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War and Peace

War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy/Tolstoi
BOOK ONE: 1805
CHAPTER I
"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the
Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don't tell me that this means war,
if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by
that Antichrist--I really believe he is Antichrist--I will have
nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer
my 'faithful slave,' as you call yourself! But how do you do? I see
I have frightened you--sit down and tell me all the news."
It was in July, 1805, and the speaker was the well-known Anna
Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya
Fedorovna. With these words she greeted Prince Vasili Kuragin, a man
of high rank and importance, who was the first to arrive at her
reception. Anna Pavlovna had had a cough for some days. She was, as
she said, suffering from la grippe; grippe being then a new word in
St. Petersburg, used only by the elite.
All her invitations without exception, written in French, and
delivered by a scarlet-liveried footman that morning, ran as follows:
"If you have nothing better to do, Count [or Prince], and if the
prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too
terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10-
Annette Scherer."
"Heavens! what a virulent attack!" replied the prince, not in the
least disconcerted by this reception. He had just entered, wearing
an embroidered court uniform, knee breeches, and shoes, and had
stars on his breast and a serene expression on his flat face. He spoke
in that refined French in which our grandfathers not only spoke but
thought, and with the gentle, patronizing intonation natural to a
man of importance who had grown old in society and at court. He went
up to Anna Pavlovna, kissed her hand, presenting to her his bald,
scented, and shining head, and complacently seated himself on the
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