“All well?” asked Rostov, pulling his hand away from him.

“Thank God, yes! All, thank God! Only just finished supper! Let me have a look at you, your excellency!”

“Everything perfectly all right?”

“Thank God, yes, thank God!”

Rostov, completely forgetting Denisov, flung off his fur coat and, anxious that no one should prepare the way for him, he ran on tip-toe into the big, dark reception-hall. Everything was the same, the same card-tables, the same candelabra with a cover over it, but some one had already seen the young master, and he had not reached the drawing-room when from a side door something swooped headlong, like a storm upon him, and began hugging and kissing him. A second and a third figure dashed in at a second door and at a third; more huggings, more kisses, more outcries and tears of delight. He could not distinguish where and which was papa, which was Natasha, and which was Petya. All were screaming and talking and kissing him at the same moment. Only his mother was not among them, that he remembered.

“And I never knew… Nikolenka … my darling!”

“Here he is … our boy … my darling Kolya.… Isn’t he changed! Where are the candles? Tea!”

“Kiss me too!”

“Dearest … and me too.”

Sonya, Natasha, Petya, Anna Mihalovna, Vera, and the old count were all hugging him; and the servants and the maids flocked into the room with talk and outcries.

Petya hung on his legs.

“Me too!” he kept shouting.

Natasha, after pulling him down to her and kissing his face all over, skipped back from him and, keeping her hold of his jacket, pranced like a goat up and down in the same place uttering shrill shrieks of delight.

All round him were loving eyes shining with tears of joy, all round were lips seeking kisses.

Sonya too, as red as crimson baize, clung to his arm and beamed all over, gazing blissfully at his eyes for which she had so long been waiting. Sonya was just sixteen and she was very pretty, especially at this moment of happy, eager excitement. She gazed at him, unable to take her eyes off him, smiling and holding her breath. He glanced gratefully at her; but still he was expectant and looking for some one, and the old countess had not come in yet. And now steps were heard at the door. The steps were so rapid that they could hardly be his mother’s footsteps.

But she it was in a new dress that he did not know, made during his absence. All of them let him go, and he ran to her. When they came together, she sank on his bosom, sobbing. She could not lift up her face, and only pressed it to the cold braiding of his hussar’s jacket. Denisov, who had come into the room unnoticed by any one, stood still looking at them and rubbing his eyes.

“Vassily Denisov, your son’s friend,” he said, introducing himself to the count, who looked inquiringly at him.

“Very welcome. I know you, I know you,” said the count, kissing and embracing Denisov. “Nikolenka wrote to us … Natasha, Vera, here he is, Denisov.”

The same happy, ecstatic faces turned to the tousled figure of Denisov and surrounded him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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