In the tavern, before which stood the doctor's covered cart, there wer_lready some five officers. Mary Hendrikhovna, a plump little blonde German,
in a dressing jacket and nightcap, was sitting on a broad bench in the fron_orner. Her husband, the doctor, lay asleep behind her. Rostov and Ilyin, o_ntering the room, were welcomed with merry shouts and laughter.
"Dear me, how jolly we are!" said Rostov laughing.
"And why do you stand there gaping?"
"What swells they are! Why, the water streams from them! Don't make ou_rawing room so wet."
"Don't mess Mary Hendrikhovna's dress!" cried other voices.
Rostov and Ilyin hastened to find a corner where they could change into dr_lothes without offending Mary Hendrikhovna's modesty. They were going into _iny recess behind a partition to change, but found it completely filled b_hree officers who sat playing cards by the light of a solitary candle on a_mpty box, and these officers would on no account yield their position. Mar_endrikhovna obliged them with the loan of a petticoat to be used as _urtain, and behind that screen Rostov and Ilyin, helped by Lavrushka who ha_rought their kits, changed their wet things for dry ones.
A fire was made up in the dilapidated brick stove. A board was found, fixed o_wo saddles and covered with a horsecloth, a small samovar was produced and _ellaret and half a bottle of rum, and having asked Mary Hendrikhovna t_reside, they all crowded round her. One offered her a clean handkerchief t_ipe her charming hands, another spread a jacket under her little feet to kee_hem from the damp, another hung his coat over the window to keep out th_raft, and yet another waved the flies off her husband's face, lest he shoul_ake up.
"Leave him alone," said Mary Hendrikhovna, smiling timidly and happily. "He i_leeping well as it is, after a sleepless night."
"Oh, no, Mary Hendrikhovna," replied the officer, "one must look after th_octor. Perhaps he'll take pity on me someday, when it comes to cutting off _eg or an arm for me."
There were only three tumblers, the water was so muddy that one could not mak_ut whether the tea was strong or weak, and the samovar held only six tumbler_f water, but this made it all the pleasanter to take turns in order o_eniority to receive one's tumbler from Mary Hendrikhovna's plump little hand_ith their short and not overclean nails. All the officers appeared to be, an_eally were, in love with her that evening. Even those playing cards behin_he partition soon left their game and came over to the samovar, yielding t_he general mood of courting Mary Hendrikhovna. She, seeing herself surrounde_y such brilliant and polite young men, beamed with satisfaction, try as sh_ight to hide it, and perturbed as she evidently was each time her husban_oved in his sleep behind her.
There was only one spoon, sugar was more plentiful than anything else, but i_ook too long to dissolve, so it was decided that Mary Hendrikhovna shoul_tir the sugar for everyone in turn. Rostov received his tumbler, and addin_ome rum to it asked Mary Hendrikhovna to stir it.
"But you take it without sugar?" she said, smiling all the time, as i_verything she said and everything the others said was very amusing and had _ouble meaning.
"It is not the sugar I want, but only that your little hand should stir m_ea."
Mary Hendrikhovna assented and began looking for the spoon which someon_eanwhile had pounced on.
"Use your finger, Mary Hendrikhovna, it will be still nicer," said Rostov.
"Too hot!" she replied, blushing with pleasure.
Ilyin put a few drops of rum into the bucket of water and brought it to Mar_endrikhovna, asking her to stir it with her finger.
"This is my cup," said he. "Only dip your finger in it and I'll drink it al_p."
When they had emptied the samovar, Rostov took a pack of cards and propose_hat they should play "Kings" with Mary Hendrikhovna. They drew lots to settl_ho should make up her set. At Rostov's suggestion it was agreed that whoeve_ecame "King" should have the right to kiss Mary Hendrikhovna's hand, and tha_he "Booby" should go to refill and reheat the samovar for the doctor when th_atter awoke.
"Well, but supposing Mary Hendrikhovna is 'King'?" asked Ilyin.
"As it is, she is Queen, and her word is law!"
They had hardly begun to play before the doctor's disheveled head suddenl_ppeared from behind Mary Hendrikhovna. He had been awake for some time,
listening to what was being said, and evidently found nothing entertaining o_musing in what was going on. His face was sad and depressed. Without greetin_he officers, he scratched himself and asked to be allowed to pass as the_ere blocking the way. As soon as he had left the room all the officers burs_nto loud laughter and Mary Hendrikhovna blushed till her eyes filled wit_ears and thereby became still more attractive to them. Returning from th_ard, the doctor told his wife (who had ceased to smile so happily, and looke_t him in alarm, awaiting her sentence) that the rain had ceased and they mus_o to sleep in their covered cart, or everything in it would be stolen.
"But I'll send an orderly… . Two of them!" said Rostov. "What an idea,
"I'll stand guard on it myself!" said Ilyin.
"No, gentlemen, you have had your sleep, but I have not slept for two nights,"
replied the doctor, and he sat down morosely beside his wife, waiting for th_ame to end.
Seeing his gloomy face as he frowned at his wife, the officers grew stil_errier, and some of them could not refrain from laughter, for which the_urriedly sought plausible pretexts. When he had gone, taking his wife wit_im, and had settled down with her in their covered cart, the officers la_own in the tavern, covering themselves with their wet cloaks, but they di_ot sleep for a long time; now they exchanged remarks, recalling the doctor'_neasiness and his wife's delight, now they ran out into the porch an_eported what was taking place in the covered trap. Several times Rostov,
covering his head, tried to go to sleep, but some remark would arouse him an_onversation would be resumed, to the accompaniment of unreasoning, merry,