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War And Peace 701

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War And Peace

prop up his pipe in a corner, but finally abandoning the attempt. "I cant prove it to you. You say that everything here is rotten and that an overthrow is coming: I dont see it. But you also say that our oath of allegiance is a conditional matter, and to that I reply: You are my best friend, as you know, but if you formed a secret society and began working against the government--be it what it may--I know it is my duty to obey the government. And if Arakcheev ordered me to lead a squadron against you and cut you down, I should not hesitate an instant, but should do it. And you may argue about that as you like!" An awkward silence followed these words. Natasha was the first to speak, defending her husband and attacking her brother. Her defense was weak and inapt but she attained her object. The conversation was resumed, and no longer in the unpleasantly hostile tone of Nicholas last remark. When they all got up to go in to supper, little Nicholas Bolkonski went up to Pierre, pale and with shining, radiant eyes. "Uncle Pierre, you... no... If Papa were alive... would he agree with you?" he asked. And Pierre suddenly realized what a special, independent, complex, and powerful process of thought and feeling must have been going on in this boy during that conversation, and remembering all he had said he regretted that the lad should have heard him. He had, however, to give him an answer. "Yes, I think so," he said reluctantly, and left the study. The lad looked down and seemed now for the first time to notice what he had done to the things on the table. He flushed and went up to Nicholas. "Uncle, forgive me, I did that... unintentionally," he said, pointing to the broken sealing wax and pens. Nicholas started angrily. "All right, all right," he said, throwing the bits under the table. And evidently suppressing his vexation with difficulty, he turned away from the boy. "You ought not to have been here at all," he said. CHAPTER XV The conversation at supper was not about politics or societies, but turned on the subject Nicholas liked best--recollections of 1812. Denisov started these and Pierre was particularly agreeable and amusing about them. The family separated on the most friendly terms. After supper Nicholas, having undressed in his study and given instructions to the steward who had been waiting for him, went to the bedroom in his dressing gown, where he found his wife still at her table, writing. "What are you writing, Mary?" Nicholas asked. Countess Mary blushed. She was afraid that what she was writing would not be understood or approved by her husband. She had wanted to conceal what she was writing from him, but at the same time was glad he had surprised her at it and that she would now have to tell him. "A diary, Nicholas," she replied, handing him a blue exercise book filled with her firm, bold writing. "A diary?" Nicholas repeated with a shade of irony, and he took up the book. It was in French. December 4. Today when Andrusha (her eldest boy) woke up he did not wish to dress and Mademoiselle Louise sent for me. He was naughty and obstinate. I tried threats, but he only grew angrier. Then I took the matter in hand: I left him alone and began with nurses help to get the other children up, telling him that I did not love him. For a long time he was silent, as if astonished, then he jumped out of bed, ran to me in his shirt, and sobbed so that I could not calm him for a long time. It was plain that what troubled him most was that he had grieved me. Afterwards in the evening when I gave him his ticket, he again began crying piteously and kissing me. One can do anything with him by tenderness. "What is a ticket?" Nicholas inquired. "I have begun giving the elder ones marks every evening, showing how they have behaved." Nicholas looked into the radiant eyes that were gazing at him, and continued to turn over the pages and read. In the diary was set down everything in the childrens lives that seemed noteworthy to their mother as showing their characters or suggesting general reflections on educational methods. They were for the most part quite insignificant trifles, but did not seem so to the mother or to the father either, now that he read this diary about his children for the first time. Under the date "5" was entered: Mitya

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