Next day Prince Andrew called at a few houses he had not visited before, and among them at the Rostóvs’ with whom he had renewed acquaintance at the ball. Apart from considerations of politeness which demanded the call, he wanted to see that original, eager girl who had left such a pleasant impression on his mind, in her own home.
Natásha was one of the first to meet him. She was wearing a dark-blue house dress in which Prince Andrew thought her even prettier than in her ball dress. She and all the Rostóv family welcomed him as an old friend, simply and cordially. The whole family, whom he had formerly judged severely, now seemed to him to consist of excellent, simple, and kindly people. The old count’s hospitality and good nature, which struck one especially in Petersburg as a pleasant surprise, were such that Prince Andrew could not refuse to stay to dinner. “Yes,” he thought, “they are capital people, who of course have not the slightest idea what a treasure they possess in Natásha; but they are kindly folk and form the best possible setting for this strikingly poetic, charming girl, overflowing with life!”
In Natásha Prince Andrew was conscious of a strange world completely alien to him and brimful of joys unknown to him, a different world, that in the Otrádnoe avenue and at the window that moonlight night had already begun to disconcert him. Now this world disconcerted him no longer and was no longer alien to him, but he himself having entered it found in it a new enjoyment.
After dinner Natásha, at Prince Andrew’s request, went to the clavichord and began singing. Prince Andrew stood by a window talking to the ladies and listened to her. In the midst of a phrase he ceased speaking and suddenly felt tears choking him, a thing he had thought impossible for him. He looked at Natásha as she sang, and something new and joyful stirred in his soul. He felt happy and at the same time sad. He had absolutely nothing to weep about yet he was ready to weep. What about? His former love? The little princess? His disillusionments?... His hopes for the future?... Yes and no. The chief reason was a sudden, vivid sense of the terrible contrast between something infinitely great and illimitable within him and that limited and material something that he, and even she, was. This contrast weighed on and yet cheered him while she sang.
As soon as Natásha had finished she went up to him and asked how he liked her voice. She asked this and then became confused, feeling that she ought not to have asked it. He smiled, looking at her, and said he liked her singing as he liked everything she did.
Prince Andrew left the Rostóvs’ late in the evening. He went to bed from habit, but soon realized that he could not sleep. Having lit his candle he sat up in bed, then got up, then lay down again not at all troubled by his sleeplessness: his soul was as fresh and joyful as if he had stepped out of a stuffy room into God’s own fresh air. It did not enter his head that he was in love with Natásha; he was not thinking about her, but only picturing her to himself, and in consequence all life appeared in a new light. “Why do I strive, why do I toil in this narrow, confined frame, when life, all life with all its joys, is open to me?” said he to himself. And for the first time for a very long while he began making happy plans for the future. He decided that he must attend to his son’s education by finding a tutor and putting the boy in his charge, then he ought to retire from the service and go abroad, and see England, Switzerland and Italy. “I must use my freedom while I feel so much strength and youth in me,” he said to himself. “Pierre was right when he said one must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy, and now I do believe in it. Let the dead bury their dead, but while one has life one must live and be happy!” thought he.
One morning Colonel Berg, whom Pierre knew as he knew everybody in Moscow and Petersburg, came to see him. Berg arrived in an immaculate brand-new uniform, with his hair pomaded and brushed forward over his temples as the Emperor Alexander wore his hair.
“I have just been to see the countess, your wife. Unfortunately she could not grant my request, but I hope, Count, I shall be more fortunate with you,” he said with a smile.
“What is it you wish, Colonel? I am at your service.”
“I have now quite settled in my new rooms, Count” (Berg said this with perfect conviction that this information could not but be agreeable), “and so I wish to arrange just a small party for my own and my wife’s friends.” (He smiled still more pleasantly.) “I wished to ask the countess and you to do me the honor of coming to tea and to supper.”
Only Countess Hélène, considering the society of such people as the Bergs beneath her, could be cruel enough to refuse such an invitation. Berg explained so clearly why he wanted to collect at his house a small but select company, and why this would give him pleasure, and why though he grudged spending money on cards or anything harmful, he was prepared to run into some expense for the sake of good society—that Pierre could not refuse, and promised to come.
“But don’t be late, Count, if I may venture to ask; about ten minutes to eight, please. We shall make up a rubber. Our general is coming. He is very good to me. We shall have supper, Count. So you will do me the favor.”
Contrary to his habit of being late, Pierre on that day arrived at the Bergs’ house, not at ten but at fifteen minutes to eight.
