“No, ma’am! We must part, we must part! Understand that, understand it! I cannot endure any more,” he said, and left the room. Then, as if afraid she might find some means of consolation, he returned and trying to appear calm added: “And don’t imagine I have said this in a moment of anger. I am calm. I have thought it over, and it will be carried out- we must part; so find some place for yourself….” But he could not restrain himself and with the virulence of which only one who loves is capable, evidently suffering himself, he shook his fists at her and screamed:
“If only some fool would marry her!” Then he slammed the door, sent for Mademoiselle Bourienne, and subsided into his study.
At two o’clock the six chosen guests assembled for dinner.
These guests- the famous Count Rostopchin, Prince Lopukhin with his nephew, General Chatrov an old war comrade of the prince’s, and of the younger generation Pierre and Boris Drubetskoy- awaited the prince in the drawing room.
Boris, who had come to Moscow on leave a few days before, had been anxious to be presented to Prince Nicholas Bolkonski, and had contrived to ingratiate himself so well that the old prince in his case made an exception to the rule of not receiving bachelors in his house.
The prince’s house did not belong to what is known as fashionable society, but his little circle- though not much talked about in town- was one it was more flattering to be received in than any other. Boris had realized this the week before when the commander in chief in his presence invited Rostopchin to dinner on St. Nicholas’ Day, and Rostopchin had replied that he could not come:
“On that day I always go to pay my devotions to the relics of Prince Nicholas Bolkonski.”
“Oh, yes, yes!” replied the commander in chief. “How is he?…”
The small group that assembled before dinner in the lofty old-fashioned drawing room with its old furniture resembled the solemn gathering of a court of justice. All were silent or talked in low tones. Prince Nicholas came in serious and taciturn. Princess Mary seemed even quieter and more diffident than usual. The guests were reluctant to address her, feeling that she was in no mood for their conversation. Count Rostopchin alone kept the conversation going, now relating the latest town news, and now the latest political gossip.
Lopukhin and the old general occasionally took part in the conversation. Prince Bolkonski listened as a presiding judge receives a report, only now and then, silently or by a brief word, showing that he took heed of what was being reported to him. The tone of the conversation was such as indicated that no one approved of what was being done in the political world. Incidents were related evidently confirming the opinion that everything was going from bad to worse, but whether telling a story or giving an opinion the speaker always stopped, or was stopped, at the point beyond which his criticism might touch the sovereign himself.
At dinner the talk turned on the latest political news: Napoleon’s seizure of the Duke of Oldenburg’s territory, and the Russian Note, hostile to Napoleon, which had been sent to all the European courts.
“Bonaparte treats Europe as a pirate does a captured vessel,” said Count Rostopchin, repeating a phrase he had uttered several times before. “One only wonders at the long-suffering or blindness of the crowned heads. Now the Pope’s turn has come and Bonaparte doesn’t scruple to depose the head of the Catholic Church- yet all keep silent! Our sovereign alone has protested against the seizure of the Duke of Oldenburg’s territory, and even…” Count Rostopchin paused, feeling that he had reached the limit beyond which censure was impossible.
“Other territories have been offered in exchange for the Duchy of Oldenburg,” said Prince Bolkonski. “He shifts the Dukes about as I might move my serfs from Bald Hills to Bogucharovo or my Ryazan estates.”
“The Duke of Oldenburg bears his misfortunes with admirable strength of character and resignation,” remarked Boris, joining in respectfully.
He said this because on his journey from Petersburg he had had the honor of being presented to the Duke. Prince Bolkonski glanced at the young man as if about to say something in reply, but changed his mind, evidently considering him too young.
“I have read our protests about the Oldenburg affair and was surprised how badly the Note was worded,” remarked Count Rostopchin in the casual tone of a man dealing with a subject quite familiar to him.
Pierre looked at Rostopchin with naive astonishment, not understanding why he should be disturbed by the bad composition of the Note.
“Does it matter, Count, how the Note is worded,” he asked, “so long as its substance is forcible?”
“My dear fellow, with our five hundred thousand troops it should be easy to have a good style,” returned Count Rostopchin.
Pierre now understood the count’s dissatisfaction with the wording of the Note.
“One would have thought quill drivers enough had sprung up,” remarked the old prince. “There in Petersburg they are always writing- not notes only but even new laws. My Andrew there has written a whole volume of laws for Russia. Nowadays they are always writing!” and he laughed unnaturally.
There was a momentary pause in the conversation; the old general cleared his throat to draw attention.
“Did you hear of the last event at the review in Petersburg? The figure cut by the new French ambassador.”
“Eh? Yes, I heard something: he said something awkward in His Majesty’s presence.”
“His Majesty drew attention to the Grenadier division and to the march past,” continued the general, “and it seems the ambassador took no notice and allowed himself to reply that: ‘We in France pay no attention to such trifles!’ The Emperor did not condescend to reply. At the next review, they say, the Emperor did not once deign to address him.”
All were silent. On this fact relating to the Emperor personally, it was impossible to pass any judgment.
“Impudent fellows!” said the prince. “You know Metivier? I turned him out of my house this morning. He was here; they admitted him spite of my request that they should let no one in,” he went on, glancing angrily at his daughter.
And he narrated his whole conversation with the French doctor and the reasons that convinced him that Metivier was a spy. Though these reasons were very insufficient and obscure, no one made any rejoinder.
After the roast, champagne was served. The guests rose to congratulate the old prince. Princess Mary, too, went round to him.
He gave her a cold, angry look and offered her his wrinkled, clean-shaven cheek to kiss. The whole expression of his face told her that he had not forgotten the morning’s talk, that his decision remained in force, and only the presence of visitors hindered his speaking of it to her now.
When they went into the drawing room where coffee was served, the old men sat together.
Prince Nicholas grew more animated and expressed his views on the impending war.
He said that our wars with Bonaparte would be disastrous so long as we sought alliances with the Germans and thrust ourselves into European affairs, into which we had been drawn by the Peace of Tilsit. “We ought not to fight either for or against Austria. Our political interests are all in the East, and in regard to Bonaparte the only thing is to have an armed frontier and a firm policy, and he will never dare to cross the Russian frontier, as was the case in 1807!”
“How can we fight the French, Prince?” said Count Rostopchin. “Can we arm ourselves against our teachers and divinities? Look at our youths, look at our ladies! The French are our Gods: Paris is our Kingdom of Heaven.”
He began speaking louder, evidently to be heard by everyone.
“French dresses, French ideas, French feelings! There now, you turned Metivier out by the scruff of his neck because he is a Frenchman and a scoundrel, but our ladies crawl after him on their knees. I went to a party last night, and there out of five ladies three were Roman Catholics and had the Pope’s indulgence for doing woolwork on Sundays. And they themselves sit there nearly naked, like the signboards at our Public Baths if I may say so. Ah, when one looks at our young people, Prince, one would like to take Peter the Great’s old cudgel out of the museum and belabor them in the Russian way till all the nonsense jumps out of them.”
All were silent. The old prince looked at Rostopchin with a smile and wagged his head approvingly.
“Well, good-by, your excellency, keep well!” said Rostopchin, getting up with characteristic briskness and holding out his hand to the prince.
“Good-by, my dear fellow…. His words are music, I never tire of hearing him!” said the old prince, keeping hold of the hand and offering his cheek to be kissed.
Following Rostopchin’s example the others also rose.
Princess Mary as she sat listening to the old men’s talk and faultfinding, understood nothing of what she heard; she only wondered whether the guests had all observed her father’s hostile attitude toward her. She did not even notice the special attentions and amiabilities shown her during dinner by Boris Drubetskoy, who was visiting them for the third time already.
Princess Mary turned with absent-minded questioning look to Pierre, who hat in hand and with a smile on his face was the last of the guests to approach her after the old prince had gone out and they were left alone in the drawing room.
“May I stay a little longer?” he said, letting his stout body sink into an armchair beside her.
“Oh yes,” she answered. “You noticed nothing?” her look asked.
Pierre was in an agreeable after-dinner mood. He looked straight before him and smiled quietly.
“Have you known that young man long, Princess?” he asked.
“No, not long…”
“Do you like him?”
“Yes, he is an agreeable young man…. Why do you ask me that?” said Princess Mary, still thinking of that morning’s conversation with her father.
“Because I have noticed that when a young man comes on leave from Petersburg to Moscow it is usually with the object of marrying an heiress.”
“You have observed that?” said Princess Mary.
“Yes,” returned Pierre with a smile, “and this young man now manages matters so that where there is a wealthy heiress there he is too. I can read him like a book. At present he is hesitating whom to lay siege to- you or Mademoiselle Julie Karagina. He is very attentive to her.”
“He visits them?”
