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Part 2 Chapter 8

GOD'S PEACE IN THE HEART.

When Nekhludoff returned he found that the office had been arranged as a bedroom for him. A high bedstead, with a feather bed and two large pillows, had been placed in the room. The bed was covered with a dark red doublebedded silk quilt, which was elaborately and finely quilted, and very stiff. It evidently belonged to the trousseau of the foreman's wife. The foreman offered Nekhludoff the remains of the dinner, which the latter refused, and, excusing himself for the poorness of the fare and the accommodation, he left Nekhludoff alone.

The peasants' refusal did not at all bother Nekhludoff. On the contrary, though at Kousminski his offer had been accepted and he had even been thanked for it, and here he was met with suspicion and even enmity, he felt contented and joyful.

It was close and dirty in the office. Nekhludoff went out into the yard, and was going into the garden, but he remembered: that night, the window of the maid-servant's room, the side porch, and he felt uncomfortable, and did not like to pass the spot desecrated by guilty memories. He sat down on the doorstep, and breathing in the warm air, balmy with the strong scent of fresh birch leaves, he sat for a long time looking into the dark garden and listening to the mill, the nightingales, and some other bird that whistled monotonously in the bush close by. The light disappeared from the foreman's window; in the cast, behind the barn, appeared the light of the rising moon, and sheet lightning began to light up the dilapidated house, and the blooming, over-grown garden more and more frequently. It began to thunder in the distance, and a black cloud spread over one-third of the sky. The nightingales and the other birds were silent. Above the murmur of the water from the mill came the cackling of geese, and then in the village and in the foreman's yard the first cocks began to crow earlier than usual, as they do on warm, thundery nights. There is a saying that if the cocks crow early the night will be a merry one. For Nekhludoff the night was more than merry; it was a happy, joyful night. Imagination renewed the impressions of that happy summer which he had spent here as an innocent lad, and he felt himself as he had been not only at that but at all the best moments of his life. He not only remembered but felt as he had felt when, at the age of 14, he prayed that God would show him the truth; or when as a child he had wept on his mother's lap, when parting from her, and promising to be always good, and never give her pain; he felt as he did when he and Nikolenka Irtenieff resolved always to support each other in living a good life and to try to make everybody happy.

He remembered how he had been tempted in Kousminski, so that he had begun to regret the house and the forest and the farm and the land, and he asked himself if he regretted them now, and it even seemed strange to think that he could regret them. He remembered all he had seen to-day; the woman with the children, and without her husband, who was in prison for having cut down trees in his (Nekhludoff's) forest, and the terrible Matrona, who considered, or at least talked as if she considered, that women of her position must give themselves to the gentlefolk; he remembered her relation to the babies, the way in which they were taken to the Foundlings' Hospital, and the unfortunate, smiling, wizened baby with the patchwork cap, dying of starvation. And then he suddenly remembered the prison, the shaved heads, the cells, the disgusting smells, the chains, and, by the side of it all, the madly lavish city lift of the rich, himself included.

The bright moon, now almost full, rose above the barn. Dark shadows fell across the yard, and the iron roof of the ruined house shone bright. As if unwilling to waste this light, the nightingales again began their trills.

Nekhludoff called to mind how he had begun to consider his life in the garden of Kousminski when deciding what he was going to do, and remembered how confused he had become, how he could not arrive at any decision, how many difficulties each question had presented. He asked himself these questions now, and was surprised how simple it all was. It was simple because he was not thinking now of what would be the results for himself, but only thought of what he had to do. And, strange to say, what he had to do for himself he could not decide, but what he had to do for others he knew without any doubt. He had no doubt that he must not leave Katusha, but go on helping her. He had no doubt that he must study, investigate, clear up, understand all this business concerning judgment and punishment, which he felt he saw differently to other people. What would result from it all he did not know, but he knew for certain that he must do it. And this firm assurance gave him joy.

The black cloud had spread all over the sky; the lightning flashed vividly across the yard and the old house with its tumble-down porches, the thunder growled overhead. All the birds were silent, but the leaves rustled and the wind reached the step where Nekhludoff stood and played with his hair. One drop came down, then another; then they came drumming on the dock leaves and on the iron of the roof, and all the air was filled by a bright flash, and before Nekhludoff could count three a fearful crash sounded over head and spread pealing all over the sky.

