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War And Peace 315


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courage..." "Ill go," said Sonya. "Tell what happened to the young lady!" said the second Melyukov girl. "Well," began the old maid, "a young lady once went out, took a cock, laid the table for two, all properly, and sat down. After sitting a while, she suddenly hears someone coming... a sleigh drives up with harness bells; she hears him coming! He comes in, just in the shape of a man, like an officer--comes in and sits down to table with her." "Ah! ah!" screamed Natasha, rolling her eyes with horror. "Yes? And how... did he speak?" "Yes, like a man. Everything quite all right, and he began persuading her; and she should have kept him talking till cockcrow, but she got frightened, just got frightened and hid her face in her hands. Then he caught her up. It was lucky the maids ran in just then..." "Now, why frighten them?" said Pelageya Danilovna. "Mamma, you used to try your fate yourself..." said her daughter. "And how does one do it in a barn?" inquired Sonya. "Well, say you went to the barn now, and listened. It depends on what you hear; hammering and knocking--thats bad; but a sound of shifting grain is good and one sometimes hears that, too." "Mamma, tell us what happened to you in the barn." Pelageya Danilovna smiled. "Oh, Ive forgotten..." she replied. "But none of you would go?" "Yes, I will; Pelageya Danilovna, let me! Ill go," said Sonya. "Well, why not, if youre not afraid?" "Louisa Ivanovna, may I?" asked Sonya. Whether they were playing the ring and string game or the ruble game or talking as now, Nicholas did not leave Sonyas side, and gazed at her with quite new eyes. It seemed to him that it was only today, thanks to that burnt-cork mustache, that he had fully learned to know her. And really, that evening, Sonya was brighter, more animated, and prettier than Nicholas had ever seen her before. "So thats what she is like; what a fool I have been!" he thought gazing at her sparkling eyes, and under the mustache a happy rapturous smile dimpled her cheeks, a smile he had never seen before. "Im not afraid of anything," said Sonya. "May I go at once?" She got up. They told her where the barn was and how she should stand and listen, and they handed her a fur cloak. She threw this over her head and shoulders and glanced at Nicholas. "What a darling that girl is!" thought he. "And what have I been thinking of till now?" Sonya went out into the passage to go to the barn. Nicholas went hastily to the front porch, saying he felt too hot. The crowd of people really had made the house stuffy. Outside, there was the same cold stillness and the same moon, but even brighter than before. The light was so strong and the snow sparkled with so many stars that one did not wish to look up at the sky and the real stars were unnoticed. The sky was black and dreary, while the earth was gay. "I am a fool, a fool! what have I been waiting for?" thought Nicholas, and running out from the porch he went round the corner of the house and along the path that led to the back porch. He knew Sonya would pass that way. Halfway lay some snow-covered piles of firewood and across and along them a network of shadows from the bare old lime trees fell on the snow and on the path. This path led to the barn. The log walls of the barn and its snow-covered roof, that looked as if hewn out of some precious stone, sparkled in the moonlight. A tree in the garden snapped with the frost, and then all was again perfectly silent. His bosom seemed to inhale not air but the strength of eternal youth and gladness. From the back porch came the sound of feet descending the steps, the bottom step upon which snow had fallen gave a ringing creak and he heard the voice of an old maidservant saying, "Straight, straight, along the path, Miss. Only, dont look back." "I am not afraid," answered Sonyas voice, and along the path toward Nicholas came the crunching, whistling sound of Sonyas feet in her thin shoes. Sonya came along, wrapped in her cloak. She was only a couple of paces away when she saw him, and to her too he was not the Nicholas she had known and always slightly feared. He was in a womans dress, with tousled hair and a happy smile

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