Chapter 10

NATASHA was married in the early spring of 1813, and by 1820 she had three daughters and a son. The latter had been eagerly desired, and she was now nursing him herself. She had grown stouter and broader, so that it was hard to recognise in the robust-looking young mother the slim, mobile Natasha of old days. Her features had become more defined, and wore an expression of calm softness and serenity. Her face had no longer that ever-glowing fire of eagerness that had once constituted her chief charm. Now, often her face and body were all that was to be seen, and the soul was not visible at all. All there was to be seen in her was a vigorous, handsome, and fruitful mother. Only on rare occasions now the old fire glowed in her again. That happened only when, as now, her husband returned after absence, when a sick child recovered, or when she spoke to Countess Marya of Prince Andrey (to her husband she never spoke of Prince Andrey, fancying he might be jealous of her love for him), or on the rare occasions when something happened to attract her to her singing, which she had entirely laid aside since her marriage. And at those rare moments, when the old fire glowed again, she was more attractive, with her handsome, fully-developed figure, than she had ever been in the past.

Since her marriage Natasha and her husband had lived in Moscow, in Petersburg, on their estate near Moscow, and at her mother’s; that is to say, at Nikolay’s. The young Countess Bezuhov was little seen in society, and those who had seen her there were not greatly pleased with her. She was neither charming nor amiable. It was not that Natasha was fond of solitude (she could not have said whether she liked it or not; she rather supposed indeed that she did not); but as she was bearing and nursing children, and taking interest in every minute of her husband’s life, she could not meet all these demands on her except by renouncing society. Every one who had known Natasha before her marriage marvelled at the change that had taken place in her, as though it were something extraordinary. Only the old countess, with her mother’s insight, had seen that what was at the root of all Natasha’s wild outbursts of feeling was simply the need of children and a husband of her own, as she often used to declare, more in earnest than in joke, at Otradnoe. The mother was surprised at the wonder of people who did not understand Natasha, and repeated that she had always known that she would make an exemplary wife and mother.

‘‘Only she does carry her devotion to her husband and children to an extreme,’’ the countess would say; ‘‘so much so, that it’s positively foolish.’’

Natasha did not follow the golden rule preached by so many prudent persons, especially by the French, that recommends that a girl on marrying should not neglect herself, should not give up her accomplishments, should think even more of her appearance than when a young girl, and should try to fascinate her husband as she had fascinated him before he was her husband. Natasha, on the contrary, had at once abandoned all her accomplishments, of which the greatest was her singing. She gave that up just because it was such a great attraction. Natasha troubled herself little about manners or delicacy of speech; nor did she think of showing herself to her husband in the most becoming attitudes and costumes, nor strive to avoid worrying him by being over-exacting. She acted in direct contravention of all those rules. She felt that the arts of attraction that instinct had taught her to use before would now have seemed only ludicrous to her husband, to whom she had from the first moment given herself up entirely, that is with her whole soul, not keeping a single corner of it hidden from him. She felt that the tie that bound her to her husband did not rest on those romantic feelings which had attracted him to her, but rested on something else undefined, but as strong as the tie that bound her soul to her body.

To curl her hair, put on a crinoline, and sing songs to attract her husband would have seemed to her as strange as to deck herself up so as to please herself. To adorn herself to please others might perhaps have been agreeable to her—she did not know—but she had absolutely no time for it. The chief reason why she could not attend to her singing, nor to her dress, nor to the careful choice of her words was that she simply had no time to think of those things.

It is well known that man has the faculty of entire absorption in one subject, however trivial that subject may appear to be. And it is well known that there is no subject so trivial that it will not grow to indefinite proportions if concentrated attention be devoted to it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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