War And Peace

CHAPTER VIII

Chinese

SONYA'S LETTER to Nikolay, that had come as an answer to his prayer, was written at Troitsa. It had been called forth in the following way. The idea of marrying Nikolay to a wealthy heiress had taken more and more complete possession of the old countess's mind. She knew that Sonya was the great obstacle in the way of this. And Sonya's life had of late, and especially after the letter in which Nikolay described his meeting with Princess Marya at Bogutcharovo, become more and more difficult in the countess's house. The countess never let slip an opportunity for making some cruel or humiliating allusion to Sonya. But a few days before they set out from Moscow the countess, distressed and overwrought by all that was happening, sent for Sonya, and instead of insistence and upbraiding, besought her with tears and entreaties to repay all that had been done for her by sacrificing herself, and breaking off her engagement to Nikolay. “I shall have no peace of mind till you make me this promise,” she said.

Sonya sobbed hysterically, answered through her sobs that she would do anything, that she was ready for anything; but she did not give a direct promise, and in her heart she could not bring herself to what was demanded of her. She had to sacrifice herself for the happiness of the family that had brought her up and provided for her. To sacrifice herself for others was Sonya's habit. Her position in the house was such that only by way of sacrifice could she show her virtues, and she was used to sacrificing herself and liked it. But in every self-sacrificing action hitherto she had been happily conscious that by her very self-sacrifice she was heightening her value in the eyes of herself and others, and becoming worthier of Nikolay, whom she loved beyond everything in life. But now her sacrifice would consist in the renunciation of what constituted for her the whole reward of sacrifice, and the whole meaning of life. And for the first time in her life she felt bitterness against the people who had befriended her only to torment her more poignantly: she felt envy of Natasha, who had never had any experience of the kind, who had never been required to make sacrifices, and made other people sacrifice themselves for her, and was yet loved by every one. And for the first time Sonya felt that there was beginning to grow up out of her quiet, pure love for Nikolay a passionate feeling, which stood above all principles, and virtue, and religion. And under the influence of that passion, Sonya, whose life of dependence had unconsciously trained her to reserve, gave the countess vague, indefinite answers, avoided talking with her, and resolved to wait for a personal interview with Nikolay, not to set him free, but, on the contrary, to bind him to her for ever.

The fuss and the horror of the Rostovs' last days in Moscow had smothered the gloomy thoughts that were weighing on Sonya. She was glad to find an escape from them in practical work. But when she heard of Prince Andrey's presence in their house, in spite of all the genuine compassion she felt for him, and for Natasha, a joyful and superstitious feeling that it was God's will that she should not be parted from Nikolay took possession of her. She knew Natasha loved no one but Prince Andrey, and had never ceased to love him. She knew that brought together now, under such terrible circumstances, they would love one another again; and that then, owing to the relationship that would (in accordance with the laws of the Orthodox Church) exist between them, Nikolay could not be married to Princess Marya. In spite of all the awfulness of what was happening during the last day or two in Moscow and the first days of the journey, that feeling, that consciousness of the intervention of Providence in her personal affairs, was a source of joy to Sonya. At the Troitsa monastery the Rostovs made the first break in their journey.

In the hostel of the monastery three big rooms were assigned to the Rostovs, one of which was occupied by Prince Andrey. The wounded man was by this time a great deal better. Natasha was sitting with him. In the next room were the count and the countess reverently conversing with the superior, who was paying a visit to his old acquaintances and patrons. Sonya was sitting with them, fretted by curiosity as to what Prince Andrey and Natasha were saying. She heard the sounds of their voices through the door. The door of Prince Andrey's room opened. Natasha came out with an excited face, and not noticing the monk, who rose to meet her, and pulled back his wide sleeve off his right hand, she went up to Sonya and took her by the arm.

“Natasha, what are you about? Come here,” said the countess.

Natasha went up to receive the blessing, and the superior counselled her to turn for aid to God and to His saint.

