Only those who can love strongly can experience an overwhelming grief. Yet their very need of loving sometimes serves to throw off their grief from them and to save them. The moral nature of man is more tenacious of life than the physical, and grief never kills.
After a time Grandmamma's power of weeping came back to her, and she began to recover. Her first thought when her reason returned was for us children, and her love for us was greater than ever. We never left her arm-chair, and she would talk of Mamma, and weep softly, and caress us.
Nobody who saw her grief could say that it was consciously exaggerated, for its expression was too strong and touching; yet for some reason or another my sympathy went out more to Natalia Savishna, and to this day I am convinced that nobody loved and regretted Mamma so purely and sincerely as did that simple- hearted, affectionate being.
With Mamma's death the happy time of my childhood came to an end, and a new epoch--the epoch of my boyhood--began; but since my memories of Natalia Savishna (who exercised such a strong and beneficial influence upon the bent of my mind and the development of my sensibility) belong rather to the first period, I will add a few words about her and her death before closing this portion of my life.
I heard later from people in the village that, after our return to Moscow, she found time hang very heavy on her hands. Although the drawers and shelves were still under her charge, and she never ceased to arrange and rearrange them--to take things out and to dispose of them afresh--she sadly missed the din and bustle of the seignorial mansion to which she had been accustomed from her childhood up. Consequently grief, the alteration in her mode of life, and her lack of activity soon combined to develop in her a malady to which she had always been more or less subject.
Scarcely more than a year after Mamma's death dropsy showed itself, and she took to her bed. I can imagine how sad it must have been for her to go on living--still more, to die--alone in that great empty house at Petrovskoe, with no relations or any one near her. Every one there esteemed and loved her, but she had formed no intimate friendships in the place, and was rather proud of the fact. That was because, enjoying her master's confidence as she did, and having so much property under her care, she considered that intimacies would lead to culpable indulgence and condescension, Consequently (and perhaps, also, because she had nothing really in common with the other servants) she kept them all at a distance, and used to say that she "recognised neither kinsman nor godfather in the house, and would permit of no exceptions with regard to her master's property."
Instead, she sought and found consolation in fervent prayers to God. Yet sometimes, in those moments of weakness to which all of us are subject, and when man's best solace is the tears and compassion of his fellow-creatures, she would take her old dog Moska on to her bed, and talk to it, and weep softly over it as it answered her caresses by licking her hands, with its yellow eyes fixed upon her. When Moska began to whine she would say as she quieted it: "Enough, enough! I know without thy telling me that my time is near." A month before her death she took out of her chest of drawers some fine white calico, white cambric, and pink ribbon, and, with the help of the maidservants, fashioned the garments in which she wished to be buried. Next she put everything on her shelves in order and handed the bailiff an inventory which she had made out with scrupulous accuracy. All that she kept back was a couple of silk gowns, an old shawl, and Grandpapa's military uniform--things which had been presented to her absolutely, and which, thanks to her care and orderliness, were in an excellent state of preservation--particularly the handsome gold embroidery on the uniform.
Just before her death, again, she expressed a wish that one of the gowns (a pink one) should be made into a robe de chambre for Woloda; that the other one (a many-coloured gown) should be made into a similar garment for myself; and that the shawl should go to Lubotshka. As for the uniform, it was to devolve either to Woloda or to myself, according as the one or the other of us should first become an officer. All the rest of her property (save only forty roubles, which she set aside for her commemorative rites and to defray the costs of her burial) was to pass to her brother, a person with whom, since he lived a dissipated life in a distant province, she had had no intercourse during her lifetime. When, eventually, he arrived to claim the inheritance, and found that its sum-total only amounted to twenty-five roubles in notes, he refused to believe it, and declared that it was impossible that his sister-a woman who for sixty years had had sole charge in a wealthy house, as well as all her life had been penurious and averse to giving away even the smallest thing should have left no more: yet it was a fact.