On leaving Madame Malvintsev, Rostov would have gone back to the dance, but the little governor’s wife laid her plump little hand on his sleeve, and saying that she wanted to have a few words with him, led him into the divan-room; the persons in that room promptly withdrew that they might not be in her way.

“Do you know, mon cher,” said the governor’s wife with a serious expression on her good-natured, little face, “this is really the match for you; if you like, I will try and arrange it.”

“Whom do you mean, ma tante?” asked Nikolay.

“I will make a match for you with the princess. Katerina Petrovna talks of Lili, but I say, no—the princess. Do you wish it? I am sure your mamma will be grateful. Really, she is such a splendid girl, charming! And she is by no means so very plain.”

“Not at all so,” said Nikolay, as though offended at the idea. “As for me, ma tante, as a soldier should, I don’t force myself on any one, nor refuse anything that turns up,” said Rostov, before he had time to consider what he was saying.

“So remember then; this is no jesting matter.”

“How could it be!”

“Yes, yes,” said the governor’s wife, as though talking to herself. “And entre autres, mon cher, you are too assiduous with the other—the blonde. One feels sorry for the husband, really…”

“Oh no, we are quite friendly,” said Nikolay in the simplicity of his heart: it had never occurred to him that such an agreeable pastime for him could be other than agreeable to any one else.

“What a stupid thing I said to the governor’s wife though!” suddenly came into Nikolay’s mind at supper. “She really will begin to arrange a match, and Sonya?…”

And on taking leave of the governor’s wife, as she said to him once more with a smile, “Well, remember then,” he drew her aside.

“But there is something…To tell you the truth, ma tante…”

“What is it, what is it, my dear? Come, let us sit down here.”

Nikolay had a sudden desire, an irresistible impulse to talk of all his most secret feelings (such as he would never have spoken of to his mother, to his sister, to an intimate friend) to this woman, who was almost a stranger. Whenever Nikolay thought afterwards of this uncalled-for outbursts of inexplicable frankness—though it had most important consequences for him—it seemed to him (as it always seems to people in such cases) that it had happened by chance, through a sudden fit of folly. But at the same time this outburst of frankness, together with other insignificant events, had consequences of immense importance to him and to all his family.

“It’s like this, ma tante. It has long been maman’s wish to marry me to an heiress; but the mere idea of it—marrying for money—is revolting to me.”

“Oh yes, I can understand that,” said the governor’s wife.

“But Princess Bolkonsky, that’s a different matter. In the first place, I’ll tell you the truth, I like her very much, I feel drawn to her, and then, ever since I came across her in such a position, so strangely, it has often struck me, that it was fate. Only think: mamma has long been dreaming of it, but I had never happened to meet her before—it always so happened that we didn’t meet. And then when my sister, Natasha, was engaged to her brother, of course it was impossible to think of a match between us then. It seems it was to happen that I met her first just when Natasha’s engagement had been broken off; and

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