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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 8
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War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 8 Post by :johnd1 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :548

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 8 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 8

That evening the Rostovs went to the Opera, for which Marya
Dmitrievna had taken a box.

Natasha did not want to go, but could not refuse Marya
Dmitrievna's kind offer which was intended expressly for her. When she
came ready dressed into the ballroom to await her father, and
looking in the large mirror there saw that she was pretty, very
pretty, she felt even more sad, but it was a sweet, tender sadness.

"O God, if he were here now I would not behave as I did then, but
differently. I would not be silly and afraid of things, I would simply
embrace him, cling to him, and make him look at me with those
searching inquiring eyes with which he has so often looked at me,
and then I would make him laugh as he used to laugh. And his eyes- how
I see those eyes!" thought Natasha. "And what do his father and sister
matter to me? I love him alone, him, him, with that face and those
eyes, with his smile, manly and yet childlike.... No, I had better not
think of him; not think of him but forget him, quite forget him for
the present. I can't bear this waiting and I shall cry in a minute!"
and she turned away from the glass, making an effort not to cry.
"And how can Sonya love Nicholas so calmly and quietly and wait so
long and so patiently?" thought she, looking at Sonya, who also came
in quite ready, with a fan in her hand. "No, she's altogether
different. I can't!"

Natasha at that moment felt so softened and tender that it was not
enough for her to love and know she was beloved, she wanted now, at
once, to embrace the man she loved, to speak and hear from him words
of love such as filled her heart. While she sat in the carriage beside
her father, pensively watching the lights of the street lamps
flickering on the frozen window, she felt still sadder and more in
love, and forgot where she was going and with whom. Having fallen into
the line of carriages, the Rostovs' carriage drove up to the
theater, its wheels squeaking over the snow. Natasha and Sonya,
holding up their dresses, jumped out quickly. The count got out helped
by the footmen, and, passing among men and women who were entering and
the program sellers, they all three went along the corridor to the
first row of boxes. Through the closed doors the music was already
audible.

"Natasha, your hair!..." whispered Sonya.

An attendant deferentially and quickly slipped before the ladies and
opened the door of their box. The music sounded louder and through the
door rows of brightly lit boxes in which ladies sat with bare arms and
shoulders, and noisy stalls brilliant with uniforms, glittered
before their eyes. A lady entering the next box shot a glance of
feminine envy at Natasha. The curtain had not yet risen and the
overture was being played. Natasha, smoothing her gown, went in with
Sonya and sat down, scanning the brilliant tiers of boxes opposite.
A sensation she had not experienced for a long time- that of
hundreds of eyes looking at her bare arms and neck- suddenly
affected her both agreeably and disagreeably and called up a whole
crowd of memories, desires and emotions associated with that feeling.

The two remarkably pretty girls, Natasha and Sonya, with Count
Rostov who had not been seen in Moscow for a long time, attracted
general attention. Moreover, everybody knew vaguely of Natasha's
engagement to Prince Andrew, and knew that the Rostovs had lived in
the country ever since, and all looked with curiosity at a fiancee who
was making one of the best matches in Russia.

Natasha's looks, as everyone told her, had improved in the
country, and that evening thanks to her agitation she was particularly
pretty. She struck those who saw her by her fullness of life and
beauty, combined with her indifference to everything about her. Her
black eyes looked at the crowd without seeking anyone, and her
delicate arm, bare to above the elbow, lay on the velvet edge of the
box, while, evidently unconsciously, she opened and closed her hand in
time to the music, crumpling her program. "Look, there's Alenina,"
said Sonya, "with her mother, isn't it?"

"Dear me, Michael Kirilovich has grown still stouter!" remarked
the count.

"Look at our Anna Mikhaylovna- what a headdress she has on!"

"The Karagins, Julie- and Boris with them. One can see at once
that they're engaged...."

"Drubetskoy has proposed?"

"Oh yes, I heard it today," said Shinshin, coming into the
Rostovs' box.

Natasha looked in the direction in which her father's eyes were
turned and saw Julie sitting beside her mother with a happy look on
her face and a string of pearls round her thick red neck- which
Natasha knew was covered with powder. Behind them, wearing a smile and
leaning over with an ear to Julie's mouth, was Boris' handsome
smoothly brushed head. He looked the Rostovs from under his brows
and said something, smiling, to his betrothed.

