Count Leo Tolstoy
Part 11 out of 11
hand in his card all the same, and the footman came back with a
"You are asked to come in."
The hall, the footman, the orderly, the staircase, the
dancing-room, with its well-polished floor, were very much the
same as in Petersburg, only more imposing and rather dirtier.
Nekhludoff was shown into the cabinet.
The General, a bloated, potato-nosed man, with a sanguine
disposition, large bumps on his forehead, bald head, and puffs
under his eyes, sat wrapped in a Tartar silk dressing-gown
smoking a cigarette and sipping his tea out of a tumbler in a
"How do you do, sir? Excuse my dressing-gown; it is better so
than if I had not received you at all," he said, pulling up his
dressing-gown over his fat neck with its deep folds at the nape.
"I am not quite well, and do not go out. What has brought you to
our remote region?"
"I am accompanying a gang of prisoners, among whom there is a
person closely connected with me, said Nekhludoff, and now I have
come to see your Excellency partly in behalf of this person, and
partly about another business." The General took a whiff and a
sip of tea, put his cigarette into a malachite ashpan, with his
narrow eyes fixed on Nekhludoff, listening seriously. He only
interrupted him once to offer him a cigarette.
The General belonged to the learned type of military men who
believed that liberal and humane views can be reconciled with
their profession. But being by nature a kind and intelligent man,
he soon felt the impossibility of such a reconciliation; so as
not to feel the inner discord in which he was living, he gave
himself up more and more to the habit of drinking, which is so
widely spread among military men, and was now suffering from what
doctors term alcoholism. He was imbued with alcohol, and if he
drank any kind of liquor it made him tipsy. Yet strong drink was
an absolute necessity to him, he could not live without it, so he
was quite drunk every evening; but had grown so used to this
state that he did not reel nor talk any special nonsense. And if
he did talk nonsense, it was accepted as words of wisdom because
of the important and high position which he occupied. Only in
the morning, just at the time Nekhludoff came to see him, he was
like a reasonable being, could understand what was said to him,
and fulfil more or less aptly a proverb he was fond of repeating:
"He's tipsy, but he's wise, so he's pleasant in two ways."
The higher authorities knew he was a drunkard, but he was more
educated than the rest, though his education had stopped at the
spot where drunkenness had got hold of him. He was bold, adroit,
of imposing appearance, and showed tact even when tipsy;
therefore, he was appointed, and was allowed to retain so public
and responsible an office.
Nekhludoff told him that the person he was interested in was a
woman, that she was sentenced, though innocent, and that a
petition had been sent to the Emperor in her behalf.
"Yes, well?" said the General.
"I was promised in Petersburg that the news concerning her fate
should be sent to me not later than this month and to this
The General stretched his hand with its stumpy fingers towards
the table, and rang a bell, still looking at Nekhludoff and
puffing at his cigarette.
"So I would like to ask you that this woman should he allowed to
remain here until the answer to her petition comes."
The footman, an orderly in uniform, came in.
"Ask if Anna Vasilievna is up," said the General to the orderly,
"and bring some more tea." Then, turning to Nekhludoff, "Yes, and
"My other request concerns a political prisoner who is with the
"Dear me," said the General, with a significant shake of the
"He is seriously ill--dying, and he will probably he left here in
the hospital, so one of the women prisoners would like to stay
behind with him."
"She is no relation of his?"
"No, but she is willing to marry him if that will enable her to
remain with him."
The General looked fixedly with twinkling eyes at his
interlocutor, and, evidently with a wish to discomfit him,
listened, smoking in silence.
When Nekhludoff had finished, the General took a book off the
table, and, wetting his finger, quickly turned over the pages and
found the statute relating to marriage.
"What is she sentenced to?" he asked, looking up from the book.
"She? To hard labour."
"Well, then, the position of one sentenced to that cannot be
bettered by marriage."
"Excuse me. Even if a free man should marry her, she would have
to serve her term. The question in such cases is, whose is the
heavier punishment, hers or his?"
"They are both sentenced to hard labour."
"Very well; so they are quits," said the General, with a laugh.
"She's got what he has, only as he is sick he may be left behind,
and of course what can be done to lighten his fate shall be done.
But as for her, even if she did marry him, she could not remain
"The Generaless is having her coffee," the footman announced.
The General nodded and continued:
"However, I shall think about it. What are their names? Put them
Nekhludoff wrote down the names.
Nekhludoff's request to be allowed to see the dying man the
General answered by saying, "Neither can I do that. Of course I
do not suspect you, but you take an interest in him and in the
others, and you have money, and here with us anything can be done
with money. I have been told to put down bribery. But how can I
put down bribery when everybody takes bribes? And the lower their
rank the more ready they are to be bribed. How can one find it
out across more than three thousand miles? There any official is
a little Tsar, just as I am here," and he laughed. "You have in
all likelihood been to see the political prisoners; you gave
money and got permission to see them," he said, with a smile.
"Is it not so?"
"Yes, it is."
