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in life, yet life was passing. Natasha apparently tried not to be a burden or a hindrance to anyone, but wanted nothing for herself. She kept away from everyone in the house and felt at ease only with her brother Petya. She liked to be with him better than with the others, and when alone with him she sometimes laughed. She hardly ever left the house and of those who came to see them was glad to see only one person, Pierre. It would have been impossible to treat her with more delicacy, greater care, and at the same time more seriously than did Count Bezukhov. Natasha unconsciously felt this delicacy and so found great pleasure in his society. But she was not even grateful to him for it; nothing good on Pierres part seemed to her to be an effort, it seemed so natural for him to be kind to everyone that there was no merit in his kindness. Sometimes Natasha noticed embarrassment and awkwardness on his part in her presence, especially when he wanted to do something to please her, or feared that something they spoke of would awaken memories distressing to her. She noticed this and attributed it to his general kindness and shyness, which she imagined must be the same toward everyone as it was to her. After those involuntary words--that if he were free he would have asked on his knees for her hand and her love--uttered at a moment when she was so strongly agitated, Pierre never spoke to Natasha of his feelings; and it seemed plain to her that those words, which had then so comforted her, were spoken as all sorts of meaningless words are spoken to comfort a crying child. It was not because Pierre was a married man, but because Natasha felt very strongly with him that moral barrier the absence of which she had experienced with Kuragin that it never entered her head that the relations between him and herself could lead to love on her part, still less on his, or even to the kind of tender, self-conscious, romantic friendship between a man and a woman of which she had known several instances. Before the end of the fast of St. Peter, Agrafena Ivanovna Belova, a country neighbor of the Rostovs, came to Moscow to pay her devotions at the shrines of the Moscow saints. She suggested that Natasha should fast and prepare for Holy Communion, and Natasha gladly welcomed the idea. Despite the doctors orders that she should not go out early in the morning, Natasha insisted on fasting and preparing for the sacrament, not as they generally prepared for it in the Rostov family by attending three services in their own house, but as Agrafena Ivanovna did, by going to church every day for a week and not once missing Vespers, Matins, or Mass. The countess was pleased with Natashas zeal; after the poor results of the medical treatment, in the depths of her heart she hoped that prayer might help her daughter more than medicines and, though not without fear and concealing it from the doctor, she agreed to Natashas wish and entrusted her to Belova. Agrafena Ivanovna used to come to wake Natasha at three in the morning, but generally found her already awake. She was afraid of being late for Matins. Hastily washing, and meekly putting on her shabbiest dress and an old mantilla, Natasha, shivering in the fresh air, went out into the deserted streets lit by the clear light of dawn. By Agrafena Ivanovnas advice Natasha prepared herself not in their own parish, but at a church where, according to the devout Agrafena Ivanovna, the priest was a man of very severe and lofty life. There were never many people in the church; Natasha always stood beside Belova in the customary place before an icon of the Blessed Virgin, let into the screen before the choir on the left side, and a feeling, new to her, of humility before something great and incomprehensible, seized her when at that unusual morning hour, gazing at the dark face of the Virgin illuminated by the candles burning before it and by the morning light falling from the window, she listened to the words of the service which she tried to follow with understanding. When she understood them her personal feeling became interwoven in the prayers with shades of its own. When she did not understand, it was sweeter still to think that the wish to understand everything is pride, that it is impossible to understand all, that it is

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