Nekhludoff went in.

"Yes, yes," he thought. "The work that our life accomplishes, the whole of this work, the meaning of it is not, nor can be, intelligible to me. What were my aunts for? Why did Nikolenka Irtenieff die? Why am I living? What was Katusha for? And my madness? Why that war? Why my subsequent lawless life? To understand it, to understand the whole of the Master's will is not in my power. But to do His will, that is written down in my conscience, is in my power; that I know for certain. And when I am fulfilling it I have sureness and peace."

The rain came down in torrents and rushed from the roof into a tub beneath; the lightning lit up the house and yard less frequently. Nekhludoff went into his room, undressed, and lay down, not without fear of the bugs, whose presence the dirty, torn wall-papers made him suspect.

"Yes, to feel one's self not the master but a servant," he thought, and rejoiced at the thought. His fears were not vain. Hardly had he put out his candle when the vermin attacked and stung him. "To give up the land and go to Siberia. Fleas, bugs, dirt! Ah, well; if it must be borne, I shall bear it." But, in spite of the best of intentions, he could not bear it, and sat down by the open window and gazed with admiration at the retreating clouds and the reappearing moon.

聂赫留朵夫回到家里,发现他们已把帐房收拾干净供他过夜。帐房里有一张高大的床,铺着鸭绒垫子,放着两个枕头,还有一条厚得卷不拢的大红双人被子,绗得很细密,带有花纹,大概是管家妻子的嫁妆。管家请聂赫留朵夫吃中午剩下的饭菜,但聂赫留朵夫谢绝了。管家对伙食粗劣和设备简陋表示歉意,然后告辞,把聂赫留朵夫一个人留在房间里。

农民们的拒绝并没有使聂赫留朵夫感到丝毫困惑。正好相反,尽管库兹明斯科耶的农民接受他的建议并再三向他道谢,而这里的农民却不信任他,甚至对他抱着敌意,他却觉得心情平静而快乐。帐房里又闷又脏。聂赫留朵夫走到户外,想到花园里去,可是一想到那个夜晚,想到侍女房间的窗户,想到后门廊,他就不愿再到那些被犯罪的往事所玷污的地方去。他又坐在门廊里,吸着那充满桦树嫩叶浓香的温暖空气,久久地眺望着暮色苍茫的花园,谛听磨坊汩汩的流水声、夜莺的鸣啭和门廊附近灌木丛里一只小鸟的单调叫声。管家窗子里的灯光熄灭了。东方,在仓房后面,初升的月亮倾泻出一片银光。空中的闪电越来越清楚地照亮鲜花盛开的蓊郁花园和颓败的房子。远处传来雷声,三分之一的天空被乌云遮住。夜莺和其他鸟类都停止了鸣叫。在磨坊的流水声中传来鹅的嘎嘎声。然后在村子里,在管家院子里,早醒的公鸡开始啼叫——每逢雷雨交加的闷热夜晚,它们总是叫得特别早。俗话说:夜晚过得好,公鸡啼得早。对聂赫留朵夫来说,那个夜晚不止过得好。对他来说,那是个欢乐幸福的夜晚。他那时还是个纯洁的少年,在这里度过了一个幸福的夏天,种种情景如今都历历在目。他觉得现在不仅同当年一样快活,而且同一生中最美好的时光一样幸福。他不仅记得,而且重新体验到,在十四岁那年他向上帝祷告,祈求上帝向他揭示真理。他还记得,小时候怎样伏在妈妈膝盖上,哭着向她告辞,答应她永远做个好孩子,决不使她伤心。他还记得小时候同尼科连卡·伊尔捷涅夫一起说定,他们将互相帮助过高尚的生活,并尽力为一切人谋幸福。

