Part 2 out of 4
boxes for a pair of grey horses. Peter Nikolaevich stretched
out his hand in their direction--one box was empty.
He put out his foot--the horse might have been lying down.
But his foot did not touch anything solid. "Where could
they have taken the horse?" he thought. They certainly
had not harnessed it; all the sledges stood still outside.
Peter Nikolaevich went out of the stable.
"Stepan, come here!" he called.
Stepan was the head of the workmen's gang. He was just stepping
out of the cottage.
"Here I am!" he said, in a cheerful voice. "Oh, is that you,
Peter Nikolaevich? Our men are coming."
"Why is the stable door open?
"Is it? I don't know anything about it. I say, Proshka, bring the lantern!"
Proshka came with the lantern. They all went to the stable,
and Stepan knew at once what had happened.
"Thieves have been here, Peter Nikolaevich," he said.
"The lock is broken."
"No; you don't say so!"
"Yes, the brigands! I don't see 'Mashka.' 'Hawk' is here.
But 'Beauty' is not. Nor yet 'Dapple-grey.'"
Three horses had been stolen!
Peter Nikolaevich did not utter a word at first.
He only frowned and took deep breaths.
"Oh," he said after a while. "If only I could lay hands on them!
Who was on guard?"
"Peter. He evidently fell asleep."
Peter Nikolaevich called in the police, and making an appeal
to all the authorities, sent his men to track the thieves.
But the horses were not to be found.
"Wicked people," said Peter Nikolaevich. "How could they! I was always
so kind to them. Now, wait! Brigands! Brigands the whole lot of them.
I will no longer be kind."
IN the meanwhile the horses, the grey ones, had all been disposed of;
Mashka was sold to the gipsies for eighteen roubles; Dapple-grey was
exchanged for another horse, and passed over to another peasant who
lived forty miles away from the estate; and Beauty died on the way.
The man who conducted the whole affair was--Ivan Mironov.
He had been employed on the estate, and knew all the whereabouts
of Peter Nikolaevich. He wanted to get back the money he had lost,
and stole the horses for that reason.
After his misfortune with the forged coupon, Ivan Mironov
took to drink; and all he possessed would have gone on drink
if it had not been for his wife, who locked up his clothes,
the horses' collars, and all the rest of what he would otherwise
have squandered in public-houses. In his drunken state Ivan Mironov
was continually thinking, not only of the man who had wronged him,
but of all the rich people who live on robbing the poor.
One day he had a drink with some peasants from the suburbs
of Podolsk, and was walking home together with them.
On the way the peasants, who were completely drunk,
told him they had stolen a horse from a peasant's cottage.
Ivan Mironov got angry, and began to abuse the horse-thieves.
"What a shame!" he said. "A horse is like a brother to the peasant.
And you robbed him of it? It is a great sin, I tell you.
If you go in for stealing horses, steal them from the landowners.
They are worse than dogs, and deserve anything."
The talk went on, and the peasants from Podolsk told him that it
required a great deal of cunning to steal a horse on an estate.
"You must know all the ins and outs of the place, and must have somebody
on the spot to help you."
Then it occurred to Ivan Mironov that he knew a landowner--Sventizky; he had
worked on his estate, and Sventizky, when paying him off, had deducted one
rouble and a half for a broken tool. He remembered well the grey horses
which he used to drive at Sventizky's.
Ivan Mironov called on Peter Nikolaevich pretending to ask
for employment, but really in order to get the information he wanted.
He took precautions to make sure that the watchman was absent,
and that the horses were standing in their boxes in the stable.
He brought the thieves to the place, and helped them to carry off
the three horses.
They divided their gains, and Ivan Mironov returned to his wife
with five roubles in his pocket. He had nothing to do at home,
having no horse to work in the field, and therefore continued to steal
horses in company with professional horse-thieves and gipsies.
PETER NIKOLAEVICH SVENTIZKY did his best to discover who had
stolen his horses. He knew somebody on the estate must
have helped the thieves, and began to suspect all his staff.
He inquired who had slept out that night, and the gang of the
working men told him Proshka had not been in the whole night.
Proshka, or Prokofy Nikolaevich, was a young fellow who had just
finished his military service, handsome, and skilful in all
he did; Peter Nikolaevich employed him at times as coachman.
The district constable was a friend of Peter Nikolaevich, as were
the provincial head of the police, the marshal of the nobility,
and also the rural councillor and the examining magistrate.
They all came to his house on his saint's day, drinking the cherry
brandy he offered them with pleasure, and eating the nice
preserved mushrooms of all kinds to accompany the liqueurs.
They all sympathised with him in his trouble and tried
to help him.
"You always used to take the side of the peasants," said the
district constable, "and there you are! I was right in saying
they are worse than wild beasts. Flogging is the only way to keep
them in order. Well, you say it is all Proshka's doings.
Is it not he who was your coachman sometimes?"
"Yes, that is he."
"Will you kindly call him?"
Proshka was summoned before the constable, who began to examine him.
"Where were you that night?"
Proshka pushed back his hair, and his eyes sparkled.
"How so? All the men say you were not in."
"Just as you please, your honour."
"My pleasure has nothing to do with the matter.
Tell me where you were that night."
"Very well. Policeman, bring him to the police-station."
The reason why Proshka did not say where he had been that
night was that he had spent it with his sweetheart, Parasha,
and had promised not to give her away. He kept his word.
No proofs were discovered against him, and he was soon discharged.
But Peter Nikolaevich was convinced that Prokofy had been at
the bottom of the whole affair, and began to hate him. One day
Proshka bought as usual at the merchant's two measures of oats.
One and a half he gave to the horses, and half a measure he gave
back to the merchant; the money for it he spent in drink.
Peter Nikolaevich found it out, and charged Prokofy with cheating.
The judge sentenced the man to three months' imprisonment.
Prokofy had a rather proud nature, and thought himself superior to others.
Prison was a great humiliation for him. He came out of it very depressed;
there was nothing more to be proud of in life. And more than that,
he felt extremely bitter, not only against Peter Nikolaevich, but against
the whole world.
On the whole, as all the people around him noticed, Prokofy became
another man after his imprisonment, both careless and lazy;
he took to drink, and he was soon caught stealing clothes
at some woman's house, and found himself again in prison.
All that Peter Nikolaevich discovered about his grey horses was the hide
of one of them, Beauty, which had been found somewhere on the estate.
The fact that the thieves had got off scot-free irritated Peter Nikolaevich
still more. He was unable now to speak of the peasants or to look at them
without anger. And whenever he could he tried to oppress them.
AFTER having got rid of the coupon, Eugene Mihailovich forgot all about it;
but his wife, Maria Vassilievna, could not forgive herself for having
been taken in, nor yet her husband for his cruel words. And most of all
she was furious against the two boys who had so skilfully cheated her.
From the day she had accepted the forged coupon as payment, she looked
closely at all the schoolboys who came in her way in the streets.
One day she met Mahin, but did not recognise him, for on seeing her he made
a face which quite changed his features. But when, a fortnight after
the incident with the coupon, she met Mitia Smokovnikov face to face,
she knew him at once.
She let him pass her, then turned back and followed him,
and arriving at his house she made inquiries as to whose son he was.
The next day she went to the school and met the divinity instructor,
the priest Michael Vedensky, in the hall. He asked her what she wanted.
She answered that she wished to see the head of the school.
"He is not quite well," said the priest. "Can I be of any use to you,
or give him your message?"
Maria Vassilievna thought that she might as well tell the priest what was
the matter. Michael Vedensky was a widower, and a very ambitious man.
A year ago he had met Mitia Smokovnikov's father in society, and had
had a discussion with him on religion. Smokovnikov had beaten him
decisively on all points; indeed, he had made him appear quite ridiculous.
Since that time the priest had decided to pay special attention
to Smokovnikov's son; and, finding him as indifferent to religious
matters as his father was, he began to persecute him, and even brought
about his failure in examinations.
When Maria Vassilievna told him what young Smokovnikov had done
to her, Vedensky could not help feeling an inner satisfaction.
He saw in the boy's conduct a proof of the utter wickedness
of those who are not guided by the rules of the Church.
He decided to take advantage of this great opportunity
of warning unbelievers of the perils that threatened them.
At all events, he wanted to persuade himself that this was the only
motive that guided him in the course he had resolved to take.
But at the bottom of his heart he was only anxious to get
his revenge on the proud atheist.
"Yes, it is very sad indeed," said Father Michael, toying with
the cross he was wearing over his priestly robes, and passing
his hands over its polished sides. "I am very glad you have
given me your confidence. As a servant of the Church I shall
admonish the young man--of course with the utmost kindness.
I shall certainly do it in the way that befits my holy office,"
said Father Michael to himself, really thinking that he had
forgotten the ill-feeling the boy's father had towards him.
He firmly believed the boy's soul to be the only object
of his pious care.
The next day, during the divinity lesson which Father Michael
was giving to Mitia Smokovnikov's class, he narrated the incident
of the forged coupon, adding that the culprit had been one of the
pupils of the school. "It was a very wicked thing to do," he said;
"but to deny the crime is still worse. If it is true that the sin
has been committed by one of you, let the guilty one confess."
In saying this, Father Michael looked sharply at Mitia Smokovnikov.
All the boys, following his glance, turned also to Mitia, who blushed,
and felt extremely ill at ease, with large beads of perspiration on
his face. Finally, he burst into tears, and ran out of the classroom.
His mother, noticing his trouble, found out the truth, ran at once
to the photographer's shop, paid over the twelve roubles and fifty kopeks
to Maria Vassilievna, and made her promise to deny the boy's guilt.
She further implored Mitia to hide the truth from everybody,
and in any case to withhold it from his father.
