War And Peace



THE FEELING of aloofness from all the world, that Natasha experienced at this time, she felt in an even more marked degree with the members of her own family. All her own family, her father and mother and Sonya, were so near her, so everyday and ordinary that every word they uttered, every feeling they expressed, was jarring in the world in which she had lived of late. She felt more than indifference, positive hostility to them. She heard Dunyasha's words of Pyotr Ilyitch, of a misfortune, but she did not understand them.

“What misfortune could they have, what misfortune is possible to them? Everything goes on in its old, regular, easy way with them,” Natasha was saying inwardly.

As she went into the drawing-room, her father came quickly out of the countess's room. His face was puckered up and wet with tears. He had evidently run out of the room to give vent to the sobs that were choking him. Seeing Natasha, he waved his arms in despair, and went off into violent, miserable sobs, that convulsed his soft, round face.

“Pet … Petya … Go, go in, she's calling …” And sobbing like a child, he tottered with feeble legs to a chair, and almost dropped on to it, hiding his face in his hands.

An electric shock seemed to run all through Natasha. Some fearful pain seemed to stab her to the heart. She felt a poignant anguish; it seemed to her that something was being rent within her, and she was dying. But with the pain she felt an instant release from the seal that shut her out of life. At the sight of her father, and the sound of a fearful, husky scream from her mother through the door, she instantly forgot herself and her own sorrow.

She ran up to her father, but he feebly motioned her towards her mother's door. Princess Marya, with a white face and quivering lower jaw, came out and took Natasha's hand, saying something to her. Natasha neither saw nor heard her. With swift steps she went towards the door, stopped for an instant as though struggling with herself, and ran in to her mother.

The countess was lying down on a low chair in a strange awkward attitude; she was beating her head against the wall. Sonya and some maid-servants were holding her by the arms.

“Natasha, Natasha!…” the countess was screaming. “It's not true, not true … it's false … Natasha!” she screamed, pushing the maids away. “All you go away, it's not true! Killed!…ha, ha, ha!…not true!…”

Natasha knelt down on the low chair, bent over her mother, embraced her, with surprising strength lifted her up, turned her face to her, and pressed close to her.

“Mama! … darling! … I'm here, dearest mamma,” she whispered to her, never ceasing for a second.

She would not let her mother go; she struggled tenderly with her, asked for pillows and water, unbuttoned and tore open her mother's dress. “Dearest … my darling … mamma … my precious,” she whispered without pausing, kissing her head, her hands, her face, and feeling the tears streaming in irrepressible floods over her nose and cheeks.

The countess squeezed her daughter's hand, closed her eyes, and was quieter for a moment. All at once she sat up with unnatural swiftness, looked vacantly round, and seeing Natasha, began hugging her head to her with all her might. Natasha's face involuntarily worked with the pain, as her mother turned it toward her, and gazed a long while into it. “Natasha, you love me,” she said, in a soft, confiding whisper. “Natasha, you won't deceive me? You will tell me the whole truth?”

Natasha looked at her with eyes swimming with tears, and in her face seemed only imploring her love and forgiveness.

“Mamma … darling,” she kept repeating, putting forth all the strength of her love to try somehow to take a little of the crushing load of sorrow off her mother on to herself.

And again in the helpless struggle with reality, the mother, refusing to believe that she could live while her adored boy, just blossoming into life, was dead, took refuge from reality in the world of delirium.

Natasha had no recollection of how she spent that day and that night, and the following day and the following night. She did not sleep, and did not leave her mother's side. Natasha's love, patient and persistent, seemed to enfold the countess on all sides every second, offering no explanation, no consolation, simply beckoning her back to life.

On the third night the countess was quiet for a few minutes, and Natasha closed her eyes, her head propped on the arm of the chair. The bedstead creaked; Natasha opened her eyes. The countess was sitting up in bed, and talking softly.

“How glad I am you have come home. You are tired, won't you have tea?” Natasha went up to her. “You have grown so handsome and manly,” the countess went on, taking her daughter's hand.

“Mamma, what are you saying …?”

“Natasha, he is gone, he is no more.” And embracing her daughter, the countess for the first time began to weep.




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