Count Leo Tolstoy
Part 6 out of 11
front of which, on the footpath along which Nekhludoff was
walking, a tiny, flaxen-headed infant stood balancing himself
with difficulty on his rickety legs.
"Vaska! Where's the little scamp got to?" shouted a woman, with a
dirty grey blouse, and a frightened look, as she ran out of the
house, and, rushing forward, seized the baby before Nekhludoff
came up to it, and carried it in, just as if she were afraid that
Nekhludoff would hurt her child.
This was the woman whose husband was imprisoned for Nekhludoff's
"Well, and this Matrona, is she also poor?" Nekhludoff asked, as
they came up to Matrona's house.
"She poor? No. Why, she sells spirits," the thin, pink little boy
When they reached the house Nekhludoff left the boys outside and
went through the passage into the hut. The hut was 14 feet long.
The bed that stood behind the big stove was not long enough for a
tall person to stretch out on. "And on this very bed," Nekhludoff
thought, "Katusha bore her baby and lay ill afterwards." The
greater part of the hut was taken up by a loom, on which the old
woman and her eldest granddaughter were arranging the warp when
Nekhludoff came in, striking his forehead against the low
doorway. Two other grandchildren came rushing in after
Nekhludoff, and stopped, holding on to the lintels of the door.
"Whom do you want?" asked the old woman, crossly. She was in a
bad temper because she could not manage to get the warp right,
and, besides, carrying on an illicit trade in spirits, she was
always afraid when any stranger came in.
"I am--the owner of the neighbouring estates, and should like to
speak to you."
"Dear me; why, it's you, my honey; and I, fool, thought it was
just some passer-by. Dear me, you--it's you, my precious," said
the old woman, with simulated tenderness in her voice.
"I should like to speak to you alone," said Nekhludoff, with a
glance towards the door, where the children were standing, and
behind them a woman holding a wasted, pale baby, with a sickly
smile on its face, who had a little cap made of different bits of
stuff on its head.
"What are you staring at? I'll give it you. Just hand me my
crutch," the old woman shouted to those at the door.
"Shut the door, will you!" The children went away, and the woman
closed the door.
"And I was thinking, who's that? And it's 'the master' himself.
My jewel, my treasure. Just think," said the old woman, "where he
has deigned to come. Sit down here, your honour," she said,
wiping the seat with her apron. "And I was thinking what devil is
it coming in, and it's your honour, 'the master' himself, the
good gentleman, our benefactor. Forgive me, old fool that I am;
I'm getting blind."
Nekhludoff sat down, and the old woman stood in front of him,
leaning her cheek on her right hand, while the left held up the
sharp elbow of her right arm.
"Dear me, you have grown old, your honour; and you used to be as
fresh as a daisy. And now! Cares also, I expect?"
"This is what I have come about: Do you remember Katusha
"Katerina? I should think so. Why, she is my niece. How could I
help remembering; and the tears I have shed because of her. Why,
I know all about it. Eh, sir, who has not sinned before God? who
has not offended against the Tsar? We know what youth is. You
used to be drinking tea and coffee, so the devil got hold of you.
He is strong at times. What's to be done? Now, if you had chucked
her; but no, just see how you rewarded her, gave her a hundred
roubles. And she? What has she done? Had she but listened to me
she might have lived all right. I must say the truth, though she
is my niece: that girl's no good. What a good place I found her!
She would not submit, but abused her master. Is it for the likes
of us to scold gentlefolk? Well, she was sent away. And then at
the forester's. She might have lived there; but no, she would
"I want to know about the child. She was confined at your house,
was she not? Where's the child?"
"As to the child, I considered that well at the time. She was so
bad I never thought she would get up again. Well, so I christened
the baby quite properly, and we sent it to the Foundlings'. Why
should one let an innocent soul languish when the mother is
dying? Others do like this: they just leave the baby, don't feed
it, and it wastes away. But, thinks I, no; I'd rather take some
trouble, and send it to the Foundlings'. There was money enough,
so I sent it off."
"Did you not get its registration number from the Foundlings'
"Yes, there was a number, but the baby died," she said. "It died
as soon as she brought it there."
"Who is she?"
"That same woman who used to live in Skorodno. She made a
business of it. Her name was Malania. She's dead now. She was a
wise woman. What do you think she used to do? They'd bring her a
baby, and she'd keep it and feed it; and she'd feed it until she
had enough of them to take to the Foundlings'. When she had three
or four, she'd take them all at once. She had such a clever
arrangement, a sort of big cradle--a double one she could put
them in one way or the other. It had a handle. So she'd put four
of them in, feet to feet and the heads apart, so that they should
not knock against each other. And so she took four at once. She'd
put some pap in a rag into their mouths to keep 'em silent, the
"Well, go on."
"Well, she took Katerina's baby in the same way, after keeping it
a fortnight, I believe. It was in her house it began to sicken."
"And was it a fine baby?" Nekhludoff asked.
"Such a baby, that if you wanted a finer you could not find one.
Your very image," the old woman added, with a wink.
"Why did it sicken? Was the food bad?"
