Chapter 13

IN THE INN, before which was standing the doctor’s covered cart, there were already some half-dozen officers. Marya Hendrihovna, a plump, flaxen-headed little German in a dressing-jacket and nightcap, was sitting on a board bench in the foremost corner. Her husband, the doctor, lay asleep behind her. Rostov and Ilyin entered the room, welcomed with merry shouts and laughter.

“I say! You are having a jolly time here!” said Rostov, laughing.

“And what are you yawning over?”

“Pretty figures you look! There’s a perfect waterfall from them! Don’t swamp our drawing-room.”

“Mind you don’t spatter Marya Hendrihovna’s dress,” chimed in voices.

Rostov and Ilyin made haste to look for a retreat where, without offence to the modesty of Marya Hendrihovna, they might change their wet clothes. They went behind a partition wall to change; but in the little recess were three officers, who completely filled it up. They were sitting playing cards by the light of a single candle on an empty box, and nothing would induce them to budge from their places. Marya Hendrihovna lent them her petticoat to be hung by way of a curtain; and screened by it, Rostov and Ilyin took off their wet things and put on dry clothes, with the aid of Lavrushka, who had brought their packages.

They made up a fire in the broken-down stove. They got hold of a board, propped it on two saddles, and covered it with a horse-cloth; then brought out a little samovar, a case of wine, and half a bottle of rum. All crowded round Marya Hendrihovna, begging her to preside. One offered her a clean handkerchief, to wipe her charming hands; another put his tunic under her little feet, to keep them from the damp floor; a third hung a cape over the window, to screen her from the draught; while a fourth brushed the flies off her husband’s face, to prevent their waking him.

“Let him alone,” said Marya Hendrihovna, with a timid and happy smile; “he will sleep well anyhow after being up all night.”

“Oh no, Marya Hendrihovna,” answered the officer, “one must look after the doctor well! Anything may happen; and he will be kind to me, I dare say, when he has to cut off my leg or my arm.”

There were only three glasses; the water was so dirty that there was no telling whether the tea were strong or weak, and the samovar would only hold water enough for six glasses. But that made it all the more fun to take turns in order of seniority to receive a glass from the plump, short-nailed, and not over clean fingers of Marya Hendrihovna. All the officers seemed indeed to be genuinely in love for that evening with Marya Hendrihovna. Even the officers who had been playing cards behind the screen soon threw up their game, and gathered round the samovar, catching the general mood, and joining in the homage paid to Marya Hendrihovna. The latter, seeing herself surrounded by these splendid and devoted young men, beamed with delight, which she sought in vain to conceal, though she was unmistakably alarmed at every movement made by her husband, who was slumbering behind her. There was only one spoon; sugar there was in plenty, but it took so long for all to stir their glasses, that it was settled that Marya Hendrihovna must stir the sugar for each in turn. Rostov took his glass of tea, and adding rum to it, begged Marya Hendrihovna to stir it for him.

“But you take it without sugar?” she said, smiling all the while, as though whatever she said or the others said had a quite different and very amusing meaning.

“I don’t care about sugar, all I want is for you to stir it with your little hand.”

Marya Hendrihovna began looking for the spoon, which some one had pounced upon.

“Use your little finger, Marya Hendrihovna,” said Rostov; “it will be all the sweeter.”

“It’s hot,” said Marya Hendrihovna, blushing with pleasure.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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