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Chapter 20

  • 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.
  • Both laughed.
  • "Well, let's go and sing 'The Brook.'"
  • "Come along!"
  • "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.