“Yes,” said Natasha. “Do you know, Nikolenka—don’t be angry— but I know you won’t marry her. I know—I don’t know why—but I know for certain that you won’t marry her.”

“Well, you can’t know that,” said Nikolay; “but I want to talk to her. How charming Sonya is!” he added, smiling.

“Yes, she is so charming! I’ll send her in to you.” And Natasha kissed her brother and ran away.

A minute later Sonya came in, looking frightened, distraught, and guilty. Nikolay went up to her and kissed her hand. It was the first time since his return that they had talked alone and of their love.

“Sophie,” he said to her, at first timidly, but more and more boldly as he went on, “if you were simply refusing a brilliant, an advantageous match—but he’s a splendid, noble fellow … he’s my friend…”

Sonya interrupted him.

“I have refused him,” she said hastily.

“If you are refusing him for my sake, I am afraid that I…”

Sonya again cut him short. With frightened, imploring eyes she looked at him.

“Nikolenka, don’t say that to me,” she said.

“No, I must. Perhaps it’s suffisance on my part, but still it’s better to say it. If you are refusing him on my account, I ought to tell you the whole truth. I love you, I believe, more than any one …”

“That’s enough for me,” said Sonya, flushing crimson.

“No; but I have been in love a thousand times, and I shall fall in love again, though such a feeling of affection, confidence and love I have for no one as for you. Then I am young. Mamma does not wish it. Well—in fact—I can make no promise. And I beg you to consider the offer of Dolohov,” he said, with an effort articulating the name of his friend.

“Don’t speak to me of it. I want nothing. I love you as a brother, and shall always love you, and I want nothing more.”

“You are an angel; I’m not worthy of you, but I am only afraid of deceiving you.”

Nikolay kissed her hand once more.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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