27 January 2007

from War and Peace, volume II, part II, chapter 12 (Leo Tolstoy, trans. Anthony Briggs)

Prince Andrey listened to Pierre in silence, looking ahead. Once or twice he missed something because of the rumbling wheels and asked Pierre to repeat what he had said. Noting a peculiar glint in Prince Andrey's eyes and also his reluctance to speak, Pierre could see that his words were not falling on stony ground and Prince Andrey was not going to interrupt or laugh at anything he said.

They came to a river that had burst its banks, making it necessary for them to cross by ferry. While the men saw to the carriage and horses they walked on to the ferry-boat. Prince Andrey leant his elbows on the rail and gazed silently over the flood-water, which gleamed in the setting sun.

[...] Prince Andrey didn't answer. The coach and horses had long been taken over to the other bank and harnessed up again, the sun had half-set and the evening frost was sprinkling the pools near the ferry with stars, but - to the astonishment of the servants, coachmen and ferryhands - Pierre and Andrey were still on the boat, talking.

[...] (He pointed up to the sky.) Prince Andrey was still standing with his elbows on the rail of the ferry, and as he listened to Pierre he never took his eyes off the sun's red reflection on the shining blue water. Pierre stopped talking. There was absolute stillness. The ferry had long since come to the bank, and the only sound came from the river, with waves plashing softly against the bottom of the boat. Prince Andrey half-imagined that the lapping of the water sounded like a chorus echoing what Pierre had been saying: 'This is the truth. Believe it.'

[...] 'Yes, if only it was true!' he said. 'Anyway, let's get back to the carriage,' added Prince Andrey, and as he walked off the ferry he looked up at the sky where Pierre had pointed, and for the first time since Austerlitz he saw it again, the lofty, eternal sky, just as he had seen it when he lay on the battlefield, and suddenly something inside him that had long lain dormant, something better than before, awoke in his soul with a feeling of youth and joy. It was a feeling that would vanish as soon as Prince Andrey got back to the normal run of everyday life, but he was sure, without knowing what to do with it, that this feeling was still there inside him. Pierre's visit marked a new age for Prince Andrey, a time when his life, although outwardly unchanged, began again in his own inner world.

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