Count Leo Tolstoy
Part 5 out of 11
beaucoup de bien. Thanks to her--and, perhaps I may add without
false modesty, to me--everything has been changed, changed in
such a way that the former horrors no longer exist, and they are
really quite comfortable there. Well, you'll see. There's
Fanarin. I do not know him personally; besides, my social
position keeps our ways apart; but he is positively a bad man,
and besides, he takes the liberty of saying such things in the
"Well, thank you," Nekhludoff said, taking the paper, and without
listening further he bade good-day to his former comrade.
"And won't you go in to see my wife?"
"No, pray excuse me; I have no time now."
"Dear me, why she will never forgive me," said Maslennikoff,
accompanying his old acquaintance down to the first landing, as
he was in the habit of doing to persons of not the greatest, but
the second greatest importance, with whom he classed Nekhludoff;
"now do go in, if only for a moment."
But Nekhludoff remained firm; and while the footman and the
door-keeper rushed to give him his stick and overcoat, and opened
the door, outside of which there stood a policeman, Nekhludoff
repeated that he really could not come in.
"Well, then; on Thursday, please. It is her 'at-home.' I will
tell her you will come," shouted Maslennikoff from the stairs.
Nekhludoff drove that day straight from Maslennikoff's to the
prison, and went to the inspector's lodging, which he now knew.
He was again struck by the sounds of the same piano of inferior
quality; but this time it was not a rhapsody that was being
played, but exercises by Clementi, again with the same vigour,
distinctness, and quickness. The servant with the bandaged eye
said the inspector was in, and showed Nekhludoff to a small
drawing-room, in which there stood a sofa and, in front of it, a
table, with a large lamp, which stood on a piece of crochet work,
and the paper shade of which was burnt on one side. The chief
inspector entered, with his usual sad and weary look.
"Take a seat, please. What is it you want?" he said, buttoning up
the middle button of his uniform.
"I have just been to the vice-governor's, and got this order from
him. I should like to see the prisoner Maslova."
"Markova?" asked the inspector, unable to bear distinctly because
of the music.
"Well, yes." The inspector got up and went to the door whence
proceeded Clementi's roulades.
"Mary, can't you stop just a minute?" he said, in a voice that
showed that this music was the bane of his life. "One can't hear
The piano was silent, but one could hear the sound of reluctant
steps, and some one looked in at the door.
The inspector seemed to feel eased by the interval of silence,
lit a thick cigarette of weak tobacco, and offered one to
"What I want is to see Maslova."
"Oh, yes, that can be managed. Now, then, what do you want?" he
said, addressing a little girl of five or six, who came into the
room and walked up to her father with her head turned towards
Nekhludoff, and her eyes fixed on him.
"There, now, you'll fall down," said the inspector, smiling, as
the little girl ran up to him, and, not looking where she was
going, caught her foot in a little rug.
"Well, then, if I may, I shall go."
"It's not very convenient to see Maslova to-day," said the
"Well, you know, it's all your own fault," said the inspector,
with a slight smile. "Prince, give her no money into her hands.
If you like, give it me. I will keep it for her. You see, you
gave her some money yesterday; she got some spirits (it's an evil
we cannot manage to root out), and to-day she is quite tipsy,
"Can this be true?"
"Oh, yes, it is. I have even been obliged to have recourse to
severe measures, and to put her into a separate cell. She is a
quiet woman in an ordinary way. But please do not give her any
money. These people are so--" What had happened the day before
came vividly back to Nekhludoff's mind, and again he was seized
"And Doukhova, a political prisoner; might I see her?"
"Yes, if you like," said the inspector. He embraced the little
girl, who was still looking at Nekhludoff, got up, and, tenderly
motioning her aside, went into the ante-room. Hardly had he got
into the overcoat which the maid helped him to put on, and before
he had reached the door, the distinct sounds of Clementi's
roulades again began.
"She entered the Conservatoire, but there is such disorder there.
She has a great gift," said the inspector, as they went down the
stairs. "She means to play at concerts."
The inspector and Nekhludoff arrived at the prison. The gates
were instantly opened as they appeared. The jailers, with their
fingers lifted to their caps, followed the inspector with their
eyes. Four men, with their heads half shaved, who were carrying
tubs filled with something, cringed when they saw the inspector.
One of them frowned angrily, his black eyes glaring.
"Of course a talent like that must be developed; it would not do
to bury it, but in a small lodging, you know, it is rather hard."
The inspector went on with the conversation, taking no notice of
"Who is it you want to see?"
"Oh, she's in the tower. You'll have to wait a little," he said.
"Might I not meanwhile see the prisoners Menshoff, mother and
son, who are accused of incendiarism?"
"Oh, yes. Cell No. 21. Yes, they can be sent for."
"But might I not see Menshoff in his cell?"
"Oh, you'll find the waiting-room more pleasant."
"No. I should prefer the cell. It is more interesting."
"Well, you have found something to be interested in!"
Here the assistant, a smartly-dressed officer, entered the side
"Here, see the Prince into Menshoff's cell, No. 21," said the
inspector to his assistant, "and then take him to the office. And
I'll go and call--What's her name? Vera Doukhova."
The inspector's assistant was young, with dyed moustaches, and
diffusing the smell of eau-de-cologne. "This way, please," he
said to Nekhludoff, with a pleasant smile. "Our establishment
"Yes, it does interest me; and, besides, I look upon it as a duty
to help a man who I heard was confined here, though innocent."
The assistant shrugged his shoulders.
"Yes, that may happen," he said quietly, politely stepping aside
to let the visitor enter, the stinking corridor first. "But it
also happens that they lie. Here we are."
The doors of the cells were open, and some of the prisoners were
in the corridor. The assistant nodded slightly to the jailers,
and cast a side glance at the prisoners, who, keeping close to
the wall, crept back to their cells, or stood like soldiers, with
their arms at their sides, following the official with their
eyes. After passing through one corridor, the assistant showed
Nekhludoff into another to the left, separated from the first by
an iron door. This corridor was darker, and smelt even worse than
the first. The corridor had doors on both sides, with little
holes in them about an inch in diameter. There was only an old
jailer, with an unpleasant face, in this corridor.
"Where is Menshoff?" asked the inspector's assistant.
"The eighth cell to the left."
"And these? Are they occupied?" asked Nekhludoff.
"Yes, all but one."
"May I look in?" asked Nekhludoff.
"Oh, certainly," answered the assistant, smiling, and turned to
the jailer with some question.
Nekhludoff looked into one of the little holes, and saw a tall
young man pacing up and down the cell. When the man heard some
one at the door he looked up with a frown, but continued walking
up and down.
Nekhludoff looked into another hole. His eye met another large
eye looking out of the hole at him, and he quickly stepped aside.
In the third cell he saw a very small man asleep on the bed,
covered, head and all, with his prison cloak. In the fourth a
broad-faced man was sitting with his elbows on his knees and his
head low down. At the sound of footsteps this man raised his head
and looked up. His face, especially his large eyes, bore the
expression of hopeless dejection. One could see that it did not
even interest him to know who was looking into his cell. Whoever
it might be, he evidently hoped for nothing good from him.
Nekhludoff was seized with dread, and went to Menshoff's cell,
No. 21, without stopping to look through any more holes. The
jailer unlocked the door and opened it. A young man, with long
neck, well-developed muscles, a small head, and kind, round eyes,
stood by the bed, hastily putting on his cloak, and looking at
the newcomers with a frightened face. Nekhludoff was specially
struck by the kind, round eyes that were throwing frightened and
inquiring glances in turns at him, at the jailer, and at the
assistant, and back again.
"Here's a gentleman wants to inquire into your affair."
"Thank you kindly."
"Yes, I was told about you," Nekhludoff said, going through the
cell up to the dirty grated window, "and I should like to hear
all about it from yourself."
Menshoff also came up to the window, and at once started telling
his story, at first looking shyly at the inspector's assistant,
but growing gradually bolder. When the assistant left the cell
and went into the corridor to give some order the man grew quite
bold. The story was told with the accent and in the manner common
to a most ordinary good peasant lad. To hear it told by a
prisoner dressed in this degrading clothing, and inside a prison,
seemed very strange to Nekhludoff. Nekhludoff listened, and at
the same time kept looking around him--at the low bedstead with
its straw mattress, the window and the dirty, damp wall, and the
piteous face and form of this unfortunate, disfigured peasant in
his prison cloak and shoes, and he felt sadder and sadder, and
would have liked not to believe what this good-natured fellow was
saying. It seemed too dreadful to think that men could do such a
thing as to take a man, dress him in convict clothes, and put him
in this horrible place without any reason only because he himself
had been injured. And yet the thought that this seemingly true
story, told with such a good-natured expression on the face,
might be an invention and a lie was still more dreadful. This was
the story: The village public-house keeper had enticed the young
fellow's wife. He tried to get justice by all sorts of means. But
everywhere the public-house keeper managed to bribe the
officials, and was acquitted. Once, he took his wife back by
force, but she ran away next day. Then he came to demand her
back, but, though he saw her when he came in, the public-house
keeper told him she was not there, and ordered him to go away. He
would not go, so the public-house keeper and his servant beat him
so that they drew blood. The next day a fire broke out in the
public-house, and the young man and his mother were accused of
having set the house on fire. He had not set it on fire, but was
visiting a friend at the time.
