Chapter 14

MADAME SCHOSS, who had gone out to visit her daughter, increased the countess’s terrors by describing the scenes she had witnessed at a spirit dealer’s in Myasnitsky Street. She entered that street on her way home, but could not pass through it owing to the drunken mob raging round the spirit dealer’s. She had taken a cab and driven home by a circuitous route, and the driver had told her that the mob had broken open the casks of spirit, that orders had been given to that effect.

After dinner all the Rostov household set to work packing and preparing for their departure with eager haste. The old count, suddenly rousing himself to the task, spent the rest of the day continually trotting from the courtyard into the house and back again, shouting confused instructions to the hurrying servants, and trying to spur them on to even greater haste. Petya looked after things in the yard. Sonya was quite bewildered by the count’s contradictory orders, and did not know what to do. The servants raced about the rooms, shouting, quarrelling, and making a noise. Natasha, too, suddenly set to work with the ardour that was characteristic of her in all she did. At first her intervention was sceptically received. No one expected anything serious from her or would obey her instructions. But with heat and perseverance she insisted on being obeyed, got angry and almost shed tears that they did not heed her, and did at last succeed in impressing them. Her first achievement, which cost her immense effort, and established her authority, was the packing of the rugs. There were a number of costly Gobelin tapestries and Persian rugs in the house. When Natasha set to work, she found two boxes standing open in the hall: one packed almost full of china, the other full of rugs. There was a great deal more china left standing on the tables and there was more still to come from the storeroom. Another third box was needed, and the men had gone to get one.

“Sonya, wait a little, and we’ll pack it all without that,” said Natasha.

“You cannot, miss; we have tried already,” said the footman.

“No, wait a minute, please.” And Natasha began taking out the plates and dishes, packed up in paper

“The dishes would go better in here with the rugs,” she said.

“Why, there are rugs enough left that we shall hardly get into three boxes,” said the footman.

“But do wait a little, please.” And Natasha began rapidly and deftly sorting out the things. “These we don’t want,” she said of the plates of Kiev ware; “this and this we can pack in the rugs,” she decided, fishing out the Saxony dishes.

“Come, let it alone, Natasha; come, that’s enough, we’ll pack them,” said Sonya reproachfully.

“What a young lady!” protested the footman.

But Natasha would not give in. She pulled everything out, and began rapidly packing them again, deciding that the commoner rugs and crockery should not be taken at all. When she had taken everything out, she began repacking what was to go; and by sorting out almost all the cheaper goods which were not worth taking, all that was of value was got into two boxes. Only the lid of the box full of rugs would not shut. A few things might have been taken out, but Natasha wanted to manage it in her own way. She unpacked, repacked, squeezed the things in, made the footman and Petya, whom she had drawn into assisting in the work, press on the lid, and herself tried desperately to do the same.

“That will do, Natasha,” Sonya said to her. “I see you are quite right, but take out just the top one.”

“I won’t,” cried Natasha, with one hand holding her disordered hair off her perspiring face, while with the other she squeezed down the rugs. “Press it, Petya, press it! Vassilitch, press hard!” she cried. The rugs yielded, and the lid closed. Natasha, clapping her hands, shrieked with delight, and tears started into her eyes. But that lasted only a second. She set to work at once on a fresh job; and now the servants put complete faith in her, and the count did not take it amiss when they told him that Natalya Ilyinitshna

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