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 be?"
Natasha looked at Sonya with astonishment. Evidently this question presented itself to her mind for the first time and she did not know how to answer it.
"I don't know what the reasons are. But there must be reasons!"
Sonya sighed and shook her head incredulously.
"If there were reasons..." she began.
But Natasha, guessing her doubts, interrupted her in alarm.
"Sonya, one can't doubt him! One can't, one can't! Don't you understand?" she cried.
"Does he love you?"
"Does he love me?" Natasha repeated with a smile of pity at her friend's lack of comprehension. "Why, you have read his letter and you have seen him."
"But if he is dishonorable?"
"He! dishonorable? If you only knew!" exclaimed Natasha.
"If he is an honorable man he should either declare his intentions or cease seeing you; and if you won't do this, I will. I will write to him, and I will tell Papa!" said Sonya resolutely.
"But I can't live without him!" cried Natasha.
"Natasha, I don't understand you. And what are you saying! Think of your father and of Nicholas."
"I don't want anyone, I don't love anyone but him. How dare you say he is dishonorable? Don't you know that I love him?" screamed Natasha. "Go away, Sonya! I don't want to quarrel with you, but go, for God's sake go! You see how I am suffering!" Natasha cried angrily, in a voice of despair and repressed irritation. Sonya burst into sobs and ran from the room.
Natasha went to the table and without a moment's reflection wrote that answer to Princess Mary which she had been unable to write all the morning. In this letter she said briefly that all their misunderstandings were at an end; that availing herself of the magnanimity of Prince Andrew who when he went abroad had given her her freedom, she begged Princess Mary to forget everything and forgive her if she had been to blame toward her, but that she could not be his wife. At that moment this all seemed quite easy, simple, and clear to Natasha.
On Friday the Rostovs were to return to the country, but on Wednesday the count went with the prospective purchaser to his estate near Moscow.
On the day the count left, Sonya and Natasha were invited to a big dinner party at the Karagins', and Marya Dmitrievna took them there. At that party Natasha again met Anatole, and Sonya noticed that she spoke to him, trying not to be overheard, and that all through dinner she was more agitated than ever. When they got home Natasha was the first to begin the explanation Sonya expected.
"There, Sonya, you were talking all sorts of nonsense about him," Natasha began in a mild voice such as children use when they wish to be praised. "We have had an explanation today."
"Well, what happened? What did he say? Natasha, how glad I am you're not angry with me! Tell me everything--the whole truth. What did he say?"
Natasha became thoughtful.
"Oh, Sonya, if you knew him as I do! He said... He asked me what I had promised Bolkonski. He was glad I was free to refuse him."
Sonya sighed sorrowfully.
"But you haven't refused Bolkonski?" said she.
"Perhaps I have. Perhaps all is over between me and Bolkonski. Why do you think so badly of me?"
"I don't think anything, only I don't understand this..."
"Wait a bit, Sonya, you'll understand everything. You'll see what a man he is! Now don't think badly of me or of him. I don't think badly of anyone: I love and pity everybody. But what am I to do?"
Sonya did not succumb to the tender tone Natasha used toward her. The more emotional and ingratiating the expression of Natasha's face became, the more serious and stern grew Sonya's.
"Natasha," said she, "you asked me not to speak to you, and I haven't spoken, but now you yourself have begun. I don't trust him, Natasha. Why this secrecy?"
"Again, again!" interrupted Natasha.
"Natasha, I am afraid for you!"
"Afraid of what?"
"I am afraid you're going to your ruin," said Sonya resolutely, and was herself horrified at what she had said.
Anger again showed in Natasha's face.
"And I'll go to my ruin, I will, as soon as possible! It's not your business! It won't be you, but I, who'll suffer. Leave me alone, leave me alone! I hate you!"
"Natasha!" moaned Sonya, aghast.
"I hate you, I hate you! You're my enemy forever!" And Natasha ran out of the room.
Natasha did not speak to Sonya again and avoided her. With the same expression of agitated surprise and guilt she went about the house, taking up now one occupation, now another, and at once abandoning them.
Hard as it was for Sonya, she watched her friend and did not let her out of her sight.
The day before the count was to return, Sonya noticed that Natasha sat by the drawingroom window all the morning as if expecting something and that she made a sign to an officer who drove past, whom Sonya took to be Anatole.
Sonya began watching her friend still more attentively and noticed that at dinner and all that evening Natasha was in a strange and unnatural state. She answered questions at random, began sentences she did not finish, and laughed at everything.
After tea Sonya noticed a housemaid at Natasha's door timidly waiting to let her pass. She let the girl go in, and then listening at the door learned that another letter had been delivered.
Then suddenly it became clear to Sonya that Natasha had some dreadful plan for that evening. Sonya knocked at her door. Natasha did not let her in.
"She will run away with him!" thought Sonya. "She is capable of anything. There was something particularly pathetic and resolute in her face today. She cried as she said good-by to Uncle," Sonya remembered. "Yes, that's it, she means to elope with him, but what am I to do?" thought she, recalling all the signs that clearly indicated that Natasha had some terrible intention. "The count is away. What am I to do? Write to Kuragin demanding an explanation? But what is there to oblige him to reply? Write to Pierre, as Prince Andrew asked me to in case of some misfortune?... But perhaps she really has already refused Bolkonski--she sent a letter to Princess Mary yesterday. And Uncle is away...." To tell Marya Dmitrievna who had such faith in Natasha seemed to Sonya terrible. "Well, anyway," thought Sonya as she stood in the dark passage, "now or never I must prove that I remember the family's goodness to me and that I love Nicholas. Yes! If I don't sleep for three nights I'll not leave this passage and will hold her back by force and will and not let the family be disgraced," thought she.