“Yes, very often. And do you know the new way of courting?” said Pierre with an amused smile, evidently in that cheerful mood of good humored raillery for which he so often reproached himself in his diary.
“No,” replied Princess Mary.
“To please Moscow girls nowadays one has to be melancholy. He is very melancholy with Mademoiselle Karagina,” said Pierre.
“Really?” asked Princess Mary, looking into Pierre’s kindly face and still thinking of her own sorrow. “It would be a relief,” thought she, “if I ventured to confide what I am feeling to someone. I should like to tell everything to Pierre. He is kind and generous. It would be a relief. He would give me advice.”
“Would you marry him?”
“Oh, my God, Count, there are moments when I would marry anybody!” she cried suddenly to her own surprise and with tears in her voice. “Ah, how bitter it is to love someone near to you and to feel that…” she went on in a trembling voice, “that you can do nothing for him but grieve him, and to know that you cannot alter this. Then there is only one thing left- to go away, but where could I go?”
“What is wrong? What is it, Princess?”
But without finishing what she was saying, Princess Mary burst into tears.
“I don’t know what is the matter with me today. Don’t take any notice- forget what I have said!”
Pierre’s gaiety vanished completely. He anxiously questioned the princess, asked her to speak out fully and confide her grief to him; but she only repeated that she begged him to forget what she had said, that she did not remember what she had said, and that she had no trouble except the one he knew of- that Prince Andrew’s marriage threatened to cause a rupture between father and son.
“Have you any news of the Rostovs?” she asked, to change the subject. “I was told they are coming soon. I am also expecting Andrew any day. I should like them to meet here.”
“And how does he now regard the matter?” asked Pierre, referring to the old prince.
Princess Mary shook her head.
“What is to be done? In a few months the year will be up. The thing is impossible. I only wish I could spare my brother the first moments. I wish they would come sooner. I hope to be friends with her. You have known them a long time,” said Princess Mary. “Tell me honestly the whole truth: what sort of girl is she, and what do you think of her?- The real truth, because you know Andrew is risking so much doing this against his father’s will that I should like to know…”
An undefined instinct told Pierre that these explanations, and repeated requests to be told the whole truth, expressed ill-will on the princess’ part toward her future sister-in-law and a wish that he should disapprove of Andrew’s choice; but in reply he said what he felt rather than what he thought.
“I don’t know how to answer your question,” he said, blushing without knowing why. “I really don’t know what sort of girl she is; I can’t analyze her at all. She is enchanting, but what makes her so I don’t know. That is all one can say about her.”
Princess Mary sighed, and the expression on her face said: “Yes, that’s what I expected and feared.”
“Is she clever?” she asked.
“I think not,” he said, “and yet- yes. She does not deign to be clever…. Oh no, she is simply enchanting, and that is all.”
Princess Mary again shook her head disapprovingly.
“Ah, I so long to like her! Tell her so if you see her before I do.”
“I hear they are expected very soon,” said Pierre.
Princess Mary told Pierre of her plan to become intimate with her future sister-in-law as soon as the Rostovs arrived and to try to accustom the old prince to her.
Boris had not succeeded in making a wealthy match in Petersburg, so with the same object in view he came to Moscow. There he wavered between the two richest heiresses, Julie and Princess Mary. Though Princess Mary despite her plainness seemed to him more attractive than Julie, he, without knowing why, felt awkward about paying court to her. When they had last met on the old prince’s name day, she had answered at random all his attempts to talk sentimentally, evidently not listening to what he was saying.
Julie on the contrary accepted his attentions readily, though in a manner peculiar to herself.
She was twenty-seven. After the death of her brothers she had become very wealthy. She was by now decidedly plain, but thought herself not merely as good-looking as before but even far more attractive. She was confirmed in this delusion by the fact that she had become a very wealthy heiress and also by the fact that the older she grew the less dangerous she became to men, and the more freely they could associate with her and avail themselves of her suppers, soirees, and the animated company that assembled at her house, without incurring any obligation. A man who would have been afraid ten years before of going every day to the house when there was a girl of seventeen there, for fear of compromising her and committing himself, would now go boldly every day and treat her not as a marriageable girl but as a sexless acquaintance.
That winter the Karagins’ house was the most agreeable and hospitable in Moscow. In addition to the formal evening and dinner parties, a large company, chiefly of men, gathered there every day, supping at midnight and staying till three in the morning. Julie never missed a ball, a promenade, or a play. Her dresses were always of the latest fashion. But in spite of that she seemed to be disillusioned about everything and told everyone that she did not believe either in friendship or in love, or any of the joys of life, and expected peace only “yonder.” She adopted the tone of one who has suffered a great disappointment, like a girl who has either lost the man she loved or been cruelly deceived by him. Though nothing of the kind had happened to her she was regarded in that light, and had even herself come to believe that she had suffered much in life. This melancholy, which did not prevent her amusing herself, did not hinder the young people who came to her house from passing the time pleasantly. Every visitor who came to the house paid his tribute to the melancholy mood of the hostess, and then amused himself with society gossip, dancing, intellectual games, and bouts rimes, which were in vogue at the Karagins’. Only a few of these young men, among them Boris, entered more deeply into Julie’s melancholy, and with these she had prolonged conversations in private on the vanity of all worldly things, and to them she showed her albums filled with mournful sketches, maxims, and verses.
To Boris, Julie was particularly gracious: she regretted his early disillusionment with life, offered him such consolation of friendship as she who had herself suffered so much could render, and showed him her album. Boris sketched two trees in the album and wrote: “Rustic trees, your dark branches shed gloom and melancholy upon me.”
On another page he drew a tomb, and wrote:
La mort est secourable et la mort est tranquille. Ah! contre les douleurs il n’y a pas d’autre asile.*
*Death gives relief and death is peaceful.
Ah! from suffering there is no other refuge.
Julia said this was charming
“There is something so enchanting in the smile of melancholy,” she said to Boris, repeating word for word a passage she had copied from a book. “It is a ray of light in the darkness, a shade between sadness and despair, showing the possibility of consolation.”
In reply Boris wrote these lines:
Aliment de poison d’une ame trop sensible, Toi, sans qui le bonheur me serait impossible, Tendre melancholie, ah, viens me consoler, Viens calmer les tourments de ma sombre retraite, Et mele une douceur secrete
A ces pleurs que je sens couler.*
*Poisonous nourishment of a too sensitive soul,
Thou, without whom happiness would for me be impossible,
Tender melancholy, ah, come to console me,
Come to calm the torments of my gloomy retreat,
And mingle a secret sweetness
With these tears that I feel to be flowing.
For Boris, Julie played most doleful nocturnes on her harp. Boris read Poor Liza aloud to her, and more than once interrupted the reading because of the emotions that choked him. Meeting at large gatherings Julie and Boris looked on one another as the only souls who understood one another in a world of indifferent people.
Anna Mikhaylovna, who often visited the Karagins, while playing cards with the mother made careful inquiries as to Julie’s dowry (she was to have two estates in Penza and the Nizhegorod forests). Anna Mikhaylovna regarded the refined sadness that united her son to the wealthy Julie with emotion, and resignation to the Divine will.
“You are always charming and melancholy, my dear Julie,” she said to the daughter. “Boris says his soul finds repose at your house. He has suffered so many disappointments and is so sensitive,” said she to the mother. “Ah, my dear, I can’t tell you how fond I have grown of Julie latterly,” she said to her son. “But who could help loving her? She is an angelic being! Ah, Boris, Boris!”- she paused. “And how I pity her mother,” she went on; “today she showed me her accounts and letters from Penza (they have enormous estates there), and she, poor thing, has no one to help her, and they do cheat her so!”
Boris smiled almost imperceptibly while listening to his mother. He laughed blandly at her naive diplomacy but listened to what she had to say, and sometimes questioned her carefully about the Penza and Nizhegorod estates.
Julie had long been expecting a proposal from her melancholy adorer and was ready to accept it; but some secret feeling of repulsion for her, for her passionate desire to get married, for her artificiality, and a feeling of horror at renouncing the possibility of real love still restrained Boris. His leave was expiring. He spent every day and whole days at the Karagins’, and every day on thinking the matter over told himself that he would propose tomorrow. But in Julie’s presence, looking at her red face and chin (nearly always powdered), her moist eyes, and her expression of continual readiness to pass at once from melancholy to an unnatural rapture of married bliss, Boris could not utter the decisive words, though in imagination he had long regarded himself as the possessor of those Penza and Nizhegorod estates and had apportioned the use of the income from them. Julie saw Boris’ indecision, and sometimes the thought occurred to her that she was repulsive to him, but her feminine self-deception immediately supplied her with consolation, and she told herself that he was only shy from love. Her melancholy, however, began to turn to irritability, and not long before Boris’ departure she formed a definite plan of action. Just as Boris’ leave of absence was expiring, Anatole Kuragin made his appearance in Moscow, and of course in the Karagins’ drawing room, and Julie, suddenly abandoning her melancholy, became cheerful and very attentive to Kuragin.
