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War And Peace 646


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an electric shock seemed to run through Natashas whole being. Terrible anguish struck her heart, she felt a dreadful ache as if something was being torn inside her and she were dying. But the pain was immediately followed by a feeling of release from the oppressive constraint that had prevented her taking part in life. The sight of her father, the terribly wild cries of her mother that she heard through the door, made her immediately forget herself and her own grief. She ran to her father, but he feebly waved his arm, pointing to her mothers door. Princess Mary, pale and with quivering chin, came out from that room and taking Natasha by the arm said something to her. Natasha neither saw nor heard her. She went in with rapid steps, pausing at the door for an instant as if struggling with herself, and then ran to her mother. The countess was lying in an armchair in a strange and awkward position, stretching out and beating her head against the wall. Sonya and the maids were holding her arms. "Natasha! Natasha!..." cried the countess. "Its not true... its not true... Hes lying... Natasha!" she shrieked, pushing those around her away. "Go away, all of you; its not true! Killed!... ha, ha, ha!... Its not true!" Natasha put one knee on the armchair, stooped over her mother, embraced her, and with unexpected strength raised her, turned her face toward herself, and clung to her. "Mummy!... darling!... I am here, my dearest Mummy," she kept on whispering, not pausing an instant. She did not let go of her mother but struggled tenderly with her, demanded a pillow and hot water, and unfastened and tore open her mothers dress. "My dearest darling... Mummy, my precious!..." she whispered incessantly, kissing her head, her hands, her face, and feeling her own irrepressible and streaming tears tickling her nose and cheeks. The countess pressed her daughters hand, closed her eyes, and became quiet for a moment. Suddenly she sat up with unaccustomed swiftness, glanced vacantly around her, and seeing Natasha began to press her daughters head with all her strength. Then she turned toward her daughters face which was wincing with pain and gazed long at it. "Natasha, you love me?" she said in a soft trustful whisper. "Natasha, you would not deceive me? Youll tell me the whole truth?" Natasha looked at her with eyes full of tears and in her look there was nothing but love and an entreaty for forgiveness. "My darling Mummy!" she repeated, straining all the power of her love to find some way of taking on herself the excess of grief that crushed her mother. And again in a futile struggle with reality her mother, refusing to believe that she could live when her beloved boy was killed in the bloom of life, escaped from reality into a world of delirium. Natasha did not remember how that day passed nor that night, nor the next day and night. She did not sleep and did not leave her mother. Her persevering and patient love seemed completely to surround the countess every moment, not explaining or consoling, but recalling her to life. During the third night the countess kept very quiet for a few minutes, and Natasha rested her head on the arm of her chair and closed her eyes, but opened them again on hearing the bedstead creak. The countess was sitting up in bed and speaking softly. "How glad I am you have come. You are tired. Wont you have some tea?" Natasha went up to her. "You have improved in looks and grown more manly," continued the countess, taking her daughters hand. "Mamma! What are you saying..." "Natasha, he is no more, no more!" And embracing her daughter, the countess began to weep for the first time. CHAPTER III Princess Mary postponed her departure. Sonya and the count tried to replace Natasha but could not. They saw that she alone was able to restrain her mother from unreasoning despair. For three weeks Natasha remained constantly at her mothers side, sleeping on a lounge chair in her room, making her eat and drink, and talking to her incessantly because the mere sound of her tender, caressing tones soothed her mother. The mothers wounded spirit could not heal. Petyas death had torn from her half her life. When the news of Petyas death had come she had been a fresh and vigorous woman of fifty, but a month later she left her room a listless old woman taking no interest in life. But the same blow that almost killed the countess, this second blow, restored Natasha to

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