petersburg, his sister was left alone and retreated completely into religion.
Out of the four Rostov siblings, Natasha was perhaps the only one who enjoyed the country with all her heart. Nicholas liked the hunts, and no one could argue that it was cooler and fresher in the country than in Moscow in the summers, but most of the Rostov children found the city life much more enjoyable and entertaining. Vera, after coming out into society, felt bored in the country without the suitors and festive balls. Nicholas missed his friends and Petya missed the opportunities to tag along with Nicholas on whatever adventure his older brother might take him on.
It had been quite the scandal. No one knew how the rumor came about, but the word was that Anatole and Helene Kuragin were in an intimate, inappropriate relationship, far overstepping one of familial relations.
“This is absurd! I can’t believe father believes this nonsense,” Helene said, pacing across Hippolytes room. “Anatole’s only twelve!”
“This is why they’re sending me to study in Paris,” Anatole stated gloomily from the bed.
“Well the way you two carry on…” Hippolyte drew out, then ducked to avoid Helene’s fan. “But, honestly, I think father simply wants to put a stop to the rumors.”
Galina sat watching her brother curiously as he paced. “What did they do?” she asked, tugging at the strings of her bonnet.
Theodore let out a half-intelligible string of highly censurable adjectives to describe a group of his agemates. He turned to see his younger sister looking at him, stunned. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I just can’t stand them anymore. They think that just because they’re rich they can be insulting.”
“What will you do?” she asked, softly.
“I’ll ask Mama to give me Father’s guns.”
“No!” The girl ran forward and grabbed her brother’s arm. “Please. You’re scaring me.”
Chapter 18: Next Generation
To alleviate any possible confusion, I'll note that the Rostov children were introduced briefly in the epilogue. The Kuragin-Dolokhov children are my OCs, children of canon characters.
6th dictionary.com definition for peel reads as “to undress.” I will use this definition.
Anatole loves riding. He’s always been good at it and there’s something perfect about the way the wind sweeps through his hair and blows back the skirts of his tailcoat. He loves spurring his mare through the fields, vaulting over ditches and branches once in the woods. He comes back to the house around supper after a long ride, jumping over the gate. The boy waves at his father who stands watching him from the porch, shaking his head disapprovingly. “I’ll be right in, Papa!” he shouts, and catches Theodore’s brief smile as he rounds the house toward the stables.
Maria carefully undoes the ribbons of her corset lacing, one by one, feeling as the top of her dress loosens and begins sliding off her shoulders. She has dismissed her maids and is undressing herself, unwilling to have anyone’s company tonight, for she can still feel Anatole’s had in hers, his lips on her lips and on her neck. She wonders what it would be like to have them on her shoulders and her breast…lower. She takes in a deep breath as she slips off the dress and begins to undo the lacing on the underskirts. What has she done?
Alexander Kuragin looks up from his book as a gale of girlish laugher rings from downstairs. Within moments, his sister has run up the stairs and into his room. “He’s going to marry me!”
Alexander looks up skeptically. “Who?”
“What makes you think that, silly?”
“What do you mean? He was just here! He asked Papa for me hand.”
Alexander stands so fast his head spins. “Anatole was here? He asked Papa for you hand?”
Annette smiles radiantly. “Yes. Oh, Alex, I shall be married!”
Alex laughs and sweeps his sister in a hug, spinning her around the room.
Annette fixes her stylish hat before the mirror, then twirls around, admiring herself. She is gorgeous with her blonde curls, full lips and Kuragin-grey eyes. Her dress was made by the best Petersburg tailors, the design straight out of a French catalogue. This will be both her coming out party and the announcement of her engagement. She and Anatole will be the sensation of all of Petersburg.
In the hallway. Her parents are having a much less idealistic conversation. “A girl as pretty as she could have scored a better match.”
Hippolyte sighs. “It’s a family thing, dear. It’s complicated,”
“Prince Bolkonski is here,” Katherine says from the door. “You’re needed to entertain him.”
Maria looks up at her sister. “I don’t want to marry Nicholas. Why can’t Mama understand that?”
“Regardless, Maria. Besides, Anatole is engaged. You know that.”
“Oh, you’re not really going to give up, are you?” Lise asks from her perch on Maria’s bed.
“Hush, Lise, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Katherine snaps at their youngest sister. “At least, unlike Dolokhov, Nicholas truly wants you. And he’s such a brilliant match!”
“If he is such a fine match, why don’t you marry him, Kitty.”
Chapter 19: Anatole Kuragin and Natasha Rostov
They meet at the theater, at the opera to be exact. Natasha notices that he has been looking at first, but then, when he enters the box adjacent to hers, she barely sees him because she is too busy admiring his sister. But then Anatole turns and gives her the barest of smiles. She feels a rupturing deep in her stomach and a heat that spreads from her core to her head, her arms and legs, the tips of her breasts… She burns as he smiles at her, carelessly, lightly. She’s afraid of this feeling, she’d never felt it before.