"I quite understand that you had to do it. You pity a political
prisoner and wish to see him. And the inspector or the convoy
soldier accepts, because he has a salary of twice twenty copecks
and a family, and he can't help accepting it. In his place and
yours I should have acted in the same way as you and he did. But
in my position I do not permit myself to swerve an inch from the
letter of the law, just because I am a man, and might be
influenced by pity. But I am a member of the executive, and I
have been placed in a position of trust on certain conditions,
and these conditions I must carry out. Well, so this business is
finished. And now let us hear what is going on in the
metropolis." And the General began questioning with the evident
desire to hear the news and to show how very human he was.
THE SENTENCE COMMUTED.
"By-the-way, where are you staying?" asked the General as he was
taking leave of Nekhludoff. "At Duke's? Well, it's horrid enough
there. Come and dine with us at five o'clock. You speak English?"
"Yes, I do."
"That's good. You see, an English traveller has just arrived
here. He is studying the question of transportation and examining
the prisons of Siberia. Well, he is dining with us to-night, and
you come and meet him. We dine at five, and my wife expects
punctuality. Then I shall also give you an answer what to do
about that woman, and perhaps it may be possible to leave some
one behind with the sick prisoner."
Having made his bow to the General, Nekhludoff drove to the
post-office, feeling himself in an extremely animated and
energetic frame of mind.
The post-office was a low-vaulted room. Several officials sat
behind a counter serving the people, of whom there was quite a
crowd. One official sat with his head bent to one side and kept
stamping the envelopes, which he slipped dexterously under the
stamp. Nekhludoff had not long to wait. As soon as he had given
his name, everything that had come for him by post was at once
handed to him. There was a good deal: letters, and money, and
books, and the last number of Fatherland Notes. Nekhludoff took
all these things to a wooden bench, on which a soldier with a
book in his hand sat waiting for something, took the seat by his
side, and began sorting the letters. Among them was one
registered letter in a fine envelope, with a distinctly stamped
bright red seal. He broke the seal, and seeing a letter from
Selenin and some official paper inside the envelope, he felt the
blood rush to his face, and his heart stood still. It was the
answer to Katusha's petition. What would that answer be?
Nekhludoff glanced hurriedly through the letter, written in an
illegibly small, hard, and cramped hand, and breathed a sigh of
relief. The answer was a favourable one.
"Dear friend," wrote Selenin, "our last talk has made a profound
impression on me. You were right concerning Maslova. I looked
carefully through the case, and see that shocking injustice has
been done her. It could he remedied only by the Committee of
Petitions before which you laid it. I managed to assist at the
examination of the case, and I enclose herewith the copy of the
mitigation of the sentence. Your aunt, the Countess Katerina
Ivanovna, gave me the address which I am sending this to. The
original document has been sent to the place where she was
imprisoned before her trial, and will from there he probably sent
at once to the principal Government office in Siberia. I hasten
to communicate this glad news to you and warmly press your hand.
The document ran thus: "His Majesty's office for the reception of
petitions, addressed to his Imperial name"--here followed the
date----"by order of the chief of his Majesty's office for the
reception of petitions addressed to his Imperial name. The
meschanka Katerina Maslova is hereby informed that his Imperial
Majesty, with reference to her most loyal petition, condescending
to her request, deigns to order that her sentence to hard labour
should be commuted to one of exile to the less distant districts
This was joyful and important news; all that Nekhludoff could
have hoped for Katusha, and for himself also, had happened. It
was true that the new position she was in brought new
complications with it. While she was a convict, marriage with her
could only be fictitious, and would have had no meaning except
that he would have been in a position to alleviate her condition.
And now there was nothing to prevent their living together, and
Nekhludoff had not prepared himself for that. And, besides, what
of her relations to Simonson? What was the meaning of her words
yesterday? If she consented to a union with Simonson, would it be
well? He could not unravel all these questions, and gave up
thinking about it. "It will all clear itself up later on," he
thought; "I must not think about it now, but convey the glad news
to her as soon as possible, and set her free." He thought that the
copy of the document he had received would suffice, so when he
left the post-office he told the isvostchik to drive him to the
Though he had received no order from the governor to visit the
prison that morning, he knew by experience that it was easy to
get from the subordinates what the higher officials would not
grant, so now he meant to try and get into the prison to bring
Katusha the joyful news, and perhaps to get her set free, and at
the same time to inquire about Kryltzoff's state of health, and
tell him and Mary Pavlovna what the general had said. The prison
inspector was a tall, imposing-looking man, with moustaches and
whiskers that twisted towards the corners of his mouth. He
received Nekhludoff very gravely, and told him plainly that he
could not grant an outsider the permission to interview the
prisoners without a special order from his chief. To Nekhludoff's
remark that he had been allowed to visit the prisoners even in
the cities he answered:
"That may be so, but I do not allow it," and his tone implied,
"You city gentlemen may think to surprise and perplex us, but we
in Eastern Siberia also know what the law is, and may even teach
it you." The copy of a document straight from the Emperor's own
office did not have any effect on the prison inspector either. He
decidedly refused to let Nekhludoff come inside the prison walls.
He only smiled contemptuously at Nekhludoff's naive conclusion,
that the copy he had received would suffice to set Maslova free,
and declared that a direct order from his own superiors would be
needed before any one could be set at liberty. The only things he
agreed to do were to communicate to Maslova that a mitigation had
arrived for her, and to promise that he would not detain her an
hour after the order from his chief to liberate her would arrive.
