getting up and curtseying, did not know either what she was to do. Only Mademoiselle Bourienne smiled agreeably.

“I beg you to excuse me, I beg you to excuse me! As God’s above, I didn’t know,” muttered the old man, and looking Natasha over from head to foot, he went out.

Mademoiselle Bourienne was the first to recover herself after this apparition, and began talking about the prince’s ill-health. Natasha and Princess Marya gazed dumbly at one another, and the longer they gazed dumbly at one another without saying what they wanted to say, the more unfavourably each felt disposed to the other.

When the count returned, Natasha showed a discourteous relief at seeing him, and made haste to get away. At that moment she almost hated that stiff, oldish princess, who could put her in such an awkward position, and spend half an hour with her without saying a word about Prince Andrey. “I couldn’t be the first to speak of him before that Frenchwoman,” thought Natasha. Princess Marya meanwhile was tortured by the very same feeling. She knew what she had to say to Natasha, but she could not do it, both because Mademoiselle Bourienne prevented her, and because she did not know herself why—it was difficult for her to begin to speak of the marriage. The count was already going out of the room when Princess Marya moved rapidly up to Natasha, took her hand, and, with a heavy sigh, said: “Wait a moment, I want…” Natasha’s expression as she looked at Princess Marya was ironical, though she did not know why.

“Dear Natalie,” said Princess Marya, “do believe how glad I am that my brother has found such happiness…” She paused, feeling she was telling a lie. Natasha noticed the pause, and guessed the reason of it.

“I imagine, princess, that it is not now suitable to speak of that,” said Natasha, with external dignity and coldness, though she felt the tears rising in her throat.

“What have I said, what have I done?” she thought as soon as she had gone out of the room.

They had to wait a long while for Natasha to come to dinner that day. She was sitting in her room, crying like a child, choking, and sobbing. Sonya stood over her, and kept kissing her on the head.

“Natasha, what is it?” she kept saying. “Why need you mind about them? It will pass, Natasha.”

“No, if only you knew how insulting it was…as though I…”

“Don’t talk of it, Natasha; it’s not your fault, you see, so what does it matter to you! Kiss me,” said Sonya.

Natasha raised her head, and kissing her friend on the lips, pressed her wet face against her.

“I can’t say; I don’t know. It’s no one’s fault,” said Natasha; “it’s my fault. But it’s all awfully painful. Oh, why doesn’t he come?…”

She went down to dinner with red eyes. Marya Dmitryevna, who had heard how the old prince had received the Rostovs, pretended not to notice Natasha’s troubled face, and kept up a loud, jesting conversation at table with the count and the other guests.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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