Having prepared everything necessary for the party, the Bergs were ready for their guests’ arrival.
In their new, clean, and light study with its small busts and pictures and new furniture sat Berg and his wife. Berg, closely buttoned up in his new uniform, sat beside his wife explaining to her that one always could and should be acquainted with people above one, because only then does one get satisfaction from acquaintances.
“You can get to know something, you can ask for something. See how I managed from my first promotion.” (Berg measured his life not by years but by promotions.) “My comrades are still nobodies, while I am only waiting for a vacancy to command a regiment, and have the happiness to be your husband.” (He rose and kissed Véra’s hand, and on the way to her straightened out a turned-up corner of the carpet.) “And how have I obtained all this? Chiefly by knowing how to choose my aquaintances. It goes without saying that one must be conscientious and methodical.”
Berg smiled with a sense of his superiority over a weak woman, and paused, reflecting that this dear wife of his was after all but a weak woman who could not understand all that constitutes a man’s dignity, what it was ein Mann zu sein. * Véra at the same time smiling with a sense of superiority over her good, conscientious husband, who all the same understood life wrongly, as according to Véra all men did. Berg, judging by his wife, thought all women weak and foolish. Véra, judging only by her husband and generalizing from that observation, supposed that all men, though they understand nothing and are conceited and selfish, ascribe common sense to themselves alone.
Berg rose and embraced his wife carefully, so as not to crush her lace fichu for which he had paid a good price, kissing her straight on the lips.
“The only thing is, we mustn’t have children too soon,” he continued, following an unconscious sequence of ideas.
“Yes,” answered Véra, “I don’t at all want that. We must live for society.”
“Princess Yusúpova wore one exactly like this,” said Berg, pointing to the fichu with a happy and kindly smile.
Just then Count Bezúkhov was announced. Husband and wife glanced at one another, both smiling with self-satisfaction, and each mentally claiming the honor of this visit.
“This is what comes of knowing how to make acquaintances,” thought Berg. “This is what comes of knowing how to conduct oneself.”
“But please don’t interrupt me when I am entertaining the guests,” said Véra, “because I know what interests each of them and what to say to different people.”
Berg smiled again.
“It can’t be helped: men must sometimes have masculine conversation,” said he.
They received Pierre in their small, new drawing room, where it was impossible to sit down anywhere without disturbing its symmetry, neatness, and order; so it was quite comprehensible and not strange that Berg, having generously offered to disturb the symmetry of an armchair or of the sofa for his dear guest, but being apparently painfully undecided on the matter himself, eventually left the visitor to settle the question of selection. Pierre disturbed the symmetry by moving a chair for himself, and Berg and Véra immediately began their evening party, interrupting each other in their efforts to entertain their guest.
Véra, having decided in her own mind that Pierre ought to be entertained with conversation about the French embassy, at once began accordingly. Berg, having decided that masculine conversation was required, interrupted his wife’s remarks and touched on the question of the war with Austria, and unconsciously jumped from the general subject to personal considerations as to the proposals made him to take part in the Austrian campaign and the reasons why he had declined them. Though the conversation was very incoherent and Véra was angry at the intrusion of the masculine element, both husband and wife felt with satisfaction that, even if only one guest was present, their evening had begun very well and was as like as two peas to every other evening party with its talk, tea, and lighted candles.
Before long Borís, Berg’s old comrade, arrived. There was a shade of condescension and patronage in his treatment of Berg and Véra. After Borís came a lady with the colonel, then the general himself, then the Rostóvs, and the party became unquestionably exactly like all other evening parties. Berg and Véra could not repress their smiles of satisfaction at the sight of all this movement in their drawing room, at the sound of the disconnected talk, the rustling of dresses, and the bowing and scraping. Everything was just as everybody always has it, especially so the general, who admired the apartment, patted Berg on the shoulder, and with parental authority superintended the setting out of the table for boston. The general sat down by Count Ilyá Rostóv, who was next to himself the most important guest. The old people sat with the old, the young with the young, and the hostess at the tea table, on which stood exactly the same kind of cakes in a silver cake basket as the Panins had at their party. Everything was just as it was everywhere else.
Pierre, as one of the principal guests, had to sit down to boston with Count Rostóv, the general, and the colonel. At the card table he happened to be directly facing Natásha, and was struck by a curious change that had come over her since the ball. She was silent, and not only less pretty than at the ball, but only redeemed from plainness by her look of gentle indifference to everything around.