"And it is true that you did not set it on fire?"
"It never entered my head to do it, sir. It must be my enemy that
did it himself. They say he had only just insured it. Then they
said it was mother and I that did it, and that we had threatened
him. It is true I once did go for him, my heart couldn't stand it
"Can this be true?"
"God is my witness it is true. Oh, sir, be so good--" and
Nekhludoff had some difficulty to prevent him from bowing down to
the ground. "You see I am perishing without any reason." His face
quivered and he turned up the sleeve of his cloak and began to
cry, wiping the tears with the sleeve of his dirty shirt.
"Are you ready?" asked the assistant.
"Yes. Well, cheer up. We will consult a good lawyer, and will do
what we can," said Nekhludoff, and went out. Menshoff stood close
to the door, so that the jailer knocked him in shutting it, and
while the jailer was locking it he remained looking out through
the little hole.
VICTIMS OF GOVERNMENT.
Passing back along the broad corridor (it was dinner time, and
the cell doors were open), among the men dressed in their light
yellow cloaks, short, wide trousers, and prison shoes, who were
looking eagerly at him, Nekhludoff felt a strange mixture of
sympathy for them, and horror and perplexity at the conduct of
those who put and kept them here, and, besides, he felt, he knew
not why, ashamed of himself calmly examining it all.
In one of the corridors, some one ran, clattering with his shoes,
in at the door of a cell. Several men came out from here, and
stood in Nekhludoff's way, bowing to him.
"Please, your honour (we don't know what to call you), get our
affair settled somehow."
"I am not an official. I know nothing about it."
"Well, anyhow, you come from outside; tell somebody--one of the
authorities, if need be," said an indignant voice. "Show some
pity on us, as a human being. Here we are suffering the second
month for nothing."
"What do you mean? Why?" said Nekhludoff.
"Why? We ourselves don't know why, but are sitting here the
"Yes, it's quite true, and it is owing to an accident," said the
inspector. "These people were taken up because they had no
passports, and ought to have been sent back to their native
government; but the prison there is burnt, and the local
authorities have written, asking us not to send them on. So we
have sent all the other passportless people to their different
governments, but are keeping these."
"What! For no other reason than that?" Nekhludoff exclaimed,
stopping at the door.
A crowd of about forty men, all dressed in prison clothes,
surrounded him and the assistant, and several began talking at
once. The assistant stopped them.
"Let some one of you speak."
A tall, good-looking peasant, a stone-mason, of about fifty,
stepped out from the rest. He told Nekhludoff that all of them
had been ordered back to their homes and were now being kept in
prison because they had no passports, yet they had passports
which were only a fortnight overdue. The same thing had happened
every year; they had many times omitted to renew their passports
till they were overdue, and nobody had ever said anything; but
this year they had been taken up and were being kept in prison
the second month, as if they were criminals.
"We are all masons, and belong to the same artel. We are told
that the prison in our government is burnt, but this is not our
fault. Do help us."
Nekhludoff listened, but hardly understood what the good-looking
old man was saying, because his attention was riveted to a large,
dark-grey, many-legged louse that was creeping along the
good-looking man's cheek.
"How's that? Is it possible for such a reason?" Nekhludoff said,
turning to the assistant.
"Yes, they should have been sent off and taken back to their
homes," calmly said the assistant, "but they seem to have been
forgotten or something."
Before the assistant had finished, a small, nervous man, also in
prison dress, came out of the crowd, and, strangely contorting
his mouth, began to say that they were being ill-used for
"Worse than dogs," he began.
"Now, now; not too much of this. Hold your tongue, or you know--"
"What do I know?" screamed the little man, desperately. "What is
"Silence!" shouted the assistant, and the little man was silent.
"But what is the meaning of all this?" Nekhludoff thought to
himself as he came out of the cell, while a hundred eyes were
fixed upon him through the openings of the cell doors and from
the prisoners that met him, making him feel as if he were running
"Is it really possible that perfectly innocent people are kept
here?" Nekhludoff uttered when they left the corridor.
"What would you have us do? They lie so. To hear them talk they
are all of them innocent," said the inspector's assistant. "But
it does happen that some are really imprisoned for nothing."
"Well, these have done nothing."
"Yes, we must admit it. Still, the people are fearfully spoilt.
There are such types--desperate fellows, with whom one has to
look sharp. To-day two of that sort had to be punished."
"Flogged with a birch-rod, by order."
"But corporal punishment is abolished."
"Not for such as are deprived of their rights. They are still
liable to it."
Nekhludoff thought of what he had seen the day before while
waiting in the hall, and now understood that the punishment was
then being inflicted, and the mixed feeling of curiosity,
depression, perplexity, and moral nausea, that grew into physical
sickness, took hold of him more strongly than ever before.
Without listening to the inspector's assistant, or looking round,
he hurriedly left the corridor, and went to the office. The
inspector was in the office, occupied with other business, and
had forgotten to send for Doukhova. He only remembered his
promise to have her called when Nekhludoff entered the office.
"Sit down, please. I'll send for her at once," said the
PRISONERS AND FRIENDS.
The office consisted of two rooms. The first room, with a large,
dilapidated stove and two dirty windows, had a black measure for
measuring the prisoners in one corner, and in another corner hung
a large image of Christ, as is usual in places where they torture
people. In this room stood several jailers. In the next room sat
about twenty persons, men and women in groups and in pairs,
talking in low voices. There was a writing table by the window.
The inspector sat down by the table, and offered Nekhludoff a
chair beside him. Nekhludoff sat down, and looked at the people
in the room.
The first who drew his attention was a young man with a pleasant
face, dressed in a short jacket, standing in front of a
middle-aged woman with dark eyebrows, and he was eagerly telling
her something and gesticulating with his hands. Beside them sat
an old man, with blue spectacles, holding the hand of a young
woman in prisoner's clothes, who was telling him something. A
schoolboy, with a fixed, frightened look on his face, was gazing
at the old man. In one corner sat a pair of lovers. She was quite
young and pretty, and had short, fair hair, looked energetic, and
was elegantly dressed; he had fine features, wavy hair, and wore
a rubber jacket. They sat in their corner and seemed stupefied
with love. Nearest to the table sat a grey-haired woman dressed
in black, evidently the mother of a young, consumptive-looking
fellow, in the same kind of jacket. Her head lay on his shoulder.
She was trying to say something, but the tears prevented her from
speaking; she began several times, but had to stop. The young man
held a paper in his hand, and, apparently not knowing what to do,
kept folding and pressing it with an angry look on his face.
Beside them was a short-haired, stout, rosy girl, with very
prominent eyes, dressed in a grey dress and a cape; she sat
beside the weeping mother, tenderly stroking her. Everything
about this girl was beautiful; her large, white hands, her short,
wavy hair, her firm nose and lips, but the chief charm of her
face lay in her kind, truthful hazel eyes. The beautiful eyes
turned away from the mother for a moment when Nekhludoff came in,
and met his look. But she turned back at once and said something
to the mother.
Not far from the lovers a dark, dishevelled man, with a gloomy
face, sat angrily talking to a beardless visitor, who looked as
if he belonged to the Scoptsy sect.
At the very door stood a young man in a rubber jacket, who seemed
more concerned about the impression he produced on the onlooker
than about what he was saying. Nekhludoff, sitting by the
inspector's side, looked round with strained curiosity. A little
boy with closely-cropped hair came up to him and addressed him in
a thin little voice.
"And whom are you waiting for?"
Nekhludoff was surprised at the question, but looking at the boy,
and seeing the serious little face with its bright, attentive
eyes fixed on him, answered him seriously that he was waiting for
a woman of his acquaintance.
"Is she, then, your sister?" the boy asked.
"No, not my sister," Nekhludoff answered in surprise.
"And with whom are you here?" he inquired of the boy.
"I? With mamma; she is a political one," he replied.
"Mary Pavlovna, take Kolia!" said the inspector, evidently
considering Nekhludoff's conversation with the boy illegal.
Mary Pavlovna, the beautiful girl who had attracted Nekhludoff's
attention, rose tall and erect, and with firm, almost manly
steps, approached Nekhludoff and the boy.
"What is he asking you? Who you are?" she inquired with a slight
smile, and looking straight into his face with a trustful look in
her kind, prominent eyes, and as simply as if there could be no
doubt whatever that she was and must be on sisterly terms with
"He likes to know everything," she said, looking at the boy with
so sweet and kind a smile that both the boy and Nekhludoff were
obliged to smile back.
"He was asking me whom I have come to see."
"Mary Pavlovna, it is against the rules to speak to strangers.
You know it is," said the inspector.
"All right, all right," she said, and went back to the
consumptive lad's mother, holding Kolia's little hand in her
large, white one, while he continued gazing up into her face.
"Whose is this little boy?" Nekhludoff asked of the inspector.
"His mother is a political prisoner, and he was born in prison,"
said the inspector, in a pleased tone, as if glad to point out
how exceptional his establishment was.
"Is it possible?"
"Yes, and now he is going to Siberia with her."
