Chapter 9

OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE, not reckoning the countess’s elder daughter (who was four years older than her sister and behaved quite like a grown-up person) and the young lady visitor, there were left in the drawing-room Nikolay and Sonya, the niece. Sonya was a slender, miniature brunette, with soft eyes shaded by long lashes, thick black hair twisted in two coils round her head, and a skin of a somewhat sallow tint, particularly marked on her bare, thin, but shapely, muscular arms and neck. The smoothness of her movements, the softness and flexibility of her little limbs, and something of slyness and reserve in her manner, suggested a lovely half-grown kitten, which would one day be a charming cat. Apparently she thought it only proper to show an interest in the general conversation and to smile. But against her own will, her eyes turned under their thick, long lashes to her cousin, who was going away into the army, with such girlish, passionate adoration, that her smile could not for one moment impose upon any one, and it was clear that the kitten had only perched there to skip off more energetically than ever and to play with her cousin as soon as they could, like Boris and Natasha, get out of the drawing-room.

“Yes, ma chère,” said the old count, addressing the visitor and pointing to his Nikolay; “here his friend Boris has received his commission as an officer, and he’s so fond of him he doesn’t want to be left behind, and is giving up the university and his poor old father to go into the army, ma chère. And there was a place all ready for him in the archives department, and all. Isn’t that friendship now?” said the count interrogatively.

“But they do say that war has been declared, you know,” said the visitor.

“They’ve been saying so a long while,” said the count. “They’ll say so again and again, and so it will remain. There’s friendship for you, ma chère!” he repeated. “He’s going into the hussars.”

The visitor, not knowing what to say, shook her head.

“It’s not from friendship at all,” answered Nikolay, flushing hotly, and denying it as though it were some disgraceful imputation. “Not friendship at all, but simply I feel drawn to the military service.”

He looked round at his cousin and the young lady visitor; both looked at him with a smile of approval.

“Schubert’s dining with us to-night, the colonel of the Pavologradsky regiment of hussars. He has been here on leave, and is taking him with him. There’s no help for it,” said the count, shrugging his shoulder and speaking playfully of what evidently was a source of much distress to him.

“I’ve told you already, papa,” said his son, “that if you’re unwilling to let me go, I’ll stay. But I know I’m no good for anything except in the army. I’m not a diplomatist, or a government clerk. I’m not clever at disguising my feelings,” he said, glancing repeatedly with the coquetry of handsome youth at Sonya and the young lady.

The kitten, her eyes riveted on him, seemed on the point of breaking into frolic, and showing her cat-like nature.

“Well, well, it’s all-right!” said the old count; “he always gets so hot. Bonaparte’s turned all their heads; they’re all dreaming of how he rose from a lieutenant to be an emperor. Well, and so may it turn out again, please God,” he added, not noticing the visitor’s sarcastic smile.

While their elders began talking about Bonaparte, Julie, Madame Karagin’s daughter, turned to young Rostov.

“What a pity you weren’t at the Arharovs’ on Thursday. I was so dull without you,” she said, giving him a tender smile. The youth, highly flattered, moved with a coquettish smile nearer her, and entered into a conversation apart with the smiling Julie, entirely unaware that his unconscious smile had dealt a jealous stab to the heart of Sonya, who was flushing crimson and assuming a forced smile. In the middle of his talk with Julie he glanced round at her. Sonya gave him an intensely furious look, and, hardly able to

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.