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War And Peace 36


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which easily carried the whole length of the table. "Thats true!" Once more the conversations concentrated, the ladies at the one end and the mens at the other. "You wont ask," Natashas little brother was saying; "I know you wont ask!" "I will," replied Natasha. Her face suddenly flushed with reckless and joyous resolution. She half rose, by a glance inviting Pierre, who sat opposite, to listen to what was coming, and turning to her mother: "Mamma!" rang out the clear contralto notes of her childish voice, audible the whole length of the table. "What is it?" asked the countess, startled; but seeing by her daughters face that it was only mischief, she shook a finger at her sternly with a threatening and forbidding movement of her head. The conversation was hushed. "Mamma! What sweets are we going to have?" and Natashas voice sounded still more firm and resolute. The countess tried to frown, but could not. Marya Dmitrievna shook her fat finger. "Cossack!" she said threateningly. Most of the guests, uncertain how to regard this sally, looked at the elders. "You had better take care!" said the countess. "Mamma! What sweets are we going to have?" Natasha again cried boldly, with saucy gaiety, confident that her prank would be taken in good part. Sonya and fat little Petya doubled up with laughter. "You see! I have asked," whispered Natasha to her little brother and to Pierre, glancing at him again. "Ice pudding, but you wont get any," said Marya Dmitrievna. Natasha saw there was nothing to be afraid of and so she braved even Marya Dmitrievna. "Marya Dmitrievna! What kind of ice pudding? I dont like ice cream." "Carrot ices." "No! What kind, Marya Dmitrievna? What kind?" she almost screamed; "I want to know!" Marya Dmitrievna and the countess burst out laughing, and all the guests joined in. Everyone laughed, not at Marya Dmitrievnas answer but at the incredible boldness and smartness of this little girl who had dared to treat Marya Dmitrievna in this fashion. Natasha only desisted when she had been told that there would be pineapple ice. Before the ices, champagne was served round. The band again struck up, the count and countess kissed, and the guests, leaving their seats, went up to "congratulate" the countess, and reached across the table to clink glasses with the count, with the children, and with one another. Again the footmen rushed about, chairs scraped, and in the same order in which they had entered but with redder faces, the guests returned to the drawing room and to the counts study. CHAPTER XX The card tables were drawn out, sets made up for boston, and the counts visitors settled themselves, some in the two drawing rooms, some in the sitting room, some in the library. The count, holding his cards fanwise, kept himself with difficulty from dropping into his usual after-dinner nap, and laughed at everything. The young people, at the countess instigation, gathered round the clavichord and harp. Julie by general request played first. After she had played a little air with variations on the harp, she joined the other young ladies in begging Natasha and Nicholas, who were noted for their musical talent, to sing something. Natasha, who was treated as though she were grown up, was evidently very proud of this but at the same time felt shy. "What shall we sing?" she said. "The Brook," suggested Nicholas. "Well, then, lets be quick. Boris, come here," said Natasha. "But where is Sonya?" She looked round and seeing that her friend was not in the room ran to look for her. Running into Sonyas room and not finding her there, Natasha ran to the nursery, but Sonya was not there either. Natasha concluded that she must be on the chest in the passage. The chest in the passage was the place of mourning for the younger female generation in the Rostov household. And there in fact was Sonya lying face downward on Nurses dirty feather bed on the top of the chest, crumpling her gauzy pink dress under her, hiding her face with her slender fingers, and sobbing so convulsively that her bare little shoulders shook. Natashas face, which had been so radiantly happy all that saints day, suddenly changed: her eyes became fixed, and then a shiver passed down her broad neck and the corners of her mouth drooped. "Sonya! What is it? What is the matter?... Oo... Oo... Oo...!" And Natashas large mouth widened, making her look quite ugly, and she began to wail like a baby without knowing why, except that Sonya was crying. Sonya tried to lift her head to answer but could not, and hid her face still deeper

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