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Chapter 21

  • 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.[[64]](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.