War And Peace

CHAPTER XVI

Chinese

“SHE has come to stay with me,” said Princess Marya. “The count and the countess will be here in a few days. The countess is in a terrible state. But Natasha herself had to see the doctors. They made her come away with me.”

“Yes. Is there a family without its own sorrow?” said Pierre, turning to Natasha. “You know it happened the very day we were rescued. I saw him. What a splendid boy he was!”

Natasha looked at him, and, in answer to his words, her eyes only opened wider and grew brighter.

“What can one say, or think, to give comfort?” said Pierre. “Nothing. Why had he to die, such a noble boy, so full of life?”

“Yes; in these days it would be hard to live without faith …” said Princess Marya.

“Yes, yes. That is true, indeed,” Pierre put in hurriedly.

“How so?” Natasha asked, looking intently into Pierre's eyes.

“How so?” said Princess Marya. “Why, only the thought of what awaits …”

Natasha, not heeding Princess Marya's words, looked again inquiringly at Pierre.

“And because,” Pierre went on, “only one who believes that there is a God guiding our lives can bear such a loss as hers, and … yours,” said Pierre.

Natasha opened her mouth, as though she would say something, but she suddenly stopped.

Pierre made haste to turn away from her, and to address Princess Marya again with a question about the last days of his friend's life. Pierre's embarrassment had by now almost disappeared, but at the same time he felt that all his former freedom had vanished too. He felt that there was now a judge criticising every word, every action of his; a judge whose verdict was of greater consequence to him than the verdict of all the people in the world. As he talked now he was considering the impression his words were making on Natasha as he uttered them. He did not intentionally say what might please her; but whatever he said, he looked at himself from her point of view.

With the unwillingness usual in such cases, Princess Marya began telling Pierre of the position in which she had found her brother. But Pierre's questions, his eagerly restless glance, his face quivering with emotion, gradually induced her to go into details which she shrank, for her own sake, from recalling to her imagination.

“Yes, yes, …” said Pierre, bending forward over Princess Marya, and eagerly drinking in her words. “Yes, yes. So he found peace? He was softened? He was always striving with his whole soul for one thing only: to be entirely good, so that he could not dread death. The defects that were in him—if he had any—did not come from himself. So he was softened?” he said.

“What a happy thing that he saw you again,” he said to Natasha, turning suddenly to her, and looking at her with eyes full of tears.

Natasha's face quivered. She frowned, and for an instant dropped her eyes. For a moment she hesitated whether to speak or not to speak.

“Yes, it was a great happiness,” she said in a low, deep voice; “for me it was certainly a great happiness.” She paused. “And he … he … he told me he was longing for it the very moment I went in to him …” Natasha's voice broke. She flushed, squeezed her hands against her knees and suddenly, with an evident effort to control herself, she lifted her head and began speaking rapidly:

“We knew nothing about it when we were leaving Moscow. I did not dare ask about him. And all at once Sonya told me he was with us. I could think of nothing, I had no conception in what state he was; all I wanted was to see him—to be with him,” she said, trembling and breathless. And not letting them interrupt her, she told all that she had never spoken of to any one before; all she had gone through in those three weeks of their journey and their stay in Yaroslavl.

Pierre heard her with parted lips and eyes full of tears fastened upon her. As he listened to her, he was not thinking of Prince Andrey, nor of death, nor of what she was saying. He heard her voice and only pitied her for the anguish she was feeling now in telling him.

The princess, frowning in the effort to restrain her tears, sat by Natasha's side and heard for the first time the story of those last days of her brother's and Natasha's love.

To speak of that agonising and joyous time was evidently necessary to Natasha.

She talked on, mingling up the most insignificant details with the most secret feelings of her heart, and it seemed as though she could never finish. Several times she said the same thing twice.

Dessalle's voice was heard at the door asking whether Nikolushka might come in to say good-night. “And that is all, all …” said Natasha. She got up quickly at the moment Nikolushka was coming in, and almost running to the door, knocked her head against it as it was hidden by the portière, and with a moan, half of pain, half of sorrow, she rushed out of the room.

Pierre gazed at the door by which she had gone out, and wondered why he felt suddenly alone in the wide world.

Princess Marya roused him from his abstraction, calling his attention to her nephew who had just come into the room.

The face of Nikolushka, so like his father, had such an effect on Pierre at this moment of emotional tension, that, after kissing the child, he got up himself, and taking out his handkerchief, walked away to the window. He would have taken leave, but Princess Marya would not let him go.

“No, Natasha and I often do not go to bed till past two, please stay a little longer. We will have supper. Go downstairs, we will come in a moment.”

Before Pierre went down, the princess said to him: “It is the first time she has talked of him like this.”

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