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Chapter I.15

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"My dear Boris," said Princess Anna Mikhaylovna to her son as Countess Rostova's carriage in which they were seated drove over the straw covered street and turned into the wide courtyard of Count Cyril Vladimirovich Bezukhov's house. "My dear Boris," said the mother, drawing her hand from beneath her old mantle and laying it timidly and tenderly on her son's arm, "be affectionate and attentive to him. Count Cyril Vladimirovich is your godfather after all, your future depends on him. Remember that, my dear, and be nice to him, as you so well know how to be."

"If only I knew that anything besides humiliation would come of it..." answered her son coldly. "But I have promised and will do it for your sake."

Although the hall porter saw someone's carriage standing at the entrance, after scrutinizing the mother and son (who without asking to be announced had passed straight through the glass porch between the rows of statues in niches) and looking significantly at the lady's old cloak, he asked whether they wanted the count or the princesses, and, hearing that they wished to see the count, said his excellency was worse today, and that his excellency was not receiving anyone.

"We may as well go back," said the son in French.

"My dear!" exclaimed his mother imploringly, again laying her hand on his arm as if that touch might soothe or rouse him.

Boris said no more, but looked inquiringly at his mother without taking off his cloak.

"My friend," said Anna Mikhaylovna in gentle tones, addressing the hall porter, I know Count Cyril Vladimirovich is very ill... that's why I have come... I am a relation. I shall not disturb him, my friend... I only need see Prince Vasili Sergeevich: he is staying here, is he not? Please announce me."

The hall porter sullenly pulled a bell that rang upstairs, and turned away.

"Princess Drubetskaya to see Prince Vasili Sergeevich," he called to a footman dressed in knee breeches, shoes, and a swallow-tail coat, who ran downstairs and looked over from the halfway landing.

The mother smoothed the folds of her dyed silk dress before a large Venetian mirror in the wall, and in her trodden-down shoes briskly ascended the carpeted stairs.

"My dear," she said to her son, once more stimulating him by a touch, "you promised me!"

The son, lowering his eyes, followed her quietly.

They entered the large hall, from which one of the doors led to the apartments assigned to Prince Vasili.

Just as the mother and son, having reached the middle of the hall, were about to ask their way of an elderly footman who had sprung up as they entered, the bronze handle of one of the doors turned and Prince Vasili came out- wearing a velvet coat with a single star on his breast, as was his custom when at home- taking leave of a good-looking, dark-haired man. This was the celebrated Petersburg doctor, Lorrain.

"Then it is certain?" said the prince.

"Prince, humanum est errare,* but..." replied the doctor, swallowing his r's, and pronouncing the Latin words with a French accent.

*To err is human.

"Very well, very well..."

Seeing Anna Mikhaylovna and her son, Prince Vasili dismissed the doctor with a bow and approached them silently and with a look of inquiry. The son noticed that an expression of profound sorrow suddenly clouded his mother's face, and he smiled slightly.

"Ah, Prince! In what sad circumstances we meet again! And how is our dear invalid?" said she, as though unaware of the cold offensive look fixed on her.

Prince Vasili stared at her and at Boris questioningly and perplexed. Boris bowed politely. Prince Vasili without acknowledging the bow turned to Anna Mikhaylovna, answering her query by a movement of the head and lips indicating very little hope for the patient.

"Is it possible?" exclaimed Anna Mikhaylovna. "Oh, how awful! It is terrible to think.... This is my son," she added, indicating Boris. "He wanted to thank you himself."

Boris bowed again politely.

"Believe me, Prince, a mother's heart will never forget what you have done for us."

"I am glad I was able to do you a service, my dear Anna Mikhaylovna," said Prince Vasili, arranging his lace frill, and in tone and manner, here in Moscow to Anna Mikhaylovna whom he had placed under an obligation, assuming an air of much greater importance than he had done in Petersburg at Anna Scherer's reception.

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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