“We won’t talk any more of it, my dear,” he said. It seemed suddenly so strange to Natasha to hear the gentle, tender, sympathetic voice in which he spoke. “We won’t talk of it, my dear, I’ll tell him everything. But one thing I beg you, look on me as your friend; and if you want help, advice, or simply want to open your heart to some one—not now, but when things are clearer in your heart—think of me.” He took her hand and kissed it. “I shall be happy, if I am able …” Pierre was confused.

“Don’t speak to me like that; I’m not worth it!” cried Natasha, and she would have left the room, but Pierre held her hand. He knew there was something more he must say to her. But when he said it, he was surprised at his own words.

“Hush, hush, your whole life lies before you,” he said to her.

“Before me! No! All is over for me,” she said, with shame and self-humiliation.

“All over?” he repeated. “If I were not myself, but the handsomest, cleverest, best man in the world, and if I were free I would be on my knees this minute to beg for your hand and your love.”

For the first time for many days Natasha wept with tears of gratitude and softened feeling, and glancing at Pierre, she went out of the room.

Pierre followed her, almost running into the vestibule, and restraining the tears of tenderness and happiness that made a lump in his throat. He flung on his fur coat, unable to find the armholes, and got into his sledge.

“Now where, your excellency?” asked the coachman.

“Where?” Pierre asked himself. “Where can I go now? Not to the club or to pay calls.” All men seemed to him so pitiful, so poor in comparison with the feeling of tenderness and love in his heart, in comparison with that softened, grateful glance she had turned upon him that last minute through her tears.

“Home,” said Pierre, throwing open the bearskin coat over his broad, joyously breathing chest in spite of ten degrees of frost.

It was clear and frosty. Over the dirty, half-dark streets, over the black roofs was a dark, starlit sky. It was only looking at the sky that Pierre forgot the mortifying meanness of all things earthly in comparison with the height his soul had risen to. As he drove into Arbatsky Square, the immense expanse of dark, starlit sky lay open before Pierre’s eyes. Almost in the centre of it above the Prechistensky Boulevard, surrounded on all sides by stars, but distinguished from all by its nearness to the earth, its white light and long, upturned tail, shone the huge, brilliant comet of 1812; the comet which betokened, it was said, all manner of horrors and the end of the world. But in Pierre’s heart that bright comet, with its long, luminous tail, aroused no feeling of dread. On the contrary, his eyes wet with tears, Pierre looked joyously at this bright comet, which seemed as though after flying with inconceivable swiftness through infinite space in a parabola, it had suddenly, like an arrow piercing the earth, stuck fast at one chosen spot in the black sky, and stayed there, vigorously tossing up its tail, shining and playing with its white light among the countless other twinkling stars. It seemed to Pierre that it was in full harmony with what was in his softened and emboldened heart, that had gained vigour to blossom into a new life.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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