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War And Peace 572


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escape. She wrote that the last unfortunate events--the loss of almost the whole of the Rostovs Moscow property--and the countess repeatedly expressed wish that Nicholas should marry Princess Bolkonskaya, together with his silence and coldness of late, had all combined to make her decide to release him from his promise and set him completely free. It would be too painful to me to think that I might be a cause of sorrow or discord in the family that has been so good to me (she wrote), and my love has no aim but the happiness of those I love; so, Nicholas, I beg you to consider yourself free, and to be assured that, in spite of everything, no one can love you more than does Your Sonya Both letters were written from Troitsa. The other, from the countess, described their last days in Moscow, their departure, the fire, and the destruction of all their property. In this letter the countess also mentioned that Prince Andrew was among the wounded traveling with them; his state was very critical, but the doctor said there was now more hope. Sonya and Natasha were nursing him. Next day Nicholas took his mothers letter and went to see Princess Mary. Neither he nor she said a word about what "Natasha nursing him" might mean, but thanks to this letter Nicholas suddenly became almost as intimate with the princess as if they were relations. The following day he saw Princess Mary off on her journey to Yaroslavl, and a few days later left to rejoin his regiment. CHAPTER VIII Sonyas letter written from Troitsa, which had come as an answer to Nicholas prayer, was prompted by this: the thought of getting Nicholas married to an heiress occupied the old countess mind more and more. She knew that Sonya was the chief obstacle to this happening, and Sonyas life in the countess house had grown harder and harder, especially after they had received a letter from Nicholas telling of his meeting with Princess Mary in Bogucharovo. The countess let no occasion slip of making humiliating or cruel allusions to Sonya. But a few days before they left Moscow, moved and excited by all that was going on, she called Sonya to her and, instead of reproaching and making demands on her, tearfully implored her to sacrifice herself and repay all that the family had done for her by breaking off her engagement with Nicholas. "I shall not be at peace till you promise me this." Sonya burst into hysterical tears and replied through her sobs that she would do anything and was prepared for anything, but gave no actual promise and could not bring herself to decide to do what was demanded of her. She must sacrifice herself for the family that had reared and brought her up. To sacrifice herself for others was Sonyas habit. Her position in the house was such that only by sacrifice could she show her worth, and she was accustomed to this and loved doing it. But in all her former acts of self-sacrifice she had been happily conscious that they raised her in her own esteem and in that of others, and so made her more worthy of Nicholas whom she loved more than anything in the world. But now they wanted her to sacrifice the very thing that constituted the whole reward for her self-sacrifice and the whole meaning of her life. And for the first time she felt bitterness against those who had been her benefactors only to torture her the more painfully; she felt jealous of Natasha who had never experienced anything of this sort, had never needed to sacrifice herself, but made others sacrifice themselves for her and yet was beloved by everybody. And for the first time Sonya felt that out of her pure, quiet love for Nicholas a passionate feeling was beginning to grow up which was stronger than principle, virtue, or religion. Under the influence of this feeling Sonya, whose life of dependence had taught her involuntarily to be secretive, having answered the countess in vague general terms, avoided talking with her and resolved to wait till she should see Nicholas, not in order to set him free but on the contrary at that meeting to bind him to her forever. The bustle and terror of the Rostovs last days in Moscow stifled the gloomy thoughts that oppressed Sonya. She was glad to find escape from them in practical activity. But when she heard of Prince Andrews presence in their house, despite her sincere pity for him and for Natasha, she was

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