“You know her?” asked Pierre.

“I have seen the princess,” she answered, “and I had heard they were making a match between her and young Rostov. That would be a very fine thing for the Rostovs; I am told they are utterly ruined.”

“No, I meant, do you know Natasha Rostov?”

“I heard at the time all about that story. Very sad.”

“She does not understand, or she is pretending,” thought Pierre. “Better not tell her either.”

The princess, too, had prepared provisions for Pierre’s journey.

“How kind they all are,” thought Pierre, “to trouble about all this now, when it certainly can be of no interest to them. And all for my sake; that is what’s so marvellous.”

The same day a police officer came to see Pierre, with an offer to send a trusty agent to the Polygonal Palace to receive the things that were to-day to be restored among the owners.

“And this man too,” thought Pierre, looking into the police officer’s face, “what a nice, good-looking officer, and how good-natured! To trouble about such trifles now. And yet they say he is not honest, and takes bribes. What nonsense! though after all why shouldn’t he take bribes? He has been brought up in that way. They all do it. But such a pleasant, good-humoured face, and he smiles when he looks at me.”

Pierre went to Princess Marya’s to dinner. As he drove through the streets between the charred wrecks of houses, he admired the beauty of those ruins. The chimneys of stoves, and the tumbledown walls of houses stretched in long rows, hiding one another, all through the burnt quarters of the town, and recalled to him the picturesque ruins of the Rhine and of the Colosseum. The sledge-drivers and men on horseback, the carpenters at work on the frames of the houses, the hawkers and shopkeepers all looked at Pierre with cheerful, beaming faces, and seemed to him to say: “Oh, here he is! We shall see what comes of it.”

On reaching Princess Marya’s house, Pierre was beset by a sudden doubt whether it were true that he had been there the day before, and had really seen Natasha and talked to her. “Perhaps it was all my own invention, perhaps I shall go in and see no one.” But no sooner had he entered the room than in his whole being, from his instantaneous loss of freedom, he was aware of her presence. She was wearing the same black dress, that hung in soft folds, and had her hair arranged in the same way, but she was utterly different. Had she looked like this when he came in yesterday, he could not have failed to recognise her.

She was just as he had known her almost as a child, and later when betrothed to Prince Andrey. A bright, questioning light gleamed in her eyes; there was a friendly and strangely mischievous expression in her face.

Pierre dined, and would have spent the whole evening with them; but Princess Marya was going to vespers, and Pierre went with them.

Princess Marya, foreseeing no end to it, was the first to get up, and complaining of a sick headache, she began saying good-night.

“So you are going to-morrow to Petersburg?” she said.

“No, I am not going,” said Pierre hurriedly, with surprise and a sort of resentment in his tone. “No … yes, to Petersburg. To-morrow, perhaps; but I won’t say good-bye. I shall come to see if you have any commissions to give me,” he added, standing before Princess Marya, turning very red, and not taking leave.

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