He would also give no news of Kryltzoff, saying he could not even
tell if there was such a prisoner; and so Nekhludoff, having
accomplished next to nothing, got into his trap and drove back to
The strictness of the inspector was chiefly due to the fact that
an epidemic of typhus had broken out in the prison, owing to
twice the number of persons that it was intended for being
crowded in it. The isvostchik who drove Nekhludoff said, "Quite
a lot of people are dying in the prison every day, some kind of
disease having sprung up among them, so that as many as twenty
were buried in one day."
THE GENERAL'S HOUSEHOLD.
In spite of his ineffectual attempt at the prison, Nekhludoff,
still in the same vigorous, energetic frame of mind, went to the
Governor's office to see if the original of the document had
arrived for Maslova. It had not arrived, so Nekhludoff went back
to the hotel and wrote without delay to Selenin and the advocate
about it. When he had finished writing he looked at his watch and
saw it was time to go to the General's dinner party.
On the way he again began wondering how Katusha would receive the
news of the mitigation of her sentence. Where she would be
settled? How he should live with her? What about Simonson? What
would his relations to her be? He remembered the change that had
taken place in her, and this reminded him of her past. "I must
forget it for the present," he thought, and again hastened to
drive her out of his mind. "When the time comes I shall see," he
said to himself, and began to think of what he ought to say to
The dinner at the General's, with the luxury habitual to the
lives of the wealthy and those of high rank, to which Nekhludoff
had been accustomed, was extremely enjoyable after he had been so
long deprived not only of luxury but even of the most ordinary
comforts. The mistress of the house was a Petersburg grande dame
of the old school, a maid of honour at the court of Nicholas I.,
who spoke French quite naturally and Russian very unnaturally.
She held herself very erect and, moving her hands, she kept her
elbows close to her waist. She was quietly and, somewhat sadly
considerate for her husband, and extremely kind to all her
visitors, though with a tinge of difference in her behaviour
according to their position. She received Nekhludoff as if he
were one of them, and her fine, almost imperceptible flattery
made him once again aware of his virtues and gave him a feeling
of satisfaction. She made him feel that she knew of that honest
though rather singular step of his which had brought him to
Siberia, and held him to be an exceptional man. This refined
flattery and the elegance and luxury of the General's house had
the effect of making Nekhludoff succumb to the enjoyment of the
handsome surroundings, the delicate dishes and the case and
pleasure of intercourse with educated people of his own class, so
that the surroundings in the midst of which he had lived for the
last months seemed a dream from which he had awakened to reality.
Besides those of the household, the General's daughter and her
husband and an aide-de-camp, there were an Englishman, a merchant
interested in gold mines, and the governor of a distant Siberian
town. All these people seemed pleasant to Nekhludoff. The
Englishman, a healthy man with a rosy complexion, who spoke very
bad French, but whose command of his own language was very good
and oratorically impressive, who had seen a great deal, was very
interesting to listen to when he spoke about America, India,
Japan and Siberia.
The young merchant interested in the gold mines, the son of a
peasant, whose evening dress was made in London, who had diamond
studs to his shirt, possessed a fine library, contributed freely
to philanthropic work, and held liberal European views, seemed
pleasant to Nekhludoff as a sample of a quite new and good type
of civilised European culture, grafted on a healthy, uncultivated
The governor of the distant Siberian town was that same man who
had been so much talked about in Petersburg at the time
Nekhludoff was there. He was plump, with thin, curly hair, soft
blue eyes, carefully-tended white hands, with rings on the
fingers, a pleasant smile, and very big in the lower part of his
body. The master of the house valued this governor because of all
the officials he was the only one who would not be bribed. The
mistress of the house, who was very fond of music and a very good
pianist herself, valued him because he was a good musician and
played duets with her.
Nekhludoff was in such good humour that even this man was not
unpleasant to him, in spite of what he knew of his vices. The
bright, energetic aide-de-camp, with his bluey grey chin, who was
continually offering his services, pleased Nekhludoff by his good
nature. But it was the charming young couple, the General's
daughter and her husband, who pleased Nekhludoff best. The
daughter was a plain-looking, simple-minded young woman, wholly
absorbed in her two children. Her husband, whom she had fallen in
love with and married after a long struggle with her parents, was
a Liberal, who had taken honours at the Moscow University, a
modest and intellectual young man in Government service, who made
up statistics and studied chiefly the foreign tribes, which he
liked and tried to save from dying out.
All of them were not only kind and attentive to Nekhludoff, but
evidently pleased to see him, as a new and interesting
acquaintance. The General, who came in to dinner in uniform and
with a white cross round his neck, greeted Nekhludoff as a
friend, and asked the visitors to the side table to take a glass
of vodka and something to whet their appetites. The General asked
Nekhludoff what he had been doing since he left that morning, and
Nekhludoff told him he had been to the post-office and received
the news of the mitigation of that person's sentence that he had
spoken of in the morning, and again asked for a permission to
visit the prison.
The General, apparently displeased that business should be
mentioned at dinner, frowned and said nothing.
"Have a glass of vodka" he said, addressing the Englishman, who
had just come up to the table. The Englishman drank a glass, and
said he had been to see the cathedral and the factory, but would
like to visit the great transportation prison.
"Oh, that will just fit in," said the General to Nekhludoff.
