Book 12 Chapter 6

ON REACHING MOSCOW, after her meeting with Rostov at Bogutcharovo, Princess Marya had found her nephew there with his tutor, and a letter from Prince Andrey, directing her what route to take to her aunt, Madame Malvintsev's at Voronezh. The arrangements for the journey, anxiety about her brother, the organisation of her life in a new house, new people, the education of her nephew—all of this smothered in Princess Marya's heart that feeling as it were of temptation, which had tormented her during her father's illness and after his death, especially since her meeting with Rostov.

She was melancholy. Now after a month had passed in quiet, undisturbed conditions, she felt more and more deeply the loss of her father, which was connected in her heart with the downfall of Russia. She was anxious: the thought of the dangers to which her brother—the one creature near to her now left—was being exposed was a continual torture to her. She was worried too by the education of her nephew, which she was constantly feeling herself unfitted to control. But at the bottom of her heart there was an inward harmony, that arose from the sense that she had conquered in herself those dreams and hopes of personal happiness, that had sprung up in connection with Rostov.

When the governor's wife called on Madame Malvintsev the day after her soirée, and, talking over her plans with her, explaining that though under present circumstances a formal betrothal was of course not to be thought of, yet they might bring the young people together, and let them get to know one another, and having received the aunt's approval, began to speak of Rostov in Princess Marya's presence, singing his praises, and describing how he had blushed on hearing the princess's name, her emotion was not one of joy, but of pain. Her inner harmony was destroyed, and desires, doubts, self-reproach, and hope sprang up again.

In the course of the two days that followed before Rostov called, Princess Marya was continually considering what her behaviour ought to be in regard to Rostov. At one time, she made up her mind that she would not come down into the drawing-room when he came to see her aunt, that it was not suitable for her in her deep mourning to receive visitors. Then she thought this would be rude after what he had done for her. Then the idea struck her that her aunt and the governor's wife had views of some sort upon her and Rostov; their words and glances had seemed at times to confirm this suspicion. Then she told herself that it was only her own depravity that could make her think this of them: could they possibly fail to realise that in her position, still wearing the heaviest mourning, such match-making would be an insult both to her and to her father's memory? On the supposition that she would go down to see him, Princess Marya imagined the words he would say to her, and she would say to him; and at one moment, those words seemed to her undeservedly frigid, at the next, they struck her as carrying too much meaning. Above all she dreaded the embarrassment, which she felt would be sure to overcome her, and betray her, as soon as she saw him.

But when, on Sunday after matins, the footman came into the drawing-room to announce that Count Rostov had called, the princess showed no sign of embarrassment, only a faint flush came into her cheeks, and her eyes shone with a new, radiant light.

“You have seen him, aunt?” said Princess Marya, in a composed voice, not knowing herself how she could be externally so calm and natural.

When Rostov came into the room, the princess dropped her head for an instant, as though to give time for their visitor to greet her aunt; and then at the very moment when Nikolay turned to her, she raised her head and met his gaze with shining eyes. With a movement full of dignity and grace, she rose with a joyous smile, held out her delicate, soft hand to him, and spoke in a voice in which for the first time there was the thrill of deep, womanly chest notes. Mademoiselle Bourienne, who was in the drawing-room, gazed at Princess Marya with bewildered surprise. The most accomplished coquette herself, she could not have man?uvred better on meeting a man whom she wanted to attract.

“Either black suits her wonderfully, or she really has grown better looking without my noticing it. And above all, such tact and grace!” thought Mademoiselle Bourienne.

