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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 24
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 24 Post by :prosper Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1255

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

No betrothal ceremony took place and Natasha's engagement to
Bolkonski was not announced; Prince Andrew insisted on that. He said
that as he was responsible for the delay he ought to bear the whole
burden 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 would
have full right to reject him. Naturally neither Natasha nor her
parents wished to hear of this, but Prince Andrew was firm. He came
every day to the Rostovs', but did not behave to Natasha as an
affianced lover: he did not use the familiar thou, but said you to
her, and kissed only her hand. After their engagement, quite
different, intimate, and natural relations sprang up between them.
It was as if they had not known each other till now. Both liked to
recall how they had regarded each other when as yet they were
nothing to one another; they felt themselves now quite different
beings: then they were artificial, now natural and sincere. At first
the family felt some constraint in intercourse with Prince Andrew;
he seemed a man from another world, and for a long time Natasha
trained the family to get used to him, proudly assuring them all
that he only appeared to be different, but was really just like all of
them, and that she was not afraid of him and no one else ought to
be. After a few days they grew accustomed to him, and without
restraint in his presence pursued their usual way of life, in which he
took his part. He could talk about rural economy with the count,
fashions with the countess and Natasha, and about albums and fancywork
with Sonya. Sometimes the household both among themselves and in his
presence expressed their wonder at how it had all happened, and at the
evident omens there had been of it: Prince Andrew's coming to Otradnoe
and their coming to Petersburg, and the likeness between Natasha and
Prince Andrew which her nurse had noticed on his first visit, and
Andrew's encounter with Nicholas in 1805, and many other incidents
betokening that it had to be.

In the house that poetic dullness and quiet reigned which always
accompanies the presence of a betrothed couple. Often when all sitting
together everyone kept silent. Sometimes the others would get up and
go away and the couple, left alone, still remained silent. They rarely
spoke of their future life. Prince Andrew was afraid and ashamed to
speak of it. Natasha shared this as she did all his feelings, which
she constantly divined. Once she began questioning him about his
son. Prince Andrew blushed, as he often did now- Natasha
particularly liked it in him- and said that his son would not live
with them.

"Why not?" asked Natasha in a frightened tone.

"I cannot take him away from his grandfather, and besides..."

"How I should have loved him!" said Natasha, immediately guessing
his thought; "but I know you wish to avoid any pretext for finding
fault with us."

Sometimes the old count would come up, kiss Prince Andrew, and ask
his advice about Petya's education or Nicholas' service. The old
countess sighed as she looked at them; Sonya was always getting
frightened lest she should be in the way and tried to find excuses for
leaving them alone, even when they did not wish it. When Prince Andrew
spoke (he could tell a story very well), Natasha listened to him
with pride; when she spoke she noticed with fear and joy that he gazed
attentively and scrutinizingly at her. She asked herself in
perplexity: "What does he look for in me? He is trying to discover
something by looking at me! What if what he seeks in me is not there?"
Sometimes she fell into one of the mad, merry moods characteristic
of her, and then she particularly loved to hear and see how Prince
Andrew laughed. He seldom laughed, but when he did he abandoned
himself entirely to his laughter, and after such a laugh she always
felt nearer to him. Natasha would have been completely happy if the
thought of the separation awaiting her and drawing near had not
terrified her, just as the mere thought of it made him turn pale and
cold.

On the eve of his departure from Petersburg Prince Andrew brought
with him Pierre, who had not been to the Rostovs' once since the ball.
Pierre seemed disconcerted and embarrassed. He was talking to the
countess, and Natasha sat down beside a little chess table with Sonya,
thereby inviting Prince Andrew to come too. He did so.

"You have known Bezukhov a long time?" he asked. "Do you like him?"

"Yes, he's a dear, but very absurd."

And as usual when speaking of Pierre, she began to tell anecdotes of
his absent-mindedness, some of which had even been invented about him.

"Do you know I have entrusted him with our secret? I have known
him from childhood. He has a heart of gold. I beg you, Natalie,"
Prince Andrew said with sudden seriousness- "I am going away and
heaven knows what may happen. You may cease to... all right, I know
I am not to say that. Only this, then: whatever may happen to you when
I am not here..."

"What can happen?"

"Whatever trouble may come," Prince Andrew continued, "I beg you,
Mademoiselle Sophie, whatever may happen, to turn to him alone for
advice and help! He is a most absent-minded and absurd fellow, but
he has a heart of gold."

Neither her father, nor her mother, nor Sonya, nor Prince Andrew
himself could have foreseen how the separation from her lover would
act on Natasha. Flushed and agitated she went about the house all that
day, dry-eyed, occupied with most trivial matters as if not
understanding what awaited her. She did not even cry when, on taking
leave, he kissed her hand for the last time. "Don't go!" she said in a
tone that made him wonder whether he really ought not to stay and
which he remembered long afterwards. Nor did she cry when he was gone;
but for several days she sat in her room dry-eyed, taking no
interest in anything and only saying now and then, "Oh, why did he
go away?"

But a fortnight after his departure, to the surprise of those around
her, she recovered from her mental sickness just as suddenly and
became her old self again, but with a change in her moral physiognomy,
as a child gets up after a long illness with a changed expression of
face.

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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 25
During that year after his son's departure, Prince NicholasBolkonski's health and temper became much worse. He grew still moreirritable, and it was Princess Mary who generally bore the brunt ofhis frequent fits of unprovoked anger. He seemed carefully to seek outher tender spots so as to torture her mentally as harshly as possible.Princess Mary had two passions and consequently two joys- hernephew, little Nicholas, and religion- and these were the favoritesubjects of the prince's attacks and ridicule. Whatever was spokenof he would bring round to the superstitiousness of old maids, orthe petting and spoiling of children. "You want to make him"-
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 23
Prince Andrew needed his father's consent to his marriage, and toobtain 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 toalter his life or introduce anything new into it, when his own lifewas already ending. "If only they would let me end my days as I wantto," thought the old man, "then they might do as they please." Withhis son, however, he employed the diplomacy he reserved forimportant occasions and, adopting a quiet tone, discussed the wholematter.In the first place the marriage was not
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