ON THE THIRD DAY after Christmas Nikolay dined at home, which he had rarely done of late. This was a farewell dinner in Nikolays honour, as he was to set off with Denisov after the baptism festival to rejoin his regiment. Twenty persons were dining, among them Dolohov and Denisov.
Never had the love in the air of the Rostovs house, never had the atmosphere of being in love, made itself so strongly felt as during those Christmas holidays. Seize the moment of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only thing real in the world; the rest is all nonsense. And that is the one thing we are interested in here, was the sentiment that atmosphere was eloquent of.
After exhausting two pairs of horses, as he did every day without having been everywhere he ought to have been, and everywhere he had been invited, Nikolay reached home just at dinner-time. As soon as he went in he felt that intense atmosphere of love in the house, but in addition to that he became conscious of a strange embarrassment that seemed to prevail between certain persons in the company. Sonya seemed particularly disturbed, so did Dolohov and the old countess, and in a lesser degree Natasha. Nikolay saw that something must have passed before dinner between Sonya and Dolohov, and with the delicate instinct characteristic of him, he was very sympathetic and wary with both of them during dinner. On that evening there was to be one of the dances given by Iogel, the dancing-master, during the holidays to his pupils.
Nikolenka, are you going to Iogels? Please, do go, said Natasha; he particularly begged you to, and Vassily Dmitritch (this was Denisov) is going.
Where would I not go at the countesss commands! said Denisov, who had jestingly taken up the role of Natashas knight in the Rostov household. I am ready to dance the pas de châle.
If I have time! I promised the Arharovs; they have a party, said Nikolay.
And you? he turned to Dolohov. And as soon as he had asked the question, he saw that he should not have asked it.
Yes, possibly Dolohov answered coldly and angrily, glancing at Sonya; and he glanced again, scowling at Nikolay with exactly the same look with which he had looked at Pierre at the club dinner.
Theres something wrong, thought Nikolay; and he was still more confirmed in that surmise, when immediately after dinner Dolohov went away. He beckoned Natasha, and asked her what had happened.
I was looking for you, said Natasha, running out to him. I told you so, and still you wouldnt believe me, she said triumphantly; he has made Sonya an offer.
Little as Nikolay had been thinking of Sonya of late, he felt as if something were being torn from him when he heard this. Dolohov was a good, and in some respects a brilliant, match for the portionless orphan Sonya. From the point of view of the countess and of society it was out of the question for her to refuse him. And so Nikolays first feeling when he heard of it was one of exasperation against Sonya. He braced himself up to say, And a capital thing, too; of course she must forget her childish promises and accept the offer; but he had not succeeded in saying this when Natasha said:
Only fancy! she has refused him, absolutely refused him! She says she loves some one else, she added after a brief pause.
Yes, my Sonya could not do otherwise! thought Nikolay.
Mamma begged her ever so many times not to, but she refused; and I know she wont change, if she has said a thing.
And mamma begged her not to! Nikolay said reproachfully.
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