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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 9
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War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 9 Post by :debrown Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3157

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 9 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 9

The floor of the stage consisted of smooth boards, at the sides
was some painted cardboard representing trees, and at the back was a
cloth stretched over boards. In the center of the stage sat some girls
in red bodices and white skirts. One very fat girl in a white silk
dress sat apart on a low bench, to the back of which a piece of
green cardboard was glued. They all sang something. When they had
finished their song the girl in white went up to the prompter's box
and a man with tight silk trousers over his stout legs, and holding
a plume and a dagger, went up to her and began singing, waving his
arms about.

First the man in the tight trousers sang alone, then she sang,
then they both paused while the orchestra played and the man
fingered the hand of the girl in white, obviously awaiting the beat to
start singing with her. They sang together and everyone in the theater
began clapping and shouting, while the man and woman on the stage- who
represented lovers- began smiling, spreading out their arms, and
bowing.

After her life in the country, and in her present serious mood,
all this seemed grotesque and amazing to Natasha. She could not follow
the opera nor even listen to the music; she saw only the painted
cardboard and the queerly dressed men and women who moved, spoke,
and sang so strangely in that brilliant light. She knew what it was
all meant to represent, but it was so pretentiously false and
unnatural that she first felt ashamed for the actors and then amused
at them. She looked at the faces of the audience, seeking in them
the same sense of ridicule and perplexity she herself experienced, but
they all seemed attentive to what was happening on the stage, and
expressed delight which to Natasha seemed feigned. "I suppose it has
to be like this!" she thought. She kept looking round in turn at the
rows of pomaded heads in the stalls and then at the seminude women
in the boxes, especially at Helene in the next box, who- apparently
quite unclothed- sat with a quiet tranquil smile, not taking her
eyes off the stage. And feeling the bright light that flooded the
whole place and the warm air heated by the crowd, Natasha little by
little began to pass into a state of intoxication she had not
experienced for a long while. She did not realize who and where she
was, nor what was going on before her. As she looked and thought,
the strangest fancies unexpectedly and disconnectedly passed through
her mind: the idea occurred to her of jumping onto the edge of the box
and singing the air the actress was singing, then she wished to
touch with her fan an old gentleman sitting not far from her, then
to lean over to Helene and tickle her.

At a moment when all was quiet before the commencement of a song,
a door leading to the stalls on the side nearest the Rostovs' box
creaked, and the steps of a belated arrival were heard. "There's
Kuragin!" whispered Shinshin. Countess Bezukhova turned smiling to the
newcomer, and Natasha, following the direction of that look, saw an
exceptionally handsome adjutant approaching their box with a
self-assured yet courteous bearing. This was Anatole Kuragin whom
she had seen and noticed long ago at the ball in Petersburg. He was
now in an adjutant's uniform with one epaulet and a shoulder knot.
He moved with a restrained swagger which would have been ridiculous
had he not been so good-looking and had his handsome face not worn
such an expression of good-humored complacency and gaiety. Though
the performance was proceeding, he walked deliberately down the
carpeted gangway, his sword and spurs slightly jingling and his
handsome perfumed head held high. Having looked at Natasha he
approached his sister, laid his well gloved hand on the edge of her
box, nodded to her, and leaning forward asked a question, with a
motion toward Natasha.

"Mais charmante!" said he, evidently referring to Natasha, who did
not exactly hear his words but understood them from the movement of
his lips. Then he took his place in the first row of the stalls and
sat down beside Dolokhov, nudging with his elbow in a friendly and
offhand way that Dolokhov whom others treated so fawningly. He
winked at him gaily, smiled, and rested his foot against the orchestra
screen.

"How like the brother is to the sister," remarked the count. "And
how handsome they both are!"

Shinshin, lowering his voice, began to tell the count of some
intrigue of Kuragin's in Moscow, and Natasha tried to overhear it just
because he had said she was "charmante."

The first act was over. In the stalls everyone began moving about,
going out and coming in.

Boris came to the Rostovs' box, received their congratulations
very simply, and raising his eyebrows with an absent-minded smile
conveyed to Natasha and Sonya his fiancee's invitation to her wedding,
and went away. Natasha with a gay, coquettish smile talked to him, and
congratulated on his approaching wedding that same Boris with whom she
had formerly been in love. In the state of intoxication she was in,
everything seemed simple and natural.

The scantily clad Helene smiled at everyone in the same way, and
Natasha gave Boris a similar smile.

Helene's box was filled and surrounded from the stalls by the most
distinguished and intellectual men, who seemed to vie with one another
in their wish to let everyone see that they knew her.

During the whole of that entr'acte Kuragin stood with Dolokhov in
front of the orchestra partition, looking at the Rostovs' box. Natasha
knew he was talking about her and this afforded her pleasure. She even
turned so that he should see her profile in what she thought was its
most becoming aspect. Before the beginning of the second act Pierre
appeared in the stalls. The Rostovs had not seen him since their
arrival. His face looked sad, and he had grown still stouter since
Natasha last saw him. He passed up to the front rows, not noticing
anyone. Anatole went up to him and began speaking to him, looking at
and indicating the Rostovs' box. On seeing Natasha Pierre grew
animated and, hastily passing between the rows, came toward their box.
When he got there he leaned on his elbows and, smiling, talked to
her for a long time. While conversing with Pierre, Natasha heard a
man's voice in Countess Bezukhova's box and something told her it
was Kuragin. She turned and their eyes met. Almost smiling, he gazed
straight into her eyes with such an enraptured caressing look that
it seemed strange to be so near him, to look at him like that, to be
so sure he admired her, and not to be acquainted with him.

