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Chapter 16

  • Suddenly everybody stirred, began talking, and pressed forward and then back,
  • and between the two rows, which separated, the Emperor entered to the sound_f music that had immediately struck up. Behind him walked his host an_ostess. He walked in rapidly, bowing to right and left as if anxious to ge_he first moments of the reception over. The band played the polonaise i_ogue at that time on account of the words that had been set to it, beginning:
  • "Alexander, Elisaveta, all our hearts you ravish quite… " The Emperor passe_n to the drawing room, the crowd made a rush for the doors, and severa_ersons with excited faces hurried there and back again. Then the crow_astily retired from the drawing-room door, at which the Emperor reappeare_alking to the hostess. A young man, looking distraught, pounced down on th_adies, asking them to move aside. Some ladies, with faces betraying complet_orgetfulness of all the rules of decorum, pushed forward to the detriment o_heir toilets. The men began to choose partners and take their places for th_olonaise.
  • Everyone moved back, and the Emperor came smiling out of the drawing roo_eading his hostess by the hand but not keeping time to the music. The hos_ollowed with Marya Antonovna Naryshkina; then came ambassadors, ministers,
  • and various generals, whom Peronskaya diligently named. More than half th_adies already had partners and were taking up, or preparing to take up, thei_ositions for the polonaise. Natasha felt that she would be left with he_other and Sonya among a minority of women who crowded near the wall, no_aving been invited to dance. She stood with her slender arms hanging down,
  • her scarcely defined bosom rising and falling regularly, and with bated breat_nd glittering, frightened eyes gazed straight before her, evidently prepare_or the height of joy or misery. She was not concerned about the Emperor o_ny of those great people whom Peronskaya was pointing out—she had but on_hought: "Is it possible no one will ask me, that I shall not be among th_irst to dance? Is it possible that not one of all these men will notice me?
  • They do not even seem to see me, or if they do they look as if they wer_aying, 'Ah, she's not the one I'm after, so it's not worth looking at her!'
  • No, it's impossible," she thought. "They must know how I long to dance, ho_plendidly I dance, and how they would enjoy dancing with me."
  • The strains of the polonaise, which had continued for a considerable time, ha_egun to sound like a sad reminiscence to Natasha's ears. She wanted to cry.
  • Peronskaya had left them. The count was at the other end of the room. She an_he countess and Sonya were standing by themselves as in the depths of _orest amid that crowd of strangers, with no one interested in them and no_anted by anyone. Prince Andrew with a lady passed by, evidently no_ecognizing them. The handsome Anatole was smilingly talking to a partner o_is arm and looked at Natasha as one looks at a wall. Boris passed them twic_nd each time turned away. Berg and his wife, who were not dancing, came up t_hem.
  • This family gathering seemed humiliating to Natasha—as if there were nowher_lse for the family to talk but here at the ball. She did not listen to o_ook at Vera, who was telling her something about her own green dress.
  • At last the Emperor stopped beside his last partner (he had danced with three)
  • and the music ceased. A worried aide-de-camp ran up to the Rostovs requestin_hem to stand farther back, though as it was they were already close to th_all, and from the gallery resounded the distinct, precise, enticingl_hythmical strains of a waltz. The Emperor looked smilingly down the room. _inute passed but no one had yet begun dancing. An aide-de-camp, the Master o_eremonies, went up to Countess Bezukhova and asked her to dance. Sh_milingly raised her hand and laid it on his shoulder without looking at him.
  • The aide-de-camp, an adept in his art, grasping his partner firmly round he_aist, with confident deliberation started smoothly, gliding first round th_dge of the circle, then at the corner of the room he caught Helene's lef_and and turned her, the only sound audible, apart from the ever-quickenin_usic, being the rhythmic click of the spurs on his rapid, agile feet, whil_t every third beat his partner's velvet dress spread out and seemed to flas_s she whirled round. Natasha gazed at them and was ready to cry because i_as not she who was dancing that first turn of the waltz.
  • Prince Andrew, in the white uniform of a cavalry colonel, wearing stocking_nd dancing shoes, stood looking animated and bright in the front row of th_ircle not far from the Rostovs. Baron Firhoff was talking to him about th_irst sitting of the Council of State to be held next day. Prince Andrew, a_ne closely connected with Speranski and participating in the work of th_egislative commission, could give reliable information about that sitting,
  • concerning which various rumors were current. But not listening to wha_irhoff was saying, he was gazing now at the sovereign and now at the me_ntending to dance who had not yet gathered courage to enter the circle.
  • Prince Andrew was watching these men abashed by the Emperor's presence, an_he women who were breathlessly longing to be asked to dance.
  • Pierre came up to him and caught him by the arm.
  • "You always dance. I have a protegee, the young Rostova, here. Ask her," h_aid.
  • "Where is she?" asked Bolkonski. "Excuse me!" he added, turning to the baron,
  • "we will finish this conversation elsewhere—at a ball one must dance." H_tepped forward in the direction Pierre indicated. The despairing, dejecte_xpression of Natasha's face caught his eye. He recognized her, guessed he_eelings, saw that it was her debut, remembered her conversation at th_indow, and with an expression of pleasure on his face approached Countes_ostova.
  • "Allow me to introduce you to my daughter," said the countess, with heightene_olor.
  • "I have the pleasure of being already acquainted, if the countess remember_e," said Prince Andrew with a low and courteous bow quite belyin_eronskaya's remarks about his rudeness, and approaching Natasha he held ou_is arm to grasp her waist before he had completed his invitation. He aske_er to waltz. That tremulous expression on Natasha's face, prepared either fo_espair or rapture, suddenly brightened into a happy, grateful, childlik_mile.
  • "I have long been waiting for you," that frightened happy little girl seeme_o say by the smile that replaced the threatened tears, as she raised her han_o Prince Andrew's shoulder. They were the second couple to enter the circle.
  • Prince Andrew was one of the best dancers of his day and Natasha dance_xquisitely. Her little feet in their white satin dancing shoes did their wor_wiftly, lightly, and independently of herself, while her face beamed wit_cstatic happiness. Her slender bare arms and neck were not beautiful—compare_o Helene's her shoulders looked thin and her bosom undeveloped. But Helen_eemed, as it were, hardened by a varnish left by the thousands of looks tha_ad scanned her person, while Natasha was like a girl exposed for the firs_ime, who would have felt very much ashamed had she not been assured that thi_as absolutely necessary.
  • Prince Andrew liked dancing, and wishing to escape as quickly as possible fro_he political and clever talk which everyone addressed to him, wishing also t_reak up the circle of restraint he disliked, caused by the Emperor'_resence, he danced, and had chosen Natasha because Pierre pointed her out t_im and because she was the first pretty girl who caught his eye; but scarcel_ad he embraced that slender supple figure and felt her stirring so close t_im and smiling so near him than the wine of her charm rose to his head, an_e felt himself revived and rejuvenated when after leaving her he stoo_reathing deeply and watching the other dancers.