War And Peace

CHAPTER XVI

Chinese

COUNTESS ROSTOV had not recovered her strength when she received the news of Natasha's illness. Weak as she still was, she set out at once for Moscow with Petya and the whole household, and the Rostovs moved from Marya Dmitryevna's into their own house, where the whole family were installed.

Natasha's illness was so serious that, luckily for herself and her parents, all thought of what had caused it, of her conduct and of the breaking off of her engagement, fell into the background. She was so ill that no one could consider how far she was to blame for all that had happened, while she could not eat nor sleep, was growing visibly thinner, coughed, and was, as the doctors gave them to understand, in actual danger. Nothing could be thought of but how to make her well again. Doctors came to see Natasha, both separately and in consultation. They said a great deal in French, in German, and in Latin. They criticised one another, and prescribed the most diverse remedies for all the diseases they were familiar with. But it never occurred to one of them to make the simple reflection that they could not understand the disease from which Natasha was suffering, as no single disease can be fully understood in a living person; for every living person has his individual peculiarities and always has his own peculiar, new, complex complaints unknown to medicine—not a disease of the lungs, of the kidneys, of the skin, of the heart, and so on, as described in medical books, but a disease that consists of one out of the innumerable combinations of ailments of those organs. This simple reflection can never occur to doctors (just as a sorcerer cannot entertain the idea that he is unable to work magic spells) because it is the work of their life to undertake the cure of disease, because it is for that that they are paid, and on that they have wasted the best years of their life. And what is more, that reflection could not occur to the doctors because they saw that they unquestionably were of use; and they certainly were of use to all the Rostov household. They were of use, not because they made the patient swallow drugs, mostly injurious (the injury done by them was hardly perceptible because they were given in such small doses). They were of use, were needed, were indispensable in fact (for the same reason that there have always been, and always will be, reputed healers, witches, homœopaths and allopaths), because they satisfied the moral cravings of the patient and those who loved her. They satisfied that eternal human need of hope for relief, that need for sympathetic action that is felt in the presence of suffering, that need that is shown in its simplest form in the little child, who must have the place rubbed when it has hurt itself. The child is hurt, and runs at once to the arms of its mother or nurse for them to kiss or rub the tender spot, and it feels better for the kissing and rubbing. The child cannot believe that these stronger, cleverer creatures have not the power to relieve its pain. And the hope of relief and the expressions of sympathy as the mother rubs it comfort it. To Natasha the doctors took the place of the mother, kissing and rubbing her “bobo,” when they declared that all the trouble would soon be over, if the coachman were to drive to the chemist's shop, in Arbatsky Place, and buy—for a rouble and seventy copecks—those powders and pills in a pretty little box, and if those powders were given to the patient in boiled water precisely every two hours, neither more nor less.

What would Sonya, and the count, and the countess have done, how would they have felt if they had taken no steps, if they had not had those pills at certain hours, and the warm beverage, and the chicken cutlets, and all the detailed regime laid down by the doctors, which gave occupation and consolation to all of them. How could the count have borne his dearly loved daughter's illness if he had not known that it was costing him a thousand roubles, and that he would not grudge thousands more, if that would do her any good; if he had not known that, in case she did not get better, he would spend thousands more on taking her abroad and consulting doctors there; if he had not been able to tell people how Metivier and Feller had failed to diagnose the complaint, but Friez had fathomed it, and Mudrov had succeeded even better in defining it? What would the countess have done if she had not sometimes been able to scold her sick Natasha for not following the doctors' orders quite faithfully?

“You can never get well like this,” she would say, finding a refuge from her grief in anger, “if you won't listen to the doctors and take your medicine properly! We can't have any nonsense, when it may turn to pneumonia,” said the countess, and in pronouncing that—not to her only—mysterious word, she found great comfort. What would Sonya have done, had she not had the glad consciousness that at first she had not had her clothes off for three nights running, so as to be in readiness to carry out the doctors' orders, and that now she did not sleep at night for fear of missing the exact hour at which the innocuous pills were to be given out of the gilt pill-box? Even Natasha herself, though she did declare that no medicines could do her any good, and that it was all nonsense, was glad to see so many sacrifices being made for her, and glad to have to take medicines at certain hours. And she was even glad, indeed, to be able by her disregard of the doctors' prescription to show how little faith she put in them, and how little she cared for life.

The doctor came every day, felt her pulse, looked at her tongue, and made jokes, regardless of her dejected face. But then when he had gone into the next room, and the countess had hastily followed him, he assumed a serious face, and shaking his head gravely, said that though there was indeed danger, he had hopes from the effect of the most recent medicine, and that they could only wait and see; that the illness was more due to moral than physical causes, but … The countess slipped some gold into his hand, trying to conceal the action from herself and from him, and always went back to the sick-room with a lighter heart.

The symptoms of Natasha's illness were loss of appetite, sleeplessness, a cough, and continual depression. The doctors declared that she must have medical treatment, and therefore kept her in the stifling atmosphere of the town. And all the summer of 1812 the Rostovs did not visit the country.

In spite of the numerous little bottles and boxes of pills, drops, and powders, of which Madame Schoss, who had a passion for them, made a complete collection, in spite of the loss of the country life to which she was accustomed, youth gained the upper hand; Natasha's grief began to be covered up by the impressions of daily life; it ceased to lie like an aching load on her heart; it began to fade into the past; and Natasha began to return to physical health again.

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旺旺英语--名著对译