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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 8
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War And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 8 Post by :styles98 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1357

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 8 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Four : 1806 - Chapter 8

"Dearest," said the little princess after breakfast on the morning
of the nineteenth March, and her downy little lip rose from old habit,
but as sorrow was manifest in every smile, the sound of every word,
and even every footstep in that house since the terrible news had
come, so now the smile of the little princess- influenced by the
general mood though without knowing its cause- was such as to remind
one still more of the general sorrow.

"Dearest, I'm afraid this morning's fruschtique*- as Foka the cook
calls it- has disagreed with me."


*Fruhstuck: breakfast.


"What is the matter with you, my darling? You look pale. Oh, you are
very pale!" said Princess Mary in alarm, running with her soft,
ponderous steps up to her sister-in-law.

"Your excellency, should not Mary Bogdanovna be sent for?" said
one of the maids who was present. (Mary Bogdanovna was a midwife
from the neighboring town, who had been at Bald Hills for the last
fortnight.)

"Oh yes," assented Princess Mary, "perhaps that's it. I'll go.
Courage, my angel." She kissed Lise and was about to leave the room.

"Oh, no, no!" And besides the pallor and the physical suffering on
the little princess' face, an expression of childish fear of
inevitable pain showed itself.

"No, it's only indigestion?... Say it's only indigestion, say so,
Mary! Say..." And the little princess began to cry capriciously like a
suffering child and to wring her little hands even with some
affectation. Princess Mary ran out of the room to fetch Mary
Bogdanovna.

"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Oh!" she heard as she left the room.

The midwife was already on her way to meet her, rubbing her small,
plump white hands with an air of calm importance.

"Mary Bogdanovna, I think it's beginning!" said Princess Mary
looking at the midwife with wide-open eyes of alarm.

"Well, the Lord be thanked, Princess," said Mary Bogdanovna, not
hastening her steps. "You young ladies should not know anything
about it."

"But how is it the doctor from Moscow is not here yet?" said the
princess. (In accordance with Lise's and Prince Andrew's wishes they
had sent in good time to Moscow for a doctor and were expecting him at
any moment.)

"No matter, Princess, don't be alarmed," said Mary Bogdanovna.
"We'll manage very well without a doctor."

Five minutes later Princess Mary from her room heard something heavy
being carried by. She looked out. The men servants were carrying the
large leather sofa from Prince Andrew's study into the bedroom. On
their faces was a quiet and solemn look.

Princess Mary sat alone in her room listening to the sounds in the
house, now and then opening her door when someone passed and
watching what was going on in the passage. Some women passing with
quiet steps in and out of the bedroom glanced at the princess and
turned away. She did not venture to ask any questions, and shut the
door again, now sitting down in her easy chair, now taking her
prayer book, now kneeling before the icon stand. To her surprise and
distress she found that her prayers did not calm her excitement.
Suddenly her door opened softly and her old nurse, Praskovya Savishna,
who hardly ever came to that room as the old prince had forbidden
it, appeared on the threshold with a shawl round her head.

"I've come to sit with you a bit, Masha," said the nurse, "and
here I've brought the prince's wedding candles to light before his
saint, my angel," she said with a sigh.

"Oh, nurse, I'm so glad!"

"God is merciful, birdie."

The nurse lit the gilt candles before the icons and sat down by
the door with her knitting. Princess Mary took a book and began
reading. Only when footsteps or voices were heard did they look at one
another, the princess anxious and inquiring, the nurse encouraging.
Everyone in the house was dominated by the same feeling that
Princess Mary experienced as she sat in her room. But owing to the
superstition that the fewer the people who know of it the less a woman
in travail suffers, everyone tried to pretend not to know; no one
spoke of it, but apart from the ordinary staid and respectful good
manners habitual in the prince's household, a common anxiety, a
softening of the heart, and a consciousness that something great and
mysterious was being accomplished at that moment made itself felt.

There was no laughter in the maids' large hall. In the men servants'
hall all sat waiting, silently and alert. In the outlying serfs'
quarters torches and candles were burning and no one slept. The old
prince, stepping on his heels, paced up and down his study and sent
Tikhon to ask Mary Bogdanovna what news.- "Say only that 'the prince
told me to ask,' and come and tell me her answer."

"Inform the prince that labor has begun," said Mary Bogdanovna,
giving the messenger a significant look.

Tikhon went and told the prince.

"Very good!" said the prince closing the door behind him, and Tikhon
did not hear the slightest sound from the study after that.

