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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 16
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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 16 Post by :stormpay Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2012

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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 16

Not only did Prince Andrew know he would die, but he felt that he
was dying and was already half dead. He was conscious of an
aloofness from everything earthly and a strange and joyous lightness
of existence. Without haste or agitation he awaited what was coming.
That inexorable, eternal, distant, and unknown the presence of which
he had felt continually all his life- was now near to him and, by
the strange lightness he experienced, almost comprehensible and
palpable...


Formerly he had feared the end. He had twice experienced that
terribly tormenting fear of death- the end- but now he no longer
understood that fear.

He had felt it for the first time when the shell spun like a top
before him, and he looked at the fallow field, the bushes, and the
sky, and knew that he was face to face with death. When he came to
himself after being wounded and the flower of eternal, unfettered love
had instantly unfolded itself in his soul as if freed from the bondage
of life that had restrained it, he no longer feared death and ceased
to think about it.

During the hours of solitude, suffering, and partial delirium he
spent after he was wounded, the more deeply he penetrated into the new
principle of eternal love revealed to him, the more he unconsciously
detached himself from earthly life. To love everything and everybody
and always to sacrifice oneself for love meant not to love anyone, not
to live this earthly life. And the more imbued he became with that
principle of love, the more he renounced life and the more
completely he destroyed that dreadful barrier which- in the absence of
such love- stands between life and death. When during those first days
he remembered that he would have to die, he said to himself: "Well,
what of it? So much the better!"

But after the night in Mytishchi when, half delirious, he had seen
her for whom he longed appear before him and, having pressed her
hand to his lips, had shed gentle, happy tears, love for a
particular woman again crept unobserved into his heart and once more
bound him to life. And joyful and agitating thoughts began to occupy
his mind. Recalling the moment at the ambulance station when he had
seen Kuragin, he could not now regain the feeling he then had, but was
tormented by the question whether Kuragin was alive. And he dared
not inquire.

His illness pursued its normal physical course, but what Natasha
referred to when she said: "This suddenly happened," had occurred
two days before Princess Mary arrived. It was the last spiritual
struggle between life and death, in which death gained the victory. It
was the unexpected realization of the fact that he still valued life
as presented to him in the form of his love for Natasha, and a last,
though ultimately vanquished, attack of terror before the unknown.

It was evening. As usual after dinner he was slightly feverish,
and his thoughts were preternaturally clear. Sonya was sitting by
the table. He began to doze. Suddenly a feeling of happiness seized
him.

"Ah, she has come!" thought he.

And so it was: in Sonya's place sat Natasha who had just come in
noiselessly.

Since she had begun looking after him, he had always experienced
this physical consciousness of her nearness. She was sitting in an
armchair placed sideways, screening the light of the candle from
him, and was knitting a stocking. She had learned to knit stockings
since Prince Andrew had casually mentioned that no one nursed the sick
so well as old nurses who knit stockings, and that there is
something soothing in the knitting of stockings. The needles clicked
lightly in her slender, rapidly moving hands, and he could clearly see
the thoughtful profile of her drooping face. She moved, and the ball
rolled off her knees. She started, glanced round at him, and screening
the candle with her hand stooped carefully with a supple and exact
movement, picked up the ball, and regained her former position.

He looked at her without moving and saw that she wanted to draw a
deep breath after stooping, but refrained from doing so and breathed
cautiously.

At the Troitsa monastery they had spoken of the past, and he had
told her that if he lived he would always thank God for his wound
which had brought them together again, but after that they never spoke
of the future.

"Can it or can it not be?" he now thought as he looked at her and
listened to the light click of the steel needles. "Can fate have
brought me to her so strangely only for me to die?... Is it possible
that the truth of life has been revealed to me only to show me that
I have spent my life in falsity? I love her more than anything in
the world! But what am I to do if I love her?" he thought, and he
involuntarily groaned, from a habit acquired during his sufferings.

On hearing that sound Natasha put down the stocking, leaned nearer
to him, and suddenly, noticing his shining eyes, stepped lightly up to
him and bent over him.

"You are not asleep?"

"No, I have been looking at you a long time. I felt you come in.
No one else gives me that sense of soft tranquillity that you do...
that light. I want to weep for joy."

Natasha drew closer to him. Her face shone with rapturous joy.

"Natasha, I love you too much! More than anything in the world."

"And I!"- She turned away for an instant. "Why too much?" she asked.

"Why too much?... Well, what do you, what do you feel in your
soul, your whole soul- shall I live? What do you think?"

"I am sure of it, sure!" Natasha almost shouted, taking hold of both
his hands with a passionate movement.

He remained silent awhile.

"How good it would be!" and taking her hand he kissed it.

Natasha felt happy and agitated, but at once remembered that this
would not do and that he had to be quiet.

"But you have not slept," she said, repressing her joy. "Try to
sleep... please!"