"Eh, what food? Only just a pretence of food. Naturally, when
it's not one's own child. Only enough to get it there alive. She
said she just managed to get it to Moscow, and there it died. She
brought a certificate--all in order. She was such a wise woman."
That was all Nekhludoff could find out concerning his child.
REFLECTIONS OF A LANDLORD.
Again striking his head against both doors, Nekhludoff went out
into the street, where the pink and the white boys were waiting
for him. A few newcomers were standing with them. Among the
women, of whom several had babies in their arms, was the thin
woman with the baby who had the patchwork cap on its head. She
held lightly in her arms the bloodless infant, who kept strangely
smiling all over its wizened little face, and continually moving
its crooked thumbs.
Nekhludoff knew the smile to be one of suffering. He asked who
the woman was.
"It is that very Anisia I told you about," said the elder boy.
Nekhludoff turned to Anisia.
"How do you live?" he asked. "By what means do you gain your
"How do I live? I go begging," said Anisia, and began to cry.
Nekhludoff took out his pocket-book, and gave the woman a
10-rouble note. He had not had time to take two steps before
another woman with a baby caught him up, then an old woman, then
another young one. All of them spoke of their poverty, and asked
for help. Nekhludoff gave them the 60 roubles--all in small
notes--which he had with him, and, terribly sad at heart, turned
home, i.e., to the foreman's house.
The foreman met Nekhludoff with a smile, and informed him that
the peasants would come to the meeting in the evening. Nekhludoff
thanked him, and went straight into the garden to stroll along
the paths strewn over with the petals of apple-blossom and
overgrown with weeds, and to think over all he had seen.
At first all was quiet, but soon Nekhludoff heard from behind the
foreman's house two angry women's voices interrupting each other,
and now and then the voice of the ever-smiling foreman.
"My strength's at an end. What are you about, dragging the very
cross [those baptized in the Russo-Greek Church always wear a
cross round their necks] off my neck," said an angry woman's
"But she only got in for a moment," said another voice. "Give it
her back, I tell you. Why do you torment the beast, and the
children, too, who want their milk?"
"Pay, then, or work it off," said the foreman's voice.
Nekhludoff left the garden and entered the porch, near which
stood two dishevelled women--one of them pregnant and evidently
near her time. On one of the steps of the porch, with his hands
in the pockets of his holland coat, stood the foreman. When they
saw the master, the women were silent, and began arranging the
kerchiefs on their heads, and the foreman took his hands out of
his pockets and began to smile.
This is what had happened. From the foreman's words, it seemed
that the peasants were in the habit of letting their calves and
even their cows into the meadow belonging to the estate. Two cows
belonging to the families of these two women were found in the
meadow, and driven into the yard. The foreman demanded from the
women 30 copecks for each cow or two days' work. The women,
however, maintained that the cows had got into the meadow of
their own accord; that they had no money, and asked that the
cows, which had stood in the blazing sun since morning without
food, piteously lowing, should he returned to them, even if it
had to be on the understanding that the price should be worked
off later on.
"How often have I not begged of you," said the smiling foreman,
looking back at Nekhludoff as if calling upon him to be a
witness, "if you drive your cattle home at noon, that you should
have an eye on them?"
"I only ran to my little one for a bit, and they got away."
"Don't run away when you have undertaken to watch the cows."
"And who's to feed the little one? You'd not give him the breast,
I suppose?" said the other woman. "Now, if they had really
damaged the meadow, one would not take it so much to heart; but
they only strayed in a moment."
"All the meadows are damaged," the foreman said, turning to
Nekhludoff. "If I exact no penalty there will be no hay."
"There, now, don't go sinning like that; my cows have never been
caught there before," shouted the pregnant woman.
"Now that one has been caught, pay up or work it off."
"All right, I'll work it off; only let me have the cow now, don't
torture her with hunger," she cried, angrily. "As it is, I have
no rest day or night. Mother-in-law is ill, husband taken to
drink; I'm all alone to do all the work, and my strength's at an
end. I wish you'd choke, you and your working it off."
Nekhludoff asked the foreman to let the women take the cows, and
went back into the garden to go on thinking out his problem, but
there was nothing more to think about.
Everything seemed so clear to him now that he could not stop
wondering how it was that everybody did not see it, and that he
himself had for such a long while not seen what was so clearly
evident. The people were dying out, and had got used to the
dying-out process, and had formed habits of life adapted to this
process: there was the great mortality among the children, the
over-working of the women, the under-feeding, especially of the
aged. And so gradually had the people come to this condition that
they did not realise the full horrors of it, and did not
complain. Therefore, we consider their condition natural and as
it should be. Now it seemed as clear as daylight that the chief
cause of the people's great want was one that they themselves
knew and always pointed out, i.e., that the land which alone
could feed them had been taken from them by the landlords.
And how evident it was that the children and the aged died
because they had no milk, and they had no milk because there was
no pasture land, and no land to grow corn or make hay on. It was
quite evident that all the misery of the people or, at least by
far the greater part of it, was caused by the fact that the land
which should feed them was not in their hands, but in the hands
of those who, profiting by their rights to the land, live by the
work of these people. The land so much needed by men was tilled
by these people, who were on the verge of starvation, so that the
corn might be sold abroad and the owners of the land might buy
themselves hats and canes, and carriages and bronzes, etc. He
understood this as clearly as he understood that horses when they
have eaten all the grass in the inclosure where they are kept
will have to grow thin and starve unless they are put where they
can get food off other land.
