Chapter 1

WHEN A MAN sees an animal dying, a horror comes over him. What he is himself—his essence, visibly before his eyes, perishes—ceases to exist. But when the dying creature is a man and a man dearly loved, then, besides the horror at the extinction of life, what is felt is a rending of the soul, a spiritual wound, which, like a physical wound, is sometimes mortal, sometimes healed, but always aches and shrinks from contact with the outer world, that sets it smarting.

After Prince Andrey’s death, Natasha and Princess Marya both alike felt this. Crushed in spirit, they closed their eyes under the menacing cloud of death that hovered about them, and dared not look life in the face. Carefully they guarded their open wounds from every rough and painful touch. Everything—the carriage driving along the street, the summons to dinner, the maid asking which dress to get out; worse still—words of faint, feigned sympathy—set the wound smarting, seemed an insult to it, and jarred on that needful silence in which both were trying to listen to the stern, terrible litany that had not yet died away in their ears, and to gaze into the mysterious, endless vistas that seemed for a moment to have been unveiled before them.

Only alone together were they safe from such outrage and pain. They said little to one another. When they did speak, it was about the most trivial subjects. And both equally avoided all mention of anything connected with the future.

To admit the possibility of a future seemed to them an insult to his memory. Still more circumspectly did they avoid in their talk all that could be connected with the dead man. It seemed to them that what they had felt and gone through could not be expressed in words. It seemed to them that every allusion in words to the details of his life was an outrage on the grandeur and holiness of the mystery that had been accomplished before their eyes.

The constant restraint of speech and studious avoidance of everything that might lead to words about him, these barriers, fencing off on all sides what could not be spoken of, brought what they were feeling even more clearly and vividly before their minds.

But pure and perfect sorrow is as impossible as pure and perfect joy. From the isolation of her position, as the guardian and foster-mother of her nephew, and independent mistress of her own destinies, Princess Marya was the first to be called back to life from that world of mourning in which she lived for the first fortnight. She received letters from her relations which had to be answered; the room in which Nikolushka had been put was damp, and he had begun to cough. Alpatitch came to Yaroslavl with accounts. He had suggestions to make, and advised Princess Marya to move to Moscow to the house in Vozdvizhenka, which was uninjured, and only needed some trifling repairs. Life would not stand still, and she had to live. Painful as it was for Princess Marya to come out of that world of solitary contemplation, in which she had been living till then, and sorry, and, as it were, conscience-stricken, as she felt at leaving Natasha alone, the duties of daily life claimed her attention, and against her own will she had to give herself up to them. She went through the accounts with Alpatitch, consulted Dessalle about her little nephew, and began to make preparations for moving to Moscow.

Natasha was left alone, and from the time that Princess Marya began to busy herself with preparations for her journey, she held aloof from her too.

Princess Marya asked the countess to let Natasha come to stay with her in Moscow; and both mother and father eagerly agreed to her suggestion, for they saw their daughter’s physical strength failing every day, and they hoped that change of scene and the advice of Moscow doctors might do her good.

“I am not going anywhere,” answered Natasha, when the suggestion was made to her; “all I ask is, please let me alone,” she said, and she ran out of the room, hardly able to restrain tears more of vexation and anger than of sorrow.

Since she felt herself deserted by Princess Marya, and alone in her grief, Natasha had spent most of her time alone in her room, huddled up in a corner of her sofa. While her slender, nervous fingers were

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