Had Princess Marya been capable of reflection at that moment, she would have been even more astonished than Mademoiselle Bourienne at the change that had taken place in her. From the moment she set eyes on that sweet, loved face, some new force of life seemed to take possession of her, and to drive her to speak and act apart from her own will. From the time Rostov entered the room, her face was transformed. Just as when a light is kindled within a carved and painted lantern, the delicate, intricate, artistic tracery comes out in unexpected and impressive beauty, where all seemed coarse, dark, and meaningless before; so was Princess Marya's face transformed. For the first time all the pure, spiritual, inner travail in which she had lived till then came out in her face. All her inner searchings of spirit, her self-reproach, her sufferings, her striving for goodness, her resignation, her love, her self-sacrifice—all this was radiant now in those luminous eyes, in the delicate smile, in every feature of her tender face.

Rostov saw all this as clearly as though he had known her whole life. He felt that he was in the presence of a creature utterly different from and better than all those he had met up to that moment, and, above all, far better than he was himself.

The conversation was of the simplest and most insignificant kind. They talked of the war, unconsciously, like every one else, exaggerating their sadness on that subject; they talked of their last meeting—and Nikolay then tried to turn the subject; they talked of the kind-hearted governor's wife, of Nikolay's relations, and of Princess Marya's.

Princess Marya did not talk of her brother, but turned the conversation, as soon as her aunt mentioned Prince Andrey. It was evident that of the troubles of Russia she could speak artificially, but her brother was a subject too near her heart, and she neither would nor could speak lightly of him. Nikolay noticed this, as indeed with a keenness of observation not usual with him, he noticed every shade of Princess Marya's character, and everything confirmed him in the conviction that she was an altogether rare and original being.

Nikolay, like Princess Marya, had blushed and been embarrassed, when he heard the princess spoken of, and even when he thought of her; but in her presence he felt perfectly at ease, and he said to her not at all what he had prepared beforehand to say to her, but what came into his mind at the moment, and always quite appropriately.

As visitors always do where there are children, Nikolay, in a momentary silence during his brief visit, had recourse to Prince Andrey's little son, caressing him, and asking him if he would like to be an hussar. He took the little boy in his arms, began gaily whirling him round, and glanced at Princess Marya. With softened, happy, shy eyes, she was watching the child she loved in the arms of the man she loved. Nikolay caught that look too, and as though he divined its significance, flushed with delight, and fell to kissing the child with simple-hearted gaiety.

Princess Marya was not going into society at all on account of her mourning, and Nikolay did not think it the proper thing to call on them again. But the governor's wife still persisted in her match-making, and repeating to Nikolay something flattering Princess Marya had said of him, and vice versa, kept urging that Rostov should declare himself to Princess Marya. With this object, she arranged that the young people should meet at the reverend father's before Mass.

Though Rostov did tell the governor's wife that he should make no sort of declaration to Princess Marya, he promised to be there.

Just as at Tilsit Rostov had not allowed himself to doubt whether what was accepted by every one as right were really right, so now after a brief but sincere struggle between the effort to order his life in accordance with his own sense of right, and humble submission to circumstances, he chose the latter, and yielded himself to the power, which, he felt, was irresistibly carrying him away. He knew that to declare his feelings to Princess Marya after his promise to Sonya would be what he called base. And he knew that he would never do a base thing. But he knew too (it was not what he knew, but what he felt at the bottom of his heart), that in giving way now to the force of circumstances and of the people guiding him, he was not only doing nothing wrong, but was doing something very, very grave, something of more gravity than anything he had done in his life.

After seeing Princess Marya, though his manner of life remained externally the same, all his former pleasures lost their charm for him, and he often thought of her. But he never thought of her, as he had thought of all the young girls he had met in society, nor as he had long, and sometimes with enthusiasm, thought of Sonya. Like almost every honest-hearted young man, he had thought of every young girl as of a possible future wife, had adapted to them in his imagination all the pictures of domestic felicity: the white morning wrapper, the wife behind the samovar, the wife's carriage, the little ones, mamma and papa, their attitude to one another, and so on, and so on. And these pictures of the future afforded him gratification. But when he thought of Princess Marya, to whom the match-makers were trying to betroth him, he could never form any picture of his future married life with her. Even if he tried to do so, it all seemed incoherent and false. And it only filled him with dread.