This was terrible, and must not go on. Means must be found to
alter it, or at least not to take part in it. "And I will find
them," he thought, as he walked up and down the path under the
In scientific circles, Government institutions, and in the papers
we talk about the causes of the poverty among the people and the
means of ameliorating their condition; but we do not talk of the
only sure means which would certainly lighten their condition,
i.e., giving back to them the land they need so much.
Henry George's fundamental position recurred vividly to his mind
and how he had once been carried away by it, and he was surprised
that he could have forgotten it. The earth cannot be any one's
property; it cannot be bought or sold any more than water, air,
or sunshine. All have an equal right to the advantages it gives
to men. And now he knew why he had felt ashamed to remember the
transaction at Kousminski. He had been deceiving himself. He knew
that no man could have a right to own land, yet he had accepted
this right as his, and had given the peasants something which, in
the depth of his heart, he knew he had no right to. Now he would
not act in this way, and would alter the arrangement in
Kousminski also. And he formed a project in his mind to let the
land to the peasants, and to acknowledge the rent they paid for
it to be their property, to be kept to pay the taxes and for
communal uses. This was, of course, not the single-tax system,
still it was as near an approach to it as could be had under
existing circumstances. His chief consideration, however, was
that in this way he would no longer profit by the possession of
When he returned to the house the foreman, with a specially
pleasant smile, asked him if he would not have his dinner now,
expressing the fear that the feast his wife was preparing, with
the help of the girl with the earrings, might be overdone.
The table was covered with a coarse, unbleached cloth and an
embroidered towel was laid on it in lieu of a napkin. A
vieux-saxe soup tureen with a broken handle stood on the table,
full of potato soup, the stock made of the fowl that had put out
and drawn in his black leg, and was now cut, or rather chopped,
in pieces, which were here and there covered with hairs. After
the soup more of the same fowl with the hairs was served roasted,
and then curd pasties, very greasy, and with a great deal of
sugar. Little appetising as all this was, Nekhludoff hardly
noticed what he was eating; he was occupied with the thought
which had in a moment dispersed the sadness with which he had
returned from the village.
The foreman's wife kept looking in at the door, whilst the
frightened maid with the earrings brought in the dishes; and the
foreman smiled more and more joyfully, priding himself on his
wife's culinary skill. After dinner, Nekhludoff succeeded, with
some trouble, in making the foreman sit down. In order to revise
his own thoughts, and to express them to some one, he explained
his project of letting the land to the peasants, and asked the
foreman for his opinion. The foreman, smiling as if he had
thought all this himself long ago, and was very pleased to hear
it, did not really understand it at all. This was not because
Nekhludoff did not express himself clearly, but because according
to this project it turned out that Nekhludoff was giving up his
own profit for the profit of others, and the thought that every
one is only concerned about his own profit, to the harm of
others, was so deeply rooted in the foreman's conceptions that he
imagined he did not understand something when Nekhludoff said
that all the income from the land must be placed to form the
communal capital of the peasants.
"Oh, I see; then you, of course, will receive the percentages
from that capital," said the foreman, brightening up.
"Dear me! no. Don't you see, I am giving up the land altogether."
"But then you will not get any income," said the foreman, smiling
"Yes, I am going to give it up."
The foreman sighed heavily, and then began smiling again. Now he
understood. He understood that Nekhludoff was not quite normal,
and at once began to consider how he himself could profit by
Nekhludoff's project of giving up the land, and tried to see this
project in such a way that he might reap some advantage from it.
But when he saw that this was impossible he grew sorrowful, and
the project ceased to interest him, and he continued to smile
only in order to please the master.
Seeing that the foreman did not understand him, Nekhludoff let
him go and sat down by the window-sill, that was all cut about
and inked over, and began to put his project down on paper.
The sun went down behind the limes, that were covered with fresh
green, and the mosquitoes swarmed in, stinging Nekhludoff. Just
as he finished his notes, he heard the lowing of cattle and the
creaking of opening gates from the village, and the voices of the
peasants gathering together for the meeting. He told the foreman
not to call the peasants up to the office, as he meant to go into
the village himself and meet the men where they would assemble.
Having hurriedly drank a cup of tea offered him by the foreman,
Nekhludoff went to the village.
From the crowd assembled in front of the house of the village
elder came the sound of voices; but as soon as Nekhludoff came up
the talking ceased, and all the peasants took off their caps,
just as those in Kousminski had done. The peasants here were of a
much poorer class than those in Kousminski. The men wore shoes
made of bark and homespun shirts and coats. Some had come
straight from their work in their shirts and with bare feet.
Nekhludoff made an effort, and began his speech by telling the
peasants of his intention to give up his land to them altogether.
The peasants were silent, and the expression on their faces did
not undergo any change.
"Because I hold," said Nekhludoff, "and believe that every one
has a right to the use of the land."
"That's certain. That's so, exactly," said several voices.
