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Chapter 15

  • 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!"
  • he thought.
  • 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… "