“Nobody, I imagine, has been so much run after as she has,” Vera went on; “but no one, until quite of late, has ever made a serious impression on her. Of course, you know, count,” she turned to Pierre, “even our charming cousin, Boris, who, entre nous, was very, very far gone in the region of the tender passion …” She intended an allusion to the map of love then in fashion.

Prince Andrey scowled, and was mute.

“But, of course, you are a friend of Boris’s?” Vera said to him

“Yes, I know him. …”

“He has probably told you of his childish love for Natasha?”

“Oh, was there a childish love between them?” asked Prince Andrey with a sudden, unexpected flush on his face.

“Yes. You know between cousins the close intimacy often leads to love. Cousinhood is a dangerous neighbourhood. Isn’t it?”

“Oh, not a doubt of it,” said Prince Andrey, and with sudden and unnatural liveliness, he began joking with Pierre about the necessity of his being careful with his cousins at Moscow, ladies of fifty, and in the middle of these jesting remarks he got up, and taking Pierre’s arm, drew him aside.

“Well, what is it?” said Pierre, who had been watching in wonder his friend’s excitement, and noticed the glance he turned upon Natasha as he got up.

“I must, I must talk to you,” said Prince Andrey. “You know that pair of women’s gloves” (he referred to the masonic gloves given to a newly initiated brother to be entrusted to the woman he loved). “I … but no, I will talk to you later on. …” And with a strange light in his eyes and a restlessness in his movements, Prince Andrey approached Natasha and sat down beside her. Pierre saw that Prince Andrey asked her some question, and she answered him, flushing hotly.

But at that moment Berg approached Pierre, and insisted upon his taking part in an argument between the general and the colonel on affairs in Spain.

Berg was satisfied and happy. The smile of glee never left his face. The soirée was a great success, and exactly like other soirées he had seen. Everything was precisely similar: the ladies’ refined conversation, and the cards, and after the cards the general raising his voice and the samovar and the tea cakes; but one thing was still lacking, which he had always seen at soirées, and wished to imitate. There was still wanting the usual loud conversation between the gentlemen and discussion about some serious intellectual question. The general had started that conversation, and Berg drew Pierre into it.

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