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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 23
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 23 Post by :kenjc Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :648

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 23 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 23

Prince Andrew needed his father's consent to his marriage, and to
obtain this he started for the country next day.

His father received his son's communication with external composure,
but inward wrath. He could not comprehend how anyone could wish to
alter his life or introduce anything new into it, when his own life
was already ending. "If only they would let me end my days as I want
to," thought the old man, "then they might do as they please." With
his son, however, he employed the diplomacy he reserved for
important occasions and, adopting a quiet tone, discussed the whole
matter.

In the first place the marriage was not a brilliant one as regards
birth, wealth, or rank. Secondly, Prince Andrew was no longer as young
as he had been and his health was poor (the old man laid special
stress on this), while she was very young. Thirdly, he had a son
whom it would be a pity to entrust to a chit of a girl. "Fourthly
and finally," the father said, looking ironically at his son, "I beg
you to put it off for a year: go abroad, take a cure, look out as
you wanted to for a German tutor for Prince Nicholas. Then if your
love or passion or obstinacy- as you please- is still as great, marry!
And that's my last word on it. Mind, the last..." concluded the
prince, in a tone which showed that nothing would make him alter his
decision.

Prince Andrew saw clearly that the old man hoped that his
feelings, or his fiancee's, would not stand a year's test, or that
he (the old prince himself) would die before then, and he decided to
conform to his father's wish- to propose, and postpone the wedding for
a year.

Three weeks after the last evening he had spent with the Rostovs,
Prince Andrew returned to Petersburg.


Next day after her talk with her mother Natasha expected Bolkonski
all day, but he did not come. On the second and third day it was the
same. Pierre did not come either and Natasha, not knowing that
Prince Andrew had gone to see his father, could not explain his
absence to herself.

Three weeks passed in this way. Natasha had no desire to go out
anywhere and wandered from room to room like a shadow, idle and
listless; she wept secretly at night and did not go to her mother in
the evenings. She blushed continually and was irritable. It seemed
to her that everybody knew about her disappointment and was laughing
at her and pitying her. Strong as was her inward grief, this wound
to her vanity intensified her misery.

Once she came to her mother, tried to say something, and suddenly
began to cry. Her tears were those of an offended child who does not
know why it is being punished.

The countess began to soothe Natasha, who after first listening to
her mother's words, suddenly interrupted her:

"Leave off, Mamma! I don't think, and don't want to think about
it! He just came and then left off, left off..."

Her voice trembled, and she again nearly cried, but recovered and
went on quietly:

"And I don't at all want to get married. And I am afraid of him; I
have now become quite calm, quite calm."

The day after this conversation Natasha put on the old dress which
she knew had the peculiar property of conducing to cheerfulness in the
mornings, and that day she returned to the old way of life which she
had abandoned since the ball. Having finished her morning tea she went
to the ballroom, which she particularly liked for its loud
resonance, and began singing her solfeggio. When she had finished
her first exercise she stood still in the middle of the room and
sang a musical phrase that particularly pleased her. She listened
joyfully (as though she had not expected it) to the charm of the notes
reverberating, filling the whole empty ballroom, and slowly dying
away; and all at once she felt cheerful. "What's the good of making so
much of it? Things are nice as it is," she said to herself, and she
began walking up and down the room, not stepping simply on the
resounding parquet but treading with each step from the heel to the
toe (she had on a new and favorite pair of shoes) and listening to the
regular tap of the heel and creak of the toe as gladly as she had to
the sounds of her own voice. Passing a mirror she glanced into it.
"There, that's me!" the expression of her face seemed to say as she
caught sight of herself. "Well, and very nice too! I need nobody."

A footman wanted to come in to clear away something in the room
but she would not let him, and having closed the door behind him
continued her walk. That morning she had returned to her favorite
mood- love of, and delight in, herself. "How charming that Natasha
is!" she said again, speaking as some third, collective, male
person. "Pretty, a good voice, young, and in nobody's way if only they
leave her in peace." But however much they left her in peace she could
not now be at peace, and immediately felt this.

