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War And Peace 284


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into her eyes. "Is it possible that I--the chit of a girl, as everybody called me," thought Natasha--"is it possible that I am now to be the wife and the equal of this strange, dear, clever man whom even my father looks up to? Can it be true? Can it be true that there can be no more playing with life, that now I am grown up, that on me now lies a responsibility for my every word and deed? Yes, but what did he ask me?" "No," she replied, but she had not understood his question. "Forgive me!" he said. "But you are so young, and I have already been through so much in life. I am afraid for you, you do not yet know yourself." Natasha listened with concentrated attention, trying but failing to take in the meaning of his words. "Hard as this year which delays my happiness will be," continued Prince Andrew, "it will give you time to be sure of yourself. I ask you to make me happy in a year, but you are free: our engagement shall remain a secret, and should you find that you do not love me, or should you come to love..." said Prince Andrew with an unnatural smile. "Why do you say that?" Natasha interrupted him. "You know that from the very day you first came to Otradnoe I have loved you," she cried, quite convinced that she spoke the truth. "In a year you will learn to know yourself...." "A whole year!" Natasha repeated suddenly, only now realizing that the marriage was to be postponed for a year. "But why a year? Why a year?..." Prince Andrew began to explain to her the reasons for this delay. Natasha did not hear him. "And cant it be helped?" she asked. Prince Andrew did not reply, but his face expressed the impossibility of altering that decision. "Its awful! Oh, its awful! awful!" Natasha suddenly cried, and again burst into sobs. "I shall die, waiting a year: its impossible, its awful!" She looked into her lovers face and saw in it a look of commiseration and perplexity. "No, no! Ill do anything!" she said, suddenly checking her tears. "I am so happy." The father and mother came into the room and gave the betrothed couple their blessing. From that day Prince Andrew began to frequent the Rostovs as Natashas affianced lover. CHAPTER XXIV No betrothal ceremony took place and Natashas engagement to Bolkonski was not announced; Prince Andrew insisted on that. He said that as he was responsible for the delay he ought to bear the whole burden of it; that he had given his word and bound himself forever, but that he did not wish to bind Natasha and gave her perfect freedom. If after six months she felt that she did not love him she would have full right to reject him. Naturally neither Natasha nor her parents wished to hear of this, but Prince Andrew was firm. He came every day to the Rostovs, but did not behave to Natasha as an affianced lover: he did not use the familiar thou, but said you to her, and kissed only her hand. After their engagement, quite different, intimate, and natural relations sprang up between them. It was as if they had not known each other till now. Both liked to recall how they had regarded each other when as yet they were nothing to one another; they felt themselves now quite different beings: then they were artificial, now natural and sincere. At first the family felt some constraint in intercourse with Prince Andrew; he seemed a man from another world, and for a long time Natasha trained the family to get used to him, proudly assuring them all that he only appeared to be different, but was really just like all of them, and that she was not afraid of him and no one else ought to be. After a few days they grew accustomed to him, and without restraint in his presence pursued their usual way of life, in which he took his part. He could talk about rural economy with the count, fashions with the countess and Natasha, and about albums and fancywork with Sonya. Sometimes the household both among themselves and in his presence expressed their wonder at how it had all happened, and at the evident omens there had been of it: Prince Andrews coming to Otradnoe and their coming to Petersburg, and the likeness between Natasha and Prince Andrew which her nurse had noticed on his first visit, and Andrews encounter with Nicholas in 1805, and

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