Count Goluhovsky his three roan horses, over which the Polish count was haggling with him. Rostov had taken a bet that he would get two thousand for them. It seemed inconceivable that without him the ball could take place which the hussars were to give in honour of their favourite Polish belle, Madame Pshazdetsky, to outdo the Uhlans, who had given a ball to their favourite belle, Madame Borzhozovsky. Yet he knew he must leave world, where all was well and all was clear, to go where all was nonsensical and complicated. A week later his leave came. His comrades—not only in the regiment, but throughout the whole brigade—gave Rostov a dinner that cost a subscription of fifteen roubles a head. Two bands of musicians played, two choruses sang; Rostov danced the trepak with Major Bazov; the drunken officers tossed him in the air, hugged him, dropped him; the soldiers of the third squadron tossed him once more and shouted hurrah! Then they put Rostov in a sledge and escorted him as far as the first posting- station on his way.

For the first half of the journey, from Krementchug to Kiev, all Rostov’s thoughts—as is apt to be the case with travellers—turned to what he had left behind—to his squadron. But after being jolted over the first half of the journey, he had begun to forget his three roans and his quartermaster, Dozhoyveyky, and was beginning to wonder uneasily what he should find on reaching Otradnoe. The nearer he got, the more intense, far more intense, were his thoughts of home (as though moral feeling were subject to the law of acceleration in inverse ratio with the square of the distance). At the station nearest to Otradnoe he gave the sledge-driver a tip of three roubles, and ran breathless up the steps of his home, like a boy.

After the excitement of the first meeting, and the strange feeling of disappointment after his expectations—the feeling that “it’s just the same; why was I in such a hurry?”—Nikolay began to settle down in his old world of home. His father and mother were just the same, only a little older. All that was new in them was a certain uneasiness and at times a difference of opinion, which he had never seen between them before, and soon learned to be due to the difficulties of their position.

Sonya was now nearly twenty. She would grow no prettier now; there was no promise in her of more to come; but what she had was enough. She was brimming over with love and happiness as soon as Nikolay came home, and this girl’s faithful, steadfast love for him gladdened his heart. Petya and Natasha surprised Nikolay more than all the rest. Petya was a big, handsome lad of thirteen, whose voice was already cracking; he was full of gaiety and clever pranks. Nikolay did not get over his wonder at Natasha for a long while, and laughed as he looked at her.

“You’re utterly different,” he told her.

“How? Uglier?”

“No, quite the contrary; but what dignity! A real princess!” he whispered to her.

“Yes, yes, yes,” cried Natasha gleefully.

Natasha told him all the story of Prince Andrey’s lovemaking, of his visit to Otradnoe, and showed him his last letter.

“Well, are you glad?” asked Natasha. “I’m so at peace and happy now.”

“Very glad,” answered Nikolay. “He’s a splendid fellow. Are you very much in love, then?”

“How shall I say?” answered Natasha. “I was in love with Boris, with our teacher, with Denisov; but this is utterly different. I feel calm, settled. I know there is no one better than he in the world, and so I am calm now and content. It’s utterly different from anything before…”

Nikolay expressed his dissatisfaction at the marriage being put off for a year. But Natasha fell on him with exasperation, proving to him that no other course was possible, that it would be a horrid thing to enter a family against the father’s will, and that she would not consent to it herself.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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