“What’s the matter with her?” thought Pierre, glancing at her. She was sitting by her sister at the tea table, and reluctantly, without looking at him, made some reply to Borís who sat down beside her. After playing out a whole suit and to his partner’s delight taking five tricks, Pierre, hearing greetings and the steps of someone who had entered the room while he was picking up his tricks, glanced again at Natásha.
“What has happened to her?” he asked himself with still greater surprise.
Prince Andrew was standing before her, saying something to her with a look of tender solicitude. She, having raised her head, was looking up at him, flushed and evidently trying to master her rapid breathing. And the bright glow of some inner fire that had been suppressed was again alight in her. She was completely transformed and from a plain girl had again become what she had been at the ball.
Prince Andrew went up to Pierre, and the latter noticed a new and youthful expression in his friend’s face.
Pierre changed places several times during the game, sitting now with his back to Natásha and now facing her, but during the whole of the six rubbers he watched her and his friend.
“Something very important is happening between them,” thought Pierre, and a feeling that was both joyful and painful agitated him and made him neglect the game.
After six rubbers the general got up, saying that it was no use playing like that, and Pierre was released. Natásha on one side was talking with Sónya and Borís, and Véra with a subtle smile was saying something to Prince Andrew. Pierre went up to his friend and, asking whether they were talking secrets, sat down beside them. Véra, having noticed Prince Andrew’s attentions to Natásha, decided that at a party, a real evening party, subtle allusions to the tender passion were absolutely necessary and, seizing a moment when Prince Andrew was alone, began a conversation with him about feelings in general and about her sister. With so intellectual a guest as she considered Prince Andrew to be, she felt that she had to employ her diplomatic tact.
When Pierre went up to them he noticed that Véra was being carried away by her self-satisfied talk, but that Prince Andrew seemed embarrassed, a thing that rarely happened with him.
“What do you think?” Véra was saying with an arch smile. “You are so discerning, Prince, and understand people’s characters so well at a glance. What do you think of Natalie? Could she be constant in her attachments? Could she, like other women” (Véra meant herself), “love a man once for all and remain true to him forever? That is what I consider true love. What do you think, Prince?”
“I know your sister too little,” replied Prince Andrew, with a sarcastic smile under which he wished to hide his embarrassment, “to be able to solve so delicate a question, and then I have noticed that the less attractive a woman is the more constant she is likely to be,” he added, and looked up at Pierre who was just approaching them.
“Yes, that is true, Prince. In our days,” continued Véra—mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times—“in our days a girl has so much freedom that the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her. And it must be confessed that Natalie is very susceptible.” This return to the subject of Natalie caused Prince Andrew to knit his brows with discomfort: he was about to rise, but Véra continued with a still more subtle smile:
“I think no one has been more courted than she,” she went on, “but till quite lately she never cared seriously for anyone. Now you know, Count,” she said to Pierre, “even our dear cousin Borís, who, between ourselves, was very far gone in the land of tenderness...” (alluding to a map of love much in vogue at that time).
Prince Andrew frowned and remained silent.
“You are friendly with Borís, aren’t you?” asked Véra.
“Yes, I know him....”
“I expect he has told you of his childish love for Natásha?”
“Oh, there was childish love?” suddenly asked Prince Andrew, blushing unexpectedly.
“Yes, you know between cousins intimacy often leads to love. Le cousinage est un dangereux voisinage. * Don’t you think so?”
“Oh, undoubtedly!” said Prince Andrew, and with sudden and unnatural liveliness he began chaffing Pierre about the need to be very careful with his fifty-year-old Moscow cousins, and in the midst of these jesting remarks he rose, taking Pierre by the arm, and drew him aside.
“Well?” asked Pierre, seeing his friend’s strange animation with surprise, and noticing the glance he turned on Natásha as he rose.
“I must... I must have a talk with you,” said Prince Andrew. “You know that pair of women’s gloves?” (He referred to the Masonic gloves given to a newly initiated Brother to present to the woman he loved.) “I... but no, I will talk to you later on,” and with a strange light in his eyes and restlessness in his movements, Prince Andrew approached Natásha and sat down beside her. Pierre saw how Prince Andrew asked her something and how she flushed as she replied.
But at that moment Berg came to Pierre and began insisting that he should take part in an argument between the general and the colonel on the affairs in Spain.
