Chapter 13

ON SATURDAY, the 31st of August, the whole household of the Rostovs seemed turned upside down. All the doors stood wide open, all the furniture had been moved about or carried out, looking-glasses and pictures had been taken down. The rooms were littered up with boxes, with hay and packing paper and cord. Peasants and house-serfs were tramping about the parquet floors carrying out the baggage. The courtyard was crowded with peasants’ carts, some piled high with goods and corded up, others still standing empty.

The voices and steps of the immense multitude of servants and of peasants, who had come with the carts, resounded through the courtyard and the house. The count had been out since early morning. The countess had a headache from the noise and bustle, and was lying down in the new divan-room with compresses steeped in vinegar on her head. Petya was not at home; he had gone off to see a comrade, with whom he was planning to get transferred from the militia to a regiment at the front. Sonya was in the great hall, superintending the packing of the china and glass. Natasha was sitting on the floor in her dismantled room among heaps of dresses, ribbons, and scarfs. She sat gazing immovably at the floor, holding in her hands an old ball-dress, the very dress, now out of fashion, in which she had been to her first Petersburg ball.

Natasha was ashamed of doing nothing when every one in the house was so busy, and several times that morning she had tried to set to work; but her soul was not in it; and she was utterly unable to do anything unless all her heart and soul were in it. She stood over Sonya while she packed the china, and tried to help; but soon threw it up, and went to her room to pack her own things. At first she had found it amusing to give away her dresses and ribbons to the maids, but afterwards when it came to packing what was left, it seemed a wearisome task.

“Dunyasha, you’ll pack it all, dear? Yes? yes?”

And when Dunyasha readily undertook to do it all for her, Natasha sat down on the floor with the old ball-dress in her hands, and fell to dreaming on subjects far removed from what should have been occupying her mind then. From the reverie she had fallen into, Natasha was aroused by the talk of the maids in the next room and their hurried footsteps from their room to the backstairs. Natasha got up and looked out of the window. A huge train of carts full of wounded men had stopped in the street.

The maids, the footmen, the housekeeper, the old nurse, the cooks, the coachmen, the grooms, and the scullion-boys were all at the gates, staring at the wounded men.

Natasha flung a white pocket-handkerchief over her hair, and holding the corners in both hands, went out into the street.

The old housekeeper, Mavra Kuzminishna, had left the crowd standing at the gate, and gone up to a cart with a tilt of bast-mats thrown over it. She was talking to a pale young officer who was lying in this cart. Natasha took a few steps forward and stood still timidly, holding her kerchief on and listening to what the housekeeper was saying.

“So you have no one then in Moscow?” Mavra Kuzminishna was saying. “You’d be more comfortable in some apartment.… In our house even. The masters are all leaving.”

“I don’t know if it would be allowed,” said the officer in a feeble voice. “There’s our chief officer … ask him,” and he pointed to a stout major who had turned back and was walking along the row of carts down the street.

Natasha glanced with frightened eyes into the face of the wounded officer, and at once went to meet the major.

“May the wounded men stay in our house?” she asked.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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