"They are talking about us, about me and him!" thought Natasha. "And
he no doubt is calming her jealousy of me. They needn't trouble
themselves! If only they knew how little I am concerned about any of
them."

Behind them sat Anna Mikhaylovna wearing a green headdress and
with a happy look of resignation to the will of God on her face. Their
box was pervaded by that atmosphere of an affianced couple which
Natasha knew so well and liked so much. She turned away and suddenly
remembered all that had been so humiliating in her morning's visit.

"What right has he not to wish to receive me into his family? Oh,
better not think of it- not till he comes back!" she told herself, and
began looking at the faces, some strange and some familiar, in the
stalls. In the front, in the very center, leaning back against the
orchestra rail, stood Dolokhov in a Persian dress, his curly hair
brushed up into a huge shock. He stood in full view of the audience,
well aware that he was attracting everyone's attention, yet as much at
ease as though he were in his own room. Around him thronged Moscow's
most brilliant young men, whom he evidently dominated.

The count, laughing, nudged the blushing Sonya and pointed to her
former adorer.

"Do you recognize him?" said he. "And where has he sprung from?"
he asked, turning to Shinshin. "Didn't he vanish somewhere?"

"He did," replied Shinshin. "He was in the Caucasus and ran away
from there. They say he has been acting as minister to some ruling
prince in Persia, where he killed the Shah's brother. Now all the
Moscow ladies are mad about him! It's 'Dolokhov the Persian' that does
it! We never hear a word but Dolokhov is mentioned. They swear by him,
they offer him to you as they would a dish of choice sterlet. Dolokhov
and Anatole Kuragin have turned all our ladies' heads."

A tall, beautiful woman with a mass of plaited hair and much exposed
plump white shoulders and neck, round which she wore a double string
of large pearls, entered the adjoining box rustling her heavy silk
dress and took a long time settling into her place.

Natasha involuntarily gazed at that neck, those shoulders, and
pearls and coiffure, and admired the beauty of the shoulders and the
pearls. While Natasha was fixing her gaze on her for the second time
the lady looked round and, meeting the count's eyes, nodded to him and
smiled. She was the Countess Bezukhova, Pierre's wife, and the
count, who knew everyone in society, leaned over and spoke to her.

"Have you been here long, Countess?" he inquired. "I'll call, I'll
call to kiss your hand. I'm here on business and have brought my girls
with me. They say Semenova acts marvelously. Count Pierre never used
to forget us. Is he here?"

"Yes, he meant to look in," answered Helene, and glanced attentively
at Natasha.

Count Rostov resumed his seat.

"Handsome, isn't she?" he whispered to Natasha.

"Wonderful!" answered Natasha. "She's a woman one could easily
fall in love with."

Just then the last chords of the overture were heard and the
conductor tapped with his stick. Some latecomers took their seats in
the stalls, and the curtain rose.

As soon as it rose everyone in the boxes and stalls became silent,
and all the men, old and young, in uniform and evening dress, and
all the women with gems on their bare flesh, turned their whole
attention with eager curiosity to the stage. Natasha too began to look
at it.

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The floor of the stage consisted of smooth boards, at the sideswas some painted cardboard representing trees, and at the back was acloth stretched over boards. In the center of the stage sat some girlsin red bodices and white skirts. One very fat girl in a white silkdress sat apart on a low bench, to the back of which a piece ofgreen cardboard was glued. They all sang something. When they hadfinished their song the girl in white went up to the prompter's boxand a man with tight silk trousers over his stout legs, and holdinga plume and a dagger, went
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Next day, by Marya Dmitrievna's advice, Count Rostov took Natasha tocall on Prince Nicholas Bolkonski. The count did not set outcheerfully on this visit, at heart he felt afraid. He wellremembered the last interview he had had with the old prince at thetime of the enrollment, when in reply to an invitation to dinner hehad had to listen to an angry reprimand for not having provided hisfull quota of men. Natasha, on the other hand, having put on herbest gown, was in the highest spirits. "They can't help liking me,"she thought. "Everybody always has liked me, and I am so willing
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