"And that young girl?"
"I cannot answer your question," said the inspector, shrugging
his shoulders. "Besides, here is Doukhova."
VERA DOUKHOVA EXPLAINS.
Through a door, at the back of the room, entered, with a
wriggling gait, the thin, yellow Vera Doukhova, with her large,
"Thanks for having come," she said, pressing Nekhludoff's hand.
"Do you remember me? Let us sit down."
"I did not expect to see you like this."
"Oh, I am very happy. It is so delightful, so delightful, that I
desire nothing better," said Vera Doukhova, with the usual
expression of fright in the large, kind, round eyes fixed on
Nekhludoff, and twisting the terribly thin, sinewy neck,
surrounded by the shabby, crumpled, dirty collar of her bodice.
Nekhludoff asked her how she came to be in prison.
In answer she began relating all about her affairs with great
animation. Her speech was intermingled with a great many long
words, such as propaganda, disorganisation, social groups,
sections and sub-sections, about which she seemed to think
everybody knew, but which Nekhludoff had never heard of.
She told him all the secrets of the Nardovolstvo, [literally,
"People's Freedom," a revolutionary movement] evidently
convinced that he was pleased to hear them. Nekhludoff looked at
her miserable little neck, her thin, unkempt hair, and wondered
why she had been doing all these strange things, and why she was
now telling all this to him. He pitied her, but not as he had
pitied Menshoff, the peasant, kept for no fault of his own in the
stinking prison. She was pitiable because of the confusion that
filled her mind. It was clear that she considered herself a
heroine, and was ready to give her life for a cause, though she
could hardly have explained what that cause was and in what its
success would lie.
The business that Vera Doukhova wanted to see Nekhludoff about
was the following: A friend of hers, who had not even belonged to
their "sub-group," as she expressed it, had been arrested with
her about five months before, and imprisoned in the
Petropavlovsky fortress because some prohibited books and papers
(which she had been asked to keep) had been found in her
possession. Vera Doukhova felt herself in some measure to blame
for her friend's arrest, and implored Nekhludoff, who had
connections among influential people, to do all he could in order
to set this friend free.
Besides this, Doukhova asked him to try and get permission for
another friend of hers, Gourkevitch (who was also imprisoned in
the Petropavlovsky fortress), to see his parents, and to procure
some scientific books which he required for his studies.
Nekhludoff promised to do what he could when he went to
As to her own story, this is what she said: Having finished a
course of midwifery, she became connected with a group of
adherents to the Nardovolstvo, and made up her mind to agitate in
the revolutionary movement. At first all went on smoothly. She
wrote proclamations and occupied herself with propaganda work in
the factories; then, an important member having been arrested,
their papers were seized and all concerned were arrested. "I was
also arrested, and shall be exiled. But what does it matter? I
feel perfectly happy." She concluded her story with a piteous
Nekhludoff made some inquiries concerning the girl with the
prominent eyes. Vera Doukhova told him that this girl was the
daughter of a general, and had been long attached to the
revolutionary party, and was arrested because she had pleaded
guilty to having shot a gendarme. She lived in a house with some
conspirators, where they had a secret printing press. One night,
when the police came to search this house, the occupiers resolved
to defend themselves, put out the light, and began destroying the
things that might incriminate them. The police forced their way
in, and one of the conspirators fired, and mortally wounded a
gendarme. When an inquiry was instituted, this girl said that it
was she who had fired, although she had never had a revolver in
her hands, and would not have hurt a fly. And she kept to it, and
was now condemned to penal servitude in Siberia.
"An altruistic, fine character," said Vera Doukhova, approvingly.
The third business that Vera Doukhova wanted to talk about
concerned Maslova. She knew, as everybody does know in prison,
the story of Maslova's life and his connection with her, and
advised him to take steps to get her removed into the political
prisoner's ward, or into the hospital to help to nurse the sick,
of which there were very many at that time, so that extra nurses
Nekhludoff thanked her for the advice, and said he would try to
act upon it.
NEKHLUDOFF AND THE PRISONERS.
Their conversation was interrupted by the inspector, who said
that the time was up, and the prisoners and their friends must
part. Nekhludoff took leave of Vera Doukhova and went to the
door, where he stopped to watch what was going on.
The inspector's order called forth only heightened animation
among the prisoners in the room, but no one seemed to think of
going. Some rose and continued to talk standing, some went on
talking without rising. A few began crying and taking leave of
each other. The mother and her consumptive son seemed especially
pathetic. The young fellow kept twisting his bit of paper and his
face seemed angry, so great were his efforts not to be infected
by his mother's emotion. The mother, hearing that it was time to
part, put her head on his shoulder and sobbed and sniffed aloud.
The girl with the prominent eyes--Nekhludoff could not help
watching her--was standing opposite the sobbing mother, and was
saying something to her in a soothing tone. The old man with the
blue spectacles stood holding his daughter's hand and nodding in
answer to what she said. The young lovers rose, and, holding each
other's hands, looked silently into one another's eyes.
"These are the only two who are merry," said a young man with a
short coat who stood by Nekhludoff's side, also looking at those
who were about to part, and pointed to the lovers. Feeling
Nekhludoff's and the young man's eyes fixed on them, the lovers--
the young man with the rubber coat and the pretty girl--stretched
out their arms, and with their hands clasped in each other's,
danced round and round again. "To-night they are going to be
married here in prison, and she will follow him to Siberia," said
the young man.
"What is he?"
"A convict, condemned to penal servitude. Let those two at least
have a little joy, or else it is too painful," the young man
added, listening to the sobs of the consumptive lad's mother.
"Now, my good people! Please, please do not oblige me to have
recourse to severe measures," the inspector said, repeating the
same words several times over. "Do, please," he went on in a
weak, hesitating manner. "It is high time. What do you mean by
it? This sort of thing is quite impossible. I am now asking you
for the last time," he repeated wearily, now putting out his
cigarette and then lighting another.
It was evident that, artful, old, and common as were the devices
enabling men to do evil to others without feeling responsible for
it, the inspector could not but feel conscious that he was one of
those who were guilty of causing the sorrow which manifested
itself in this room. And it was apparent that this troubled him
sorely. At length the prisoners and their visitors began to
go--the first out of the inner, the latter out of the outer door.
The man with the rubber jacket passed out among them, and the
consumptive youth and the dishevelled man. Mary Pavlovna went out
with the boy born in prison.
The visitors went out too. The old man with the blue spectacles,
stepping heavily, went out, followed by Nekhludoff.
"Yes, a strange state of things this," said the talkative young
man, as if continuing an interrupted conversation, as he
descended the stairs side by side with Nekhludoff. "Yet we have
reason to be grateful to the inspector who does not keep strictly
to the rules, kind-hearted fellow. If they can get a talk it does
relieve their hearts a bit, after all!"
While talking to the young man, who introduced himself as
Medinzeff, Nekhludoff reached the hall. There the inspector came
up to them with weary step.
"If you wish to see Maslova," he said, apparently desiring to be
polite to Nekhludoff, "please come to-morrow."
"Very well," answered Nekhludoff, and hurried away, experiencing
more than ever that sensation of moral nausea which he always
felt on entering the prison.
The sufferings of the evidently innocent Menshoff seemed
terrible, and not so much his physical suffering as the
perplexity, the distrust in the good and in God which he must
feel, seeing the cruelty of the people who tormented him without
Terrible were the disgrace and sufferings cast on these hundreds
of guiltless people simply because something was not written on
paper as it should have been. Terrible were the brutalised
jailers, whose occupation is to torment their brothers, and who
were certain that they were fulfilling an important and useful
duty; but most terrible of all seemed this sickly, elderly,
kind-hearted inspector, who was obliged to part mother and son,
father and daughter, who were just the same sort of people as he
and his own children.
"What is it all for?" Nekhludoff asked himself, and could not
find an answer.
THE VICE-GOVERNOR'S "AT-HOME".
The next day Nekhludoff went to see the advocate, and spoke to
him about the Menshoffs' case, begging him to undertake their
defence. The advocate promised to look into the case, and if it
turned out to be as Nekhludoff said he would in all probability
undertake the defence free of charge. Then Nekhludoff told him of
the 130 men who were kept in prison owing to a mistake. "On whom
did it depend? Whose fault was it?"
The advocate was silent for a moment, evidently anxious to give a
"Whose fault is it? No one's," he said, decidedly. "Ask the
Procureur, he'll say it is the Governor's; ask the Governor,
he'll say it is the Procureur's fault. No one is in fault."
"I am just going to see the Vice-Governor. I shall tell him."
"Oh, that's quite useless," said the advocate, with a smile. "He
is such a--he is not a relation or friend of yours?--such a
blockhead, if I may say so, and yet a crafty animal at the same
Nekhludoff remembered what Maslennikoff had said about the
advocate, and did not answer, but took leave and went on to
Maslennikoff's. He had to ask Maslennikoff two things: about
Maslova's removal to the prison hospital, and about the 130
passportless men innocently imprisoned. Though it was very hard
to petition a man whom he did not respect, and by whose orders
men were flogged, yet it was the only means of gaining his end,
and he had to go through with it.
