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CHAPTER XXXIX. BROTHER AND SISTER.
There were still two hours before the passenger train by which Nekhludoff was going would start. He had thought of using this interval to see his sister again; but after the impressions of the morning he felt much excited and so done up that, sitting down on a sofa in the first-class refreshment-room, he suddenly grew so drowsy that he turned over on to his side, and, laying his face on his hand, fell asleep at once. A waiter in a dress coat with a napkin in his hand woke him.
"Sir, sir, are you not Prince Nekhludoff? There's a lady looking for you."
Nekhludoff started up and recollected where he was and all that had happened in the morning.
He saw in his imagination the procession of prisoners, the dead bodies, the railway carriages with barred windows, and the women locked up in them, one of whom was groaning in travail with no one to help her, and another who was pathetically smiling at him through the bars.
The reality before his eyes was very different, i.e., a table with vases, candlesticks and crockery, and agile waiters moving round the table, and in the background a cupboard and a counter laden with fruit and bottles, behind it a barman, and in front the backs of passengers who had come up for refreshments. When Nekhludoff had risen and sat gradually collecting his thoughts, he noticed that everybody in the room was inquisitively looking at something that was passing by the open doors.
He also looked, and saw a group of people carrying a chair on which sat a lady whose head was wrapped in a kind of airy fabric.
Nekhludoff thought he knew the footman who was supporting the chair in front. And also the man behind, and a doorkeeper with gold cord on his cap, seemed familiar. A lady's maid with a fringe and an apron, who was carrying a parcel, a parasol, and something round in a leather case, was walking behind the chair. Then came Prince Korchagin, with his thick lips, apoplectic neck, and a travelling cap on his head; behind him Missy, her cousin Misha, and an acquaintance of Nekhludoff's - the long-necked diplomat Osten, with his protruding Adam's apple and his unvarying merry mood and expression. He was saying something very emphatically, though jokingly, to the smiling Missy. The Korchagins were moving from their estate near the city to the estate of the Princess's sister on the Nijni railway. The procession - the men carrying the chair, the maid, and the doctor - vanished into the ladies' waiting-room, evoking a feeling of curiosity and respect in the onlookers. But the old Prince remained and sat down at the table, called a waiter, and ordered food and drink. Missy and Osten also remained in the refreshment-room and were about to sit down, when they saw an acquaintance in the doorway, and went up to her. It was Nathalie Rogozhinsky. Nathalie came into the refreshment-room accompanied by Agraphena Petrovna, and both looked round the room. Nathalie noticed at one and the same moment both her brother and Missy. She first went up to Missy, only nodding to her brother; but, having kissed her, at once turned to him.
"At last I have found you," she said. Nekhludoff rose to greet Missy, Misha, and Osten, and to say a few words to them. Missy told him about their house in the country having been burnt down, which necessitated their moving to her aunt's. Osten began relating a funny story about a fire. Nekhludoff paid no attention, and turned to his sister.
"How glad I am that you have come."
"I have been here a long time," she said. "Agraphena Petrovna is with me." And she pointed to Agraphena Petrovna, who, in a waterproof and with a bonnet on her head, stood some way off, and bowed to him with kindly dignity and some confusion, not wishing to intrude.
"We looked for you everywhere."
"And I had fallen asleep here. How glad I am that you have come," repeated Nekhludoff. "I had begun to write to you."
"Really?" she said, looking frightened. "What about?"
Missy and the gentleman, noticing that an intimate conversation was about to commence between the brother and sister, went away. Nekhludoff and his sister sat down by the window on a velvet-covered sofa, on which lay a plaid, a box, and a few other things.
"Yesterday, after I left you, I felt inclined to return and express my regret, but I did not know how he would take it," said Nekhludoff. "I spoke hastily to your husband, and this tormented me."
"I knew," said his sister, "that you did not mean to. Oh, you know!" and the tears came to her eyes, and she touched his hand. The sentence was not clear, but he understood it perfectly, and was touched by what it expressed. Her words meant that, besides the love for her husband which held her in its sway, she prized and considered important the love she had for him, her brother, and that every misunderstanding between them caused her deep suffering.
"Thank you, thank you. Oh! what I have seen to-day!" he said, suddenly recalling the second of the dead convicts. "Two prisoners have been done to death."
"Done to death? How?"
"Yes, done to death. They led them in this heat, and two died of sunstroke."
"Impossible! What, to-day? just now?"
"Yes, just now. I have seen their bodies."
"But why done to death? Who killed them?" asked Nathalie.
"They who forced them to go killed them," said Nekhludoff, with irritation, feeling that she looked at this, too, with her husband's eyes.
