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War And Peace 135


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the countess anxious and she glanced uneasily at the count and at Anna Mikhaylovna, the latter very adroitly turned the conversation to insignificant matters. Natasha, who, of the whole family, was the most gifted with a capacity to feel any shades of intonation, look, and expression, pricked up her ears from the beginning of the meal and was certain that there was some secret between her father and Anna Mikhaylovna, that it had something to do with her brother, and that Anna Mikhaylovna was preparing them for it. Bold as she was, Natasha, who knew how sensitive her mother was to anything relating to Nikolenka, did not venture to ask any questions at dinner, but she was too excited to eat anything and kept wriggling about on her chair regardless of her governess remarks. After dinner, she rushed head long after Anna Mikhaylovna and, dashing at her, flung herself on her neck as soon as she overtook her in the sitting room. "Auntie, darling, do tell me what it is!" "Nothing, my dear." "No, dearest, sweet one, honey, I wont give up--I know you know something." Anna Mikhaylovna shook her head. "You are a little slyboots," she said. "A letter from Nikolenka! Im sure of it!" exclaimed Natasha, reading confirmation in Anna Mikhaylovnas face. "But for Gods sake, be careful, you know how it may affect your mamma." "I will, I will, only tell me! You wont? Then I will go and tell at once." Anna Mikhaylovna, in a few words, told her the contents of the letter, on condition that she should tell no one. "No, on my true word of honor," said Natasha, crossing herself, "I wont tell anyone!" and she ran off at once to Sonya. "Nikolenka... wounded... a letter," she announced in gleeful triumph. "Nicholas!" was all Sonya said, instantly turning white. Natasha, seeing the impression the news of her brothers wound produced on Sonya, felt for the first time the sorrowful side of the news. She rushed to Sonya, hugged her, and began to cry. "A little wound, but he has been made an officer; he is well now, he wrote himself," said she through her tears. "There now! Its true that all you women are crybabies," remarked Petya, pacing the room with large, resolute strides. "Now Im very glad, very glad indeed, that my brother has distinguished himself so. You are all blubberers and understand nothing." Natasha smiled through her tears. "You havent read the letter?" asked Sonya. "No, but she said that it was all over and that hes now an officer." "Thank God!" said Sonya, crossing herself. "But perhaps she deceived you. Let us go to Mamma." Petya paced the room in silence for a time. "If Id been in Nikolenkas place I would have killed even more of those Frenchmen," he said. "What nasty brutes they are! Id have killed so many that thered have been a heap of them." "Hold your tongue, Petya, what a goose you are!" "Im not a goose, but they are who cry about trifles," said Petya. "Do you remember him?" Natasha suddenly asked, after a moments silence. Sonya smiled. "Do I remember Nicholas?" "No, Sonya, but do you remember so that you remember him perfectly, remember everything?" said Natasha, with an expressive gesture, evidently wishing to give her words a very definite meaning. "I remember Nikolenka too, I remember him well," she said. "But I dont remember Boris. I dont remember him a bit." "What! You dont remember Boris?" asked Sonya in surprise. "Its not that I dont remember--I know what he is like, but not as I remember Nikolenka. Him--I just shut my eyes and remember, but Boris... No!" (She shut her eyes.)"No! theres nothing at all." "Oh, Natasha!" said Sonya, looking ecstatically and earnestly at her friend as if she did not consider her worthy to hear what she meant to say and as if she were saying it to someone else, with whom joking was out of the question, "I am in love with your brother once for all and, whatever may happen to him or to me, shall never cease to love him as long as I live." Natasha looked at Sonya with wondering and inquisitive eyes, and said nothing. She felt that Sonya was speaking the truth, that there was such love as Sonya was speaking of. But Natasha had not yet felt anything like it. She believed it could be, but did not understand it. "Shall you write to him?" she asked. Sonya became thoughtful. The question of how to write to Nicholas, and whether she ought to write, tormented her. Now that he was already an officer and a wounded

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