As he drove up to Maslennikoff's house Nekhludoff saw a number of
different carriages by the front door, and remembered that it was
Maslennikoff's wife's "at-home" day, to which he had been
invited. At the moment Nekhludoff drove up there was a carriage
in front of the door, and a footman in livery, with a cockade in
his hat, was helping a lady down the doorstep. She was holding up
her train, and showing her thin ankles, black stockings, and
slippered feet. Among the carriages was a closed landau, which he
knew to be the Korchagins'.
The grey-haired, red-checked coachman took off his hat and bowed
in a respectful yet friendly manner to Nekhludoff, as to a
gentleman he knew well. Nekhludoff had not had time to inquire
for Maslennikoff, when the latter appeared on the carpeted
stairs, accompanying a very important guest not only to the first
landing but to the bottom of the stairs. This very important
visitor, a military man, was speaking in French about a lottery
for the benefit of children's homes that were to be founded in
the city, and expressed the opinion that this was a good
occupation for the ladies. "It amuses them, and the money comes."
_"Qu'elles s'amusent et que le bon dieu les benisse. M.
Nekhludoff!_ How d'you do? How is it one never sees you?" he
greeted Nekhludoff. "_Allez presenter vos devoirs a Madame._ And
the Korchagins are here et Nadine Bukshevden. _Toutes les jolies
femmes de la ville,_" said the important guest, slightly raising
his uniformed shoulders as he presented them to his own richly
liveried servant to have his military overcoat put on. "_Au
revoir, mon cher._" And he pressed Maslennikoff's hand.
"Now, come up; I am so glad," said Maslennikoff, grasping
Nekhludoff's hand. In spite of his corpulency Maslennikoff
hurried quickly up the stairs. He was in particularly good
spirits, owing to the attention paid him by the important
personage. Every such attention gave him the same sense of
delight as is felt by an affectionate dog when its master pats
it, strokes it, or scratches its ears. It wags its tail, cringes,
jumps about, presses its ears down, and madly rushes about in a
circle. Maslennikoff was ready to do the same. He did not notice
the serious expression on Nekhludoff's face, paid no heed to his
words, but pulled him irresistibly towards the drawing-room, so
that it was impossible for Nekhludoff not to follow. "Business
after wards. I shall do whatever you want," said Meslennikoff, as
he drew Nekhludoff through the dancing hall. "Announce Prince
Nekhludoff," he said to a footman, without stopping on his way.
The footman started off at a trot and passed them.
"_Vous n'avez qu' a ordonner._ But you must see my wife. As it is,
I got it for letting you go without seeing her last time."
By the time they reached the drawing-room the footman had already
announced Nekhludoff, and from between the bonnets and heads that
surrounded it the smiling face of Anna Ignatievna, the
Vice-Governor's wife, beamed on Nekhludoff. At the other end of
the drawing-room several ladies were seated round the tea-table,
and some military men and some civilians stood near them. The
clatter of male and female voices went on unceasingly.
"Enfin! you seem to have quite forgotten us. How have we
offended?" With these words, intended to convey an idea of
intimacy which had never existed between herself and Nekhludoff,
Anna Ignatievna greeted the newcomer.
"You are acquainted?--Madam Tilyaevsky, M. Chernoff. Sit down a
bit nearer. Missy _vene donc a notre table on vous apportera votre_
the . . . And you," she said, having evidently forgotten his
name, to an officer who was talking to Missy, "do come here. A
cup of tea, Prince?"
"I shall never, never agree with you. It's quite simple; she did
not love," a woman's voice was heard saying.
"But she loved tarts."
"Oh, your eternal silly jokes!" put in, laughingly, another lady
resplendent in silks, gold, and jewels.
"C'est excellent these little biscuits, and so light. I think
I'll take another."
"Well, are you moving soon?"
"Yes, this is our last day. That's why we have come. Yes, it must
be lovely in the country; we are having a delightful spring."
Missy, with her hat on, in a dark-striped dress of some kind that
fitted her like a skin, was looking very handsome. She blushed
when she saw Nekhludoff.
"And I thought you had left," she said to him.
"I am on the point of leaving. Business is keeping me in town,
and it is on business I have come here."
"Won't you come to see mamma? She would like to see you," she
said, and knowing that she was saying what was not true, and that
he knew it also, she blushed still more.
"I fear I shall scarcely have time," Nekhludoff said gloomily,
trying to appear as if he had not noticed her blush. Missy
frowned angrily, shrugged her shoulders, and turned towards an
elegant officer, who grasped the empty cup she was holding, and
knocking his sword against the chairs, manfully carried the cup
across to another table.
"You must contribute towards the Home fund."
"I am not refusing, but only wish to keep my bounty fresh for the
lottery. There I shall let it appear in all its glory."
"Well, look out for yourself," said a voice, followed by an
evidently feigned laugh.
Anna Ignatievna was in raptures; her "at-home" had turned out a
brilliant success. "Micky tells me you are busying yourself with
prison work. I can understand you so well," she said to
Nekhludoff. "Micky (she meant her fat husband, Maslennikoff) may
have other defects, but you know how kind-hearted he is. All
these miserable prisoners are his children. He does not regard
them in any other light. _Il est d'une bonte---_" and she stopped,
finding no words to do justice to this bonte of his, and quickly
turned to a shrivelled old woman with bows of lilac ribbon all
over, who came in just then.
Having said as much as was absolutely necessary, and with as
little meaning as conventionality required, Nekhludoff rose and
went up to Meslennikoff. "Can you give me a few minutes' hearing,
"Oh, yes. Well, what is it?"
"Let us come in here."
They entered a small Japanese sitting-room, and sat down by the
THE VICE-GOVERNOR SUSPICIOUS.
"Well? _Je suis a vous_. Will you smoke? But wait a bit; we must be
careful and not make a mess here," said Maslennikoff, and brought
an ashpan. "Well?"
"There are two matters I wish to ask you about."
An expression of gloom and dejection came over Maslennikoff's
countenance, and every trace of the excitement, like that of the
dog's whom its master has scratched behind the cars, vanished
completely. The sound of voices reached them from the drawing-
room. A woman's voice was heard, saying, _"Jamais je ne croirais,"_
and a man's voice from the other side relating something in which
the names of la Comtesse Voronzoff and Victor Apraksine kept
recurring. A hum of voices, mixed with laughter, came from
another side. Maslennikoff tried to listen to what was going on
in the drawing-room and to what Nekhludoff was saying at the same
"I am again come about that same woman," said Nekhludoff.
"Oh, yes; I know. The one innocently condemned."
"I would like to ask that she should be appointed to serve in the
prison hospital. I have been told that this could be arranged."
Maslennikoff compressed his lips and meditated. "That will be
scarcely possible," he said. "However, I shall see what can be
done, and shall wire you an answer tomorrow."
"I have been told that there were many sick, and help was
"All right, all right. I shall let you know in any case."
"Please do," said Nekhludoff.
The sound of a general and even a natural laugh came from the
"That's all that Victor. He is wonderfully sharp when he is in
the right vein," said Maslennikoff.
"The next thing I wanted to tell you," said Nekhludoff, "is that
130 persons are imprisoned only because their passports are
overdue. They have been kept here a month."
And he related the circumstances of the case.
"How have you come to know of this?" said Maslennikoff, looking
uneasy and dissatisfied.
"I went to see a prisoner, and these men came and surrounded me
in the corridor, and asked . . ."
"What prisoner did you go to see?"
"A peasant who is kept in prison, though innocent. I have put his
case into the hands of a lawyer. But that is not the point."
"Is it possible that people who have done no wrong are imprisoned
only because their passports are overdue? And . . ."
"That's the Procureur's business," Maslennikoff interrupted,
angrily. "There, now, you see what it is you call a prompt and
just form of trial. It is the business of the Public Prosecutor
to visit the prison and to find out if the prisoners are kept
there lawfully. But that set play cards; that's all they do."
"Am I to understand that you can do nothing?" Nekhludoff said,
despondently, remembering that the advocate had foretold that the
Governor would put the blame on the Procureur.
"Oh, yes, I can. I shall see about it at once."
"So much the worse for her. _C'est un souffre douleur_," came the
voice of a woman, evidently indifferent to what she was saying,
from the drawing-room.
"So much the better. I shall take it also," a man's voice was
heard to say from the other side, followed by the playful
laughter of a woman, who was apparently trying to prevent the man
from taking something away from her.
"No, no; not on any account," the woman's voice said.
"All right, then. I shall do all this," Maslennikoff repeated,
and put out the cigarette he held in his white, turquoise-ringed
hand. "And now let us join the ladies."
"Wait a moment," Nekhludoff said, stopping at the door of the
drawing-room. "I was told that some men had received corporal
punishment in the prison yesterday. Is this true?"
"Oh, that's what you are after? No, mon cher, decidedly it won't
do to let you in there; you want to get at everything. Come,
come; Anna is calling us," he said, catching Nekhludoff by the
arm, and again becoming as excited as after the attention paid
him by the important person, only now his excitement was not
joyful, but anxious.
Nekhludoff pulled his arm away, and without taking leave of any
one and without saying a word, he passed through the drawing-room
with a dejected look, went down into the hall, past the footman,
who sprang towards him, and out at the street door.