Nekhludoff went on to say that the revenue from the land ought to
be divided among all, and that he would therefore suggest that
they should rent the land at a price fixed by themselves, the
rent to form a communal fund for their own use. Words of approval
and agreement were still to be heard, but the serious faces of
the peasants grew still more serious, and the eyes that had been
fixed on the gentleman dropped, as if they were unwilling to put
him to shame by letting him see that every one had understood his
trick, and that no one would be deceived by him.
Nekhludoff spoke clearly, and the peasants were intelligent, but
they did not and could not understand him, for the same reason
that the foreman had so long been unable to understand him.
They were fully convinced that it is natural for every man to
consider his own interest. The experience of many generations had
proved to them that the landlords always considered their own
interest to the detriment of the peasants. Therefore, if a
landlord called them to a meeting and made them some kind of a
new offer, it could evidently only be in order to swindle them
more cunningly than before.
"Well, then, what are you willing to rent the land at?" asked
"How can we fix a price? We cannot do it. The land is yours, and
the power is in your hands," answered some voices from among the
"Oh, not at all. You will yourselves have the use of the money
for communal purposes."
"We cannot do it; the commune is one thing, and this is another."
"Don't you understand?" said the foreman, with a smile (he had
followed Nekhludoff to the meeting), "the Prince is letting the
land to you for money, and is giving you the money back to form a
capital for the commune."
"We understand very well," said a cross, toothless old man,
without raising his eyes. "Something like a bank; we should have
to pay at a fixed time. We do not wish it; it is hard enough as
it is, and that would ruin us completely."
"That's no go. We prefer to go on the old way," began several
dissatisfied, and even rude, voices.
The refusals grew very vehement when Nekhludoff mentioned that he
would draw up an agreement which would have to be signed by him
and by them.
"Why sign? We shall go on working as we have done hitherto. What
is all this for? We are ignorant men."
"We can't agree, because this sort of thing is not what we have
been used to. As it was, so let it continue to be. Only the seeds
we should like to withdraw."
This meant that under the present arrangement the seeds had to be
provided by the peasants, and they wanted the landlord to provide
"Then am I to understand that you refuse to accept the land?"
Nekhludoff asked, addressing a middle-aged, barefooted peasant,
with a tattered coat, and a bright look on his face, who was
holding his worn cap with his left hand, in a peculiarly straight
position, in the same way soldiers hold theirs when commanded to
take them off.
"Just so," said this peasant, who had evidently not yet rid
himself of the military hypnotism he had been subjected to while
serving his time.
"It means that you have sufficient land," said Nekhludoff.
"No, sir, we have not," said the ex-soldier, with an artificially
pleased look, carefully holding his tattered cap in front of him,
as if offering it to any one who liked to make use of it.
"Well, anyhow, you'd better think over what I have said."
Nekhludoff spoke with surprise, and again repeated his offer.
"We have no need to think about it; as we have said, so it will
be," angrily muttered the morose, toothless old man.
"I shall remain here another day, and if you change your minds,
send to let me know."
The peasants gave no answer.
So Nekhludoff did not succeed in arriving at any result from this
"If I might make a remark, Prince," said the foreman, when they
got home, "you will never come to any agreement with them; they
are so obstinate. At a meeting these people just stick in one
place, and there is no moving them. It is because they are
frightened of everything. Why, these very peasants--say that
white-haired one, or the dark one, who were refusing, are
intelligent peasants. When one of them comes to the office and
one makes him sit down to cup of tea it's like in the Palace of
Wisdom--he is quite diplomatist," said the foreman, smiling; "he
will consider everything rightly. At a meeting it's a different
man--he keeps repeating one and the same . . ."
"Well, could not some of the more intelligent men he asked to
come here?" said Nekhludoff. "I would carefully explain it to
"That can he done," said the smiling foreman.
"Well, then, would you mind calling them here to-morrow?"
"Oh, certainly I will," said the foreman, and smiled still more
joyfully. "I shall call them to-morrow."
"Just hear him; he's not artful, not he," said a blackhaired
peasant, with an unkempt beard, as he sat jolting from side to
side on a well-fed mare, addressing an old man in a torn coat who
rode by his side. The two men were driving a herd of the
peasants' horses to graze in the night, alongside the highroad
and secretly, in the landlord's forest.
"Give you the land for nothing--you need only sign--have they not
done the likes of us often enough? No, my friend, none of your
humbug. Nowadays we have a little sense," he added, and began
shouting at a colt that had strayed.
He stopped his horse and looked round, but the colt had not
remained behind; it had gone into the meadow by the roadside.
"Bother that son of a Turk; he's taken to getting into the
landowner's meadows," said the dark peasant with the unkempt
beard, hearing the cracking of the sorrel stalks that the
neighing colt was galloping over as he came running back from the
"Do you hear the cracking? We'll have to send the women folk to
weed the meadow when there's a holiday," said the thin peasant
with the torn coat, "or else we'll blunt our scythes."
"Sign," he says. The unkempt man continued giving his opinion of
the landlord's speech. "'Sign,' indeed, and let him swallow you
"That's certain," answered the old man. And then they were
silent, and the tramping of the horses' feet along the highroad
was the only sound to be heard.
GOD'S PEACE IN THE HEART.