Berg was satisfied and happy. The smile of pleasure never left his face. The party was very successful and quite like other parties he had seen. Everything was similar: the ladies’ subtle talk, the cards, the general raising his voice at the card table, and the samovar and the tea cakes; only one thing was lacking that he had always seen at the evening parties he wished to imitate. They had not yet had a loud conversation among the men and a dispute about something important and clever. Now the general had begun such a discussion and so Berg drew Pierre to it.
Next day, having been invited by the count, Prince Andrew dined with the Rostóvs and spent the rest of the day there.
Everyone in the house realized for whose sake Prince Andrew came, and without concealing it he tried to be with Natásha all day. Not only in the soul of the frightened yet happy and enraptured Natásha, but in the whole house, there was a feeling of awe at something important that was bound to happen. The countess looked with sad and sternly serious eyes at Prince Andrew when he talked to Natásha and timidly started some artificial conversation about trifles as soon as he looked her way. Sónya was afraid to leave Natásha and afraid of being in the way when she was with them. Natásha grew pale, in a panic of expectation, when she remained alone with him for a moment. Prince Andrew surprised her by his timidity. She felt that he wanted to say something to her but could not bring himself to do so.
In the evening, when Prince Andrew had left, the countess went up to Natásha and whispered: “Well, what?”
“Mamma! For heaven’s sake don’t ask me anything now! One can’t talk about that,” said Natásha.
But all the same that night Natásha, now agitated and now frightened, lay a long time in her mother’s bed gazing straight before her. She told her how he had complimented her, how he told her he was going abroad, asked her where they were going to spend the summer, and then how he had asked her about Borís.
“But such a... such a... never happened to me before!” she said. “Only I feel afraid in his presence. I am always afraid when I’m with him. What does that mean? Does it mean that it’s the real thing? Yes? Mamma, are you asleep?”
“No, my love; I am frightened myself,” answered her mother. “Now go!”
“All the same I shan’t sleep. What silliness, to sleep! Mummy! Mummy! such a thing never happened to me before,” she said, surprised and alarmed at the feeling she was aware of in herself. “And could we ever have thought!...”
It seemed to Natásha that even at the time she first saw Prince Andrew at Otrádnoe she had fallen in love with him. It was as if she feared this strange, unexpected happiness of meeting again the very man she had then chosen (she was firmly convinced she had done so) and of finding him, as it seemed, not indifferent to her.
“And it had to happen that he should come specially to Petersburg while we are here. And it had to happen that we should meet at that ball. It is fate. Clearly it is fate that everything led up to this! Already then, directly I saw him I felt something peculiar.”
“What else did he say to you? What are those verses? Read them...” said her mother, thoughtfully, referring to some verses Prince Andrew had written in Natásha’s album.
“Mamma, one need not be ashamed of his being a widower?”
“Don’t, Natásha! Pray to God. ‘Marriages are made in heaven,’” said her mother.
“Darling Mummy, how I love you! How happy I am!” cried Natásha, shedding tears of joy and excitement and embracing her mother.
At that very time Prince Andrew was sitting with Pierre and telling him of his love for Natásha and his firm resolve to make her his wife.
That day Countess Hélène had a reception at her house. The French ambassador was there, and a foreign prince of the blood who had of late become a frequent visitor of hers, and many brilliant ladies and gentlemen. Pierre, who had come downstairs, walked through the rooms and struck everyone by his preoccupied, absent-minded, and morose air.
Since the ball he had felt the approach of a fit of nervous depression and had made desperate efforts to combat it. Since the intimacy of his wife with the royal prince, Pierre had unexpectedly been made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and from that time he had begun to feel oppressed and ashamed in court society, and dark thoughts of the vanity of all things human came to him oftener than before. At the same time the feeling he had noticed between his protégée Natásha and Prince Andrew accentuated his gloom by the contrast between his own position and his friend’s. He tried equally to avoid thinking about his wife, and about Natásha and Prince Andrew; and again everything seemed to him insignificant in comparison with eternity; again the question: for what? presented itself; and he forced himself to work day and night at Masonic labors, hoping to drive away the evil spirit that threatened him. Toward midnight, after he had left the countess’ apartments, he was sitting upstairs in a shabby dressing gown, copying out the original transaction of the Scottish lodge of Freemasons at a table in his low room cloudy with tobacco smoke, when someone came in. It was Prince Andrew.
“Ah, it’s you!” said Pierre with a preoccupied, dissatisfied air. “And I, you see, am hard at it.” He pointed to his manuscript book with that air of escaping from the ills of life with which unhappy people look at their work.
Prince Andrew, with a beaming, ecstatic expression of renewed life on his face, paused in front of Pierre and, not noticing his sad look, smiled at him with the egotism of joy.
