Meanwhile, back at the Rostovs, the old Countess is crying. The old Countess is crying in contemplation of the plight of her cherished friend, Anna Mikhailovna, who has been reduced to rushing about from city to city in an effort to procure for her son the money she cannot supply for his upkeep herself. Something must be done to help. The Old Countess calls in her husband.
Count Rostov enters — “waddles over” as Tolstoy has it — and immediately declares that the thousand rubles he spent on the chef that evening was entirely worth it. Funny he should mention money though because money is exactly what the Countess needs from him. Though it saddens the fool that he’ll soon be parted with even more money before the night is finished, he agrees to supply his wife with the money. He summons Mitenka, the man in charge of Rostov affairs, and demands seven hundred rubles. At first Mitenka hesitates. I get the sense Mitenka wants to refuse and discuss personal finance with the Count but the Old Count is no Suze Orman and Mitenka probably just wants to keep his job rather than do the right thing so the money is mustered.
Later Anna Mikhailovna returns. The gift is given and the two old friends cry with each other in honor of their friendship.
“They wept because they were friends, and because they were kind-hearted, and because they — friends from childhood — had to think about such base things as money, and because their youth was over . . . But those tears were pleasant to them both.”
These are the words Tolstoy uses to close out today’s chapter. I’ve always liked them. He leaves the reader with a nice portrait of friendship. Here we have a friend in need and a friend with means (kind of, we’ll learn more later). The one helps the other not out of a sense of duty but, rather, because, as Michel Montaigne writes of friendship, their “souls are mingled and confounded in a universal blending that they efface the seam which joins them together so that it cannot be found.”
Reading the end of this chapter in this light brings to mind Diogenes the Cynic’s comment on friendship:
Seeing a rich man in the company of a poor one, he asked, ‘Who are these people who are associating together?’, and when someone replied, ‘They’re friends’, he said, ‘And how is it, then, that one is wretchedly poor and the other exceptionally rich?’
Diogenes the Cynic, On Friendship and Enmity