At the Troitsa monastery they had spoken of the past, and he had told her that if he were to live he should thank God for ever for his wound, which had brought them together again; but since then they had never spoken of the future.

“Could it be, or could it not?” he was wondering now as he watched her and listened to the slight steel click of the needles. “Can fate have brought us together so strangely only for me to die? … Can the truth of life have been revealed to me only for me to have spent my life in falsity? I love her more than anything in the world! But what am I to do if I love her?” he said, and suddenly he unconsciously moaned from the habit he had fallen into in the course of his sufferings.

Hearing the sound, Natasha laid down her stocking, and bent down closer to him, and suddenly noticing his shining eyes, went up to him with a light step and stooped down.

“You are not asleep?”

“No; I have been looking at you for a long while. I felt when you came in. No one but you gives me the same soft peace … the same light. I want to weep with gladness!”

Natasha moved closer to him. Her face beamed with rapturous delight.

“Natasha, I love you too much! More than everything in the world!”

“And I?” She turned away for a second. “Why too much?” she said.

“Why too much? … Well, what do you think, what do you feel in your heart, your whole heart, am I going to live? What do you think?”

“I am sure of it; sure of it!” Natasha almost cried out, taking both his hands with a passionate gesture.

He was silent for a while.

“How good it would be!” And taking her hand, he kissed it.

Natasha was happy and deeply stirred; and she recollected at once that this must not be, and that he must have quiet.

“But you are not asleep,” she said, subduing her joy. “Try and sleep … please do.”

He pressed her hand and let it go, and she moved back to the candle and sat down in the same position as before. Twice she glanced round at him; his eyes were bright as she met them. She set herself a task on her stocking, and told herself she would not look round till she had finished it.

He did, in fact, soon after shut his eyes and fall asleep. He did not sleep long, and woke up suddenly in a cold sweat of alarm.

As he fell asleep he was still thinking of what he had been thinking about all the time—of life and of death. And most of death. He felt he was closer to it.

“Love? What is love?” he thought.

“Love hinders death. Love is life. All, all that I understand, I understand only because I love. All is, all exists only because I love. All is bound up in love alone. Love is God, and dying means for me a particle of love, to go back to the universal and eternal source of love.” These thoughts seemed to him comforting. But they were only thoughts. Something was wanting in them; there was something one-sided and personal, something intellectual; they were not self-evident. And there was uneasiness, too, and obscurity. He fell asleep.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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