In the hall the porch door opened, and someone asked, "At home?" and
then footsteps were heard. Natasha was looking at the mirror, but
did not see herself. She listened to the sounds in the hall. When
she saw herself, her face was pale. It was he. She knew this for
certain, though she hardly heard his voice through the closed doors.

Pale and agitated, Natasha ran into the drawing room.

"Mamma! Bolkonski has come!" she said. "Mamma, it is awful, it is
unbearable! I don't want... to be tormented? What am I to do?..."

Before the countess could answer, Prince Andrew entered the room
with an agitated and serious face. As soon as he saw Natasha his
face brightened. He kissed the countess' hand and Natasha's, and sat
down beside the sofa.

"It is long since we had the pleasure..." began the countess, but
Prince Andrew interrupted her by answering her intended question,
obviously in haste to say what he had to.

"I have not been to see all this time because I have been at my
father's. I had to talk over a very important matter with him. I
only got back last night," he said glancing at Natasha; "I want to
have a talk with you, Countess," he added after a moment's pause.

The countess lowered her eyes, sighing deeply.

"I am at your disposal," she murmured.

Natasha knew that she ought to go away, but was unable to do so:
something gripped her throat, and regardless of manners she stared
straight at Prince Andrew with wide-open eyes.

"At once? This instant!... No, it can't be!" she thought.

Again he glanced at her, and that glance convinced her that she
was not mistaken. Yes, at once, that very instant, her fate would be
decided.

"Go, Natasha! I will call you," said the countess in a whisper.

Natasha glanced with frightened imploring eyes at Prince Andrew
and at her mother and went out.

"I have come, Countess, to ask for your daughter's hand," said
Prince Andrew.

The countess' face flushed hotly, but she said nothing.

"Your offer..." she began at last sedately. He remained silent,
looking into her eyes. "Your offer..." (she grew confused) "is
agreeable to us, and I accept your offer. I am glad. And my husband...
I hope... but it will depend on her...."

"I will speak to her when I have your consent.... Do you give it
to me?" said Prince Andrew.

"Yes," replied the countess. She held out her hand to him, and
with a mixed feeling of estrangement and tenderness pressed her lips
to his forehead as he stooped to kiss her hand. She wished to love him
as a son, but felt that to her he was a stranger and a terrifying man.
"I am sure my husband will consent," said the countess, "but your
father..."

"My father, to whom I have told my plans, has made it an express
condition of his consent that the wedding is not to take place for a
year. And I wished to tell you of that," said Prince Andrew.

"It is true that Natasha is still young, but- so long as that?..."

"It is unavoidable," said Prince Andrew with a sigh.

"I will send her to you," said the countess, and left the room.

"Lord have mercy upon us!" she repeated while seeking her daughter.

Sonya said that Natasha was in her bedroom. Natasha was sitting on
the bed, pale and dry eyed, and was gazing at the icons and whispering
something as she rapidly crossed herself. Seeing her mother she jumped
up and flew to her.

"Well, Mamma?... Well?..."

"Go, go to him. He is asking for your hand," said the countess,
coldly it seemed to Natasha. "Go... go," said the mother, sadly and
reproachfully, with a deep sigh, as her daughter ran away.

Natasha never remembered how she entered the drawing room. When
she came in and saw him she paused. "Is it possible that this stranger
has now become everything to me?" she asked herself, and immediately
answered, "Yes, everything! He alone is now dearer to me than
everything in the world." Prince Andrew came up to her with downcast
eyes.

"I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you. May I hope?"

He looked at her and was struck by the serious impassioned
expression of her face. Her face said: "Why ask? Why doubt what you
cannot but know? Why speak, when words cannot express what one feels?"

She drew near to him and stopped. He took her hand and kissed it.