“Well, dear heart,” said he, “I wanted to tell you about it yesterday and I have come to do so today. I never experienced anything like it before. I am in love, my friend!”
Suddenly Pierre heaved a deep sigh and dumped his heavy person down on the sofa beside Prince Andrew.
“With Natásha Rostóva, yes?” said he.
“Yes, yes! Who else should it be? I should never have believed it, but the feeling is stronger than I. Yesterday I tormented myself and suffered, but I would not exchange even that torment for anything in the world, I have not lived till now. At last I live, but I can’t live without her! But can she love me?... I am too old for her.... Why don’t you speak?”
“I? I? What did I tell you?” said Pierre suddenly, rising and beginning to pace up and down the room. “I always thought it.... That girl is such a treasure... she is a rare girl.... My dear friend, I entreat you, don’t philosophize, don’t doubt, marry, marry, marry.... And I am sure there will not be a happier man than you.”
“But what of her?”
“She loves you.”
“Don’t talk rubbish...” said Prince Andrew, smiling and looking into Pierre’s eyes.
“She does, I know,” Pierre cried fiercely.
“But do listen,” returned Prince Andrew, holding him by the arm. “Do you know the condition I am in? I must talk about it to someone.”
“Well, go on, go on. I am very glad,” said Pierre, and his face really changed, his brow became smooth, and he listened gladly to Prince Andrew. Prince Andrew seemed, and really was, quite a different, quite a new man. Where was his spleen, his contempt for life, his disillusionment? Pierre was the only person to whom he made up his mind to speak openly; and to him he told all that was in his soul. Now he boldly and lightly made plans for an extended future, said he could not sacrifice his own happiness to his father’s caprice, and spoke of how he would either make his father consent to this marriage and love her, or would do without his consent; then he marveled at the feeling that had mastered him as at something strange, apart from and independent of himself.
“I should not have believed anyone who told me that I was capable of such love,” said Prince Andrew. “It is not at all the same feeling that I knew in the past. The whole world is now for me divided into two halves: one half is she, and there all is joy, hope, light: the other half is everything where she is not, and there is all gloom and darkness....”
“Darkness and gloom,” reiterated Pierre: “yes, yes, I understand that.”
“I cannot help loving the light, it is not my fault. And I am very happy! You understand me? I know you are glad for my sake.”
“Yes, yes,” Pierre assented, looking at his friend with a touched and sad expression in his eyes. The brighter Prince Andrew’s lot appeared to him, the gloomier seemed his own.
Prince Andrew needed his father’s consent to his marriage, and to obtain this he started for the country next day.
His father received his son’s communication with external composure, but inward wrath. He could not comprehend how anyone could wish to alter his life or introduce anything new into it, when his own life was already ending. “If only they would let me end my days as I want to,” thought the old man, “then they might do as they please.” With his son, however, he employed the diplomacy he reserved for important occasions and, adopting a quiet tone, discussed the whole matter.
In the first place the marriage was not a brilliant one as regards birth, wealth, or rank. Secondly, Prince Andrew was no longer as young as he had been and his health was poor (the old man laid special stress on this), while she was very young. Thirdly, he had a son whom it would be a pity to entrust to a chit of a girl. “Fourthly and finally,” the father said, looking ironically at his son, “I beg you to put it off for a year: go abroad, take a cure, look out as you wanted to for a German tutor for Prince Nicholas. Then if your love or passion or obstinacy—as you please—is still as great, marry! And that’s my last word on it. Mind, the last...” concluded the prince, in a tone which showed that nothing would make him alter his decision.
Prince Andrew saw clearly that the old man hoped that his feelings, or his fiancée’s, would not stand a year’s test, or that he (the old prince himself) would die before then, and he decided to conform to his father’s wish—to propose, and postpone the wedding for a year.
Three weeks after the last evening he had spent with the Rostóvs, Prince Andrew returned to Petersburg.
Next day after her talk with her mother Natásha expected Bolkónski all day, but he did not come. On the second and third day it was the same. Pierre did not come either and Natásha, not knowing that Prince Andrew had gone to see his father, could not explain his absence to herself.
Three weeks passed in this way. Natásha had no desire to go out anywhere and wandered from room to room like a shadow, idle and listless; she wept secretly at night and did not go to her mother in the evenings. She blushed continually and was irritable. It seemed to her that everybody knew about her disappointment and was laughing at her and pitying her. Strong as was her inward grief, this wound to her vanity intensified her misery.
