Chapter 9

THE STAGE consisted of a boarded floor in the middle, with painted cardboard representing trees at the sides, and linen stretched over the boards at the back. In the middle of the stage there were sitting maidens in red bodices and white skirts. An excessively stout woman in a white silk dress was sitting apart on a low bench with green cardboard fixed on the back of it. They were all singing something. When they had finished their song, the woman in white moved towards the prompter’s box, and a man, with his stout legs encased in silk tights, with a plume and a dagger, went up to her and began singing and waving his arms.

The man in the tights sang alone, then she sang alone. The both paused, while the music played, and the man fumbled with the hand of the woman in white, obviously waiting for the bar at which he was to begin singing with her. They sang a duet, and every one in the theatre began clapping and shouting, while the man and woman on the stage, supposed to represent lovers, began bowing with smiles and gesticulations.

After the country, and in her serious mood, Natasha felt it all grotesque and extraordinary. She could not follow the opera; she could not even listen to the music: she saw nothing but painted cardboard and strangely dressed-up men and women, talking, singing, and moving strangely about in the bright light. She knew what it all was meant to represent; but it was all so grotesquely false and unnatural that she felt alternately ashamed and amused at the actors. She looked about her at the faces of the spectators, seeking in them signs of the same irony and bewilderment that she was feeling herself. But all the faces were watching what was passing on the stage, and expressed nothing but an affected—so Natasha thought—rapture. “I suppose it is meant to be like this!” thought Natasha. She looked alternately at the rows of pomaded masculine heads in the stalls, and at the naked women in the boxes, especially at her next neighbour Ellen, who, quite undressed, sat gazing intently, with a quiet and serene smile. at the stage, and basking in the bright light that flooded the theatre, and the warm air, heated by the crowd. Natasha began gradually to pass into a state of intoxication she had not experienced for a long while. She lost all sense of what she was and where she was and what was going on before her eyes. She gazed and dreamed, and the strangest ideas flashed unexpectedly and disconnectedly into her mind. At one moment the idea occurred to her to leap over the footlights and sing that air the actress was singing; then she felt inclined to hook her fan into an old gentleman sitting near her, or to bend over to Ellen and tickle her.

At a moment when there was a lull on the stage before the beginning of a song, the door opening to the stalls creaked on the side nearest the Rostovs’ box, and there was the sound of a man’s footsteps. “Here he is, Kuragin!” whispered Shinshin. Countess Bezuhov turned smiling to the new-comer. Natasha looked in the direction of the Countess Bezuhov’s eyes, and saw an exceedingly handsome adjutant coming towards their box with a confident, but yet courteous, bearing. It was Anatole Kuragin, whom she had seen long before, and noticed at the Petersburg ball. He was now wearing an adjutant’s uniform, with one epaulette and a shoulder knot. He walked with a jaunty strut, which would have been ridiculous if he had not been so handsome, and if his good-looking face had not expressed such simple-hearted satisfaction and good spirits. Although the performance was going on he walked lightly, without haste, along the carpeted corridor, holding his scented, handsome head high, and accompanied by a slight clank of spurs and sword. Glancing at Natasha, he went up to his sister, laid his hand in a close-fitting glove on the edge of her box, nodded his head at her, and, bending down, asked her a question, with a motion towards Natasha.

“Very, very charming!” he said, obviously speaking of Natasha. She did not exactly hear the words, but divined them from the movement of his lips. Then he went on to the front row and sat down beside Dolohov, giving a friendly and careless nudge with his elbow to the man whom other people treated with such punctilio. With a merry wink, he smiled at him, and leaned with his foot against the footlights.

“How like the brother is to his sister!” said the count. “And how handsome they both are!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.