"You will he able to go together. Give them a pass," he added,
turning to his aide-de-camp.
"When would you like to go?" Nekhludoff asked.
"I prefer visiting the prisons in the evening," the Englishman
answered. "All are indoors and there is no preparation; you find
them all as they are."
"Ah, he would like to see it in all its glory! Let him do so. I
have written about it and no attention has been paid to it. Let
him find out from foreign publications," the General said, and
went up to the dinner table, where the mistress of the house was
showing the visitors their places. Nekhludoff sat between his
hostess and the Englishman. In front of him sat the General's
daughter and the ex-director of the Government department in
Petersburg. The conversation at dinner was carried on by fits and
starts, now it was India that the Englishman talked about, now
the Tonkin expedition that the General strongly disapproved of,
now the universal bribery and corruption in Siberia. All these
topics did not interest Nekhludoff much.
But after dinner, over their coffee, Nekhludoff and the
Englishman began a very interesting conversation about Gladstone,
and Nekhludoff thought he had said many clever things which were
noticed by his interlocutor. And Nekhludoff felt it more and more
pleasant to be sipping his coffee seated in an easy-chair among
amiable, well-bred people. And when at the Englishman's request
the hostess went up to the piano with the ex-director of the
Government department, and they began to play in well-practised
style Beethoven's fifth symphony, Nekhludoff fell into a mental
state of perfect self-satisfaction to which he had long been a
stranger, as though he had only just found out what a good fellow
The grand piano was a splendid instrument, the symphony was well
performed. At least, so it seemed to Nekhludoff, who knew and
liked that symphony. Listening to the beautiful andante, he felt
a tickling in his nose, he was so touched by his many virtues.
Nekhludoff thanked his hostess for the enjoyment that he had been
deprived of for so long, and was about to say goodbye and go when
the daughter of the house came up to him with a determined look
and said, with a blush, "You asked about my children. Would you
like to see them?"
"She thinks that everybody wants to see her children," said her
mother, smiling at her daughter's winning tactlessness. "The
Prince is not at all interested."
"On the contrary, I am very much interested," said Nekhludoff,
touched by this overflowing, happy mother-love. "Please let me
"She's taking the Prince to see her babies," the General shouted,
laughing from the card-table, where he sat with his son-in-law,
the mine owner and the aide-de-camp. "Go, go, pay your tribute."
The young woman, visibly excited by the thought that judgment was
about to be passed on her children, went quickly towards the
inner apartments, followed by Nekhludoff. In the third, a lofty
room, papered with white and lit up by a shaded lamp, stood two
small cots, and a nurse with a white cape on her shoulders sat
between the cots. She had a kindly, true Siberian face, with its
The nurse rose and bowed. The mother stooped over the first cot,
in which a two-year-old little girl lay peacefully sleeping with
her little mouth open and her long, curly hair tumbled over the
"This is Katie," said the mother, straightening the white and
blue crochet coverlet, from under which a little white foot
pushed itself languidly out.
"Is she not pretty? She's only two years old, you know."
"And this is Vasiuk, as 'grandpapa' calls him. Quite a different
type. A Siberian, is he not?"
"A splendid boy," said Nekhludoff, as he looked at the little
fatty lying asleep on his stomach.
"Yes," said the mother, with a smile full of meaning.
Nekhludoff recalled to his mind chains, shaved heads, fighting
debauchery, the dying Kryltzoff, Katusha and the whole of her
past, and he began to feel envious and to wish for what he saw
here, which now seemed to him pure and refined happiness.
After having repeatedly expressed his admiration of the children,
thereby at least partially satisfying their mother, who eagerly
drank in this praise, he followed her back to the drawing-room,
where the Englishman was waiting for him to go and visit the
prison, as they had arranged. Having taken leave of their hosts,
the old and the young ones, the Englishman and Nekhludoff went
out into the porch of the General's house.
The weather had changed. It was snowing, and the snow fell
densely in large flakes, and already covered the road, the roof
and the trees in the garden, the steps of the porch, the roof of
the trap and the back of the horse.
The Englishman had a trap of his own, and Nekhludoff, having told
the coachman to drive to the prison, called his isvostchik and
got in with the heavy sense of having to fulfil an unpleasant
duty, and followed the Englishman over the soft snow, through
which the wheels turned with difficulty.
The dismal prison house, with its sentinel and lamp burning under
the gateway, produced an even more dismal impression, with its
long row of lighted windows, than it had done in the morning, in
spite of the white covering that now lay over everything--the
porch, the roof and the walls.
The imposing inspector came up to the gate and read the pass that
had been given to Nekhludoff and the Englishman by the light of
the lamp, shrugged his fine shoulders in surprise, but, in
obedience to the order, asked the visitors to follow him in. He
led them through the courtyard and then in at a door to the right
and up a staircase into the office. He offered them a seat and
asked what he could do for them, and when he heard that
Nekhludoff would like to see Maslova at once, he sent a jailer to
fetch her. Then he prepared himself to answer the questions which
the Englishman began to put to him, Nekhludoff acting as
"How many persons is the prison built to hold?" the Englishman
asked. "How many are confined in it? How many men? How many
women? Children? How many sentenced to the mines? How many
exiles? How many sick persons?"
