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War and Peace. Book eight: 1811 - 12


On returning late in the evening Sónya went to Natásha’s room, and to her surprise found her still dressed and asleep on the sofa. Open on the table, beside her lay Anatole’s letter. Sónya picked it up and read it.

As she read she glanced at the sleeping Natásha, trying to find in her face an explanation of what she was reading, but did not find it. Her face was calm, gentle, and happy. Clutching her breast to keep herself from choking, Sónya, pale and trembling with fear and agitation, sat down in an armchair and burst into tears.

“How was it I noticed nothing? How could it go so far? Can she have left off loving Prince Andrew? And how could she let Kurágin go to such lengths? He is a deceiver and a villain, that’s plain! What will Nicholas, dear noble Nicholas, do when he hears of it? So this is the meaning of her excited, resolute, unnatural look the day before yesterday, yesterday, and today,” thought Sónya. “But it can’t be that she loves him! She probably opened the letter without knowing who it was from. Probably she is offended by it. She could not do such a thing!”

Sónya wiped away her tears and went up to Natásha, again scanning her face.

Sónya wiped away her tears and went up to Natásha, again scanning her face. War and Peace by L. Tolstoy (1863-1869). Illustrated by A. Apsit (1911-1912)

“Natásha!” she said, just audibly.

Natásha awoke and saw Sónya.

“Ah, you’re back?”

And with the decision and tenderness that often come at the moment of awakening, she embraced her friend, but noticing Sónya’s look of embarrassment, her own face expressed confusion and suspicion.

“Sónya, you’ve read that letter?” she demanded.

“Yes,” answered Sónya softly.

Natásha smiled rapturously.

“No, Sónya, I can’t any longer!” she said. “I can’t hide it from you any longer. You know, we love one another! Sónya, darling, he writes... Sónya...”

Sónya stared open-eyed at Natásha, unable to believe her ears.

“And Bolkónski?” she asked.

“Ah, Sónya, if you only knew how happy I am!” cried Natásha. “You don’t know what love is....”

“But, Natásha, can that be all over?”

Natásha looked at Sónya with wide-open eyes as if she could not grasp the question.

“Well, then, are you refusing Prince Andrew?” said Sónya.

“Oh, you don’t understand anything! Don’t talk nonsense, just listen!” said Natásha, with momentary vexation.

“But I can’t believe it,” insisted Sónya. “I don’t understand. How is it you have loved a man for a whole year and suddenly... Why, you have only seen him three times! Natásha, I don’t believe you, you’re joking! In three days to forget everything and so...”

“Three days?” said Natásha. “It seems to me I’ve loved him a hundred years. It seems to me that I have never loved anyone before. You can’t understand it.... Sónya, wait a bit, sit here,” and Natásha embraced and kissed her.

“I had heard that it happens like this, and you must have heard it too, but it’s only now that I feel such love. It’s not the same as before. As soon as I saw him I felt he was my master and I his slave, and that I could not help loving him. Yes, his slave! Whatever he orders I shall do. You don’t understand that. What can I do? What can I do, Sónya?” cried Natásha with a happy yet frightened expression.

“But think what you are doing,” cried Sónya. “I can’t leave it like this. This secret correspondence... How could you let him go so far?” she went on, with a horror and disgust she could hardly conceal.

“I told you that I have no will,” Natásha replied. “Why can’t you understand? I love him!”

“Then I won’t let it come to that... I shall tell!” cried Sónya, bursting into tears.

“What do you mean? For God’s sake... If you tell, you are my enemy!” declared Natásha. “You want me to be miserable, you want us to be separated....”

When she saw Natásha’s fright, Sónya shed tears of shame and pity for her friend.

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

Natásha did not answer her questions.

“For God’s sake, Sónya, don’t tell anyone, don’t torture me,” Natásha entreated. “Remember no one ought to interfere in such matters! I have confided in you....”

“But why this secrecy? Why doesn’t he come to the house?” asked Sónya. “Why doesn’t he openly ask for your hand? You know Prince Andrew gave you complete freedom—if it is really so; but I don’t believe it! Natásha, have you considered what these secret reasons can be?”

Natásha looked at Sónya with astonishment. Evidently this question presented itself to her mind for the first time and she did not know how to answer it.

“I don’t know what the reasons are. But there must be reasons!”

Sónya sighed and shook her head incredulously.

“If there were reasons...” she began.

But Natásha, guessing her doubts, interrupted her in alarm.

“Sónya, one can’t doubt him! One can’t, one can’t! Don’t you understand?” she cried.

“Does he love you?”

“Does he love me?” Natásha repeated with a smile of pity at her friend’s lack of comprehension. “Why, you have read his letter and you have seen him.”

“But if he is dishonorable?”

He! dishonorable? If you only knew!” exclaimed Natásha.

“If he is an honorable man he should either declare his intentions or cease seeing you; and if you won’t do this, I will. I will write to him, and I will tell Papa!” said Sónya resolutely.

