the troops with their foraging parties, trains of provisions, and hospitals; when he saw no more soldiers, army waggons, and filthy traces of the camp, but villages of peasants and peasant women, gentlemen’s country houses, fields with grazing oxen, and station-houses and sleepy overseers, he rejoiced as though he were seeing it all for the first time. What in particular remained for a long while a wonder and a joy to him was the sight of women, young and healthy, without dozens of officers hanging about every one of them; and women, too, who were pleased and flattered at an officer’s cracking jokes with them.

In the happiest frame of mind, Nikolay reached the hotel at Voronezh at night, ordered everything of which he had so long been deprived in the army, and next day, after shaving with special care and putting on the full-dress uniform he had not worn for so long past, he drove off to present himself to the authorities.

The commander of the militia of the district was a civilian general, an old gentleman, who evidently found amusement in his military duties and rank. He gave Nikolay a brusque reception (supposing that this was the military manner), and cross-examining him with an important air, as though he had a right to do so, he expressed his approval and disapproval, as though called upon to give his verdict on the management of the war. Nikolay was in such high spirits that this only amused him.

From the commander of militia, he went to the governor’s. The governor was a brisk little man, very affable and unpretentious. He mentioned to Nikolay the stud-farms, where he might obtain horses, recommended him to a horse-dealer in the town, and a gentleman living twenty versts from the town, who had the best horses, and promised him every assistance.

“You are Count Ilya Andreitch’s son? My wife was a great friend of your mamma’s. We receive on Thursdays: to- day is Thursday, pray come in, quite without ceremony,” said the governor, as he took leave of him.

Nikolay took a posting carriage, and making his quartermaster get in beside him, galloped straight off from the governor’s to the gentleman with the stud of fine horses twenty versts away.

During the early days of his stay in Voronezh, everything seemed easy and pleasant to Nikolay, and, as is always the case, when a man is himself in a happy frame of mind, everything went well and prospered with him.

The country gentleman turned out to be an old cavalry officer, a bachelor, a great horse-fancier, a sportsman, and the owner of a smoking-room, of hundred-year-old herb-brandy, of some old Hungarian wine, and of superb horses.

In a couple of words, Nikolay had bought for six thousand roubles seventeen stallions, all perfect examples of their several breeds (as he said), as show specimens of his remounts. After dining and drinking a glass or so too much of the Hungarian wine, Rostov, exchanging kisses with the country gentleman, with whom he was already on the friendliest terms, galloped back over the most atrociously bad road in the happiest frame of mind, continually urging the driver on, so that he might be in time for the soirée at the governor’s.

After dressing, scenting himself, and douching his head with cold water, Nikolay made his appearance at the governor’s, a little late, but with the phrase, “Better late than never,” ready on the tip of his tongue.

It was not a ball, and nothing had been said about dancing; but every one knew that Katerina Petrovna would play waltzes and écossaises on the clavichord, and that there would be dancing, and every one reckoning on it, had come dressed for a ball.

Provincial life in the year 1812 went on exactly the same as always, the only difference being that the provincial towns were livelier owing to the presence of many wealthy families from Moscow, that, as in everything going on at that time in Russia, there was perceptible in the gaiety a certain devil-may-care, desperate recklessness, and also that the small talk indispensable between people was now not about the weather and common acquaintances, but about Moscow and the army and Napoleon.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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