it too, but it’s only now that I have felt such love. It’s not what I have felt before. As soon as I saw him, I felt that he was my sovereign and I was his slave, and that I could not help loving him. Yes, his slave! Whatever he bids me, I shall do. You don’t understand that. What am I to do? What am I to do, Sonya?” said Natasha, with a blissful and frightened face.

“But only think what you are doing,” said Sonya. “I can’t leave it like this. These secret letters … How could you let him go so far as that?” she said, with a horror and aversion she could with difficulty conceal.

“I have told you,” answered Natasha, “that I have no will. How is it you don’t understand that? I love him!”

“Then I can’t let it go on like this. I shall tell about it,” cried Sonya with a burst of tears.

“What … for God’s sake … If you tell, you are my enemy,” said Natasha. “You want to make me miserable, and you want us to be separated…”

On seeing Natasha’s alarm, Sonya wept tears of shame and pity for her friend.

“But what has passed between you?” she asked. “What has he said to you? Why doesn’t he come to the house?”

Natasha made no answer to her question.

“For God’s sake, Sonya, don’t tell any one; don’t torture me,” Natasha implored her. “Remember that it doesn’t do to meddle in such matters. I have told you …”

“But why this secrecy? Why doesn’t he come to the house?” Sonya persisted. “Why doesn’t he ask for your hand straight out? Prince Andrey, you know, gave you complete liberty, if it really is so; but I can’t believe in it. Natasha, have you thought what the secret reasons can be?”

Natasha looked with wondering eyes at Sonya. Evidently it was the first time that question had presented itself to her, and she did not know how to answer it.

“What the reasons are, I don’t know. But there must be reasons!”

Sonya sighed and shook her head distrustfully.

“If there were reasons…” she was beginning. But Natasha, divining her doubts, interrupted her in dismay.

“Sonya, you mustn’t doubt of him; you mustn’t, you mustn’t! Do you understand?” she cried.

“Does he love you?”

“Does he love me?” repeated Natasha, with a smile of compassion for her friend’s dullness of comprehension. “Why, you have read his letter, haven’t you? You’ve seen him.”

“But if he is a dishonourable man?”

He! … a dishonourable man? If only you knew!” said Natasha.

“If he is an honourable man, he ought either to explain his intentions, or to give up seeing you; and if you won’t do that, I will do it. I’ll write to him. I’ll tell papa,” said Sonya resolutely.

“But I can’t live without him!” cried Natasha.

“Natasha, I don’t understand you. And what are you saying? Think of your father, of Nikolenka.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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