Chapter 9

CHRISTMAS came and except for the High Mass, the solemn and wearisome congratulations to neighbours and house-serfs, and the new gowns donned by every one, nothing special happened to mark the holidays, though the still weather with twenty degrees of frost, the dazzling sunshine by day and the bright, starlit sky at night seemed to call for some special celebration of the season.

On the third day of Christmas week, after dinner, all the members of the household had separated and gone to their respective rooms. It was the dullest time of the day. Nikolay, who had been calling on neighbours in the morning, was asleep in the divan-room. The old count was resting in his own room. In the drawing-room Sonya was sitting at a round table copying a design for embroidery. The countess was playing patience. Nastasya Ivanovna, the buffoon, with a dejected countenance, was sitting in the window with two old ladies. Natasha came into the room, went up to Sonya, looked at what she was doing, then went up to her mother and stood there mutely.

“Why are you wandering about like an unquiet spirit?” said her mother. “What do you want?”

“I want him…I want him at once, this minute,” said Natasha, with a gleam in her eyes and no smile on her lips. The countess raised her head and looked intently at her daughter.

“Don’t look at me, mamma; don’t look at me like that; I shall cry in a minute.”

“Sit down; come and sit by me,” said the countess.

“Mamma, I want him. Why should I be wasting time like this, Mamma?”…Her voice broke, tears gushed into her eyes, and to hide them, she turned quickly and went out of the room. She went into the divan- room, stood there, thought a moment and went to the maids’ room. There an old maid-servant was scolding a young girl who had run in breathless from the cold outside.

“Give over playing,” said the old woman; “there is a time for everything.”

“Let her off, Kondratyevna,” said Natasha. “Run along, Mavrusha, run along.”

And after releasing Mavrusha, Natasha crossed the big hall and went to the vestibule. An old footman and two young ones were playing cards. They broke off and rose at the entrance of their young mistress. “What am I to do with them?” Natasha wondered.

“Yes, Nikita, go out, please…Where am I to send him?…Yes, go to the yard and bring me a cock, please; and you, Misha, bring me some oats.”

“Just a few oats, if you please?” said Misha, with cheerful readiness.

“Run along; make haste,” the old man urged him.

“Fyodor, you get me some chalk.”

As she passed the buffet she ordered the samovar, though it was not the right time for it.

The buffet-waiter, Foka, was the most ill-tempered person in the house. Natasha liked to try her power over him. He did not believe in her order, and went to inquire if it were really wanted.

“Ah, you’re a nice young lady!” said Foka, pretending to frown at Natasha.

No one in the house sent people on errands and gave the servants so much work as Natasha. She could not see people without wanting to send them for something. She seemed to be trying to see whether one of them would not be cross or sulky with her; but no one’s orders were so readily obeyed by the servants as Natasha’s. “What am I to do? Where am I to go?” Natasha wondered, strolling slowly along the corridor.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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