there had been another battle after Borodino, in which the French had been utterly defeated; others declared that the whole Russian army had been annihilated. Some talked of the Moscow militia, which was to advance, preceded by priests, to Three Hills; others whispered that Father Augustin had been forbidden to leave, that traitors had been caught, that the peasants were in revolt, and were plundering those who left the town, and so on. But all this was only talk: in reality even though the council at Fili, at which it was decided to abandon Moscow, had not yet taken place, all—those who were leaving and those who were staying—felt that Moscow would be surrendered, though they did not say so freely, and felt that they must make all haste to escape, and to save their property. There was a feeling that there must come a general crash and change, yet till the 1st of September everything went on unchanged. Like a criminal being led to the gallows, who knows in a minute he must die, and yet stares about, and puts straight the cap awry on his head, Moscow instinctively went on with the daily routine of life, though aware that the hour of ruin was approaching, when all the customary conditions of life would be at an end.

During the three days preceding the occupation of Moscow, the whole Rostov family was busily engaged in various practical ways. The head of the family, Count Ilya Andreitch, was continually driving about the town, picking up all the rumours that were in circulation, and while at home, gave superficial and hasty directions for the preparations for departure.

The countess superintended the sorting out of things to be packed; she was out of humour with every one, and was in continual pursuit of Petya, who was as continually escaping from her, and exciting her jealousy by spending all his time with Natasha. Sonya was the only person who really undertook the practical business of getting things packed. But Sonya had been particularly silent and melancholy of late. She had been present when Nikolay’s letter mentioning Princess Marya had elicited the most delighted deductions from the countess, who saw in Nikolay’s meeting with Princess Marya the direct intervention of Providence.

“I was never really happy,” said the countess, “when Bolkonsky was engaged to Natasha, but I had always longed for Nikolay to marry the princess, and I have always had a presentiment about it. And what a good thing it would be!”

Sonya felt that this was true; that the only possibility of retrieving the Rostovs’ position was by Nikolay’s marriage to an heiress, and that the princess would be an excellent match for him. But this reflection was very bitter for her. In spite, or perhaps in consequence, of her sadness, she undertook the difficult task of seeing after the sorting and packing of the household goods, and for whole days together she was busily employed. The count and countess referred to her when they had any orders to give. Petya and Natasha, on the contrary, did nothing to help their parents, but were generally in every one’s way, and were only a hindrance. And all day long the house resounded with their flying footsteps and shouts and shrieks of causeless mirth. They laughed and were gay, not in the least because there was reason for laughter. But they were gay and glad at heart, and so everything that happened was reason enough for gaiety and laughter in them. Petya was in high spirits because he had left home a boy, and come back (so every one told him) a fine young man, because he was at home, because he had left Byely Tserkov, where there seemed no hope of being soon on active service, and come to Moscow where there would be fighting in a few days, and above all, because Natasha, whose lead he always followed, was in high spirits. Natasha was gay, because she had too long been sad, and now nothing reminded her of the cause of her sadness, and she was quite strong again. She was gay too, because she needed some one to adore her (the adoration of others was like the grease on the wheels, without which her mechanism never worked quite smoothly), and Petya did adore her. And above all, they were both gay, because there was war at the very gates of Moscow, because there would be fighting at the barriers, because arms were being given out, and everybody was rushing about, and altogether something extraordinary was happening, which is always inspiriting, especially for the young.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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