Chapter 6

ON REACHING MOSCOW, after her meeting with Rostov at Bogutcharovo, Princess Marya had found her nephew there with his tutor, and a letter from Prince Andrey, directing her what route to take to her aunt, Madame Malvintsev’s at Voronezh. The arrangements for the journey, anxiety about her brother, the organisation of her life in a new house, new people, the education of her nephew—all of this smothered in Princess Marya’s heart that feeling as it were of temptation, which had tormented her during her father’s illness and after his death, especially since her meeting with Rostov.

She was melancholy. Now after a month had passed in quiet, undisturbed conditions, she felt more and more deeply the loss of her father, which was connected in her heart with the downfall of Russia. She was anxious: the thought of the dangers to which her brother—the one creature near to her now left—was being exposed was a continual torture to her. She was worried too by the education of her nephew, which she was constantly feeling herself unfitted to control. But at the bottom of her heart there was an inward harmony, that arose from the sense that she had conquered in herself those dreams and hopes of personal happiness, that had sprung up in connection with Rostov.

When the governor’s wife called on Madame Malvintsev the day after her soirée, and, talking over her plans with her, explaining that though under present circumstances a formal betrothal was of course not to be thought of, yet they might bring the young people together, and let them get to know one another, and having received the aunt’s approval, began to speak of Rostov in Princess Marya’s presence, singing his praises, and describing how he had blushed on hearing the princess’s name, her emotion was not one of joy, but of pain. Her inner harmony was destroyed, and desires, doubts, self-reproach, and hope sprang up again.

In the course of the two days that followed before Rostov called, Princess Marya was continually considering what her behaviour ought to be in regard to Rostov. At one time, she made up her mind that she would not come down into the drawing-room when he came to see her aunt, that it was not suitable for her in her deep mourning to receive visitors. Then she thought this would be rude after what he had done for her. Then the idea struck her that her aunt and the governor’s wife had views of some sort upon her and Rostov; their words and glances had seemed at times to confirm this suspicion. Then she told herself that it was only her own depravity that could make her think this of them: could they possibly fail to realise that in her position, still wearing the heaviest mourning, such match-making would be an insult both to her and to her father’s memory? On the supposition that she would go down to see him, Princess Marya imagined the words he would say to her, and she would say to him; and at one moment, those words seemed to her undeservedly frigid, at the next, they struck her as carrying too much meaning. Above all she dreaded the embarrassment, which she felt would be sure to overcome her, and betray her, as soon as she saw him.

But when, on Sunday after matins, the footman came into the drawing-room to announce that Count Rostov had called, the princess showed no sign of embarrassment, only a faint flush came into her cheeks, and her eyes shone with a new, radiant light.

“You have seen him, aunt?” said Princess Marya, in a composed voice, not knowing herself how she could be externally so calm and natural.

When Rostov came into the room, the princess dropped her head for an instant, as though to give time for their visitor to greet her aunt; and then at the very moment when Nikolay turned to her, she raised her head and met his gaze with shining eyes. With a movement full of dignity and grace, she rose with a joyous smile, held out her delicate, soft hand to him, and spoke in a voice in which for the first time there was the thrill of deep, womanly chest notes. Mademoiselle Bourienne, who was in the drawing- room, gazed at Princess Marya with bewildered surprise. The most accomplished coquette herself, she could not have manœuvred better on meeting a man whom she wanted to attract.

“Either black suits her wonderfully, or she really has grown better looking without my noticing it. And above all, such tact and grace!” thought Mademoiselle Bourienne.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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