Accordingly, when Fedor Mihailovich had heard of the incident
in the divinity class, and his son, questioned by him, had denied
all accusations, he called at once on the head of the school,
told him what had happened, expressed his indignation at Father
Michael's conduct, and said he would not let matters remain
as they were.
Father Michael was sent for, and immediately fell into a hot
dispute with Smokovnikov.
"A stupid woman first falsely accused my son, then retracts her accusation,
and you of course could not hit on anything more sensible to do than
to slander an honest and truthful boy!"
"I did not slander him, and I must beg you not to address me in such a way.
You forget what is due to my cloth."
"Your cloth is of no consequence to me."
"Your perversity in matters of religion is known to everybody in the town!"
replied Father Michael; and he was so transported with anger that his long
thin head quivered.
"Gentlemen! Father Michael!" exclaimed the director of the school,
trying to appease their wrath. But they did not listen to him.
"It is my duty as a priest to look after the religious and moral
education of our pupils."
"Oh, cease your pretence to be religious! Oh, stop all this
humbug of religion! As if I did not know that you believe
neither in God nor Devil."
"I consider it beneath my dignity to talk to a man like you,"
said Father Michael, very much hurt by Smokovnikov's last words,
the more so because he knew they were true.
Michael Vedensky carried on his studies in the academy for priests,
and that is why, for a long time past, he ceased to believe in what
he confessed to be his creed and in what he preached from the pulpit;
he only knew that men ought to force themselves to believe in what he tried
to make himself believe.
Smokovnikov was not shocked by Father Michael's conduct; he only thought it
illustrative of the influence the Church was beginning to exercise on society,
and he told all his friends how his son had been insulted by the priest.
Seeing not only young minds, but also the elder generation,
contaminated by atheistic tendencies, Father Michael became more
and more convinced of the necessity of fighting those tendencies.
The more he condemned the unbelief of Smokovnikov,
and those like him, the more confident he grew in the firmness
of his own faith, and the less he felt the need of making
sure of it, or of bringing his life into harmony with it.
His faith, acknowledged as such by all the world around him,
became Father Michael's very best weapon with which to fight
those who denied it.
The thoughts aroused in him by his conflict with Smokovnikov,
together with the annoyance of being blamed by his chiefs in
the school, made him carry out the purpose he had entertained ever
since his wife's death--of taking monastic orders, and of following
the course carried out by some of his fellow-pupils in the academy.
One of them was already a bishop, another an archimandrite and on
the way to become a bishop.
At the end of the term Michael Vedensky gave up his post in the school,
took orders under the name of Missael, and very soon got a post as rector
in a seminary in a town on the river Volga.
MEANWHILE the yard-porter Vassily was marching on the open road
down to the south.
He walked in daytime, and when night came some policeman would get
him shelter in a peasant's cottage. He was given bread everywhere,
and sometimes he was asked to sit down to the evening meal.
In a village in the Orel district, where he had stayed for the night,
he heard that a merchant who had hired the landowner's orchard
for the season, was looking out for strong and able men to serve
as watchmen for the fruit-crops. Vassily was tired of tramping,
and as he had also no desire whatever to go back to his native village,
he went to the man who owned the orchard, and got engaged as watchman
for five roubles a month.
Vassily found it very agreeable to live in his orchard shed,
and all the more so when the apples and pears began to grow ripe,
and when the men from the barn supplied him every day with
large bundles of fresh straw from the threshing machine.
He used to lie the whole day long on the fragrant straw, with fresh,
delicately smelling apples in heaps at his side, looking out in
every direction to prevent the village boys from stealing fruit;
and he used to whistle and sing meanwhile, to amuse himself.
He knew no end of songs, and had a fine voice. When peasant
women and young girls came to ask for apples, and to have a chat
with him, Vassily gave them larger or smaller apples according
as he liked their looks, and received eggs or money in return.
The rest of the time he had nothing to do, but to lie on his
back and get up for his meals in the kitchen. He had only
one shirt left, one of pink cotton, and that was in holes.
But he was strongly built and enjoyed excellent health.
When the kettle with black gruel was taken from the stove and
served to the working men, Vassily used to eat enough for three,
and filled the old watchman on the estate with unceasing wonder.
At nights Vassily never slept. He whistled or shouted
from time to time to keep off thieves, and his piercing,
cat-like eyes saw clearly in the darkness.
One night a company of young lads from the village made their way
stealthily to the orchard to shake down apples from the trees.
Vassily, coming noiselessly from behind, attacked them; they tried
to escape, but he took one of them prisoner to his master.
Vassily's first shed stood at the farthest end of the orchard, but after
the pears had been picked he had to remove to another shed only forty paces
away from the house of his master. He liked this new place very much.
The whole day long he could see the young ladies and gentlemen
enjoying themselves; going out for drives in the evenings and quite late
at nights, playing the piano or the violin, and singing and dancing.
He saw the ladies sitting with the young students on the window sills,
engaged in animated conversation, and then going in pairs to walk
the dark avenue of lime trees, lit up only by streaks of moonlight.
He saw the servants running about with food and drink, he saw the cooks,
the stewards, the laundresses, the gardeners, the coachmen, hard at work
to supply their masters with food and drink and constant amusement.
Sometimes the young people from the master's house came to the shed,
and Vassily offered them the choicest apples, juicy and red.
The young ladies used to take large bites out of the apples on the spot,
praising their taste, and spoke French to one another--Vassily quite
understood it was all about him--and asked Vassily to sing for them.
Vassily felt the greatest admiration for his master's mode of living,
which reminded him of what he had seen in Moscow; and he became more
and more convinced that the only thing that mattered in life was money.
He thought and thought how to get hold of a large sum of money.
He remembered his former ways of making small profits whenever
he could, and came to the conclusion that that was altogether wrong.
Occasional stealing is of no use, he thought. He must arrange
a well-prepared plan, and after getting all the information he wanted,
carry out his purpose so as to avoid detection.
After the feast of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
the last crop of autumn apples was gathered; the master
was content with the results, paid off Vassily, and gave him
an extra sum as reward for his faithful service.
Vassily put on his new jacket, and a new hat--both were presents
from his master's son--but did not make his way homewards.
He hated the very thought of the vulgar peasants' life.
He went back to Moscow in company of some drunken soldiers,
who had been watchmen in the orchard together with him.
On his arrival there he at once resolved, under cover of night,
to break into the shop where he had been employed, and beaten,
and then turned out by the proprietor without being paid.
He knew the place well, and knew where the money was locked up.
So he bade the soldiers, who helped him, keep watch outside,
and forcing the courtyard door entered the shop and took
all the money he could lay his hands on. All this was done
very cleverly, and no trace was left of the burglary.
The money Vassily had found in the shop amounted to 370 roubles.
He gave a hundred roubles to his assistants, and with the rest
left for another town where he gave way to dissipation in company
of friends of both sexes. The police traced his movements,
and when at last he was arrested and put into prison he had
hardly anything left out of the money which he had stolen.
IVAN MIRONOV had become a very clever, fearless and successful
horse-thief. Afimia, his wife, who at first used to abuse him
for his evil ways, as she called it, was now quite content and
felt proud of her husband, who possessed a new sheepskin coat,
while she also had a warm jacket and a new fur cloak.
In the village and throughout the whole district every one knew quite
well that Ivan Mironov was at the bottom of all the horse-stealing;
but nobody would give him away, being afraid of the consequences.
Whenever suspicion fell on him, he managed to clear his character.
Once during the night he stole horses from the pasture ground
in the village Kolotovka. He generally preferred to steal horses
from landowners or tradespeople. But this was a harder job, and when
he had no chance of success he did not mind robbing peasants too.
In Kolotovka he drove off the horses without making sure whose they were.
He did not go himself to the spot, but sent a young and clever fellow,
Gerassim, to do the stealing for him. The peasants only got to know of
the theft at dawn; they rushed in all directions to hunt for the robbers.
The horses, meanwhile, were hidden in a ravine in the forest lands
belonging to the state.
Ivan Mironov intended to leave them there till the following night,
and then to transport them with the utmost haste a hundred miles away
to a man he knew. He visited Gerassim in the forest, to see how he was
getting on, brought him a pie and some vodka, and was returning
home by a side track in the forest where he hoped to meet nobody.
But by ill-luck, he chanced on the keeper of the forest,
a retired soldier.
"I say! Have you been looking for mushrooms?" asked the soldier.
"There were none to be found," answered Ivan Mironov, showing the basket
of lime bark he had taken with him in case he might want it.
"Yes, mushrooms are scarce this summer," said the soldier.
He stood still for a moment, pondered, and then went his way.
He clearly saw that something was wrong. Ivan Mironov had no
business whatever to take early morning walks in that forest.
The soldier went back after a while and looked round.
Suddenly he heard the snorting of horses in the ravine.
He made his way cautiously to the place whence the sounds came.
The grass in the ravine was trodden down, and the marks of horses'
hoofs were clearly to be seen. A little further he saw Gerassim,
who was sitting and eating his meal, and the horses tied
to a tree.
The soldier ran to the village and brought back the bailiff,
a police officer, and two witnesses. They surrounded on three
sides the spot where Gerassim was sitting and seized the man.
He did not deny anything; but, being drunk, told them at once
how Ivan Mironov had given him plenty of drink, and induced
him to steal the horses; he also said that Ivan Mironov had
promised to come that night in order to take the horses away.
The peasants left the horses and Gerassim in the ravine, and hiding
behind the trees prepared to lie in ambush for Ivan Mironov.
When it grew dark, they heard a whistle. Gerassim answered it
with a similar sound. The moment Ivan Mironov descended the slope,
the peasants surrounded him and brought him back to the village.
