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War And Peace 28

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War And Peace

Prince," said Anna Mikhaylovna with a pathetic smile, as though she too knew that Count Rostov deserved this censure, but asked him not to be too hard on the poor old man. "What do the doctors say?" asked the princess after a pause, her worn face again expressing deep sorrow. "They give little hope," replied the prince. "And I should so like to thank Uncle once for all his kindness to me and Boris. He is his godson," she added, her tone suggesting that this fact ought to give Prince Vasili much satisfaction. Prince Vasili became thoughtful and frowned. Anna Mikhaylovna saw that he was afraid of finding in her a rival for Count Bezukhovs fortune, and hastened to reassure him. "If it were not for my sincere affection and devotion to Uncle," said she, uttering the word with peculiar assurance and unconcern, "I know his character: noble, upright... but you see he has no one with him except the young princesses.... They are still young...." She bent her head and continued in a whisper: "Has he performed his final duty, Prince? How priceless are those last moments! It can make things no worse, and it is absolutely necessary to prepare him if he is so ill. We women, Prince," and she smiled tenderly, "always know how to say these things. I absolutely must see him, however painful it may be for me. I am used to suffering." Evidently the prince understood her, and also understood, as he had done at Anna Pavlovnas, that it would be difficult to get rid of Anna Mikhaylovna. "Would not such a meeting be too trying for him, dear Anna Mikhaylovna?" said he. "Let us wait until evening. The doctors are expecting a crisis." "But one cannot delay, Prince, at such a moment! Consider that the welfare of his soul is at stake. Ah, it is awful: the duties of a Christian..." A door of one of the inner rooms opened and one of the princesses, the counts niece, entered with a cold, stern face. The length of her body was strikingly out of proportion to her short legs. Prince Vasili turned to her. "Well, how is he?" "Still the same; but what can you expect, this noise..." said the princess, looking at Anna Mikhaylovna as at a stranger. "Ah, my dear, I hardly knew you," said Anna Mikhaylovna with a happy smile, ambling lightly up to the counts niece. "I have come, and am at your service to help you nurse my uncle. I imagine what you have gone through," and she sympathetically turned up her eyes. The princess gave no reply and did not even smile, but left the room as Anna Mikhaylovna took off her gloves and, occupying the position she had conquered, settled down in an armchair, inviting Prince Vasili to take a seat beside her. "Boris," she said to her son with a smile, "I shall go in to see the count, my uncle; but you, my dear, had better go to Pierre meanwhile and dont forget to give him the Rostovs invitation. They ask him to dinner. I suppose he wont go?" she continued, turning to the prince. "On the contrary," replied the prince, who had plainly become depressed, "I shall be only too glad if you relieve me of that young man.... Here he is, and the count has not once asked for him." He shrugged his shoulders. A footman conducted Boris down one flight of stairs and up another, to Pierres rooms.
Pierre, after all, had not managed to choose a career for himself in Petersburg, and had been expelled from there for riotous conduct and sent to Moscow. The story told about him at Count Rostovs was true. Pierre had taken part in tying a policeman to a bear. He had now been for some days in Moscow and was staying as usual at his fathers house. Though he expected that the story of his escapade would be already known in Moscow and that the ladies about his father--who were never favorably disposed toward him--would have used it to turn the count against him, he nevertheless on the day of his arrival went to his fathers part of the house. Entering the drawing room, where the princesses spent most of their time, he greeted the ladies, two of whom were sitting at embroidery frames while a third read aloud. It was the eldest who was reading--the one who had met Anna Mikhaylovna. The two younger ones were embroidering: both were rosy and pretty and they differed only in that one had a

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