War And Peace

CHAPTER XV

Chinese

ON RETURNING LATE in the evening, Sonya went into Natasha's room, and to her surprise found her not undressed asleep on the sofa. On the table near her Anatole's letter lay open. Sonya picked up the letter and began to read it.

She read it, and looked at Natasha asleep, seeking in her face some explanation of what she had read and not finding it. Her face was quiet, gentle, and happy. Clutching at her own chest to keep herself from choking, Sonya, pale and shaking with horror and emotion, sat down in a low chair and burst into tears.

“How was it I saw nothing? How can it have gone so far? Can she have ceased loving Prince Andrey? And how could she have let this Kuragin go as far as this? He's a deceiver and a villain, that's clear. What will Nikolenka—dear, noble Nikolenka—do when he hears of it? So that was the meaning of her excited, determined, unnatural face the day before yesterday, and yesterday and to-day,” thought Sonya. “But it's impossible that she can care for him! Most likely she opened the letter not knowing from whom it was. Most likely she feels insulted by it. She's not capable of doing such a thing!”

Sonya dried her tears and went up to Natasha, carefully scrutinising her face again.

“Natasha!” she said, hardly audibly.

Natasha waked up and saw Sonya.

“Ah, you have come back?”

And with the decision and tenderness common at the moment of awakening she embraced her friend. But noticing embarrassment in Sonya's face, her face too expressed embarrassment and suspicion.

“Sonya, you have read the letter?” she said.

“Yes,” said Sonya softly.

Natasha smiled ecstatically.

“No, Sonya, I can't help it!” she said. “I can't keep it secret from you any longer. You know we love each other! … Sonya, darling, he writes … Sonya …”

Sonya gazed with wide-open eyes at Natasha, as though unable to believe her ears.

“But Bolkonsky?” she said.

“O Sonya, oh, if you could only know how happy I am!” said Natasha. “You don't know what love …”

“But, Natasha, you can't mean that all that is over?”

Natasha looked with her big, wide eyes at Sonya as though not understanding her question.

“Are you breaking it off with Prince Andrey then?” said Sonya.

“Oh, you don't understand; don't talk nonsense; listen,” said Natasha, with momentary annoyance.

“No, I can't believe it,” repeated Sonya. “I don't understand it. What, for a whole year you have been loving one man, and all at once … Why, you have only seen him three times. Natasha, I can't believe you, you're joking. In three days to forget everything, and like this …”

“Three days,” said Natasha. “It seems to me as though I had loved him for a hundred years. It seems to me that I have never loved any one before him. You can't understand that. Sonya, stay, sit here.” Natasha hugged and kissed her. “I have been told of its happening, and no doubt you have heard of it too, but it's only now that I have felt such love. It's not what I have felt before. As soon as I saw him, I felt that he was my sovereign and I was his slave, and that I could not help loving him. Yes, his slave! Whatever he bids me, I shall do. You don't understand that. What am I to do? What am I to do, Sonya?” said Natasha, with a blissful and frightened face.

“But only think what you are doing,” said Sonya. “I can't leave it like this. These secret letters … How could you let him go so far as that?” she said, with a horror and aversion she could with difficulty conceal.

“I have told you,” answered Natasha, “that I have no will. How is it you don't understand that? I love him!”

“Then I can't let it go on like this. I shall tell about it,” cried Sonya with a burst of tears.

“What … for God's sake … If you tell, you are my enemy,” said Natasha. “You want to make me miserable, and you want us to be separated…”

On seeing Natasha's alarm, Sonya wept tears of shame and pity for her friend.

“But what has passed between you?” she asked. “What has he said to you? Why doesn't he come to the house?”

Natasha made no answer to her question.

“For God's sake, Sonya, don't tell any one; don't torture me,” Natasha implored her. “Remember that it doesn't do to meddle in such matters. I have told you …”

“But why this secrecy? Why doesn't he come to the house?” Sonya persisted. “Why doesn't he ask for your hand straight out? Prince Andrey, you know, gave you complete liberty, if it really is so; but I can't believe in it. Natasha, have you thought what the secret reasons can be?”

Natasha looked with wondering eyes at Sonya. Evidently it was the first time that question had presented itself to her, and she did not know how to answer it.

“What the reasons are, I don't know. But there must be reasons!”

Sonya sighed and shook her head distrustfully.

“If there were reasons…” she was beginning. But Natasha, divining her doubts, interrupted her in dismay.

“Sonya, you mustn't doubt of him; you mustn't, you mustn't! Do you understand?” she cried.

“Does he love you?”

“Does he love me?” repeated Natasha, with a smile of compassion for her friend's dullness of comprehension. “Why, you have read his letter, haven't you? You've seen him.”

“But if he is a dishonourable man?”

He! … a dishonourable man? If only you knew!” said Natasha.

“If he is an honourable man, he ought either to explain his intentions, or to give up seeing you; and if you won't do that, I will do it. I'll write to him. I'll 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, of Nikolenka.”

