War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book IX: Chapters 16–23

Pierre had been silent and preoccupied all through dinner, seeming not to grasp what was said. He looked at the count.

"Oh yes, the war," he said."No! What sort of warrior should I make? And yet everything is so strange, so strange! I can't make it out. I don't know, I am very far from having military tastes, but in these times no one can answer for himself."

After dinner the count settled himself comfortably in an easy chair and with a serious face asked Sonya, who was considered an excellent reader, to read the appeal.

"To Moscow, our ancient Capital!

"The enemy has entered the borders of Russia with immense forces. He comes to despoil our beloved country,"

Sonya read painstakingly in her high-pitched voice. The count listened with closed eyes, heaving abrupt sighs at certain passages.

Natasha sat erect, gazing with a searching look now at her father and now at Pierre.

Pierre felt her eyes on him and tried not to look round. The countess shook her head disapprovingly and angrily at every solemn expression in the manifesto. In all these words she saw only that the danger threatening her son would not soon be over. Shinshin, with a sarcastic smile on his lips, was evidently preparing to make fun of anything that gave him the opportunity: Sonya's reading, any remark of the count's, or even the manifesto itself should no better pretext present itself.

After reading about the dangers that threatened Russia, the hopes the Emperor placed on Moscow and especially on its illustrious nobility, Sonya, with a quiver in her voice due chiefly to the attention that was being paid to her, read the last words:

"We ourselves will not delay to appear among our people in that Capital and in others parts of our realm for consultation, and for the direction of all our levies, both those now barring the enemy's path and those freshly formed to defeat him wherever he may appear. May the ruin he hopes to bring upon us recoil on his own head, and may Europe delivered from bondage glorify the name of Russia!"

"Yes, that's it!" cried the count, opening his moist eyes and sniffing repeatedly, as if a strong vinaigrette had been held to his nose; and he added,"Let the Emperor but say the word and we'll sacrifice everything and begrudge nothing."

Before Shinshin had time to utter the joke he was ready to make on the count's patriotism, Natasha jumped up from her place and ran to her father.

"What a darling our Papa is!" she cried, kissing him, and she again looked at Pierre with the unconscious coquetry that had returned to her with her better spirits.

"There! Here's a patriot for you!" said Shinshin.

"Not a patriot at all, but simply . . ." Natasha replied in an injured tone."Everything seems funny to you, but this isn't at all a joke . . . ."

"A joke indeed!" put in the count."Let him but say the word and we'll all go . . . . We're not Germans!"

"But did you notice, it says, 'for consultation'?" said Pierre.

"Never mind what it's for . . . ."

At this moment, Petya, to whom nobody was paying any attention, came up to his father with a very flushed face and said in his breaking voice that was now deep and now shrill:

"Well, Papa, I tell you definitely, and Mamma too, it's as you please, but I say definitely that you must let me enter the army, because I can't . . . that's all . . . ."

The countess, in dismay, looked up to heaven, clasped her hands, and turned angrily to her husband.

"That comes of your talking!" said she.

But the count had already recovered from his excitement.

"Come, come!" said he."Here's a fine warrior! No! Nonsense! You must study."

"It's not nonsense, Papa. Fedya Obolenski is younger than I, and he's going too. Besides, all the same I can't study now when . . ." Petya stopped short, flushed till he perspired, but still got out the words,"when our Fatherland is in danger."

"That'll do, that'll do — nonsense . . . ."

"But you said yourself that we would sacrifice everything."

"Petya! Be quiet, I tell you!" cried the count, with a glance at his wife, who had turned pale and was staring fixedly at her son.

"And I tell you — Peter Kirilych here will also tell you . . ."

"Nonsense, I tell you. Your mother's milk has hardly dried on your lips and you want to go into the army! There, there, I tell you," and the count moved to go out of the room, taking the papers, probably to reread them in his study before having a nap.

"Well, Peter Kirilych, let's go and have a smoke," he said.

Pierre was agitated and undecided. Natasha's unwontedly brilliant eyes, continually glancing at him with a more than cordial look, had reduced him to this condition.

"No, I think I'll go home."

"Home? Why, you meant to spend the evening with us . . . . You don't often come nowadays as it is, and this girl of mine," said the count good-naturedly, pointing to Natasha,"only brightens up when you're here."

"Yes, I had forgotten . . . I really must go home . . . business . . ." said Pierre hurriedly.

"Well, then, au revoir!" said the count, and went out of the room.

"Why are you going? Why are you upset?" asked Natasha, and she looked challengingly into Pierre's eyes.

"Because I love you!" was what he wanted to say, but he did not say it, and only blushed till the tears came, and lowered his eyes.

"Because it is better for me to come less often . . . because . . . No, simply I have business . . . ."

"Why? No, tell me!" Natasha began resolutely and suddenly stopped.

They looked at each other with dismayed and embarrassed faces. He tried to smile but could not: his smile expressed suffering, and he silently kissed her hand and went out.

Pierre made up his mind not to go to the Rostovs' any more.

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