“Do not believe, though,” she wrote, “that my father is ill-disposed to you. He is an old man and an invalid, for whom one must make excuses. But he is good-hearted and generous, and will come to love the woman who makes his son happy.” Princess Marya begged Natasha, too, to fix a time when she might see her again.

After reading the letter, Natasha sat down to the writing-table to answer it. “Dear princess,” she began, writing rapidly and mechanically in French, and there she stopped. What more could she write after what had happened the day before? “Yes, yes, all that had happened, and now everything was different,” she thought, sitting before the letter she had begun. “Must I refuse him? Must I really? That’s awful!…” And to avoid these horrible thoughts, she went in to Sonya, and began looking through embroidery designs with her.

After dinner Natasha went to her own room and took up Princess Marya’s letter again. “Can everything be over?” she thought. “Can all this have happened so quickly and have destroyed all that went before?” She recalled in all its past strength her love for Prince Andrey, and at the same time she felt that she loved Kuragin. She vividly pictured herself the wife of Prince Andrey, of her happiness with him, called up the picture she had so often dwelt on in her imagination, and at the same time, all aglow with emotion, she recalled every detail of her interview the previous evening with Anatole.

“Why could not that be as well?” she wondered sometimes in complete bewilderment. “It’s only so that I could be perfectly happy: as it is, I have to choose, and without either of them I can’t be happy. There’s one thing,” she thought, “to tell Prince Andrey what has happened; to hide it from him—are equally impossible. But with him nothing is spoilt. But can I part for ever from the happiness of Prince Andrey’s love, which I have been living on for so long?”

“Madame,” whispered a maid, coming into the room with a mysterious air, “a man told me to give you this.” The girl gave her a letter. “Only for Christ’s sake …” said the girl, as Natasha, without thinking, mechanically broke the seal and began reading a love-letter from Anatole, of which she did not understand a word, but understood only that it was a letter from him, from the man whom she loved. “Yes, she loved him; otherwise, how could what had happened have happened? How could a love-letter from him be in her hand?”

With trembling hands Natasha held that passionate love-letter, composed for Anatole by Dolohov, and as she read it, she found in it echoes of all that it seemed to her she was feeling herself.

“Since yesterday evening my fate is sealed: to be loved by you or to die. There is nothing else left for me,” the letter began. Then he wrote that he knew her relations would never give her to him, to Anatole; that there were secret reasons for that which he could only reveal to her alone; but that if she loved him, she had but to utter the word Yes, and no human force could hinder their happiness. Love would conquer all. He could capture her and bear her away to the ends of the earth.

“Yes, yes, I love him!” thought Natasha, reading the letter over for the twentieth time, and finding some special deep meaning in every word.

That evening Marya Dmitryevna was going to the Arharovs’, and proposed taking the young ladies with her. Natasha pleaded a headache and stayed at home.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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