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War And Peace 696


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censure it was only for buying too many and too expensive things. To her other defects (as most people thought them, but which to Pierre were qualities) of untidiness and neglect of herself, she now added stinginess. From the time that Pierre began life as a family man on a footing entailing heavy expenditure, he had noticed to his surprise that he spent only half as much as before, and that his affairs--which had been in disorder of late, chiefly because of his first wifes debts--had begun to improve. Life was cheaper because it was circumscribed: that most expensive luxury, the kind of life that can be changed at any moment, was no longer his nor did he wish for it. He felt that his way of life had now been settled once for all till death and that to change it was not in his power, and so that way of life proved economical. With a merry, smiling face Pierre was sorting his purchases. "What do you think of this?" said he, unrolling a piece of stuff like a shopman. Natasha, who was sitting opposite to him with her eldest daughter on her lap, turned her sparkling eyes swiftly from her husband to the things he showed her. "Thats for Belova? Excellent!" She felt the quality of the material. "It was a ruble an arshin, I suppose?" Pierre told her the price. "Too dear!" Natasha remarked. "How pleased the children will be and Mamma too! Only you need not have bought me this," she added, unable to suppress a smile as she gazed admiringly at a gold comb set with pearls, of a kind then just coming into fashion. "Adele tempted me: she kept on telling me to buy it," returned Pierre. "When am I to wear it?" and Natasha stuck it in her coil of hair. "When I take little Masha into society? Perhaps they will be fashionable again by then. Well, lets go now." And collecting the presents they went first to the nursery and then to the old countess rooms. The countess was sitting with her companion Belova, playing grand-patience as usual, when Pierre and Natasha came into the drawing room with parcels under their arms. The countess was now over sixty, was quite gray, and wore a cap with a frill that surrounded her face. Her face had shriveled, her upper lip had sunk in, and her eyes were dim. After the deaths of her son and husband in such rapid succession, she felt herself a being accidentally forgotten in this world and left without aim or object for her existence. She ate, drank, slept, or kept awake, but did not live. Life gave her no new impressions. She wanted nothing from life but tranquillity, and that tranquillity only death could give her. But until death came she had to go on living, that is, to use her vital forces. A peculiarity one sees in very young children and very old people was particularly evident in her. Her life had no external aims--only a need to exercise her various functions and inclinations was apparent. She had to eat, sleep, think, speak, weep, work, give vent to her anger, and so on, merely because she had a stomach, a brain, muscles, nerves, and a liver. She did these things not under any external impulse as people in the full vigor of life do, when behind the purpose for which they strive that of exercising their functions remains unnoticed. She talked only because she physically needed to exercise her tongue and lungs. She cried as a child does, because her nose had to be cleared, and so on. What for people in their full vigor is an aim was for her evidently merely a pretext. Thus in the morning--especially if she had eaten anything rich the day before--she felt a need of being angry and would choose as the handiest pretext Belovas deafness. She would begin to say something to her in a low tone from the other end of the room. "It seems a little warmer today, my dear," she would murmur. And when Belova replied: "Oh yes, theyve come," she would mutter angrily: "O Lord! How stupid and deaf she is!" Another pretext would be her snuff, which would seem too dry or too damp or not rubbed fine enough. After these fits of irritability her face would grow yellow, and her maids knew by infallible symptoms when Belova would again be deaf, the snuff damp, and the countess face yellow. Just as she needed to work off her spleen so she had sometimes to exercise her still-existing

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