“My dear,” said Anna Mikhaylovna to her son, “I know from a reliable source that Prince Vasili has sent his son to Moscow to get him married to Julie. I am so fond of Julie that I should be sorry for her. What do you think of it, my dear?”
The idea of being made a fool of and of having thrown away that whole month of arduous melancholy service to Julie, and of seeing all the revenue from the Penza estates which he had already mentally apportioned and put to proper use fall into the hands of another, and especially into the hands of that idiot Anatole, pained Boris. He drove to the Karagins’ with the firm intention of proposing. Julie met him in a gay, careless manner, spoke casually of how she had enjoyed yesterday’s ball, and asked when he was leaving. Though Boris had come intentionally to speak of his love and therefore meant to be tender, he began speaking irritably of feminine inconstancy, of how easily women can turn from sadness to joy, and how their moods depend solely on who happens to be paying court to them. Julie was offended and replied that it was true that a woman needs variety, and the same thing over and over again would weary anyone.
“Then I should advise you…” Boris began, wishing to sting her; but at that instant the galling thought occurred to him that he might have to leave Moscow without having accomplished his aim, and have vainly wasted his efforts- which was a thing he never allowed to happen.
He checked himself in the middle of the sentence, lowered his eyes to avoid seeing her unpleasantly irritated and irresolute face, and said:
“I did not come here at all to quarrel with you. On the contrary…”
He glanced at her to make sure that he might go on. Her irritability had suddenly quite vanished, and her anxious, imploring eyes were fixed on him with greedy expectation. “I can always arrange so as not to see her often,” thought Boris. “The affair has been begun and must be finished!” He blushed hotly, raised his eyes to hers, and said:
“You know my feelings for you!”
There was no need to say more: Julie’s face shone with triumph and self-satisfaction; but she forced Boris to say all that is said on such occasions- that he loved her and had never loved any other woman more than her. She knew that for the Penza estates and Nizhegorod forests she could demand this, and she received what she demanded.
The affianced couple, no longer alluding to trees that shed gloom and melancholy upon them, planned the arrangements of a splendid house in Petersburg, paid calls, and prepared everything for a brilliant wedding.
At the end of January old Count Rostov went to Moscow with Natasha and Sonya. The countess was still unwell and unable to travel but it was impossible to wait for her recovery. Prince Andrew was expected in Moscow any day, the trousseau had to be ordered and the estate near Moscow had to be sold, besides which the opportunity of presenting his future daughter-in-law to old Prince Bolkonski while he was in Moscow could not be missed. The Rostovs’ Moscow house had not been heated that winter and, as they had come only for a short time and the countess was not with them, the count decided to stay with Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, who had long been pressing her hospitality on them.
Late one evening the Rostovs’ four sleighs drove into Marya Dmitrievna’s courtyard in the old Konyusheny street. Marya Dmitrievna lived alone. She had already married off her daughter, and her sons were all in the service.
She held herself as erect, told everyone her opinion as candidly, loudly, and bluntly as ever, and her whole bearing seemed a reproach to others for any weakness, passion, or temptation- the possibility of which she did not admit. From early in the morning, wearing a dressing jacket, she attended to her household affairs, and then she drove out: on holy days to church and after the service to jails and prisons on affairs of which she never spoke to anyone. On ordinary days, after dressing, she received petitioners of various classes, of whom there were always some. Then she had dinner, a substantial and appetizing meal at which there were always three or four guests; after dinner she played a game of boston, and at night she had the newspapers or a new book read to her while she knitted. She rarely made an exception and went out to pay visits, and then only to the most important persons in the town.
She had not yet gone to bed when the Rostovs arrived and the pulley of the hall door squeaked from the cold as it let in the Rostovs and their servants. Marya Dmitrievna, with her spectacles hanging down on her nose and her head flung back, stood in the hall doorway looking with a stern, grim face at the new arrivals. One might have thought she was angry with the travelers and would immediately turn them out, had she not at the same time been giving careful instructions to the servants for the accommodation of the visitors and their belongings.
“The count’s things? Bring them here,” she said, pointing to the portmanteaus and not greeting anyone. “The young ladies’? There to the left. Now what are you dawdling for?” she cried to the maids. “Get the samovar ready!… You’ve grown plumper and prettier,” she remarked, drawing Natasha (whose cheeks were glowing from the cold) to her by the hood. “Foo! You are cold! Now take off your things, quick!” she shouted to the count who was going to kiss her hand. “You’re half frozen, I’m sure! Bring some rum for tea!… Bonjour, Sonya dear!” she added, turning to Sonya and indicating by this French greeting her slightly contemptuous though affectionate attitude toward her.
When they came in to tea, having taken off their outdoor things and tidied themselves up after their journey, Marya Dmitrievna kissed them all in due order.
“I’m heartily glad you have come and are staying with me. It was high time,” she said, giving Natasha a significant look. “The old man is here and his son’s expected any day. You’ll have to make his aquaintance. But we’ll speak of that later on,” she added, glancing at Sonya with a look that showed she did not want to speak of it in her presence. “Now listen,” she said to the count. “What do you want tomorrow? Whom will you send for? Shinshin?” she crooked one of her fingers. “The sniveling Anna Mikhaylovna? That’s two. She’s here with her son. The son is getting married! Then Bezukhov, eh? He is here too, with his wife. He ran away from her and she came galloping after him. He dined with me on Wednesday. As for them”- and she pointed to the girls- “tomorrow I’ll take them first to the Iberian shrine of the Mother of God, and then we’ll drive to the Super-Rogue’s. I suppose you’ll have everything new. Don’t judge by me: sleeves nowadays are this size! The other day young Princess Irina Vasilevna came to see me; she was an awful sight- looked as if she had put two barrels on her arms. You know not a day passes now without some new fashion…. And what have you to do yourself?” she asked the count sternly.
“One thing has come on top of another: her rags to buy, and now a purchaser has turned up for the Moscow estate and for the house. If you will be so kind, I’ll fix a time and go down to the estate just for a day, and leave my lassies with you.”
“All right. All right. They’ll be safe with me, as safe as in Chancery! I’ll take them where they must go, scold them a bit, and pet them a bit,” said Marya Dmitrievna, touching her goddaughter and favorite, Natasha, on the cheek with her large hand.
Next morning Marya Dmitrievna took the young ladies to the Iberian shrine of the Mother of God and to Madame Suppert-Roguet, who was so afraid of Marya Dmitrievna that she always let her have costumes at a loss merely to get rid of her. Marya Dmitrievna ordered almost the whole trousseau. When they got home she turned everybody out of the room except Nataisha, and then called her pet to her armchair.
“Well, now we’ll talk. I congratulate you on your betrothed. You’ve hooked a fine fellow! I am glad for your sake and I’ve known him since he was so high.” She held her hand a couple of feet from the ground. Natasha blushed happily. “I like him and all his family. Now listen! You know that old Prince Nicholas much dislikes his son’s marrying. The old fellow’s crotchety! Of course Prince Andrew is not a child and can shift without him, but it’s not nice to enter a family against a father’s will. One wants to do it peacefully and lovingly. You’re a clever girl and you’ll know how to manage. Be kind, and use your wits. Then all will be well.”
Natasha remained silent, from shyness Marya Dmitrievna supposed, but really because she disliked anyone interfering in what touched her love of Prince Andrew, which seemed to her so apart from all human affairs that no one could understand it. She loved and knew Prince Andrew, he loved her only, and was to come one of these days and take her. She wanted nothing more.
“You see I have known him a long time and am also fond of Mary, your future sister-in-law. ‘Husbands’ sisters bring up blisters,’ but this one wouldn’t hurt a fly. She has asked me to bring you two together. Tomorrow you’ll go with your father to see her. Be very nice and affectionate to her: you’re younger than she. When he comes, he’ll find you already know his sister and father and are liked by them. Am I right or not? Won’t that be best?”
“Yes, it will,” Natasha answered reluctantly.
Next day, by Marya Dmitrievna’s advice, Count Rostov took Natasha to call on Prince Nicholas Bolkonski. The count did not set out cheerfully on this visit, at heart he felt afraid. He well remembered the last interview he had had with the old prince at the time of the enrollment, when in reply to an invitation to dinner he had had to listen to an angry reprimand for not having provided his full quota of men. Natasha, on the other hand, having put on her best gown, was in the highest spirits. “They can’t help liking me,” she thought. “Everybody always has liked me, and I am so willing to do anything they wish, so ready to be fond of him- for being his father- and of her- for being his sister- that there is no reason for them not to like me…”
They drove up to the gloomy old house on the Vozdvizhenka and entered the vestibule.