When Nekhludoff returned he found that the office had been
arranged as a bedroom for him. A high bedstead, with a feather
bed and two large pillows, had been placed in the room. The bed
was covered with a dark red doublebedded silk quilt, which was
elaborately and finely quilted, and very stiff. It evidently
belonged to the trousseau of the foreman's wife. The foreman
offered Nekhludoff the remains of the dinner, which the latter
refused, and, excusing himself for the poorness of the fare and
the accommodation, he left Nekhludoff alone.
The peasants' refusal did not at all bother Nekhludoff. On the
contrary, though at Kousminski his offer had been accepted and he
had even been thanked for it, and here he was met with suspicion
and even enmity, he felt contented and joyful.
It was close and dirty in the office. Nekhludoff went out into
the yard, and was going into the garden, but he remembered: that
night, the window of the maid-servant's room, the side porch, and
he felt uncomfortable, and did not like to pass the spot
desecrated by guilty memories. He sat down on the doorstep, and
breathing in the warm air, balmy with the strong scent of fresh
birch leaves, he sat for a long time looking into the dark garden
and listening to the mill, the nightingales, and some other bird
that whistled monotonously in the bush close by. The light
disappeared from the foreman's window; in the cast, behind the
barn, appeared the light of the rising moon, and sheet lightning
began to light up the dilapidated house, and the blooming,
over-grown garden more and more frequently. It began to thunder
in the distance, and a black cloud spread over one-third of the
sky. The nightingales and the other birds were silent. Above the
murmur of the water from the mill came the cackling of geese, and
then in the village and in the foreman's yard the first cocks
began to crow earlier than usual, as they do on warm, thundery
nights. There is a saying that if the cocks crow early the night
will be a merry one. For Nekhludoff the night was more than
merry; it was a happy, joyful night. Imagination renewed the
impressions of that happy summer which he had spent here as an
innocent lad, and he felt himself as he had been not only at that
but at all the best moments of his life. He not only remembered
but felt as he had felt when, at the age of 14, he prayed that
God would show him the truth; or when as a child he had wept on
his mother's lap, when parting from her, and promising to be
always good, and never give her pain; he felt as he did when he
and Nikolenka Irtenieff resolved always to support each other in
living a good life and to try to make everybody happy.
He remembered how he had been tempted in Kousminski, so that he
had begun to regret the house and the forest and the farm and the
land, and he asked himself if he regretted them now, and it even
seemed strange to think that he could regret them. He remembered
all he had seen to-day; the woman with the children, and without
her husband, who was in prison for having cut down trees in his
(Nekhludoff's) forest, and the terrible Matrona, who considered,
or at least talked as if she considered, that women of her
position must give themselves to the gentlefolk; he remembered
her relation to the babies, the way in which they were taken to
the Foundlings' Hospital, and the unfortunate, smiling, wizened
baby with the patchwork cap, dying of starvation. And then he
suddenly remembered the prison, the shaved heads, the cells, the
disgusting smells, the chains, and, by the side of it all, the
madly lavish city lift of the rich, himself included.
The bright moon, now almost full, rose above the barn. Dark
shadows fell across the yard, and the iron roof of the ruined
house shone bright. As if unwilling to waste this light, the
nightingales again began their trills.
Nekhludoff called to mind how he had begun to consider his life
in the garden of Kousminski when deciding what he was going to
do, and remembered how confused he had become, how he could not
arrive at any decision, how many difficulties each question had
presented. He asked himself these questions now, and was
surprised how simple it all was. It was simple because he was not
thinking now of what would be the results for himself, but only
thought of what he had to do. And, strange to say, what he had to
do for himself he could not decide, but what he had to do for
others he knew without any doubt. He had no doubt that he must
not leave Katusha, but go on helping her. He had no doubt that he
must study, investigate, clear up, understand all this business
concerning judgment and punishment, which he felt he saw
differently to other people. What would result from it all he did
not know, but he knew for certain that he must do it. And this
firm assurance gave him joy.
The black cloud had spread all over the sky; the lightning
flashed vividly across the yard and the old house with its
tumble-down porches, the thunder growled overhead. All the birds
were silent, but the leaves rustled and the wind reached the step
where Nekhludoff stood and played with his hair. One drop came
down, then another; then they came drumming on the dock leaves
and on the iron of the roof, and all the air was filled by a
bright flash, and before Nekhludoff could count three a fearful
crash sounded over head and spread pealing all over the sky.
Nekhludoff went in.
"Yes, yes," he thought. "The work that our life accomplishes, the
whole of this work, the meaning of it is not, nor can be,
intelligible to me. What were my aunts for? Why did Nikolenka
Irtenieff die? Why am I living? What was Katusha for? And my
madness? Why that war? Why my subsequent lawless life? To
understand it, to understand the whole of the Master's will is
not in my power. But to do His will, that is written down in my
conscience, is in my power; that I know for certain. And when I
am fulfilling it I have sureness and peace."
The rain came down in torrents and rushed from the roof into a
tub beneath; the lightning lit up the house and yard less
frequently. Nekhludoff went into his room, undressed, and lay
down, not without fear of the bugs, whose presence the dirty,
torn wall-papers made him suspect.
