When seeing a dying animal a man feels a sense of horror: substance similar t_is own is perishing before his eyes. But when it is a beloved and intimat_uman being that is dying, besides this horror at the extinction of life ther_s a severance, a spiritual wound, which like a physical wound is sometime_atal and sometimes heals, but always aches and shrinks at any externa_rritating touch.
After Prince Andrew's death Natasha and Princess Mary alike felt this.
Drooping in spirit and closing their eyes before the menacing cloud of deat_hat overhung them, they dared not look life in the face. They carefull_uarded their open wounds from any rough and painful contact. Everything: _arriage passing rapidly in the street, a summons to dinner, the maid'_nquiry what dress to prepare, or worse still any word of insincere or feebl_ympathy, seemed an insult, painfully irritated the wound, interrupting tha_ecessary quiet in which they both tried to listen to the stern and dreadfu_hoir that still resounded in their imagination, and hindered their gazin_nto those mysterious limitless vistas that for an instant had opened ou_efore them.
Only when alone together were they free from such outrage and pain. They spok_ittle even to one another, and when they did it was of very unimportan_atters.
Both avoided any allusion to the future. To admit the possibility of a futur_eemed to them to insult his memory. Still more carefully did they avoi_nything relating to him who was dead. It seemed to them that what they ha_ived through and experienced could not be expressed in words, and that an_eference to the details of his life infringed the majesty and sacredness o_he mystery that had been accomplished before their eyes.
Continued abstention from speech, and constant avoidance of everything tha_ight lead up to the subject—this halting on all sides at the boundary of wha_hey might not mention—brought before their minds with still greater purit_nd clearness what they were both feeling.
But pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.
Princess Mary, in her position as absolute and independent arbiter of her ow_ate and guardian and instructor of her nephew, was the first to be calle_ack to life from that realm of sorrow in which she had dwelt for the firs_ortnight. She received letters from her relations to which she had to reply;
the room in which little Nicholas had been put was damp and he began to cough;
Alpatych came to Yaroslavl with reports on the state of their affairs and wit_dvice and suggestions that they should return to Moscow to the house on th_ozdvizhenka Street, which had remained uninjured and needed only sligh_epairs. Life did not stand still and it was necessary to live. Hard as it wa_or Princess Mary to emerge from the realm of secluded contemplation in whic_he had lived till then, and sorry and almost ashamed as she felt to leav_atasha alone, yet the cares of life demanded her attention and sh_nvoluntarily yielded to them. She went through the accounts with Alpatych,
conferred with Dessalles about her nephew, and gave orders and mad_reparations for the journey to Moscow.
Natasha remained alone and, from the time Princess Mary began makin_reparations for departure, held aloof from her too.
Princess Mary asked the countess to let Natasha go with her to Moscow, an_oth parents gladly accepted this offer, for they saw their daughter losin_trength every day and thought that a change of scene and the advice of Mosco_octors would be good for her.
"I am not going anywhere," Natasha replied when this was proposed to her. "D_lease just leave me alone!" And she ran out of the room, with difficult_efraining from tears of vexation and irritation rather than of sorrow.
After she felt herself deserted by Princes Mary and alone in her grief,
Natasha spent most of the time in her room by herself, sitting huddled up fee_nd all in the corner of the sofa, tearing and twisting something with he_lender nervous fingers and gazing intently and fixedly at whatever her eye_hanced to fall on. This solitude exhausted and tormented her but she was i_bsolute need of it. As soon as anyone entered she got up quickly, changed he_osition and expression, and picked up a book or some sewing, evidentl_aiting impatiently for the intruder to go.
She felt all the time as if she might at any moment penetrate that o_hich—with a terrible questioning too great for her strength- her spiritua_aze was fixed.
One day toward the end of December Natasha, pale and thin, dressed in a blac_oolen gown, her plaited hair negligently twisted into a knot, was crouche_eet and all in the corner of her sofa, nervously crumpling and smoothing ou_he end of her sash while she looked at a corner of the door.
She was gazing in the direction in which he had gone—to the other side o_ife. And that other side of life, of which she had never before thought an_hich had formerly seemed to her so far away and improbable, was now neare_nd more akin and more comprehensible than this side of life, where everythin_as either emptiness and desolation or suffering and indignity.
She was gazing where she knew him to be; but she could not imagine hi_therwise than as he had been here. She now saw him again as he had been a_ytishchi, at Troitsa, and at Yaroslavl.
She saw his face, heard his voice, repeated his words and her own, an_ometimes devised other words they might have spoken.
There he is lying back in an armchair in his velvet cloak, leaning his head o_is thin pale hand. His chest is dreadfully hollow and his shoulders raised.
His lips are firmly closed, his eyes glitter, and a wrinkle comes and goes o_is pale forehead. One of his legs twitches just perceptibly, but rapidly.
Natasha knows that he is struggling with terrible pain. "What is that pai_ike? Why does he have that pain? What does he feel? How does it hurt him?"
thought Natasha. He noticed her watching him, raised his eyes, and began t_peak seriously:
"One thing would be terrible," said he: "to bind oneself forever to _uffering man. It would be continual torture." And he looked searchingly a_er. Natasha as usual answered before she had time to think what she woul_ay. She said: "This can't go on—it won't. You will get well—quite well."
She now saw him from the commencement of that scene and relived what she ha_hen felt. She recalled his long sad and severe look at those words an_nderstood the meaning of the rebuke and despair in that protracted gaze.
"I agreed," Natasha now said to herself, "that it would be dreadful if h_lways continued to suffer. I said it then only because it would have bee_readful for him, but he understood it differently. He thought it would b_readful for me. He then still wished to live and feared death. And I said i_o awkwardly and stupidly! I did not say what I meant. I thought quit_ifferently. Had I said what I thought, I should have said: even if he had t_o on dying, to die continually before my eyes, I should have been happ_ompared with what I am now. Now there is nothing… nobody. Did he know that?
No, he did not and never will know it. And now it will never, never b_ossible to put it right." And now he again seemed to be saying the same word_o her, only in her imagination Natasha this time gave him a different answer.
She stopped him and said: "Terrible for you, but not for me! You know that fo_e there is nothing in life but you, and to suffer with you is the greates_appiness for me," and he took her hand and pressed it as he had pressed i_hat terrible evening four days before his death. And in her imagination sh_aid other tender and loving words which she might have said then but onl_poke now: "I love thee!… thee! I love, love… " she said, convulsivel_ressing her hands and setting her teeth with a desperate effort…
She was overcome by sweet sorrow and tears were already rising in her eyes;
then she suddenly asked herself to whom she was saying this. Again everythin_as shrouded in hard, dry perplexity, and again with a strained frown sh_eered toward the world where he was. And now, now it seemed to her she wa_enetrating the mystery… . But at the instant when it seemed that th_ncomprehensible was revealing itself to her a loud rattle of the door handl_truck painfully on her ears. Dunyasha, her maid, entered the room quickly an_bruptly with a frightened look on her face and showing no concern for he_istress.
"Come to your Papa at once, please!" said she with a strange, excited look. "_isfortune… about Peter Ilynich… a letter," she finished with a sob.