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Chapter 11

  • Pelageya Danilovna Melyukova, a broadly built, energetic woman wearin_pectacles, sat in the drawing room in a loose dress, surrounded by he_aughters whom she was trying to keep from feeling dull. They were quietl_ropping melted wax into snow and looking at the shadows the wax figures woul_hrow on the wall, when they heard the steps and voices of new arrivals in th_estibule.
  • Hussars, ladies, witches, clowns, and bears, after clearing their throats an_iping the hoarfrost from their faces in the vestibule, came into the ballroo_here candles were hurriedly lighted. The clown—Dimmler—and th_ady—Nicholas—started a dance. Surrounded by the screaming children th_ummers, covering their faces and disguising their voices, bowed to thei_ostess and arranged themselves about the room.
  • "Dear me! there's no recognizing them! And Natasha! See whom she looks like!
  • She really reminds me of somebody. But Herr Dimmler—isn't he good! I didn'_now him! And how he dances. Dear me, there's a Circassian. Really, ho_ecoming it is to dear Sonya. And who is that? Well, you have cheered us up!
  • Nikita and Vanya—clear away the tables! And we were sitting so quietly. Ha,
  • ha, ha!… The hussar, the hussar! Just like a boy! And the legs!… I can't loo_t him… " different voices were saying.
  • Natasha, the young Melyukovs' favorite, disappeared with them into the bac_ooms where a cork and various dressing gowns and male garments were calle_or and received from the footman by bare girlish arms from behind the door.
  • Ten minutes later, all the young Melyukovs joined the mummers.
  • Pelageya Danilovna, having given orders to clear the rooms for the visitor_nd arranged about refreshments for the gentry and the serfs, went about amon_he mummers without removing her spectacles, peering into their faces with _uppressed smile and failing to recognize any of them. It was not merel_immler and the Rostovs she failed to recognize, she did not even recogniz_er own daughters, or her late husband's, dressing gowns and uniforms, whic_hey had put on.
  • "And who is is this?" she asked her governess, peering into the face of he_wn daughter dressed up as a Kazan-Tartar. "I suppose it is one of th_ostovs! Well, Mr. Hussar, and what regiment do you serve in?" she aske_atasha. "Here, hand some fruit jelly to the Turk!" she ordered the butler wh_as handing things round. "That's not forbidden by his law."
  • Sometimes, as she looked at the strange but amusing capers cut by the dancers,
  • who—having decided once for all that being disguised, no one would recogniz_hem—were not at all shy, Pelageya Danilovna hid her face in her handkerchief,
  • and her whole stout body shook with irrepressible, kindly, elderly laughter.
  • "My little Sasha! Look at Sasha!" she said.
  • After Russian country dances and chorus dances, Pelageya Danilovna made th_erfs and gentry join in one large circle: a ring, a string, and a silve_uble were fetched and they all played games together.
  • In an hour, all the costumes were crumpled and disordered. The corked eyebrow_nd mustaches were smeared over the perspiring, flushed, and merry faces.
  • Pelageya Danilovna began to recognize the mummers, admired their cleverl_ontrived costumes, and particularly how they suited the young ladies, and sh_hanked them all for having entertained her so well. The visitors were invite_o supper in the drawing room, and the serfs had something served to them i_he ballroom.
  • "Now to tell one's fortune in the empty bathhouse is frightening!" said an ol_aid who lived with the Melyukovs, during supper.
  • "Why?" said the eldest Melyukov girl.
  • "You wouldn't go, it takes courage… "
  • "I'll go," said Sonya.
  • "Tell what happened to the young lady!" said the second Melyukov girl.
  • "Well," began the old maid, "a young lady once went out, took a cock, laid th_able for two, all properly, and sat down. After sitting a while, she suddenl_ears someone coming… a sleigh drives up with harness bells; she hears hi_oming! He comes in, just in the shape of a man, like an officer—comes in an_its down to table with her."
  • "Ah! ah!" screamed Natasha, rolling her eyes with horror.
  • "Yes? And how… did he speak?"
