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War And Peace 304


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to wake Petya that he might eat something, but he only muttered incoherent words without waking up. Natasha felt so lighthearted and happy in these novel surroundings that she only feared the trap would come for her too soon. After a casual pause, such as often occurs when receiving friends for the first time in ones own house, "Uncle," answering a thought that was in his visitors mind, said: "This, you see, is how I am finishing my days... Death will come. Thats it, come on! Nothing will remain. Then why harm anyone?" "Uncles" face was very significant and even handsome as he said this. Involuntarily Rostov recalled all the good he had heard about him from his father and the neighbors. Throughout the whole province "Uncle" had the reputation of being the most honorable and disinterested of cranks. They called him in to decide family disputes, chose him as executor, confided secrets to him, elected him to be a justice and to other posts; but he always persistently refused public appointments, passing the autumn and spring in the fields on his bay gelding, sitting at home in winter, and lying in his overgrown garden in summer. "Why dont you enter the service, Uncle?" "I did once, but gave it up. I am not fit for it. Thats it, come on! I cant make head or tail of it. Thats for you--I havent brains enough. Now, hunting is another matter--thats it, come on! Open the door, there!" he shouted. "Why have you shut it?" The door at the end of the passage led to the huntsmens room, as they called the room for the hunt servants. There was a rapid patter of bare feet, and an unseen hand opened the door into the huntsmens room, from which came the clear sounds of a balalayka on which someone, who was evidently a master of the art, was playing. Natasha had been listening to those strains for some time and now went out into the passage to hear better. "Thats Mitka, my coachman.... I have got him a good balalayka. Im fond of it," said "Uncle." It was the custom for Mitka to play the balalayka in the huntsmens room when "Uncle" returned from the chase. "Uncle" was fond of such music. "How good! Really very good!" said Nicholas with some unintentional superciliousness, as if ashamed to confess that the sounds pleased him very much. "Very good?" said Natasha reproachfully, noticing her brothers tone. "Not very good its simply delicious!" Just as "Uncles" pickled mushrooms, honey, and cherry brandy had seemed to her the best in the world, so also that song, at that moment, seemed to her the acme of musical delight. "More, please, more!" cried Natasha at the door as soon as the balalayka ceased. Mitka tuned up afresh, and recommenced thrumming the balalayka to the air of My Lady, with trills and variations. "Uncle" sat listening, slightly smiling, with his head on one side. The air was repeated a hundred times. The balalayka was retuned several times and the same notes were thrummed again, but the listeners did not grow weary of it and wished to hear it again and again. Anisya Fedorovna came in and leaned her portly person against the doorpost. "You like listening?" she said to Natasha, with a smile extremely like "Uncles." "Thats a good player of ours," she added. "He doesnt play that part right!" said "Uncle" suddenly, with an energetic gesture. "Here he ought to burst out--thats it, come on!--ought to burst out." "Do you play then?" asked Natasha. "Uncle" did not answer, but smiled. "Anisya, go and see if the strings of my guitar are all right. I havent touched it for a long time. Thats it--come on! Ive given it up." Anisya Fedorovna, with her light step, willingly went to fulfill her errand and brought back the guitar. Without looking at anyone, "Uncle" blew the dust off it and, tapping the case with his bony fingers, tuned the guitar and settled himself in his armchair. He took the guitar a little above the fingerboard, arching his left elbow with a somewhat theatrical gesture, and, with a wink at Anisya Fedorovna, struck a single chord, pure and sonorous, and then quietly, smoothly, and confidently began playing in very slow time, not My Lady, but the well-known song: Came a maiden down the street. The tune, played with precision and in exact time, began to thrill in the hearts of Nicholas and Natasha, arousing in them the same kind of sober mirth as radiated from Anisya Fedorovnas whole being. Anisya Fedorovna flushed, and drawing her kerchief over

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