这会儿,他想起他在库兹明斯科耶经受的诱惑:他留恋他的房子、树林、农庄和土地。如今他问自己:他是不是还舍不得那些东西?他甚至觉得奇怪,他居然会留恋那些东西。他想起白天见到的种种景象:那带着几个孩子而失去丈夫的女人,她的丈夫就是因为砍伐他聂赫留朵夫家树林里的树木而坐牢的;还有那荒唐的玛特廖娜,她居然认为或者至少口头上说:象她们那种女人理应充当东家的情妇;还有她对待孩子的态度,以及把孩子送往育婴堂的办法;那个头戴小圆帽、样子象小老头、不住地苦笑的不幸孩子,因为吃不饱而奄奄一息;那个怀孕的瘦弱女人,因为劳累过度,没有看好饥饿的奶牛而被迫为他白白做工。他又想到了监狱、阴阳头、牢房、恶臭和镣铐,同时也想到了自己的以及京城里全体贵族穷奢极欲的生活。事情一清二楚,不容怀疑。

一轮近乎圆满的明月从仓房后面升起,院子里铺满了乌黑的阴影,破房子的铁皮屋顶都被照得闪闪发亮。

一只夜莺沉默了一阵,似乎不愿辜负这皎洁的月光,又在花园里鸣啭起来。

聂赫留朵夫想起他怎样在库兹明斯科耶开始考虑自己的生活,决定今后该做些什么和怎样做。他想起他怎样被这些问题困住,无法解决,因为他对每个问题都顾虑重重。现在他又向自己提出这些问题,发现它们都很简单,不禁感到奇怪。所以变得简单,因为他现在不再考虑对他将有什么后果,甚至对这些问题不感兴趣,而只考虑照道理应该怎么办。说也奇怪,应该为自己作些什么,他简直毫无主意,可是应该为别人作些什么,他却一清二楚。现在他明白,必须把土地交给农民,因为保留土地是很可恶的。他明白,不应该撇下卡秋莎,而应该帮助她,不惜任何代价向她赎罪。他明白,必须研究、分析、理解一切同审判和刑罚有关的问题,因为他看出一些别人没有看出的事。这一切会有什么后果,他不知道,但他明白,不论是第一件事,还是第二件事,还是第三件事,他都非做不可。这种坚强的信念使他感到快乐。

乌云逼近了。现在看见的已不是远处朦胧的电光,而是照亮整个院子、破屋和倒塌门廊的明亮闪电。雷声在头上隆隆震响。鸟雀都已停止鸣叫,但树叶却飒飒地响起来,风一直吹到聂赫留朵夫坐着的门廊里,吹动了他的头发。大颗的雨点一滴一滴地落下来,敲打着牛蒡叶子和铁皮屋顶。一道明晃晃的闪电照亮整个天空,刹那间万籁俱寂。聂赫留朵夫还没来得及从一数到三,一声霹雳就在头上打响,接着空中隆隆地滚过一阵响雷。

聂赫留朵夫走进屋里。

“真的,真的,”他想。“我们生活中的一切事情,这些事情的全部意义,我不理解,也无法理解。我为什么有两个姑妈?为什么尼科连卡死了,而我却活着?为什么世界上会有一个卡秋莎?我怎么会对她疯疯癫癫?为什么要发生那场战争?后来我怎么过起放荡的生活来?要理解这一切,理解主的全部事情,我无能为力。但执行深铭在我心灵的主的意志,那是我力所能及的。这一点我毫不怀疑。我这样做,自然就心安理得。”

滴滴答答的小雨已变成倾盆大雨,雨水从屋顶上流下来,哗哗地落到一个木桶里;闪电照亮院子和房屋,但不那么频繁了。聂赫留朵夫回到屋里,脱下衣服,躺到床上,但担心有臭虫,因为肮脏的破墙纸很可能藏着臭虫。

“是的,我不是东家而是仆人,”他这样想,心里感到高兴。

他的担心是有道理的。他刚一熄灯,小虫就来咬他了。

“交出土地,到西伯利亚去,西伯利亚有的是跳蚤、臭虫、肮脏……那有什么了不起,既然得受这种罪,我也受得了。”不过,尽管有这样的心愿,他还是受不了这个罪。他起来坐到打开的窗口,欣赏着渐渐远去的乌云和重新露面的月亮。



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