THAT EVENING the Rostovs went to the opera, for which Marya Dmitryevna had obtained them a box.
Natasha had no wish to go, but it was impossible to refuse after Marya Dmitryevna's kindness, especially as it had been arranged expressly for her. When she was dressed and waiting for her father in the big hall, she looked at herself in the big looking-glass, and saw that she was looking pretty, very pretty. She felt even sadder, but it was a sweet and tender sadness.
“My God, if he were only here, I wouldn't have any stupid shyness of something as I used to, but in quite a new way, simply, I would embrace him, press close to him, force him to look at me with those scrutinising, inquisitive eyes, with which he used so often to look at me, and then I would make him laugh, as he used to laugh then; and his eyes—how I see those eyes!” thought Natasha. “And what does it matter to me about his father and sister; I love no one but him, him, him, with that face and those eyes, with his smile, manly, and yet childlike.… No, better not think of him, not think, forget, utterly forget him for the time. I can't bear this suspense; I shall sob in a minute,” and she turned away from the looking-glass, making an effort not to weep. “And how can Sonya love Nikolenka so quietly, so calmly, and wait so long and so patiently!” she wondered, looking at Sonya, who came in, dressed for the theatre with a fan in her hand. “No, she's utterly different. I can't.”
Natasha at that moment felt so softened and moved that to love and know that she was loved was not enough for her: she wanted now, now at once to embrace the man she loved, and to speak and hear from him the words of love, of which her heart was full. When she was in the carriage sitting beside her father and pensively watching the lights of the street lamps flitting by the frozen window, she felt even sadder and more in love, and forgot with whom and where she was going. The Rostovs' carriage fell into the line of carriages, and drove up to the theatre, its wheels crunching slowly over the snow. Natasha and Sonya skipped hurriedly out holding up their dresses; the count stepped out supported by the footmen, and all three walked to the corridor for the boxes in the stream of ladies and gentlemen going in and people selling programmes. They could hear the music already through the closed doors.
“Natasha, your hair …” whispered Sonya. The box-opener deferentially and hurriedly slipped before the ladies and opened the door of the box. The music became more distinctly audible at the door, and they saw the brightly lighted rows of boxes, with the bare arms and shoulders of the ladies, and the stalls below, noisy, and gay with uniforms. A lady entering the next box looked round at Natasha with an envious, feminine glance. The curtain had not yet risen and they were playing the overture. Natasha smoothing down her skirt went in with Sonya and sat down looking round at the brightly lighted tiers of boxes facing them. The sensation she had not experienced for a long while—that hundreds of eyes were looking at her bare arms and neck—suddenly came upon her both pleasantly and unpleasantly, calling up a whole swarm of memories, desires, and emotions connected with that sensation.
The two strikingly pretty girls, Natasha and Sonya, with Count Ilya Andreitch, who had not been seen for a long while in Moscow, attracted general attention. Moreover, every one had heard vaguely of Natasha's engagement to Prince Andrey, knew that the Rostovs had been living in the country ever since, and looked with curiosity at the girl who was to make one of the best matches in Russia.
Natasha had, so every one told her, grown prettier in the country; and that evening, owing to her excited condition, she was particularly pretty. She made a striking impression of fulness of life and beauty, together with indifference to everything around her. Her black eyes gazed at the crowd, seeking out no one, while her slender arm, bare to above the elbow, leaned on the velvet edge of the box, and her hand, holding the programme, clasped and unclasped in time to the music with obvious unconsciousness.
“Look, there's Alenina,” said Sonya, “with her mother, isn't it?”
“Heavens, Mihail Kirillitch is really stouter than ever,” said the old count.
“Look! our Anna Mihalovna in such a cap!”
“The Karagins, Julie, and Boris with them. One can see at once they are engaged.”
“Drubetskoy has made his offer! To be sure, I heard so to-day,” said Shinshin, coming into the Rostovs' box.
Natasha looked in the direction her father was looking in and saw Julie with diamonds on her thick, red neck (Natasha knew it was powdered), sitting with a blissful face beside her mother.
Behind them could be seen the handsome, well-brushed head of Boris, with a smile inclining his ear towards Julie's mouth. He looked from under his brows at the Rostovs, and said something, smiling, to his betrothed.
“They are talking about us, about me and himself!” thought Natasha. “And he is, most likely, soothing his fiancée's jealousy of me; they needn't worry themselves! If only they knew how little they matter to me, any one of them.”
Behind the engaged couple sat Anna Mihalovna in a green cap, with a face happy, in honour of the festive occasion, and devoutly resigned to the will of God. Their box was full of that atmosphere of an engaged couple—which Natasha knew so well and liked so much. She turned away; and suddenly all that had been humiliating in her morning visit came back to her mind.
“What right has he not to want to receive me into his family? Ah, better not think about it, not think till he comes back!” she said to herself, and began to look about at the faces, known and unknown, in the stalls.
In the front of the stalls, in the very centre, leaning back against the rail stood Dolohov, in a Persian dress, with his huge shock of curly hair combed upwards. He stood in the most conspicuous place in the theatre, well aware that he was attracting the attention of the whole audience, and as much at his ease as though he had been alone in his room. The most brilliant young men in Moscow were all thronging about him, and he was obviously the leading figure among them.
Count Ilya Andreitch, laughing, nudged the blushing Sonya, pointing out her former admirer.
“Did you recognise him?” he asked. “And where has he dropped from?” said he, turning to Shinshin. “I thought he had disappeared somewhere?”
“He did disappear,” answered Shinshin. “He was in the Caucasus, and he ran away from there, and they say he has been acting as minister to some reigning prince in Persia, and there killed the Shah's brother. Well, all the Moscow ladies are wild about him! ‘Dolohov the Persian,' that's what does it! Nowadays there's nothing can be done without Dolohov; they do homage to him, invite you to meet him, as if he were a sturgeon,” said Shinshin. “Dolohov and Anatole Kuragin have taken all the ladies' hearts by storm.”
A tall, handsome woman with a mass of hair and very naked, plump, white arms and shoulders, and a double row of big pearls round her throat, walked into the next box, and was a long while settling into her place and rustling her thick silk gown.
Natasha unconsciously examined that neck and the shoulders, the pearls, the coiffure of this lady, and admired the beauty of the shoulders and the pearls. While Natasha was scrutinising her a second time, the lady looked round, and meeting the eyes of Count Ilya Andreitch, she nodded and smiled to him. It was the Countess Bezuhov, Pierre's wife. The count, who knew every one in society, bent over and entered into conversation with her.
“Have you been here long?” he began. “I'm coming; I'm coming to kiss your hand. I have come to town on business and brought my girls with me. They say Semyonovna's acting is superb,” the count went on. “Count Pyotr Kirillovitch never forgot us. Is he here?”
“Yes, he meant to come,” said Ellen, looking intently at Natasha.
Count Ilya Andreitch sat down again in his place.
“Handsome, isn't she?” he whispered to Natasha.
“Exquisite!” said Natasha. “One might well fall in love with her!”
At that moment they heard the last chords of the overture, and the tapping of the conductor's stick. Late comers hurried to their seats in the stalls, and the curtain rose.
As soon as the curtain rose, a hush fell on the boxes and stalls, and all the men, old and young, in their frock coats or uniforms, all the women with precious stones on their bare flesh concentrated all their attention with eager curiosity on the stage. Natasha too began to look at it.