The next morning a crowd assembled in front of the bailiff's cottage.
Ivan Mironov was brought out and subjected to a close examination.
Stepan Pelageushkine, a tall, stooping man with long arms,
an aquiline nose, and a gloomy face was the first to put questions to him.
Stepan had terminated his military service, and was of a solitary
turn of mind. When he had separated from his father, and started
his own home, he had his first experience of losing a horse.
After that he worked for two years in the mines, and made money enough
to buy two horses. These two had been stolen by Ivan Mironov.
"Tell me where my horses are!" shouted Stepan, pale with fury,
alternately looking at the ground and at Ivan Mironov's face.
Ivan Mironov denied his guilt. Then Stepan aimed so violent a blow
at his face that he smashed his nose and the blood spurted out.
"Tell the truth, I say, or I'll kill you!"
Ivan Mironov kept silent, trying to avoid the blows by stooping.
Stepan hit him twice more with his long arm. Ivan Mironov remained silent,
turning his head backwards and forwards.
"Beat him, all of you!" cried the bailiff, and the whole crowd rushed
upon Ivan Mironov. He fell without a word to the ground, and then
shouted,--"Devils, wild beasts, kill me if that's what you want!
I am not afraid of you!"
Stepan seized a stone out of those that had been collected for the purpose,
and with a heavy blow smashed Ivan Mironov's head.
IVAN MIRONOV'S murderers were brought to trial, Stepan Pelageushkine
among them. He had a heavier charge to answer than the others,
all the witnesses having stated that it was he who had smashed Ivan
Mironov's head with a stone. Stepan concealed nothing when in court.
He contented himself with explaining that, having been
robbed of his two last horses, he had informed the police.
Now it was comparatively easy at that time to trace the horses
with the help of professional thieves among the gipsies.
But the police officer would not even permit him, and no search
had been ordered.
"Nothing else could be done with such a man. He has ruined us all."
"But why did not the others attack him. It was you alone who broke
his head open."
"That is false. We all fell upon him. The village agreed to kill him.
I only gave the final stroke. What is the use of inflicting unnecessary
sufferings on a man?"
The judges were astonished at Stepan's wonderful coolness in narrating
the story of his crime--how the peasants fell upon Ivan Mironov,
and how he had given the final stroke. Stepan actually did
not see anything particularly revolting in this murder.
During his military service he had been ordered on one occasion
to shoot a soldier, and, now with regard to Ivan Mironov, he saw
nothing loathsome in it. "A man shot is a dead man--that's all.
It was him to-day, it might be me to-morrow," he thought.
Stepan was only sentenced to one year's imprisonment,
which was a mild punishment for what he had done. His peasant's
dress was taken away from him and put in the prison stores,
and he had a prison suit and felt boots given to him instead.
Stepan had never had much respect for the authorities, but now
he became quite convinced that all the chiefs, all the fine folk,
all except the Czar--who alone had pity on the peasants and
was just--all were robbers who suck blood out of the people.
All he heard from the deported convicts, and those sentenced
to hard labour, with whom he had made friends in prisons,
confirmed him in his views. One man had been sentenced
to hard labour for having convicted his superiors of a theft;
another for having struck an official who had unjustly confiscated
the property of a peasant; a third because he forged bank notes.
The well-to-do-people, the merchants, might do whatever they
chose and come to no harm; but a poor peasant, for a trumpery
reason or for none at all, was sent to prison to become
food for vermin.
He had visits from his wife while in prison. Her life without him was
miserable enough, when, to make it worse, her cottage was destroyed by fire.
She was completely ruined, and had to take to begging with her children.
His wife's misery embittered Stepan still more. He got on very badly with
all the people in the prison; was rude to every one; and one day he nearly
killed the cook with an axe, and therefore got an additional year in prison.
In the course of that year he received the news that his wife was dead,
and that he had no longer a home.
When Stepan had finished his time in prison, he was taken
to the prison stores, and his own dress was taken down from
the shelf and handed to him.
"Where am I to go now?" he asked the prison officer, putting on his old dress.
"I have no home. I shall have to go on the road.
Robbery will not be a pleasant occupation."
"In that case you will soon be back here."
"I am not so sure of that."
And Stepan left the prison. Nevertheless he took the road to his own place.
He had nowhere else to turn.
On his way he stopped for a night's rest in an inn
that had a public bar attached to it. The inn was kept
by a fat man from the town, Vladimir, and he knew Stepan.
He knew that Stepan had been put into prison through ill luck,
and did not mind giving him shelter for the night.
He was a rich man, and had persuaded his neighbour's
wife to leave her husband and come to live with him.
She lived in his house as his wife, and helped him in his
business as well.
Stepan knew all about the innkeeper's affairs--how he had wronged the peasant,
and how the woman who was living with him had left her husband.
He saw her now sitting at the table in a rich dress, and looking very hot
as she drank her tea. With great condescension she asked Stepan to have
tea with her. No other travellers were stopping in the inn that night.
Stepan was given a place in the kitchen where he might sleep.
Matrena--that was the woman's name--cleared the table and went to her room.
Stepan went to lie down on the large stove in the kitchen, but he could
not sleep, and the wood splinters put on the stove to dry were crackling
under him, as he tossed from side to side. He could not help thinking
of his host's fat paunch protruding under the belt of his shirt,
which had lost its colour from having been washed ever so many times.
Would not it be a good thing to make a good clean incision in that paunch.
And that woman, too, he thought.
One moment he would say to himself, "I had better go from here
to-morrow, bother them all!" But then again Ivan Mironov came
back to his mind, and he went on thinking of the innkeeper's
paunch and Matrena's white throat bathed in perspiration.
"Kill I must, and it must be both!"
He heard the cock crow for the second time.
"I must do it at once, or dawn will be here." He had seen in the evening
before he went to bed a knife and an axe. He crawled down from
the stove, took the knife and axe, and went out of the kitchen door.
At that very moment he heard the lock of the entrance door open.
The innkeeper was going out of the house to the courtyard. It all turned
out contrary to what Stepan desired. He had no opportunity of using
the knife; he just swung the axe and split the innkeeper's head in two.
The man tumbled down on the threshold of the door, then on the ground.
Stepan stepped into the bedroom. Matrena jumped out of bed,
and remained standing by its side. With the same axe Stepan
killed her also.
Then he lighted the candle, took the money out of the desk,
and left the house.
IN a small district town, some distance away from the other buildings,
an old man, a former official, who had taken to drink, lived in
his own house with his two daughters and his son-in-law. The
married daughter was also addicted to drink and led a bad life,
and it was the elder daughter, the widow Maria Semenovna,
a wrinkled woman of fifty, who supported the whole family.
She had a pension of two hundred and fifty roubles a year,
and the family lived on this. Maria Semenovna did all the work
in the house, looked after the drunken old father, who was very weak,
attended to her sister's child, and managed all the cooking
and the washing of the family. And, as is always the case,
whatever there was to do, she was expected to do it, and was,
moreover, continually scolded by all the three people in the house;
her brother-in-law used even to beat her when he was drunk.
She bore it all patiently, and as is also always the case,
the more work she had to face, the quicker she managed to get
through it. She helped the poor, sacrificing her own wants;
she gave them her clothes, and was a ministering angel
to the sick.
Once the lame, crippled village tailor was working in Maria
Semenovna's house. He had to mend her old father's coat,
and to mend and repair Maria Semenovna's fur-jacket for her
to wear in winter when she went to market.
The lame tailor was a clever man, and a keen observer:
he had seen many different people owing to his profession,
and was fond of reflection, condemned as he was to a sedentary life.
Having worked a week at Maria Semenovna's, he wondered greatly about
her life. One day she came to the kitchen, where he was sitting with
his work, to wash a towel, and began to ask him how he was getting on.
He told her of the wrong he had suffered from his brother, and how he now
lived on his own allotment of land, separated from that of his brother.
"I thought I should have been better off that way," he said.
"But I am now just as poor as before."
"It is much better never to change, but to take life as it comes,"
said Maria Semenovna. "Take life as it comes," she repeated.
"Why, I wonder at you, Maria Semenovna," said the lame tailor.
"You alone do the work, and you are so good to everybody.
But they don't repay you in kind, I see."
Maria Semenovna did not utter a word in answer.
"I dare say you have found out in books that we are rewarded in heaven
for the good we do here."
"We don't know that. But we must try to do the best we can."
"Is it said so in books?"
"In books as well," she said, and read to him the Sermon on the Mount.
The tailor was much impressed. When he had been paid for his job
and gone home, he did not cease to think about Maria Semenovna,
both what she had said and what she had read to him.
PETER NIKOLAEVICH SVENTIZKY'S views of the peasantry had now changed
for the worse, and the peasants had an equally bad opinion of him.
In the course of a single year they felled twenty-seven oaks
in his forest, and burnt a barn which had not been insured.
Peter Nikolaevich came to the conclusion that there was no getting
on with the people around him.
At that very time the landowner, Liventsov, was trying to find a manager
for his estate, and the Marshal of the Nobility recommended Peter Nikolaevich
as the ablest man in the district in the management of land. The estate owned
by Liventsov was an extremely large one, but there was no revenue to be got
out of it, as the peasants appropriated all its wealth to their own profit.
Peter Nikolaevich undertook to bring everything into order; rented out his own
land to somebody else; and settled with his wife on the Liventsov estate,
in a distant province on the river Volga.
Peter Nikolaevich was always fond of order, and wanted
things to be regulated by law; and now he felt less able
of allowing those raw and rude peasants to take possession,
quite illegally too, of property that did not belong to them.