Once she came to her mother, tried to say something, and suddenly began to cry. Her tears were those of an offended child who does not know why it is being punished.
The countess began to soothe Natásha, who after first listening to her mother’s words, suddenly interrupted her:
“Leave off, Mamma! I don’t think, and don’t want to think about it! He just came and then left off, left off....”
Her voice trembled, and she again nearly cried, but recovered and went on quietly:
“And I don’t at all want to get married. And I am afraid of him; I have now become quite calm, quite calm.”
The day after this conversation Natásha put on the old dress which she knew had the peculiar property of conducing to cheerfulness in the mornings, and that day she returned to the old way of life which she had abandoned since the ball. Having finished her morning tea she went to the ballroom, which she particularly liked for its loud resonance, and began singing her solfeggio. When she had finished her first exercise she stood still in the middle of the room and sang a musical phrase that particularly pleased her. She listened joyfully (as though she had not expected it) to the charm of the notes reverberating, filling the whole empty ballroom, and slowly dying away; and all at once she felt cheerful. “What’s the good of making so much of it? Things are nice as it is,” she said to herself, and she began walking up and down the room, not stepping simply on the resounding parquet but treading with each step from the heel to the toe (she had on a new and favorite pair of shoes) and listening to the regular tap of the heel and creak of the toe as gladly as she had to the sounds of her own voice. Passing a mirror she glanced into it. “There, that’s me!” the expression of her face seemed to say as she caught sight of herself. “Well, and very nice too! I need nobody.”
A footman wanted to come in to clear away something in the room but she would not let him, and having closed the door behind him continued her walk. That morning she had returned to her favorite mood—love of, and delight in, herself. “How charming that Natásha is!” she said again, speaking as some third, collective, male person. “Pretty, a good voice, young, and in nobody’s way if only they leave her in peace.” But however much they left her in peace she could not now be at peace, and immediately felt this.
In the hall the porch door opened, and someone asked, “At home?” and then footsteps were heard. Natásha was looking at the mirror, but did not see herself. She listened to the sounds in the hall. When she saw herself, her face was pale. It was he. She knew this for certain, though she hardly heard his voice through the closed doors.
Pale and agitated, Natásha ran into the drawing room.
“Mamma! Bolkónski has come!” she said. “Mamma, it is awful, it is unbearable! I don’t want... to be tormented? What am I to do?...”
Before the countess could answer, Prince Andrew entered the room with an agitated and serious face. As soon as he saw Natásha his face brightened. He kissed the countess’ hand and Natásha’s, and sat down beside the sofa.
“It is long since we had the pleasure...” began the countess, but Prince Andrew interrupted her by answering her intended question, obviously in haste to say what he had to.
“I have not been to see you all this time because I have been at my father’s. I had to talk over a very important matter with him. I only got back last night,” he said glancing at Natásha; “I want to have a talk with you, Countess,” he added after a moment’s pause.
The countess lowered her eyes, sighing deeply.
“I am at your disposal,” she murmured.
Natásha knew that she ought to go away, but was unable to do so: something gripped her throat, and regardless of manners she stared straight at Prince Andrew with wide-open eyes.
“At once? This instant!... No, it can’t be!” she thought.
Again he glanced at her, and that glance convinced her that she was not mistaken. Yes, at once, that very instant, her fate would be decided.
“Go, Natásha! I will call you,” said the countess in a whisper.
Natásha glanced with frightened imploring eyes at Prince Andrew and at her mother and went out.
“I have come, Countess, to ask for your daughter’s hand,” said Prince Andrew.
The countess’ face flushed hotly, but she said nothing.
“Your offer...” she began at last sedately. He remained silent, looking into her eyes. “Your offer...” (she grew confused) “is agreeable to us, and I accept your offer. I am glad. And my husband... I hope... but it will depend on her....”
“I will speak to her when I have your consent.... Do you give it to me?” said Prince Andrew.
“Yes,” replied the countess. She held out her hand to him, and with a mixed feeling of estrangement and tenderness pressed her lips to his forehead as he stooped to kiss her hand. She wished to love him as a son, but felt that to her he was a stranger and a terrifying man. “I am sure my husband will consent,” said the countess, “but your father...”
“My father, to whom I have told my plans, has made it an express condition of his consent that the wedding is not to take place for a year. And I wished to tell you of that,” said Prince Andrew.
“It is true that Natásha is still young, but—so long as that?...”
“It is unavoidable,” said Prince Andrew with a sigh.
