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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 16
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 16 Post by :jthomas Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1422

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 16 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 16

On receiving news of Natasha's illness, the countess, though not
quite well yet and still weak, went to Moscow with Petya and the
rest of the household, and the whole family moved from Marya
Dmitrievna's house to their own and settled down in town.

Natasha's illness was so serious that, fortunately for her and for
her parents, the consideration of all that had caused the illness, her
conduct and the breaking off of her engagement, receded into the
background. She was so ill that it was impossible for them to consider
in how far she was to blame for what had happened. She could not eat
or sleep, grew visibly thinner, coughed, and, as the doctors made them
feel, was in danger. They could not think of anything but how to
help her. Doctors came to see her singly and in consultation, talked
much in French, German, and Latin, blamed one another, and
prescribed a great variety of medicines for all the diseases known
to them, but the simple idea never occurred to any of them that they
could not know the disease Natasha was suffering from, as no disease
suffered by a live man can be known, for every living person has his
own peculiarities and always has his own peculiar, personal, novel,
complicated disease, unknown to medicine- not a disease of the
lungs, liver, skin, heart, nerves, and so on mentioned in medical
books, but a disease consisting of one of the innumerable combinations
of the maladies of those organs. This simple thought could not occur
to the doctors (as it cannot occur to a wizard that he is unable to
work his charms) because the business of their lives was to cure,
and they received money for it and had spent the best years of their
lives on that business. But, above all, that thought was kept out of
their minds by the fact that they saw they were really useful, as in
fact they were to the whole Rostov family. Their usefulness did not
depend on making the patient swallow substances for the most part
harmful (the harm was scarcely perceptible, as they were given in
small doses), but they were useful, necessary, and indispensable
because they satisfied a mental need of the invalid and of those who
loved her- and that is why there are, and always will be,
pseudo-healers, wise women, homeopaths, and allopaths. They
satisfied that eternal human need for hope of relief, for sympathy,
and that something should be done, which is felt by those who are
suffering. They satisfied the need seen in its most elementary form in
a child, when it wants to have a place rubbed that has been hurt. A
child knocks itself and runs at once to the arms of its mother or
nurse to have the aching spot rubbed or kissed, and it feels better
when this is done. The child cannot believe that the strongest and
wisest of its people have no remedy for its pain, and the hope of
relief and the expression of its mother's sympathy while she rubs
the bump comforts it. The doctors were of use to Natasha because
they kissed and rubbed her bump, assuring her that it would soon
pass if only the coachman went to the chemist's in the Arbat and got a
powder and some pills in a pretty box of a ruble and seventy kopeks,
and if she took those powders in boiled water at intervals of
precisely two hours, neither more nor less.

What would Sonya and the count and countess have done, how would
they have looked, if nothing had been done, if there had not been
those pills to give by the clock, the warm drinks, the chicken
cutlets, and all the other details of life ordered by the doctors, the
carrying out of which supplied an occupation and consolation to the
family circle? How would the count have borne his dearly loved
daughter's illness had he not known that it was costing him a thousand
rubles, and that he would not grudge thousands more to benefit her, or
had he not known that if her illness continued he would not grudge yet
other thousands and would take her abroad for consultations there, and
had he not been able to explain the details of how Metivier and Feller
had not understood the symptoms, but Frise had, and Mudrov had
diagnosed them even better? What would the countess have done had
she not been able sometimes to scold the invalid for not strictly
obeying the doctor's orders?

"You'll never get well like that," she would say, forgetting her
grief in her vexation, "if you won't obey the doctor and take your
medicine at the right time! You mustn't trifle with it, you know, or
it may turn to pneumonia," she would go on, deriving much comfort from
the utterance of that foreign word, incomprehensible to others as well
as to herself.

What would Sonya have done without the glad consciousness that she
had not undressed during the first three nights, in order to be
ready to carry out all the doctor's injunctions with precision, and
that she still kept awake at night so as not to miss the proper time
when the slightly harmful pills in the little gilt box had to be
administered? Even to Natasha herself it was pleasant to see that so
many sacrifices were being made for her sake, and to know that she had
to take medicine at certain hours, though she declared that no
medicine would cure her and that it was all nonsense. And it was
even pleasant to be able to show, by disregarding the orders, that she
did not believe in medical treatment and did not value her life.

The doctor came every day, felt her pulse, looked at her tongue, and
regardless of her grief-stricken face joked with her. But when he
had gone into another room, to which the countess hurriedly followed
him, he assumed a grave air and thoughtfully shaking his head said
that though there was danger, he had hopes of the effect of this
last medicine and one must wait and see, that the malady was chiefly
mental, but... And the countess, trying to conceal the action from
herself and from him, slipped a gold coin into his hand and always
returned to the patient with a more tranquil mind.

The symptoms of Natasha's illness were that she ate little, slept
little, coughed, and was always low-spirited. The doctors said that
she could not get on without medical treatment, so they kept her in
the stifling atmosphere of the town, and the Rostovs did not move to
the country that summer of 1812.

In spite of the many pills she swallowed and the drops and powders
out of the little bottles and boxes of which Madame Schoss who was
fond of such things made a large collection, and in spite of being
deprived of the country life to which she was accustomed, youth
prevailed. Natasha's grief began to be overlaid by the impressions
of daily life, it ceased to press so painfully on her heart, it
gradually faded into the past, and she began to recover physically.

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Natasha was calmer but no happier. She not merely avoided allexternal forms of pleasure- balls, promenades, concerts, and theaters-but she never laughed without a sound of tears in her laughter. Shecould not sing. As soon as she began to laugh, or tried to sing byherself, tears choked her: tears of remorse, tears at the recollectionof those pure times which could never return, tears of vexation thatshe should so uselessly have ruined her young life which might havebeen so happy. Laughter and singing in particular seemed to her like ablasphemy, in face of her sorrow. Without any need ofself-restraint, no wish to
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Rostov, with his keen sportsman's eye, was one of the first to catchsight of these blue French dragoons pursuing our Uhlans. Nearer andnearer in disorderly crowds came the Uhlans and the French dragoonspursuing them. He could already see how these men, who looked so smallat the foot of the hill, jostled and overtook one another, wavingtheir arms and their sabers in the air.Rostov gazed at what was happening before him as at a hunt. Hefelt instinctively that if the hussars struck at the French dragoonsnow, the latter could not withstand them, but if a charge was to bemade it must be
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