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did not go to Moscow, and the countess did not renew the conversation with him about marriage. She saw with sorrow, and sometimes with exasperation, symptoms of a growing attachment between her son and the portionless Sonya. Though she blamed herself for it, she could not refrain from grumbling at and worrying Sonya, often pulling her up without reason, addressing her stiffly as "my dear," and using the formal "you" instead of the intimate "thou" in speaking to her. The kindhearted countess was the more vexed with Sonya because that poor, dark-eyed niece of hers was so meek, so kind, so devotedly grateful to her benefactors, and so faithfully, unchangingly, and unselfishly in love with Nicholas, that there were no grounds for finding fault with her. Nicholas was spending the last of his leave at home. A fourth letter had come from Prince Andrew, from Rome, in which he wrote that he would have been on his way back to Russia long ago had not his wound unexpectedly reopened in the warm climate, which obliged him to defer his return till the beginning of the new year. Natasha was still as much in love with her betrothed, found the same comfort in that love, and was still as ready to throw herself into all the pleasures of life as before; but at the end of the fourth month of their separation she began to have fits of depression which she could not master. She felt sorry for herself: sorry that she was being wasted all this time and of no use to anyone--while she felt herself so capable of loving and being loved. Things were not cheerful in the Rostovs home. CHAPTER IX Christmas came and except for the ceremonial Mass, the solemn and wearisome Christmas congratulations from neighbors and servants, and the new dresses everyone put on, there were no special festivities, though the calm frost of twenty degrees Reaumur, the dazzling sunshine by day, and the starlight of the winter nights seemed to call for some special celebration of the season. On the third day of Christmas week, after the midday dinner, all the inmates of the house dispersed to various rooms. It was the dullest time of the day. Nicholas, who had been visiting some neighbors that morning, was asleep on the sitting-room sofa. The old count was resting in his study. Sonya sat in the drawing room at the round table, copying a design for embroidery. The countess was playing patience. Nastasya Ivanovna the buffoon sat with a sad face at the window with two old ladies. Natasha came into the room, went up to Sonya, glanced at what she was doing, and then went up to her mother and stood without speaking. "Why are you wandering about like an outcast?" asked her mother. "What do you want?" "Him... I want him... now, this minute! I want him!" said Natasha, with glittering eyes and no sign of a smile. The countess lifted her head and looked attentively at her daughter. "Dont look at me, Mamma! Dont look; I shall cry directly." "Sit down with me a little," said the countess. "Mamma, I want him. Why should I be wasted like this, Mamma?" Her voice broke, tears gushed from her eyes, and she turned quickly to hide them and left the room. She passed into the sitting room, stood there thinking awhile, and then went into the maids room. There an old maidservant was grumbling at a young girl who stood panting, having just run in through the cold from the serfs quarters. "Stop playing--theres a time for everything," said the old woman. "Let her alone, Kondratevna," said Natasha. "Go, Mavrushka, go." Having released Mavrushka, Natasha crossed the dancing hall and went to the vestibule. There an old footman and two young ones were playing cards. They broke off and rose as she entered. "What can I do with them?" thought Natasha. "Oh, Nikita, please go... where can I send him?... Yes, go to the yard and fetch a fowl, please, a cock, and you, Misha, bring me some oats." "Just a few oats?" said Misha, cheerfully and readily. "Go, go quickly," the old man urged him. "And you, Theodore, get me a piece of chalk." On her way past the butlers pantry she told them to set a samovar, though it was not at all the time for tea. Foka, the butler, was the most ill-tempered person in the house. Natasha liked to test her power over him. He distrusted the order and asked whether the samovar was really wanted. "Oh dear, what a young lady!" said Foka, pretending

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