“Well, the Lord have mercy on us!” said the count, half in jest, half in earnest; but Natasha noticed that her father was flurried on entering the anteroom and inquired timidly and softly whether the prince and princess were at home.
When they had been announced a perturbation was noticeable among the servants. The footman who had gone to announce them was stopped by another in the large hall and they whispered to one another. Then a maidservant ran into the hall and hurriedly said something, mentioning the princess. At last an old, cross looking footman came and announced to the Rostovs that the prince was not receiving, but that the princess begged them to walk up. The first person who came to meet the visitors was Mademoiselle Bourienne. She greeted the father and daughter with special politeness and showed them to the princess’ room. The princess, looking excited and nervous, her face flushed in patches, ran in to meet the visitors, treading heavily, and vainly trying to appear cordial and at ease. From the first glance Princess Mary did not like Natasha. She thought her too fashionably dressed, frivolously gay and vain. She did not at all realize that before having seen her future sister-in-law she was prejudiced against her by involuntary envy of her beauty, youth, and happiness, as well as by jealousy of her brother’s love for her. Apart from this insuperable antipathy to her, Princess Mary was agitated just then because on the Rostovs’ being announced, the old prince had shouted that he did not wish to see them, that Princess Mary might do so if she chose, but they were not to be admitted to him. She had decided to receive them, but feared lest the prince might at any moment indulge in some freak, as he seemed much upset by the Rostovs’ visit.
“There, my dear princess, I’ve brought you my songstress,” said the count, bowing and looking round uneasily as if afraid the old prince might appear. “I am so glad you should get to know one another… very sorry the prince is still ailing,” and after a few more commonplace remarks he rose. “If you’ll allow me to leave my Natasha in your hands for a quarter of an hour, Princess, I’ll drive round to see Anna Semenovna, it’s quite near in the Dogs’ Square, and then I’ll come back for her.”
The count had devised this diplomatic ruse (as he afterwards told his daughter) to give the future sisters-in-law an opportunity to talk to one another freely, but another motive was to avoid the danger of encountering the old prince, of whom he was afraid. He did not mention this to his daughter, but Natasha noticed her father’s nervousness and anxiety and felt mortified by it. She blushed for him, grew still angrier at having blushed, and looked at the princess with a bold and defiant expression which said that she was not afraid of anybody. The princess told the count that she would be delighted, and only begged him to stay longer at Anna Semenovna’s, and he departed.
Despite the uneasy glances thrown at her by Princess Mary- who wished to have a tete-a-tete with Natasha- Mademoiselle Bourienne remained in the room and persistently talked about Moscow amusements and theaters. Natasha felt offended by the hesitation she had noticed in the anteroom, by her father’s nervousness, and by the unnatural manner of the princess who- she thought- was making a favor of receiving her, and so everything displeased her. She did not like Princess Mary, whom she thought very plain, affected, and dry. Natasha suddenly shrank into herself and involuntarily assumed an offhand air which alienated Princess Mary still more. After five minutes of irksome, constrained conversation, they heard the sound of slippered feet rapidly approaching. Princess Mary looked frightened.
The door opened and the old prince, in a dress, ing gown and a white nightcap, came in.
“Ah, madam!” he began. “Madam, Countess… Countess Rostova, if I am not mistaken… I beg you to excuse me, to excuse me… I did not know, madam. God is my witness, I did not know you had honored us with a visit, and I came in such a costume only to see my daughter. I beg you to excuse me… God is my witness, I didn’t know-” he repeated, stressing the word “God” so unnaturally and so unpleasantly that Princess Mary stood with downcast eyes not daring to look either at her father or at Natasha.
Nor did the latter, having risen and curtsied, know what to do. Mademoiselle Bourienne alone smiled agreeably.
“I beg you to excuse me, excuse me! God is my witness, I did not know,” muttered the old man, and after looking Natasha over from head to foot he went out.
Mademoiselle Bourienne was the first to recover herself after this apparition and began speaking about the prince’s indisposition. Natasha and Princess Mary looked at one another in silence, and the longer they did so without saying what they wanted to say, the greater grew their antipathy to one another.
When the count returned, Natasha was impolitely pleased and hastened to get away: at that moment she hated the stiff, elderly princess, who could place her in such an embarrassing position and had spent half an hour with her without once mentioning Prince Andrew. “I couldn’t begin talking about him in the presence of that Frenchwoman,” thought Natasha. The same thought was meanwhile tormenting Princess Mary. She knew what she ought to have said to Natasha, but she had been unable to say it because Mademoiselle Bourienne was in the way, and because, without knowing why, she felt it very difficult to speak of the marriage. When the count was already leaving the room, Princess Mary went up hurriedly to Natasha, took her by the hand, and said with a deep sigh:
“Wait, I must…”
Natasha glanced at her ironically without knowing why.
“Dear Natalie,” said Princess Mary, “I want you to know that I am glad my brother has found happiness….”
She paused, feeling that she was not telling the truth. Natasha noticed this and guessed its reason.
“I think, Princess, it is not convenient to speak of that now,” she said with external dignity and coldness, though she felt the tears choking her.
“What have I said and what have I done?” thought she, as soon as she was out of the room.
They waited a long time for Natasha to come to dinner that day. She sat in her room crying like a child, blowing her nose and sobbing. Sonya stood beside her, kissing her hair.
“Natasha, what is it about?” she asked. “What do they matter to you? It will all pass, Natasha.”
“But if you only knew how offensive it was… as if I…”
“Don’t talk about it, Natasha. It wasn’t your fault so why should you mind? Kiss me,” said Sonya.
Natasha raised her head and, kissing her friend on the lips, pressed her wet face against her.
“I can’t tell you, I don’t know. No one’s to blame,” said Natasha- “It’s my fault. But it all hurts terribly. Oh, why doesn’t he come?…”
She came in to dinner with red eyes. Marya Dmitrievna, who knew how the prince had received the Rostovs, pretended not to notice how upset Natasha was and jested resolutely and loudly at table with the count and the other guests.
That evening the Rostovs went to the Opera, for which Marya Dmitrievna had taken a box.
Natasha did not want to go, but could not refuse Marya Dmitrievna’s kind offer which was intended expressly for her. When she came ready dressed into the ballroom to await her father, and looking in the large mirror there saw that she was pretty, very pretty, 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, but differently. I would not be silly and afraid of things, I would simply embrace him, cling to him, and make him look at me with those searching inquiring eyes with which he has so often looked at me, and then I would make him laugh as he used to laugh. And his eyes- how I see those eyes!” thought Natasha. “And what do his father and sister matter to me? I love him alone, him, him, with that face and those eyes, with his smile, manly and yet childlike…. No, I had better not think of him; not think of him but forget him, quite forget him for the present. I can’t bear this waiting and I shall cry in a minute!” and she turned away from the glass, making an effort not to cry. “And how can Sonya love Nicholas so calmly and quietly and wait so long and so patiently?” thought she, looking at Sonya, who also came in quite ready, with a fan in her hand. “No, she’s altogether different. I can’t!”
Natasha at that moment felt so softened and tender that it was not enough for her to love and know she was beloved, she wanted now, at once, to embrace the man she loved, to speak and hear from him words of love such as filled her heart. While she sat in the carriage beside her father, pensively watching the lights of the street lamps flickering on the frozen window, she felt still sadder and more in love, and forgot where she was going and with whom. Having fallen into the line of carriages, the Rostovs’ carriage drove up to the theater, its wheels squeaking over the snow. Natasha and Sonya, holding up their dresses, jumped out quickly. The count got out helped by the footmen, and, passing among men and women who were entering and the program sellers, they all three went along the corridor to the first row of boxes. Through the closed doors the music was already audible.
“Natasha, your hair!…” whispered Sonya.
An attendant deferentially and quickly slipped before the ladies and opened the door of their box. The music sounded louder and through the door rows of brightly lit boxes in which ladies sat with bare arms and shoulders, and noisy stalls brilliant with uniforms, glittered before their eyes. A lady entering the next box shot a glance of feminine envy at Natasha. The curtain had not yet risen and the overture was being played. Natasha, smoothing her gown, went in with Sonya and sat down, scanning the brilliant tiers of boxes opposite. A sensation she had not experienced for a long time- that of hundreds of eyes looking at her bare arms and neck- suddenly affected her both agreeably and disagreeably and called up a whole crowd of memories, desires and emotions associated with that feeling.
