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War And Peace 246

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War And Peace

left! That way we shall be saying there is no God--nothing!" shouted Nicholas, banging the table--very little to the point as it seemed to his listeners, but quite relevantly to the course of his own thoughts. "Our business is to do our duty, to fight and not to think! Thats all...." said he. "And to drink," said one of the officers, not wishing to quarrel. "Yes, and to drink," assented Nicholas. "Hullo there! Another bottle!" he shouted. In 1808 the Emperor Alexander went to Erfurt for a fresh interview with the Emperor Napoleon, and in the upper circles of Petersburg there was much talk of the grandeur of this important meeting. CHAPTER XXII In 1809 the intimacy between "the worlds two arbiters," as Napoleon and Alexander were called, was such that when Napoleon declared war on Austria a Russian corps crossed the frontier to co-operate with our old enemy Bonaparte against our old ally the Emperor of Austria, and in court circles the possibility of marriage between Napoleon and one of Alexanders sisters was spoken of. But besides considerations of foreign policy, the attention of Russian society was at that time keenly directed on the internal changes that were being undertaken in all the departments of government. Life meanwhile--real life, with its essential interests of health and sickness, toil and rest, and its intellectual interests in thought, science, poetry, music, love, friendship, hatred, and passions--went on as usual, independently of and apart from political friendship or enmity with Napoleon Bonaparte and from all the schemes of reconstruction. BOOK SIX: 1808 --10 CHAPTER I Prince Andrew had spent two years continuously in the country. All the plans Pierre had attempted on his estates--and constantly changing from one thing to another had never accomplished--were carried out by Prince Andrew without display and without perceptible difficulty. He had in the highest degree a practical tenacity which Pierre lacked, and without fuss or strain on his part this set things going. On one of his estates the three hundred serfs were liberated and became free agricultural laborers--this being one of the first examples of the kind in Russia. On other estates the serfs compulsory labor was commuted for a quitrent. A trained midwife was engaged for Bogucharovo at his expense, and a priest was paid to teach reading and writing to the children of the peasants and household serfs. Prince Andrew spent half his time at Bald Hills with his father and his son, who was still in the care of nurses. The other half he spent in "Bogucharovo Cloister," as his father called Prince Andrews estate. Despite the indifference to the affairs of the world he had expressed to Pierre, he diligently followed all that went on, received many books, and to his surprise noticed that when he or his father had visitors from Petersburg, the very vortex of life, these people lagged behind himself--who never left the country--in knowledge of what was happening in home and foreign affairs. Besides being occupied with his estates and reading a great variety of books, Prince Andrew was at this time busy with a critical survey of our last two unfortunate campaigns, and with drawing up a proposal for a reform of the army rules and regulations. In the spring of 1809 he went to visit the Ryazan estates which had been inherited by his son, whose guardian he was. Warmed by the spring sunshine he sat in the caleche looking at the new grass, the first leaves on the birches, and the first puffs of white spring clouds floating across the clear blue sky. He was not thinking of anything, but looked absent-mindedly and cheerfully from side to side. 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 years 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 coachmans sympathy was not

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