Nekhludoff translated the Englishman's and the inspector's words
without paying any attention to their meaning, and felt an
awkwardness he had not in the least expected at the thought of
the impending interview. When, in the midst of a sentence he was
translating for the Englishman, he heard the sound of approaching
footsteps, and the office door opened, and, as had happened many
times before, a jailer came in, followed by Katusha, and he saw
her with a kerchief tied round her head, and in a prison jacket a
heavy sensation came over him. "I wish to live, I want a family,
children, I want a human life." These thoughts flashed through
his mind as she entered the room with rapid steps and blinking
He rose and made a few steps to meet her, and her face appeared
hard and unpleasant to him. It was again as it had been at the
time when she reproached him. She flushed and turned pale, her
fingers nervously twisting a corner of her jacket. She looked up
at him, then cast down her eyes.
"You know that a mitigation has come?"
"Yes, the jailer told me."
"So that as soon as the original document arrives you may come
away and settle where you like. We shall consider--"
She interrupted him hurriedly. "What have I to consider? Where
Valdemar Simonson goes, there I shall follow." In spite of the
excitement she was in she raised her eyes to Nekhludoff's and
pronounced these words quickly and distinctly, as if she had
prepared what she had to say.
"Well, Dmitri Ivanovitch, you see he wishes me to live with
him--" and she stopped, quite frightened, and corrected herself.
"He wishes me to be near him. What more can I desire? I must look
upon it as happiness. What else is there for me--"
"One of two things," thought he. "Either she loves Simonson and
does not in the least require the sacrifice I imagined I was
bringing her, or she still loves me and refuses me for my own
sake, and is burning her ships by uniting her fate with
Simonson." And Nekhludoff felt ashamed and knew that he was
"And you yourself, do you love him?" he asked.
"Loving or not loving, what does it matter? I have given up all
that. And then Valdemar Simonson is quite an exceptional man."
"Yes, of course," Nekhludoff began. "He is a splendid man, and I
But she again interrupted him, as if afraid that he might say too
much or that she should not say all. "No, Dmitri Ivanovitch, you
must forgive me if I am not doing what you wish," and she looked
at him with those unfathomable, squinting eyes of hers. "Yes, it
evidently must be so. You must live, too."
She said just what he had been telling himself a few moments
before, but he no longer thought so now and felt very
differently. He was not only ashamed, but felt sorry to lose all
he was losing with her. "I did not expect this," he said.
"Why should you live here and suffer? You have suffered enough."
"I have not suffered. It was good for me, and I should like to go
on serving you if I could."
"We do not want anything," she said, and looked at him.
"You have done so much for me as it is. If it had not been for
you--" She wished to say more, but her voice trembled.
"You certainly have no reason to thank me," Nekhludoff said.
"Where is the use of our reckoning? God will make up our
accounts," she said, and her black eyes began to glisten with the
tears that filled them.
"What a good woman you are," he said.
"I good?" she said through her tears, and a pathetic smile lit up
"Are you ready?" the Englishman asked.
"Directly," replied Nekhludoff and asked her about Kryltzoff.
She got over her emotion and quietly told him all she knew.
Kryltzoff was very weak and had been sent into the infirmary.
Mary Pavlovna was very anxious, and had asked to be allowed to go
to the infirmary as a nurse, but could not get the permission.
"Am I to go?" she asked, noticing that the Englishman was
"I will not say good-bye; I shall see you again," said
Nekhludoff, holding out his hand.
"Forgive me," she said so low that he could hardly hear her.
Their eyes met, and Nekhludoff knew by the strange look of her
squinting eyes and the pathetic smile with which she said not
"Good-bye" but "Forgive me," that of the two reasons that might
have led to her resolution, the second was the real one. She
loved him, and thought that by uniting herself to him she would
be spoiling his life. By going with Simonson she thought she
would be setting Nekhludoff free, and felt glad that she had done
what she meant to do, and yet she suffered at parting from him.
She pressed his hand, turned quickly and left the room.
Nekhludoff was ready to go, but saw that the Englishman was
noting something down, and did not disturb him, but sat down on a
wooden seat by the wall, and suddenly a feeling of terrible
weariness came over him. It was not a sleepless night that had
tired him, not the journey, not the excitement, but he felt
terribly tired of living. He leaned against the back of the
bench, shut his eyes and in a moment fell into a deep, heavy
"Well, would you like to look round the cells now?" the inspector
Nekhludoff looked up and was surprised to find himself where he
was. The Englishman had finished his notes and expressed a wish
to see the cells.
Nekhludoff, tired and indifferent, followed him.
THE ENGLISH VISITOR.
When they had passed the anteroom and the sickening, stinking
corridor, the Englishman and Nekhludoff, accompanied by the
inspector, entered the first cell, where those sentenced to hard
labour were confined. The beds took up the middle of the cell and
the prisoners were all in bed. There were about 70 of them. When
the visitors entered all the prisoners jumped up and stood beside
the beds, excepting two, a young man who was in a state of high
fever, and an old man who did nothing but groan.
