During the entr'acte a whiff of cold air came into Helene's box, the doo_pened, and Anatole entered, stooping and trying not to brush against anyone.
"Let me introduce my brother to you," said Helene, her eyes shifting uneasil_rom Natasha to Anatole.
Natasha turned her pretty little head toward the elegant young officer an_miled at him over her bare shoulder. Anatole, who was as handsome at clos_uarters as at a distance, sat down beside her and told her he had long wishe_o have this happiness—ever since the Naryshkins' ball in fact, at which h_ad had the well-remembered pleasure of seeing her. Kuragin was much mor_ensible and simple with women than among men. He talked boldly and naturally,
and Natasha was strangely and agreeably struck by the fact that there wa_othing formidable in this man about whom there was so much talk,
but that on the contrary his smile was most naive, cheerful, and good-natured.
Kuragin asked her opinion of the performance and told her how at a previou_erformance Semenova had fallen down on the stage.
"And do you know, Countess," he said, suddenly addressing her as an old,
familiar acquaintance, "we are getting up a costume tournament; you ought t_ake part in it! It will be great fun. We shall all meet at the Karagins'!
Please come! No! Really, eh?" said he.
While saying this he never removed his smiling eyes from her face, her neck,
and her bare arms. Natasha knew for certain that he was enraptured by her.
This pleased her, yet his presence made her feel constrained and oppressed.
When she was not looking at him she felt that he was looking at her shoulders,
and she involuntarily caught his eye so that he should look into hers rathe_han this. But looking into his eyes she was frightened, realizing that ther_as not that barrier of modesty she had always felt between herself and othe_en. She did not know how it was that within five minutes she had come to fee_erself terribly near to this man. When she turned away she feared he migh_eize her from behind by her bare arm and kiss her on the neck. They spoke o_ost ordinary things, yet she felt that they were closer to one another tha_he had ever been to any man. Natasha kept turning to Helene and to he_ather, as if asking what it all meant, but Helene was engaged in conversatio_ith a general and did not answer her look, and her father's eyes said nothin_ut what they always said: "Having a good time? Well, I'm glad of it!"
During one of these moments of awkward silence when Anatole's prominent eye_ere gazing calmly and fixedly at her, Natasha, to break the silence, aske_im how he liked Moscow. She asked the question and blushed. She felt all th_ime that by talking to him she was doing something improper. Anatole smile_s though to encourage her.
"At first I did not like it much, because what makes a town pleasant ce son_es jolies femmes,[](footnotes.xml#footnote_70) isn't that so? But now _ike it very much indeed," he said, looking at her significantly. "You'll com_o the costume tournament, Countess? Do come!" and putting out his hand to he_ouquet and dropping his voice, he added, "You will be the prettiest there. D_ome, dear countess, and give me this flower as a pledge!" Natasha did no_nderstand what he was saying any more than he did himself, but she felt tha_is incomprehensible words had an improper intention. She did not know what t_ay and turned away as if she had not heard his remark. But as soon as she ha_urned away she felt that he was there, behind, so close behind her. "How i_e now? Confused? Angry? Ought I to put it right?" she asked herself, and sh_ould not refrain from turning round. She looked straight into his eyes, an_is nearness, self-assurance, and the good-natured tenderness of his smil_anquished her. She smiled just as he was doing, gazing straight into hi_yes. And again she felt with horror that no barrier lay between him and her.
The curtain rose again. Anatole left the box, serene and gay. Natasha wen_ack to her father in the other box, now quite submissive to the world sh_ound herself in. All that was going on before her now seemed quite natural,
but on the other hand all her previous thoughts of her betrothed, of Princes_ary, or of life in the country did not once recur to her mind and were as i_elonging to a remote past. In the fourth act there was some sort of devil wh_ang waving his arm about, till the boards were withdrawn from under him an_e disappeared down below. That was the only part of the fourth act tha_atasha saw. She felt agitated and tormented, and the cause of this wa_uragin whom she could not help watching. As they were leaving the theate_natole came up to them, called their carriage, and helped them in. As he wa_utting Natasha in he pressed her arm above the elbow. Agitated and flushe_he turned round. He was looking at her with glittering eyes, smilin_enderly. Only after she had reached home was Natasha able clearly to thin_ver what had happened to her, and suddenly remembering Prince Andrew she wa_orrified, and at tea to which all had sat down after the opera, she gave _oud exclamation, flushed, and ran out of the room. "O God! I am lost!" sh_aid to herself. "How could I let him?" She sat for a long time hiding he_lushed face in her hands trying to realize what had happened to her, but wa_nable either to understand what had happened or what she felt. Everythin_eemed dark, obscure, and terrible. There in that enormous, illuminate_heater where the bare-legged Duport, in a tinsel-decorated jacket, jumpe_bout to the music on wet boards, and young girls and old men, and the nearl_aked Helene with her proud, calm smile, rapturously cried "bravo!"—there i_he presence of that Helene it had all seemed clear and simple; but now, alon_y herself, it was incomprehensible. "What is it? What was that terror I fel_f him? What is this gnawing of conscience I am feeling now?" she thought.
Only to the old countess at night in bed could Natasha have told all she wa_eeling. She knew that Sonya with her severe and simple views would either no_nderstand it at all or would be horrified at such a confession. So Natash_ried to solve what was torturing her by herself. "Am I spoiled for Andrew'_ove or not?" she asked herself, and with soothing irony replied: "What a foo_ am to ask that! What did happen to me? Nothing! I have done nothing, _idn't lead him on at all. Nobody will know and I shall never see him again,"
she told herself. "So it is plain that nothing has happened and there i_othing to repent of, and Andrew can love me still. But why 'still?' O God,
why isn't he here?" Natasha quieted herself for a moment, but again som_nstinct told her that though all this was true, and though nothing ha_appened, yet the former purity of her love for Prince Andrew had perished.
And again in imagination she went over her whole conversation with Kuragin,
and again saw the face, gestures, and tender smile of that bold handsome ma_hen he pressed her arm.