That night Maslova lay awake a long time with her eyes open looking at the door, in front of which the deacon’s daughter kept passing. She was thinking that nothing would induce her to go to the island of Sakhalin and marry a convict, but would arrange matters somehow with one of the prison officials, the secretary, a warder, or even a warder’s assistant. “Aren’t they all given that way? Only I must not get thin, or else I am lost.”
She thought of how the advocate had looked at her, and also the president, and of the men she met, and those who came in on purpose at the court. She recollected how her companion, Bertha, who came to see her in prison, had told her about the student whom she had “loved” while she was with Kitaeva, and who had inquired about her, and pitied her very much. She recalled many to mind, only not Nekhludoff. She never brought back to mind the days of her childhood and youth, and her love to Nekhludoff. That would have been too painful. These memories lay untouched somewhere deep in her soul; she had forgotten him, and never recalled and never even dreamt of him. To-day, in the court, she did not recognise him, not only because when she last saw him he was in uniform, without a beard, and had only a small moustache and thick, curly, though short hair, and now was bald and bearded, but because she never thought about him. She had buried his memory on that terrible dark night when he, returning from the army, had passed by on the railway without stopping to call on his aunts. Katusha then knew her condition. Up to that night she did not consider the child that lay beneath her heart a burden. But on that night everything changed, and the child became nothing but a weight.
His aunts had expected Nekhludoff, had asked him to come and see them in passing, but he had telegraphed that he could not come, as he had to be in Petersburg at an appointed time. When Katusha heard this she made up her mind to go to the station and see him. The train was to pass by at two o’clock in the night. Katusha having helped the old ladies to bed, and persuaded a little girl, the cook’s daughter, Mashka, to come with her, put on a pair of old boots, threw a shawl over her head, gathered up her dress, and ran to the station.
It was a warm, rainy, and windy autumn night. The rain now pelted down in warm, heavy drops, now stopped again. It was too dark to see the path across the field, and in the wood it was pitch black, so that although Katusha knew the way well, she got off the path, and got to the little station where the train stopped for three minutes, not before, as she had hoped, but after the second bell had been rung. Hurrying up the platform, Katusha saw him at once at the windows of a first-class carriage. Two officers sat opposite each other on the velvet-covered seats, playing cards. This carriage was very brightly lit up; on the little table between the seats stood two thick, dripping candles. He sat in his closefitting breeches on the arm of the seat, leaning against the back, and laughed. As soon as she recognised him she knocked at the carriage window with her benumbed hand, but at that moment the last bell rang, and the train first gave a backward jerk, and then gradually the carriages began to move forward. One of the players rose with the cards in his hand, and looked out. She knocked again, and pressed her face to the window, but the carriage moved on, and she went alongside looking in. The officer tried to lower the window, but could not. Nekhludoff pushed him aside and began lowering it himself. The train went faster, so that she had to walk quickly. The train went on still faster and the window opened. The guard pushed her aside, and jumped in. Katusha ran on, along the wet boards of the platform, and when she came to the end she could hardly stop herself from falling as she ran down the steps of the platform. She was running by the side of the railway, though the first-class carriage had long passed her, and the second-class carriages were gliding by faster, and at last the third-class carriages still faster. But she ran on, and when the last carriage with the lamps at the back had gone by, she had already reached the tank which fed the engines, and was unsheltered from the wind, which was blowing her shawl about and making her skirt cling round her legs. The shawl flew off her head, but still she ran on.
“Katerina Michaelovna, you’ve lost your shawl!” screamed the little girl, who was trying to keep up with her.
Katusha stopped, threw back her head, and catching hold of it with both hands sobbed aloud. “Gone!” she screamed.
“He is sitting in a velvet arm-chair and joking and drinking, in a brightly lit carriage, and I, out here in the mud, in the darkness, in the wind and the rain, am standing and weeping,” she thought to herself; and sat down on the ground, sobbing so loud that the little girl got frightened, and put her arms round her, wet as she was.
“Come home, dear,” she said.
“When a train passes — then under a carriage, and there will be an end,” Katusha was thinking, without heeding the girl.
And she made up her mind to do it, when, as it always happens, when a moment of quiet follows great excitement, he, the child — his child — made himself known within her. Suddenly all that a moment before had been tormenting her, so that it had seemed impossible to live, all her bitterness towards him, and the wish to revenge herself, even by dying, passed away; she grew quieter, got up, put the shawl on her head, and went home.
Wet, muddy, and quite exhausted, she returned, and from that day the change which brought her where she now was began to operate in her soul. Beginning from that dreadful night, she ceased believing in God and in goodness. She had herself believed in God, and believed that other people also believed in Him; but after that night she became convinced that no one believed, and that all that was said about God and His laws was deception and untruth. He whom she loved, and who had loved her — yes, she knew that — had thrown her away; had abused her love. Yet he was the best of all the people she knew. All the rest were still worse. All that afterwards happened to her strengthened her in this belief at every step. His aunts, the pious old ladies, turned her out when she could no longer serve them as she used to. And of all those she met, the women used her as a means of getting money, the men, from the old police officer down to the warders of the prison, looked at her as on an object for pleasure. And no one in the world cared for aught but pleasure. In this belief the old author with whom she had come together in the second year of her life of independence had strengthened her. He had told her outright that it was this that constituted the happiness of life, and he called it poetical and aesthetic.
Everybody lived for himself only, for his pleasure, and all the talk concerning God and righteousness was deception. And if sometimes doubts arose in her mind and she wondered why everything was so ill-arranged in the world that all hurt each other, and made each other suffer, she thought it best not to dwell on it, and if she felt melancholy she could smoke, or, better still, drink, and it would pass.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00