"What is the matter with him? What have you done to him?" asked
Anna of her husband.
"This is _a la Francaise_," remarked some one.
"_A la Francaise_, indeed--it is _a la Zoulou_."
"Oh, but he's always been like that."
Some one rose, some one came in, and the clatter went on its
course. The company used this episode with Nekhludoff as a
convenient topic of conversation for the rest of the "at-home."
On the day following his visit to Maslennikoff, Nekhludoff
received a letter from him, written in a fine, firm hand, on
thick, glazed paper, with a coat-of-arms, and sealed with
sealing-wax. Maslennikoff said that he had written to the doctor
concerning Maslova's removal to the hospital, and hoped
Nekhludoff's wish would receive attention. The letter was signed,
"Your affectionate elder comrade," and the signature ended with a
large, firm, and artistic flourish. "Fool!" Nekhludoff could not
refrain from saying, especially because in the word "comrade" he
felt Maslennikoff's condescension towards him, i.e., while
Maslennikoff was filling this position, morally most dirty and
shameful, he still thought himself a very important man, and
wished, if not exactly to flatter Nekhludoff, at least to show
that he was not too proud to call him comrade.
NEKHLUDOFF'S THIRD INTERVIEW WITH MASLOVA IN PRISON.
One of the most widespread superstitions is that every man has
his own special, definite qualities; that a man is kind, cruel,
wise, stupid, energetic, apathetic, etc. Men are not like that.
We may say of a man that he is more often kind than cruel,
oftener wise than stupid, oftener energetic than apathetic, or
the reverse; but it would be false to say of one man that he is
kind and wise, of another that he is wicked and foolish. And yet
we always classify mankind in this way. And this is untrue. Men
are like rivers: the water is the same in each, and alike in all;
but every river is narrow here, is more rapid there, here slower,
there broader, now clear, now cold, now dull, now warm. It is the
same with men. Every man carries in himself the germs of every
human quality, and sometimes one manifests itself, sometimes
another, and the man often becomes unlike himself, while still
remaining the same man, In some people these changes are very
rapid, and Nekhludoff was such a man. These changes in him were
due to physical and to spiritual causes. At this time he
experienced such a change.
That feeling of triumph and joy at the renewal of life which he
had experienced after the trial and after the first interview
with Katusha, vanished completely, and after the last interview
fear and revulsion took the place of that joy. He was determined
not to leave her, and not to change his decision of marrying her,
if she wished it; but it seemed very hard, and made him suffer.
On the day after his visit to Maslennikoff, he again went to the
prison to see her.
The inspector allowed him to speak to her, only not in the
advocate's room nor in the office, but in the women's
visiting-room. In spite of his kindness, the inspector was more
reserved with Nekhludoff than hitherto.
An order for greater caution had apparently been sent, as a
result of his conversation with Meslennikoff.
"You may see her," the inspector said; "but please remember what
I said as regards money. And as to her removal to the hospital,
that his excellency wrote to me about, it can be done; the doctor
would agree. Only she herself does not wish it. She says, 'Much
need have I to carry out the slops for the scurvy beggars.' You
don't know what these people are, Prince," he added.
Nekhludoff did not reply, but asked to have the interview. The
inspector called a jailer, whom Nekhludoff followed into the
women's visiting-room, where there was no one but Maslova
waiting. She came from behind the grating, quiet and timid, close
up to him, and said, without looking at him:
"Forgive me, Dmitri Ivanovitch, I spoke hastily the day before
"It is not for me to forgive you," Nekhludoff began.
"But all the same, you must leave me," she interrupted, and in
the terribly squinting eyes with which she looked at him
Nekhludoff read the former strained, angry expression.
"Why should I leave you?"
"But why so?"
She again looked up, as it seemed to him, with the same angry
"Well, then, thus it is," she said. "You must leave me. It is
true what I am saying. I cannot. You just give it up altogether."
Her lips trembled and she was silent for a moment. "It is true.
I'd rather hang myself."
Nekhludoff felt that in this refusal there was hatred and
unforgiving resentment, but there was also something besides,
something good. This confirmation of the refusal in cold blood at
once quenched all the doubts in Nekhludoff's bosom, and brought
back the serious, triumphant emotion he had felt in relation to
"Katusha, what I have said I will again repeat," he uttered, very
seriously. "I ask you to marry me. If you do not wish it, and for
as long as you do not wish it, I shall only continue to follow
you, and shall go where you are taken."
"That is your business. I shall not say anything more," she
answered, and her lips began to tremble again.
He, too, was silent, feeling unable to speak.
"I shall now go to the country, and then to Petersburg," he said,
when he was quieter again. "I shall do my utmost to get your---
our case, I mean, reconsidered, and by the help of God the
sentence may be revoked."
"And if it is not revoked, never mind. I have deserved it, if not
in this case, in other ways," she said, and he saw how difficult
it was for her to keep down her tears.
"Well, have you seen Menshoff?" she suddenly asked, to hide her
emotion. "It's true they are innocent, isn't it?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Such a splendid old woman," she said.
There was another pause.
"Well, and as to the hospital?" she suddenly said, and looking at
him with her squinting eyes. "If you like, I will go, and I shall
not drink any spirits, either."
Nekhludoff looked into her eyes. They were smiling.
"Yes, yes, she is quite a different being," Nekhludoff thought.
After all his former doubts, he now felt something he had never
before experienced--the certainty that love is invincible.
When Maslova returned to her noisome cell after this interview,
she took off her cloak and sat down in her place on the shelf
bedstead with her hands folded on her lap. In the cell were only
the consumptive woman, the Vladimir woman with her baby,
Menshoff's old mother, and the watchman's wife. The deacon's
daughter had the day before been declared mentally diseased and
removed to the hospital. The rest of the women were away, washing
clothes. The old woman was asleep, the cell door stood open, and
the watchman's children were in the corridor outside. The
Vladimir woman, with her baby in her arms, and the watchman's
wife, with the stocking she was knitting with deft fingers, came
up to Maslova. "Well, have you had a chat?" they asked. Maslova
sat silent on the high bedstead, swinging her legs, which did not
reach to the floor.
"What's the good of snivelling?" said the watchman's wife. "The
chief thing's not to go down into the dumps. Eh, Katusha? Now,
then!" and she went on, quickly moving her fingers.
Maslova did not answer.
"And our women have all gone to wash," said the Vladimir woman.
"I heard them say much has been given in alms to-day. Quite a lot
has been brought."
"Finashka," called out the watchman's wife, "where's the little
imp gone to?"
She took a knitting needle, stuck it through both the ball and
the stocking, and went out into the corridor.
At this moment the sound of women's voices was heard from the
corridor, and the inmates of the cell entered, with their prison
shoes, but no stockings on their feet. Each was carrying a roll,
some even two. Theodosia came at once up to Maslova.
"What's the matter; is anything wrong?" Theodosia asked, looking
lovingly at Maslova with her clear, blue eyes. "This is for our
tea," and she put the rolls on a shelf.
"Why, surely he has not changed his mind about marrying?" asked
"No, he has not, but I don't wish to," said Maslova, "and so I
"More fool you!" muttered Korableva in her deep tones.
"If one's not to live together, what's the use of marrying?" said
"There's your husband--he's going with you," said the watchman's
"Well, of course, we're married," said Theodosia. "But why should
he go through the ceremony if he is not to live with her?"
"Why, indeed! Don't be a fool! You know if he marries her she'll
roll in wealth," said Korableva.
"He says, 'Wherever they take you, I'll follow,'" said Maslova.
"If he does, it's well; if he does not, well also. I am not going
to ask him to. Now he is going to try and arrange the matter in
Petersburg. He is related to all the Ministers there. But, all
the same, I have no need of him," she continued.
"Of course not," suddenly agreed Korableva, evidently thinking
about something else as she sat examining her bag. "Well, shall
we have a drop?"
"You have some," replied Maslova. "I won't."
END OF BOOK I.
PROPERTY IN LAND.
It was possible for Maslova's case to come before the Senate in a
fortnight, at which time Nekhludoff meant to go to Petersburg,
and, if need be, to appeal to the Emperor (as the advocate who
had drawn up the petition advised) should the appeal be
disregarded (and, according to the advocate, it was best to be
prepared for that, since the causes for appeal were so slight).
The party of convicts, among whom was Maslova, would very likely
leave in the beginning of June. In order to be able to follow her
to Siberia, as Nekhludoff was firmly resolved to do, he was now
obliged to visit his estates, and settle matters there.
Nekhludoff first went to the nearest, Kousminski, a large estate
that lay in the black earth district, and from which he derived
the greatest part of his income.
