War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book IV: Chapters 1–6

Rostov was very happy in the love they showed him; but the first moment of meeting had been so beatific that his present joy seemed insufficient, and he kept expecting something more, more and yet more.

Next morning, after the fatigues of their journey, the travelers slept till ten o'clock.

In the room next their bedroom there was a confusion of sabers, satchels, sabretaches, open portmanteaus, and dirty boots. Two freshly cleaned pairs with spurs had just been placed by the wall. The servants were bringing in jugs and basins, hot water for shaving, and their well-brushed clothes. There was a masculine odor and a smell of tobacco.

"Hallo, Gwiska — my pipe!" came Vasili Denisov's husky voice."Wostov, get up!"

Rostov, rubbing his eyes that seemed glued together, raised his disheveled head from the hot pillow.

"Why, is it late?"

"Late! It's nearly ten o'clock," answered Natasha's voice. A rustle of starched petticoats and the whispering and laughter of girls' voices came from the adjoining room. The door was opened a crack and there was a glimpse of something blue, of ribbons, black hair, and merry faces. It was Natasha, Sonya, and Petya, who had come to see whether they were getting up.

"Nicholas! Get up!" Natasha's voice was again heard at the door.

"Directly!"

Meanwhile, Petya, having found and seized the sabers in the outer room, with the delight boys feel at the sight of a military elder brother, and forgetting that it was unbecoming for the girls to see men undressed, opened the bedroom door.

"Is this your saber?" he shouted.

The girls sprang aside. Denisov hid his hairy legs under the blanket, looking with a scared face at his comrade for help. The door, having let Petya in, closed again. A sound of laughter came from behind it.

"Nicholas! Come out in your dressing gown!" said Natasha's voice.

"Is this your saber?" asked Petya."Or is it yours?" he said, addressing the black-mustached Denisov with servile deference.

Rostov hurriedly put something on his feet, drew on his dressing gown, and went out. Natasha had put on one spurred boot and was just getting her foot into the other. Sonya, when he came in, was twirling round and was about to expand her dresses into a balloon and sit down. They were dressed alike, in new pale-blue frocks, and were both fresh, rosy, and bright. Sonya ran away, but Natasha, taking her brother's arm, led him into the sitting room, where they began talking. They hardly gave one another time to ask questions and give replies concerning a thousand little matters which could not interest anyone but themselves. Natasha laughed at every word he said or that she said herself, not because what they were saying was amusing, but because she felt happy and was unable to control her joy which expressed itself by laughter.

"Oh, how nice, how splendid!" she said to everything.

Rostov felt that, under the influence of the warm rays of love, that childlike smile which had not once appeared on his face since he left home now for the first time after eighteen months again brightened his soul and his face.

"No, but listen," she said,"now you are quite a man, aren't you? I'm awfully glad you're my brother." She touched his mustache."I want to know what you men are like. Are you the same as we? No?"

"Why did Sonya run away?" asked Rostov.

"Ah, yes! That's a whole long story! How are you going to speak to her — thou or you?"

"As may happen," said Rostov.

"No, call her you, please! I'll tell you all about it some other time. No, I'll tell you now. You know Sonya's my dearest friend. Such a friend that I burned my arm for her sake. Look here!"

She pulled up her muslin sleeve and showed him a red scar on her long, slender, delicate arm, high above the elbow on that part that is covered even by a ball dress.

"I burned this to prove my love for her. I just heated a ruler in the fire and pressed it there!"

Sitting on the sofa with the little cushions on its arms, in what used to be his old schoolroom, and looking into Natasha's wildly bright eyes, Rostov re-entered that world of home and childhood which had no meaning for anyone else, but gave him some of the best joys of his life; and the burning of an arm with a ruler as a proof of love did not seem to him senseless, he understood and was not surprised at it.

"Well, and is that all?" he asked.

"We are such friends, such friends! All that ruler business was just nonsense, but we are friends forever. She, if she loves anyone, does it for life, but I don't understand that, I forget quickly."

"Well, what then?"

"Well, she loves me and you like that."

Natasha suddenly flushed.

"Why, you remember before you went away? . . . Well, she says you are to forget all that . . . . She says: 'I shall love him always, but let him be free.' Isn't that lovely and noble! Yes, very noble? Isn't it?" asked Natasha, so seriously and excitedly that it was evident that what she was now saying she had talked of before, with tears.

Rostov became thoughtful.

"I never go back on my word," he said."Besides, Sonya is so charming that only a fool would renounce such happiness."

"No, no!" cried Natasha,"she and I have already talked it over. We knew you'd say so. But it won't do, because you see, if you say that — if you consider yourself bound by your promise — it will seem as if she had not meant it seriously. It makes it as if you were marrying her because you must, and that wouldn't do at all."

Rostov saw that it had been well considered by them. Sonya had already struck him by her beauty on the preceding day. Today, when he had caught a glimpse of her, she seemed still more lovely. She was a charming girl of sixteen, evidently passionately in love with him (he did not doubt that for an instant). Why should he not love her now, and even marry her, Rostov thought, but just now there were so many other pleasures and interests before him!"Yes, they have taken a wise decision," he thought,"I must remain free."

"Well then, that's excellent," said he."We'll talk it over later on. Oh, how glad I am to have you!"

"Well, and are you still true to Boris?" he continued.

"Oh, what nonsense!" cried Natasha, laughing."I don't think about him or anyone else, and I don't want anything of the kind."

"Dear me! Then what are you up now?"

"Now?" repeated Natasha, and a happy smile lit up her face."Have you seen Duport?"

"No."

"Not seen Duport — the famous dancer? Well then, you won't understand. That's what I'm up to."

Curving her arms, Natasha held out her skirts as dancers do, ran back a few steps, turned, cut a caper, brought her little feet sharply together, and made some steps on the very tips of her toes.

"See, I'm standing! See!" she said, but could not maintain herself on her toes any longer."So that's what I'm up to! I'll never marry anyone, but will be a dancer. Only don't tell anyone."

Rostov laughed so loud and merrily that Denisov, in his bedroom, felt envious and Natasha could not help joining in.

"No, but don't you think it's nice?" she kept repeating.

"Nice! And so you no longer wish to marry Boris?"

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