"Yes, I wanted to tell you," said he, answering her look as if she had spoken."Princess, help me! What am I to do? Can I hope? Princess, my dear friend, listen! I know it all. I know I am not worthy of her, I know it's impossible to speak of it now. But I want to be a brother to her. No, not that, I don't, I can't . . ."
He paused and rubbed his face and eyes with his hands.
"Well," he went on with an evident effort at self-control and coherence."I don't know when I began to love her, but I have loved her and her alone all my life, and I love her so that I cannot imagine life without her. I cannot propose to her at present, but the thought that perhaps she might someday be my wife and that I may be missing that possibility . . . that possibility . . . is terrible. Tell me, can I hope? Tell me what I am to do, dear princess!" he added after a pause, and touched her hand as she did not reply.
"I am thinking of what you have told me," answered Princess Mary."This is what I will say. You are right that to speak to her of love at present . . ."
Princess Mary stopped. She was going to say that to speak of love was impossible, but she stopped because she had seen by the sudden change in Natasha two days before that she would not only not be hurt if Pierre spoke of his love, but that it was the very thing she wished for.
"To speak to her now wouldn't do," said the princess all the same.
"But what am I to do?"
"Leave it to me," said Princess Mary."I know . . ."
Pierre was looking into Princess Mary's eyes.
"Well? . . . Well? . . ." he said.
"I know that she loves . . . will love you," Princess Mary corrected herself.
Before her words were out, Pierre had sprung up and with a frightened expression seized Princess Mary's hand.
"What makes you think so? You think I may hope? You think . . . ?"
"Yes, I think so," said Princess Mary with a smile."Write to her parents, and leave it to me. I will tell her when I can. I wish it to happen and my heart tells me it will."
"No, it cannot be! How happy I am! But it can't be . . . . How happy I am! No, it can't be!" Pierre kept saying as he kissed Princess Mary's hands.
"Go to Petersburg, that will be best. And I will write to you," she said.
"To Petersburg? Go there? Very well, I'll go. But I may come again tomorrow?"
Next day Pierre came to say good-by. Natasha was less animated than she had been the day before; but that day as he looked at her Pierre sometimes felt as if he was vanishing and that neither he nor she existed any longer, that nothing existed but happiness."Is it possible? No, it can't be," he told himself at every look, gesture, and word that filled his soul with joy.
When on saying good-by he took her thin, slender hand, he could not help holding it a little longer in his own.
"Is it possible that this hand, that face, those eyes, all this treasure of feminine charm so strange to me now, is it possible that it will one day be mine forever, as familiar to me as I am to myself? . . . No, that's impossible! . . ."
"Good-by, Count," she said aloud."I shall look forward very much to your return," she added in a whisper.
And these simple words, her look, and the expression on her face which accompanied them, formed for two months the subject of inexhaustible memories, interpretations, and happy meditations for Pierre."'I shall look forward very much to your return . . . .' Yes, yes, how did she say it? Yes, 'I shall look forward very much to your return.' Oh, how happy I am! What is happening to me? How happy I am!" said Pierre to himself.