THE MORNING came with daily cares and bustle. Every one got up and began to move about and to talk; dressmakers came again; again Marya Dmitryevna went out and they were summoned to tea. Natasha kept uneasily looking round at every one with wide-open eyes, as though she wanted to intercept every glance turned upon her. She did her utmost to seem exactly as usual.
After luncheon—it was always her best time—Marya Dmitryevna seated herself in her own arm-chair and drew Natasha and the old count to her.
“Well, my friends, I have thought the whole matter over now, and I'll tell you my advice,” she began. “Yesterday, as you know, I was at Prince Bolkonsky's; well, I had a talk with him…He thought fit to scream at me. But there's no screaming me down! I had it all out with him.”
“Well, but what does he mean?” asked the count.
“He's crazy…he won't hear of it, and there's no more to be said. As it is we have given this poor girl worry enough,” said Marya Dmitryevna. “And my advice to you is, to make an end of it and go home to Otradnoe…and there to wait.”
“Oh no!” cried Natasha.
“Yes, to go home,” said Marya Dmitryevna, “and to wait there. If your betrothed comes here now, there'll be no escaping a quarrel; but alone here he'll have it all out with the old man, and then come on to you.”
Count Ilya Andreitch approved of this suggestion, and at once saw all the sound sense of it. If the old man were to come round, then it would be better to visit him at Moscow or Bleak Hills, later on; if not, then the wedding, against his will, could only take place at Otradnoe.
“And that's perfectly true,” said he. “I regret indeed that I ever went to see him and took her too,” said the count.
“No, why regret it? Being here, you could do no less than show him respect. If he wouldn't receive it, that's his affair,” said Marya Dmitryevna, searching for something in her reticule. “And now the trousseau's ready, what have you to wait for? What is not ready, I'll send after you. Though I'm sorry to lose you, still the best thing is for you to go, and God be with you.” Finding what she was looking for in her reticule, she handed it to Natasha. It was a letter from Princess Marya. “She writes to you. How worried she is, poor thing! She is afraid you might think she does not like you.”
“Well, she doesn't like me,” said Natasha.
“Nonsense, don't say so,” cried Marya Dmitryevna.
“I won't take any one's word for that, I know she doesn't like me,” said Natasha boldly as she took the letter, and there was a look of cold and angry resolution in her face, that made Marya Dmitryevna look at her more closely and frown.
“Don't you answer me like that, my good girl,” she said. “If I say so, it's the truth. Write an answer to her.”
Natasha made no reply, and went to her own room to read Princess Marya's letter.
Princess Marya wrote that she was in despair at the misunderstanding that had arisen between them. Whatever her father's feelings might be, wrote Princess Marya, she begged Natasha to believe that she could not fail to love her, as the girl chosen by her brother, for whose happiness she was ready to make any sacrifice.
“Do not believe, though,” she wrote, “that my father is ill-disposed to you. He is an old man and an invalid, for whom one must make excuses. But he is good-hearted and generous, and will come to love the woman who makes his son happy.” Princess Marya begged Natasha, too, to fix a time when she might see her again.
After reading the letter, Natasha sat down to the writing-table to answer it. “Dear princess,” she began, writing rapidly and mechanically in French, and there she stopped. What more could she write after what had happened the day before? “Yes, yes, all that had happened, and now everything was different,” she thought, sitting before the letter she had begun. “Must I refuse him? Must I really? That's awful!…” And to avoid these horrible thoughts, she went in to Sonya, and began looking through embroidery designs with her.
After dinner Natasha went to her own room and took up Princess Marya's letter again. “Can everything be over?” she thought. “Can all this have happened so quickly and have destroyed all that went before?” She recalled in all its past strength her love for Prince Andrey, and at the same time she felt that she loved Kuragin. She vividly pictured herself the wife of Prince Andrey, of her happiness with him, called up the picture she had so often dwelt on in her imagination, and at the same time, all aglow with emotion, she recalled every detail of her interview the previous evening with Anatole.
“Why could not that be as well?” she wondered sometimes in complete bewilderment. “It's only so that I could be perfectly happy: as it is, I have to choose, and without either of them I can't be happy. There's one thing,” she thought, “to tell Prince Andrey what has happened; to hide it from him—are equally impossible. But with him nothing is spoilt. But can I part for ever from the happiness of Prince Andrey's love, which I have been living on for so long?”
“Madame,” whispered a maid, coming into the room with a mysterious air, “a man told me to give you this.” The girl gave her a letter. “Only for Christ's sake …” said the girl, as Natasha, without thinking, mechanically broke the seal and began reading a love-letter from Anatole, of which she did not understand a word, but understood only that it was a letter from him, from the man whom she loved. “Yes, she loved him; otherwise, how could what had happened have happened? How could a love-letter from him be in her hand?”
With trembling hands Natasha held that passionate love-letter, composed for Anatole by Dolohov, and as she read it, she found in it echoes of all that it seemed to her she was feeling herself.
“Since yesterday evening my fate is sealed: to be loved by you or to die. There is nothing else left for me,” the letter began. Then he wrote that he knew her relations would never give her to him, to Anatole; that there were secret reasons for that which he could only reveal to her alone; but that if she loved him, she had but to utter the word Yes, and no human force could hinder their happiness. Love would conquer all. He could capture her and bear her away to the ends of the earth.
“Yes, yes, I love him!” thought Natasha, reading the letter over for the twentieth time, and finding some special deep meaning in every word.
That evening Marya Dmitryevna was going to the Arharovs', and proposed taking the young ladies with her. Natasha pleaded a headache and stayed at home.