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CHAPTER LIX. NEKHLUDOFF'S THIRD INTERVIEW WITH MASLOVA IN PRISON.
One of the most widespread superstitions is that every man has his own special, definite qualities; that a man is kind, cruel, wise, stupid, energetic, apathetic, etc. Men are not like that. We may say of a man that he is more often kind than cruel, oftener wise than stupid, oftener energetic than apathetic, or the reverse; but it would be false to say of one man that he is kind and wise, of another that he is wicked and foolish. And yet we always classify mankind in this way. And this is untrue. Men are like rivers: the water is the same in each, and alike in all; but every river is narrow here, is more rapid there, here slower, there broader, now clear, now cold, now dull, now warm. It is the same with men. Every man carries in himself the germs of every human quality, and sometimes one manifests itself, sometimes another, and the man often becomes unlike himself, while still remaining the same man, In some people these changes are very rapid, and Nekhludoff was such a man. These changes in him were due to physical and to spiritual causes. At this time he experienced such a change.
That feeling of triumph and joy at the renewal of life which he had experienced after the trial and after the first interview with Katusha, vanished completely, and after the last interview fear and revulsion took the place of that joy. He was determined not to leave her, and not to change his decision of marrying her, if she wished it; but it seemed very hard, and made him suffer.
On the day after his visit to Maslennikoff, he again went to the prison to see her.
The inspector allowed him to speak to her, only not in the advocate's room nor in the office, but in the women's visiting-room. In spite of his kindness, the inspector was more reserved with Nekhludoff than hitherto.
An order for greater caution had apparently been sent, as a result of his conversation with Meslennikoff.
"You may see her," the inspector said; "but please remember what I said as regards money. And as to her removal to the hospital, that his excellency wrote to me about, it can be done; the doctor would agree. Only she herself does not wish it. She says, 'Much need have I to carry out the slops for the scurvy beggars.' You don't know what these people are, Prince," he added.
Nekhludoff did not reply, but asked to have the interview. The inspector called a jailer, whom Nekhludoff followed into the women's visiting-room, where there was no one but Maslova waiting. She came from behind the grating, quiet and timid, close up to him, and said, without looking at him:
"Forgive me, Dmitri Ivanovitch, I spoke hastily the day before yesterday."
"It is not for me to forgive you," Nekhludoff began.
"But all the same, you must leave me," she interrupted, and in the terribly squinting eyes with which she looked at him Nekhludoff read the former strained, angry expression.
"Why should I leave you?"
"But why so?"
She again looked up, as it seemed to him, with the same angry look.
"Well, then, thus it is," she said. "You must leave me. It is true what I am saying. I cannot. You just give it up altogether." Her lips trembled and she was silent for a moment. "It is true. I'd rather hang myself."
Nekhludoff felt that in this refusal there was hatred and unforgiving resentment, but there was also something besides, something good. This confirmation of the refusal in cold blood at once quenched all the doubts in Nekhludoff's bosom, and brought back the serious, triumphant emotion he had felt in relation to Katusha.
"Katusha, what I have said I will again repeat," he uttered, very seriously. "I ask you to marry me. If you do not wish it, and for as long as you do not wish it, I shall only continue to follow you, and shall go where you are taken."
"That is your business. I shall not say anything more," she answered, and her lips began to tremble again.
He, too, was silent, feeling unable to speak.
"I shall now go to the country, and then to Petersburg," he said, when he was quieter again. "I shall do my utmost to get your - our case, I mean, reconsidered, and by the help of God the sentence may be revoked."
"And if it is not revoked, never mind. I have deserved it, if not in this case, in other ways," she said, and he saw how difficult it was for her to keep down her tears.
"Well, have you seen Menshoff?" she suddenly asked, to hide her emotion. "It's true they are innocent, isn't it?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Such a splendid old woman," she said.
There was another pause.
"Well, and as to the hospital?" she suddenly said, and looking at him with her squinting eyes. "If you like, I will go, and I shall not drink any spirits, either."
Nekhludoff looked into her eyes. They were smiling.
"Yes, yes, she is quite a different being," Nekhludoff thought. After all his former doubts, he now felt something he had never before experienced - the certainty that love is invincible.
When Maslova returned to her noisome cell after this interview, she took off her cloak and sat down in her place on the shelf bedstead with her hands folded on her lap. In the cell were only the consumptive woman, the Vladimir woman with her baby, Menshoff's old mother, and the watchman's wife. The deacon's daughter had the day before been declared mentally diseased and removed to the hospital. The rest of the women were away, washing clothes. The old woman was asleep, the cell door stood open, and the watchman's children were in the corridor outside. The Vladimir woman, with her baby in her arms, and the watchman's wife, with the stocking she was knitting with deft fingers, came up to Maslova. "Well, have you had a chat?" they asked. Maslova sat silent on the high bedstead, swinging her legs, which did not reach to the floor.
"What's the good of snivelling?" said the watchman's wife. "The chief thing's not to go down into the dumps. Eh, Katusha? Now, then!" and she went on, quickly moving her fingers.
Maslova did not answer.
"And our women have all gone to wash," said the Vladimir woman. "I heard them say much has been given in alms to-day. Quite a lot has been brought."
"Finashka," called out the watchman's wife, "where's the little imp gone to?"
She took a knitting needle, stuck it through both the ball and the stocking, and went out into the corridor.
At this moment the sound of women's voices was heard from the corridor, and the inmates of the cell entered, with their prison shoes, but no stockings on their feet. Each was carrying a roll, some even two. Theodosia came at once up to Maslova.
"What's the matter; is anything wrong?" Theodosia asked, looking lovingly at Maslova with her clear, blue eyes. "This is for our tea," and she put the rolls on a shelf.
"Why, surely he has not changed his mind about marrying?" asked Korableva.
"No, he has not, but I don't wish to," said Maslova, "and so I told him."
"More fool you!" muttered Korableva in her deep tones.
"If one's not to live together, what's the use of marrying?" said Theodosia.
"There's your husband - he's going with you," said the watchman's wife.
"Well, of course, we're married," said Theodosia. "But why should he go through the ceremony if he is not to live with her?"
"Why, indeed! Don't be a fool! You know if he marries her she'll roll in wealth," said Korableva.
"He says, 'Wherever they take you, I'll follow,'" said Maslova. "If he does, it's well; if he does not, well also. I am not going to ask him to. Now he is going to try and arrange the matter in Petersburg. He is related to all the Ministers there. But, all the same, I have no need of him," she continued.
"Of course not," suddenly agreed Korableva, evidently thinking about something else as she sat examining her bag. "Well, shall we have a drop?"
"You have some," replied Maslova. "I won't."
END OF BOOK I.
Turn to the next chapter: BOOK II.