He was glad of the opportunity of giving them a good lesson,
and set seriously to work at once. One peasant was sent
to prison for stealing wood; to another he gave a thrashing
for not having made way for him on the road with his cart,
and for not having lifted his cap to salute him.
As to the pasture ground which was a subject of dispute,
and was considered by the peasants as their property,
Peter Nikolaevich informed the peasants that any of their cattle
grazing on it would be driven away by him.
The spring came and the peasants, just as they had done in previous years,
drove their cattle on to the meadows belonging to the landowner.
Peter Nikolaevich called some of the men working on the estate and
ordered them to drive the cattle into his yard. The peasants were
working in the fields, and, disregarding the screaming of the women,
Peter Nikolaevich's men succeeded in driving in the cattle.
When they came home the peasants went in a crowd to the cattle-yard
on the estate, and asked for their cattle. Peter Nikolaevich came
out to talk to them with a gun slung on his shoulder; he had just
returned from a ride of inspection. He told them that he would not
let them have their cattle unless they paid a fine of fifty kopeks
for each of the horned cattle, and twenty kopeks for each sheep.
The peasants loudly declared that the pasture ground was their property,
because their fathers and grandfathers had used it, and protested
that he had no right whatever to lay hand on their cattle.
"Give back our cattle, or you will regret it," said an old man coming
up to Peter Nikolaevich.
"How shall I regret it?" cried Peter Nikolaevich, turning pale,
and coming close to the old man.
"Give them back, you villain, and don't provoke us."
"What?" cried Peter Nikolaevich, and slapped the old man in the face.
"You dare to strike me? Come along, you fellows, let us take back
our cattle by force."
The crowd drew close to him. Peter Nikolaevich tried to push
his way, through them, but the peasants resisted him.
Again he tried force.
His gun, accidentally discharged in the melee, killed one of the peasants.
Instantly the fight began. Peter Nikolaevich was trodden down, and five
minutes later his mutilated body was dragged into the ravine.
The murderers were tried by martial law, and two of them sentenced
to the gallows.
IN the village where the lame tailor lived, in the Zemliansk district
of the Voronesh province, five rich peasants hired from the landowner
a hundred and five acres of rich arable land, black as tar, and let
it out on lease to the rest of the peasants at fifteen to eighteen
roubles an acre. Not one acre was given under twelve roubles.
They got a very profitable return, and the five acres which were
left to each of their company practically cost them nothing.
One of the five peasants died, and the lame tailor received an offer
to take his place.
When they began to divide the land, the tailor gave up drinking vodka,
and, being consulted as to how much land was to be divided, and to whom
it should be given, he proposed to give allotments to all on equal terms,
not taking from the tenants more than was due for each piece of land
out of the sum paid to the landowner.
"We are no heathens, I should think," he said. "It is all very
well for the masters to be unfair, but we are true Christians.
We must do as God bids. Such is the law of Christ."
"Where have you got that law from?
"It is in the Book, in the Gospels. just come to me on Sunday.
I will read you a few passages, and we will have a talk afterwards."
They did not all come to him on Sunday, but three came,
and he began reading to them.
He read five chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel, and they talked.
One man only, Ivan Chouev, accepted the lesson and carried it
out completely, following the rule of Christ in everything from that day.
His family did the same. Out of the arable land he took only
what was his due, and refused to take more.
The lame tailor and Ivan had people calling on them, and some
of these people began to grasp the meaning of the Gospels,
and in consequence gave up smoking, drinking, swearing,
and using bad language and tried to help one another.
They also ceased to go to church, and took their ikons to
the village priest, saying they did not want them any more.
The priest was frightened, and reported what had occurred
to the bishop. The bishop was at a loss what to do.
At last he resolved to send the archimandrite Missael to
the village, the one who had formerly been Mitia Smokovnikov's
teacher of religion.
ASKING Father Missael on his arrival to take a seat, the bishop
told him what had happened in his diocese.
"It all comes from weakness of spirit and from ignorance.
You are a learned man, and I rely on you. Go to the village,
call the parishioners together, and convince them of their error."
"If your Grace bids me go, and you give me your blessing, I will do my best,"
said Father Missael. He was very pleased with the task entrusted to him.
Every opportunity he could find to demonstrate the firmness of his faith
was a boon to him. In trying to convince others he was chiefly intent on
persuading himself that he was really a firm believer.
"Do your best. I am greatly distressed about my flock,"
said the bishop, leisurely taking a cup with his white plump
hands from the servant who brought in the tea.
"Why is there only one kind of jam? Bring another," he said to the servant.
"I am greatly distressed," he went on, turning to Father Missael.
Missael earnestly desired to prove his zeal; but, being a man
of small means, he asked to be paid for the expenses of his journey;
and being afraid of the rough people who might be ill-dis-posed
towards him, he also asked the bishop to get him an order from
the governor of the province, so that the local police might
help him in case of need. The bishop complied with his wishes,
and Missael got his things ready with the help of his servant
and his cook. They furnished him with a case full of wine,
and a basket with the victuals he might need in going
to such a lonely place. Fully provided with all he wanted,
he started for the village to which he was commissioned.
He was pleasantly conscious of the importance of his mission.
All his doubts as to his own faith passed away, and he was
now fully convinced of its reality.
His thoughts, far from being concerned with the real foundation of his creed--
this was accepted as an axiom--were occupied with the arguments used against
the forms of worship.
THE village priest and his wife received Father Missael
with great honours, and the next day after he had arrived
the parishioners were invited to assemble in the church.
Missael in a new silk cassock, with a large cross on his chest,
and his long hair carefully combed, ascended the pulpit; the priest
stood at his side, the deacons and the choir at a little distance
behind him, and the side entrances were guarded by the police.
The dissenters also came in their dirty sheepskin coats.
After the service Missael delivered a sermon, admonishing the
dissenters to return to the bosom of their mother, the Church,
threatening them with the torments of hell, and promising full
forgiveness to those who would repent.
The dissenters kept silent at first. Then, being asked questions,
they gave answers. To the question why they dissented,
they said that their chief reason was the fact that the Church
worshipped gods made of wood, which, far from being ordained,
were condemned by the Scriptures.
When asked by Missael whether they actually considered the holy ikons
to be mere planks of wood, Chouev answered,--"Just look at the back
of any ikon you choose and you will see what they are made of."
When asked why they turned against the priests, their answer was
that the Scripture says: "As you have received it without fee,
so you must give it to the others; whereas the priests require
payment for the grace they bestow by the sacraments."
To all attempts which Missael made to oppose them by arguments
founded on Holy Writ, the tailor and Ivan Chouev gave calm
but very firm answers, contradicting his assertions by appeal
to the Scriptures, which they knew uncommonly well.
Missael got angry and threatened them with persecution by the authorities.
Their answer was: It is said, I have been persecuted and so will you be.
The discussion came to nothing, and all would have ended well if Missael
had not preached the next day at mass, denouncing the wicked seducers
of the faithful and saying that they deserved the worst punishment.
Coming out of the church, the crowd of peasants began to consult
whether it would not be well to give the infidels a good lesson for
disturbing the minds of the community. The same day, just when Missael
was enjoying some salmon and gangfish, dining at the village priest's
in company with the inspector, a violent brawl arose in the village.
The peasants came in a crowd to Chouev's cottage, and waited for the
dissenters to come out in order to give them a thrashing.
The dissenters assembled in the cottage numbered about twenty men
and women. Missael's sermon and the attitude of the orthodox peasants,
together with their threats, aroused in the mind of the dissenters
angry feelings, to which they had before been strangers.
It was near evening, the women had to go and milk the cows,
and the peasants were still standing and waiting at the door.
A boy who stepped out of the door was beaten and driven
back into the house. The people within began consulting
what was to be done, and could come to no agreement.
The tailor said, "We must bear whatever is done to us,
and not resist." Chouev replied that if they decided on
that course they would, all of them, be beaten to death.
In consequence, he seized a poker and went out of the house.
"Come!" he shouted, let us follow the law of Moses!"
And, falling upon the peasants, he knocked out one man's eye,
and in the meanwhile all those who had been in his house
contrived to get out and make their way home.
Chouev was thrown into prison and charged with sedition and blasphemy.
Two years previous to those events a strong and handsome
young girl of an eastern type, Katia Turchaninova,
came from the Don military settlements to St. Petersburg
to study in the university college for women.
In that town she met a student, Turin, the son of a district
governor in the Simbirsk province, and fell in love with him.
But her love was not of the ordinary type, and she had no
desire to become his wife and the mother of his children.
He was a dear comrade to her, and their chief bond of union was
a feeling of revolt they had in common, as well as the hatred
they bore, not only to the existing forms of government,
but to all those who represented that government.
They had also in common the sense that they both excelled
their enemies in culture, in brains, as well as in morals.
Katia Turchaninova was a gifted girl, possessed of a good memory,
by means of which she easily mastered the lectures she attended.
She was successful in her examinations, and, apart from that,
read all the newest books. She was certain that her
vocation was not to bear and rear children, and even looked
on such a task with disgust and contempt. She thought
herself chosen by destiny to destroy the present government,
which was fettering the best abilities of the nation,
and to reveal to the people a higher standard of life,
inculcated by the latest writers of other countries.
She was handsome, a little inclined to stoutness:
she had a good complexion, shining black eyes, abundant black hair.
She inspired the men she knew with feelings she neither
wished nor had time to share, busy as she was with
propaganda work, which consisted chiefly in mere talking.
She was not displeased, however, to inspire these feelings;
and, without dressing too smartly, did not neglect her appearance.
She liked to be admired, as it gave her opportunities of showing
how little she prized what was valued so highly by other women.