In the second act there was scenery representing tombstones, there
was a round hole in the canvas to represent the moon, shades were
raised over the footlights, and from horns and contrabass came deep
notes while many people appeared from right and left wearing black
cloaks and holding things like daggers in their hands. They began
waving their arms. Then some other people ran in and began dragging
away the maiden who had been in white and was now in light blue.
They did not drag her away at once, but sang with her for a long
time and then at last dragged her off, and behind the scenes something
metallic was struck three times and everyone knelt down and sang a
prayer. All these things were repeatedly interrupted by the
enthusiastic shouts of the audience.

During this act every time Natasha looked toward the stalls she
saw Anatole Kuragin with an arm thrown across the back of his chair,
staring at her. She was pleased to see that he was captivated by her
and it did not occur to her that there was anything wrong in it.

When the second act was over Countess Bezukhova rose, turned to
the Rostovs' box- her whole bosom completely exposed- beckoned the old
count with a gloved finger, and paying no attention to those who had
entered her box began talking to him with an amiable smile.

"Do make me acquainted with your charming daughters," said she. "The
whole town is singing their praises and I don't even know then!"

Natasha rose and curtsied to the splendid countess. She was so
pleased by praise from this brilliant beauty that she blushed with
pleasure.

"I want to become a Moscovite too, now," said Helene. "How is it
you're not ashamed to bury such pearls in the country?"

Countess Bezukhova quite deserved her reputation of being a
fascinating woman. She could say what she did not think- especially
what was flattering- quite simply and naturally.

"Dear count, you must let me look after your daughters! Though I
am not staying here long this time- nor are you- I will try to amuse
them. I have already heard much of you in Petersburg and wanted to get
to know you," said she to Natasha with her stereotyped and lovely
smile. "I had heard about you from my page, Drubetskoy. Have you heard
he is getting married? And also from my husband's friend Bolkonski,
Prince Andrew Bolkonski," she went on with special emphasis,
implying that she knew of his relation to Natasha. To get better
acquainted she asked that one of the young ladies should come into her
box for the rest of the performance, and Natasha moved over to it.

The scene of the third act represented a palace in which many
candles were burning and pictures of knights with short beards hung on
the walls. In the middle stood what were probably a king and a
queen. The king waved his right arm and, evidently nervous, sang
something badly and sat down on a crimson throne. The maiden who had
been first in white and then in light blue, now wore only a smock, and
stood beside the throne with her hair down. She sang something
mournfully, addressing the queen, but the king waved his arm severely,
and men and women with bare legs came in from both sides and began
dancing all together. Then the violins played very shrilly and merrily
and one of the women with thick bare legs and thin arms, separating
from the others, went behind the wings, adjusted her bodice,
returned to the middle of the stage, and began jumping and striking
one foot rapidly against the other. In the stalls everyone clapped and
shouted "bravo!" Then one of the men went into a corner of the
stage. The cymbals and horns in the orchestra struck up more loudly,
and this man with bare legs jumped very high and waved his feet
about very rapidly. (He was Duport, who received sixty thousand rubles
a year for this art.) Everybody in the stalls, boxes, and galleries
began clapping and shouting with all their might, and the man
stopped and began smiling and bowing to all sides. Then other men
and women danced with bare legs. Then the king again shouted to the
sound of music, and they all began singing. But suddenly a storm
came on, chromatic scales and diminished sevenths were heard in the
orchestra, everyone ran off, again dragging one of their number
away, and the curtain dropped. Once more there was a terrible noise
and clatter among the audience, and with rapturous faces everyone
began shouting: "Duport! Duport! Duport!" Natasha no longer thought
this strange. She look about with pleasure, smiling joyfully.

"Isn't Duport delightful?" Helene asked her.

"Oh, yes," replied Natasha.

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During the entr'acte a whiff of cold air came into Helene's box, thedoor opened, and Anatole entered, stooping and trying not to brushagainst anyone."Let me introduce my brother to you," said Helene, her eyes shiftinguneasily from Natasha to Anatole.Natasha turned her pretty little head toward the elegant youngofficer and smiled at him over her bare shoulder. Anatole, who wasas handsome at close quarters as at a distance, sat down beside herand told her he had long wished to have this happiness- ever since theNaryshkins' ball in fact, at which he had had the well-rememberedpleasure of seeing her. Kuragin was much more
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That evening the Rostovs went to the Opera, for which MaryaDmitrievna had taken a box.Natasha did not want to go, but could not refuse MaryaDmitrievna's kind offer which was intended expressly for her. When shecame ready dressed into the ballroom to await her father, andlooking in the large mirror there saw that she was pretty, verypretty, she felt even more sad, but it was a sweet, tender sadness."O God, if he were here now I would not behave as I did then, butdifferently. I would not be silly and afraid of things, I would simplyembrace him, cling to him, and make
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