He had lived on that estate in his childhood and youth, and had
been there twice since, and once, at his mother's request, he had
taken a German steward there, and had with him verified the
accounts. The state of things there and the peasants' relations
to the management, i.e., the landlord, had therefore been long
known to him. The relations of the peasants to the administration
were those of utter dependence on that management. Nekhludoff
knew all this when still a university student, he had confessed
and preached Henry Georgeism, and, on the basis of that teaching,
had given the land inherited from his father to the peasants. It
is true that after entering the army, when he got into the habit
of spending 20,000 roubles a year, those former occupations
ceased to be regarded as a duty, and were forgotten, and he not
only left off asking himself where the money his mother allowed
him came from, but even avoided thinking about it. But his
mother's death, the coming into the property, and the necessity
of managing it, again raised the question as to what his position
in reference to private property in land was. A month before
Nekhludoff would have answered that he had not the strength to
alter the existing order of things; that it was not he who was
administering the estate; and would one way or another have eased
his conscience, continuing to live far from his estates, and
having the money sent him. But now he decided that he could not
leave things to go on as they were, but would have to alter them
in a way unprofitable to himself, even though he had all these
complicated and difficult relations with the prison world which
made money necessary, as well as a probable journey to Siberia
before him. Therefore he decided not to farm the land, but to let
it to the peasants at a low rent, to enable them to cultivate it
without depending on a landlord. More than once, when comparing
the position of a landowner with that of an owner of serfs,
Nekhludoff had compared the renting of land to the peasants
instead of cultivating it with hired labour, to the old system by
which serf proprietors used to exact a money payment from their
serfs in place of labour. It was not a solution of the problem,
and yet a step towards the solution; it was a movement towards a
less rude form of slavery. And it was in this way he meant to
Nekhludoff reached Kousminski about noon. Trying to simplify his
life in every way, he did not telegraph, but hired a cart and
pair at the station. The driver was a young fellow in a nankeen
coat, with a belt below his long waist. He was glad to talk to
the gentleman, especially because while they were talking his
broken-winded white horse and the emaciated spavined one could go
at a foot-pace, which they always liked to do.
The driver spoke about the steward at Kousminski without knowing
that he was driving "the master." Nekhludoff had purposely not
told him who he was.
"That ostentatious German," said the driver (who had been to town
and read novels) as he sat sideways on the box, passing his hand
from the top to the bottom of his long whip, and trying to show
off his accomplishments--"that ostentatious German has procured
three light bays, and when he drives out with his lady---oh, my!
At Christmas he had a Christmas-tree in the big house. I drove
some of the visitors there. It had 'lectric lights; you could
not see the like of it in the whole of the government. What's it
to him, he has cribbed a heap of money. I heard say he has bought
Nekhludoff had imagined that he was quite indifferent to the way
the steward managed his estate, and what advantages the steward
derived from it. The words of the long-waisted driver, however,
were not pleasant to hear.
A dark cloud now and then covered the sun; the larks were soaring
above the fields of winter corn; the forests were already covered
with fresh young green; the meadows speckled with grazing cattle
and horses. The fields were being ploughed, and Nekhludoff
enjoyed the lovely day. But every now and then he had an
unpleasant feeling, and, when he asked himself what it was caused
by, he remembered what the driver had told him about the way the
German was managing Kousminski. When he got to his estate and set
to work this unpleasant feeling vanished.
Looking over the books in the office, and a talk with the
foreman, who naively pointed out the advantages to be derived
from the facts that the peasants had very little land of their
own and that it lay in the midst of the landlord's fields, made
Nekhludoff more than ever determined to leave off farming and to
let his land to the peasants.
From the office books and his talk with the foreman, Nekhludoff
found that two-thirds of the best of the cultivated land was
still being tilled with improved machinery by labourers receiving
fixed wages, while the other third was tilled by the peasants at
the rate of five roubles per desiatin [about two and
three-quarter acres]. So that the peasants had to plough each
desiatin three times, harrow it three times, sow and mow the
corn, make it into sheaves, and deliver it on the threshing
ground for five roubles, while the same amount of work done by
wage labour came to at least 10 roubles. Everything the peasants
got from the office they paid for in labour at a very high price.
They paid in labour for the use of the meadows, for wood, for
potato-stalks, and were nearly all of them in debt to the office.
Thus, for the land that lay beyond the cultivated fields, which
the peasants hired, four times the price that its value would
bring in if invested at five per cent was taken from the
Nekhludoff had known all this before, but he now saw it in a new
light, and wondered how he and others in his position could help
seeing how abnormal such conditions are. The steward's arguments
that if the land were let to the peasants the agricultural
implements would fetch next to nothing, as it would be impossible
to get even a quarter of their value for them, and that the
peasants would spoil the land, and how great a loser Nekhludoff
would be, only strengthened Nekhludoff in the opinion that he was
doing a good action in letting the land to the peasants and thus
depriving himself of a large part of his income. He decided to
settle this business now, at once, while he was there. The
reaping and selling of the corn he left for the steward to manage
in due season, and also the selling of the agricultural
implements and useless buildings. But he asked his steward to
call the peasants of the three neighbouring villages that lay in
the midst of his estate (Kousminski) to a meeting, at which he
would tell them of his intentions and arrange about the price at
which they were to rent the land.
With the pleasant sense of the firmness he had shown in the face
of the steward's arguments, and his readiness to make a
sacrifice, Nekhludoff left the office, thinking over the business
before him, and strolled round the house, through the neglected
flower-garden--this year the flowers were planted in front of the
steward's house--over the tennis ground, now overgrown with
dandelions, and along the lime-tree walk, where he used to smoke
his cigar, and where he had flirted with the pretty Kirimova, his
mother's visitor. Having briefly prepared in his mind the speech
he was going to make to the peasants, he again went in to the
steward, and, after tea, having once more arranged his thoughts,
he went into the room prepared for him in the big house, which
used to be a spare bedroom.
In this clean little room, with pictures of Venice on the walls,
and a mirror between the two windows, there stood a clean bed
with a spring mattress, and by the side of it a small table, with
a decanter of water, matches, and an extinguisher. On a table by
the looking-glass lay his open portmanteau, with his
dressing-case and some books in it; a Russian book, The
Investigation of the Laws of Criminality, and a German and an
English book on the same subject, which he meant to read while
travelling in the country. But it was too late to begin to-day,
and he began preparing to go to bed.
An old-fashioned inlaid mahogany arm-chair stood in the corner of
the room, and this chair, which Nekhludoff remembered standing in
his mother's bedroom, suddenly raised a perfectly unexpected
sensation in his soul. He was suddenly filled with regret at the
thought of the house that would tumble to ruin, and the garden
that would run wild, and the forest that would be cut down, and
all these farmyards, stables, sheds, machines, horses, cows which
he knew had cost so much effort, though not to himself, to
acquire and to keep. It had seemed easy to give up all this, but
now it was hard, not only to give this, but even to let the land
and lose half his income. And at once a consideration, which
proved that it was unreasonable to let the land to the peasants,
and thus to destroy his property, came to his service. "I must
not hold property in land. If I possess no property in land, I
cannot keep up the house and farm. And, besides, I am going to
Siberia, and shall not need either the house or the estate," said
one voice. "All this is so," said another voice, "but you are not
going to spend all your life in Siberia. You may marry, and have
children, and must hand the estate on to them in as good a
condition as you received it. There is a duty to the land, too.
To give up, to destroy everything is very easy; to acquire it
very difficult. Above all, you must consider your future life,
and what you will do with yourself, and you must dispose of your
property accordingly. And are you really firm in your resolve?
And then, are you really acting according to your conscience, or
are you acting in order to be admired of men?" Nekhludoff asked
himself all this, and had to acknowledge that he was influenced
by the thought of what people would say about him. And the more
he thought about it the more questions arose, and the more
unsolvable they seemed.
In hopes of ridding himself of these thoughts by failing asleep,
and solving them in the morning when his head would be fresh, he
lay down on his clean bed. But it was long before he could sleep.
Together with the fresh air and the moonlight, the croaking of
the frogs entered the room, mingling with the trills of a couple
of nightingales in the park and one close to the window in a bush
of lilacs in bloom. Listening to the nightingales and the frogs,
Nekhludoff remembered the inspector's daughter, and her music,
and the inspector; that reminded him of Maslova, and how her lips
trembled, like the croaking of the frogs, when she said, "You
must just leave it." Then the German steward began going down to
the frogs, and had to be held back, but he not only went down but
turned into Maslova, who began reproaching Nekhludoff, saying,
"You are a prince, and I am a convict." "No, I must not give in,"
thought Nekhludoff, waking up, and again asking himself, "Is what
I am doing right? I do not know, and no matter, no matter, I must
only fall asleep now." And he began himself to descend where he
had seen the inspector and Maslova climbing down to, and there it
EFFORTS AT LAND RESTORATION.
The next day Nekhludoff awoke at nine o'clock. The young office
clerk who attended on "the master" brought him his boots, shining
as they had never shone before, and some cold, beautifully clear
spring water, and informed him that the peasants were already
Nekhludoff jumped out of bed, and collected his thoughts. Not a
trace of yesterday's regret at giving up and thus destroying his
property remained now. He remembered this feeling of regret with
surprise; he was now looking forward with joy to the task before
him, and could not help being proud of it. He could see from the
window the old tennis ground, overgrown with dandelions, on which
the peasants were beginning to assemble. The frogs had not
croaked in vain the night before; the day was dull. There was no
wind; a soft warm rain had begun falling in the morning, and hung
in drops on leaves, twigs, and grass. Besides the smell of the
fresh vegetation, the smell of damp earth, asking for more rain,
entered in at the window. While dressing, Nekhludoff several
times looked out at the peasants gathered on the tennis ground.
