Expecting to have a private talk with Katusha, as usual, after tea, Nekhludoff sat by the side of Kryltzoff, conversing with him. Among other things he told him the story of Makar’s crime and about his request to him. Kryltzoff listened attentively, gazing at Nekhludoff with glistening eyes.
“Yes,” said Kryltzoff suddenly, “I often think that here we are going side by side with them, and who are they? The same for whose sake we are going, and yet we not only do not know them, but do not even wish to know them. And they, even worse than that, they hate us and look upon us as enemies. This is terrible.”
“There is nothing terrible about it,” broke in Novodvoroff. “The masses always worship power only. The government is in power, and they worship it and hate us. To-morrow we shall have the power, and they will worship us,” he said with his grating voice. At that moment a volley of abuse and the rattle of chains sounded from behind the wall, something was heard thumping against it and screaming and shrieking, some one was being beaten, and some one was calling out, “Murder! help!”
“Hear them, the beasts! What intercourse can there be between us and such as them?” quietly remarked Novodvoroff.
“You call them beasts, and Nekhludoff was just telling me about such an action!” irritably retorted Kryltzoff, and went on to say how Makar was risking his life to save a fellow-villager. “That is not the action of a beast, it is heroism.”
“Sentimentality!” Novodvoroff ejaculated ironically; “it is difficult for us to understand the emotions of these people and the motives on which they act. You see generosity in the act, and it may be simply jealousy of that other criminal.”
“How is it that you never wish to see anything good in another?” Mary Pavlovna said suddenly, flaring up.
“How can one see what does not exist!”
“How does it not exist, when a man risks dying a terrible death?”
“I think,” said Novodvoroff, “that if we mean to do our work, the first condition is that” (here Kondratieff put down the book he was reading by the lamplight and began to listen attentively to his master’s words) “we should not give way to fancy, but look at things as they are. We should do all in our power for the masses, and expect nothing in return. The masses can only be the object of our activity, but cannot be our fellow-workers as long as they remain in that state of inertia they are in at present,” he went on, as if delivering a lecture. “Therefore, to expect help from them before the process of development — that process which we are preparing them for — has taken place is an illusion.”
“What process of development?” Kryltzoff began, flushing all over. “We say that we are against arbitrary rule and despotism, and is this not the most awful despotism?”
“No despotism whatever,” quietly rejoined Novodvoroff. “I am only saying that I know the path that the people must travel, and can show them that path.”
“But how can you be sure that the path you show is the true path? Is this not the same kind of despotism that lay at the bottom of the Inquisition, all persecutions, and the great revolution? They, too, knew the one true way, by means of their science.”
“Their having erred is no proof of my going to err; besides, there is a great difference between the ravings of idealogues and the facts based on sound, economic science.” Novodvoroff’s voice filled the room; he alone was speaking, all the rest were silent.
“They are always disputing,” Mary Pavlovna said, when there was a moment’s silence.
“And you yourself, what do you think about it?” Nekhludoff asked her.
“I think Kryltzoff is right when he says we should not force our views on the people.”
“And you, Katusha?” asked Nekhludoff with a smile, waiting anxiously for her answer, fearing she would say something awkward.
“I think the common people are wronged,” she said, and blushed scarlet. “I think they are dreadfully wronged.”
“That’s right, Maslova, quite right,” cried Nabatoff. “They are terribly wronged, the people, and they must not he wronged, and therein lies the whole of our task.”
“A curious idea of the object of revolution,” Novodvoroff remarked crossly, and began to smoke.
“I cannot talk to him,” said Kryltzoff in a whisper, and was silent.
“And it is much better not to talk,” Nekhludoff said.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00