After a while he re-entered it as if to snuff the candles, and,
seeing the prince was lying on the sofa, looked at him, noticed his
perturbed face, shook his head, and going up to him silently kissed
him on the shoulder and left the room without snuffing the candles
or saying why he had entered. The most solemn mystery in the world
continued its course. Evening passed, night came, and the feeling of
suspense and softening of heart in the presence of the unfathomable
did not lessen but increased. No one slept.

It was one of those March nights when winter seems to wish to resume
its sway and scatters its last snows and storms with desperate fury. A
relay of horses had been sent up the highroad to meet the German
doctor from Moscow who was expected every moment, and men on horseback
with lanterns were sent to the crossroads to guide him over the
country road with its hollows and snow-covered pools of water.

Princess Mary had long since put aside her book: she sat silent, her
luminous eyes fixed on her nurse's wrinkled face (every line of
which she knew so well), on the lock of gray hair that escaped from
under the kerchief, and the loose skin that hung under her chin.

Nurse Savishna, knitting in hand, was telling in low tones, scarcely
hearing or understanding her own words, what she had told hundreds
of times before: how the late princess had given birth to Princess
Mary in Kishenev with only a Moldavian peasant woman to help instead
of a midwife.

"God is merciful, doctors are never needed," she said.

Suddenly a gust of wind beat violently against the casement of the
window, from which the double frame had been removed (by order of
the prince, one window frame was removed in each room as soon as the
larks returned), and, forcing open a loosely closed latch, set the
damask curtain flapping and blew out the candle with its chill,
snowy draft. Princess Mary shuddered; her nurse, putting down the
stocking she was knitting, went to the window and leaning out tried to
catch the open casement. The cold wind flapped the ends of her
kerchief and her loose locks of gray hair.

"Princess, my dear, there's someone driving up the avenue! " she
said, holding the casement and not closing it. "With lanterns. Most
likely the doctor."

"Oh, my God! thank God!" said Princess Mary. "I must go and meet
him, he does not know Russian."

Princess Mary threw a shawl over her head and ran to meet the
newcomer. As she was crossing the anteroom she saw through the
window a carriage with lanterns, standing at the entrance. She went
out on the stairs. On a banister post stood a tallow candle which
guttered in the draft. On the landing below, Philip, the footman,
stood looking scared and holding another candle. Still lower, beyond
the turn of the staircase, one could hear the footstep of someone in
thick felt boots, and a voice that seemed familiar to Princess Mary
was saying something.

"Thank God!" said the voice. "And Father?"

"Gone to bed," replied the voice of Demyan the house steward, who
was downstairs.

Then the voice said something more, Demyan replied, and the steps in
the felt boots approached the unseen bend of the staircase more
rapidly.

"It's Andrew!" thought Princess Mary. "No it can't be, that would be
too extraordinary," and at the very moment she thought this, the
face and figure of Prince Andrew, in a fur cloak the deep collar of
which covered with snow, appeared on the landing where the footman
stood with the candle. Yes, it was he, pale, thin, with a changed
and strangely softened but agitated expression on his face. He came up
the stairs and embraced his sister.

"You did not get my letter?" he asked, and not waiting for a
reply- which he would not have received, for the princess was unable
to speak- he turned back, rapidly mounted the stairs again with the
doctor who had entered the hall after him (they had met at the last
post station), and again embraced his sister.

"What a strange fate, Masha darling!" And having taken off his cloak
and felt boots, he went to the little princess' apartment.

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The little princess lay supported by pillows, with a white cap onher head (the pains had just left her). Strands of her black hairlay round her inflamed and perspiring cheeks, her charming rosymouth with its downy lip was open and she was smiling joyfully. PrinceAndrew entered and paused facing her at the foot of the sofa onwhich she was lying. Her glittering eyes, filled with childlike fearand excitement, rested on him without changing their expression. "Ilove you all and have done no harm to anyone; why must I suffer so?Help me!" her look seemed to say. She saw her husband, but
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Two months had elapsed since the news of the battle of Austerlitzand the loss of Prince Andrew had reached Bald Hills, and in spiteof the letters sent through the embassy and all the searches made, hisbody had not been found nor was he on the list of prisoners. Whatwas worst of all for his relations was the fact that there was still apossibility of his having been picked up on the battlefield by thepeople of the place and that he might now be lying, recovering ordying, alone among strangers and unable to send news of himself. Thegazettes from which the old
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