Chapter 17

BY TWO O’CLOCK the Rostovs’ four carriages, packed and ready to start, stood in the approach. The waggon-loads of wounded were filing one after another out of the yard.

The coach in which Prince Andrey was being taken drove by the front door, and attracted the attention of Sonya, who was helping a maid to arrange the countess’s seat comfortably in her huge, high carriage.

“Whose carriage is that?” asked Sonya, popping her head out of the carriage window.

“Why, haven’t you heard, miss?” answered the maid. “The wounded prince; he stayed the night in the house, and is going on with us.”

“Oh, who is he? what’s his name?”

“Our betrothed that was … Prince Bolkonsky himself!” answered the maid, sighing. “They say he is dying.”

Sonya jumped out of the carriage and ran in to the countess. The countess, dressed for the journey, in her hat and shawl, was walking wearily about the drawing-room, waiting for the rest of the household to come in and sit down with closed doors, for the usual silent prayer before setting out. Natasha was not in the room.

“Mamma,” said Sonya. “Prince Andrey is here, wounded and dying; He is going with us.”

The countess opened her eyes in dismay, and clutching Sonya’s arm, looked about her.

“Natasha,” she said.

Both to Sonya and the countess this news had for the first moment but one significance. They knew their Natasha, and alarm at the thought of the effect the news might have on her outweighed all sympathy for the man, though they both liked him.

“Natasha does not know yet, but he is going with us,” said Sonya.

“You say he is dying?”

Sonya nodded.

The countess embraced Sonya and burst into tears. “The ways of the Lord are past our finding out!” she thought, feeling that in all that was passing now the Hand of the Almighty, hitherto unseen, was beginning to be manifest.

“Well, mamma, it’s all ready. What is it? …” asked Natasha, running with her eager face into the room.

“Nothing,” said the countess. “If we’re ready, then do let us start.” And the countess bent over her reticule to hide her agitated face. Sonya embraced Natasha and kissed her.

Natasha looked inquisitively at her.

“What is it? What has happened?”

“Nothing, … oh, no, …”

“Something very bad, concerning me? … What is it?” asked the keen-witted Natasha.

Sonya sighed, and made no reply. The count, Petya, Madame Schoss, Mavra Kuzminishna, and Vassilitch came into the drawing-room; and closing the doors, they all sat down, and sat so in silence, without looking at each other for several seconds.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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