“I don't care for any one, I don't love any one but him. How dare you say he's dishonourable! Don't you know that I love him?” cried Natasha. “Sonya, go away; I don't want to quarrel with you; go away, for God's sake, go away; you see how wretched I am,” cried Natasha angrily, in a voice of repressed irritation and despair. Sonya burst into sobs and ran out of the room.

Natasha went to the table, and without a moment's reflection wrote that answer to Princess Marya, which she had been unable to write all the morning. In her letter she told Princess Marya briefly that all misunderstandings between them were at an end, as taking advantage of the generosity of Prince Andrey, who had at parting given her full liberty, she begged her to forget everything and forgive if she had been in fault in any way, but she could not be his wife. It all seemed to her so easy, so simple, and so clear at that moment.

The Rostovs were to return to the country on Friday, but on Wednesday the count went with the intending purchaser to his estate near Moscow.

On the day the count left, Sonya and Natasha were invited to a big dinner-party at Julie Karagin's, and Marya Dmitryevna took them. At that dinner Natasha met Anatole again, and Sonya noticed that Natasha said something to him, trying not to be overheard, and was all through the dinner more excited than before. When they got home, Natasha was the first to enter upon the conversation with Sonya that her friend was expecting.

“Well, Sonya, you said all sorts of silly things about him,” Natasha began in a meek voice, the voice in which children speak when they want to be praised for being good. “I have had it all out with him to-day.”

“Well, what did he say? Well? Come, what did he say? Natasha, I'm so glad you're not angry with me. Tell me everything, all the truth. What did he say?”

Natasha sank into thought.

“O Sonya, if you knew him as I do! He said … He asked me what promise I had given Bolkonsky. He was so glad that I was free to refuse him.”

Sonya sighed dejectedly.

“But you haven't refused Bolkonsky, have you?” she said.

“Oh, perhaps I have refused him! Perhaps it's all at an end with Bolkonsky. Why do you think so ill of me?”

“I don't think anything, only I don't understand this.…”

“Wait a little, Sonya, you will understand it all. You will see the sort of man he is. Don't think ill of me, or of him.”

“I don't think ill of any one; I like every one and am sorry for every one. But what am I to do?”

Sonya would not let herself be won over by the affectionate tone Natasha took with her. The softer and the more ingratiating Natasha's face became, the more serious and stern became the face of Sonya.

“Natasha,” she said, “you asked me not to speak to you, and I haven't spoken; now you have begun yourself. Natasha, I don't trust him. Why this secrecy?”

“Again, again!” interrupted Natasha.

“Natasha, I am afraid for you.”

“What is there to be afraid of?”

“I am afraid you will be ruined,” said Sonya resolutely, herself horrified at what she was saying.

Natasha's face expressed anger again.

“Then I will be ruined, I will; I'll hasten to my ruin. It's not your business. It's not you, but I, will suffer for it. Leave me alone, leave me alone. I hate you!”

“Natasha!” Sonya appealed to her in dismay.

“I hate you, I hate you! And you're my enemy for ever!”

Natasha ran out of the room.

Natasha avoided Sonya and did not speak to her again. With the same expression of agitated wonder and guilt she wandered about the rooms, taking up first one occupation and then another, and throwing them aside again at once.

Hard as it was for Sonya, she kept watch over her friend and never let her out of her sight.

On the day before that fixed for the count's return, Sonya noticed that Natasha sat all the morning at the drawing-room window, as though expecting something, and that she made a sign to an officer who passed by, whom Sonya took to be Anatole.

Sonya began watching her friend even more attentively, and she noticed that all dinner-time and in the evening Natasha was in a strange and unnatural state, unlike herself. She made irrelevant replies to questions asked her, began sentences and did not finish them, and laughed at everything.

After tea Sonya saw the maid timidly waiting for her to pass at Natasha's door. She let her go in, and listening at the door, found out that another letter had been given her. And all at once it was clear to Sonya that Natasha had some dreadful plan for that evening. Sonya knocked at her door. Natasha would not let her in.

“She is going to run away with him!” thought Sonya. “She is capable of anything. There was something particularly piteous and determined in her face to-day. She cried as she said good-bye to uncle,” Sonya remembered. “Yes, it's certain, she's going to run away with him; but what am I to do?” wondered Sonya, recalling now all the signs that so clearly betokened some dreadful resolution on Natasha's part. “The count is not here. What am I to do? Write to Kuragin, demanding an explanation from him? But who is to make him answer? Write to Pierre, as Prince Andrey asked me to do in case of trouble? … But perhaps she really has refused Bolkonsky (she sent off a letter to Princess Marya yesterday). Uncle is not here.”

To tell Marya Dmitryevna, who had such faith in Natasha, seemed to Sonya a fearful step to take.

“But one way or another,” thought Sonya, standing in the dark corridor, “now or never the time has come for me to show that I am mindful of all the benefits I have received from their family and that I love Nikolay. No, if I have to go three nights together without sleep; I won't leave this corridor, and I will prevent her passing by force, and not let disgrace come upon their family,” she thought.

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