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War And Peace 136


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hero, would it be right to remind him of herself and, as it might seem, of the obligations to her he had taken on himself? "I dont know. I think if he writes, I will write too," she said, blushing. "And you wont feel ashamed to write to him?" Sonya smiled. "No." "And I should be ashamed to write to Boris. Im not going to." "Why should you be ashamed?" "Well, I dont know. Its awkward and would make me ashamed." "And I know why shed be ashamed," said Petya, offended by Natashas previous remark. "Its because she was in love with that fat one in spectacles" (that was how Petya described his namesake, the new Count Bezukhov) "and now shes in love with that singer" (he meant Natashas Italian singing master), "thats why shes ashamed!" "Petya, youre a stupid!" said Natasha. "Not more stupid than you, madam," said the nine-year-old Petya, with the air of an old brigadier. The countess had been prepared by Anna Mikhaylovnas hints at dinner. On retiring to her own room, she sat in an armchair, her eyes fixed on a miniature portrait of her son on the lid of a snuffbox, while the tears kept coming into her eyes. Anna Mikhaylovna, with the letter, came on tiptoe to the countess door and paused. "Dont come in," she said to the old count who was following her. "Come later." And she went in, closing the door behind her. The count put his ear to the keyhole and listened. At first he heard the sound of indifferent voices, then Anna Mikhaylovnas voice alone in a long speech, then a cry, then silence, then both voices together with glad intonations, and then footsteps. Anna Mikhaylovna opened the door. Her face wore the proud expression of a surgeon who has just performed a difficult operation and admits the public to appreciate his skill. "It is done!" she said to the count, pointing triumphantly to the countess, who sat holding in one hand the snuffbox with its portrait and in the other the letter, and pressing them alternately to her lips. When she saw the count, she stretched out her arms to him, embraced his bald head, over which she again looked at the letter and the portrait, and in order to press them again to her lips, she slightly pushed away the bald head. Vera, Natasha, Sonya, and Petya now entered the room, and the reading of the letter began. After a brief description of the campaign and the two battles in which he had taken part, and his promotion, Nicholas said that he kissed his fathers and mothers hands asking for their blessing, and that he kissed Vera, Natasha, and Petya. Besides that, he sent greetings to Monsieur Schelling, Madame Schoss, and his old nurse, and asked them to kiss for him "dear Sonya, whom he loved and thought of just the same as ever." When she heard this Sonya blushed so that tears came into her eyes and, unable to bear the looks turned upon her, ran away into the dancing hall, whirled round it at full speed with her dress puffed out like a balloon, and, flushed and smiling, plumped down on the floor. The countess was crying. "Why are you crying, Mamma?" asked Vera. "From all he says one should be glad and not cry." This was quite true, but the count, the countess, and Natasha looked at her reproachfully. "And who is it she takes after?" thought the countess. Nicholas letter was read over hundreds of times, and those who were considered worthy to hear it had to come to the countess, for she did not let it out of her hands. The tutors came, and the nurses, and Dmitri, and several acquaintances, and the countess reread the letter each time with fresh pleasure and each time discovered in it fresh proofs of Nikolenkas virtues. How strange, how extraordinary, how joyful it seemed, that her son, the scarcely perceptible motion of whose tiny limbs she had felt twenty years ago within her, that son about whom she used to have quarrels with the too indulgent count, that son who had first learned to say "pear" and then "granny," that this son should now be away in a foreign land amid strange surroundings, a manly warrior doing some kind of mans work of his own, without help or guidance. The universal experience of ages, showing that children do grow imperceptibly from the cradle to manhood, did not exist for the countess. Her sons growth toward manhood, at each of its stages, had seemed as extraordinary to her as

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