AT THE BEGINNING of the winter Princess Marya arrived in Moscow. From the gossip of the town she heard of the position of the Rostovs, and of how the son was sacrificing himself for his mother, as the gossips said. It is just what I expected of him, Princess Marya said to herself, finding in it a delightful confirmation of her love for him. Remembering her intimate relations with the whole familyalmost as one of themselvesshe thought it her duty to call on them. But thinking of her relations with Nikolay in Voronezh, she was afraid of doing so. A few weeks after her arrival in Moscow, she did, however, make an effort, and went to see the Rostovs.
Nikolay was the first to meet her, since it was impossible to reach the countesss room without passing through his room. Instead of the expression of delight Princess Marya had expected to see on his face at the first glance at her, he met her with a look of chilliness, stiffness, and pride that she had never seen before. Nikolay inquired after her health, conducted her to his mother, and, after staying five minutes, went out of the room.
When Princess Marya left the countess, Nikolay again met her, and with marked formality and stiffness led her to the hall. He made no reply to her remarks about the countesss health. What is it to you? Leave me in peace, his expression seemed to say.
And why should she stroll in here? What does she want? I cant endure these ladies and all these civilities! he said aloud before Sonya, obviously unable to restrain his vexation, after the princesss carriage had rolled away from the house.
Oh, how can you talk like that, Nicolas, said Sonya, hardly able to conceal her delight. She is so kind, and maman is so fond of her.
Nikolay made no reply, and would have liked to say no more about Princess Marya. But after her visit the old countess talked about her several times every day.
She sang her praises; insisted that her son should go and see her; expressed a wish to see more of her; and yet was always out of temper when she had been talking of her.
Nikolay tried to say nothing when his mother talked of Princess Marya, but his silence irritated her.
She is a very good and conscientious girl, she would say, and you must go and call on her. Anyway, you will see some one; and it is dull for you, I expect, with us.
But I dont at all wish to, mamma.
Why, you wanted to see people and now you dont wish it. I really dont understand you, my dear. At one minute you are dull, and the next you suddenly dont care to see any one.
Why, I never said I was dull.
Why, you said yourself you did not even wish to see her. She is a very good girl, and you always liked her; and now all of a sudden you have some reasons or other. Everything is kept a secret from me.
Not at all, mamma.
If I were to beg you to do something unpleasant, but as it is, I simply beg you to drive over and return her call. Why, civility demands it, I should suppose I have begged you to do so, and now I will meddle no further since you have secrets from your mother.
But I will go, if you wish it.
Its nothing to me; its for your sake I wish it.
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