The Awakening: The Resurrection/Chapter 84
After six years of luxurious and pampered life in the city and two months in prison among the politicals, her present life, notwithstanding the hard conditions, seemed to Katiousha very satisfactory. The journeys of fifteen or twenty miles on foot between stopping places, the food and day’s rest after two days’ tramp, strengthened her physically, while her association with her new comrades opened up to her new phases of life of which she had formerly no conception.
She was charmed with all her new comrades. But above all, with Maria Pablovna—nay, she even came to love her with a respectful and exulting love. She was struck by the fact that a beautiful girl of a rich and noble family, and speaking three languages, should conduct herself like a common workingwoman, distribute everything sent her by her rich brother, dress herself not only simply, but poorly, and pay no attention to her appearance. This entire absence of coquetry surprised and completely captivated Maslova. She saw that Maria Pablovna knew, and that it even pleased her to know, that she was pretty, but that so far from rejoicing at the impression she was making on the men, she only feared it, and rather looked at love with disgust and dread. If her male comrades, who knew her, felt any attraction toward her they never showed it. But strangers often attempted familiarities with her, and in such cases her great physical strength stood her in good stead. “Once,” she laughingly related, “I was approached by a stranger on the street, whom I could not get rid of. I then gave him such a shaking up that he ran away in fright.”
She also said that from childhood she had felt an aversion for the life of the gentry, but loved the common folks, and was often chidden for staying in the servants’ quarters, the kitchen and the stable, instead of the parlor.
“But among the cooks and drivers I was always cheerful, while our ladies and gentlemen used to worry me. Afterward, when I began to understand, I saw that we were leading a wicked life. I had no mother, and I did not like my father. At nineteen I left the house with a girl friend and went to work in a factory,” she said.
From the factory she went to the country, then returned to the city, where she was arrested and sentenced to hard labor. Maria Pablovna never related it herself, but Katiousha learned from others that she was sentenced to hard labor because she assumed the guilt of another.
Since Katiousha came to know her she saw that Maria Pablovna, everywhere and under all circumstances, never thought of herself, but was always occupied in helping some one else. One of her present comrades, jesting, said of her that she had given herself up to the sport of charity. And that was true. Like a sportsman looking for game, her entire activity consisted in finding occasion for serving others. And this sport became a habit with her, her life’s aim. And she did it so naturally that all those that knew her ceased to appreciate it, and demanded it as by right.
When Maslova entered their ranks, Maria Pablovna felt a disgust and loathing for her. Katiousha noticed it. But she also noticed afterward that Maria Pablovna, making some effort, became particularly kind and gentle toward her. The kindness and gentleness of such an uncommon person so affected Maslova that she gave herself up to her with her whole soul, unconsciously acquired her glance and involuntarily imitated her in everything.
They were also drawn together by that disgust which both felt toward physical love. The one hated it, because she had experienced all the horror of it; the other, because not having experienced it, she looked upon it as something strange and at the same time disgusting and offensive to human dignity.