The two remarkably pretty girls, Natasha and Sonya, with Count Rostov who had not been seen in Moscow for a long time, attracted general attention. Moreover, everybody knew vaguely of Natasha’s engagement to Prince Andrew, and knew that the Rostovs had lived in the country ever since, and all looked with curiosity at a fiancee who was making one of the best matches in Russia.
Natasha’s looks, as everyone told her, had improved in the country, and that evening thanks to her agitation she was particularly pretty. She struck those who saw her by her fullness of life and beauty, combined with her indifference to everything about her. Her black eyes looked at the crowd without seeking anyone, and her delicate arm, bare to above the elbow, lay on the velvet edge of the box, while, evidently unconsciously, she opened and closed her hand in time to the music, crumpling her program. “Look, there’s Alenina,” said Sonya, “with her mother, isn’t it?”
“Dear me, Michael Kirilovich has grown still stouter!” remarked the count.
“Look at our Anna Mikhaylovna- what a headdress she has on!”
“The Karagins, Julie- and Boris with them. One can see at once that they’re engaged….”
“Drubetskoy has proposed?”
“Oh yes, I heard it today,” said Shinshin, coming into the Rostovs’ box.
Natasha looked in the direction in which her father’s eyes were turned and saw Julie sitting beside her mother with a happy look on her face and a string of pearls round her thick red neck- which Natasha knew was covered with powder. Behind them, wearing a smile and leaning over with an ear to Julie’s mouth, was Boris’ handsome smoothly brushed head. He looked the Rostovs from under his brows and said something, smiling, to his betrothed.
“They are talking about us, about me and him!” thought Natasha. “And he no doubt is calming her jealousy of me. They needn’t trouble themselves! If only they knew how little I am concerned about any of them.”
Behind them sat Anna Mikhaylovna wearing a green headdress and with a happy look of resignation to the will of God on her face. Their box was pervaded by that atmosphere of an affianced couple which Natasha knew so well and liked so much. She turned away and suddenly remembered all that had been so humiliating in her morning’s visit.
“What right has he not to wish to receive me into his family? Oh, better not think of it- not till he comes back!” she told herself, and began looking at the faces, some strange and some familiar, in the stalls. In the front, in the very center, leaning back against the orchestra rail, stood Dolokhov in a Persian dress, his curly hair brushed up into a huge shock. He stood in full view of the audience, well aware that he was attracting everyone’s attention, yet as much at ease as though he were in his own room. Around him thronged Moscow’s most brilliant young men, whom he evidently dominated.
The count, laughing, nudged the blushing Sonya and pointed to her former adorer.
“Do you recognize him?” said he. “And where has he sprung from?” he asked, turning to Shinshin. “Didn’t he vanish somewhere?”
“He did,” replied Shinshin. “He was in the Caucasus and ran away from there. They say he has been acting as minister to some ruling prince in Persia, where he killed the Shah’s brother. Now all the Moscow ladies are mad about him! It’s ‘Dolokhov the Persian’ that does it! We never hear a word but Dolokhov is mentioned. They swear by him, they offer him to you as they would a dish of choice sterlet. Dolokhov and Anatole Kuragin have turned all our ladies’ heads.”
A tall, beautiful woman with a mass of plaited hair and much exposed plump white shoulders and neck, round which she wore a double string of large pearls, entered the adjoining box rustling her heavy silk dress and took a long time settling into her place.
Natasha involuntarily gazed at that neck, those shoulders, and pearls and coiffure, and admired the beauty of the shoulders and the pearls. While Natasha was fixing her gaze on her for the second time the lady looked round and, meeting the count’s eyes, nodded to him and smiled. She was the Countess Bezukhova, Pierre’s wife, and the count, who knew everyone in society, leaned over and spoke to her.
“Have you been here long, Countess?” he inquired. “I’ll call, I’ll call to kiss your hand. I’m here on business and have brought my girls with me. They say Semenova acts marvelously. Count Pierre never used to forget us. Is he here?”
“Yes, he meant to look in,” answered Helene, and glanced attentively at Natasha.
Count Rostov resumed his seat.
“Handsome, isn’t she?” he whispered to Natasha.
“Wonderful!” answered Natasha. “She’s a woman one could easily fall in love with.”
Just then the last chords of the overture were heard and the conductor tapped with his stick. Some latecomers took their seats in the stalls, and the curtain rose.
As soon as it rose everyone in the boxes and stalls became silent, and all the men, old and young, in uniform and evening dress, and all the women with gems on their bare flesh, turned their whole attention with eager curiosity to the stage. Natasha too began to look at it.
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.
During the entr’acte a whiff of cold air came into Helene’s box, the door opened, and Anatole entered, stooping and trying not to brush against anyone.
“Let me introduce my brother to you,” said Helene, her eyes shifting uneasily from Natasha to Anatole.
Natasha turned her pretty little head toward the elegant young officer and smiled at him over her bare shoulder. Anatole, who was as handsome at close quarters as at a distance, sat down beside her and told her he had long wished to have this happiness- ever since the Naryshkins’ ball in fact, at which he had had the well-remembered pleasure of seeing her. Kuragin was much more sensible and simple with women than among men. He talked boldly and naturally, and Natasha was strangely and agreeably struck by the fact that there was nothing formidable in this man about whom there was so much talk, but that on the contrary his smile was most naive, cheerful, and good-natured.
Kuragin asked her opinion of the performance and told her how at a previous performance Semenova had fallen down on the stage.
“And do you know, Countess,” he said, suddenly addressing her as an old, familiar acquaintance, “we are getting up a costume tournament; you ought to take part in it! It will be great fun. We shall all meet at the Karagins’! Please come! No! Really, eh?” said he.
While saying this he never removed his smiling eyes from her face, her neck, and her bare arms. Natasha knew for certain that he was enraptured by her. This pleased her, yet his presence made her feel constrained and oppressed. When she was not looking at him she felt that he was looking at her shoulders, and she involuntarily caught his eye so that he should look into hers rather than this. But looking into his eyes she was frightened, realizing that there was not that barrier of modesty she had always felt between herself and other men. She did not know how it was that within five minutes she had come to feel herself terribly near to this man. When she turned away she feared he might seize her from behind by her bare arm and kiss her on the neck. They spoke of most ordinary things, yet she felt that they were closer to one another than she had ever been to any man. Natasha kept turning to Helene and to her father, as if asking what it all meant, but Helene was engaged in conversation with a general and did not answer her look, and her father’s eyes said nothing but what they always said: “Having a good time? Well, I’m glad of it!”
During one of these moments of awkward silence when Anatole’s prominent eyes were gazing calmly and fixedly at her, Natasha, to break the silence, asked him how he liked Moscow. She asked the question and blushed. She felt all the time that by talking to him she was doing something improper. Anatole smiled as though to encourage her.
“At first I did not like it much, because what makes a town pleasant ce sont les jolies femmes,* isn’t that so? But now I like it very much indeed,” he said, looking at her significantly. “You’ll come to the costume tournament, Countess? Do come!” and putting out his hand to her bouquet and dropping his voice, he added, “You will be the prettiest there. Do come, dear countess, and give me this flower as a pledge!”
*Are the pretty women.
Natasha did not understand what he was saying any more than he did himself, but she felt that his incomprehensible words had an improper intention. She did not know what to say and turned away as if she had not heard his remark. But as soon as she had turned away she felt that he was there, behind, so close behind her.
“How is he now? Confused? Angry? Ought I to put it right?” she asked herself, and she could not refrain from turning round. She looked straight into his eyes, and his nearness, self-assurance, and the good-natured tenderness of his smile vanquished her. She smiled just as he was doing, gazing straight into his eyes. And again she felt with horror that no barrier lay between him and her.
The curtain rose again. Anatole left the box, serene and gay. Natasha went back to her father in the other box, now quite submissive to the world she found herself in. All that was going on before her now seemed quite natural, but on the other hand all her previous thoughts of her betrothed, of Princess Mary, or of life in the country did not once recur to her mind and were as if belonging to a remote past.
In the fourth act there was some sort of devil who sang waving his arm about, till the boards were withdrawn from under him and he disappeared down below. That was the only part of the fourth act that Natasha saw. She felt agitated and tormented, and the cause of this was Kuragin whom she could not help watching. As they were leaving the theater Anatole came up to them, called their carriage, and helped them in. As he was putting Natasha in he pressed her arm above the elbow. Agitated and flushed she turned round. He was looking at her with glittering eyes, smiling tenderly.
Only after she had reached home was Natasha able clearly to think over what had happened to her, and suddenly remembering Prince Andrew she was horrified, and at tea to which all had sat down after the opera, she gave a loud exclamation, flushed, and ran out of the room.