“Such lovely singing, wouldn’t you agree?” Natasha hears Anatole’s question but can not make out the words. He is sitting behind her in the box and she can feel his eyes on the back of her neck. She turns to grace him with a smile and for a moment drowns in the silver of his eyes. He is beautiful and as the music and singing fill her ears and her entire being she could almost sing from the sudden, inexplicable happiness that his presence brings.
“Yes, it is.” She means to look away, but can’t until he does so first.
“She’s so lovely! What a foot, what a glance! Have you ever seen a girl so bewitching?”
Dolokhov leans back in his chair and regards Anatole across the table. All of dinner had been like this. Theodore doesn’t think the boy has gushed like this over a woman in quite some time. “In fact I have, mon cher,” he says with a smirk. “Just the other day, at the regular tavern—“
“Oh this isn’t the time for you stupid jokes! Can’t you stop teasing me for a moment?” Anatole takes a deep breath. “Ah Natasha. I’m madly in love.”
Anatole finds Natasha among Helene’s guests. His sister had teased him no less than Theodore but finally agreed to invite the young Rostov girl to one of her soirées. He tries to speak with her, but she is flighty. He dances with her, arms around her waist. How delicate she is, how perfect. None of the women present could compare, and his sister only associates with the finest of society so that’s saying something. Anatole takes her away from the crowd where he kisses her. “I cannot call, but I must see you again.” The answer is in her eyes.
“Anatole, enough!” Theodore grabs Anatole’s shoulder and turns him around from where he’d been staring at a point beyond the window for almost half an hour. “She sells you out and you… You can’t be that in love with her.”
“I just don’t understand.” Anatole gestures helplessly. “Why did she agree to run with me only to tell her household? Or if they found out accidently, why didn’t she send warning?”
Theodore pulls Anatole into an embrace. To think he’d almost lost him to this idiotic escapade. “Who knows. Women will puppeteer men as they please given half the chance.”
Chapter 20: Lise Meinen-Bolkonski
She was but a girl when she met him. Or so Lise told herself. Paris had been a charm, an uncontrollable whirlwind of emotion, sight and smell. The Paris countryside, the Paris balls, the Paris fashion. And him. Of course, how could she forget him. Or his brother, that obnoxious, adorable child who tried to stick his nose into everyone’s business but only meaning well. She hardly remembered his sister, and that was all for the better as Helene didn’t seem to be inclined to give her the time of day. He was about Andrei’s age, but they were incomparable.
“Hush. Why are you crying? Mademoiselle Meinen—“
“Lise. Call me Lise, I beg you,” Lise chokes out through the tears that well up in her eyes.
“Lise, why are you crying?” Hippolyte repeats. He’s holding her hand and in its white glove it looks very small in his much larger one.
“Prince Bolkonski. I’m engaged to him. I can’t…we can’t…” She can’t look at him, into those Kuragin-grey eyes.
“Why can’t you?”
“Because I’m betrothed!”
Hippolyte watched her for a moment, then reached out and tilted her face upwards, kissing her until her breath caught. “It’ll be our secret.”
Andrei isn’t rough on their wedding night. She is relieved though not surprised. He’s a good man; she wouldn’t have married him if she didn’t believe that. In the morning he is gone before she wakes up however and the morning sun pours into her eyes as the maid draws back the curtains. “Where’s Andrei?” The girl gives her no adequate answer before leaving the room. Lise sits up and pulls back the blanket. There’s blood on the sheets but that’s normal. And it’s proof, if only to herself, that despite Paris, she was still pure on her wedding night.
Being pregnant is like magic. It seems to wipe away all her worries, all her uncertainties, all the anger she feels lately. Andrei actually smiles at her these days. She was afraid he never would look at her fondly again. Somehow she’d displeased him, though she couldn’t say what she had done to make him so unhappy. Although his sudden fondness toward her didn’t last, she didn’t care anymore. This child – her baby – would be her salvation. It would love her purely, unconditionally and she would love it. The saying goes that pregnant women glow. Lise thinks she knows why.
“Is it really such an effort for you to come to this soirée, Andrei?”
“It’s no effort, dear. It’s torture.” Andrei untangles himself from her and heads toward an acquaintance.
Lise sighs. She feels eyes on her and turns, meeting crystal-grey eyes. Him? No, thank God – his brother. How Anatole has grown! The boy gives her a nod and Lise smiles back. She looks around for Hippolyte but doesn’t find him. Lise takes a glass of wine and goes to find her husband. The man who so obviously despises her. He’d slain her dreams. Or perhaps she’d done that herself.