The Englishman asked if the young man had long been ill. The
inspector said that he was taken ill in the morning, but that the
old man had long been suffering with pains in the stomach, but
could not be removed, as the infirmary had been overfilled for a
long time. The Englishman shook his head disapprovingly, said he
would like to say a few words to these people, asking Nekhludoff
to interpret. It turned out that besides studying the places of
exile and the prisons of Siberia, the Englishman had another
object in view, that of preaching salvation through faith and by
"Tell them," he said, "that Christ died for them. If they believe
in this they shall be saved." While he spoke, all the prisoners
stood silent with their arms at their sides. "This book, tell
them," he continued, "says all about it. Can any of them read?"
There were more than 20 who could.
The Englishman took several bound Testaments out of a hang-bag,
and many strong hands with their hard, black nails stretched out
from beneath the coarse shirt-sleeves towards him. He gave away
two Testaments in this cell.
The same thing happened in the second cell. There was the same
foul air, the same icon hanging between the windows, the same tub
to the left of the door, and they were all lying side by side
close to one another, and jumped up in the same manner and stood
stretched full length with their arms by their sides, all but
three, two of whom sat up and one remained lying, and did not
even look at the newcomers; these three were also ill. The
Englishman made the same speech and again gave away two books.
In the third room four were ill. When the Englishman asked why
the sick were not put all together into one cell, the inspector
said that they did not wish it themselves, that their diseases
were not infectious, and that the medical assistant watched them
and attended to them.
"He has not set foot here for a fortnight," muttered a voice.
The inspector did not say anything and led the way to the next
cell. Again the door was unlocked, and all got up and stood
silent. Again the Englishman gave away Testaments. It was the
same in the fifth and sixth cells, in those to the right and
those to the left.
From those sentenced to hard labour they went on to the exiles.
From the exiles to those evicted by the Commune and those who
followed of their own free will.
Everywhere men, cold, hungry, idle, infected, degraded,
imprisoned, were shown off like wild beasts.
The Englishman, having given away the appointed number of
Testaments, stopped giving any more, and made no speeches. The
oppressing sight, and especially the stifling atmosphere, quelled
even his energy, and he went from cell to cell, saying nothing
but "All right" to the inspector's remarks about what prisoners
there were in each cell.
Nekhludoff followed as in a dream, unable either to refuse to go
on or to go away, and with the same feelings of weariness and
KRYLTZOFF AT REST.
In one of the exiles' cells Nekhludoff, to his surprise,
recognised the strange old man he had seen crossing the ferry
that morning. This old man was sitting on the floor by the beds,
barefooted, with only a dirty cinder-coloured shirt on, torn on
one shoulder, and similar trousers. He looked severely and
enquiringly at the newcomers. His emaciated body, visible through
the holes of his shirt, looked miserably weak, but in his face
was even more concentrated seriousness and animation than when
Nekhludoff saw him crossing the ferry. As in all the other cells,
so here also the prisoners jumped up and stood erect when the
official entered, but the old man remained sitting. His eyes
glittered and his brows frowned with wrath.
"Get up," the inspector called out to him.
The old man did not rise and only smiled contemptuously.
"Thy servants are standing before thee. I am not thy servant.
Thou bearest the seal--" The old man pointed to the inspector's
"Wha-a-t?" said the inspector threateningly, and made a step
"I know this man," Nekhludoff hastened to say; "what is he
"The police have sent him here because he has no passport. We ask
them not to send such, but they will do it," said the inspector,
casting an angry side look at the old man.
"And so it seems thou, too, art one of Antichrist's army?" the
old man said to Nekhludoff.
"No, I am a visitor," said Nekhludoff.
"What, hast thou come to see how Antichrist tortures men? There,
look, he has locked them up in a cage, a whole army of them. Men
should cat bread in the sweat of their brow. And he has locked
them up with no work to do, and feeds them like swine, so that
they should turn into beasts."
"What is he saying?" asked the Englishman.
Nekhludoff told him the old man was blaming the inspector for
keeping men imprisoned.
"Ask him how he thinks one should treat those who do not keep to
the laws," said the Englishman.
Nekhludoff translated the question. The old man laughed in a
strange manner, showing his teeth.
"The laws?" he repeated with contempt. "He first robbed
everybody, took all the earth, all the rights away from men,
killed all those who were against him, and then wrote laws,
forbidding robbery and murder. He should have written these laws
Nekhludoff translated. The Englishman smiled. "Well, anyhow, ask
him how one should treat thieves and murderers at present?"
Nekhludoff again translated his question.
"Tell him he should take the seal of Antichrist off himself," the
old man said, frowning severely; "then there will he no thieves
and murderers. Tell him so."
"He is crazy," said the Englishman, when Nekhludoff had
translated the old man's words, and, shrugging his shoulders, he
left the cell.
"Do thy business and leave them alone. Every one for himself. God
knows whom to execute, whom to forgive, and we do not know," said
the old man. "Every man be his own chief, then the chiefs will
not be wanted. Go, go!" he added, angrily frowning and looking
with glittering eyes at Nekhludoff, who lingered in the cell.
"Hast thou not looked on long enough how the servants of
Antichrist feed lice on men? Go, go!"
When Nekhludoff went out he saw the Englishman standing by the
open door of an empty cell with the inspector, asking what the
cell was for. The inspector explained that it was the mortuary.
"Oh," said the Englishman when Nekhludoff had translated, and
expressed the wish to go in.