Immediately after the superior had gone out, Natasha took her friend by the arm, and went with her into the empty third room.

“Sonya, yes, he will live,” she said. “Sonya, how happy I am, and how wretched! Sonya, darling, everything is just as it used to be. If only he were going to live. He cannot, … because … be … cause …” and Natasha burst into tears.

“Yes! I knew it would be! Thank God,” said Sonya. “He will live.”

Sonya was no less excited than her friend, both by the latter's grief and fears, and by her own personal reflections, of which she had spoken to no one. Sobbing, she kissed and comforted Natasha. “If only he were to live!” she thought. After weeping, talking a little, and wiping their tears, the two friends went towards Prince Andrey's door. Natasha, cautiously opening the door, glanced into the room. Sonya stood beside her at the half-open door.

Prince Andrey was lying raised high on three pillows. His pale face looked peaceful, his eyes were closed, and they could see his quiet, regular breathing.

“Ah, Natasha!” Sonya almost shrieked all of a sudden, clutching at her cousin's arm, and moving back away from the door.

“What! what is it?” asked Natasha

“It's the same, the same, you know …” said Sonya, with a white face and quivering lips.

Natasha softly closed the door and walked away with Sonya to the window, not yet understanding what she was talking of.

“Do you remember,” said Sonya, with a scared and solemn face, “do you remember when I looked into the mirror for you … at Otradnoe at Christmas time … Do you remember what I saw?” …

“Yes, yes,” said Natasha, opening her eyes wide, and vaguely recalling that Sonya had said something then about seeing Prince Andrey lying down.

“Do you remember?” Sonya went on. “I saw him then, and told you all so at the time, you and Dunyasha. I saw him lying on a bed,” she said, at each detail making a gesture with her lifted finger, “and that he had his eyes shut, and that he was covered with a pink quilt, and that he had his hands folded,” said Sonya, convinced as she described the details she had just seen that they were the very details she had seen then. At the time she had seen nothing, but had said she was seeing the first thing that came into her head. But what she had invented then seemed to her now as real a memory as any other. She not only remembered that she had said at the time that he looked round at her and smiled, and was covered with something red, but was firmly convinced that she had seen and said at the time, that he was covered with a pink quilt—yes, pink—and that his eyes had been closed.

“Yes, yes, pink it was,” said Natasha, who began now to fancy too that she remembered her saying it was a pink quilt, and saw in that detail the most striking and mysterious point in the prediction.

“But what does it mean?” said Natasha dreamily.

“Ah, I don't know, how extraordinary it all is!” said Sonya, clutching at her head.

* * *

A few minutes later, Prince Andrey rang his bell, and Natasha went in to him; while Sonya, in a state of excitement and emotion such as she had rarely experienced, remained in the window, pondering over all the strangeness of what was happening.

That day there was an opportunity of sending letters to the army, and the countess wrote a letter to her son.

“Sonya,” said the countess, raising her head from her letter, as her niece passed by her. “Sonya, won't you write to Nikolenka?” said the countess, in a soft and trembling voice; and in the tired eyes, that looked at her over the spectacles, Sonya read all that the countess meant by those words. Those eyes expressed entreaty and dread of a refusal and shame at having to beg, and readiness for unforgiving hatred in case of refusal.

Sonya went up to the countess, and kneeling down, kissed her hand.

“I will write, mamma,” she said.

Sonya was softened, excited, and moved by all that had passed that day, especially by the mysterious fulfilment of her divination, which she had just seen. Now, when she knew that in case of the renewal of Natasha's engagement to Prince Andrey, Nikolay could not be married to Princess Marya, she felt with delight a return of that self-sacrificing spirit in which she was accustomed and liked to live. And with tears in her eyes, and with a glad sense of performing a magnanimous action, she sat down, and several times interrupted by the tears that dimmed her velvety black eyes, she wrote the touching letter the reception of which had so impressed Nikolay.

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