“And I remember, I was told you were found under a cabbage,” said Natasha; “and I remember I didn’t dare to disbelieve it then, though I knew it was untrue, and I felt so uncomfortable.”

During this conversation a maid popped her head in at a door leading into the divan-room.

“Miss, they’ve brought you a cock,” she said in a whisper.

“I don’t want it, Polya; tell them to take it away,” said Natasha.

In the middle of their talk in the divan-room, Dimmler came into the room, and went up to the harp that stood in the corner. He took off the cloth-case, and the harp gave a jarring sound. “Edward Karlitch, do, please, play my favourite nocturne of M. Field,” said the voice of the old countess from the drawing- room.

Dimmler struck a chord, and turning to Natasha, Nikolay, and Sonya, he said, “How quiet you young people are!”

“Yes, we’re talking philosophy,” said Natasha, looking round for a minute and going on with the conversation. They were talking now about dreams.

Dimmler began to play. Natasha went noiselessly on tiptoe to the table, took the candle, carried it away, and going back, sat quietly in her place. It was dark in the room, especially where they were sitting on the sofa, but the silver light of the full moon shone in at the big windows and lay on the floor.

“Do you know, I think,” said Natasha, in a whisper, moving up to Nikolay and Sonya, when Dimmler had finished, and still sat, faintly twanging the strings, in evident uncertainty whether to leave off playing or begin something new, “that one goes on remembering, and remembering; one remembers till one recalls what happened before one was in this world.…”

“That’s metempsychosis,” said Sonya, who had been good at lessons, and remembered all she had learned. “The Egyptians used to believe that our souls had been in animals, and would go into animals again.”

“No, do you know, I don’t believe that we were once in animals,” said Natasha, still in the same whisper, though the music was over; “but I know for certain that we were once angels somewhere beyond, and we have been here, and that’s why we remember everything.…”

“May I join you?” said Dimmler, coming up quietly, and he sat down by them.

“If we had been angels, why should we have fallen lower?” said Nikolay. “No, that can’t be!”

“Not lower…who told you we were lower?…This is how I know I have existed before,” Natasha replied, with conviction: “The soul is immortal, you know…so, if I am to live for ever, I have lived before too, I have lived for all eternity.”

“Yes, but it’s hard for us to conceive of eternity,” said Dimmler, who had joined the young people, with a mildly condescending smile, but now talked as quietly and seriously as they did.

“Why is it hard to conceive of eternity?” said Natasha. “There will be to-day, and there will be to-morrow, and there will be for ever, and yesterday has been, and the day before.…”

“Natasha! now it’s your turn. Sing me something,” called the voice of the countess. “Why are you sitting there so quietly, like conspirators?”

“Mamma, I don’t want to a bit!” said Natasha, but she got up as she said it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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