“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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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