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War And Peace 291


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began to settle down in his old home world. His father and mother were much the same, only a little older. What was new in them was a certain uneasiness and occasional discord, which there used not to be, and which, as Nicholas soon found out, was due to the bad state of their affairs. Sonya was nearly twenty; she had stopped growing prettier and promised nothing more than she was already, but that was enough. She exhaled happiness and love from the time Nicholas returned, and the faithful, unalterable love of this girl had a gladdening effect on him. Petya and Natasha surprised Nicholas most. Petya was a big handsome boy of thirteen, merry, witty, and mischievous, with a voice that was already breaking. As for Natasha, for a long while Nicholas wondered and laughed whenever he looked at her. "Youre not the same at all," he said. "How? Am I uglier?" "On the contrary, but what dignity? A princess!" he whispered to her. "Yes, yes, yes!" cried Natasha, joyfully. She told him about her romance with Prince Andrew and of his visit to Otradnoe and showed him his last letter. "Well, are you glad?" Natasha asked. "I am so tranquil and happy now." "Very glad," answered Nicholas. "He is an excellent fellow.... And are you very much in love?" "How shall I put it?" replied Natasha. "I was in love with Boris, with my teacher, and with Denisov, but this is quite different. I feel at peace and settled. I know that no better man than he exists, and I am calm and contented now. Not at all as before." Nicholas expressed his disapproval of the postponement of the marriage for a year; but Natasha attacked her brother with exasperation, proving to him that it could not be otherwise, and that it would be a bad thing to enter a family against the fathers will, and that she herself wished it so. "You dont at all understand," she said. Nicholas was silent and agreed with her. Her brother often wondered as he looked at her. She did not seem at all like a girl in love and parted from her affianced husband. She was even-tempered and calm and quite as cheerful as of old. This amazed Nicholas and even made him regard Bolkonskis courtship skeptically. He could not believe that her fate was sealed, especially as he had not seen her with Prince Andrew. It always seemed to him that there was something not quite right about this intended marriage. "Why this delay? Why no betrothal?" he thought. Once, when he had touched on this topic with his mother, he discovered, to his surprise and somewhat to his satisfaction, that in the depth of her soul she too had doubts about this marriage. "You see he writes," said she, showing her son a letter of Prince Andrews, with that latent grudge a mother always has in regard to a daughters future married happiness, "he writes that he wont come before December. What can be keeping him? Illness, probably! His health is very delicate. Dont tell Natasha. And dont attach importance to her being so bright: thats because shes living through the last days of her girlhood, but I know what she is like every time we receive a letter from him! However, God grant that everything turns out well!" (She always ended with these words.) "He is an excellent man!" CHAPTER II After reaching home Nicholas was at first serious and even dull. He was worried by the impending necessity of interfering in the stupid business matters for which his mother had called him home. To throw off this burden as quickly as possible, on the third day after his arrival he went, angry and scowling and without answering questions as to where he was going, to Mitenkas lodge and demanded an account of everything. But what an account of everything might be Nicholas knew even less than the frightened and bewildered Mitenka. The conversation and the examination of the accounts with Mitenka did not last long. The village elder, a peasant delegate, and the village clerk, who were waiting in the passage, heard with fear and delight first the young counts voice roaring and snapping and rising louder and louder, and then words of abuse, dreadful words, ejaculated one after the other. "Robber!... Ungrateful wretch!... Ill hack the dog to pieces! Im not my father!... Robbing us!..." and so on. Then with no less fear and delight they saw how the young count, red in the face and with bloodshot eyes, dragged Mitenka out by the scruff of the neck and

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