In her views concerning the method of fighting the government she went further
than the majority of her comrades, and than her friend Turin; all means,
she taught, were justified in such a struggle, not excluding murder.
And yet, with all her revolutionary ideas, Katia Turchaninova was in
her soul a very kind girl, ready to sacrifice herself for the welfare
and the happiness of other people, and sincerely pleased when she could
do a kindness to anybody, a child, an old person, or an animal.
She went in the summer to stay with a friend, a schoolmistress
in a small town on the river Volga. Turin lived near that town,
on his father's estate. He often came to see the two girls;
they gave each other books to read, and had long discussions,
expressing their common indignation with the state of affairs
in the country. The district doctor, a friend of theirs,
used also to join them on many occasions.
The estate of the Turins was situated in the neighbourhood of the
Liventsov estate, the one that was entrusted to the management of Peter
Nikolaevich Sventizky. Soon after Peter Nikolaevich had settled there,
and begun to enforce order, young Turin, having observed an independent
tendency in the peasants on the Liventsov estate, as well as their
determination to uphold their rights, became interested in them.
He came often to the village to talk with the men, and developed his
socialistic theories, insisting particularly on the nationalisation
of the land.
After Peter Nikolaevich had been murdered, and the murderers sent
to trial, the revolutionary group of the small town boiled over
with indignation, and did not shrink from openly expressing it.
The fact of Turin's visits to the village and his propaganda work
among the students, became known to the authorities during the trial.
A search was made in his house; and, as the police found a few
revolutionary leaflets among his effects, he was arrested and
transferred to prison in St. Petersburg.
Katia Turchaninova followed him to the metropolis, and went to visit
him in prison. She was not admitted on the day she came, and was told
to come on the day fixed by regulations for visits to the prisoners.
When that day arrived, and she was finally allowed to see him, she had to talk
to him through two gratings separating the prisoner from his visitor.
This visit increased her indignation against the authorities.
And her feelings become all the more revolutionary after a visit she paid
to the office of a gendarme officer who had to deal with the Turin case.
The officer, a handsome man, seemed obviously disposed to grant her
exceptional favours in visiting the prisoner, if she would allow him to make
love to her. Disgusted with him, she appealed to the chief of police.
He pretended--just as the officer did when talking officially to her--
to be powerless himself, and to depend entirely on orders coming from
the minister of state. She sent a petition to the minister asking
for an interview, which was refused.
Then she resolved to do a desperate thing and bought a revolver.
THE minister was receiving petitioners at the usual hour appointed
for the reception. He had talked successively to three of them,
and now a pretty young woman with black eyes, who was holding
a petition in her left hand, approached. The minister's
eyes gleamed when he saw how attractive the petitioner was,
but recollecting his high position he put on a serious face.
"What do you want?" he asked, coming down to where she stood.
Without answering his question the young woman quickly drew a revolver
from under her cloak and aiming it at the minister's chest fired--
but missed him.
The minister rushed at her, trying to seize her hand,
but she escaped, and taking a step back, fired a second time.
The minister ran out of the room. The woman was immediately seized.
She was trembling violently, and could not utter a single word;
after a while she suddenly burst into a hysterical laugh.
The minister was not even wounded.
That woman was Katia Turchaninova. She was put into the prison
of preliminary detention. The minister received congratulations
and marks of sympathy from the highest quarters, and even from
the emperor himself, who appointed a commission to investigate
the plot that had led to the attempted assassination.
As a matter of fact there was no plot whatever, but the police
officials and the detectives set to work with the utmost zeal
to discover all the threads of the non-existing conspiracy.
They did everything to deserve the fees they were paid;
they got up in the small hours of the morning, searched one house
after another, took copies of papers and of books they found,
read diaries, personal letters, made extracts from them
on the very best notepaper and in beautiful handwriting,
interrogated Katia Turchaninova ever so many times, and confronted
her with all those whom they suspected of conspiracy,
in order to extort from her the names of her accomplices.
The minister, a good-natured man at heart, was sincerely sorry
for the pretty girl. But he said to himself that he was bound
to consider his high state duties imposed upon him, even though they
did not imply much work and trouble. So, when his former colleague,
a chamberlain and a friend of the Turins, met him at a court ball
and tried to rouse his pity for Turin and the girl Turchaninova,
he shrugged his shoulders, stretching the red ribbon on his
white waistcoat, and said: "Je ne demanderais pas mieux que de
relacher cette pauvre fillette, mais vous savez le devoir."
And in the meantime Katia Turchaninova was kept in prison.
She was at times in a quiet mood, communicated with her fellow-prisoners
by knocking on the walls, and read the books that were sent to her.
But then came days when she had fits of desperate fury, knocking with
her fists against the wall, screaming and laughing like a mad-woman.
ONE day Maria Semenovna came home from the treasurer's office,
where she had received her pension. On her way she met a schoolmaster,
a friend of hers.
"Good day, Maria Semenovna! Have you received your money?"
the schoolmaster asked, in a loud voice from the other side
of the street.
"I have," answered Maria Semenovna. "But it was not much;
just enough to fill the holes."
"Oh, there must be some tidy pickings out of such a lot of money,"
said the schoolmaster, and passed on, after having said good-bye.
"Good-bye," said Maria Semenovna. While she was looking at her friend,
she met a tall man face to face, who had very long arms and a stern
look in his eyes. Coming to her house, she was very startled on again
seeing the same man with the long arms, who had evidently followed her.
He remained standing another moment after she had gone in, then turned
and walked away.
Maria Semenovna felt somewhat frightened at first.
But when she had entered the house, and had given her father
and her nephew Fedia the presents she had brought for them,
and she had patted the dog Treasure, who whined with joy,
she forgot her fears. She gave the money to her father and began
to work, as there was always plenty for her to do.
The man she met face to face was Stepan.
After he had killed the innkeeper, he did not return to town.
Strange to say, he was not sorry to have committed that murder.
His mind went back to the murdered man over and over again
during the following day; and he liked the recollection
of having done the thing so skilfully, so cleverly,
that nobody-would ever discover it, and he would not therefore
be prevented from murdering other people in the same way.
Sitting in the public-house and having his tea, he looked at the
people around him with the same thought how he should murder them.
In the evening he called at a carter's, a man from his village,
to spend the night at his house. The carter was not in.
He said he would wait for him, and in the meanwhile began
talking to the carter's wife. But when she moved to the stove,
with her back turned to him, the idea entered his mind to kill her.
He marvelled at himself at first, and shook his head;
but the next moment he seized the knife he had hidden in his boot,
knocked the woman down on the floor, and cut her throat.
When the children began to scream, he killed them also and went away.
He did not look out for another place to spend the night,
but at once left the town. In a village some distance
away he went to the inn and slept there. The next day
he returned to the district town, and there he overheard
in the street Maria Semenovna's talk with the schoolmaster.
Her look frightened him, but yet he made up his mind to creep
into her house, and rob her of the money she had received.
When the night came he broke the lock and entered the house.
The first person who heard his steps was the younger daughter,
the married one. She screamed. Stepan stabbed her immediately
with his knife. Her husband woke up and fell upon Stepan,
seized him by his throat, and struggled with him desperately.
But Stepan was the stronger man and overpowered him.
After murdering him, Stepan, excited by the long fight,
stepped into the next room behind a partition. That was Maria
Semenovna's bedroom. She rose in her bed, looked at Stepan
with her mild frightened eyes, and crossed herself.
Once more her look scared Stepan. He dropped his eyes.
"Where is your money?" he asked, without raising his face.
She did not answer.
"Where is the money?" asked Stepan again, showing her his knife.
"How can you . . ." she said.
"You will see how."
Stepan came close to her, in order to seize her hands and prevent
her struggling with him, but she did not even try to lift her arms
or offer any resistance; she pressed her hands to her chest,
and sighed heavily.
"Oh, what a great sin!" she cried. "How can you! Have mercy on yourself.
To destroy somebody's soul . . . and worse, your own! . . ."
Stepan could not stand her voice any longer, and drew his
knife sharply across her throat. "Stop that talk!" he said.
She fell back with a hoarse cry, and the pillow was stained
with blood. He turned away, and went round the rooms in
order to collect all he thought worth taking. Having made
a bundle of the most valuable things, he lighted a cigarette,
sat down for a while, brushed his clothes, and left the house.
He thought this murder would not matter to him more than those
he had committed before; but before he got a night's lodging,
he felt suddenly so exhausted that he could not walk any farther.
He stepped down into the gutter and remained lying there
the rest of the night, and the next day and the next night.
THE whole time he was lying in the gutter Stepan saw continually
before his eyes the thin, kindly, and frightened face of
Maria Semenovna, and seemed to hear her voice. "How can you?"
she went on saying in his imagination, with her peculiar lisping voice.
Stepan saw over again and over again before him all he had done to her.
In horror he shut his eyes, and shook his hairy head, to drive
away these thoughts and recollections. For a moment he would get
rid of them, but in their place horrid black faces with red eyes
appeared and frightened him continuously. They grinned at him,
and kept repeating, "Now you have done away with her you must
do away with yourself, or we will not leave you alone." He opened
his eyes, and again he saw HER and heard her voice; and felt an
immense pity for her and a deep horror and disgust with himself.
Once more he shut his eyes, and the black faces reappeared.
Towards the evening of the next day he rose and went, with hardly
any strength left, to a public-house. There he ordered a drink,
and repeated his demands over and over again, but no quantity
of liquor could make him intoxicated. He was sitting at a table,
and swallowed silently one glass after another.
A police officer came in. "Who are you?" he asked Stepan.
"I am the man who murdered all the Dobrotvorov people
last night," he answered.
He was arrested, bound with ropes, and brought to the nearest police-station;
the next day he was transferred to the prison in the town.
