The major with a smile put his hand to his cap.

“What is your pleasure, ma’mselle?” he said, screwing up his eyes and smiling.

Natasha quietly repeated her question, and her face and her whole manner, though she still kept hold of the corners of the pocket-handkerchief, was so serious, that the major left off smiling, and after a moment’s pondering—as though asking himself how far it were possible—he gave her an affirmative answer.

“Oh yes, why not, they may,” he said.

Natasha gave a slight nod, and went back with rapid steps to Mavra Kuzminishna, who was still talking with commiserating sympathy to the young officer.

“They may; he said they might!” whispered Natasha.

The officer in the covered cart turned into the Rostovs’ courtyard, and dozens of carts of wounded men began at the invitation of the inhabitants to drive up to the entries of the houses in Povarsky Street. Natasha was evidently delighted at having to do with new people in conditions quite outside the ordinary routine of life. She joined Mavra Kuzminishna in trying to get as many as possible driven into their yard.

“We must ask your papa though,” said Mavra Kuzminishna.

“Nonsense, nonsense. What does it matter? For one day, we’ll move into the drawing-room. We can give them all our half of the house.”

“What an idea! what next? The lodge, may be, the men’s room, and old nurse’s room; and you must ask leave for that.”

“Well, I will ask.”

Natasha ran indoors, and went on tiptoe to the half-open door of the divan-room, where there was a strong smell of vinegar and Hoffmann’s drops.

“Are you asleep, mamma?”

“Oh, what chance is there of sleep!” said the countess, who had just dropped into a doze.

“Mamma, darling!” said Natasha, kneeling before her mother and leaning her face against her mother’s. “I am sorry, forgive me, I’ll never do it again, I waked you. Mavra Kuzminishna sent me; they have brought some wounded men in, officers, will you allow it? They have nowhere to go; I know you will allow it, …” she said rapidly, not taking breath.

“Officers? Who have been brought in? I don’t understand,” said the countess.

Natasha laughed, the countess too smiled faintly.

“I knew you would let me … so I will tell them so.” And Natasha, kissing her mother, got up and went to the door.

In the hall she met her father, who had come home with bad news.

“We have lingered on too long!” said the count, with unconscious anger in his voice; “the club’s shut up and the police are leaving.”

“Papa, you don’t mind my having invited some of the wounded into the house?” said Natasha.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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