"Yes, to feel one's self not the master but a servant," he
thought, and rejoiced at the thought. His fears were not vain.
Hardly had he put out his candle when the vermin attacked and
stung him. "To give up the land and go to Siberia. Fleas, bugs,
dirt! Ah, well; if it must be borne, I shall bear it." But, in
spite of the best of intentions, he could not bear it, and sat
down by the open window and gazed with admiration at the
retreating clouds and the reappearing moon.
THE LAND SETTLEMENT.
It was morning before Nekhludoff could fall asleep, and therefore
he woke up late. At noon seven men, chosen from among the
peasants at the foreman's invitation, came into the orchard,
where the foreman had arranged a table and benches by digging
posts into the ground, and fixing boards on the top, under the
apple trees. It took some time before the peasants could be
persuaded to put on their caps and to sit down on the benches.
Especially firm was the ex-soldier, who to-day had bark shoes on.
He stood erect, holding his cap as they do at funerals, according
to military regulation. When one of them, a respectable-looking,
broad-shouldered old man, with a curly, grizzly beard like that
of Michael Angelo's "Moses," and grey hair that curled round the
brown, bald forehead, put on his big cap, and, wrapping his coat
round him, got in behind the table and sat down, the rest
followed his example. When all had taken their places Nekhludoff
sat down opposite them, and leaning on the table over the paper
on which he had drawn up his project, he began explaining it.
Whether it was that there were fewer present, or that he was
occupied with the business in hand and not with himself, anyhow,
this time Nekhludoff felt no confusion. He involuntarily
addressed the broad-shouldered old man with white ringlets in his
grizzly beard, expecting approbation or objections from him. But
Nekhludoff's conjecture was wrong. The respectable-looking old
patriarch, though he nodded his handsome head approvingly or
shook it, and frowned when the others raised an objection,
evidently understood with great difficulty, and only when the
others repeated what Nekhludoff had said in their own words. A
little, almost beardless old fellow, blind in one eye, who sat by
the side of the patriarch, and had a patched nankeen coat and old
boots on, and, as Nekhludoff found out later, was an
oven-builder, understood much better. This man moved his brows
quickly, attending to Nekhludoff's words with an effort, and at
once repeated them in his own way. An old, thick-set man with a
white beard and intelligent eyes understood as quickly, and took
every opportunity to put in an ironical joke, clearly wishing to
show off. The ex-soldier seemed also to understand matters, but
got mixed, being used to senseless soldiers' talk. A tall man
with a small beard, a long nose, and a bass voice, who wore
clean, home-made clothes and new bark-plaited shoes, seemed to be
the one most seriously interested. This man spoke only when there
was need of it. The two other old men, the same toothless one who
had shouted a distinct refusal at the meeting the day before to
every proposal of Nekhludoff's, and a tall, white lame old man
with a kind face, his thin legs tightly wrapped round with strips
of linen, said little, though they listened attentively. First of
all Nekhludoff explained his views in regard to personal property
in land. "The land, according to my idea, can neither he bought
nor sold, because if it could be, he who has got the money could
buy it all, and exact anything he liked for the use of the land
from those who have none."
"That's true," said the long-nosed man, in a deep bass.
"Just so," said the ex-soldier.
"A woman gathers a little grass for her cow; she's caught and
imprisoned," said the white-bearded old man.
"Our own land is five versts away, and as to renting any it's
impossible; the price is raised so high that it won't pay," added
the cross, toothless old man. "They twist us into ropes, worse
than during serfdom."
"I think as you do, and I count it a sin to possess land, so I
wish to give it away," said Nekhludoff.
"Well, that's a good thing," said the old man, with curls like
Angelo's "Moses," evidently thinking that Nekhludoff meant to let
"I have come here because I no longer wish to possess any land,
and now we must consider the best way of dividing it."
"Just give it to the peasants, that's all," said the cross,
toothless old man.
Nekhludoff was abashed for a moment, feeling a suspicion of his
not being honest in these words, but he instantly recovered, and
made use of the remark, in order to express what was in his mind,
"I should be glad to give it them," he said, "but to whom, and
how? To which of the peasants? Why, to your commune, and not to
that of Deminsk." (That was the name of a neighbouring village
with very little land.) All were silent. Then the ex-soldier
said, "Just so."
"Now, then, tell me how would you divide the land among the
peasants if you had to do it?" said Nekhludoff.
"We should divide it up equally, so much for every man," said the
oven-builder, quickly raising and lowering his brows.
"How else? Of course, so much per man," said the good natured
lame man with the white strips of linen round his legs.
Every one confirmed this statement, considering it satisfactory.
"So much per man? Then are the servants attached to the house
also to have a share?" Nekhludoff asked.
"Oh, no," said the ex-soldier, trying to appear bold and merry.
But the tall, reasonable man would not agree with him.
"If one is to divide, all must share alike," he said, in his deep
bass, after a little consideration.
"It can't be done," said Nekhludoff, who had already prepared his
reply. "If all are to share alike, then those who do not work
themselves--do not plough--will sell their shares to the rich.
The rich will again get at the land. Those who live by working
the land will multiply, and land will again be scarce. Then the
rich will again get those who need land into their power."
