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CHAPTER XXXIII. THE LEAVEN AT WORK - NEKHLUDOFF'S DOMESTIC CHANGES.
The next morning Nekhludoff awoke, conscious that something had happened to him, and even before he had remembered what it was he knew it to be something important and good.
"Katusha - the trial!" Yes, he must stop lying and tell the whole truth.
By a strange coincidence on that very morning he received the long-expected letter from Mary Vasilievna, the wife of the Marechal de Noblesse, the very letter he particularly needed. She gave him full freedom, and wished him happiness in his intended marriage.
"Marriage!" he repeated with irony. "How far I am from all that at present."
And he remembered the plans he had formed the day before, to tell the husband everything, to make a clean breast of it, and express his readiness to give him any kind of satisfaction. But this morning this did not seem so easy as the day before. And, then, also, why make a man unhappy by telling him what he does not know? Yes, if he came and asked, he would tell him all, but to go purposely and tell - no! that was unnecessary.
And telling the whole truth to Missy seemed just as difficult this morning. Again, he could not begin to speak without offence. As in many worldly affairs, something had to remain unexpressed. Only one thing he decided on, i.e., not to visit there, and to tell the truth if asked.
But in connection with Katusha, nothing was to remain unspoken. "I shall go to the prison and shall tell her every thing, and ask her to forgive me. And if need be - yes, if need be, I shall marry her," he thought.
This idea, that he was ready to sacrifice all on moral grounds, and marry her, again made him feel very tender towards himself. Concerning money matters he resolved this morning to arrange them in accord with his conviction, that the holding of landed property was unlawful. Even if he should not be strong enough to give up everything, he would still do what he could, not deceiving himself or others.
It was long since he had met the coming day with so much energy. When Agraphena Petrovna came in, he told her, with more firmness than he thought himself capable of, that he no longer needed this lodging nor her services. There had been a tacit understanding that he was keeping up so large and expensive an establishment because he was thinking of getting married. The giving up of the house had, therefore, a special meaning. Agraphena Petrovna looked at him in surprise.
"I thank you very much, Agraphena Petrovna, for all your care for me, but I no longer require so large a house nor so many servants. If you wish to help me, be so good as to settle about the things, put them away as it used to be done during mamma's life, and when Natasha comes she will see to everything." Natasha was Nekhludoff's sister.
Agraphena Petrovna shook her head. "See about the things? Why, they'll be required again," she said.
"No, they won't, Agraphena Petrovna; I assure you they won't be required," said Nekhludoff, in answer to what the shaking of her head had expressed. "Please tell Corney also that I shall pay him two months' wages, but shall have no further need of him."
"It is a pity, Dmitri Ivanovitch, that you should think of doing this," she said. "Well, supposing you go abroad, still you'll require a place of residence again."
"You are mistaken in your thoughts, Agraphena Petrovna; I am not going abroad. If I go on a journey, it will be to quite a different place." He suddenly blushed very red. "Yes, I must tell her," he thought; "no hiding; everybody must be told."
"A very strange and important thing happened to me yesterday. Do you remember my Aunt Mary Ivanovna's Katusha?"
"Oh, yes. Why, I taught her how to sew."
"Well, this Katusha was tried in the Court and I was on the jury."
"Oh, Lord! What a pity!" cried Agraphena Petrovna. What was she being tried for?"
"Murder; and it is I have done it all."
"Well, now this is very strange; how could you do it all?"
"Yes, I am the cause of it all; and it is this that has altered all my plans."
"What difference can it make to you?"
"This difference: that I, being the cause of her getting on to that path, must do all I can to help her."
"That is just according to your own good pleasure; you are not particularly in fault there. It happens to every one, and if one's reasonable, it all gets smoothed over and forgotten," she said, seriously and severely. "Why should you place it to your account? There's no need. I had already heard before that she had strayed from the right path. Well, whose fault is it?"
"Mine! that's why I want to put it right."
"It is hard to put right."
"That is my business. But if you are thinking about yourself, then I will tell you that, as mamma expressed the wish - "
"I am not thinking about myself. I have been so bountifully treated by the dear defunct, that I desire nothing. Lisenka" (her married niece) "has been inviting me, and I shall go to her when I am not wanted any longer. Only it is a pity you should take this so to heart; it happens to everybody."
"Well, I do not think so. And I still beg that you will help me let this lodging and put away the things. And please do not be angry with me. I am very, very grateful to you for all you have done."
And, strangely, from the moment Nekhludoff realised that it was he who was so bad and disgusting to himself, others were no longer disgusting to him; on the contrary, he felt a kindly respect for Agraphena Petrovna, and for Corney.
He would have liked to go and confess to Corney also, but Corney's manner was so insinuatingly deferential that he had not the resolution to do it.
On the way to the Law Courts, passing along the same streets with the same isvostchik as the day before, he was surprised what a different being he felt himself to be. The marriage with Missy, which only yesterday seemed so probable, appeared quite impossible now. The day before he felt it was for him to choose, and had no doubts that she would be happy to marry him; to-day he felt himself unworthy not only of marrying, but even of being intimate with her. "If she only knew what I am, nothing would induce her to receive me. And only yesterday I was finding fault with her because she flirted with N - -. Anyhow, even if she consented to marry me, could I be, I won't say happy, but at peace, knowing that the other was here in prison, and would to-day or to-morrow he taken to Siberia with a gang of other prisoners, while I accepted congratulations and made calls with my young wife; or while I count the votes at the meetings, for and against the motion brought forward by the rural inspection, etc., together with the Marechal de Noblesse, whom I abominably deceive, and afterwards make appointments with his wife (how abominable!) or while I continue to work at my picture, which will certainly never get finished? Besides, I have no business to waste time on such things. I can do nothing of the kind now," he continued to himself, rejoicing at the change he felt within himself. "The first thing now is to see the advocate and find out his decision, and then . . . then go and see her and tell her everything."
And when he pictured to himself how he would see her, and tell her all, confess his sin to her, and tell her that he would do all in his power to atone for his sin, he was touched at his own goodness, and the tears came to his eyes.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XXXIV. THE ABSURDITY OF LAW - REFLECTIONS OF A JURYMAN.