“I will send her to you,” said the countess, and left the room.
“Lord have mercy upon us!” she repeated while seeking her daughter.
Sónya said that Natásha was in her bedroom. Natásha was sitting on the bed, pale and dry-eyed, and was gazing at the icons and whispering something as she rapidly crossed herself. Seeing her mother she jumped up and flew to her.
“Well, Mamma?... Well?...”
“Go, go to him. He is asking for your hand,” said the countess, coldly it seemed to Natásha. “Go... go,” said the mother, sadly and reproachfully, with a deep sigh, as her daughter ran away.
Natásha never remembered how she entered the drawing room. When she came in and saw him she paused. “Is it possible that this stranger has now become everything to me?” she asked herself, and immediately answered, “Yes, everything! He alone is now dearer to me than everything in the world.” Prince Andrew came up to her with downcast eyes.
“I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you. May I hope?”
He looked at her and was struck by the serious impassioned expression of her face. Her face said: “Why ask? Why doubt what you cannot but know? Why speak, when words cannot express what one feels?”
She drew near to him and stopped. He took her hand and kissed it.
“Do you love me?”
“Yes, yes!” Natásha murmured as if in vexation. Then she sighed loudly and, catching her breath more and more quickly, began to sob.
“What is it? What’s the matter?”
“Oh, I am so happy!” she replied, smiled through her tears, bent over closer to him, paused for an instant as if asking herself whether she might, and then kissed him.
Prince Andrew held her hands, looked into her eyes, and did not find in his heart his former love for her. Something in him had suddenly changed; there was no longer the former poetic and mystic charm of desire, but there was pity for her feminine and childish weakness, fear at her devotion and trustfulness, and an oppressive yet joyful sense of the duty that now bound him to her forever. The present feeling, though not so bright and poetic as the former, was stronger and more serious.
“Did your mother tell you that it cannot be for a year?” asked Prince Andrew, still looking into her eyes.
“Is it possible that I—the ‘chit of a girl,’ as everybody called me,” thought Natásha—“is it possible that I am now to be the wife and the equal of this strange, dear, clever man whom even my father looks up to? Can it be true? Can it be true that there can be no more playing with life, that now I am grown up, that on me now lies a responsibility for my every word and deed? Yes, but what did he ask me?”
“No,” she replied, but she had not understood his question.
“Forgive me!” he said. “But you are so young, and I have already been through so much in life. I am afraid for you, you do not yet know yourself.”
Natásha listened with concentrated attention, trying but failing to take in the meaning of his words.
“Hard as this year which delays my happiness will be,” continued Prince Andrew, “it will give you time to be sure of yourself. I ask you to make me happy in a year, but you are free: our engagement shall remain a secret, and should you find that you do not love me, or should you come to love...” said Prince Andrew with an unnatural smile.
“Why do you say that?” Natásha interrupted him. “You know that from the very day you first came to Otrádnoe I have loved you,” she cried, quite convinced that she spoke the truth.
“In a year you will learn to know yourself....”
“A whole year!” Natásha repeated suddenly, only now realizing that the marriage was to be postponed for a year. “But why a year? Why a year?...”
Prince Andrew began to explain to her the reasons for this delay. Natásha did not hear him.
“And can’t it be helped?” she asked. Prince Andrew did not reply, but his face expressed the impossibility of altering that decision.
“It’s awful! Oh, it’s awful! awful!” Natásha suddenly cried, and again burst into sobs. “I shall die, waiting a year: it’s impossible, it’s awful!” She looked into her lover’s face and saw in it a look of commiseration and perplexity.
“No, no! I’ll do anything!” she said, suddenly checking her tears. “I am so happy.”
The father and mother came into the room and gave the betrothed couple their blessing.
From that day Prince Andrew began to frequent the Rostóvs’ as Natásha’s affianced lover.