  • "Yes, like a man. Everything quite all right, and he began persuading her; an_he should have kept him talking till cockcrow, but she got frightened, jus_ot frightened and hid her face in her hands. Then he caught her up. It wa_ucky the maids ran in just then… "
  • "Now, why frighten them?" said Pelageya Danilovna.
  • "Mamma, you used to try your fate yourself… " said her daughter.
  • "And how does one do it in a barn?" inquired Sonya.
  • "Well, say you went to the barn now, and listened. It depends on what yo_ear; hammering and knocking—that's bad; but a sound of shifting grain is goo_nd one sometimes hears that, too."
  • "Mamma, tell us what happened to you in the barn."
  • Pelageya Danilovna smiled.
  • "Oh, I've forgotten… " she replied. "But none of you would go?"
  • "Yes, I will; Pelageya Danilovna, let me! I'll go," said Sonya.
  • "Well, why not, if you're not afraid?"
  • "Louisa Ivanovna, may I?" asked Sonya.
  • Whether they were playing the ring and string game or the ruble game o_alking as now, Nicholas did not leave Sonya's side, and gazed at her wit_uite new eyes. It seemed to him that it was only today, thanks to that burnt-
  • cork mustache, that he had fully learned to know her. And really, tha_vening, Sonya was brighter, more animated, and prettier than Nicholas ha_ver seen her before.
  • "So that's what she is like; what a fool I have been!" he thought gazing a_er sparkling eyes, and under the mustache a happy rapturous smile dimpled he_heeks, a smile he had never seen before.
  • "I'm not afraid of anything," said Sonya. "May I go at once?" She got up.
  • They told her where the barn was and how she should stand and listen, and the_anded her a fur cloak. She threw this over her head and shoulders and glance_t Nicholas.
  • "What a darling that girl is!" thought he. "And what have I been thinking o_ill now?"
  • Sonya went out into the passage to go to the barn. Nicholas went hastily t_he front porch, saying he felt too hot. The crowd of people really had mad_he house stuffy.
  • Outside, there was the same cold stillness and the same moon, but eve_righter than before. The light was so strong and the snow sparkled with s_any stars that one did not wish to look up at the sky and the real stars wer_nnoticed. The sky was black and dreary, while the earth was gay.
  • "I am a fool, a fool! what have I been waiting for?" thought Nicholas, an_unning out from the porch he went round the corner of the house and along th_ath that led to the back porch. He knew Sonya would pass that way. Halfwa_ay some snow-covered piles of firewood and across and along them a network o_hadows from the bare old lime trees fell on the snow and on the path. Thi_ath led to the barn. The log walls of the barn and its snow-covered roof,
  • that looked as if hewn out of some precious stone, sparkled in the moonlight.
  • A tree in the garden snapped with the frost, and then all was again perfectl_ilent. His bosom seemed to inhale not air but the strength of eternal yout_nd gladness.
  • From the back porch came the sound of feet descending the steps, the botto_tep upon which snow had fallen gave a ringing creak and he heard the voice o_n old maidservant saying, "Straight, straight, along the path, Miss. Only,
  • don't look back."
  • "I am not afraid," answered Sonya's voice, and along the path toward Nichola_ame the crunching, whistling sound of Sonya's feet in her thin shoes.
  • Sonya came along, wrapped in her cloak. She was only a couple of paces awa_hen she saw him, and to her too he was not the Nicholas she had known an_lways slightly feared. He was in a woman's dress, with tousled hair and _appy smile new to Sonya. She ran rapidly toward him.
  • "Quite different and yet the same," thought Nicholas, looking at her face al_it up by the moonlight. He slipped his arms under the cloak that covered he_ead, embraced her, pressed her to him, and kissed her on the lips that wore _ustache and had a smell of burnt cork. Sonya kissed him full on the lips, an_isengaging her little hands pressed them to his cheeks.
  • "Sonya!… Nicholas!"… was all they said. They ran to the barn and then bac_gain, re-entering, he by the front and she by the back porch.