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War And Peace 175


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you went away?... Well, she says you are to forget all that.... She says: I shall love him always, but let him be free. Isnt that lovely and noble! Yes, very noble? Isnt it?" asked Natasha, so seriously and excitedly that it was evident that what she was now saying she had talked of before, with tears. Rostov became thoughtful. "I never go back on my word," he said. "Besides, Sonya is so charming that only a fool would renounce such happiness." "No, no!" cried Natasha, "she and I have already talked it over. We knew youd say so. But it wont do, because you see, if you say that--if you consider yourself bound by your promise--it will seem as if she had not meant it seriously. It makes it as if you were marrying her because you must, and that wouldnt do at all." Rostov saw that it had been well considered by them. Sonya had already struck him by her beauty on the preceding day. Today, when he had caught a glimpse of her, she seemed still more lovely. She was a charming girl of sixteen, evidently passionately in love with him (he did not doubt that for an instant). Why should he not love her now, and even marry her, Rostov thought, but just now there were so many other pleasures and interests before him! "Yes, they have taken a wise decision," he thought, "I must remain free." "Well then, thats excellent," said he. "Well talk it over later on. Oh, how glad I am to have you!" "Well, and are you still true to Boris?" he continued. "Oh, what nonsense!" cried Natasha, laughing. "I dont think about him or anyone else, and I dont want anything of the kind." "Dear me! Then what are you up to now?" "Now?" repeated Natasha, and a happy smile lit up her face. "Have you seen Duport?" "No." "Not seen Duport--the famous dancer? Well then, you wont understand. Thats what Im up to." Curving her arms, Natasha held out her skirts as dancers do, ran back a few steps, turned, cut a caper, brought her little feet sharply together, and made some steps on the very tips of her toes. "See, Im standing! See!" she said, but could not maintain herself on her toes any longer. "So thats what Im up to! Ill never marry anyone, but will be a dancer. Only dont tell anyone." Rostov laughed so loud and merrily that Denisov, in his bedroom, felt envious and Natasha could not help joining in. "No, but dont you think its nice?" she kept repeating. "Nice! And so you no longer wish to marry Boris?" Natasha flared up. "I dont want to marry anyone. And Ill tell him so when I see him!" "Dear me!" said Rostov. "But thats all rubbish," Natasha chattered on. "And is Denisov nice?" she asked. "Yes, indeed!" "Oh, well then, good-by: go and dress. Is he very terrible, Denisov?" "Why terrible?" asked Nicholas. "No, Vaska is a splendid fellow." "You call him Vaska? Thats funny! And is he very nice?" "Very." "Well then, be quick. Well all have breakfast together." And Natasha rose and went out of the room on tiptoe, like a ballet dancer, but smiling as only happy girls of fifteen can smile. When Rostov met Sonya in the drawing room, he reddened. He did not know how to behave with her. The evening before, in the first happy moment of meeting, they had kissed each other, but today they felt it could not be done; he felt that everybody, including his mother and sisters, was looking inquiringly at him and watching to see how he would behave with her. He kissed her hand and addressed her not as thou but as you--Sonya. But their eyes met and said thou, and exchanged tender kisses. Her looks asked him to forgive her for having dared, by Natashas intermediacy, to remind him of his promise, and then thanked him for his love. His looks thanked her for offering him his freedom and told her that one way or another he would never cease to love her, for that would be impossible. "How strange it is," said Vera, selecting a moment when all were silent, "that Sonya and Nicholas now say you to one another and meet like strangers." Veras remark was correct, as her remarks always were, but, like most of her observations, it made everyone feel uncomfortable, not only Sonya, Nicholas, and Natasha, but even the old countess, who--dreading this love affair which might hinder Nicholas from making a brilliant match--blushed like a girl. Denisov, to Rostovs surprise, appeared in

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