No betrothal ceremony took place and Natásha’s engagement to Bolkónski was not announced; Prince Andrew insisted on that. He said that as he was responsible for the delay he ought to bear the whole burden of it; that he had given his word and bound himself forever, but that he did not wish to bind Natásha and gave her perfect freedom. If after six months she felt that she did not love him she would have full right to reject him. Naturally neither Natásha nor her parents wished to hear of this, but Prince Andrew was firm. He came every day to the Rostóvs’, but did not behave to Natásha as an affianced lover: he did not use the familiar thou, but said you to her, and kissed only her hand. After their engagement, quite different, intimate, and natural relations sprang up between them. It was as if they had not known each other till now. Both liked to recall how they had regarded each other when as yet they were nothing to one another; they felt themselves now quite different beings: then they were artificial, now natural and sincere. At first the family felt some constraint in intercourse with Prince Andrew; he seemed a man from another world, and for a long time Natásha trained the family to get used to him, proudly assuring them all that he only appeared to be different, but was really just like all of them, and that she was not afraid of him and no one else ought to be. After a few days they grew accustomed to him, and without restraint in his presence pursued their usual way of life, in which he took his part. He could talk about rural economy with the count, fashions with the countess and Natásha, and about albums and fancywork with Sónya. Sometimes the household both among themselves and in his presence expressed their wonder at how it had all happened, and at the evident omens there had been of it: Prince Andrew’s coming to Otrádnoe and their coming to Petersburg, and the likeness between Natásha and Prince Andrew which her nurse had noticed on his first visit, and Andrew’s encounter with Nicholas in 1805, and many other incidents betokening that it had to be.
In the house that poetic dullness and quiet reigned which always accompanies the presence of a betrothed couple. Often when all sitting together everyone kept silent. Sometimes the others would get up and go away and the couple, left alone, still remained silent. They rarely spoke of their future life. Prince Andrew was afraid and ashamed to speak of it. Natásha shared this as she did all his feelings, which she constantly divined. Once she began questioning him about his son. Prince Andrew blushed, as he often did now—Natásha particularly liked it in him—and said that his son would not live with them.
“Why not?” asked Natásha in a frightened tone.
“I cannot take him away from his grandfather, and besides...”
“How I should have loved him!” said Natásha, immediately guessing his thought; “but I know you wish to avoid any pretext for finding fault with us.”
Sometimes the old count would come up, kiss Prince Andrew, and ask his advice about Pétya’s education or Nicholas’ service. The old countess sighed as she looked at them; Sónya was always getting frightened lest she should be in the way and tried to find excuses for leaving them alone, even when they did not wish it. When Prince Andrew spoke (he could tell a story very well), Natásha listened to him with pride; when she spoke she noticed with fear and joy that he gazed attentively and scrutinizingly at her. She asked herself in perplexity: “What does he look for in me? He is trying to discover something by looking at me! What if what he seeks in me is not there?” Sometimes she fell into one of the mad, merry moods characteristic of her, and then she particularly loved to hear and see how Prince Andrew laughed. He seldom laughed, but when he did he abandoned himself entirely to his laughter, and after such a laugh she always felt nearer to him. Natásha would have been completely happy if the thought of the separation awaiting her and drawing near had not terrified her, just as the mere thought of it made him turn pale and cold.
On the eve of his departure from Petersburg Prince Andrew brought with him Pierre, who had not been to the Rostóvs’ once since the ball. Pierre seemed disconcerted and embarrassed. He was talking to the countess, and Natásha sat down beside a little chess table with Sónya, thereby inviting Prince Andrew to come too. He did so.
“You have known Bezúkhov a long time?” he asked. “Do you like him?”
“Yes, he’s a dear, but very absurd.”
And as usual when speaking of Pierre, she began to tell anecdotes of his absent-mindedness, some of which had even been invented about him.
“Do you know I have entrusted him with our secret? I have known him from childhood. He has a heart of gold. I beg you, Natalie,” Prince Andrew said with sudden seriousness—“I am going away and heaven knows what may happen. You may cease to... all right, I know I am not to say that. Only this, then: whatever may happen to you when I am not here...”
“What can happen?”
“Whatever trouble may come,” Prince Andrew continued, “I beg you, Mademoiselle Sophie, whatever may happen, to turn to him alone for advice and help! He is a most absent-minded and absurd fellow, but he has a heart of gold.”
Neither her father, nor her mother, nor Sónya, nor Prince Andrew himself could have foreseen how the separation from her lover would act on Natásha. Flushed and agitated she went about the house all that day, dry-eyed, occupied with most trivial matters as if not understanding what awaited her. She did not even cry when, on taking leave, he kissed her hand for the last time. “Don’t go!” she said in a tone that made him wonder whether he really ought not to stay and which he remembered long afterwards. Nor did she cry when he was gone; but for several days she sat in her room dry-eyed, taking no interest in anything and only saying now and then, “Oh, why did he go away?”
But a fortnight after his departure, to the surprise of those around her, she recovered from her mental sickness just as suddenly and became her old self again, but with a change in her moral physiognomy, as a child gets up after a long illness with a changed expression of face.