The card tables were drawn out, sets made up for boston, and the count'_isitors settled themselves, some in the two drawing rooms, some in th_itting room, some in the library.
The count, holding his cards fanwise, kept himself with difficulty fro_ropping into his usual after-dinner nap, and laughed at everything. The youn_eople, at the countess' instigation, gathered round the clavichord and harp.
Julie by general request played first. After she had played a little air wit_ariations on the harp, she joined the other young ladies in begging Natash_nd Nicholas, who were noted for their musical talent, to sing something.
Natasha, who was treated as though she were grown up, was evidently very prou_f this but at the same time felt shy.
"What shall we sing?" she said.
"'The Brook,'" suggested Nicholas.
"Well, then, let's be quick. Boris, come here," said Natasha. "But where i_onya?"
She looked round and seeing that her friend was not in the room ran to loo_or her.
Running into Sonya's room and not finding her there, Natasha ran to th_ursery, but Sonya was not there either. Natasha concluded that she must be o_he chest in the passage. The chest in the passage was the place of mournin_or the younger female generation in the Rostov household. And there in fac_as Sonya lying face downward on Nurse's dirty feather bed on the top of th_hest, crumpling her gauzy pink dress under her, hiding her face with he_lender fingers, and sobbing so convulsively that her bare little shoulder_hook. Natasha's face, which had been so radiantly happy all that saint's day, suddenly changed: her eyes became fixed, and then a shiver passed down he_road neck and the corners of her mouth drooped.
"Sonya! What is it? What is the matter?… Oo… Oo… Oo… !" And Natasha's larg_outh widened, making her look quite ugly, and she began to wail like a bab_ithout knowing why, except that Sonya was crying. Sonya tried to lift he_ead to answer but could not, and hid her face still deeper in the bed.
Natasha wept, sitting on the blue-striped feather bed and hugging her friend.
With an effort Sonya sat up and began wiping her eyes and explaining.
"Nicholas is going away in a week's time, his… papers… have come… he told m_imself… but still I should not cry," and she showed a paper she held in he_and—with the verses Nicholas had written, "still, I should not cry, but yo_an't… no one can understand… what a soul he has!"
And she began to cry again because he had such a noble soul.
"It's all very well for you… I am not envious… I love you and Boris also," sh_ent on, gaining a little strength; "he is nice… there are no difficulties i_our way… . But Nicholas is my cousin… one would have to… the Metropolita_imself… and even then it can't be done. And besides, if she tells Mamma"
(Sonya looked upon the countess as her mother and called her so) "that I a_poiling Nicholas' career and am heartless and ungrateful, while truly… God i_y witness," and she made the sign of the cross, "I love her so much, and al_f you, only Vera… And what for? What have I done to her? I am so grateful t_ou that I would willingly sacrifice everything, only I have nothing… ."
Sonya could not continue, and again hid her face in her hands and in th_eather bed. Natasha began consoling her, but her face showed that sh_nderstood all the gravity of her friend's trouble.
"Sonya," she suddenly exclaimed, as if she had guessed the true reason of he_riend's sorrow, "I'm sure Vera has said something to you since dinner? Hasn'_he?"
"Yes, these verses Nicholas wrote himself and I copied some others, and sh_ound them on my table and said she'd show them to Mamma, and that I wa_ngrateful, and that Mamma would never allow him to marry me, but that he'l_arry Julie. You see how he's been with her all day… Natasha, what have I don_o deserve it?… "
And again she began to sob, more bitterly than before. Natasha lifted her up, hugged her, and, smiling through her tears, began comforting her.
"Sonya, don't believe her, darling! Don't believe her! Do you remember how w_nd Nicholas, all three of us, talked in the sitting room after supper? Why, we settled how everything was to be. I don't quite remember how, but don't yo_emember that it could all be arranged and how nice it all was? There's Uncl_hinshin's brother has married his first cousin. And we are only secon_ousins, you know. And Boris says it is quite possible. You know I have tol_im all about it. And he is so clever and so good!" said Natasha. "Don't yo_ry, Sonya, dear love, darling Sonya!" and she kissed her and laughed. "Vera'_piteful; never mind her! And all will come right and she won't say anythin_o Mamma. Nicholas will tell her himself, and he doesn't care at all fo_ulie."
Natasha kissed her on the hair.
Sonya sat up. The little kitten brightened, its eyes shone, and it seeme_eady to lift its tail, jump down on its soft paws, and begin playing with th_all of worsted as a kitten should.
"Do you think so?… Really? Truly?" she said, quickly smoothing her frock an_air.
"Really, truly!" answered Natasha, pushing in a crisp lock that had straye_rom under her friend's plaits.
"Well, let's go and sing 'The Brook.'"
"Do you know, that fat Pierre who sat opposite me is so funny!" said Natasha, stopping suddenly. "I feel so happy!"
And she set off at a run along the passage.
Sonya, shaking off some down which clung to her and tucking away the verses i_he bosom of her dress close to her bony little chest, ran after Natasha dow_he passage into the sitting room with flushed face and light, joyous steps.
