betrothed, of Princess Marya, of her life in the country, did not once recur to her mind, as though all that belonged to the remote past.

In the fourth act there was some sort of devil who sang, waving his arms till the boards were moved away under him and he sank into the opening. That was all Natasha saw of the fourth act; she felt harassed and excited; and the cause of that excitement was Kuragin, whom she could not help watching. As they came out of the theatre Anatole came up to them, called their carriage and helped them into it. As he assisted Natasha he pressed her arm above the elbow. Natasha, flushed and excited, looked round at him. He gazed at her with flashing eyes and a tender smile.

It was only on getting home that Natasha could form any clear idea of what had happened. All at once, remembering Prince Andrey, she was horrified, and at tea, to which they all sat down after the theatre, she groaned aloud, and flushing crimson ran out of the room. “My God! I am ruined!” she said to herself. “How could I sink to such a depth?” she thought. For a long while she sat, with her flushed face hidden in her hands, trying to get a clear idea of what had happened and unable to grasp either what had happened or what she was feeling. Everything seemed to her dark, obscure, and dreadful. In that immense, lighted hall, where Duport had jumped about to music with his bare legs on the damp boards in his short jacket with tinsel, and young girls and old men, and that Ellen, proudly and serenely smiling in her nakedness, had enthusiastically roared “bravo”; there, in the wake of that Ellen, all had been clear and simple. But now, alone by herself, it was past comprehending. “What does it mean? What is that terror I felt with him? What is the meaning of those gnawings of conscience I am feeling now?” she thought.

To no one but to her mother at night in bed Natasha could have talked of what she was feeling. Sonya she knew, with her strict and single-minded view of things, would either have failed to understand at all, or would have been horrified at the avowal. Natasha all by herself had to try and solve the riddle that tormented her

“Am I spoilt for Prince Andrey’s love or not?” she asked herself, and with reassuring mockery she answered herself: “What a fool I am to ask such a thing! What has happened to me? Nothing. I have done nothing; I did nothing to lead him on. No one will ever know, and I shall never see him again,” she told herself. “So it’s plain that nothing has happened, that there’s nothing to regret, that Prince Andrey can love me still. But why still? O my God, my God, why isn’t he here!” Natasha felt comforted for a moment, but again some instinct told her that though that was all true, and though nothing had happened, yet some instinct told her that all the old purity of her love for Prince Andrey was lost. And again, in her imagination, she went over all her conversation with Kuragin, and saw again the face, the gestures, and the tender smile of that handsome, daring man at the moment when he had pressed her arm.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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