To say "tomorrow" and keep up a dignified tone was not difficult, but to g_ome alone, see his sisters, brother, mother, and father, confess and ask fo_oney he had no right to after giving his word of honor, was terrible.
At home, they had not yet gone to bed. The young people, after returning fro_he theater, had had supper and were grouped round the clavichord. As soon a_icholas entered, he was enfolded in that poetic atmosphere of love whic_ervaded the Rostov household that winter and, now after Dolokhov's proposa_nd Iogel's ball, seemed to have grown thicker round Sonya and Natasha as th_ir does before a thunderstorm. Sonya and Natasha, in the light-blue dresse_hey had worn at the theater, looking pretty and conscious of it, wer_tanding by the clavichord, happy and smiling. Vera was playing chess wit_hinshin in the drawing room. The old countess, waiting for the return of he_usband and son, sat playing patience with the old gentlewoman who lived i_heir house. Denisov, with sparkling eyes and ruffled hair, sat at th_lavichord striking chords with his short fingers, his legs thrown back an_is eyes rolling as he sang, with his small, husky, but true voice, som_erses called "Enchantress," which he had composed, and to which he was tryin_o fit music:
Enchantress, say, to my forsaken lyre
What magic power is this recalls me still?
What spark has set my inmost soul on fire,
What is this bliss that makes my fingers thrill?
He was singing in passionate tones, gazing with his sparkling black-agate eye_t the frightened and happy Natasha.
"Splendid! Excellent!" exclaimed Natasha. "Another verse," she said, withou_oticing Nicholas.
"Everything's still the same with them," thought Nicholas, glancing into th_rawing room, where he saw Vera and his mother with the old lady.
"Ah, and here's Nicholas!" cried Natasha, running up to him.
"Is Papa at home?" he asked.
"I am so glad you've come!" said Natasha, without answering him. "We ar_njoying ourselves! Vasili Dmitrich is staying a day longer for my sake! Di_ou know?"
"No, Papa is not back yet," said Sonya.
"Nicholas, have you come? Come here, dear!" called the old countess from th_rawing room.
Nicholas went to her, kissed her hand, and sitting down silently at her tabl_egan to watch her hands arranging the cards. From the dancing room, the_till heard the laughter and merry voices trying to persuade Natasha to sing.
"All wight! All wight!" shouted Denisov. "It's no good making excuses now!
It's your turn to sing the ba'cawolla—I entweat you!"
The countess glanced at her silent son.
"What is the matter?" she asked.
"Oh, nothing," said he, as if weary of being continually asked the sam_uestion. "Will Papa be back soon?"
"I expect so."
"Everything's the same with them. They know nothing about it! Where am I t_o?" thought Nicholas, and went again into the dancing room where th_lavichord stood.
Sonya was sitting at the clavichord, playing the prelude to Denisov's favorit_arcarolle. Natasha was preparing to sing. Denisov was looking at her wit_nraptured eyes.
Nicholas began pacing up and down the room.
"Why do they want to make her sing? How can she sing? There's nothing to b_appy about!" thought he.
Sonya struck the first chord of the prelude.
"My God, I'm a ruined and dishonored man! A bullet through my brain is th_nly thing left me—not singing!" his thoughts ran on. "Go away? But where to?
It's one—let them sing!"
He continued to pace the room, looking gloomily at Denisov and the girls an_voiding their eyes.
"Nikolenka, what is the matter?" Sonya's eyes fixed on him seemed to ask. Sh_oticed at once that something had happened to him.
Nicholas turned away from her. Natasha too, with her quick instinct, ha_nstantly noticed her brother's condition. But, though she noticed it, she wa_erself in such high spirits at that moment, so far from sorrow, sadness, o_elf-reproach, that she purposely deceived herself as young people often do.
"No, I am too happy now to spoil my enjoyment by sympathy with anyone'_orrow," she felt, and she said to herself: "No, I must be mistaken, he mus_e feeling happy, just as I am."
"Now, Sonya!" she said, going to the very middle of the room, where sh_onsidered the resonance was best.
Having lifted her head and let her arms droop lifelessly, as ballet dancer_o, Natasha, rising energetically from her heels to her toes, stepped to th_iddle of the room and stood still.
"Yes, that's me!" she seemed to say, answering the rapt gaze with whic_enisov followed her.
"And what is she so pleased about?" thought Nicholas, looking at his sister.
"Why isn't she dull and ashamed?"
Natasha took the first note, her throat swelled, her chest rose, her eye_ecame serious. At that moment she was oblivious of her surroundings, and fro_er smiling lips flowed sounds which anyone may produce at the same interval_old for the same time, but which leave you cold a thousand times and th_housand and first time thrill you and make you weep.
Natasha, that winter, had for the first time begun to sing seriously, mainl_ecause Denisov so delighted in her singing. She no longer sang as a child,
there was no longer in her singing that comical, childish, painstaking effec_hat had been in it before; but she did not yet sing well, as all th_onnoisseurs who heard her said: "It is not trained, but it is a beautifu_oice that must be trained." Only they generally said this some time after sh_ad finished singing. While that untrained voice, with its incorrect breathin_nd labored transitions, was sounding, even the connoisseurs said nothing, bu_nly delighted in it and wished to hear it again. In her voice there was _irginal freshness, an unconsciousness of her own powers, and an as ye_ntrained velvety softness, which so mingled with her lack of art in singin_hat it seemed as if nothing in that voice could be altered without spoilin_t.
"What is this?" thought Nicholas, listening to her with widely opened eyes.
"What has happened to her? How she is singing today!" And suddenly the whol_orld centered for him on anticipation of the next note, the next phrase, an_verything in the world was divided into three beats: "Oh mio crudel_ffetto."… One, two, three… one, two, three… One… "Oh mio crudele affetto."…
One, two, three… One. "Oh, this senseless life of ours!" thought Nicholas.
"All this misery, and money, and Dolokhov, and anger, and honor—it's al_onsense… but this is real… . Now then, Natasha, now then, dearest! Now then,
darling! How will she take that si? She's taken it! Thank God!" And withou_oticing that he was singing, to strengthen the si he sung a second, a thir_elow the high note. "Ah, God! How fine! Did I really take it? How fortunate!"
Oh, how that chord vibrated, and how moved was something that was finest i_ostov's soul! And this something was apart from everything else in the worl_nd above everything in the world. "What were losses, and Dolokhov, and word_f honor?… All nonsense! One might kill and rob and yet be happy… "