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War And Peace 399

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War And Peace

with Count Rostopchin and the latters tone of anxious hurry, the meeting with the courier who talked casually of how badly things were going in the army, the rumors of the discovery of spies in Moscow and of a leaflet in circulation stating that Napoleon promised to be in both the Russian capitals by the autumn, and the talk of the Emperors being expected to arrive next day--all aroused with fresh force that feeling of agitation and expectation in Pierre which he had been conscious of ever since the appearance of the comet, and especially since the beginning of the war. He had long been thinking of entering the army and would have done so had he not been hindered, first, by his membership of the Society of Freemasons to which he was bound by oath and which preached perpetual peace and the abolition of war, and secondly, by the fact that when he saw the great mass of Muscovites who had donned uniform and were talking patriotism, he somehow felt ashamed to take the step. But the chief reason for not carrying out his intention to enter the army lay in the vague idea that he was Lrusse Besuhof who had the number of the beast, 666; that his part in the great affair of setting a limit to the power of the beast that spoke great and blasphemous things had been predestined from eternity, and that therefore he ought not to undertake anything, but wait for what was bound to come to pass. CHAPTER XX A few intimate friends were dining with the Rostovs that day, as usual on Sundays. Pierre came early so as to find them alone. He had grown so stout this year that he would have been abnormal had he not been so tall, so broad of limb, and so strong that he carried his bulk with evident ease. He went up the stairs, puffing and muttering something. His coachman did not even ask whether he was to wait. He knew that when his master was at the Rostovs he stayed till midnight. The Rostovs footman rushed eagerly forward to help him off with his cloak and take his hat and stick. Pierre, from club habit, always left both hat and stick in the anteroom. The first person he saw in the house was Natasha. Even before he saw her, while taking off his cloak, he heard her. She was practicing solfa exercises in the music room. He knew that she had not sung since her illness, and so the sound of her voice surprised and delighted him. He opened the door softly and saw her, in the lilac dress she had worn at church, walking about the room singing. She had her back to him when he opened the door, but when, turning quickly, she saw his broad, surprised face, she blushed and came rapidly up to him. "I want to try to sing again," she said, adding as if by way of excuse, "it is, at least, something to do." "Thats capital!" "How glad I am youve come! I am so happy today," she said, with the old animation Pierre had not seen in her for along time. "You know Nicholas has received a St. Georges Cross? I am so proud of him." "Oh yes, I sent that announcement. But I dont want to interrupt you," he added, and was about to go to the drawing room. Natasha stopped him. "Count, is it wrong of me to sing?" she said blushing, and fixing her eyes inquiringly on him. "No... Why should it be? On the contrary... But why do you ask me?" "I dont know myself," Natasha answered quickly, "but I should not like to do anything you disapproved of. I believe in you completely. You dont know how important you are to me, how much youve done for me...." She spoke rapidly and did not notice how Pierre flushed at her words. "I saw in that same army order that he, Bolkonski" (she whispered the name hastily), "is in Russia, and in the army again. What do you think?"--she was speaking hurriedly, evidently afraid her strength might fail her--"Will he ever forgive me? Will he not always have a bitter feeling toward me? What do you think? What do you think?" "I think..." Pierre replied, "that he has nothing to forgive.... If I were in his place..." By association of ideas, Pierre was at once carried back to the day when, trying to comfort her, he had said that if he were not himself but the best man in the

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