“O God! I am lost!” she said to herself. “How could I let him?” She sat for a long time hiding her flushed face in her hands trying to realize what had happened to her, but was unable either to understand what had happened or what she felt. Everything seemed dark, obscure, and terrible. There in that enormous, illuminated theater where the bare-legged Duport, in a tinsel-decorated jacket, jumped about to the music on wet boards, and young girls and old men, and the nearly naked Helene with her proud, calm smile, rapturously cried “bravo!”- there in the presence of that Helene it had all seemed clear and simple; but now, alone by herself, it was incomprehensible. “What is it? What was that terror I felt of him? What is this gnawing of conscience I am feeling now?” she thought.
Only to the old countess at night in bed could Natasha have told all she was feeling. She knew that Sonya with her severe and simple views would either not understand it at all or would be horrified at such a confession. So Natasha tried to solve what was torturing her by herself.
“Am I spoiled for Andrew’s love or not?” she asked herself, and with soothing irony replied: “What a fool I am to ask that! What did happen to me? Nothing! I have done nothing, I didn’t lead him on at all. Nobody will know and I shall never see him again,” she told herself. “So it is plain that nothing has happened and there is nothing to repent of, and Andrew can love me still. But why ‘still?’ O God, why isn’t he here?” Natasha quieted herself for a moment, but again some instinct told her that though all this was true, and though nothing had happened, yet the former purity of her love for Prince Andrew had perished. And again in imagination she went over her whole conversation with Kuragin, and again saw the face, gestures, and tender smile of that bold handsome man when he pressed her arm.
Anatole Kuragin was staying in Moscow because his father had sent him away from Petersburg, where he had been spending twenty thousand rubles a year in cash, besides running up debts for as much more, which his creditors demanded from his father.
His father announced to him that he would now pay half his debts for the last time, but only on condition that he went to Moscow as adjutant to the commander in chief- a post his father had procured for him- and would at last try to make a good match there. He indicated to him Princess Mary and Julie Karagina.
Anatole consented and went to Moscow, where he put up at Pierre’s house. Pierre received him unwillingly at first, but got used to him after a while, sometimes even accompanied him on his carousals, and gave him money under the guise of loans.
As Shinshin had remarked, from the time of his arrival Anatole had turned the heads of the Moscow ladies, especially by the fact that he slighted them and plainly preferred the gypsy girls and French actresses- with the chief of whom, Mademoiselle George, he was said to be on intimate relations. He had never missed a carousal at Danilov’s or other Moscow revelers’, drank whole nights through, outvying everyone else, and was at all the balls and parties of the best society. There was talk of his intrigues with some of the ladies, and he flirted with a few of them at the balls. But he did not run after the unmarried girls, especially the rich heiresses who were most of them plain. There was a special reason for this, as he had got married two years before- a fact known only to his most intimate friends. At that time while with his regiment in Poland, a Polish landowner of small means had forced him to marry his daughter. Anatole had very soon abandoned his wife and, for a payment which he agreed to send to his father-in-law, had arranged to be free to pass himself off as a bachelor.
Anatole was always content with his position, with himself, and with others. He was instinctively and thoroughly convinced that was impossible for him to live otherwise than as he did and that he had never in his life done anything base. He was incapable of considering how his actions might affect others or what the consequences of this or that action of his might be. He was convinced that, as a duck is so made that it must live in water, so God had made him such that he must spend thirty thousand rubles a year and always occupy a prominent position in society. He believed this so firmly that others, looking at him, were persuaded of it too and did not refuse him either a leading place in society or money, which he borrowed from anyone and everyone and evidently would not repay.
He was not a gambler, at any rate he did not care about winning. He was not vain. He did not mind what people thought of him. Still less could he be accused of ambition. More than once he had vexed his father by spoiling his own career, and he laughed at distinctions of all kinds. He was not mean, and did not refuse anyone who asked of him. All he cared about was gaiety and women, and as according to his ideas there was nothing dishonorable in these tastes, and he was incapable of considering what the gratification of his tastes entailed for others, he honestly considered himself irreproachable, sincerely despised rogues and bad people, and with a tranquil conscience carried his head high.
Rakes, those male Magdalenes, have a secret feeling of innocence similar to that which female Magdalenes have, based on the same hope of forgiveness. “All will be forgiven her, for she loved much; and all will be forgiven him, for he enjoyed much.”
Dolokhov, who had reappeared that year in Moscow after his exile and his Persian adventures, and was leading a life of luxury, gambling, and dissipation, associated with his old Petersburg comrade Kuragin and made use of him for his own ends.
Anatole was sincerely fond of Dolokhov for his cleverness and audacity. Dolokhov, who needed Anatole Kuragin’s name, position, and connections as a bait to draw rich young men into his gambling set, made use of him and amused himself at his expense without letting the other feel it. Apart from the advantage he derived from Anatole, the very process of dominating another’s will was in itself a pleasure, a habit, and a necessity to Dolokhov.
Natasha had made a strong impression on Kuragin. At supper after the opera he described to Dolokhov with the air of a connoisseur the attractions of her arms, shoulders, feet, and hair and expressed his intention of making love to her. Anatole had no notion and was incapable of considering what might come of such love-making, as he never had any notion of the outcome of any of his actions.
“She’s first-rate, my dear fellow, but not for us,” replied Dolokhov.
“I will tell my sister to ask her to dinner,” said Anatole. “Eh?”
“You’d better wait till she’s married….”
“You know, I adore little girls, they lose their heads at once,” pursued Anatole.
“You have been caught once already by a ‘little girl,'” said Dolokhov who knew of Kuragin’s marriage. “Take care!”
“Well, that can’t happen twice! Eh?” said Anatole, with a good-humored laugh.
The day after the opera the Rostovs went nowhere and nobody came to see them. Marya Dmitrievna talked to the count about something which they concealed from Natasha. Natasha guessed they were talking about the old prince and planning something, and this disquieted and offended her. She was expecting Prince Andrew any moment and twice that day sent a manservant to the Vozdvizhenka to ascertain whether he had come. He had not arrived. She suffered more now than during her first days in Moscow. To her impatience and pining for him were now added the unpleasant recollection of her interview with Princess Mary and the old prince, and a fear and anxiety of which she did not understand the cause. She continually fancied that either he would never come or that something would happen to her before he came. She could no longer think of him by herself calmly and continuously as she had done before. As soon as she began to think of him, the recollection of the old prince, of Princess Mary, of the theater, and of Kuragin mingled with her thoughts. The question again presented itself whether she was not guilty, whether she had not already broken faith with Prince Andrew, and again she found herself recalling to the minutest detail every word, every gesture, and every shade in the play of expression on the face of the man who had been able to arouse in her such an incomprehensible and terrifying feeling. To the family Natasha seemed livelier than usual, but she was far less tranquil and happy than before.
On Sunday morning Marya Dmitrievna invited her visitors to Mass at her parish church- the Church of the Assumption built over the graves of victims of the plague.
“I don’t like those fashionable churches,” she said, evidently priding herself on her independence of thought. “God is the same every where. We have an excellent priest, he conducts the service decently and with dignity, and the deacon is the same. What holiness is there in giving concerts in the choir? I don’t like it, it’s just self-indulgence!”
Marya Dmitrievna liked Sundays and knew how to keep them. Her whole house was scrubbed and cleaned on Saturdays; neither she nor the servants worked, and they all wore holiday dress and went to church. At her table there were extra dishes at dinner, and the servants had vodka and roast goose or suckling pig. But in nothing in the house was the holiday so noticeable as in Marya Dmitrievna’s broad, stern face, which on that day wore an invariable look of solemn festivity.
After Mass, when they had finished their coffee in the dining room where the loose covers had been removed from the furniture, a servant announced that the carriage was ready, and Marya Dmitrievna rose with a stern air. She wore her holiday shawl, in which she paid calls, and announced that she was going to see Prince Nicholas Bolkonski to have an explanation with him about Natasha.
After she had gone, a dressmaker from Madame Suppert-Roguet waited on the Rostovs, and Natasha, very glad of this diversion, having shut herself into a room adjoining the drawing room, occupied herself trying on the new dresses. Just as she had put on a bodice without sleeves and only tacked together, and was turning her head to see in the glass how the back fitted, she heard in the drawing room the animated sounds of her father’s voice and another’s- a woman’s- that made her flush. It was Helene. Natasha had not time to take off the bodice before the door opened and Countess Bezukhova, dressed in a purple velvet gown with a high collar, came into the room beaming with good-humored amiable smiles.