The mortuary was an ordinary cell, not very large. A small lamp
hung on the wall and dimly lit up sacks and logs of wood that
were piled up in one corner, and four dead bodies lay on the
bedshelves to the right. The first body had a coarse linen shirt
and trousers on; it was that of a tall man with a small beard and
half his head shaved. The body was quite rigid; the bluish hands,
that had evidently been folded on the breast, had separated; the
legs were also apart and the bare feet were sticking out. Next to
him lay a bare-footed old woman in a white petticoat, her head,
with its thin plait of hair, uncovered, with a little, pinched
yellow face and a sharp nose. Beyond her was another man with
something lilac on. This colour reminded Nekhludoff of something.
He came nearer and looked at the body. The small, pointed beard
sticking upwards, the firm, well-shaped nose, the high, white
forehead, the thin, curly hair; he recognised the familiar
features and could hardly believe his eyes. Yesterday he had seen
this face, angry, excited, and full of suffering; now it was
quiet, motionless, and terribly beautiful. Yes, it was Kryltzoff,
or at any rate the trace that his material existence had left
behind. "Why had he suffered? Why had he lived? Does he now
understand?" Nekhludoff thought, and there seemed to be no
answer, seemed to be nothing but death, and he felt faint.
Without taking leave of the Englishman, Nekhludoff asked the
inspector to lead him out into the yard, and feeling the absolute
necessity of being alone to think over all that had happened that
evening, he drove back to his hotel.
A NEW LIFE DAWNS FOR NEKHLUDOFF.
Nekhludoff did not go to bed, but went up and down his room for a
long time. His business with Katusha was at an end. He was not
wanted, and this made him sad and ashamed. His other business was
not only unfinished, but troubled him more than ever and demanded
his activity. All this horrible evil that he had seen and learned
to know lately, and especially to-day in that awful prison, this
evil, which had killed that dear Kryltzoff, ruled and was
triumphant, and he could foreseen possibility of conquering or
even knowing how to conquer it. Those hundreds and thousands of
degraded human beings locked up in the noisome prisons by
indifferent generals, procureurs, inspectors, rose up in his
imagination; he remembered the strange, free old man accusing the
officials, and therefore considered mad, and among the corpses
the beautiful, waxen face of Kryltzoff, who had died in anger.
And again the question as to whether he was mad or those who
considered they were in their right minds while they committed
all these deeds stood before him with renewed force and demanded
Tired of pacing up and down, tired of thinking, he sat down on
the sofa near the lamp and mechanically opened the Testament
which the Englishman had given him as a remembrance, and which he
had thrown on the table when he emptied his pockets on coming in.
"It is said one can find an answer to everything here," he
thought, and opened the Testament at random and began reading
Matt. xviii. 1-4: "In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus,
saying, Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? And He
called to Him a little child, and set him in the midst of them,
and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn and become as
little children, ye shall in nowise enter into the Kingdom of
Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little
child the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Yes, yes, that is true," he said, remembering that he had known
the peace and joy of life only when he had humbled himself.
"And whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name
receiveth Me, but whoso shall cause one of these little ones to
stumble, it is more profitable for him that a great millstone
should be hanged about his neck and that he should be sunk in the
depths of the sea." (Matt. xviii. 5, 6.)
"What is this for, 'Whosoever shall receive?' Receive where? And
what does 'in my name' mean?" he asked, feeling that these words
did not tell him anything. "And why 'the millstone round his neck
and the depths of the sea?' No, that is not it: it is not clear,"
and he remembered how more than once in his life he had taken to
reading the Gospels, and how want of clearness in these passages
had repulsed him. He went on to read the seventh, eighth, ninth,
and tenth verses about the occasions of stumbling, and that they
must come, and about punishment by casting men into hell fire,
and some kind of angels who see the face of the Father in Heaven.
"What a pity that this is so incoherent," he thought, "yet one
feels that there is something good in it."
"For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost," he
continued to read.
"How think ye? If any man have a hundred sheep and one of them go
astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine and go into the
mountains and seek that which goeth astray? And if so be that he
find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth over it more than
over the ninety and nine which have not gone astray.
"Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in Heaven
that one of these little ones should perish."
"Yes, it is not the will of the Father that they should perish,
and here they are perishing by hundreds and thousands. And there
is no possibility of saving them," he thought.
"Then came Peter and said to him, How oft shall my brother offend
me and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I
say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times
"Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king
which made a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun
to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand
talents. But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord
commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that
he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down
and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me; I will
pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with
compassion, released him and forgave him the debt. But that
servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants which owed
him a hundred pence; and he laid hold on him and took him by the
throat, saying, Pay what thou owest. So his fellow-servant fell
down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me and I will
pay thee. And he would not, but went and cast him into prison
till he should pay that which was due. So when his
fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and
came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord
called him unto him and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I
forgave thee all that debt because thou besought me; shouldst not
thou also have mercy on thy fellow-servant as I had mercy on
"And is this all?" Nekhludoff suddenly exclaimed aloud, and the
inner voice of the whole of his being said, "Yes, it is all." And
it happened to Nekhludoff, as it often happens to men who are
living a spiritual life. The thought that seemed strange at first
and paradoxical or even to be only a joke, being confirmed more
and more often by life's experience, suddenly appeared as the
simplest, truest certainty. In this way the idea that the only
certain means of salvation from the terrible evil from which men
were suffering was that they should always acknowledge themselves
to be sinning against God, and therefore unable to punish or
correct others, because they were dear to Him. It became clear to
him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons
and jails and the quiet self-satisfaction of the perpetrators of
this evil were the consequences of men trying to do what was
impossible; trying to correct evil while being evil themselves;
vicious men were trying to correct other vicious men, and thought
they could do it by using mechanical means, and the only
consequence of all this was that the needs and the cupidity of
some men induced them to take up this so-called punishment and
correction as a profession, and have themselves become utterly
corrupt, and go on unceasingly depraving those whom they torment.
