“Well, you won’t go and try. It needs courage…”

“I’ll go,” said Sonya.

“Tell us what happened to the young lady,” said the second girl.

“Well, it was like this,” said the old maid. “The young lady went out; she took a cock, two knives and forks, and everything proper, and sat down. She sat a little while, and all of a sudden she hears some one coming—a sledge with bells driving up. She hears him coming. He walks in, precisely in the shape of a man, like an officer, and sat down beside her at the place laid for him.”

“Ah! ah!…” screamed Natasha, rolling her eyes with horror.

“But what did he do? Did he talk like a man?”

“Yes, like a man. Everything as it should be, and began to try and win her over, and she should have kept him in talk till the cock crew; but she got frightened,—simply took fright, and hid her face in her hands. And he caught her up. Luckily the maids ran in that minute…”

“Come, why are you scaring them?” said Pelagea Danilovna.

“Why, mamma, you tried your fate yourself…” said her daughter.

“And how do they try fate in a granary?” asked Sonya.

“Why, at a time like this they go to the granary and listen. And according to what you hear,—if there’s a knocking and a tapping, it’s bad; but if there’s a sound of sifting corn, it is good. But sometimes it happens…”

“Mamma, tell us what happened to you in the granary?”

Pelagea Danilovna smiled.

“Why, I have forgotten…” she said. “I know none of you will go.”

“No, I’ll go. Pelagea Danilovna, do let me, and I’ll go,” said Sonya.

“Oh, well, if you’re not afraid.”

“Luisa Ivanovna, may I?” asked Sonya.

Whether they were playing at the ring and string game, or the rouble game, or talking as now, Nikolay did not leave Sonya’s side, and looked at her with quite new eyes. It seemed to him as though to-day, for the first time, he had, thanks to that corked moustache, seen her fully as she was. Sonya certainly was that evening gay, lively, and pretty, as Natasha had never seen her before.

“So, this is what she is, and what a fool I have been!” he kept thinking, looking at her sparkling eyes, at the happy, ecstatic smile dimpling her cheeks under the moustache. He had never seen that smile before.

“I’m not afraid of anything,” said Sonya. “May I go at once?” She got up. They told Sonya where the granary was; how she was to stand quite silent and listen, and they gave her a cloak. She threw it over her head and glanced at Nikolay.

“How exquisite that girl is!” he thought. “And what have I been thinking about all this time?”

Sonya went out into the corridor to go to the granary. Nikolay hastily went out to the front porch, saying he was too hot. It certainly was stuffy indoors from the crowd of people.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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