Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XXXI.

Nekhludoff’s Sister and Her Husband.

The gang of prisoners, with Maslova among them, was to start on the 5th July. Nekhludoff arranged to start on the same day.

The day before, Nekhludoff’s sister and her husband came to town to see him.

Nekhludoff’s sister, Nathalie Ivanovna Rogozhinsky, was 10 years older than her brother. She had been very fond of him when he was a boy, and later on, just before her marriage, they grew very close to each other, as if they were equals, she being a young woman of 25, he a lad of 15. At that time she was in love with his friend, Nikolenka Irtenieff, since dead. They both loved Nikolenka, and loved in him and in themselves that which is good, and which unites all men. Since then they had both been depraved, he by military service and a vicious life, she by marriage with a man whom she loved with a sensual love, who did not care for the things that had once been so dear and holy to her and to her brother, nor even understand the meaning of those aspirations towards moral perfection and the service of mankind, which once constituted her life, and put them down to ambition and the wish to show off; that being the only explanation comprehensible to him.

Nathalie’s husband had been a man without a name and without means, but cleverly steering towards Liberalism or Conservatism, according to which best suited his purpose, he managed to make a comparatively brilliant judicial career. Some peculiarity which made him attractive to women assisted him when he was no longer in his first youth. While travelling abroad he made Nekhludoff’s acquaintance, and managed to make Nathalie, who was also no longer a girl, fall in love with him, rather against her mother’s wishes who considered a marriage with him to be a misalliance for her daughter. Nekhludoff, though he tried to hide it from himself, though he fought against it, hated his brother-in-law.

Nekhludoff had a strong antipathy towards him because of the vulgarity of his feelings, his assurance and narrowness, but chiefly because of Nathalie, who managed to love him in spite of the narrowness of his nature, and loved him so selfishly, so sensually, and stifled for his sake all the good that had been in her.

It always hurt Nekhludoff to think of Nathalie as the wife of that hairy, self-assured man with the shiny, bald patch on his head. He could not even master a feeling of revulsion towards their children, and when he heard that she was again going to have a baby, he felt something like sorrow that she had once more been infected with something bad by this man who was so foreign to him. The Rogozhinskys had come to Moscow alone, having left their two children — a boy and a girl — at home, and stopped in the best rooms of the best hotel. Nathalie at once went to her mother’s old house, but hearing from Agraphena Petrovna that her brother had left, and was living in a lodging-house, she drove there. The dirty servant met her in the stuffy passage, dark but for a lamp which burnt there all day. He told her that the Prince was not in.

Nathalie asked to be shown into his rooms, as she wished to leave a note for him, and the man took her up.

Nathalie carefully examined her brother’s two little rooms. She noticed in everything the love of cleanliness and order she knew so well in him, and was struck by the novel simplicity of the surroundings. On his writing-table she saw the paper-weight with the bronze dog on the top which she remembered; the tidy way in which his different portfolios and writing utensils were placed on the table was also familiar, and so was the large, crooked ivory paper knife which marked the place in a French book by Tard, which lay with other volumes on punishment and a book in English by Henry George. She sat down at the table and wrote a note asking him to be sure to come that same day, and shaking her head in surprise at what she saw, she returned to her hotel.

Two questions regarding her brother now interested Nathalie: his marriage with Katusha, which she had heard spoken about in their town — for everybody was speaking about it — and his giving away the land to the peasants, which was also known, and struck many as something of a political nature, and dangerous. The Carriage with Katusha pleased her in a way. She admired that resoluteness which was so like him and herself as they used to be in those happy times before her marriage. And yet she was horrified when she thought her brother was going to marry such a dreadful woman. The latter was the stronger feeling of the two, and she decided to use all her influence to prevent him from doing it, though she knew how difficult this would be.

The other matter, the giving up of the land to the peasants, did not touch her so nearly, but her husband was very indignant about it, and expected her to influence her brother against it.

Rogozhinsky said that such an action was the height of inconsistency, flightiness, and pride, the only possible explanation of which was the desire to appear original, to brag, to make one’s self talked about.

“What sense could there be in letting the land to the peasants, on condition that they pay the rent to themselves?” he said. “If he was resolved to do such a thing, why not sell the land to them through the Peasants’ Bank? There might have been some sense in that. In fact, this act verges on insanity.”

And Rogozhinsky began seriously thinking about putting Nekhludoff under guardianship, and demanded of his wife that she should speak seriously to her brother about his curious intention.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04