The inspector of the prison recognised him as an old inmate, and a very
turbulent one; and, hearing that he had now become a real criminal,
accosted him very harshly.
"You had better be quiet here," he said in a hoarse voice,
frowning, and protruding his lower jaw. "The moment you
don't behave, I'll flog you to death! Don't try to escape--
I will see to that!"
"I have no desire to escape," said Stepan, dropping his eyes.
"I surrendered of my own free will."
"Shut up! You must look straight into your superior's eyes
when you talk to him," cried the inspector, and struck Stepan
with his fist under the jaw.
At that moment Stepan again saw the murdered woman before him, and heard
her voice; he did not pay attention, therefore, to the inspector's words.
"What?" he asked, coming to his senses when he felt the blow
on his face.
"Be off! Don't pretend you don't hear."
The inspector expected Stepan to be violent, to talk to
the other prisoners, to make attempts to escape from prison.
But nothing of the kind ever happened. Whenever the guard
or the inspector himself looked into his cell through the hole
in the door, they saw Stepan sitting on a bag filled with straw,
holding his head with his hands and whispering to himself.
On being brought before the examining magistrate charged with the
inquiry into his case, he did not behave like an ordinary convict.
He was very absent-minded, hardly listening to the questions;
but when he heard what was asked, he answered truthfully,
causing the utmost perplexity to the magistrate, who, accustomed as
he was to the necessity of being very clever and very cunning
with convicts, felt a strange sensation just as if he were
lifting up his foot to ascend a step and found none.
Stepan told him the story of all his murders; and did
it frowning, with a set look, in a quiet, businesslike voice,
trying to recollect all the circumstances of his crimes.
"He stepped out of the house," said Stepan, telling the tale
of his first murder, "and stood barefooted at the door;
I hit him, and he just groaned; I went to his wife, . . ."
And so on.
One day the magistrate, visiting the prison cells, asked Stepan whether
there was anything he had to complain of, or whether he had any wishes
that might be granted him. Stepan said he had no wishes whatever,
and had nothing to complain of the way he was treated in prison.
The magistrate, on leaving him, took a few steps in the foul passage,
then stopped and asked the governor who had accompanied him in his visit
how this prisoner was behaving.
"I simply wonder at him," said the governor, who was very pleased
with Stepan, and spoke kindly of him. "He has now been with us
about two months, and could be held up as a model of good behaviour.
But I am afraid he is plotting some mischief. He is a daring man,
and exceptionally strong."
DURING the first month in prison Stepan suffered from the same
agonising vision. He saw the grey wall of his cell, he heard
the sounds of the prison; the noise of the cell below him,
where a number of convicts were confined together; the striking
of the prison clock; the steps of the sentry in the passage;
but at the same time he saw HER with that kindly face which conquered
his heart the very first time he met her in the street, with that thin,
strongly-marked neck, and he heard her soft, lisping, pathetic voice:
"To destroy somebody's soul . . . and, worst of all, your own.
. . . How can you? . . ."
After a while her voice would die away, and then black faces
would appear. They would appear whether he had his eyes open
or shut. With his closed eyes he saw them more distinctly.
When he opened his eyes they vanished for a moment,
melting away into the walls and the door; but after a while they
reappeared and surrounded him from three sides, grinning at
him and saying over and over: "Make an end! Make an end!
Hang yourself! Set yourself on fire!" Stepan shook all over
when he heard that, and tried to say all the prayers he knew:
"Our Lady" or "Our Father." At first this seemed to help.
In saying his prayers he began to recollect his whole life;
his father, his mother, the village, the dog "Wolf,"
the old grandfather lying on the stove, the bench on which
the children used to play; then the girls in the village
with their songs, his horses and how they had been stolen,
and how the thief was caught and how he killed him with a stone.
He recollected also the first prison he was in and his leaving it,
and the fat innkeeper, the carter's wife and the children.
Then again SHE came to his mind and again he was terrified.
Throwing his prison overcoat off his shoulders, he jumped
out of bed, and, like a wild animal in a cage, began pacing
up and down his tiny cell, hastily turning round when he had
reached the damp walls. Once more he tried to pray, but it
was of no use now.
The autumn came with its long nights. One evening
when the wind whistled and howled in the pipes, Stepan,
after he had paced up and down his cell for a long time,
sat down on his bed. He felt he could not struggle any more;
the black demons had overpowered him, and he had to submit.
For some time he had been looking at the funnel of the oven.
If he could fix on the knob of its lid a loop made
of thin shreds of narrow linen straps it would hold.
. . . But he would have to manage it very cleverly.
He set to work, and spent two days in making straps
out of the linen bag on which he slept. When the guard
came into the cell he covered the bed with his overcoat.
He tied the straps with big knots and made them double,
in order that they might be strong enough to hold his weight.
During these preparations he was free from tormenting visions.
When the straps were ready he made a slip-knot out of them,
and put it round his neck, stood up in his bed, and hanged himself.
But at the very moment that his tongue began to protrude the straps
got loose, and he fell down. The guard rushed in at the noise.
The doctor was called in, Stepan was brought to the infirmary.
The next day he recovered, and was removed from the infirmary,
no more to solitary confinement, but to share the common cell
with other prisoners.
In the common cell he lived in the company of twenty men, but felt
as if he were quite alone. He did not notice the presence of the rest;
did not speak to anybody, and was tormented by the old agony.
He felt it most of all when the men were sleeping and he alone could
not get one moment of sleep. Continually he saw HER before his eyes,
heard her voice, and then again the black devils with their horrible
eyes came and tortured him in the usual way.
He again tried to say his prayers, but, just as before, it did not help him.
One day when, after his prayers, she was again before his eyes, he began
to implore her dear soul to forgive him his sin, and release him.
Towards morning, when he fell down quite exhausted on his crushed linen bag,
he fell asleep at once, and in his dream she came to him with her thin,
wrinkled, and severed neck. "Will you forgive me?" he asked. She looked
at him with her mild eyes and did not answer. "Will you forgive me?"
And so he asked her three times. But she did not say a word, and he awoke.
From that time onwards he suffered less, and seemed to come to his senses,
looked around him, and began for the first time to talk to the other men
in the cell.
STEPAN'S cell was shared among others by the former
yard-porter, Vassily, who had been sentenced to deportation
for robbery, and by Chouev, sentenced also to deportation.
Vassily sang songs the whole day long with his fine voice,
or told his adventures to the other men in the cell.
Chouev was working at something all day, mending his clothes,
or reading the Gospel and the Psalter.
Stepan asked him why he was put into prison, and Chouev
answered that he was being persecuted because of his true
Christian faith by the priests, who were all of them
hypocrites and hated those who followed the law of Christ.
Stepan asked what that true law was, and Chouev made clear
to him that the true law consists in not worshipping gods
made with hands, but worshipping the spirit and the truth.
He told him how he had learnt the truth from the lame tailor
at the time when they were dividing the land.
"And what will become of those who have done evil?" asked Stepan.
" The Scriptures give an answer to that," said Chouev,
and read aloud to him Matthew xxv. 31:--"When the Son of Man
shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him,
then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him
shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one
from another, as a shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats:
and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on
the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand,
Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me:
I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we
Thee an hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked,
and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison,
and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them,
Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one
of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand,
Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,
prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink:
I was a stranger and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye
clothed Me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.
Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we
Thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick,
or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee? Then shall He
answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did
it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:
but the righteous into life eternal."
Vassily, who was sitting on the floor at Chouev's side,
and was listening to his reading the Gospel, nodded his handsome
head in approval. "True," he said in a resolute tone.
"Go, you cursed villains, into everlasting punishment, since you
did not give food to the hungry, but swallowed it all yourself.
Serves them right! I have read the holy Nikodim's writings,"
he added, showing off his erudition.
"And will they never be pardoned?" asked Stepan, who had listened silently,
with his hairy head bent low down.
"Wait a moment, and be silent," said Chouev to Vassily, who went
on talking about the rich who had not given meat to the stranger,
nor visited him in the prison.
"Wait, I say!" said Chouev, again turning over the leaves of the Gospel.
Having found what he was looking for, Chouev smoothed the page with his large
and strong hand, which had become exceedingly white in prison:
"And there were also two other malefactors, led with Him"--
it means with Christ--"to be put to death. And when they
were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they
crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand,
and the other on the left. Then said Jesus,--'Father, forgive them;
for they know not what they do.' And the people stood beholding.
And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying,--'He saved others;
let Him save Himself if He be Christ, the chosen of God.'
And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him
vinegar, and saying, 'If Thou be the King of the Jews save Thyself.'
And a superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek,
and Latin, and Hebrew, 'This is the King of the Jews.'
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed
on Him, saying, 'If thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.'
But the other answering rebuked Him, saying, 'Dost not
thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds:
but this man hath done nothing amiss.' And he said unto Jesus,
'Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.'
And Jesus said unto him, 'Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt
thou be with Me in paradise.'"
Stepan did not say anything, and was sitting in thought,
as if he were listening.
Now he knew what the true faith was. Those only will be saved
who have given food and drink to the poor and visited the prisoners;
those who have not done it, go to hell. And yet the malefactor
had repented on the cross, and went nevertheless to paradise.
This did not strike him as being inconsistent. Quite the contrary.
The one confirmed the other: the fact that the merciful will go
to Heaven, and the unmerciful to hell, meant that everybody ought
to be merciful, and the malefactor having been forgiven by Christ
meant that Christ was merciful. This was all new to Stepan,
and he wondered why it had been hidden from him so long.