"Just so," quickly said the ex-soldier.
"Forbid to sell the land; let only him who ploughs it have it,"
angrily interrupted the oven-builder.
To this Nekhludoff replied that it was impossible to know who was
ploughing for himself and who for another.
The tall, reasonable man proposed that an arrangement be made so
that they should all plough communally, and those who ploughed
should get the produce and those who did not should get nothing.
To this communistic project Nekhludoff had also an answer ready.
He said that for such an arrangement it would be necessary that
all should have ploughs, and that all the horses should be alike,
so that none should be left behind, and that ploughs and horses
and all the implements would have to be communal property, and
that in order to get that, all the people would have to agree.
"Our people could not be made to agree in a lifetime," said the
cross old man.
"We should have regular fights," said the white-bearded old man
with the laughing eyes. "So that the thing is not as simple as it
looks," said Nekhludoff, "and this is a thing not only we but
many have been considering. There is an American, Henry George.
This is what he has thought out, and I agree with him."
"Why, you are the master, and you give it as you like. What's it
to you? The power is yours," said the cross old man.
This confused Nekhludoff, but he was pleased to see that not he
alone was dissatisfied with this interruption.
"You wait a bit, Uncle Simon; let him tell us about it," said the
reasonable man, in his imposing bass.
This emboldened Nekhludoff, and he began to explain Henry
George's single-tax system "The earth is no man's; it is God's,"
"Just so; that it is," several voices replied.
"The land is common to all. All have the same right to it, but
there is good land and bad land, and every one would like to take
the good land. How is one to do in order to get it justly
divided? In this way: he that will use the good land must pay
those who have got no land the value of the land he uses,"
Nekhludoff went on, answering his own question. "As it would be
difficult to say who should pay whom, and money is needed for
communal use, it should be arranged that he who uses the good
land should pay the amount of the value of his land to the
commune for its needs. Then every one would share equally. If you
want to use land pay for it--more for the good, less for the bad
land. If you do not wish to use land, don't pay anything, and
those who use the land will pay the taxes and the communal
expenses for you."
"Well, he had a head, this George," said the oven-builder, moving
his brows. "He who has good land must pay more."
"If only the payment is according to our strength," said the tall
man with the bass voice, evidently foreseeing how the matter
"The payment should be not too high and not too low. If it is too
high it will not get paid, and there will be a loss; and if it is
too low it will be bought and sold. There would be a trading in
land. This is what I wished to arrange among you here."
"That is just, that is right; yes, that would do," said the
"He has a head, this George," said the broad-shouldered old man
with the curls. "See what he has invented."
"Well, then, how would it be if I wished to take some land?"
asked the smiling foreman.
"If there is an allotment to spare, take it and work it," said
"What do you want it for? You have sufficient as it is," said the
old man with the laughing eyes.
With this the conference ended.
Nekhludoff repeated his offer, and advised the men to talk it
over with the rest of the commune and to return with the answer.
The peasants said they would talk it over and bring an answer,
and left in a state of excitement. Their loud talk was audible as
they went along the road, and up to late in the night the sound
of voices came along the river from the village.
The next day the peasants did not go to work, but spent it in
considering the landlord's offer. The commune was divided into
two parties--one which regarded the offer as a profitable one to
themselves and saw no danger in agreeing with it, and another
which suspected and feared the offer it did not understand. On
the third day, however, all agreed, and some were sent to
Nekhludoff to accept his offer. They were influenced in their
decision by the explanation some of the old men gave of the
landlord's conduct, which did away with all fear of deceit. They
thought the gentleman had begun to consider his soul, and was
acting as he did for its salvation. The alms which Nekhludoff had
given away while in Panovo made his explanation seem likely. The
fact that Nekhludoff had never before been face to face with such
great poverty and so bare a life as the peasants had come to in
this place, and was so appalled by it, made him give away money
in charity, though he knew that this was not reasonable. He could
not help giving the money, of which he now had a great deal,
having received a large sum for the forest he had sold the year
before, and also the hand money for the implements and stock in
Kousminski. As soon as it was known that the master was giving
money in charity, crowds of people, chiefly women, began to come
to ask him for help. He did not in the least know how to deal
with them, how to decide, how much, and whom to give to. He felt
that to refuse to give money, of which he had a great deal, to
poor people was impossible, yet to give casually to those who
asked was not wise. The last day he spent in Panovo, Nekhludoff
looked over the things left in his aunts' house, and in the
bottom drawer of the mahogany wardrobe, with the brass lions'
heads with rings through them, he found many letters, and amongst
them a photograph of a group, consisting of his aunts, Sophia
Ivanovna and Mary Ivanovna, a student, and Katusha. Of all the
things in the house he took only the letters and the photograph.
The rest he left to the miller who, at the smiling foreman's
recommendation, had bought the house and all it contained, to be
taken down and carried away, at one-tenth of the real value.
Recalling the feeling of regret at the loss of his property which
he had felt in Kousminski, Nekhludoff was surprised how he could
have felt this regret. Now he felt nothing but unceasing joy at
the deliverance, and a sensation of newness something like that
which a traveller must experience when discovering new countries.
