Pierre, as one of the principal guests, had to sit down to boston with Coun_ostov, the general, and the colonel. At the card table he happened to b_irectly facing Natasha, and was struck by a curious change that had come ove_er since the ball. She was silent, and not only less pretty than at the ball,
but only redeemed from plainness by her look of gentle indifference t_verything around.
"What's the matter with her?" thought Pierre, glancing at her. She was sittin_y her sister at the tea table, and reluctantly, without looking at him, mad_ome reply to Boris who sat down beside her. After playing out a whole sui_nd to his partner's delight taking five tricks, Pierre, hearing greetings an_he steps of someone who had entered the room while he was picking up hi_ricks, glanced again at Natasha.
"What has happened to her?" he asked himself with still greater surprise.
Prince Andrew was standing before her, saying something to her with a look o_ender solicitude. She, having raised her head, was looking up at him, flushe_nd evidently trying to master her rapid breathing. And the bright glow o_ome inner fire that had been suppressed was again alight in her. She wa_ompletely transformed and from a plain girl had again become what she ha_een at the ball.
Prince Andrew went up to Pierre, and the latter noticed a new and youthfu_xpression in his friend's face.
Pierre changed places several times during the game, sitting now with his bac_o Natasha and now facing her, but during the whole of the six rubbers h_atched her and his friend.
"Something very important is happening between them," thought Pierre, and _eeling that was both joyful and painful agitated him and made him neglect th_ame.
After six rubbers the general got up, saying that it was no use playing lik_hat, and Pierre was released. Natasha on one side was talking with Sonya an_oris, and Vera with a subtle smile was saying something to Prince Andrew.
Pierre went up to his friend and, asking whether they were talking secrets,
sat down beside them. Vera, having noticed Prince Andrew's attentions t_atasha, decided that at a party, a real evening party, subtle allusions t_he tender passion were absolutely necessary and, seizing a moment when Princ_ndrew was alone, began a conversation with him about feelings in general an_bout her sister. With so intellectual a guest as she considered Prince Andre_o be, she felt that she had to employ her diplomatic tact.
When Pierre went up to them he noticed that Vera was being carried away by he_elf-satisfied talk, but that Prince Andrew seemed embarrassed, a thing tha_arely happened with him.
"What do you think?" Vera was saying with an arch smile. "You are s_iscerning, Prince, and understand people's characters so well at a glance.
What do you think of Natalie? Could she be constant in her attachments? Coul_he, like other women" (Vera meant herself), "love a man once for all an_emain true to him forever? That is what I consider true love. What do yo_hink, Prince?"
"I know your sister too little," replied Prince Andrew, with a sarcastic smil_nder which he wished to hide his embarrassment, "to be able to solve s_elicate a question, and then I have noticed that the less attractive a woma_s the more constant she is likely to be," he added, and looked up Pierre wh_as just approaching them.
"Yes, that is true, Prince. In our days," continued Vera—mentioning "our days"
as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they hav_iscovered and appraised the peculiarities of "our days" and that huma_haracteristics change with the times—"in our days a girl has so much freedo_hat the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her. And i_ust be confessed that Natalie is very susceptible." This return to th_ubject of Natalie caused Prince Andrew to knit his brows with discomfort: h_as about to rise, but Vera continued with a still more subtle smile:
"I think no one has been more courted than she," she went on, "but till quit_ately she never cared seriously for anyone. Now you know, Count," she said t_ierre, "even our dear cousin Boris, who, between ourselves, was very far gon_n the land of tenderness… " (alluding to a map of love much in vogue at tha_ime).
Prince Andrew frowned and remained silent.
"You are friendly with Boris, aren't you?" asked Vera.
"Yes, I know him… "
"I expect he has told you of his childish love for Natasha?"
"Oh, there was childish love?" suddenly asked Prince Andrew, blushin_nexpectedly.
"Yes, you know between cousins intimacy often leads to love. Le cousinage es_n dangereux voisinage.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_64) Don't you think so?"
"Oh, undoubtedly!" said Prince Andrew, and with sudden and unnatura_iveliness he began chaffing Pierre about the need to be very careful with hi_ifty-year-old Moscow cousins, and in the midst of these jesting remarks h_ose, taking Pierre by the arm, and drew him aside. "Well?" asked Pierre,
seeing his friend's strange animation with surprise, and noticing the glanc_e turned on Natasha as he rose. "I must… I must have a talk with you," sai_rince Andrew. "You know that pair of women's gloves?" (He referred to th_asonic gloves given to a newly initiated Brother to present to the woman h_oved.) "I… but no, I will talk to you later on," and with a strange light i_is eyes and restlessness in his movements, Prince Andrew approached Natash_nd sat down beside her. Pierre saw how Prince Andrew asked her something an_ow she flushed as she replied. But at that moment Berg came to Pierre an_egan insisting that he should take part in an argument between the genera_nd the colonel on the affairs in Spain. Berg was satisfied and happy. Th_mile of pleasure never left his face. The party was very successful and quit_ike other parties he had seen. Everything was similar: the ladies' subtl_alk, the cards, the general raising his voice at the card table, and th_amovar and the tea cakes; only one thing was lacking that he had always see_t the evening parties he wished to imitate. They had not yet had a lou_onversation among the men and a dispute about something important and clever.
Now the general had begun such a discussion and so Berg drew Pierre to it.