"Oh, Lord!" said Agraphena Petrovna, who had come up to them.
"Yes, we have not the slightest idea of what is being done to these unfortunate beings. But it ought to be known," added Nekhludoff, and looked at old Korchagin, who sat with a napkin tied round him and a bottle before him, and who looked round at Nekhludoff.
"Nekhludoff," he called out, "won't you join me and take some refreshment? It is excellent before a journey."
Nekhludoff refused, and turned away.
"But what are you going to do?" Nathalie continued.
"What I can. I don't know, but I feel I must do something. And I shall do what I am able to."
"Yes, I understand. And how about them?" she continued, with a smile and a look towards Korchagin. "Is it possible that it is all over?"
"Completely, and I think without any regret on either side."
"It is a pity. I am sorry. I am fond of her. However, it's all right. But why do you wish to bind yourself?" she added shyly. "Why are you going?"
"I go because I must," answered Nekhludoff, seriously and dryly, as if wishing to stop this conversation. But he felt ashamed of his coldness towards his sister at once. "Why not tell her all I am thinking?" he thought, "and let Agraphena Petrovna also hear it," he thought, with a look at the old servant, whose presence made the wish to repeat his decision to his sister even stronger.
"You mean my intention to marry Katusha? Well, you see, I made up my mind to do it, but she refuses definitely and firmly," he said, and his voice shook, as it always did when he spoke of it. "She does not wish to accept my sacrifice, but is herself sacrificing what in her position means much, and I cannot accept this sacrifice, if it is only a momentary impulse. And so I am going with her, and shall be where she is, and shall try to lighten her fate as much as I can."
Nathalie said nothing. Agraphena Petrovna looked at her with a questioning look, and shook her head. At this moment the former procession issued from the ladies' room. The same handsome footman (Philip). and the doorkeeper were carrying the Princess Korchagin. She stopped the men who were carrying her, and motioned to Nekhludoff to approach, and, with a pitiful, languishing air, she extended her white, ringed hand, expecting the firm pressure of his hand with a sense of horror.
"Epouvantable!" she said, meaning the heat. "I cannot stand it! Ce climat me tue!" And, after a short talk about the horrors of the Russian climate, she gave the men a sign to go on.
"Be sure and come," she added, turning her long face towards Nekhludoff as she was borne away.
The procession with the Princess turned to the right towards the first-class carriages. Nekhludoff, with the porter who was carrying his things, and Taras with his bag, turned to the left.
"This is my companion," said Nekhludoff to his sister, pointing to Taras, whose story he had told her before.
"Surely not third class?" said Nathalie, when Nekhludoff stopped in front of a third-class carriage, and Taras and the porter with the things went in.
"Yes; it is more convenient for me to be with Taras," he said. "One thing more," he added; "up to now I have not given the Kousminski land to the peasants; so that, in case of my death, your children will inherit it."
"Dmitri, don't!" said Nathalie.
"If I do give it away, all I can say is that the rest will be theirs, as it is not likely I shall marry; and if I do marry I shall have no children, so that - "
"Dmitri, don't talk like that!" said Nathalie. And yet Nekhludoff noticed that she was glad to hear him say it.
Higher up, by the side of a first-class carriage, there stood a group of people still looking at the carriage into which the Princess Korchagin had been carried. Most of the passengers were already seated. Some of the late comers hurriedly clattered along the boards of the platform, the guard was closing the doors and asking the passengers to get in and those who were seeing them off to come out.
Nekhludoff entered the hot, smelling carriage, but at once stepped out again on to the small platform at the back of the carriage. Nathalie stood opposite the carriage, with her fashionable bonnet and cape, by the side of Agraphena Petrovna, and was evidently trying to find something to say.
She could not even say ecrivez, because they had long ago laughed at this word, habitually spoken by those about to part. The short conversation about money matters had in a moment destroyed the tender brotherly and sisterly feelings that had taken hold of them. They felt estranged, so that Nathalie was glad when the train moved; and she could only say, nodding her head with a sad and tender look, "Goodbye, good-bye, Dmitri." But as soon as the carriage had passed her she thought of how she should repeat her conversation with her brother to her husband, and her face became serious and troubled.
Nekhludoff, too, though he had nothing but the kindest feelings for his sister, and had hidden nothing from her, now felt depressed and uncomfortable with her, and was glad to part. He felt that the Nathalie who was once so near to him no longer existed, and in her place was only a slave of that hairy, unpleasant husband, who was so foreign to him. He saw it clearly when her face lit up with peculiar animation as he spoke of what would peculiarly interest her husband, i.e., the giving up of the land to the peasants and the inheritance.
And this made him sad.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XL. THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF HUMAN LIFE.