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War And Peace 311

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War And Peace

but knew that it was not true, and I felt so uncomfortable." While they were talking a maid thrust her head in at the other door of the sitting room. "They have brought the cock, Miss," she said in a whisper. "It isnt wanted, Petya. Tell them to take it away," replied Natasha. In the middle of their talk in the sitting room, Dimmler came in and went up to the harp that stood there in a corner. He took off its cloth covering, and the harp gave out a jarring sound. "Mr. Dimmler, please play my favorite nocturne by Field," came the old countess voice from the drawing room. Dimmler struck a chord and, turning to Natasha, Nicholas, and Sonya, remarked: "How quiet you young people are!" "Yes, were philosophizing," said Natasha, glancing round for a moment and then continuing the conversation. They were now discussing dreams. Dimmler began to play; Natasha went on tiptoe noiselessly to the table, took up a candle, carried it out, and returned, seating herself quietly in her former place. It was dark in the room especially where they were sitting on the sofa, but through the big windows the silvery light of the full moon fell on the floor. Dimmler had finished the piece but still sat softly running his fingers over the strings, evidently uncertain whether to stop or to play something else. "Do you know," said Natasha in a whisper, moving closer to Nicholas and Sonya, "that when one goes on and on recalling memories, one at last begins to remember what happened before one was in the world..." "That is metempsychosis," said Sonya, who had always learned well, and remembered everything. "The Egyptians believed that our souls have lived in animals, and will go back into animals again." "No, I dont believe we ever were in animals," said Natasha, still in a whisper though the music had ceased. "But I am certain that we were angels somewhere there, and have been here, and that is why we remember...." "May I join you?" said Dimmler who had come up quietly, and he sat down by them. "If we have been angels, why have we fallen lower?" said Nicholas. "No, that cant be!" "Not lower, who said we were lower?... How do I know what I was before?" Natasha rejoined with conviction. "The soul is immortal--well then, if I shall always live I must have lived before, lived for a whole eternity." "Yes, but it is hard for us to imagine eternity," remarked Dimmler, who had joined the young folk with a mildly condescending smile but now spoke as quietly and seriously as they. "Why is it hard to imagine eternity?" said Natasha. "It is now today, and it will be tomorrow, and always; and there was yesterday, and the day before..." "Natasha! Now its your turn. Sing me something," they heard the countess say. "Why are you sitting there like conspirators?" "Mamma, I dont at all want to," replied Natasha, but all the same she rose. None of them, not even the middle-aged Dimmler, wanted to break off their conversation and quit that corner in the sitting room, but Natasha got up and Nicholas sat down at the clavichord. Standing as usual in the middle of the hall and choosing the place where the resonance was best, Natasha began to sing her mothers favorite song. She had said she did not want to sing, but it was long since she had sung, and long before she again sang, as she did that evening. The count, from his study where he was talking to Mitenka, heard her and, like a schoolboy in a hurry to run out to play, blundered in his talk while giving orders to the steward, and at last stopped, while Mitenka stood in front of him also listening and smiling. Nicholas did not take his eyes off his sister and drew breath in time with her. Sonya, as she listened, thought of the immense difference there was between herself and her friend, and how impossible it was for her to be anything like as bewitching as her cousin. The old countess sat with a blissful yet sad smile and with tears in her eyes, occasionally shaking her head. She thought of Natasha and of her own youth, and of how there was something unnatural and dreadful in this impending marriage of Natasha and Prince Andrew. Dimmler, who had seated himself beside the countess, listened with closed eyes. "Ah, Countess," he said at last, "thats a European talent, she has nothing to learn--what softness, tenderness, and strength...." "Ah, how afraid I am for her,

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