Chapter 31

THE VALET on going in informed the count that Moscow was on fire. The count put on his dressing- gown and went out to look. With him went Sonya, who had not yet undressed, and Madame Schoss, Natasha and the countess were left alone within. Petya was no longer with the family; he had gone on ahead with his regiment marching to Troitsa.

The countess wept on hearing that Moscow was in flames. Natasha, pale, with staring eyes, sat on the bench under the holy images, the spot where she had first thrown herself down on entering, and took no notice of her father’s words. She was listening to the never-ceasing moan of the adjutant, audible three huts away.

“Oh! how awful!” cried Sonya, coming in chilled and frightened from the yard. “I do believe all Moscow is burning: there’s an awful fire! Natasha, do look; you can see now from the window here,” she said, obviously trying to distract her friend’s mind. But Natasha stared at her, as though she did not understand what was asked of her, and fixed her eyes again on the corner of the stove. Natasha had been in this petrified condition ever since morning, when Sonya, to the amazement and anger of the countess, had for some incomprehensible reason thought fit to inform Natasha of Prince Andrey’s wound, and his presence among their train. The countess had been angry with Sonya, as she waited all the while on her friend, as though trying to atone for her fault.

“Look, Natasha, how frightfully it’s burning,” said Sonya.

“What’s burning?” asked Natasha. “Oh yes, Moscow.”

And to get rid of Sonya, and not hurt her by a refusal, she moved her head towards the window, looking in such a way that it was evident she could see nothing, and sat again in the same attitude as before.

“But didn’t you see?”

“Yes, I really did see,” she declared in a voice that implored to be left in peace.

Both the countess and Sonya could readily understand that Moscow, the burning of Moscow, anything whatever in fact, could be of no interest to Natasha.

The count came in again behind the partition wall and lay down. The countess went up to Natasha, put the back of her hand to her head, as she did when her daughter was ill, then touched her forehead with her lips, as though to find out whether she were feverish, and kissed her.

“You are chilled? You are all shaking. You should lie down,” she said.

“Lie down? Yes, very well, I’ll lie down. I’ll lie down in a minute,” said Natasha.

When Natasha had been told that morning that Prince Andrey was seriously wounded, and was travelling with them, she had at the first moment asked a great many questions, how and why and where she could see him. But after she had been told that she could not see him, that his wound was a serious one, but that his life was not in danger, though she plainly did not believe what was told her, she saw that she would get the same answer whatever she said, and gave up asking questions and speaking at all. All the way Natasha had sat motionless in the corner of the carriage with those wide eyes, the look which the countess knew so well and dreaded so much. And she was sitting in just the same way now on the bench in the hut. She was brooding on some plan; she was making, or already by now had made some decision, in her own mind—that the countess knew, but what that decision was she did not know, and that alarmed and worried her.

“Natasha, undress, darling, get into my bed.”

For the countess only a bed had been made up on a bedstead. Madame Schoss and the two girls were to sleep on hay on the floor.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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