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- War and Peace - 160/336 -


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.

CHAPTER XV

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!"


War and Peace - 160/336

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