Chapter 15

TO SAY “TO-MORROW,” and maintain the right tone was not difficult, but to arrive home alone, to see his sisters and brother, his mother and father, to confess and beg for money to which he had no right after giving his word of honour, was terrible.

At home they had not yet gone to bed. The younger members of the family after coming home from the theatre had had supper, and were now in a group about the clavichord. As soon as Nikolay entered the hall, he felt himself enfolded in the poetic atmosphere of love which dominated their household that winter; and now, since Dolohov’s proposal and Iogel’s ball, seemed to have grown thicker about Sonya and Natasha, like the air before a storm. Sonya and Natasha, wearing the light blue dresses they had put on for the theatre, stood at the clavichord, pretty and conscious of being so, happy and smiling. Vera was playing draughts with Shinshin in the drawing-room. The old countess, waiting for her son and her husband to come in, was playing patience with an old gentlewoman, who was one of their household. Denisov, with shining eyes and ruffled hair, was sitting with one leg behind him at the clavichord. He was striking chords with his short fingers, and rolling his eyes, as he sang in his small, husky, but true voice a poem of his own composition, “The Enchantress,” to which he was trying to fit music.

“Enchantress, say what hidden fire
Draws me to my forsaken lyre?
What rapture thrills my fingers slow,
What passion sets my heart aglow?”

he sang in his passionate voice, his black, agate eyes gleaming at the frightened and delighted Natasha.

“Splendid, capital!” Natasha cried. “Another couplet,” she said, not noticing Nikolay.

“Everything’s just the same with them,” thought Nikolay, peeping into the drawing-room, where he saw Vera and his mother and the old lady playing patience with her.

“Ah, and here’s Nikolenka.” Natasha ran up to him. “Is papa at home?” he asked.

“How glad I am that you have come,” said Natasha, not answering his question, “we are having such fun. Vassily Dmitritch is staying a day longer for me, do you know?”

“No, papa has not come in yet,” answered Sonya.

“Kolya, you there? Come to me, darling,” said the voice of the countess from the drawing-room. Nikolay went up to his mother, kissed her hand, and sitting down by her table, began silently watching her hands as they dealt the cards. From the hall he kept hearing the sound of laughter and merry voices, persuading Natasha to do something.

“Oh, very well, very well!” Denisov cried; “now it’s no use crying off, it’s your turn to sing the barcarolle, I entreat you.”

The countess looked round at her silent son.

“What’s the matter?” his mother asked Nikolay.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, as though sick of being continually asked the same question: “Will papa soon be in?”

“I expect so.”

“Everything’s the same with them. They know nothing about it. What am I to do with myself?” thought Nikolay, and he went back to the hall, where the clavichord was.

Sonya was sitting at the clavichord, playing the prelude of the barcarolle that Denisov particularly liked. Natasha was preparing to sing. Denisov was watching her with impassioned eyes.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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