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Chapter XI.17

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Before two o'clock in the afternoon the Rostovs' four carriages, packed full and with the horses harnessed, stood at the front door. One by one the carts with the wounded had moved out of the yard.

The caleche in which Prince Andrew was being taken attracted Sonya's attention as it passed the front porch. With the help of a maid she was arranging a seat for the countess in the huge high coach that stood at the entrance.

"Whose caleche is that?" she inquired, leaning out of the carriage window.

"Why, didn't you know, Miss?" replied the maid. "The wounded prince: he spent the night in our house and is going with us."

"But who is it? What's his name?"

"It's our intended that was- Prince Bolkonski himself! They say he is dying," replied the maid with a sigh.

Sonya jumped out of the coach and ran to the countess. The countess, tired out and already dressed in shawl and bonnet for her journey, was pacing up and down the drawing room, waiting for the household to assemble for the usual silent prayer with closed doors before starting. Natasha was not in the room.

"Mamma," said Sonya, "Prince Andrew is here, mortally wounded. He is going with us."

The countess opened her eyes in dismay and, seizing Sonya's arm, glanced around.

"Natasha?" she murmured.

At that moment this news had only one significance for both of them. They knew their Natasha, and alarm as to what would happen if she heard this news stifled all sympathy for the man they both liked.

"Natasha does not know yet, but he is going with us," said Sonya.

"You say he is dying?"

Sonya nodded.

The countess put her arms around Sonya and began to cry.

"The ways of God are past finding out!" she thought, feeling that the Almighty Hand, hitherto unseen, was becoming manifest in all that was now taking place.

"Well, Mamma? Everything is ready. What's the matter?" asked Natasha, as with animated face she ran into the room.

"Nothing," answered the countess. "If everything is ready let us start."

And the countess bent over her reticule to hide her agitated face. Sonya embraced Natasha and kissed her.

Natasha looked at her inquiringly.

"What is it? What has happened?"

"Nothing... No..."

"Is it something very bad for me? What is it?" persisted Natasha with her quick intuition.

Sonya sighed and made no reply. The count, Petya, Madame Schoss, Mavra Kuzminichna, and Vasilich came into the drawing room and, having closed the doors, they all sat down and remained for some moments silently seated without looking at one another.

The count was the first to rise, and with a loud sigh crossed himself before the icon. All the others did the same. Then the count embraced Mavra Kuzminichna and Vasilich, who were to remain in Moscow, and while they caught at his hand and kissed his shoulder he patted their backs lightly with some vaguely affectionate and comforting words. The countess went into the oratory and there Sonya found her on her knees before the icons that had been left here and there hanging on the wall. (The most precious ones, with which some family tradition was connected, were being taken with them.)

In the porch and in the yard the men whom Petya had armed with swords and daggers, with trousers tucked inside their high boots and with belts and girdles tightened, were taking leave of those remaining behind.

As is always the case at a departure, much had been forgotten or put in the wrong place, and for a long time two menservants stood one on each side of the open door and the carriage steps waiting to help the countess in, while maids rushed with cushions and bundles from the house to the carriages, the caleche, the phaeton, and back again.

"They always will forget everything!" said the countess. "Don't you know I can't sit like that?"

And Dunyasha, with clenched teeth, without replying but with an aggrieved look on her face, hastily got into the coach to rearrange the seat.

"Oh, those servants!" said the count, swaying his head.

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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