Chapter 16

NATASHA, as soon as she was alone with her husband, had begun talking too, as only husband and wife can talk, that is, understanding and communicating their thoughts to each other, with extraordinary clearness and rapidity, by a quite peculiar method opposed to all the rules of logic, without the aid of premises, deductions, and conclusions. Natasha was so used to talking to her husband in this fashion that a logical sequence of thought on Pierre’s part was to her an infallible symptom of something being out of tune between them. When he began arguing, talking reasonably and calmly, and when she was led on by his example into doing the same, she knew it would infallibly lead to a quarrel.

From the moment they were alone together and Natasha, with wide-open, happy eyes, crept softly up to him and suddenly, swiftly seizing his head, pressed it to her bosom, saying, ‘‘Now you’re all mine, mine! You shan’t escape!’’ that conversation began that contravened every rule of logic, especially because they talked of several different subjects at once. This discussion of all sorts of things at once, far from hindering clearness of comprehension, was the surest token that they understood one another fully.

As in a dream everything is uncertain, meaningless, and contradictory except the feeling that directs the dream, so in this communion of ideas, apart from every law of reason, what is clear and consecutive is not what is said, but the feeling that prompts the words.

Natasha talked to Pierre of the daily round of existence at her brother’s; told him how she had suffered and been half-dead without him; and that she was fonder of Marie than ever, and Marie was better in every way than she was. In saying this Natasha was quite sincere in acknowledging Marie’s superiority, but at the same time she expected Pierre to prefer her to Marie and all other women, and now, especially after he had been seeing a great many women in Petersburg, to tell her so anew. In response to Natasha’s words, Pierre told her how intolerable he had found the evening parties and dinners with ladies in Petersburg.

‘‘I have quite lost the art of talking to ladies,’’ he said; ‘‘it was horribly tiresome. Especially as I was so busy.’’

Natasha looked intently at him, and went on. ‘‘Marie, now she is wonderful!’’ she said. ‘‘The insight she has into children. She seems to see straight into their souls. Yesterday, for instance, Mitenka was naughty…’’

‘‘And isn’t he like his father?’’ Pierre put in.

Natasha knew why he made this remark about Mitenka’s likeness to Nikolay. He disliked the thought of his dispute with his brother-in-law, and was longing to hear what she thought about it.

‘‘It’s a weakness of Nikolay’s, that if anything is not generally accepted, he will never agree with it. And I see that that’s just what you value to ouvrir une carrière,’’ she said, repeating a phrase Pierre had once uttered.

‘‘No, the real thing is that to Nikolay,’’ said Pierre, ‘‘thoughts and ideas are an amusement, almost a pastime. Here he’s forming a library and has made it a rule not to buy a new book till he has read through the last he has bought—Sismondi and Rousseau and Montesquieu,’’ Pierre added with a smile. ‘‘You know how I—,’’ he was beginning to soften his criticism; but Natasha interrupted, giving him thereby to understand that that was not necessary.

‘‘So you say ideas to him are not serious…’’

‘‘Yes, and to me nothing else is serious. All the while I was in Petersburg, I seemed to be seeing every one in a dream. When I am absorbed by an idea, nothing else is serious.’’

‘‘Oh, what a pity I didn’t see your meeting with the children,’’ said Natasha. ‘‘Which was the most pleased? Liza, of course?’’

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