"Do you love me?"

"Yes, yes!" Natasha murmured as if in vexation. Then she sighed
loudly and, catching her breath more and more quickly, began to sob.

"What is it? What's the matter?"

"Oh, I am so happy!" she replied, smiled through her tears, bent
over closer to him, paused for an instant as if asking herself whether
she might, and then kissed him.

Prince Andrew held her hands, looked into her eyes, and did not find
in his heart his former love for her. Something in him had suddenly
changed; there was no longer the former poetic and mystic charm of
desire, but there was pity for her feminine and childish weakness,
fear at her devotion and trustfulness, and an oppressive yet joyful
sense of the duty that now bound him to her forever. The present
feeling, though not so bright and poetic as the former, was stronger
and more serious.

"Did your mother tell you that it cannot be for a year?" asked
Prince Andrew, still looking into her eyes.

"Is it possible that I- the 'chit of a girl,' as everybody called
me," thought Natasha- "is it possible that I am now to be the wife and
the equal of this strange, dear, clever man whom even my father
looks up to? Can it be true? Can it be true that there can be no
more playing with life, that now I am grown up, that on me now lies
a responsibility for my every word and deed? Yes, but what did he
ask me?"

"No," she replied, but she had not understood his question.

"Forgive me!" he said. "But you are so young, and I have already
been through so much in life. I am afraid for you, you do not yet know
yourself."

Natasha listened with concentrated attention, trying but failing
to take in the meaning of his words.

"Hard as this year which delays my happiness will be," continued
Prince Andrew, "it will give you time to be sure of yourself. I ask
you to make me happy in a year, but you are free: our engagement shall
remain a secret, and should you find that you do not love me, or
should you come to love..." said Prince Andrew with an unnatural
smile.

"Why do you say that?" Natasha interrupted him. "You know that
from the very day you first came to Otradnoe I have loved you," she
cried, quite convinced that she spoke the truth.

"In a year you will learn to know yourself...."

"A whole year!" Natasha repeated suddenly, only now realizing that
the marriage was to be postponed for a year. "But why a year? Why a
year?..."

Prince Andrew began to explain to her the reasons for this delay.
Natasha did not hear him.

"And can't it be helped?" she asked. Prince Andrew did not reply,
but his face expressed the impossibility of altering that decision.

"It's awful! Oh, it's awful! awful!" Natasha suddenly cried, and
again burst into sobs. "I shall die, waiting a year: it's
impossible, it's awful!" She looked into her lover's face and saw in
it a look of commiseration and perplexity.

"No, no! I'll do anything!" she said, suddenly checking her tears.
"I am so happy."

The father and mother came into the room and gave the betrothed
couple their blessing.

From that day Prince Andrew began to frequent the Rostovs' as
Natasha's affianced lover.

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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 24 War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 24

War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 24
No betrothal ceremony took place and Natasha's engagement toBolkonski was not announced; Prince Andrew insisted on that. He saidthat as he was responsible for the delay he ought to bear the wholeburden of it; that he had given his word and bound himself forever,but that he did not wish to bind Natasha and gave her perfect freedom.If after six months she felt that she did not love him she wouldhave full right to reject him. Naturally neither Natasha nor herparents wished to hear of this, but Prince Andrew was firm. He cameevery day to the Rostovs', but did not behave to
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 22 War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 22

War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 22
Next day, having been invited by the count, Prince Andrew dined withthe Rostovs and spent the rest of the day there.Everyone in the house realized for whose sake Prince Andrew came,and without concealing it he tried to be with Natasha all day. Notonly in the soul of the frightened yet happy and enraptured Natasha,but in the whole house, there was a feeling of awe at somethingimportant that was bound to happen. The countess looked with sad andsternly serious eyes at Prince Andrew when he talked to Natasha andtimidly started some artificial conversation about trifles as soonas he looked her way. Sonya
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