Chapter 8

SONYA’S LETTER to Nikolay, that had come as an answer to his prayer, was written at Troitsa. It had been called forth in the following way. The idea of marrying Nikolay to a wealthy heiress had taken more and more complete possession of the old countess’s mind. She knew that Sonya was the great obstacle in the way of this. And Sonya’s life had of late, and especially after the letter in which Nikolay described his meeting with Princess Marya at Bogutcharovo, become more and more difficult in the countess’s house. The countess never let slip an opportunity for making some cruel or humiliating allusion to Sonya. But a few days before they set out from Moscow the countess, distressed and overwrought by all that was happening, sent for Sonya, and instead of insistence and upbraiding, besought her with tears and entreaties to repay all that had been done for her by sacrificing herself, and breaking off her engagement to Nikolay. “I shall have no peace of mind till you make me this promise,” she said.

Sonya sobbed hysterically, answered through her sobs that she would do anything, that she was ready for anything; but she did not give a direct promise, and in her heart she could not bring herself to what was demanded of her. She had to sacrifice herself for the happiness of the family that had brought her up and provided for her. To sacrifice herself for others was Sonya’s habit. Her position in the house was such that only by way of sacrifice could she show her virtues, and she was used to sacrificing herself and liked it. But in every self-sacrificing action hitherto she had been happily conscious that by her very self-sacrifice she was heightening her value in the eyes of herself and others, and becoming worthier of Nikolay, whom she loved beyond everything in life. But now her sacrifice would consist in the renunciation of what constituted for her the whole reward of sacrifice, and the whole meaning of life. And for the first time in her life she felt bitterness against the people who had befriended her only to torment her more poignantly: she felt envy of Natasha, who had never had any experience of the kind, who had never been required to make sacrifices, and made other people sacrifice themselves for her, and was yet loved by every one. And for the first time Sonya felt that there was beginning to grow up out of her quiet, pure love for Nikolay a passionate feeling, which stood above all principles, and virtue, and religion. And under the influence of that passion, Sonya, whose life of dependence had unconsciously trained her to reserve, gave the countess vague, indefinite answers, avoided talking with her, and resolved to wait for a personal interview with Nikolay, not to set him free, but, on the contrary, to bind him to her for ever.

The fuss and the horror of the Rostovs’ last days in Moscow had smothered the gloomy thoughts that were weighing on Sonya. She was glad to find an escape from them in practical work. But when she heard of Prince Andrey’s presence in their house, in spite of all the genuine compassion she felt for him, and for Natasha, a joyful and superstitious feeling that it was God’s will that she should not be parted from Nikolay took possession of her. She knew Natasha loved no one but Prince Andrey, and had never ceased to love him. She knew that brought together now, under such terrible circumstances, they would love one another again; and that then, owing to the relationship that would (in accordance with the laws of the Orthodox Church) exist between them, Nikolay could not be married to Princess Marya. In spite of all the awfulness of what was happening during the last day or two in Moscow and the first days of the journey, that feeling, that consciousness of the intervention of Providence in her personal affairs, was a source of joy to Sonya. At the Troitsa monastery the Rostovs made the first break in their journey.

In the hostel of the monastery three big rooms were assigned to the Rostovs, one of which was occupied by Prince Andrey. The wounded man was by this time a great deal better. Natasha was sitting with him. In the next room were the count and the countess reverently conversing with the superior, who was paying a visit to his old acquaintances and patrons. Sonya was sitting with them, fretted by curiosity as to what Prince Andrey and Natasha were saying. She heard the sounds of their voices through the door. The door of Prince Andrey’s room opened. Natasha came out with an excited face, and not noticing the monk, who rose to meet her, and pulled back his wide sleeve off his right hand, she went up to Sonya and took her by the arm.

“Natasha, what are you about? Come here,” said the countess.

Natasha went up to receive the blessing, and the superior counselled her to turn for aid to God and to His saint.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.