“Oh, my enchantress!” she cried to the blushing Natasha. “Charming! No, this is really beyond anything, my dear count,” said she to Count Rostov who had followed her in. “How can you live in Moscow and go nowhere? No, I won’t let you off! Mademoiselle George will recite at my house tonight and there’ll be some people, and if you don’t bring your lovely girls- who are prettier than Mademoiselle George- I won’t know you! My husband is away in Tver or I would send him to fetch you. You must come. You positively must! Between eight and nine.”
She nodded to the dressmaker, whom she knew and who had curtsied respectfully to her, and seated herself in an armchair beside the looking glass, draping the folds of her velvet dress picturesquely. She did not cease chattering good-naturedly and gaily, continually praising Natasha’s beauty. She looked at Natasha’s dresses and praised them, as well as a new dress of her own made of “metallic gauze,” which she had received from Paris, and advised Natasha to have one like it.
“But anything suits you, my charmer!” she remarked.
A smile of pleasure never left Natasha’s face. She felt happy and as if she were blossoming under the praise of this dear Countess Bezukhova who had formerly seemed to her so unapproachable and important and was now so kind to her. Natasha brightened up and felt almost in love with this woman, who was so beautiful and so kind. Helene for her part was sincerely delighted with Natasha and wished to give her a good time. Anatole had asked her to bring him and Natasha together, and she was calling on the Rostovs for that purpose. The idea of throwing her brother and Natasha together amused her.
Though at one time, in Petersburg, she had been annoyed with Natasha for drawing Boris away, she did not think of that now, and in her own way heartily wished Natasha well. As she was leaving the Rostovs she called her protegee aside.
“My brother dined with me yesterday- we nearly died of laughter- he ate nothing and kept sighing for you, my charmer! He is madly, quite madly, in love with you, my dear.”
Natasha blushed scarlet when she heard this.
“How she blushes, how she blushes, my pretty!” said Helene. “You must certainly come. If you love somebody, my charmer, that is not a reason to shut yourself up. Even if you are engaged, I am sure your fiance would wish you to go into society rather than be bored to death.”
“So she knows I am engaged, and she and her husband Pierre- that good Pierre- have talked and laughed about this. So it’s all right.” And again, under Helene’s influence, what had seemed terrible now seemed simple and natural. “And she is such a grande dame, so kind, and evidently likes me so much. And why not enjoy myself?” thought Natasha, gazing at Helene with wide-open, wondering eyes.
Marya Dmitrievna came back to dinner taciturn and serious, having evidently suffered a defeat at the old prince’s. She was still too agitated by the encounter to be able to talk of the affair calmly. In answer to the count’s inquiries she replied that things were all right and that she would tell about it next day. On hearing of Countess Bezukhova’s visit and the invitation for that evening, Marya Dmitrievna remarked:
“I don’t care to have anything to do with Bezukhova and don’t advise you to; however, if you’ve promised- go. It will divert your thoughts,” she added, addressing Natasha.
Count Rostov took the girls to Countess Bezukhova’s. There were a good many people there, but nearly all strangers to Natasha. Count Rostov was displeased to see that the company consisted almost entirely of men and women known for the freedom of their conduct. Mademoiselle George was standing in a corner of the drawing room surrounded by young men. There were several Frenchmen present, among them Metivier who from the time Helene reached Moscow had been an intimate in her house. The count decided not to sit down to cards or let his girls out of his sight and to get away as soon as Mademoiselle George’s performance was over.
Anatole was at the door, evidently on the lookout for the Rostovs. Immediately after greeting the count he went up to Natasha and followed her. As soon as she saw him she was seized by the same feeling she had had at the opera- gratified vanity at his admiration of her and fear at the absence of a moral barrier between them.
Helene welcomed Natasha delightedly and was loud in admiration of her beauty and her dress. Soon after their arrival Mademoiselle George went out of the room to change her costume. In the drawing room people began arranging the chairs and taking their seats. Anatole moved a chair for Natasha and was about to sit down beside her, but the count, who never lost sight of her, took the seat himself. Anatole sat down behind her.
Mademoiselle George, with her bare, fat, dimpled arms, and a red shawl draped over one shoulder, came into the space left vacant for her, and assumed an unnatural pose. Enthusiastic whispering was audible.
Mademoiselle George looked sternly and gloomily at the audience and began reciting some French verses describing her guilty love for her son. In some places she raised her voice, in others she whispered, lifting her head triumphantly; sometimes she paused and uttered hoarse sounds, rolling her eyes.
“Adorable! divine! delicious!” was heard from every side.
Natasha looked at the fat actress, but neither saw nor heard nor understood anything of what went on before her. She only felt herself again completely borne away into this strange senseless world- so remote from her old world- a world in which it was impossible to know what was good or bad, reasonable or senseless. Behind her sat Anatole, and conscious of his proximity she experienced a frightened sense of expectancy.
After the first monologue the whole company rose and surrounded Mademoiselle George, expressing their enthusiasm.
“How beautiful she is!” Natasha remarked to her father who had also risen and was moving through the crowd toward the actress.
“I don’t think so when I look at you!” said Anatole, following Natasha. He said this at a moment when she alone could hear him. “You are enchanting… from the moment I saw you I have never ceased…”
“Come, come, Natasha!” said the count, as he turned back for his daughter. “How beautiful she is!” Natasha without saying anything stepped up to her father and looked at him with surprised inquiring eyes.
After giving several recitations, Mademoiselle George left, and Countess Bezukhova asked her visitors into the ballroom.
The count wished to go home, but Helene entreated him not to spoil her improvised ball, and the Rostovs stayed on. Anatole asked Natasha for a valse and as they danced he pressed her waist and hand and told her she was bewitching and that he loved her. During the ecossaise, which she also danced with him, Anatole said nothing when they happened to be by themselves, but merely gazed at her. Natasha lifted her frightened eyes to him, but there was such confident tenderness in his affectionate look and smile that she could not, whilst looking at him, say what she had to say. She lowered her eyes.
“Don’t say such things to me. I am betrothed and love another,” she said rapidly…. She glanced at him.
Anatole was not upset or pained by what she had said.
“Don’t speak to me of that! What can I do?” said he. “I tell you I am madly, madly, in love with you! Is it my fault that you are enchanting?… It’s our turn to begin.”
Natasha, animated and excited, looked about her with wide-open frightened eyes and seemed merrier than usual. She understood hardly anything that went on that evening. They danced the ecossaise and the Grossvater. Her father asked her to come home, but she begged to remain. Wherever she went and whomever she was speaking to, she felt his eyes upon her. Later on she recalled how she had asked her father to let her go to the dressing room to rearrange her dress, that Helene had followed her and spoken laughingly of her brother’s love, and that she again met Anatole in the little sitting room. Helene had disappeared leaving them alone, and Anatole had taken her hand and said in a tender voice:
“I cannot come to visit you but is it possible that I shall never see you? I love you madly. Can I never…?” and, blocking her path, he brought his face close to hers.
His large, glittering, masculine eyes were so close to hers that she saw nothing but them.
“Natalie?” he whispered inquiringly while she felt her hands being painfully pressed. “Natalie?”
“I don’t understand. I have nothing to say,” her eyes replied.
Burning lips were pressed to hers, and at the same instant she felt herself released, and Helene’s footsteps and the rustle of her dress were heard in the room. Natasha looked round at her, and then, red and trembling, threw a frightened look of inquiry at Anatole and moved toward the door.
“One word, just one, for God’s sake!” cried Anatole.
She paused. She so wanted a word from him that would explain to her what had happened and to which she could find no answer.
“Natalie, just a word, only one!” he kept repeating, evidently not knowing what to say and he repeated it till Helene came up to them.
Helene returned with Natasha to the drawing room. The Rostovs went away without staying for supper.
After reaching home Natasha did not sleep all night. She was tormented by the insoluble question whether she loved Anatole or Prince Andrew. She loved Prince Andrew- she remembered distinctly how deeply she loved him. But she also loved Anatole, of that there was no doubt. “Else how could all this have happened?” thought she. “If, after that, I could return his smile when saying good-by, if I was able to let it come to that, it means that I loved him from the first. It means that he is kind, noble, and splendid, and I could not help loving him. What am I to do if I love him and the other one too?” she asked herself, unable to find an answer to these terrible questions.
Morning came with its cares and bustle. Everyone got up and began to move about and talk, dressmakers came again. Marya Dmitrievna appeared, and they were called to breakfast. Natasha kept looking uneasily at everybody with wide-open eyes, as if wishing to intercept every glance directed toward her, and tried to appear the same as usual.
After breakfast, which was her best time, Marya Dmitrievna sat down in her armchair and called Natasha and the count to her.
“Well, friends, I have now thought the whole matter over and this is my advice,” she began. “Yesterday, as you know, I went to see Prince Bolkonski. Well, I had a talk with him…. He took it into his head to begin shouting, but I am not one to be shouted down. I said what I had to say!”
