BOOK SIX: 1808 - 10
1. CHAPTER I
They crossed the ferry where he had talked with Pierre the year
before. They went through the muddy village, past threshing floors and
green fields of winter rye, downhill where snow still lodged near
the bridge, uphill where the clay had been liquefied by the rain, past
strips of stubble land and bushes touched with green here and there,
and into a birch forest growing on both sides of the road. In the
forest it was almost hot, no wind could be felt. The birches with
their sticky green leaves were motionless, and lilac-colored flowers
and the first blades of green grass were pushing up and lifting last
year's leaves. The coarse evergreen color of the small fir trees
scattered here and there among the birches was an unpleasant
reminder of winter. On entering the forest the horses began to snort
and sweated visibly.
Peter the footman made some remark to the coachman; the latter
assented. But apparently the coachman's sympathy was not enough for
Peter, and he turned on the box toward his master.
"How pleasant it is, your excellency!" he said with a respectful
"It's pleasant, your excellency!"
"What is he talking about?" thought Prince Andrew. "Oh, the
spring, I suppose," he thought as he turned round. "Yes, really
everything is green already.... How early! The birches and cherry
and alders too are coming out.... But the oaks show no sign yet. Ah,
here is one oak!"
At the edge of the road stood an oak. Probably ten times the age of
the birches that formed the forest, it was ten times as thick and
twice as tall as they. It was an enormous tree, its girth twice as
great as a man could embrace, and evidently long ago some of its
branches had been broken off and its bark scarred. With its huge
ungainly limbs sprawling unsymmetrically, and its gnarled hands and
fingers, it stood an aged, stern, and scornful monster among the
smiling birch trees. Only the dead-looking evergreen firs dotted about
in the forest, and this oak, refused to yield to the charm of spring
or notice either the spring or the sunshine.