“Nastasya Ivanovna, what will my children be?” she asked the buffoon, who came towards her in his woman’s jacket.

“Fleas, and dragon-flies, and grasshoppers,” answered the buffoon.

“My God! my God! always the same. Oh, where am I to go? What am I to do with myself?” And she ran rapidly upstairs, tapping with her shoes, to see Vogel and his wife, who had rooms on the top floor. The two governesses were sitting with the Vogels and on the table were plates of raisins, walnuts, and almonds. The governesses were discussing the question which was the cheaper town to live in, Moscow or Odessa. Natasha sat down, listened to their talk with a serious and dreamy face, and got up. “The island Madagascar,” she said. “Mada-ga-scar,” she repeated, articulating each syllable distinctly; and making no reply to Madame Schoss’s inquiry into her meaning, she went out of the room.

Petya, her brother, was upstairs too. He was engaged with his tutor making fireworks to let off that night.

“Petya! Petya!” she shouted to him, “carry me downstairs.” Petya ran to her and offered her his back, and he pranced along with her. “No, enough. The island Madagascar,” she repeated, and jumping off his back she went downstairs.

Having as it were reviewed her kingdom, tried her power, and made sure that all were submissive, but yet that she was dull, Natasha went into the big hall, took up the guitar, and sat down with it in a dark corner behind a bookcase. She began fingering the strings in the bass, picking out a phrase she recalled from an opera she had heard in Petersburg with Prince Andrey. For other listeners the sounds that came from her guitar would have had no sort of meaning, but these sounds called up in her imagination a whole series of reminiscences. She sat behind the bookcase with her eyes fixed on a streak of light that fell from the crack in the pantry door, and listened to herself and recalled the past. She was in the mood for brooding over memories.

Sonya crossed the hall, and went into the pantry with a glass in her hand. Natasha glanced at her through the crack in the pantry door, and it seemed to her that she remembered the light falling through the crack in the pantry door, and Sonya passing with the glass in just the same way. “Yes, and it was exactly the same in every detail,” thought Natasha.

“Sonya, what is this?” called Natasha, twanging the thick cord with her fingers.

“Oh, are you there?” said Sonya starting, and she came up and listened. “I don’t know. A storm?” she said timidly, afraid of being wrong.

“Why, she started in just the same way, and came up and smiled the same timid smile when it all happened before,” thought Natasha; “and just in the same way, too.…I thought there was something wanting in her.”

“No, it’s the chorus from the ‘Water Carrier,’ listen.” And Natasha hummed the air of the chorus, so that Sonya might catch it. “Where were you going?” asked Natasha.

“To change the water in my glass. I am just finishing colouring the design.”

“You always find something to do, but I can’t, you know,” said Natasha. “And where’s Nikolenka?”

“I think he’s asleep.”

“Sonya, do go and wake him,” said Natasha. “Tell him I want him to sing with me.”

She sat a little longer, pondering on what was the meaning of its all having happened before, and not solving that question, and not in the least chagrined at being unable to do so, she passed again in her imagination to the time when she was with him, and he gazed at her with eyes of love.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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