Ilyin took the bucket of water, and pouring a few drops of rum in it, went up to Marya Hendrihovna, begging her to stir it with her finger.

“This is my cup,” he said. “Only dip your finger in and I’ll drink it all up.”

When the samovar was empty, Rostov took up the cards and proposed a game of “Kings” with Marya Hendrihovna. They tossed to decide which was to have the lady for a partner. Rostov proposed as a rule of the game that the one who was “king” should have the right to kiss Marya Hendrihovna’s hand, and the one who was left knave should have to fetch another samovar for the doctor, when he waked.

“Well, but what if Marya Hendrihovna is king?” asked Ilyin.

“She is our queen already! And her commands are law.”

The game was just beginning when the doctor’s dishevelled head popped up behind his wife. He had been awake for some time and listening to the conversation, and apparently he saw nothing agreeable, funny, or amusing in what was being said and done. His face looked depressed and weary. He did not greet the officers, but scratching himself, he asked them to move to let him pass. As soon as he had left the room, all the officers broke into loud peals of laughter, and Marya Hendrihovna blushed till the tears came, making her even more charming in the eyes of the officers. Coming in again from the yard, the doctor told his wife (who had lost her radiant smile, and looked at him in dismay in expectation of the sentence in store for her) that the rain was over and they must spend the night in their covered cart, or they would have all their things stolen.

“But I’ll put an orderly on guard … two, indeed!” said Rostov. “That’s nonsense, doctor.”

“I’ll be sentinel myself!” said Ilyin.

“No, gentlemen, you have had plenty of sleep, but I have been up these two nights,” said the doctor, and he sat gloomily by his wife’s side, waiting for the end of the game.

Looking at the doctor’s gloomy face and sidelong glances at his wife, the officers grew even more lively, and many of them could not suppress their laughter, for which they hastily sought presentable pretexts. When the doctor had led his wife away, and settled himself with her in their cart, the officers lay down in the inn, covering themselves with their wet overcoats. But for a long while they stayed awake, chatting, recalling the dismay of the doctor, and the delight of the doctor’s wife, or running out on to the steps to report on what was going on in the cart. Several times Rostov muffled his head up and tried to go to sleep. But again some remark roused him, again a conversation sprang up, and again there were peals of causeless, merry, childish laughter.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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