Book 4 Chapter 11

ON THE THIRD DAY after Christmas Nikolay dined at home, which he had rarely done of late. This was a farewell dinner in Nikolay's honour, as he was to set off with Denisov after the baptism festival to rejoin his regiment. Twenty persons were dining, among them Dolohov and Denisov.

Never had the love in the air of the Rostovs' house, never had the atmosphere of being in love, made itself so strongly felt as during those Christmas holidays. “Seize the moment of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only thing real in the world; the rest is all nonsense. And that is the one thing we are interested in here,” was the sentiment that atmosphere was eloquent of.

After exhausting two pairs of horses, as he did every day without having been everywhere he ought to have been, and everywhere he had been invited, Nikolay reached home just at dinner-time. As soon as he went in he felt that intense atmosphere of love in the house, but in addition to that he became conscious of a strange embarrassment that seemed to prevail between certain persons in the company. Sonya seemed particularly disturbed, so did Dolohov and the old countess, and in a lesser degree Natasha. Nikolay saw that something must have passed before dinner between Sonya and Dolohov, and with the delicate instinct characteristic of him, he was very sympathetic and wary with both of them during dinner. On that evening there was to be one of the dances given by Iogel, the dancing-master, during the holidays to his pupils.

“Nikolenka, are you going to Iogel's? Please, do go,” said Natasha; “he particularly begged you to, and Vassily Dmitritch” (this was Denisov) “is going.”

“Where would I not go at the countess's commands!” said Denisov, who had jestingly taken up the role of Natasha's knight in the Rostov household. “I am ready to dance the pas de chale.”

“If I have time! I promised the Arharovs; they have a party,” said Nikolay.

“And you? …” he turned to Dolohov. And as soon as he had asked the question, he saw that he should not have asked it.

“Yes, possibly …” Dolohov answered coldly and angrily, glancing at Sonya; and he glanced again, scowling at Nikolay with exactly the same look with which he had looked at Pierre at the club dinner.

“There's something wrong,” thought Nikolay; and he was still more confirmed in that surmise, when immediately after dinner Dolohov went away. He beckoned Natasha, and asked her what had happened.

“I was looking for you,” said Natasha, running out to him. “I told you so, and still you wouldn't believe me,” she said triumphantly; “he has made Sonya an offer.”

Little as Nikolay had been thinking of Sonya of late, he felt as if something were being torn from him when he heard this. Dolohov was a good, and in some respects a brilliant, match for the portionless orphan Sonya. From the point of view of the countess and of society it was out of the question for her to refuse him. And so Nikolay's first feeling when he heard of it was one of exasperation against Sonya. He braced himself up to say, “And a capital thing, too; of course she must forget her childish promises and accept the offer”; but he had not succeeded in saying this when Natasha said:

“Only fancy! she has refused him, absolutely refused him! She says she loves some one else,” she added after a brief pause.

“Yes, my Sonya could not do otherwise!” thought Nikolay.

“Mamma begged her ever so many times not to, but she refused; and I know she won't change, if she has said a thing.…”

“And mamma begged her not to!” Nikolay said reproachfully.

“Yes,” said Natasha. “Do you know, Nikolenka—don't be angry— but I know you won't marry her. I know—I don't know why—but I know for certain that you won't marry her.”

“Well, you can't know that,” said Nikolay; “but I want to talk to her. How charming Sonya is!” he added, smiling.

“Yes, she is so charming! I'll send her in to you.” And Natasha kissed her brother and ran away.

A minute later Sonya came in, looking frightened, distraught, and guilty. Nikolay went up to her and kissed her hand. It was the first time since his return that they had talked alone and of their love.

“Sophie,” he said to her, at first timidly, but more and more boldly as he went on, “if you were simply refusing a brilliant, an advantageous match—but he's a splendid, noble fellow … he's my friend…”

Sonya interrupted him.

“I have refused him,” she said hastily.

“If you are refusing him for my sake, I am afraid that I…”

Sonya again cut him short. With frightened, imploring eyes she looked at him.

“Nikolenka, don't say that to me,” she said.

“No, I must. Perhaps it's suffisance on my part, but still it's better to say it. If you are refusing him on my account, I ought to tell you the whole truth. I love you, I believe, more than any one …”

“That's enough for me,” said Sonya, flushing crimson.

“No; but I have been in love a thousand times, and I shall fall in love again, though such a feeling of affection, confidence and love I have for no one as for you. Then I am young. Mamma does not wish it. Well—in fact—I can make no promise. And I beg you to consider the offer of Dolohov,” he said, with an effort articulating the name of his friend.

“Don't speak to me of it. I want nothing. I love you as a brother, and shall always love you, and I want nothing more.”

“You are an angel; I'm not worthy of you, but I am only afraid of deceiving you.”

Nikolay kissed her hand once more.





“遵照伯爵夫人的命令,我哪儿不敢去呢!”杰尼索夫说,在罗斯托夫家里他诙谐地把他自己装扮成娜塔莎的骑士,“我准备跳pas de chaBle①。”