Sometimes they did not speak for hours together. Sometimes, as they lay in their beds, they would begin to talk, and talked till morning. They talked, for the most part, of their own remote past. Princess Marya told her of her childhood, of her mother, of her father, of her dreams. And Natasha, who had in the past turned away with calm acceptance of her non-comprehension of that life of devotion and resignation, of the idealism of Christian self-sacrifice, grew to love Princess Marya’s past, and to understand that side of life of which she had had no conception before. She had no thought of imitating that resignation and self-sacrifice in her own life, because she was accustomed to look for other joys in life; but she understood and loved in another that virtue that had been till now beyond her ken. Princess Marya, too, as she listened to Natasha’s stories of her childhood and early girlhood, had a glimpse of a side of life she had known nothing of, of faith in life and in the enjoyment of life.

They still refrained from talking of him, that they might not, as seemed to them, desecrate the exalted feeling in their hearts; but this reticence led them, though they would not have believed it, into gradually forgetting him.

Natasha had grown thin and pale, and was physically so weak that every one was continually talking about her health, and she was glad it was so. Yet sometimes she was suddenly seized, not simply by a dread of death, but by a dread of sickness, of ill-health, of losing her good looks; and sometimes she unconsciously examined her bare arm, marvelling at its thinness, or peeped in the looking-glass in the morning at her pinched face, and was touched by its piteous look. It seemed to her that this was as it should be, and yet she felt afraid and mournful at it.

One day she ran upstairs quickly, and was painfully short of breath. Immediately she made some pretext for going down again, and ran upstairs again, to try her strength and put herself to the test.

Another day she called Dunyasha, and her voice broke. She called her once more, though she heard her coming—called her in the deep chest voice with which she used to sing, and listened to the sound.

She knew it not, and would not have believed it yet though the layer of mould under which she fancied that her soul was buried seemed unbroken, the delicate, tender, young blades of grass were already pushing through it, and were destined to take root, and so to hide the grief that had crushed her under their living shoots that it would soon be unseen and forgotten. The wound was healing from within.

Towards the end of January Princess Marya set off for Moscow, and the count insisted on Natasha going with her to consult the doctors.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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