Next day, by Marya Dmitrievna's advice, Count Rostov took Natasha to call o_rince Nicholas Bolkonski. The count did not set out cheerfully on this visit,
at heart he felt afraid. He well remembered the last interview he had had wit_he old prince at the time of the enrollment, when in reply to an invitatio_o dinner he had had to listen to an angry reprimand for not having provide_is full quota of men. Natasha, on the other hand, having put on her bes_own, was in the highest spirits. "They can't help liking me," she thought.
"Everybody always has liked me, and I am so willing to do anything they wish,
so ready to be fond of him—for being his father—and of her—for being hi_ister—that there is no reason for them not to like me… "
They drove up to the gloomy old house on the Vozdvizhenka and entered th_estibule.
"Well, the Lord have mercy on us!" said the count, half in jest, half i_arnest; but Natasha noticed that her father was flurried on entering th_nteroom and inquired timidly and softly whether the prince and princess wer_t home.
When they had been announced a perturbation was noticeable among the servants.
The footman who had gone to announce them was stopped by another in the larg_all and they whispered to one another. Then a maidservant ran into the hal_nd hurriedly said something, mentioning the princess. At last an old, cros_ooking footman came and announced to the Rostovs that the prince was no_eceiving, but that the princess begged them to walk up. The first person wh_ame to meet the visitors was Mademoiselle Bourienne. She greeted the fathe_nd daughter with special politeness and showed them to the princess' room.
The princess, looking excited and nervous, her face flushed in patches, ran i_o meet the visitors, treading heavily, and vainly trying to appear cordia_nd at ease. From the first glance Princess Mary did not like Natasha. Sh_hought her too fashionably dressed, frivolously gay and vain. She did not a_ll realize that before having seen her future sister-in-law she wa_rejudiced against her by involuntary envy of her beauty, youth, an_appiness, as well as by jealousy of her brother's love for her. Apart fro_his insuperable antipathy to her, Princess Mary was agitated just the_ecause on the Rostovs' being announced, the old prince had shouted that h_id not wish to see them, that Princess Mary might do so if she chose, bu_hey were not to be admitted to him. She had decided to receive them, bu_eared lest the prince might at any moment indulge in some freak, as he seeme_uch upset by the Rostovs' visit.
"There, my dear princess, I've brought you my songstress," said the count,
bowing and looking round uneasily as if afraid the old prince might appear. "_m so glad you should get to know one another… very sorry the prince is stil_iling," and after a few more commonplace remarks he rose. "If you'll allow m_o leave my Natasha in your hands for a quarter of an hour, Princess, I'l_rive round to see Anna Semenovna, it's quite near in the Dogs' Square, an_hen I'll come back for her."
The count had devised this diplomatic ruse (as he afterwards told hi_aughter) to give the future sisters-in-law an opportunity to talk to on_nother freely, but another motive was to avoid the danger of encountering th_ld prince, of whom he was afraid. He did not mention this to his daughter,
but Natasha noticed her father's nervousness and anxiety and felt mortified b_t. She blushed for him, grew still angrier at having blushed, and looked a_he princess with a bold and defiant expression which said that she was no_fraid of anybody. The princess told the count that she would be delighted,
and only begged him to stay longer at Anna Semenovna's, and he departed.
Despite the uneasy glances thrown at her by Princess Mary—who wished to have _ete-a-tete with Natasha—Mademoiselle Bourienne remained in the room an_ersistently talked about Moscow amusements and theaters. Natasha fel_ffended by the hesitation she had noticed in the anteroom, by her father'_ervousness, and by the unnatural manner of the princess who—she thought—wa_aking a favor of receiving her, and so everything displeased her. She did no_ike Princess Mary, whom she thought very plain, affected, and dry. Natash_uddenly shrank into herself and involuntarily assumed an offhand air whic_lienated Princess Mary still more. After five minutes of irksome, constraine_onversation, they heard the sound of slippered feet rapidly approaching.
Princess Mary looked frightened.
The door opened and the old prince, in a dress, ing gown and a white nightcap,
"Ah, madam!" he began. "Madam, Countess… Countess Rostova, if I am no_istaken… I beg you to excuse me, to excuse me… I did not know, madam. God i_y witness, I did not know you had honored us with a visit, and I came in suc_ costume only to see my daughter. I beg you to excuse me… God is my witness,
I didn't know-" he repeated, stressing the word "God" so unnaturally and s_npleasantly that Princess Mary stood with downcast eyes not daring to loo_ither at her father or at Natasha.
Nor did the latter, having risen and curtsied, know what to do. Mademoisell_ourienne alone smiled agreeably.
"I beg you to excuse me, excuse me! God is my witness, I did not know,"
muttered the old man, and after looking Natasha over from head to foot he wen_ut.
Mademoiselle Bourienne was the first to recover herself after this apparitio_nd began speaking about the prince's indisposition. Natasha and Princess Mar_ooked at one another in silence, and the longer they did so without sayin_hat they wanted to say, the greater grew their antipathy to one another.
When the count returned, Natasha was impolitely pleased and hastened to ge_way: at that moment she hated the stiff, elderly princess, who could plac_er in such an embarrassing position and had spent half an hour with he_ithout once mentioning Prince Andrew. "I couldn't begin talking about him i_he presence of that Frenchwoman," thought Natasha. The same thought wa_eanwhile tormenting Princess Mary. She knew what she ought to have said t_atasha, but she had been unable to say it because Mademoiselle Bourienne wa_n the way, and because, without knowing why, she felt it very difficult t_peak of the marriage. When the count was already leaving the room, Princes_ary went up hurriedly to Natasha, took her by the hand, and said with a dee_igh:
"Wait, I must… "
Natasha glanced at her ironically without knowing why.
"Dear Natalie," said Princess Mary, "I want you to know that I am glad m_rother has found happiness… ."
She paused, feeling that she was not telling the truth. Natasha noticed thi_nd guessed its reason.
"I think, Princess, it is not convenient to speak of that now," she said wit_xternal dignity and coldness, though she felt the tears choking her.
"What have I said and what have I done?" thought she, as soon as she was ou_f the room.
They waited a long time for Natasha to come to dinner that day. She sat in he_oom crying like a child, blowing her nose and sobbing. Sonya stood besid_er, kissing her hair.
"Natasha, what is it about?" she asked. "What do they matter to you? It wil_ll pass, Natasha."
"But if you only knew how offensive it was… as if I… "
"Don't talk about it, Natasha. It wasn't your fault so why should you mind?
Kiss me," said Sonya.
Natasha raised her head and, kissing her friend on the lips, pressed her we_ace against her.
"I can't tell you, I don't know. No one's to blame," said Natasha- "It's m_ault. But it all hurts terribly. Oh, why doesn't he come?… "
She came in to dinner with red eyes. Marya Dmitrievna, who knew how the princ_ad received the Rostovs, pretended not to notice how upset Natasha was an_ested resolutely and loudly at table with the count and the other guests.