Chapter 22

THE TOWN ITSELF meanwhile was deserted. There was scarcely a creature in the streets. The gates and the shops were all closed; here and there near pot-houses could be heard solitary shouts or drunken singing. No one was driving in the streets, and footsteps were rarely heard. Povarsky Street was perfectly still and deserted. In the immense courtyard of the Rostovs’ house a few wisps of straw were lying about, litter out of the waggons that had gone away, and not a man was to be seen. In the Rostovs’ house—abandoned with all its wealth—there were two persons in the great drawing-room. These were the porter, Ignat, and the little page, Mishka, the grandson of Vassilitch, who had remained in Moscow with his grandfather. Mishka had opened the clavichord, and was strumming with one finger. The porter, with his arms akimbo and a gleeful smile on his face, was standing before the great looking-glass.

“That’s fine, eh, Uncle Ignat?” said the boy, beginning to bang with both hands at once on the keys.

“Ay, ay!” answered Ignat, admiring the broadening grin on his visage in the glass.

“Shameless fellows! Shameless, upon my word!” they heard behind them the voice of Mavra Kuzminishna, who had softly entered. “The fat-faced fellow grinning at himself! So this is what you are at! It’s not all cleared away down there, and Vassilitch fairly knocked up. You wait a bit!”

Ignat, setting his belt straight, left off smiling, and with eyes submissively downcast, walked out of the room.

“Auntie, I was only just touching …” said the boy.

“I’ll teach you only just to touch. Little rascal!” cried Mavra Kuzminishna, waving her hand at him. “Go and set the samovar for your granddad.”

Brushing the dust off, she closed the clavichord, and sighing heavily went out of the drawing-room and closed the door. Going out into the yard Mavra Kuzminishna mused where she would go next: whether to drink tea in the lodge with Vassilitch, or to the storeroom to put away what still remained to be stored away.

There was a sound of rapid footsteps in the still street. The steps paused at the gate, the latch rattled as some hand tried to open it.

Mavra Kuzminishna went up to the little gate.

“Whom do you want?”

“The count, Count Ilya Andreitch Rostov.”

“But who are you?”

“I am an officer. I want to see him,” said a genial voice, the voice of a Russian gentleman.

Mavra Kuzminishna opened the gate. And there walked into the courtyard a round-faced officer, a lad of eighteen, whose type of face strikingly resembled the Rostovs’.

“They have gone away, sir. Yesterday, in the evening, their honours set off,” said Mavra Kuzminishna cordially. The young officer standing in the gateway, as though hesitating whether to go in or not, gave a click with his tongue expressive of disappointment.

“Ah, how annoying!” he said. “Yesterday I ought to … Ah, what a pity …”

Meanwhile Mavra Kuzminishna was intently and sympathetically scrutinising the familiar features of the Rostov family in the young man’s face, and the tattered cloak and trodden-down boots he was wearing. “What was it you wanted to see the count for?” she asked.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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