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War And Peace 20


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chief topic of the day: the illness of the wealthy and celebrated beau of Catherines day, Count Bezukhov, and about his illegitimate son Pierre, the one who had behaved so improperly at Anna Pavlovnas reception. "I am so sorry for the poor count," said the visitor. "He is in such bad health, and now this vexation about his son is enough to kill him!" "What is that?" asked the countess as if she did not know what the visitor alluded to, though she had already heard about the cause of Count Bezukhovs distress some fifteen times. "Thats what comes of a modern education," exclaimed the visitor. "It seems that while he was abroad this young man was allowed to do as he liked, now in Petersburg I hear he has been doing such terrible things that he has been expelled by the police." "You dont say so!" replied the countess. "He chose his friends badly," interposed Anna Mikhaylovna. "Prince Vasilis son, he, and a certain Dolokhov have, it is said, been up to heaven only knows what! And they have had to suffer for it. Dolokhov has been degraded to the ranks and Bezukhovs son sent back to Moscow. Anatole Kuragins father managed somehow to get his sons affair hushed up, but even he was ordered out of Petersburg." "But what have they been up to?" asked the countess. "They are regular brigands, especially Dolokhov," replied the visitor. "He is a son of Marya Ivanovna Dolokhova, such a worthy woman, but there, just fancy! Those three got hold of a bear somewhere, put it in a carriage, and set off with it to visit some actresses! The police tried to interfere, and what did the young men do? They tied a policeman and the bear back to back and put the bear into the Moyka Canal. And there was the bear swimming about with the policeman on his back!" "What a nice figure the policeman must have cut, my dear!" shouted the count, dying with laughter. "Oh, how dreadful! How can you laugh at it, Count?" Yet the ladies themselves could not help laughing. "It was all they could do to rescue the poor man," continued the visitor. "And to think it is Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhovs son who amuses himself in this sensible manner! And he was said to be so well educated and clever. This is all that his foreign education has done for him! I hope that here in Moscow no one will receive him, in spite of his money. They wanted to introduce him to me, but I quite declined: I have my daughters to consider." "Why do you say this young man is so rich?" asked the countess, turning away from the girls, who at once assumed an air of inattention. "His children are all illegitimate. I think Pierre also is illegitimate." The visitor made a gesture with her hand. "I should think he has a score of them." Princess Anna Mikhaylovna intervened in the conversation, evidently wishing to show her connections and knowledge of what went on in society. "The fact of the matter is," said she significantly, and also in a half whisper, "everyone knows Count Cyrils reputation.... He has lost count of his children, but this Pierre was his favorite." "How handsome the old man still was only a year ago!" remarked the countess. "I have never seen a handsomer man." "He is very much altered now," said Anna Mikhaylovna. "Well, as I was saying, Prince Vasili is the next heir through his wife, but the count is very fond of Pierre, looked after his education, and wrote to the Emperor about him; so that in the case of his death--and he is so ill that he may die at any moment, and Dr. Lorrain has come from Petersburg--no one knows who will inherit his immense fortune, Pierre or Prince Vasili. Forty thousand serfs and millions of rubles! I know it all very well for Prince Vasili told me himself. Besides, Cyril Vladimirovich is my mothers second cousin. Hes also my Borys godfather," she added, as if she attached no importance at all to the fact. "Prince Vasili arrived in Moscow yesterday. I hear he has come on some inspection business," remarked the visitor. "Yes, but between ourselves," said the princess, "that is a pretext. The fact is he has come to see Count Cyril Vladimirovich, hearing how ill he is." "But do you know, my dear, that was a capital joke," said the count; and seeing that the elder visitor was not listening, he turned to the young ladies. "I can just imagine what a

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