Chapter 7

They drove to the gloomy old house in Vosdvizhenka, and went into the vestibule.

“Well now, with God’s blessing,” said the count, half in jest, half in earnest. But Natasha noticed that her father was in a nervous fidget as he went into the entry, and asked timidly and softly whether the prince and the princess were at home. After their arrival had been announced, there was some perturbation visible among the prince’s servants. The footman, who was running to announce them, was stopped by another footman in the big hall, and they whispered together. A maid-servant ran into the hall, and hurriedly said something, mentioning the princess. At last one old footman came out with a wrathful air, and announced to the Rostovs that the prince was not receiving, but the princess begged them to walk up. The first person to meet the visitors was Mademoiselle Bourienne. She greeted the father and daughter with marked courtesy, and conducted them to the princess’s apartment. The princess, with a frightened and agitated face, flushed in patches, ran in, treading heavily, to meet her visitors, doing her best to seem cordial and at ease. From the first glance Princess Marya disliked Natasha. She thought her too fashionably dressed, too frivolously gay and vain. Princess Marya had no idea that before she had seen her future sister-in-law she had been unfavourably disposed to her, through unconscious envy of her beauty, her youth, and her happiness, and through jealousy of her brother’s love for her. Apart from this insuperable feeling of antipathy to her, Princess Marya was at that moment agitated by the fact that on the Rostovs’ having been announced the old prince had shouted that he didn’t want to see them, that Princess Marya could see them if she chose, but they were not to be allowed in to see him. Princess Marya resolved to see the Rostovs, but she was every instant in dread of some freak on the part of the old prince, as he had appeared greatly excited by the arrival of the Rostovs.

“Well, here I have brought you my songstress, princess,” said the count, bowing and scraping, while he looked round uneasily as though he were afraid the old prince might come in. “How glad I am that you should make friends.…Sorry, very sorry, the prince is still unwell”; and uttering a few more stock phrases, he got up. “If you’ll allow me, princess, to leave you my Natasha for a quarter of an hour, I will drive round—only a few steps from here—to Dogs’ Square to see Anna Semyonovna, and then come back for her.”

Count Ilya Andreitch bethought himself of this diplomatic stratagem to give the future sisters-in-law greater freedom to express their feelings to one another (so he told his daughter afterwards), but also to avoid the possibility of meeting the prince, of whom he was afraid. He did not tell his daughter this; but Natasha perceived this dread and uneasiness of her father’s, and felt mortified by it. She blushed for her father, felt still angrier at having blushed, and glanced at the princess with a bold, challenging air, meant to express that she was not afraid of any one. The princess told the count that she would be delighted, and only begged him to stay a little longer at Anna Semyonovna’s, and Ilya Andreitch departed.

In spite of the uneasy glances flung at her by Princess Marya, who wanted to talk to Natasha by herself, Mademoiselle Bourienne would not leave the room, and persisted in keeping up a conversation about Moscow entertainments and theatres. Natasha felt offended by the delay in the entry, by her father’s nervousness, and by the constrained manner of the princess, who seemed to her to be making a favour of receiving her. And then everything displeased her. She did not like Princess Marya. She seemed to her very ugly, affected, and frigid. Natasha suddenly, as it were, shrank into herself, and unconsciously assumed a non-chalant air, which repelled Princess Marya more and more. After five minutes of irksome and constrained conversation, they heard the sound of slippered feet approaching rapidly. Princess Marya’s face expressed terror: the door of the room opened, and the prince came in, in a white night-cap and dressing-gown.

“Ah, madam,” he began, “madam, countess.…Countess Rostov… if I’m not mistaken…I beg you to excuse me, to excuse me…I didn’t know, madam. As God’s above, I didn’t know that you were deigning to visit us, and came in to my daughter in this costume. I beg you to excuse me…as God’s above, I didn’t know,” he repeated so unnaturally, with emphasis on the word “God,” and so unpleasantly, that Princess Marya rose to her feet with her eyes on the ground, not daring to look either at her father or at Natasha. Natasha,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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