From that day onward he spent all his free time with Chouev,
asking him questions and listening to him. He saw but a single
truth at the bottom of the teaching of Christ as revealed to him
by Chouev: that all men are brethren, and that they ought
to love and pity one another in order that all might be happy.
And when he listened to Chouev, everything that was consistent
with this fundamental truth came to him like a thing he had
known before and only forgotten since, while whatever he heard
that seemed to contradict it, he would take no notice of,
as he thought that he simply had not understood the real meaning.
And from that time Stepan was a different man.
STEPAN had been very submissive and meek ever since he came
to the prison, but now he made the prison authorities
and all his fellow-prisoners wonder at the change in him.
Without being ordered, and out of his proper turn he would
do all the very hardest work in prison, and the dirtiest too.
But in spite of his humility, the other prisoners stood
in awe of him, and were afraid of him, as they knew he was
a resolute man, possessed of great physical strength.
Their respect for him increased after the incident of the two
tramps who fell upon him; he wrenched himself loose from them
and broke the arm of one of them in the fight. These tramps
had gambled with a young prisoner of some means and deprived him
of all his money. Stepan took his part, and deprived the tramps
of their winnings. The tramps poured their abuse on him;
but when they attacked him, he got the better of them.
When the Governor asked how the fight had come about,
the tramps declared that it was Stepan who had begun it.
Stepan did not try to exculpate himself, and bore patiently
his sentence which was three days in the punishment-cell,
and after that solitary confinement.
In his solitary cell he suffered because he could no longer listen
to Chouev and his Gospel. He was also afraid that the former visions
of HER and of the black devils would reappear to torment him. But the
visions were gone for good. His soul was full of new and happy ideas.
He felt glad to be alone if only he could read, and if he had the Gospel.
He knew that he might have got hold of the Gospel, but he could not read.
He had started to learn the alphabet in his boyhood, but could not grasp
the joining of the syllables, and remained illiterate. He made up his mind
to start reading anew, and asked the guard to bring him the Gospels.
They were brought to him, and he sat down to work. He contrived
to recollect the letters, but could not join them into syllables.
He tried as hard as he could to understand how the letters ought
to be put together to form words, but with no result whatever.
He lost his sleep, had no desire to eat, and a deep sadness came over him,
which he was unable to shake off.
"Well, have you not yet mastered it?" asked the guard one day.
"Do you know 'Our Father'?"
"Since you do, read it in the Gospels. Here it is,"
said the guard, showing him the prayer in the Gospels.
Stepan began to read it, comparing the letters he knew with
the familiar sounds.
And all of a sudden the mystery of the syllables was revealed
to him, and he began to read. This was a great joy.
From that moment he could read, and the meaning of the words,
spelt out with such great pains, became more significant.
Stepan did not mind any more being alone. He was so full of his work
that he did not feel glad when he was transferred back to the common cell,
his private cell being needed for a political prisoner who had been
just sent to prison.
IN the meantime Mahin, the schoolboy who had taught his friend
Smokovnikov to forge the coupon, had finished his career at
school and then at the university, where he had studied law.
He had the advantage of being liked by women, and as
he had won favour with a vice-minister's former mistress,
he was appointed when still young as examining magistrate.
He was dishonest, had debts, had gambled, and had seduced
many women; but he was clever, sagacious, and a good magistrate.
He was appointed to the court of the district where Stepan
Pelageushkine had been tried. When Stepan was brought to him
the first time to give evidence, his sincere and quiet answers
puzzled the magistrate. He somehow unconsciously felt that
this man, brought to him in fetters and with a shorn head,
guarded by two soldiers who were waiting to take him back to prison,
had a free soul and was immeasurably superior to himself.
He was in consequence somewhat troubled, and had to summon up
all his courage in order to go on with the inquiry and not blunder
in his questions. He was amazed that Stepan should narrate
the story of his crimes as if they had been things of long ago,
and committed not by him but by some different man.
"Had you no pity for them?" asked Mahin.
"No. I did not know then."
"Well, and now?"
Stepan smiled with a sad smile. "Now," he said, "I would not do it
even if I were to be burned alive."
"Because I have come to know that all men are brethren."
"What about me? Am I your brother also?"
"Of course you are."
"And how is it that I, your brother, am sending you to hard labour?"
"It is because you don't know."
"What do I not know?"
"Since you judge, it means obviously that you don't know."
"Go on. . . .What next?"
Now it was not Chouev, but Stepan who used to read the gospel in the
common cell. Some of the prisoners were singing coarse songs, while others
listened to Stepan reading the gospel and talking about what he had read.
The most attentive among those who listened were two of the prisoners,
Vassily, and a convict called Mahorkin, a murderer who had become a hangman.
Twice during his stay in this prison he was called upon to do duty
as hangman, and both times in far-away places where nobody could be found
to execute the sentences.
Two of the peasants who had killed Peter Nikolaevich Sventizky,
had been sentenced to the gallows, and Mahorkin was ordered
to go to Pensa to hang them. On all previous occasions
he used to write a petition to the governor of the province--
he knew well how to read and to write--stating that he had been
ordered to fulfil his duty, and asking for money for his expenses.
But now, to the greatest astonishment of the prison authorities,
he said he did not intend to go, and added that he would not
be a hangman any more.
"And what about being flogged?" cried the governor of the prison.
"I will have to bear it, as the law commands us not to kill."
"Did you get that from Pelageushkine? A nice sort of a prison prophet!
You just wait and see what this will cost you!"
When Mahin was told of that incident, he was greatly impressed by the fact
of Stepan's influence on the hangman, who refused to do his duty,
running the risk of being hanged himself for insubordination.
AT an evening party at the Eropkins, Mahin, who was paying attentions
to the two young daughters of the house--they were rich matches,
both of them--having earned great applause for his fine singing and
playing the piano, began telling the company about the strange convict
who had converted the hangman. Mahin told his story very accurately,
as he had a very good memory, which was all the more retentive
because of his total indifference to those with whom he had to deal.
He never paid the slightest attention to other people's feelings,
and was therefore better able to keep all they did or said in his memory.
He got interested in Stepan Pelageushkine, and, although he did
not thoroughly understand him, yet asked himself involuntarily
what was the matter with the man? He could not find an answer,
but feeling that there was certainly something remarkable going
on in Stepan's soul, he told the company at the Eropkins all about
Stepan's conversion of the hangman, and also about his strange
behaviour in prison, his reading the Gospels and his great influence
on the rest of the prisoners. All this made a special impression
on the younger daughter of the family, Lisa, a girl of eighteen,
who was just recovering from the artificial life she had been living
in a boarding-school; she felt as if she had emerged out of water,
and was taking in the fresh air of true life with ecstasy.
She asked Mahin to tell her more about the man Pelageushkine,
and to explain to her how such a great change had come over him.
Mahin told her what he knew from the police official about Stepan's
last murder, and also what he had heard from Pelageushkine himself--
how he had been conquered by the humility, mildness, and fearlessness
of a kind woman, who had been his last victim, and how his eyes
had been opened, while the reading of the Gospels had completed
the change in him.
Lisa Eropkin was not able to sleep that night. For a couple
of months a struggle had gone on in her heart between society life,
into which her sister was dragging her, and her infatuation for Mahin,
combined with a desire to reform him. This second desire now became
the stronger. She had already heard about poor Maria Semenovna.
But, after that kind woman had been murdered in such a ghastly way,
and after Mahin, who learnt it from Stepan, had communicated to
her all the facts concerning Maria Semenovna's life, Lisa herself
passionately desired to become like her. She was a rich girl,
and was afraid that Mahin had been courting her because of her money.
So she resolved to give all she possessed to the poor, and told
Mahin about it.
Mahin was very glad to prove his disinterestedness,
and told Lisa that he loved her and not her money.
Such proof of his innate nobility made him admire himself greatly.
Mahin helped Lisa to carry out her decision. And the more
he did so, the more he came to realise the new world of Lisa's
spiritual ambitions, quite unknown to him heretofore.
ALL were silent in the common cell. Stepan was lying in his bed,
but was not yet asleep. Vassily approached him, and, pulling him
by his leg, asked him in a whisper to get up and to come to him.
Stepan stepped out of his bed, and came up to Vassily.
"Do me a kindness, brother," said Vassily. "Help me!"
"I am going to fly from the prison."
Vassily told Stepan that he had everything ready for his flight.
"To-morrow I shall stir them up--" He pointed to the
prisoners asleep in their beds. "They will give me away,
and I shall be transferred to the cell in the upper floor.
I know my way from there. What I want you for is to unscrew
the prop in the door of the mortuary." "I can do that.
But where will you go?"
"I don't care where. Are not there plenty of wicked people
in every place?"
"Quite so, brother. But it is not our business to judge them."
"I am not a murderer, to be sure. I have not destroyed a living
soul in my life. As for stealing, I don't see any harm in that.
As if they have not robbed us!"
"Let them answer for it themselves, if they do."
"Bother them all! Suppose I rob a church, who will be hurt?
This time I will take care not to break into a small shop, but will
get hold of a lot of money, and then I will help people with it.
I will give it to all good people."
One of the prisoners rose in his bed and listened.
Stepan and Vassily broke off their conversation. The next day
Vassily carried out his idea. He began complaining of the bread
in prison, saying it was moist, and induced the prisoners
to call the governor and to tell him of their discontent.
The governor came, abused them all, and when he heard it was Vassily
who had stirred up the men, he ordered him to be transferred
into solitary confinement in the cell on the upper floor.
This was all Vassily wanted.
VASSILY knew well that cell on the upper floor. He knew its floor,
and began at once to take out bits of it. When he had managed
to get under the floor he took out pieces of the ceiling beneath,
and jumped down into the mortuary a floor below. That day only one
corpse was lying on the table. There in the corner of the room were
stored bags to make hay mattresses for the prisoners. Vassily knew
about the bags, and that was why the mortuary served his purposes.