One by one they came, took off their hats or caps to one another,
and took their places in a circle, leaning on their sticks. The
steward, a stout, muscular, strong young man, dressed in a short
pea-jacket, with a green stand-up collar, and enormous buttons,
came to say that all had assembled, but that they might wait
until Nekhludoff had finished his breakfast--tea and coffee,
whichever he pleased; both were ready.
"No, I think I had better go and see them at once," said
Nekhludoff, with an unexpected feeling of shyness and shame at
the thought of the conversation he was going to have with the
peasants. He was going to fulfil a wish of the peasants, the
fulfilment of which they did not even dare to hope for--to let
the land to them at a low price, i.e., to confer a great boon;
and yet he felt ashamed of something. When Nekhludoff came up to
the peasants, and the fair, the curly, the bald, the grey heads
were bared before him, he felt so confused that he could say
nothing. The rain continued to come down in small drops, that
remained on the hair, the beards, and the fluff of the men's
rough coats. The peasants looked at "the master," waiting for him
to speak, and he was so abashed that he could not speak. This
confused silence was broken by the sedate, self-assured German
steward, who considered himself a good judge of the Russian
peasant, and who spoke Russian remarkably well. This strong,
over-fed man, and Nekhludoff himself, presented a striking
contrast to the peasants, with their thin, wrinkled faces and the
shoulder blades protruding beneath their coarse coats.
"Here's the Prince wanting to do you a favor, and to let the land
to you; only you are not worthy of it," said the steward.
"How are we not worthy of it, Vasili Karlovitch? Don't we work
for you? We were well satisfied with the deceased lady--God have
mercy on her soul--and the young Prince will not desert us now.
Our thanks to him," said a redhaired, talkative peasant.
"Yes, that's why I have called you together. I should like to let
you have all the land, if you wish it."
The peasants said nothing, as if they did not understand or did
not believe it.
"Let's see. Let us have the land? What do you mean?" asked a
"To let it to you, that you might have the use of it, at a low
"A very agreeable thing," said an old man.
"If only the pay is such as we can afford," said another.
"There's no reason why we should not rent the land."
"We are accustomed to live by tilling the ground."
"And it's quieter for you, too, that way. You'll have to do
nothing but receive the rent. Only think of all the sin and worry
now!" several voices were heard saying.
"The sin is all on your side," the German remarked. "If only you
did your work, and were orderly."
"That's impossible for the likes of us," said a sharp-nosed old
man. "You say, 'Why do you let the horse get into the corn?' just
as if I let it in. Why, I was swinging my scythe, or something of
the kind, the livelong day, till the day seemed as long as a
year, and so I fell asleep while watching the herd of horses at
night, and it got into your oats, and now you're skinning me."
"And you should keep order."
"It's easy for you to talk about order, but it's more than our
strength will bear," answered a tall, dark, hairy middleaged man.
"Didn't I tell you to put up a fence?"
"You give us the wood to make it of," said a short, plain-
looking peasant. "I was going to put up a fence last year, and
you put me to feed vermin in prison for three months. That was
the end of that fence."
"What is it he is saying?" asked Nekhludoff, turning to the
"Der ersto Dieb im Dorfe," [The greatest thief in the village]
answered the steward in German. "He is caught stealing wood from
the forest every year." Then turning to the peasant, he added,
"You must learn to respect other people's property."
"Why, don't we respect you?" said an old man. "We are obliged to
respect you. Why, you could twist us into a rope; we are in your
"Eh, my friend, it's impossible to do you. It's you who are ever
ready to do us," said the steward.
"Do you, indeed. Didn't you smash my jaw for me, and I got
nothing for it? No good going to law with the rich, it seems."
"You should keep to the law."
A tournament of words was apparently going on without those who
took part in it knowing exactly what it was all about; but it was
noticeable that there was bitterness on one side, restricted by
fear, and on the other a consciousness of importance and power.
It was very trying to Nekhludoff to listen to all this, so he
returned to the question of arranging the amount and the terms
of the rent.
"Well, then, how about the land? Do you wish to take it, and what
price will you pay if I let you have the whole of it?"
"The property is yours: it is for you to fix the price."
Nekhludoff named the price. Though it was far below that paid in
the neighbourhood, the peasants declared it too high, and began
bargaining, as is customary among them. Nekhludoff thought his
offer would be accepted with pleasure, but no signs of pleasure
One thing only showed Nekhludoff that his offer was a profitable
one to the peasants. The question as to who would rent the land,
the whole commune or a special society, was put, and a violent
dispute arose among those peasants who were in favour of
excluding the weak and those not likely to pay the rent
regularly, and the peasants who would have to be excluded on that
score. At last, thanks to the steward, the amount and the terms
of the rent were fixed, and the peasants went down the hill
towards their villages, talking noisily, while Nekhludoff and the
steward went into the office to make up the agreement. Everything
was settled in the way Nekhludoff wished and expected it to be.
The peasants had their land 30 per cent. cheaper than they could
have got it anywhere in the district, the revenue from the land
was diminished by half, but was more than sufficient for
Nekhludoff, especially as there would be money coming in for a
forest he sold, as well as for the agricultural implements, which
would be sold, too. Everything seemed excellently arranged, yet
he felt ashamed of something. He could see that the peasants,
though they spoke words of thanks, were not satisfied, and had
expected something greater. So it turned out that he had deprived
himself of a great deal, and yet not done what the peasants had
The next day the agreement was signed, and accompanied by several
old peasants, who had been chosen as deputies, Nekhludoff went
out, got into the steward's elegant equipage (as the driver from
the station had called it), said "good-bye" to the peasants, who
stood shaking their heads in a dissatisfied and disappointed
manner, and drove off to the station. Nekhludoff was dissatisfied
with himself without knowing why, but all the time he felt sad
and ashamed of something.
From Kousminski Nekhludoff went to the estate he had inherited
from his aunts, the same where he first met Katusha. He meant to
arrange about the land there in the way he had done in
Kousminski. Besides this, he wished to find out all he could
about Katusha and her baby, and when and how it had died. He got
to Panovo early one morning, and the first thing that struck him
when he drove up was the look of decay and dilapidation that all
the buildings bore, especially the house itself. The iron roofs,
which had once been painted green, looked red with rust, and a
few sheets of iron were bent back, probably by a storm. Some of
the planks which covered the house from outside were torn away in
several places; these were easier to get by breaking the rusty
nails that held them. Both porches, but especially the side porch
he remembered so well, were rotten and broken; only the banister
remained. Some of the windows were boarded up, and the building
in which the foreman lived, the kitchen, the stables--all were
grey and decaying. Only the garden had not decayed, but had
grown, and was in full bloom; from over the fence the cherry,
apple, and plum trees looked like white clouds. The lilac bushes
that formed the hedge were in full bloom, as they had been when,
14 years ago, Nekhludoff had played gorelki with the 15-year-old
Katusha, and had fallen and got his hand stung by the nettles
behind one of those lilac bushes. The larch that his aunt Sophia
had planted near the house, which then was only a short stick,
had grown into a tree, the trunk of which would have made a beam,
and its branches were covered with soft yellow green needles as
with down. The river, now within its banks, rushed noisily over
the mill dam. The meadow the other side of the river was dotted
over by the peasants' mixed herds. The foreman, a student, who
had left the seminary without finishing the course, met
Nekhludoff in the yard, with a smile on his face, and, still
smiling, asked him to come into the office, and, as if promising
something exceptionally good by this smile, he went behind a
partition. For a moment some whispering was heard behind the
partition. The isvostchik who had driven Nekhludoff from the
station, drove away after receiving a tip, and all was silent.
Then a barefooted girl passed the window; she had on an
embroidered peasant blouse, and long earrings in her ears; then a
man walked past, clattering with his nailed boots on the trodden
Nekhludoff sat down by the little casement, and looked out into
the garden and listened. A soft, fresh spring breeze, smelling of
newly-dug earth, streamed in through the window, playing with the
hair on his damp forehead and the papers that lay on the
window-sill, which was all cut about with a knife.
"Tra-pa-trop, tra-pa-trop," comes a sound from the river, as the
women who were washing clothes there slapped them in regular
measure with their wooden bats, and the sound spread over the
glittering surface of the mill pond while the rhythmical sound of
the falling water came from the mill, and a frightened fly
suddenly flew loudly buzzing past his ear.
And all at once Nekhludoff remembered how, long ago, when he was
young and innocent, he had heard the women's wooden bats slapping
the wet clothes above the rhythmical sound from the mill, and in
the same way the spring breeze had blown about the hair on his
wet forehead and the papers on the window-sill, which was all cut
about with a knife, and just in the same way a fly had buzzed
loudly past his car.
It was not exactly that he remembered himself as a lad of 15, but
he seemed to feel himself the same as he was then, with the same
freshness and purity, and full of the same grand possibilities
for the future, and at the same time, as it happens in a dream,
he knew that all this could be no more, and he felt terribly sad.
"At what time would you like something to eat?" asked the
foreman, with a smile.
