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Chapter IX.20

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A few intimate friends were dining with the Rostovs that day, as usual on Sundays.

Pierre came early so as to find them alone.

He had grown so stout this year that he would have been abnormal had he not been so tall, so broad of limb, and so strong that he carried his bulk with evident ease.

He went up the stairs, puffing and muttering something. His coachman did not even ask whether he was to wait. He knew that when his master was at the Rostovs' he stayed till midnight. The Rostovs' footman rushed eagerly forward to help him off with his cloak and take his hat and stick. Pierre, from club habit, always left both hat and stick in the anteroom.

The first person he saw in the house was Natasha. Even before he saw her, while taking off his cloak, he heard her. She was practicing solfa exercises in the music room. He knew that she had not sung since her illness, and so the sound of her voice surprised and delighted him. He opened the door softly and saw her, in the lilac dress she had worn at church, walking about the room singing. She had her back to him when he opened the door, but when, turning quickly, she saw his broad, surprised face, she blushed and came rapidly up to him.

"I want to try to sing again," she said, adding as if by way of excuse, "it is, at least, something to do."

"That's capital!"

"How glad I am you've come! I am so happy today," she said, with the old animation Pierre had not seen in her for along time. "You know Nicholas has received a St. George's Cross? I am so proud of him."

"Oh yes, I sent that announcement. But I don't want to interrupt you," he added, and was about to go to the drawing room.

Natasha stopped him.

"Count, is it wrong of me to sing?" she said blushing, and fixing her eyes inquiringly on him.

"No... Why should it be? On the contrary... But why do you ask me?"

"I don't know myself," Natasha answered quickly, "but I should not like to do anything you disapproved of. I believe in you completely. You don't know how important you are to me, how much you've done for me...." She spoke rapidly and did not notice how Pierre flushed at her words. "I saw in that same army order that he, Bolkonski" (she whispered the name hastily), "is in Russia, and in the army again. What do you think?"- she was speaking hurriedly, evidently afraid her strength might fail her- "Will he ever forgive me? Will he not always have a bitter feeling toward me? What do you think? What do you think?"

"I think..." Pierre replied, "that he has nothing to forgive.... If I were in his place..."

By association of ideas, Pierre was at once carried back to the day when, trying to comfort her, he had said that if he were not himself but the best man in the world and free, he would ask on his knees for her hand; and the same feeling of pity, tenderness, and love took possession of him and the same words rose to his lips. But she did not give him time to say them.

"Yes, you... you..." she said, uttering the word you rapturously- "that's a different thing. I know no one kinder, more generous, or better than you; nobody could be! Had you not been there then, and now too, I don't know what would have become of me, because..."

Tears suddenly rose in her eyes, she turned away, lifted her music before her eyes, began singing again, and again began walking up and down the room.

Just then Petya came running in from the drawing room.

Petya was now a handsome rosy lad of fifteen with full red lips and resembled Natasha. He was preparing to enter the university, but he and his friend Obolenski had lately, in secret, agreed to join the hussars.

Petya had come rushing out to talk to his namesake about this affair. He had asked Pierre to find out whether he would be accepted in the hussars.

Pierre walked up and down the drawing room, not listening to what Petya was saying.

Petya pulled him by the arm to attract his attention.

"Well, what about my plan? Peter Kirilych, for heaven's sake! You are my only hope " said Petya.

"Oh yes, your plan. To join the hussars? I'll mention it, I'll bring it all up today."

"Well, mon cher, have you got the manifesto?" asked the old count. "The countess has been to Mass at the Razumovskis' and heard the new prayer. She says it's very fine."

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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