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Chapter 12

  • Natasha was sixteen and it was the year 1809, the very year to which she ha_ounted on her fingers with Boris after they had kissed four years ago. Sinc_hen she had not seen him. Before Sonya and her mother, if Boris happened t_e mentioned, she spoke quite freely of that episode as of some childish,
  • long-forgotten matter that was not worth mentioning. But in the secret depth_f her soul the question whether her engagement to Boris was a jest or a_mportant, binding promise tormented her.
  • Since Boris left Moscow in 1805 to join the army he had had not seen th_ostovs. He had been in Moscow several times, and had passed near Otradnoe,
  • but had never been to see them.
  • Sometimes it occurred to Natasha that he not wish to see her, and thi_onjecture was confirmed by the sad tone in which her elders spoke of him.
  • "Nowadays old friends are not remembered," the countess would say when Bori_as mentioned.
  • Anna Mikhaylovna also had of late visited them less frequently, seemed to hol_erself with particular dignity, and always spoke rapturously and gratefull_f the merits of her son and the brilliant career on which he had entered.
  • When the Rostovs came to Petersburg Boris called on them.
  • He drove to their house in some agitation. The memory of Natasha was his mos_oetic recollection. But he went with the firm intention of letting her an_er parents feel that the childish relations between himself and Natasha coul_ot be binding either on her or on him. He had a brilliant position in societ_hanks to his intimacy with Countess Bezukhova, a brilliant position in th_ervice thanks to the patronage of an important personage whose complet_onfidence he enjoyed, and he was beginning to make plans for marrying one o_he richest heiresses in Petersburg, plans which might very easily b_ealized. When he entered the Rostovs' drawing room Natasha was in her ow_oom. When she heard of his arrival she almost ran into the drawing room,
  • flushed and beaming with a more than cordial smile.
  • Boris remembered Natasha in a short dress, with dark eyes shining from unde_er curls and boisterous, childish laughter, as he had known her four year_efore; and so he was taken aback when quite a different Natasha entered, an_is face expressed rapturous astonishment. This expression on his face please_atasha.
  • "Well, do you recognize your little madcap playmate?" asked the countess.
  • Boris kissed Natasha's hand and said that he was astonished at the change i_er.
  • "How handsome you have grown!"
  • "I should think so!" replied Natasha's laughing eyes.
  • "And is Papa older?" she asked.
  • Natasha sat down and, without joining in Boris' conversation with th_ountess, silently and minutely studied her childhood's suitor. He felt th_eight of that resolute and affectionate scrutiny and glanced at he_ccasionally.
  • Boris' uniform, spurs, tie, and the way his hair was brushed were all comme i_aut and in the latest fashion. This Natasha noticed at once. He sat rathe_ideways in the armchair next to the countess, arranging with his right han_he cleanest of gloves that fitted his left hand like a skin, and he spok_ith a particularly refined compression of his lips about the amusements o_he highest Petersburg society, recalling with mild irony old times in Mosco_nd Moscow acquaintances. It was not accidentally, Natasha felt, that h_lluded, when speaking of the highest aristocracy, to an ambassador's ball h_ad attended, and to invitations he had received from N.N. and S.S.
  • All this time Natasha sat silent, glancing up at him from under her brows.
  • This gaze disturbed and confused Boris more and more. He looked round mor_requently toward her, and broke off in what he was saying. He did not sta_ore than ten minutes, then rose and took his leave. The same inquisitive,
  • challenging, and rather mocking eyes still looked at him. After his firs_isit Boris said to himself that Natasha attracted him just as much as ever,
  • but that he must not yield to that feeling, because to marry her, a gir_lmost without fortune, would mean ruin to his career, while to renew thei_ormer relations without intending to marry her would be dishonorable. Bori_ade up his mind to avoid meeting Natasha, but despite that resolution h_alled again a few days later and began calling often and spending whole day_t the Rostovs'. It seemed to him that he ought to have an explanation wit_atasha and tell her that the old times must be forgotten, that in spite o_verything… she could not be his wife, that he had no means, and they woul_ever let her marry him. But he failed to do so and felt awkward abou_ntering on such an explanation. From day to day he became more and mor_ntangled. It seemed to her mother and Sonya that Natasha was in love wit_oris as of old. She sang him his favorite songs, showed him her album, makin_im write in it, did not allow him to allude to the past, letting it b_nderstood how was the present; and every day he went away in a fog, withou_aving said what he meant to, and not knowing what he was doing or why h_ame, or how it would all end. He left off visiting Helene and receive_eproachful notes from her every day, and yet he continued to spend whole day_ith the Rostovs.