The prop in the door had been unscrewed and put in again.
He took it out, opened the door, and went out into the passage
to the lavatory which was being built. In the lavatory was a
large hole connecting the third floor with the basement floor.
After having found the door of the lavatory he went back to the mortuary,
stripped the sheet off the dead body which was as cold as ice
(in taking off the sheet Vassily touched his hand), took the bags,
tied them together to make a rope, and carried the rope to the lavatory.
Then he attached it to the cross-beam, and climbed down along it.
The rope did not reach the ground, but he did not know how much
was wanting. Anyhow, he had to take the risk. He remained hanging
in the air, and then jumped down. His legs were badly hurt,
but he could still walk on. The basement had two windows; he could
have climbed out of one of them but for the grating protecting them.
He had to break the grating, but there was no tool to do it with.
Vassily began to look around him, and chanced on a piece of plank
with a sharp edge; armed with that weapon he tried to loosen the bricks
which held the grating. He worked a long time at that task.
The cock crowed for the second time, but the grating still held.
At last he had loosened one side; and then he pushed the plank
under the loosened end and pressed with all his force.
The grating gave way completely, but at that moment one of
the bricks fell down heavily. The noise could have been heard
by the sentry. Vassily stood motionless. But silence reigned.
He climbed out of the window. His way of escape was to climb
the wall. An outhouse stood in the corner of the courtyard.
He had to reach its roof, and pass thence to the top of the wall.
But he would not be able to reach the roof without the help of the plank;
so he had to go back through the basement window to fetch it.
A moment later he came out of the window with the plank in his hands;
he stood still for a while listening to the steps of the sentry.
His expectations were justified. The sentry was walking up
and down on the other side of the courtyard. Vassily came up
to the outhouse, leaned the plank against it, and began climbing.
The plank slipped and fell on the ground. Vassily had his stockings on;
he took them off so that be could cling with his bare feet in
coming down. Then he leaned the plank again against the house,
and seized the water-pipe with his hands. If only this time
the plank would hold! A quick movement up the water-pipe,
and his knee rested on the roof. The sentry was approaching.
Vassily lay motionless. The sentry did not notice him, and passed on.
Vassily leaped to his feet; the iron roof cracked under him.
Another step or two, and he would reach the wall. He could touch
it with his hand now. He leaned forward with one hand, then with
the other, stretched out his body as far as he could, and found
himself on the wall. Only, not to break his legs in jumping down,
Vassily turned round, remained hanging in the air by his hands,
stretched himself out, loosened the grip of one hand, then the other.
"Help, me, God!" He was on the ground. And the ground was soft.
His legs were not hurt, and he ran at the top of his speed.
In a suburb, Malania opened her door, and he crept under her warm coverlet,
made of small pieces of different colours stitched together.
THE wife of Peter Nikolaevich Sventizky, a tall and handsome woman,
as quiet and sleek as a well-fed heifer, had seen from her window
how her husband had been murdered and dragged away into the fields.
The horror of such a sight to Natalia Ivanovna was so intense--
how could it be otherwise?--that all her other feelings vanished.
No sooner had the crowd disappeared from view behind the garden fence,
and the voices had become still; no sooner had the barefooted Malania,
their servant, run in with her eyes starting out of her head,
calling out in a voice more suited to the proclamation of glad
tidings the news that Peter Nikolaevich had been murdered and thrown
into the ravine, than Natalia Ivanovna felt that behind her first
sensation of horror, there was another sensation; a feeling of joy
at her deliverance from the tyrant, who through all the nineteen years
of their married life had made her work without a moment's rest.
Her joy made her aghast; she did not confess it to herself,
but hid it the more from those around. When his mutilated,
yellow and hairy body was being washed and put into the coffin,
she cried with horror, and wept and sobbed. When the coroner--
a special coroner for serious cases--came and was taking her evidence,
she noticed in the room, where the inquest was taking place,
two peasants in irons, who had been charged as the principal culprits.
One of them was an old man with a curly white beard, and a calm
and severe countenance. The other was rather young, of a gipsy type,
with bright eyes and curly dishevelled hair. She declared that they
were the two men who had first seized hold of Peter Nikolaevich's hands.
In spite of the gipsy-like peasant looking at her with his eyes
glistening from under his moving eyebrows, and saying reproachfully:
"A great sin, lady, it is. Remember your death hour!"--
in spite of that, she did not feel at all sorry for them.
On the contrary, she began to hate them during the inquest,
and wished desperately to take revenge on her husband's murderers.
A month later, after the case, which was committed for trial by court-martial,
had ended in eight men being sentenced to hard labour, and in two--
the old man with the white beard, and the gipsy boy, as she called
the other--being condemned to be hanged, Natalia felt vaguely uneasy.
But unpleasant doubts soon pass away under the solemnity of a trial.
Since such high authorities considered that this was the right thing to do,
it must be right.
The execution was to take place in the village itself. One Sunday
Malania came home from church in her new dress and her new boots,
and announced to her mistress that the gallows were being erected,
and that the hangman was expected from Moscow on Wednesday.
She also announced that the families of the convicts were raging,
and that their cries could be heard all over the village.
Natalia Ivanovna did not go out of her house; she did
not wish to see the gallows and the people in the village;
she only wanted what had to happen to be over quickly.
She only considered her own feelings, and did not care for
the convicts and their families.
On Tuesday the village constable called on Natalia Ivanovna.
He was a friend, and she offered him vodka and preserved mushrooms
of her own making. The constable, after eating a little,
told her that the execution was not to take place the next day.
"A very strange thing has happened. There is no hangman to be found.
They had one in Moscow, my son told me, but he has been reading
the Gospels a good deal and says: 'I will not commit a murder.'
He had himself been sentenced to hard labour for having committed
a murder, and now he objects to hang when the law orders him.
He was threatened with flogging. 'You may flog me,' he said,
'but I won't do it.'"
Natalia Ivanovna grew red and hot at the thought which suddenly
came into her head.
"Could not the death sentence be commuted now?"
"How so, since the judges have passed it? The Czar alone has
the right of amnesty."
"But how would he know?"
"They have the right of appealing to him."
"But it is on my account they are to die," said that stupid woman,
Natalia Ivanovna. "And I forgive them."
The constable laughed. "Well--send a petition to the Czar."
"May I do it?"
"Of course you may."
"But is it not too late?"
"Send it by telegram."
"To the Czar himself?"
"To the Czar, if you like."
The story of the hangman having refused to do his duty, and preferring
to take the flogging instead, suddenly changed the soul of Natalia Ivanovna.
The pity and the horror she felt the moment she heard that the peasants were
sentenced to death, could not be stifled now, but filled her whole soul.
"Filip Vassilievich, my friend. Write that telegram for me.
I want to appeal to the Czar to pardon them."
The constable shook his head. "I wonder whether that would not involve
us in trouble?"
"I do it upon my own responsibility. I will not mention your name."
"Is not she a kind woman," thought the constable.
"Very kind-hearted, to be sure. If my wife had such a heart,
our life would be a paradise, instead of what it is now." And
he wrote the telegram,--"To his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor.
"Your Majesty's loyal subject, the widow of Peter
Nikolaevich Sventizky, murdered by the peasants, throws herself
at the sacred feet (this sentence, when he wrote it down,
pleased the constable himself most of all) of your Imperial Majesty,
and implores you to grant an amnesty to the peasants so and so,
from such a province, district, and village, who have been
sentenced to death."
The telegram was sent by the constable himself, and Natalia Ivanovna
felt relieved and happy. She had a feeling that since she,
the widow of the murdered man, had forgiven the murderers, and was
applying for an amnesty, the Czar could not possibly refuse it.
LISA EROPKIN lived in a state of continual excitement.
The longer she lived a true Christian life as it had been revealed
to her, the more convinced she became that it was the right way,
and her heart was full of joy.
She had two immediate aims before her. The one was to convert Mahin; or,
as she put it to herself, to arouse his true nature, which was good and kind.
She loved him, and the light of her love revealed the divine element
in his soul which is at the bottom of all souls. But, further, she saw
in him an exceptionally kind and tender heart, as well as a noble mind.
Her other aim was to abandon her riches. She had first thought of
giving away what she possessed in order to test Mahin; but afterwards
she wanted to do so for her own sake, for the sake of her own soul.
She began by simply giving money to any one who wanted it. But her father
stopped that; besides which, she felt disgusted at the crowd of supplicants
who personally, and by letters, besieged her with demands for money.
Then she resolved to apply to an old man, known to be a saint by his life,
and to give him her money to dispose of in the way he thought best.
Her father got angry with her when he heard about it. During a violent
altercation he called her mad, a raving lunatic, and said he would take
measures to prevent her from doing injury to herself.
Her father's irritation proved contagious. Losing all control
over herself, and sobbing with rage, she behaved with the greatest
impertinence to her father, calling him a tyrant and a miser.
Then she asked his forgiveness. He said he did not mind
what she said; but she saw plainly that he was offended,
and in his heart did not forgive her. She did not feel
inclined to tell Mahin about her quarrel with her father;
as to her sister, she was very cold to Lisa, being jealous
of Mahin's love for her.
"I ought to confess to God," she said to herself. As all this happened
in Lent, she made up her mind to fast in preparation for the communion,
and to reveal all her thoughts to the father confessor, asking his advice
as to what she ought to decide for the future.
At a small distance from her town a monastery was situated, where an
old monk lived who had gained a great reputation by his holy life,
by his sermons and prophecies, as well as by the marvellous cures
ascribed to him.