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War And Peace 683

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War And Peace

her often, but yet always became ill-humored when she began to talk about her. Nicholas tried to keep silence when his mother spoke of the princess, but his silence irritated her. "She is a very admirable and excellent young woman," said she, "and you must go and call on her. You would at least be seeing somebody, and I think it must be dull for you only seeing us." "But I dont in the least want to, Mamma." "You used to want to, and now you dont. Really I dont understand you, my dear. One day you are dull, and the next you refuse to see anyone." "But I never said I was dull." "Why, you said yourself you dont want even to see her. She is a very admirable young woman and you always liked her, but now suddenly you have got some notion or other in your head. You hide everything from me." "Not at all, Mamma." "If I were asking you to do something disagreeable now--but I only ask you to return a call. One would think mere politeness required it.... Well, I have asked you, and now I wont interfere any more since you have secrets from your mother." "Well, then, Ill go if you wish it." "It doesnt matter to me. I only wish it for your sake." Nicholas sighed, bit his mustache, and laid out the cards for a patience, trying to divert his mothers attention to another topic. The same conversation was repeated next day and the day after, and the day after that. After her visit to the Rostovs and her unexpectedly chilly reception by Nicholas, Princess Mary confessed to herself that she had been right in not wishing to be the first to call. "I expected nothing else," she told herself, calling her pride to her aid. "I have nothing to do with him and I only wanted to see the old lady, who was always kind to me and to whom I am under many obligations." But she could not pacify herself with these reflections; a feeling akin to remorse troubled her when she thought of her visit. Though she had firmly resolved not to call on the Rostovs again and to forget the whole matter, she felt herself all the time in an awkward position. And when she asked herself what distressed her, she had to admit that it was her relation to Rostov. His cold, polite manner did not express his feeling for her (she knew that) but it concealed something, and until she could discover what that something was, she felt that she could not be at ease. One day in midwinter when sitting in the schoolroom attending to her nephews lessons, she was informed that Rostov had called. With a firm resolution not to betray herself and not show her agitation, she sent for Mademoiselle Bourienne and went with her to the drawing room. Her first glance at Nicholas face told her that he had only come to fulfill the demands of politeness, and she firmly resolved to maintain the tone in which he addressed her. They spoke of the countess health, of their mutual friends, of the latest war news, and when the ten minutes required by propriety had elapsed after which a visitor may rise, Nicholas got up to say good-by. With Mademoiselle Bouriennes help the princess had maintained the conversation very well, but at the very last moment, just when he rose, she was so tired of talking of what did not interest her, and her mind was so full of the question why she alone was granted so little happiness in life, that in a fit of absent-mindedness she sat still, her luminous eyes gazing fixedly before her, not noticing that he had risen. Nicholas glanced at her and, wishing to appear not to notice her abstraction, made some remark to Mademoiselle Bourienne and then again looked at the princess. She still sat motionless with a look of suffering on her gentle face. He suddenly felt sorry for her and was vaguely conscious that he might be the cause of the sadness her face expressed. He wished to help her and say something pleasant, but could think of nothing to say. "Good-by, Princess!" said he. She started, flushed, and sighed deeply. "Oh, I beg your pardon," she said as if waking up. "Are you going already, Count? Well then, good-by! Oh, but the cushion for the countess!" "Wait a moment, Ill fetch it," said Mademoiselle Bourienne, and she left the room. They both sat silent, with an occasional glance at one another. "Yes, Princess," said Nicholas at last

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