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War And Peace 512


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and fell into a reverie quite unrelated to what ought to have occupied her thoughts now. She was roused from her reverie by the talk of the maids in the next room (which was theirs) and by the sound of their hurried footsteps going to the back porch. Natasha got up and looked out of the window. An enormously long row of carts full of wounded men had stopped in the street. The housekeeper, the old nurse, the cooks, coachmen, maids, footmen, postilions, and scullions stood at the gate, staring at the wounded. Natasha, throwing a clean pocket handkerchief over her hair and holding an end of it in each hand, went out into the street. The former housekeeper, old Mavra Kuzminichna, had stepped out of the crowd by the gate, gone up to a cart with a hood constructed of bast mats, and was speaking to a pale young officer who lay inside. Natasha moved a few steps forward and stopped shyly, still holding her handkerchief, and listened to what the housekeeper was saying. "Then you have nobody in Moscow?" she was saying. "You would be more comfortable somewhere in a house... in ours, for instance... the family are leaving." "I dont know if it would be allowed," replied the officer in a weak voice. "Here is our commanding officer... ask him," and he pointed to a stout major who was walking back along the street past the row of carts. Natasha glanced with frightened eyes at the face of the wounded officer and at once went to meet the major. "May the wounded men stay in our house?" she asked. The major raised his hand to his cap with a smile. "Which one do you want, Maamselle?" said he, screwing up his eyes and smiling. Natasha quietly repeated her question, and her face and whole manner were so serious, though she was still holding the ends of her handkerchief, that the major ceased smiling and after some reflection--as if considering in how far the thing was possible--replied in the affirmative. "Oh yes, why not? They may," he said. With a slight inclination of her head, Natasha stepped back quickly to Mavra Kuzminichna, who stood talking compassionately to the officer. "They may. He says they may!" whispered Natasha. The cart in which the officer lay was turned into the Rostovs yard, and dozens of carts with wounded men began at the invitation of the townsfolk to turn into the yards and to draw up at the entrances of the houses in Povarskaya Street. Natasha was evidently pleased to be dealing with new people outside the ordinary routine of her life. She and Mavra Kuzminichna tried to get as many of the wounded as possible into their yard. "Your Papa must be told, though," said Mavra Kuzminichna. "Never mind, never mind, what does it matter? For one day we can move into the drawing room. They can have all our half of the house." "There now, young lady, you do take things into your head! Even if we put them into the wing, the mens room, or the nurses room, we must ask permission." "Well, Ill ask." Natasha ran into the house and went on tiptoe through the half-open door into the sitting room, where there was a smell of vinegar and Hoffmans drops. "Are you asleep, Mamma?" "Oh, what sleep-?" said the countess, waking up just as she was dropping into a doze. "Mamma darling!" said Natasha, kneeling by her mother and bringing her face close to her mothers, "I am sorry, forgive me, Ill never do it again; I woke you up! Mavra Kuzminichna has sent me: they have brought some wounded here--officers. Will you let them come? They have nowhere to go. I knew youd let them come!" she said quickly all in one breath. "What officers? Whom have they brought? I dont understand anything about it," said the countess. Natasha laughed, and the countess too smiled slightly. "I knew youd give permission... so Ill tell them," and, having kissed her mother, Natasha got up and went to the door. In the hall she met her father, who had returned with bad news. "Weve stayed too long!" said the count with involuntary vexation. "The Club is closed and the police are leaving." "Papa, is it all right--Ive invited some of the wounded into the house?" said Natasha. "Of course it is," he answered absently. "Thats not the point. I beg you not to indulge in trifles now, but to help to pack, and tomorrow we must go, go, go!...." And the count gave a similar order to the major-domo and the servants. At dinner Petya having returned

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