“But I can’t live without him!” cried Natásha.

“Natásha, I don’t understand you. And what are you saying! Think of your father and of Nicholas.”

“I don’t want anyone, I don’t love anyone but him. How dare you say he is dishonorable? Don’t you know that I love him?” screamed Natásha. “Go away, Sónya! I don’t want to quarrel with you, but go, for God’s sake go! You see how I am suffering!” Natásha cried angrily, in a voice of despair and repressed irritation. Sónya burst into sobs and ran from the room.

Natásha went to the table and without a moment’s reflection wrote that answer to Princess Mary which she had been unable to write all the morning. In this letter she said briefly that all their misunderstandings were at an end; that availing herself of the magnanimity of Prince Andrew who when he went abroad had given her her freedom, she begged Princess Mary to forget everything and forgive her if she had been to blame toward her, but that she could not be his wife. At that moment this all seemed quite easy, simple, and clear to Natásha.

On Friday the Rostóvs were to return to the country, but on Wednesday the count went with the prospective purchaser to his estate near Moscow.

On the day the count left, Sónya and Natásha were invited to a big dinner party at the Karágins’, and Márya Dmítrievna took them there. At that party Natásha again met Anatole, and Sónya noticed that she spoke to him, trying not to be overheard, and that all through dinner she was more agitated than ever. When they got home Natásha was the first to begin the explanation Sónya expected.

“There, Sónya, you were talking all sorts of nonsense about him,” Natásha began in a mild voice such as children use when they wish to be praised. “We have had an explanation today.”

“Well, what happened? What did he say? Natásha, how glad I am you’re not angry with me! Tell me everything—the whole truth. What did he say?”

Natásha became thoughtful.

“Oh, Sónya, if you knew him as I do! He said... He asked me what I had promised Bolkónski. He was glad I was free to refuse him.”

Sónya sighed sorrowfully.

“But you haven’t refused Bolkónski?” said she.

“Perhaps I have. Perhaps all is over between me and Bolkónski. Why do you think so badly of me?”

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

“Wait a bit, Sónya, you’ll understand everything. You’ll see what a man he is! Now don’t think badly of me or of him. I don’t think badly of anyone: I love and pity everybody. But what am I to do?”

Sónya did not succumb to the tender tone Natásha used toward her. The more emotional and ingratiating the expression of Natásha’s face became, the more serious and stern grew Sónya’s.

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

“Again, again!” interrupted Natásha.

“Natásha, I am afraid for you!”

“Afraid of what?”

“I am afraid you’re going to your ruin,” said Sónya resolutely, and was herself horrified at what she had said.

Anger again showed in Natásha’s face.

“And I’ll go to my ruin, I will, as soon as possible! It’s not your business! It won’t be you, but I, who’ll suffer. Leave me alone, leave me alone! I hate you!”

“Natásha!” moaned Sónya, aghast.

“I hate you, I hate you! You’re my enemy forever!” And Natásha ran out of the room.

Natásha did not speak to Sónya again and avoided her. With the same expression of agitated surprise and guilt she went about the house, taking up now one occupation, now another, and at once abandoning them.

Hard as it was for Sónya, she watched her friend and did not let her out of her sight.

The day before the count was to return, Sónya noticed that Natásha sat by the drawing room window all the morning as if expecting something and that she made a sign to an officer who drove past, whom Sónya took to be Anatole.

Sónya began watching her friend still more attentively and noticed that at dinner and all that evening Natásha was in a strange and unnatural state. She answered questions at random, began sentences she did not finish, and laughed at everything.

After tea Sónya noticed a housemaid at Natásha’s door timidly waiting to let her pass. She let the girl go in, and then listening at the door learned that another letter had been delivered.

Then suddenly it became clear to Sónya that Natásha had some dreadful plan for that evening. Sónya knocked at her door. Natásha did not let her in.

“She will run away with him!” thought Sónya. “She is capable of anything. There was something particularly pathetic and resolute in her face today. She cried as she said good-by to Uncle,” Sónya remembered. “Yes, that’s it, she means to elope with him, but what am I to do?” thought she, recalling all the signs that clearly indicated that Natásha had some terrible intention. “The count is away. What am I to do? Write to Kurágin demanding an explanation? But what is there to oblige him to reply? Write to Pierre, as Prince Andrew asked me to in case of some misfortune?... But perhaps she really has already refused Bolkónski—she sent a letter to Princess Mary yesterday. And Uncle is away....” To tell Márya Dmítrievna who had such faith in Natásha seemed to Sónya terrible. “Well, anyway,” thought Sónya as she stood in the dark passage, “now or never I must prove that I remember the family’s goodness to me and that I love Nicholas. Yes! If I don’t sleep for three nights I’ll not leave this passage and will hold her back by force and will and not let the family be disgraced,” thought she.

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