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.