Now he saw clearly what all the terrors he had seen came from,
and what ought to be done to put a stop to them. The answer he
could not find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was
that we should forgive always an infinite number of times because
there are no men who have not sinned themselves, and therefore
none can punish or correct others.
"But surely it cannot he so simple," thought Nekhludoff, and yet
he saw with certainty, strange as it had seemed at first, that it
was not only a theoretical but also a practical solution of the
question. The usual objection, "What is one to do with the evil
doers? Surely not let them go unpunished?" no longer confused
him. This objection might have a meaning if it were proved that
punishment lessened crime, or improved the criminal, but when the
contrary was proved, and it was evident that it was not in
people's power to correct each other, the only reasonable thing
to do is to leave off doing the things which are not only
useless, but harmful, immoral and cruel.
For many centuries people who were considered criminals have been
tortured. Well, and have they ceased to exist? No; their numbers
have been increased not alone by the criminals corrupted by
punishment but also by those lawful criminals, the judges,
procureurs, magistrates and jailers, who judge and punish men.
Nekhludoff now understood that society and order in general
exists not because of these lawful criminals who judge and punish
others, but because in spite of men being thus depraved, they
still pity and love one another.
In hopes of finding a confirmation of this thought in the Gospel,
Nekhludoff began reading it from the beginning. When he had read
the Sermon on the Mount, which had always touched him, he saw in
it for the first time to-day not beautiful abstract thoughts,
setting forth for the most part exaggerated and impossible
demands, but simple, clear, practical laws. If these laws were
carried out in practice (and this was quite possible) they would
establish perfectly new and surprising conditions of social life,
in which the violence that filled Nekhludoff with such
indignation would cease of itself. Not only this, but the
greatest blessing that is obtainable to men, the Kingdom of
Heaven on Earth would he established. There were five of these
The first (Matt. v. 21-26), that man should not only do no
murder, but not even be angry with his brother, should not
consider any one worthless: "Raca," and if he has quarrelled with
any one he should make it up with him before bringing his gift to
God--i.e., before praying.
The second (Matt. v. 27-32), that man should not only not commit
adultery but should not even seek for enjoyment in a woman's
beauty, and if he has once come together with a woman he should
never be faithless to her.
The third (Matt. 33-37), that man should never bind himself by
The fourth (Matt. 38-42), that man should not only not demand an
eye for an eye, but when struck on one cheek should hold out the
other, should forgive an offence and bear it humbly, and never
refuse the service others demand of him.
The fifth (Matt. 43-48), that man should not only not hate his
enemy and not fight him, but love him, help him, serve him.
Nekhludoff sat staring at the lamp and his heart stood still.
Recalling the monstrous confusion of the life we lead, he
distinctly saw what that life could be if men were brought up to
obey these rules, and rapture such as he had long not felt filled
his soul, just as if after long days of weariness and suffering
he had suddenly found ease and freedom.
He did not sleep all night, and as it happens to many and many a
man who reads the Gospels he understood for the first time the
full meaning of the words read so often before but passed by
unnoticed. He imbibed all these necessary, important and joyful
revelations as a sponge imbibes water. And all he read seemed so
familiar and seemed to confirm, to form into a conception, what
he had known long ago, but had never realised and never quite
believed. Now he realised and believed it, and not only realised
and believed that if men would obey these laws they would obtain
the highest blessing they can attain to, he also realised and
believed that the only duty of every man is to fulfil these laws;
that in this lies the only reasonable meaning of life, that every
stepping aside from these laws is a mistake which is immediately
followed by retribution. This flowed from the whole of the
teaching, and was most strongly and clearly illustrated in the
parable of the vineyard.
The husbandman imagined that the vineyard in which they were sent
to work for their master was their own, that all that was in was
made for them, and that their business was to enjoy life in this
vineyard, forgetting the Master and killing all those who
reminded them of his existence. "Are we do not doing the same,"
Nekhludoff thought, "when we imagine ourselves to be masters of
our lives, and that life is given us for enjoyment? This
evidently is an incongruity. We were sent here by some one's will
and for some reason. And we have concluded that we live only for
our own joy, and of course we feel unhappy as labourers do when
not fulfilling their Master's orders. The Master's will is
expressed in these commandments. If men will only fulfil these
laws, the Kingdom of Heaven will be established on earth, and men
will receive the greatest good that they can attain to.
"'Seek ye first the Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these
things shall be added unto you.'
"And so here it is, the business of my life. Scarcely have I
finished one and another has commenced." And a perfectly new life
dawned that night for Nekhludoff, not because he had entered into
new conditions of life, but because everything he did after that
night had a new and quite different significance than before. How
this new period of his life will end time alone will prove.
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