Chapter 8

THAT EVENING the Rostovs went to the opera, for which Marya Dmitryevna had obtained them a box.

Natasha had no wish to go, but it was impossible to refuse after Marya Dmitryevna’s kindness, especially as it had been arranged expressly for her. When she was dressed and waiting for her father in the big hall, she looked at herself in the big looking-glass, and saw that she was looking pretty, very pretty. She felt even sadder, but it was a sweet and tender sadness.

“My God, if he were only here, I wouldn’t have any stupid shyness of something as I used to, but in quite a new way, simply, I would embrace him, press close to him, force him to look at me with those scrutinising, inquisitive eyes, with which he used so often to look at me, and then I would make him laugh, as he used to laugh then; and his eyes—how I see those eyes!” thought Natasha. “And what does it matter to me about his father and sister; I love no one but him, him, him, with that face and those eyes, with his smile, manly, and yet childlike.… No, better not think of him, not think, forget, utterly forget him for the time. I can’t bear this suspense; I shall sob in a minute,” and she turned away from the looking- glass, making an effort not to weep. “And how can Sonya love Nikolenka so quietly, so calmly, and wait so long and so patiently!” she wondered, looking at Sonya, who came in, dressed for the theatre with a fan in her hand. “No, she’s utterly different. I can’t.”

Natasha at that moment felt so softened and moved that to love and know that she was loved was not enough for her: she wanted now, now at once to embrace the man she loved, and to speak and hear from him the words of love, of which her heart was full. When she was in the carriage sitting beside her father and pensively watching the lights of the street lamps flitting by the frozen window, she felt even sadder and more in love, and forgot with whom and where she was going. The Rostovs’ carriage fell into the line of carriages, and drove up to the theatre, its wheels crunching slowly over the snow. Natasha and Sonya skipped hurriedly out holding up their dresses; the count stepped out supported by the footmen, and all three walked to the corridor for the boxes in the stream of ladies and gentlemen going in and people selling programmes. They could hear the music already through the closed doors.

“Natasha, your hair …” whispered Sonya. The box-opener deferentially and hurriedly slipped before the ladies and opened the door of the box. The music became more distinctly audible at the door, and they saw the brightly lighted rows of boxes, with the bare arms and shoulders of the ladies, and the stalls below, noisy, and gay with uniforms. A lady entering the next box looked round at Natasha with an envious, feminine glance. The curtain had not yet risen and they were playing the overture. Natasha smoothing down her skirt went in with Sonya and sat down looking round at the brightly lighted tiers of boxes facing them. The sensation she had not experienced for a long while—that hundreds of eyes were looking at her bare arms and neck—suddenly came upon her both pleasantly and unpleasantly, calling up a whole swarm of memories, desires, and emotions connected with that sensation.

The two strikingly pretty girls, Natasha and Sonya, with Count Ilya Andreitch, who had not been seen for a long while in Moscow, attracted general attention. Moreover, every one had heard vaguely of Natasha’s engagement to Prince Andrey, knew that the Rostovs had been living in the country ever since, and looked with curiosity at the girl who was to make one of the best matches in Russia.

Natasha had, so every one told her, grown prettier in the country; and that evening, owing to her excited condition, she was particularly pretty. She made a striking impression of fulness of life and beauty, together with indifference to everything around her. Her black eyes gazed at the crowd, seeking out no one, while her slender arm, bare to above the elbow, leaned on the velvet edge of the box, and her hand, holding the programme, clasped and unclasped in time to the music with obvious unconsciousness.

“Look, there’s Alenina,” said Sonya, “with her mother, isn’t it?”

“Heavens, Mihail Kirillitch is really stouter than ever,” said the old count.

“Look! our Anna Mihalovna in such a cap!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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