Chapter 12

WHEN THEY WERE ALL DRIVING BACK from Pelagea Danilovna’s, Natasha, who always saw and noticed everything, managed a change of places, so that Luisa Ivanovna and she got into the sledge with Dimmler, while Sonya was with Nikolay and the maids.

Nikolay drove smoothly along the way back, making no effort now to get in front. He kept gazing in the fantastic moonlight at Sonya, and seeking, in the continually shifting light behind those eyebrows and moustaches, his own Sonya, the old Sonya, and the Sonya of to-day, from whom he had resolved now never to be parted. He watched her intently, and when he recognised the old Sonya and the new Sonya, and recalled, as he smelt it, that smell of burnt cork that mingled with the thrill of the kiss, he drew in a deep breath of the frosty air, and as he saw the earth flying by them, and the sky shining above, he felt himself again in fairyland.

“Sonya, is it well with thee?” he asked her now and then.

“Yes,” answered Sonya. “And thee?”

Half-way home, Nikolay let the coachman hold the horses, ran for a moment to Natasha’s sledge, and stood on the edge of it.

“Natasha,” he whispered in French, “do you know I have made up my mind about Sonya?”

“Have you told her?” asked Natasha, beaming all over at once with pleasure.

“Ah, how strange you look with that moustache and those eyebrows, Natasha! Are you glad?”

“I’m so glad; so glad! I was beginning to get cross with you. I never told you so, but you have not been treating her nicely. Such a heart as she has, Nikolenka. I am so glad! I’m horrid sometimes; but I felt ashamed of being happy without Sonya,” Natasha went on. “Now, I’m so glad; there, run back to her.”

“No; wait a moment. Oh, how funny you look!” said Nikolay, still gazing intently at her; and in his sister, too, finding something new, extraordinary, and tenderly bewitching that he had never seen in her before. “Natasha, isn’t it fairylike? Eh?”

“Yes,” she answered, “you have done quite rightly.”

“If I had seen her before as she is now,” Nikolay was thinking, “I should have asked her long ago what to do, and should have done anything she told me, and it would have been all right.”

“So you’re glad,” he said, “and I have done right?”

“Oh, quite right! I had a quarrel with mamma about it a little while age. Mamma said she was trying to catch you. How could she say such a thing! I almost stormed at mamma. I will never let any one say or think any harm of her, for there’s nothing but good in her.”

“So it’s all right?” said Nikolay, once more gazing intently at his sister’s expression to find out whether that were the truth. Then he jumped off the sledge and ran, his boots crunching over the wet snow, to his sledge. The same happy, smiling Circassian, with a moustache and sparkling eyes, peeping from under the sable hood, was still sitting there, and that Circassian was Sonya, and that Sonya was for certain now his happy and loving future wife.

On reaching home, the young ladies told the countess how they had spent the time at the Melyukov’s, and then went to their room. They changed their dresses, but without washing off their moustaches, sat for a long while talking of their happiness. They talked of how they would live when they were married, how their husbands would be friends, and they would be happy. Looking-glasses were standing on Natasha’s table, set there earlier in the evening by Dunyasha, and arranged in the traditional way for looking into the future.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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