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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 13
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 13 Post by :Pinky Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3309

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 13 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 13

In the tavern, before which stood the doctor's covered cart, there
were already some five officers. Mary Hendrikhovna, a plump little
blonde German, in a dressing jacket and nightcap, was sitting on a
broad bench in the front corner. Her husband, the doctor, lay asleep
behind her. Rostov and Ilyin, on entering the room, were welcomed with
merry shouts and laughter.

"Dear me, how jolly we are!" said Rostov laughing.

"And why do you stand there gaping?"

"What swells they are! Why, the water streams from them! Don't
make our drawing room so wet."

"Don't mess Mary Hendrikhovna's dress!" cried other voices.

Rostov and Ilyin hastened to find a corner where they could change
into dry clothes without offending Mary Hendrikhovna's modesty. They
were going into a tiny recess behind a partition to change, but
found it completely filled by three officers who sat playing cards
by the light of a solitary candle on an empty box, and these
officers would on no account yield their position. Mary Hendrikhovna
obliged them with the loan of a petticoat to be used as a curtain, and
behind that screen Rostov and Ilyin, helped by Lavrushka who had
brought their kits, changed their wet things for dry ones.

A fire was made up in the dilapidated brick stove. A board was
found, fixed on two saddles and covered with a horsecloth, a small
samovar was produced and a cellaret and half a bottle of rum, and
having asked Mary Hendrikhovna to preside, they all crowded round her.
One offered her a clean handkerchief to wipe her charming hands,
another spread a jacket under her little feet to keep them from the
damp, another hung his coat over the window to keep out the draft, and
yet another waved the flies off her husband's face, lest he should
wake up.

"Leave him alone," said Mary Hendrikhovna, smiling timidly and
happily. "He is sleeping well as it is, after a sleepless night."

"Oh, no, Mary Hendrikhovna," replied the officer, "one must look
after the doctor. Perhaps he'll take pity on me someday, when it comes
to cutting off a leg or an arm for me."

There were only three tumblers, the water was so muddy that one
could not make out whether the tea was strong or weak, and the samovar
held only six tumblers of water, but this made it all the pleasanter
to take turns in order of seniority to receive one's tumbler from Mary
Hendrikhovna's plump little hands with their short and not overclean
nails. All the officers appeared to be, and really were, in love
with her that evening. Even those playing cards behind the partition
soon left their game and came over to the samovar, yielding to the
general mood of courting Mary Hendrikhovna. She, seeing herself
surrounded by such brilliant and polite young men, beamed with
satisfaction, try as she might to hide it, and perturbed as she
evidently was each time her husband moved in his sleep behind her.

There was only one spoon, sugar was more plentiful than anything
else, but it took too long to dissolve, so it was decided that Mary
Hendrikhovna should stir the sugar for everyone in turn. Rostov
received his tumbler, and adding some rum to it asked Mary
Hendrikhovna to stir it.

"But you take it without sugar?" she said, smiling all the time,
as if everything she said and everything the others said was very
amusing and had a double meaning.

"It is not the sugar I want, but only that your little hand should
stir my tea."

Mary Hendrikhovna assented and began looking for the spoon which
someone meanwhile had pounced on.

"Use your finger, Mary Hendrikhovna, it will be still nicer," said
Rostov.

"Too hot!" she replied, blushing with pleasure.

Ilyin put a few drops of rum into the bucket of water and brought it
to Mary Hendrikhovna, asking her to stir it with her finger.

"This is my cup," said he. "Only dip your finger in it and I'll
drink it all up."

When they had emptied the samovar, Rostov took a pack of cards and
proposed that they should play "Kings" with Mary Hendrikhovna. They
drew lots to settle who should make up her set. At Rostov's suggestion
it was agreed that whoever became "King" should have the right to kiss
Mary Hendrikhovna's hand, and that the "Booby" should go to refill and
reheat the samovar for the doctor when the latter awoke.

"Well, but supposing Mary Hendrikhovna is 'King'?" asked Ilyin.

"As it is, she is Queen, and her word is law!"

They had hardly begun to play before the doctor's disheveled head
suddenly appeared from behind Mary Hendrikhovna. He had been awake for
some time, listening to what was being said, and evidently found
nothing entertaining or amusing in what was going on. His face was sad
and depressed. Without greeting the officers, he scratched himself and
asked to be allowed to pass as they were blocking the way. As soon
as he had left the room all the officers burst into loud laughter
and Mary Hendrikhovna blushed till her eyes filled with tears and
thereby became still more attractive to them. Returning from the yard,
the doctor told his wife (who had ceased to smile so happily, and
looked at him in alarm, awaiting her sentence) that the rain had
ceased and they must go to sleep in their covered cart, or
everything in it would be stolen.

"But I'll send an orderly.... Two of them!" said Rostov. "What an
idea, doctor!"

"I'll stand guard on it myself!" said Ilyin.

"No, gentlemen, you have had your sleep, but I have not slept for
two nights," replied the doctor, and he sat down morosely beside his
wife, waiting for the game to end.

Seeing his gloomy face as he frowned at his wife, the officers
grew still merrier, and some of them could not refrain from
laughter, for which they hurriedly sought plausible pretexts. When
he had gone, taking his wife with him, and had settled down with her
in their covered cart, the officers lay down in the tavern, covering
themselves with their wet cloaks, but they did not sleep for a long
time; now they exchanged remarks, recalling the doctor's uneasiness
and his wife's delight, now they ran out into the porch and reported
what was taking place in the covered trap. Several times Rostov,
covering his head, tried to go to sleep, but some remark would
arouse him and conversation would be resumed, to the accompaniment
of unreasoning, merry, childlike laughter.

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It was nearly three o'clock but no one was yet asleep, when thequartermaster appeared with an order to move on to the little townof Ostrovna. Still laughing and talking, the officers beganhurriedly getting ready and again boiled again boiled some muddy waterin the samovar. But Rostov went off to his squadron without waitingfor tea. Day was breaking, the rain had ceased, and the clouds weredispersing. It felt damp and cold, especially in clothes that werestill moist. As they left the tavern in the twilight of the dawn,Rostov and Ilyin both glanced under the wet and glistening leatherhood of the doctor's cart,
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Before the beginning of the campaign, Rostov had received a letterfrom his parents in which they told him briefly of Natasha's illnessand the breaking off of her engagement to Prince Andrew (which theyexplained by Natasha's having rejected him) and again asked Nicholasto retire from the army and return home. On receiving this letter,Nicholas did not even make any attempt to get leave of absence or toretire from the army, but wrote to his parents that he was sorryNatasha was ill and her engagement broken off, and that he would doall he could to meet their wishes. To Sonya he wrote separately."Adored
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