“Well, and he?” asked the count.
“He? He’s crazy… he did not want to listen. But what’s the use of talking? As it is we have worn the poor girl out,” said Marya Dmitrievna. “My advice to you is finish your business and go back home to Otradnoe… and wait there.”
“Oh, no!” exclaimed Natasha.
“Yes, go back,” said Marya Dmitrievna, “and wait there. If your betrothed comes here now- there will be no avoiding a quarrel; but alone with the old man he will talk things over and then come on to you.”
Count Rostov approved of this suggestion, appreciating its reasonableness. If the old man came round it would be all the better to visit him in Moscow or at Bald Hills later on; and if not, the wedding, against his wishes, could only be arranged at Otradnoe.
“That is perfectly true. And I am sorry I went to see him and took her,” said the old count.
“No, why be sorry? Being here, you had to pay your respects. But if he won’t- that’s his affair,” said Marya Dmitrievna, looking for something in her reticule. “Besides, the trousseau is ready, so there is nothing to wait for; and what is not ready I’ll send after you. Though I don’t like letting you go, it is the best way. So go, with God’s blessing!”
Having found what she was looking for in the reticule she handed it to Natasha. It was a letter from Princess Mary.
“She has written to you. How she torments herself, poor thing! She’s afraid you might think that she does not like you.”
“But she doesn’t like me,” said Natasha.
“Don’t talk nonsense!” cried Marya Dmitrievna.
“I shan’t believe anyone, I know she doesn’t like me,” replied Natasha boldly as she took the letter, and her face expressed a cold and angry resolution that caused Marya Dmitrievna to look at her more intently and to frown.
“Don’t answer like that, my good girl!” she said. “What I say is true! Write an answer!” Natasha did not reply and went to her own room to read Princess Mary’s letter.
Princess Mary wrote that she was in despair at the misunderstanding that had occurred between them. Whatever her father’s feelings might be, she begged Natasha to believe that she could not help loving her as the one chosen by her brother, for whose happiness she was ready to sacrifice everything.
“Do not think, however,” she wrote, “that my father is ill-disposed toward you. He is an invalid and an old man who must be forgiven; but he is good and magnanimous and will love her who makes his son happy.” Princess Mary went on to ask Natasha to fix a time when she could see her again.
After reading the letter Natasha sat down at the writing table to answer it. “Dear Princess,” she wrote in French quickly and mechanically, and then paused. What more could she write after all that had happened the evening before? “Yes, yes! All that has happened, and now all is changed,” she thought as she sat with the letter she had begun before her. “Must I break off with him? Must I really? That’s awful… and to escape from these dreadful thoughts she went to Sonya and began sorting patterns with her.
After dinner Natasha went to her room and again took up Princess Mary’s letter. “Can it be that it is all over?” she thought. “Can it be that all this has happened so quickly and has destroyed all that went before?” She recalled her love for Prince Andrew in all its former strength, and at the same time felt that she loved Kuragin. She vividly pictured herself as Prince Andrew’s wife, and the scenes of happiness with him she had so often repeated in her imagination, and at the same time, aglow with excitement, recalled every detail of yesterday’s interview with Anatole.
“Why could that not be as well?” she sometimes asked herself in complete bewilderment. “Only so could I be completely happy; but now I have to choose, and I can’t be happy without either of them. Only,” she thought, “to tell Prince Andrew what has happened or to hide it from him are both equally impossible. But with that one nothing is spoiled. But am I really to abandon forever the joy of Prince Andrew’s love, in which I have lived so long?”
“Please, Miss!” whispered a maid entering the room with a mysterious air. “A man told me to give you this-” and she handed Natasha a letter.
“Only, for Christ’s sake…” the girl went on, as Natasha, without thinking, mechanically broke the seal and read a love letter from Anatole, of which, without taking in a word, she understood only that it was a letter from him- from the man she loved. Yes, she loved him, or else how could that have happened which had happened? And how could she have a love letter from him in her hand?
With trembling hands Natasha held that passionate love letter which Dolokhov had composed for Anatole, and as she read it she found in it an echo of all that she herself imagined she was feeling.
“Since yesterday evening my fate has been sealed; to be loved by you or to die. There is no other way for me,” the letter began. Then he went on to say that he knew her parents would not give her to him- for this there were secret reasons he could reveal only to her- but that if she loved him she need only say the word yes, and no human power could hinder their bliss. Love would conquer all. He would steal her away and carry her off to the ends of the earth.
“Yes, yes! I love him!” thought Natasha, reading the letter for the twentieth time and finding some peculiarly deep meaning in each word of it.
That evening Marya Dmitrievna was going to the Akharovs’ and proposed to take the girls with her. Natasha, pleading a headache, remained at home.
On returning late in the evening Sonya went to Natasha’s room, and to her surprise found her still dressed and asleep on the sofa. Open on the table, beside her lay Anatole’s letter. Sonya picked it up and read it.
As she read she glanced at the sleeping Natasha, trying to find in her face an explanation of what she was reading, but did not find it. Her face was calm, gentle, and happy. Clutching her breast to keep herself from choking, Sonya, pale and trembling with fear and agitation, sat down in an armchair and burst into tears.
“How was it I noticed nothing? How could it go so far? Can she have left off loving Prince Andrew? And how could she let Kuragin go to such lengths? He is a deceiver and a villain, that’s plain! What will Nicholas, dear noble Nicholas, do when he hears of it? So this is the meaning of her excited, resolute, unnatural look the day before yesterday, yesterday, and today,” thought Sonya. “But it can’t be that she loves him! She probably opened the letter without knowing who it was from. Probably she is offended by it. She could not do such a thing!”
Sonya wiped away her tears and went up to Natasha, again scanning her face.
“Natasha!” she said, just audibly.
Natasha awoke and saw Sonya.
“Ah, you’re back?”
And with the decision and tenderness that often come at the moment of awakening, she embraced her friend, but noticing Sonya’s look of embarrassment, her own face expressed confusion and suspicion.
“Sonya, you’ve read that letter?” she demanded.
“Yes,” answered Sonya softly.
Natasha smiled rapturously.
“No, Sonya, I can’t any longer!” she said. “I can’t hide it from you any longer. You know, we love one another! Sonya, darling, he writes… Sonya…”
Sonya stared open-eyed at Natasha, unable to believe her ears.
“And Bolkonski?” she asked.
“Ah, Sonya, if you only knew how happy I am!” cried Natasha. “You don’t know what love is….”
“But, Natasha, can that be all over?”
Natasha looked at Sonya with wide-open eyes as if she could not grasp the question.
“Well, then, are you refusing Prince Andrew?” said Sonya.
“Oh, you don’t understand anything! Don’t talk nonsense, just listen!” said Natasha, with momentary vexation.
“But I can’t believe it,” insisted Sonya. “I don’t understand. How is it you have loved a man for a whole year and suddenly… Why, you have only seen him three times! Natasha, I don’t believe you, you’re joking! In three days to forget everything and so…”
“Three days?” said Natasha. “It seems to me I’ve loved him a hundred years. It seems to me that I have never loved anyone before. You can’t understand it…. Sonya, wait a bit, sit here,” and Natasha embraced and kissed her.
“I had heard that it happens like this, and you must have heard it too, but it’s only now that I feel such love. It’s not the same as before. As soon as I saw him I felt he was my master and I his slave, and that I could not help loving him. Yes, his slave! Whatever he orders I shall do. You don’t understand that. What can I do? What can I do, Sonya?” cried Natasha with a happy yet frightened expression.
“But think what you are doing,” cried Sonya. “I can’t leave it like this. This secret correspondence… How could you let him go so far?” she went on, with a horror and disgust she could hardly conceal.
“I told you that I have no will,” Natasha replied. “Why can’t you understand? I love him!”
“Then I won’t let it come to that… I shall tell!” cried Sonya, bursting into tears.
“What do you mean? For God’s sake… If you tell, you are my enemy!” declared Natasha. “You want me to be miserable, you want us to be separated….”
When she saw Natasha’s fright, Sonya shed tears of shame and pity for her friend.
“But what has happened between you?” she asked. “What has he said to you? Why doesn’t he come to the house?”
Natasha did not answer her questions.
“For God’s sake, Sonya, don’t tell anyone, don’t torture me,” Natasha entreated. “Remember no one ought to interfere in such matters! I have confided in you….”
“But why this secrecy? Why doesn’t he come to the house?” asked Sonya. “Why doesn’t he openly ask for your hand? You know Prince Andrew gave you complete freedom- if it is really so; but I don’t believe it! Natasha, have you considered what these secret reasons can