"When you like; I am not hungry. I shall go for a walk through
"Would you not like to come into the house? Everything is in
order there. Have the goodness to look in. If the outside---"
"Not now; later on. Tell me, please, have you got a woman here
called Matrona Kharina?" (This was Katusha's aunt, the village
"Oh, yes; in the village she keeps a secret pot-house. I know she
does, and I accuse her of it and scold her; but as to taking her
up, it would be a pity. An old woman, you know; she has
grandchildren," said the foreman, continuing to smile in the same
manner, partly wishing to be pleasant to the master, and partly
because he was convinced that Nekhludoff understood all these
matters just as well as he did himself.
"Where does she live? I shall go across and see her."
"At the end of the village; the further side, the third from the
end. To the left there is a brick cottage, and her hut is beyond
that. But I'd better see you there," the foreman said with a
"No, thanks, I shall find it; and you be so good as to call a
meeting of the peasants, and tell them that I want to speak to
them about the land," said Nekhludoff, with the intention of
coming to the same agreement with the peasants here as he had
done in Kousminski, and, if possible, that same evening.
THE PEASANTS' LOT.
When Nekhludoff came out of the gate he met the girl with the
long earrings on the well-trodden path that lay across the
pasture ground, overgrown with dock and plantain leaves. She had
a long, brightly-coloured apron on, and was quickly swinging her
left arm in front of herself as she stepped briskly with her fat,
bare feet. With her right arm she was pressing a fowl to her
stomach. The fowl, with red comb shaking, seemed perfectly calm;
he only rolled up his eyes and stretched out and drew in one
black leg, clawing the girl's apron. When the girl came nearer to
"the master," she began moving more slowly, and her run changed
into a walk. When she came up to him she stopped, and, after a
backward jerk with her head, bowed to him; and only when he had
passed did she recommence to run homeward with the cock. As he
went down towards the well, he met an old woman, who had a coarse
dirty blouse on, carrying two pails full of water, that hung on a
yoke across her bent back. The old woman carefully put down the
pails and bowed, with the same backward jerk of her head.
After passing the well Nekhludoff entered the village. It was a
bright, hot day, and oppressive, though only ten o'clock. At
intervals the sun was hidden by the gathering clouds. An
unpleasant, sharp smell of manure filled the air in the street.
It came from carts going up the hillside, but chiefly from the
disturbed manure heaps in the yards of the huts, by the open
gates of which Nekhludoff had to pass. The peasants, barefooted,
their shirts and trousers soiled with manure, turned to look at
the tall, stout gentleman with the glossy silk ribbon on his grey
hat who was walking up the village street, touching the ground
every other step with a shiny, bright-knobbed walking-stick. The
peasants returning from the fields at a trot and jotting in their
empty carts, took off their hats, and, in their surprise,
followed with their eyes the extraordinary man who was walking up
their street. The women came out of the gates or stood in the
porches of their huts, pointing him out to each other and gazing
at him as he passed.
When Nekhludoff was passing the fourth gate, he was stopped by a
cart that was coming out, its wheels creaking, loaded high with
manure, which was pressed down, and was covered with a mat to sit
on. A six-year-old boy, excited by the prospect of a drive,
followed the cart. A young peasant, with shoes plaited out of
bark on his feet, led the horse out of the yard. A long-legged
colt jumped out of the gate; but, seeing Nekhludoff, pressed
close to the cart, and scraping its legs against the wheels,
jumped forward, past its excited, gently-neighing mother, as she
was dragging the heavy load through the gateway. The next horse
was led out by a barefooted old man, with protruding
shoulder-blades, in a dirty shirt and striped trousers.
When the horses got out on to the hard road, strewn over with
bits of dry, grey manure, the old man returned to the gate, and
bowed to Nekhludoff.
"You are our ladies' nephew, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am their nephew."
"You've kindly come to look us up, eh?" said the garrulous old
"Yes, I have. Well, how are you getting on?"
"How do we get on? We get on very badly," the old man drawled, as
if it gave him pleasure.
"Why so badly?" Nekhludoff asked, stepping inside the gate.
"What is our life but the very worst life?" said the old man,
following Nekhludoff into that part of the yard which was roofed
Nekhludoff stopped under the roof.
"I have got 12 of them there," continued the old man, pointing to
two women on the remainder of the manure heap, who stood
perspiring with forks in their hands, the kerchiefs tumbling off
their heads, with their skirts tucked up, showing the calves of
their dirty, bare legs. "Not a month passes but I have to buy six
poods [a pood is 36 English pounds] of corn, and where's the money to
"Have you not got enough corn of your own?"
"My own?" repeated the old man, with a smile of contempt; "why I
have only got land for three, and last year we had not enough to
last till Christmas."
"What do you do then?"
"What do we do? Why, I hire out as a labourer; and then I
borrowed some money from your honour. We spent it all before
Lent, and the tax is not paid yet."
"And how much is the tax?"
"Why, it's 17 roubles for my household. Oh, Lord, such a life!
One hardly knows one's self how one manages to live it."
"May I go into your hut?" asked Nekhludoff, stepping across the
yard over the yellow-brown layers of manure that had been raked
up by the forks, and were giving off a strong smell.
"Why not? Come in," said the old man, and stepping quickly with
his bare feet over the manure, the liquid oozing between his
toes, he passed Nekhludoff and opened the door of the hut.
The women arranged the kerchiefs on their heads and let down
their skirts, and stood looking with surprise at the clean
gentleman with gold studs to his sleeves who was entering their
house. Two little girls, with nothing on but coarse chemises,
rushed out of the hut. Nekhludoff took off his hat, and, stooping
to get through the low door, entered, through a passage into the
dirty, narrow hut, that smelt of sour food, and where much space
was taken up by two weaving looms. In the but an old woman was
standing by the stove, with the sleeves rolled up over her thin,
sinewy brown arms.
"Here is our master come to see us," said the old man.
"I'm sure he's very welcome," said the old woman, kindly.
"I would like to see how you live."
"Well, you see how we live. The hut is coming down, and might
kill one any day; but my old man he says it's good enough, and so
we live like kings," said the brisk old woman, nervously jerking
her head. "I'm getting the dinner; going to feed the workers."
"And what are you going to have for dinner?"
"Our food is very good. First course, bread and kvas; [kvas is a
kind of sour, non-intoxicant beer made of rye] second course,
kvas and bread," said the old woman, showing her teeth, which
were half worn away.
"No," seriously; "let me see what you are going to eat."
"To eat?" said the old man, laughing. "Ours is not a very cunning
meal. You just show him, wife."
"Want to see our peasant food? Well, you are an inquisitive
gentleman, now I come to look at you. He wants to know
everything. Did I not tell you bread and kvas and then we'll have
soup. A woman brought us some fish, and that's what the soup is
made of, and after that, potatoes."
"What more do you want? We'll also have a little milk," said the
old woman, looking towards the door. The door stood open, and the
passage outside was full of people--boys, girls, women with
babies--thronged together to look at the strange gentleman who
wanted to see the peasants' food. The old woman seemed to pride
herself on the way she behaved with a gentleman.
"Yes, it's a miserable life, ours; that goes without saying,
sir," said the old man. "What are you doing there?" he shouted to
those in the passage. "Well, good-bye," said Nekhludoff, feeling
ashamed and uneasy, though unable to account for the feeling.
"Thank you kindly for having looked us up," said the old man.
The people in the passage pressed closer together to let
Nekhludoff pass, and he went out and continued his way up the
Two barefooted boys followed him out of the passage the elder in
a shirt that had once been white, the other in a worn and faded
pink one. Nekhludoff looked back at them.
"And where are you going now?" asked the boy with the white
shirt. Nekhludoff answered: "To Matrona Kharina. Do you know
her?" The boy with the pink shirt began laughing at something;
but the elder asked, seriously:
"What Matrona is that? Is she old?"
"Yes, she is old."
"Oh--oh," he drawled; "that one; she's at the other end of the
village; we'll show you. Yes, Fedka, we'll go with him. Shall
"Yes, but the horses?"
"They'll be all right, I dare say."
Fedka agreed, and all three went up the street.
Nekhludoff felt more at case with the boys than with the grown-up
people, and he began talking to them as they went along. The
little one with the pink shirt stopped laughing, and spoke as
sensibly and as exactly as the elder one.
"Can you tell me who are the poorest people you have got here?"
"The poorest? Michael is poor, Simon Makhroff, and Martha, she is
"And Anisia, she is still poorer; she's not even got a cow. They
go begging," said little Fedka.
"She's not got a cow, but they are only three persons, and
Martha's family are five," objected the elder boy.
"But the other's a widow," the pink boy said, standing up for
"You say Anisia is a widow, and Martha is no better than a
widow," said the elder boy; "she's also no husband."
"And where is her husband?" Nekhludoff asked.
"Feeding vermin in prison," said the elder boy, using this
expression, common among the peasants.
"A year ago he cut down two birch trees in the land-lord's
forest," the little pink boy hurried to say, "so he was locked
up; now he's sitting the sixth month there, and the wife goes
begging. There are three children and a sick grandmother," he
went on with his detailed account.
"And where does she live?" Nekhludoff asked.
"In this very house," answered the boy, pointing to a hut, in
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