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War And Peace 27

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War And Peace

of it..." answered her son coldly. "But I have promised and will do it for your sake." Although the hall porter saw someones carriage standing at the entrance, after scrutinizing the mother and son (who without asking to be announced had passed straight through the glass porch between the rows of statues in niches) and looking significantly at the ladys old cloak, he asked whether they wanted the count or the princesses, and, hearing that they wished to see the count, said his excellency was worse today, and that his excellency was not receiving anyone. "We may as well go back," said the son in French. "My dear!" exclaimed his mother imploringly, again laying her hand on his arm as if that touch might soothe or rouse him. Boris said no more, but looked inquiringly at his mother without taking off his cloak. "My friend," said Anna Mikhaylovna in gentle tones, addressing the hall porter, "I know Count Cyril Vladimirovich is very ill... thats why I have come... I am a relation. I shall not disturb him, my friend... I only need see Prince Vasili Sergeevich: he is staying here, is he not? Please announce me." The hall porter sullenly pulled a bell that rang upstairs, and turned away. "Princess Drubetskaya to see Prince Vasili Sergeevich," he called to a footman dressed in knee breeches, shoes, and a swallow-tail coat, who ran downstairs and looked over from the halfway landing. The mother smoothed the folds of her dyed silk dress before a large Venetian mirror in the wall, and in her trodden-down shoes briskly ascended the carpeted stairs. "My dear," she said to her son, once more stimulating him by a touch, "you promised me!" The son, lowering his eyes, followed her quietly. They entered the large hall, from which one of the doors led to the apartments assigned to Prince Vasili. Just as the mother and son, having reached the middle of the hall, were about to ask their way of an elderly footman who had sprung up as they entered, the bronze handle of one of the doors turned and Prince Vasili came out--wearing a velvet coat with a single star on his breast, as was his custom when at home--taking leave of a good-looking, dark-haired man. This was the celebrated Petersburg doctor, Lorrain. "Then it is certain?" said the prince. "Prince, humanum est errare,* but..." replied the doctor, swallowing his rs, and pronouncing the Latin words with a French accent. *To err is human. "Very well, very well..." Seeing Anna Mikhaylovna and her son, Prince Vasili dismissed the doctor with a bow and approached them silently and with a look of inquiry. The son noticed that an expression of profound sorrow suddenly clouded his mothers face, and he smiled slightly. "Ah, Prince! In what sad circumstances we meet again! And how is our dear invalid?" said she, as though unaware of the cold offensive look fixed on her. Prince Vasili stared at her and at Boris questioningly and perplexed. Boris bowed politely. Prince Vasili without acknowledging the bow turned to Anna Mikhaylovna, answering her query by a movement of the head and lips indicating very little hope for the patient. "Is it possible?" exclaimed Anna Mikhaylovna. "Oh, how awful! It is terrible to think.... This is my son," she added, indicating Boris. "He wanted to thank you himself." Boris bowed again politely. "Believe me, Prince, a mothers heart will never forget what you have done for us." "I am glad I was able to do you a service, my dear Anna Mikhaylovna," said Prince Vasili, arranging his lace frill, and in tone and manner, here in Moscow to Anna Mikhaylovna whom he had placed under an obligation, assuming an air of much greater importance than he had done in Petersburg at Anna Scherers reception. "Try to serve well and show yourself worthy," added he, addressing Boris with severity. "I am glad.... Are you here on leave?" he went on in his usual tone of indifference. "I am awaiting orders to join my new regiment, your excellency," replied Boris, betraying neither annoyance at the princes brusque manner nor a desire to enter into conversation, but speaking so quietly and respectfully that the prince gave him a searching glance. "Are you living with your mother?" "I am living at Countess Rostovas," replied Boris, again adding, "your excellency." "That is, with Ilya Rostov who married Nataly Shinshina," said Anna Mikhaylovna. "I know, I know," answered Prince Vasili in his monotonous voice. "I never could understand how Nataly made up her mind to marry that unlicked bear! A perfectly absurd and stupid fellow, and a gambler too, I am told." "But a very kind man,

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