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War And Peace 43


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concluded, and followed Anna Mikhaylovna. She hurriedly ascended the narrow dimly lit stone staircase, calling to Pierre, who was lagging behind, to follow. Though he did not see why it was necessary for him to go to the count at all, still less why he had to go by the back stairs, yet judging by Anna Mikhaylovnas air of assurance and haste, Pierre concluded that it was all absolutely necessary. Halfway up the stairs they were almost knocked over by some men who, carrying pails, came running downstairs, their boots clattering. These men pressed close to the wall to let Pierre and Anna Mikhaylovna pass and did not evince the least surprise at seeing them there. "Is this the way to the princesses apartments?" asked Anna Mikhaylovna of one of them. "Yes," replied a footman in a bold loud voice, as if anything were now permissible; "the door to the left, maam." "Perhaps the count did not ask for me," said Pierre when he reached the landing. "Id better go to my own room." Anna Mikhaylovna paused and waited for him to come up. "Ah, my friend!" she said, touching his arm as she had done her sons when speaking to him that afternoon, "believe me I suffer no less than you do, but be a man!" "But really, hadnt I better go away?" he asked, looking kindly at her over his spectacles. "Ah, my dear friend! Forget the wrongs that may have been done you. Think that he is your father... perhaps in the agony of death." She sighed. "I have loved you like a son from the first. Trust yourself to me, Pierre. I shall not forget your interests." Pierre did not understand a word, but the conviction that all this had to be grew stronger, and he meekly followed Anna Mikhaylovna who was already opening a door. This door led into a back anteroom. An old man, a servant of the princesses, sat in a corner knitting a stocking. Pierre had never been in this part of the house and did not even know of the existence of these rooms. Anna Mikhaylovna, addressing a maid who was hurrying past with a decanter on a tray as "my dear" and "my sweet," asked about the princess health and then led Pierre along a stone passage. The first door on the left led into the princesses apartments. The maid with the decanter in her haste had not closed the door (everything in the house was done in haste at that time), and Pierre and Anna Mikhaylovna in passing instinctively glanced into the room, where Prince Vasili and the eldest princess were sitting close together talking. Seeing them pass, Prince Vasili drew back with obvious impatience, while the princess jumped up and with a gesture of desperation slammed the door with all her might. This action was so unlike her usual composure and the fear depicted on Prince Vasilis face so out of keeping with his dignity that Pierre stopped and glanced inquiringly over his spectacles at his guide. Anna Mikhaylovna evinced no surprise, she only smiled faintly and sighed, as if to say that this was no more than she had expected. "Be a man, my friend. I will look after your interests," said she in reply to his look, and went still faster along the passage. Pierre could not make out what it was all about, and still less what "watching over his interests" meant, but he decided that all these things had to be. From the passage they went into a large, dimly lit room adjoining the counts reception room. It was one of those sumptuous but cold apartments known to Pierre only from the front approach, but even in this room there now stood an empty bath, and water had been spilled on the carpet. They were met by a deacon with a censer and by a servant who passed out on tiptoe without heeding them. They went into the reception room familiar to Pierre, with two Italian windows opening into the conservatory, with its large bust and full length portrait of Catherine the Great. The same people were still sitting here in almost the same positions as before, whispering to one another. All became silent and turned to look at the pale tear-worn Anna Mikhaylovna as she entered, and at the big stout figure of Pierre who, hanging his head, meekly followed her. Anna Mikhaylovnas face expressed a consciousness that the decisive moment had arrived. With the air of a practical Petersburg lady she now, keeping Pierre close beside her, entered the room

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