But the countess did not want the question put like that; she did not want to receive sacrifices from her son, she would have liked to sacrifice herself to him.

“No; you don’t understand me, don’t let us talk of it,” she said, wiping away her tears.

“Yes, perhaps I really do love a poor girl,” Nikolay said to himself; “what, am I to sacrifice my feeling and my honour for fortune? I wonder how mamma could say such a thing. Because Sonya is poor I must not love her,” he thought; “I must not respond to her faithful, devoted love. And it is certain I should be happier with her than with any doll of a Julie. To sacrifice my feelings for the welfare of my family I can always do,” he said to himself, “but I can’t control my feelings. If I love Sonya, that feeling is more than anything and above anything for me.”

Nikolay did not go to Moscow, the countess did not renew her conversations with him about matrimony, and with grief, and sometimes with exasperation, saw symptoms of a growing attachment between her son and the portionless Sonya. She blamed herself for it, yet could not refrain from scolding and upbraiding Sonya, often reproving her without cause and addressing her as “my good girl.” What irritated the kind- hearted countess more than anything was that this poor, dark-eyed niece was so meek, so good, so devoutly grateful to her benefactors, and so truly, so constantly, and so unselfishly in love with Nikolay that it was impossible to find any fault with her.

Nikolay went on spending his term of leave with his parents. From Prince Andrey a fourth letter had been received from Rome. In it he wrote that he would long ago have been on his way back to Russia, but that in the warm climate his wound had suddenly re-opened, which would compel him to defer his return till the beginning of the new year. Natasha was as much in love with her betrothed, as untroubled in her love, and as ready to throw herself into all the pleasures of life as ever. But towards the end of the fourth month of their separation she began to suffer from fits of depression, against which she was unable to contend. She felt sorry for herself, sorry that all this time should be wasted and be of no use to any one, while she felt such capacity for loving and being loved.

Life was not gay in the Rostovs’ household.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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