The next day the gay, handsome, and brilliant Schonbock joined Nekhludoff at his aunts’ house, and quite won their hearts by his refined and amiable manner, his high spirits, his generosity, and his affection for Dmitri.
But though the old ladies admired his generosity it rather perplexed them, for it seemed exaggerated. He gave a rouble to some blind beggars who came to the gate, gave 15 roubles in tips to the servants, and when Sophia Ivanovna’s pet dog hurt his paw and it bled, he tore his hemstitched cambric handkerchief into strips (Sophia Ivanovna knew that such handkerchiefs cost at least 15 roubles a dozen) and bandaged the dog’s foot. The old ladies had never met people of this kind, and did not know that Schonbock owed 200,000 roubles which he was never going to pay, and that therefore 25 roubles more or less did not matter a bit to him. Schonbock stayed only one day, and he and Nekhludoff both, left at night. They could not stay away from their regiment any longer, for their leave was fully up.
At the stage which Nekhludoff’s selfish mania had now reached he could think of nothing but himself. He was wondering whether his conduct, if found out, would be blamed much or at all, but he did not consider what Katusha was now going through, and what was going to happen to her.
He saw that Schonbock guessed his relations to her and this flattered his vanity.
“Ah, I see how it is you have taken such a sudden fancy to your aunts that you have been living nearly a week with them,” Schonbock remarked when he had seen Katusha. “Well, I don’t wonder — should have done the same. She’s charming.” Nekhludoff was also thinking that though it was a pity to go away before having fully gratified the cravings of his love for her, yet the absolute necessity of parting had its advantages because it put a sudden stop to relations it would have been very difficult for him to continue. Then he thought that he ought to give her some money, not for her, not because she might need it, but because it was the thing to do.
So he gave her what seemed to him a liberal amount, considering his and her station. On the day of his departure, after dinner, he went out and waited for her at the side entrance. She flushed up when she saw him and wished to pass by, directing his attention to the open door of the maids’ room by a look, but he stopped her.
“I have come to say good-bye,” he said, crumbling in his hand an envelope with a 100-rouble note inside. “There, I” . . .
She guessed what he meant, knit her brows, and shaking her head pushed his hand away.
“Take it; oh, you must!” he stammered, and thrust the envelope into the bib of her apron and ran back to his room, groaning and frowning as if he had hurt himself. And for a long time he went up and down writhing as in pain, and even stamping and groaning aloud as he thought of this last scene. “But what else could I have done? Is it not what happens to every one? And if every one does the same . . . well I suppose it can’t be helped.” In this way he tried to get peace of mind, but in vain. The recollection of what had passed burned his conscience. In his soul — in the very depths of his soul — he knew that he had acted in a base, cruel, cowardly manner, and that the knowledge of this act of his must prevent him, not only from finding fault with any one else, but even from looking straight into other people’s eyes; not to mention the impossibility of considering himself a splendid, noble, high-minded fellow, as he did and had to do to go on living his life boldly and merrily. There was only one solution of the problem — i.e., not to think about it. He succeeded in doing so. The life he was now entering upon, the new surroundings, new friends, the war, all helped him to forget. And the longer he lived, the less he thought about it, until at last he forgot it completely.
Once only, when, after the war, he went to see his aunts in hopes of meeting Katusha, and heard that soon after his last visit she had left, and that his aunts had heard she had been confined somewhere or other and had gone quite to the bad, his heart ached. According to the time of her confinement, the child might or might not have been his. His aunts said she had gone wrong, that she had inherited her mother’s depraved nature, and he was pleased to hear this opinion of his aunts’. It seemed to acquit him. At first he thought of trying to find her and her child, but then, just because in the depths of his soul he felt so ashamed and pained when thinking about her, he did not make the necessary effort to find her, but tried to forget his sin again and ceased to think about it. And now this strange coincidence brought it all back to his memory, and demanded from him the acknowledgment of the heartless, cruel cowardice which had made it possible for him to live these nine years with such a sin on his conscience. But he was still far from such an acknowledgment, and his only fear was that everything might now be found out, and that she or her advocate might recount it all and put him to shame before every one present.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00