AFTER PRINCE ANDREY, Boris came up to ask Natasha to dance, and he was followed by the dancing adjutant who had opened the ball, and many other young men. Natasha, flushed and happy, passed on her superfluous partners to Sonya, and never ceased dancing all the evening, She noticed nothing and saw nothing of what was absorbing every one else at that ball. She did not notice that the Tsar talked a long time with the French ambassador, that his manner was particularly gracious to a certain lady, that Prince So-and-So and Mr. So-and-So had said and done this and that, that Ellen's success had been brilliant, and that So-and-So had paid her marked attention. She did not even see the Tsar, and was only aware that he was gone from noticing that the ball became livelier after his departure.
In one of the most enjoyable cotillions before supper, Prince Andrey danced again with Natasha. He reminded her of how he had first seen her in the avenue at Otradnoe, and how she could not sleep on that moonlight night, and told her how he had unwittingly listened to her. Natasha blushed at these recollections, and tried as it were to excuse herself, as though there were something to be ashamed of in the emotion to which Prince Andrey had unwittingly played the eavesdropper.
Like all men who have grown up in society, Prince Andrey liked meeting anything not of the conventional society stamp. And such was Natasha with her wonder, her delight, her shyness, and even her mistakes in talking French. His manner was particularly tender and circumspect as he talked to her. Sitting beside her, and talking of the simplest and most trifling subjects, Prince Andrey admired the radiant brilliance of her eyes and her smile, that had no concern with what was said but was due simply to her own happiness. When Natasha was chosen again, and she got up with a smile and was dancing, Prince Andrey particularly admired her shy grace. In the middle of the cotillion, Natasha went back to her place, breathless at the end of a figure. Another partner again chose her. She was tired and panting, and evidently she thought for an instant of refusing, but immediately she put her hand on her partner's shoulder and was off again gaily, smiling to Prince Andrey.
“I should have been glad to rest and sit by you. I'm tired; but you see how they keep asking me, and I'm glad of it, and I'm happy, and I love every one, and you and I understand all about it,” and more, much more was said in that smile. When her partner left her side, Natasha flew across the room to choose two ladies for the figure.
“If she goes first to her cousin and then to another lady, she will be my wife,” Prince Andrey—greatly to his own surprise—caught himself saying mentally, as he watched her. She did go first to her cousin.
“What nonsense does sometimes come into one's mind!” thought Prince Andrey, “but one thing's certain, that girl is so charming, so original, that she won't be dancing here a month before she will be married.… She's a rare thing here,” he thought, as Natasha settled herself beside him, sticking in the rose that was falling out of her bodice.
At the end of the cotillion, the old count in his blue frock coat went up to the young people who had been dancing. He invited Prince Andrey to come and see them, and asked his daughter whether she were enjoying herself. Natasha did not at once answer, she only smiled a smile that said reproachfully: “How can you ask such a question?”
“Enjoying myself as I never have before in my life!” she said, and Prince Andrey noticed how her thin arms were swiftly raised as though to embrace her father, and dropped again at once. Natasha was happy as she had never been in her life. She was at that highest pitch of happiness, when one becomes completely good and kind, and disbelieves in the very possibility of evil, unhappiness, and sorrow.
At that ball Pierre for the first time felt humiliated by the position his wife took in the highest court circle. He was sullen and absent-minded. There was a broad furrow right across his forehead, as he stood in a window, staring over his spectacles and seeing no one. Natasha passed close by him on her way in to supper. Pierre's gloomy, unhappy face struck her. She stopped, facing him. She longed to come to his aid, to bestow on him some of her own overflowing happiness. “How delightful it is,” she said; “isn't it?”
Pierre smiled an absent-minded smile, obviously not grasping what was said to him. “Yes, I'm very glad,” he said.
“How can people be discontented at anything!” thought Natasha. “Especially any one as nice as Bezuhov.”
In Natasha's eyes all the people at the ball were particularly kind, sweet, good people, loving one another; none were capable of wronging one another, and so all must be happy.