He pressed her hand and released it, and she went back to the candle
and sat down again in her former position. Twice she turned and looked
at him, and her eyes met his beaming at her. She set herself a task on
her stocking and resolved not to turn round till it was finished.

Soon he really shut his eyes and fell asleep. He did not sleep
long and suddenly awoke with a start and in a cold perspiration.

As he fell asleep he had still been thinking of the subject that now
always occupied his mind- about life and death, and chiefly about
death. He felt himself nearer to it.

"Love? What is love?" he thought.

"Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything that I
understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is,
everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it
alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall
return to the general and eternal source." These thoughts seemed to
him comforting. But they were only thoughts. Something was lacking
in them, they were not clear, they were too one-sidedly personal and
brain-spun. And there was the former agitation and obscurity. He
fell asleep.

He dreamed that he was lying in the room he really was in, but
that he was quite well and unwounded. Many various, indifferent, and
insignificant people appeared before him. He talked to them and
discussed something trivial. They were preparing to go away somewhere.
Prince Andrew dimly realized that all this was trivial and that he had
more important cares, but he continued to speak, surprising them by
empty witticisms. Gradually, unnoticed, all these persons began to
disappear and a single question, that of the closed door, superseded
all else. He rose and went to the door to bolt and lock it. Everything
depended on whether he was, or was not, in time to lock it. He went,
and tried to hurry, but his legs refused to move and he knew he
would not be in time to lock the door though he painfully strained all
his powers. He was seized by an agonizing fear. And that fear was
the fear of death. It stood behind the door. But just when he was
clumsily creeping toward the door, that dreadful something on the
other side was already pressing against it and forcing its way in.
Something not human- death- was breaking in through that door, and had
to be kept out. He seized the door, making a final effort to hold it
back- to lock it was no longer possible- but his efforts were weak and
clumsy and the door, pushed from behind by that terror, opened and
closed again.

Once again it pushed from outside. His last superhuman efforts
were vain and both halves of the door noiselessly opened. It
entered, and it was death, and Prince Andrew died.

But at the instant he died, Prince Andrew remembered that he was
asleep, and at the very instant he died, having made an effort, he
awoke.

"Yes, it was death! I died- and woke up. Yes, death is an
awakening!" And all at once it grew light in his soul and the veil
that had till then concealed the unknown was lifted from his spiritual
vision. He felt as if powers till then confined within him had been
liberated, and that strange lightness did not again leave him.

When, waking in a cold perspiration, he moved on the divan,
Natasha went up and asked him what was the matter. He did not answer
and looked at her strangely, not understanding.

That was what had happened to him two days before Princess Mary's
arrival. From that day, as the doctor expressed it, the wasting
fever assumed a malignant character, but what the doctor said did
not interest Natasha, she saw the terrible moral symptoms which to her
were more convincing.

From that day an awakening from life came to Prince Andrew
together with his awakening from sleep. And compared to the duration
of life it did not seem to him slower than an awakening from sleep
compared to the duration of a dream.

There was nothing terrible or violent in this comparatively slow
awakening.

His last days and hours passed in an ordinary and simple way. Both
Princess Mary and Natasha, who did not leave him, felt this. They
did not weep or shudder and during these last days they themselves
felt that they were not attending on him (he was no longer there, he
had left them) but on what reminded them most closely of him- his
body. Both felt this so strongly that the outward and terrible side of
death did not affect them and they did not feel it necessary to foment
their grief. Neither in his presence nor out of it did they weep,
nor did they ever talk to one another about him. They felt that they
could not express in words what they understood.

They both saw that he was sinking slowly and quietly, deeper and
deeper, away from them, and they both knew that this had to be so
and that it was right.

He confessed, and received communion: everyone came to take leave of
him. When they brought his son to him, he pressed his lips to the
boy's and turned away, not because he felt it hard and sad (Princess
Mary and Natasha understood that) but simply because he thought it was
all that was required of him, but when they told him to bless the boy,
he did what was demanded and looked round as if asking whether there
was anything else he should do.

When the last convulsions of the body, which the spirit was leaving,
occurred, Princess Mary and Natasha were present.

"Is it over?" said Princess Mary when his body had for a few minutes
lain motionless, growing cold before them. Natasha went up, looked
at the dead eyes, and hastened to close them. She closed them but
did not kiss them, but clung to that which reminded her most nearly of
him- his body.

"Where has he gone? Where is he now?..."

When the body, washed and dressed, lay in the coffin on a table,
everyone came to take leave of him and they all wept.

Little Nicholas cried because his heart was rent by painful
perplexity. The countess and Sonya cried from pity for Natasha and
because he was no more. The old count cried because he felt that
before long, he, too, must take the same terrible step.

Natasha and Princess Mary also wept now, but not because of their
own personal grief; they wept with a reverent and softening emotion
which had taken possession of their souls at the consciousness of
the simple and solemn mystery of death that had been accomplished in
their presence.

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