At the visitors' request the young people sang the quartette, "The Brook,"
with which everyone was delighted. Then Nicholas sang a song he had jus_earned:
At nighttime in the moon's fair glow
How sweet, as fancies wander free,
To feel that in this world there's one
Who still is thinking but of thee!
That while her fingers touch the harp
Wafting sweet music music the lea,
It is for thee thus swells her heart,
Sighing its message out to thee…
A day or two, then bliss unspoilt,
But oh! till then I cannot live!…
He had not finished the last verse before the young people began to get read_o dance in the large hall, and the sound of the feet and the coughing of th_usicians were heard from the gallery.
Pierre was sitting in the drawing-room where Shinshin had engaged him, as _an recently returned from abroad, in a political conversation in whic_everal others joined but which bored Pierre. When the music began Natash_ame in and walking straight up to Pierre said, laughing and blushing:
"Mamma told me to ask you to join the dancers."
"I am afraid of mixing the figures," Pierre replied; "but if you will be m_eacher… " And lowering his big arm he offered it to the slender little girl.
While the couples were arranging themselves and the musicians tuning up, Pierre sat down with his little partner. Natasha was perfectly happy; she wa_ancing with a grown-up man, who had been abroad. She was sitting in _onspicuous place and talking to him like a grown-up lady. She had a fan i_er hand that one of the ladies had given her to hold. Assuming quite the pos_f a society woman (heaven knows when and where she had learned it) she talke_ith her partner, fanning herself and smiling over the fan.
"Dear, dear! Just look at her!" exclaimed the countess as she crossed th_allroom, pointing to Natasha.
Natasha blushed and laughed.
"Well, really, Mamma! Why should you? What is there to be surprised at?"
In the midst of the third ecossaise there was a clatter of chairs being pushe_ack in the sitting room where the count and Marya Dmitrievna had been playin_ards with the majority of the more distinguished and older visitors. The_ow, stretching themselves after sitting so long, and replacing their purse_nd pocketbooks, entered the ballroom. First came Marya Dmitrievna and th_ount, both with merry countenances. The count, with playful ceremony somewha_n ballet style, offered his bent arm to Marya Dmitrievna. He drew himself up, a smile of debonair gallantry lit up his face and as soon as the last figur_f the ecossaise was ended, he clapped his hands to the musicians and shoute_p to their gallery, addressing the first violin:
"Semen! Do you know the Daniel Cooper?"
This was the count's favorite dance, which he had danced in his youth.
(Strictly speaking, Daniel Cooper was one figure of the anglaise.)
"Look at Papa!" shouted Natasha to the whole company, and quite forgettin_hat she was dancing with a grown-up partner she bent her curly head to he_nees and made the whole room ring with her laughter.
And indeed everybody in the room looked with a smile of pleasure at the jovia_ld gentleman, who standing beside his tall and stout partner, Mary_mitrievna, curved his arms, beat time, straightened his shoulders, turned ou_is toes, tapped gently with his foot, and, by a smile that broadened hi_ound face more and more, prepared the onlookers for what was to follow. A_oon as the provocatively gay strains of Daniel Cooper (somewhat resemblin_hose of a merry peasant dance) began to sound, all the doorways of th_allroom were suddenly filled by the domestic serfs—the men on one side an_he women on the other—who with beaming faces had come to see their maste_aking merry.
"Just look at the master! A regular eagle he is!" loudly remarked the nurse, as she stood in one of the doorways.
The count danced well and knew it. But his partner could not and did not wan_o dance well. Her enormous figure stood erect, her powerful arms hanging down (she had handed her reticule to the countess), and only her stern but handsom_ace really joined in the dance. What was expressed by the whole of th_ount's plump figure, in Marya Dmitrievna found expression only in her mor_nd more beaming face and quivering nose. But if the count, getting more an_ore into the swing of it, charmed the spectators by the unexpectedness of hi_droit maneuvers and the agility with which he capered about on his ligh_eet, Marya Dmitrievna produced no less impression by slight exertions—th_east effort to move her shoulders or bend her arms when turning, or stamp he_oot—which everyone appreciated in view of her size and habitual severity. Th_ance grew livelier and livelier. The other couples could not attract _oment's attention to their own evolutions and did not even try to do so. Al_ere watching the count and Marya Dmitrievna. Natasha kept pulling everyone b_leeve or dress, urging them to "look at Papa!" though as it was they neve_ook their eyes off the couple. In the intervals of the dance the count, breathing deeply, waved and shouted to the musicians to play faster. Faster, faster, and faster; lightly, more lightly, and yet more lightly whirled th_ount, flying round Marya Dmitrievna, now on his toes, now on his heels; until, turning his partner round to her seat, he executed the final pas, raising his soft foot backwards, bowing his perspiring head, smiling an_aking a wide sweep with his arm, amid a thunder of applause and laughter le_y Natasha. Both partners stood still, breathing heavily and wiping thei_aces with their cambric handkerchiefs.
"That's how we used to dance in our time, ma chere," said the count.
"That was a Daniel Cooper!" exclaimed Marya Dmitrievna, tucking up her sleeve_nd puffing heavily.