NEKHLUDOFF RETURNS TO TOWN.
The town struck Nekhludoff in a new and peculiar light on his
return. He came back in the evening, when the gas was lit, and
drove from the railway station to his house, where the rooms
still smelt of naphthaline. Agraphena Petrovna and Corney were
both feeling tired and dissatisfied, and had even had a quarrel
over those things that seemed made only to be aired and packed
away. Nekhludoff's room was empty, but not in order, and the way
to it was blocked up with boxes, so that his arrival evidently
hindered the business which, owing to a curious kind of inertia,
was going on in this house. The evident folly of these
proceedings, in which he had once taken part, was so distasteful
to Nekhludoff after the impressions the misery of the life of the
peasants had made on him, that he decided to go to a hotel the
next day, leaving Agraphena Petrovna to put away the things as
she thought fit until his sister should come and finally dispose
of everything in the house.
Nekhludoff left home early and chose a couple of rooms in a very
modest and not particularly clean lodging-house within easy reach
of the prison, and, having given orders that some of his things
should be sent there, he went to see the advocate. It was cold
out of doors. After some rainy and stormy weather it had turned
out cold, as it often does in spring. It was so cold that
Nekhludoff felt quite chilly in his light overcoat, and walked
fast hoping to get warmer. His mind was filled with thoughts of
the peasants, the women, children, old men, and all the poverty
and weariness which he seemed to have seen for the first time,
especially the smiling, old-faced infant writhing with his
calfless little legs, and he could not help contrasting what was
going on in the town. Passing by the butchers', fishmongers', and
clothiers' shops, he was struck, as if he saw them for the first
time, by the appearance of the clean, well-fed shopkeepers, like
whom you could not find one peasant in the country. These men
were apparently convinced that the pains they took to deceive the
people who did not know much about their goods was not a useless
but rather an important business. The coachmen with their broad
hips and rows of buttons down their sides, and the door-keepers
with gold cords on their caps, the servant-girls with their
aprons and curly fringes, and especially the smart isvostchiks
with the nape of their necks clean shaved, as they sat lolling
back in their traps, and examined the passers-by with dissolute
and contemptuous air, looked well fed. In all these people
Nekhludoff could not now help seeing some of these very peasants
who had been driven into the town by lack of land. Some of the
peasants driven to the town had found means of profiting by the
conditions of town life and had become like the gentlefolk and
were pleased with their position; others were in a worse position
than they had been in the country and were more to be pitied than
the country people.
Such seemed the bootmakers Nekhludoff saw in the cellar, the
pale, dishevelled washerwomen with their thin, bare, arms ironing
at an open window, out of which streamed soapy steam; such the
two house-painters with their aprons, stockingless feet, all
bespattered and smeared with paint, whom Nekhludoff met--their
weak, brown arms bared to above the elbows--carrying a pailful of
paint, and quarrelling with each other. Their faces looked
haggard and cross. The dark faces of the carters jolting along in
their carts bore the same expression, and so did the faces of the
tattered men and women who stood begging at the street corners.
The same kind of faces were to be seen at the open, windows of
the eating-houses which Nekhludoff passed. By the dirty tables on
which stood tea things and bottles, and between which waiters
dressed in white shirts were rushing hither and thither, sat
shouting and singing red, perspiring men with stupefied faces.
One sat by the window with lifted brows and pouting lips and
fixed eyes as if trying to remember something.
"And why are they all gathered here?" Nekhludoff thought,
breathing in together with the dust which the cold wind blew
towards him the air filled with the smell of rank oil and fresh
In one street he met a row of carts loaded with something made of
iron, that rattled so on the uneven pavement that it made his
ears and head ache. He started walking still faster in order to
pass the row of carts, when he heard himself called by name. He
stopped and saw an officer with sharp pointed moustaches and
shining face who sat in the trap of a swell isvostchik and waved
his hand in a friendly manner, his smile disclosing unusually
long, white teeth.
"Nekhludoff! Can it be you?"
Nekhludoff's first feeling was one of pleasure. "Ah, Schonbock!"
he exclaimed joyfully; but he knew the next moment that there was
nothing to be joyful about.
This was that Schonbock who had been in the house of Nekhludoff's
aunts that day, and whom Nekhludoff had quite lost out of sight,
but about whom he had heard that in spite of his debts he had
somehow managed to remain in the cavalry, and by some means or
other still kept his place among the rich. His gay, contented
appearance corroborated this report.
"What a good thing that I have caught you. There is no one in
town. Ah, old fellow; you have grown old," he said, getting out
of the trap and moving his shoulders about. "I only knew you by
your walk. Look here, we must dine together. Is there any place
where they feed one decently?"
"I don't think I can spare the time," Nekhludoff answered,
thinking only of how he could best get rid of his companion
without hurting him.
"And what has brought you here?" he asked.
"Business, old fellow. Guardianship business. I am a guardian
now. I am managing Samanoff's affairs--the millionaire, you know.
He has softening of the brain, and he's got fifty-four thousand
desiatins of land," he said, with peculiar pride, as if he had
himself made all these desiatins. "The affairs were terribly
neglected. All the land was let to the peasants. They did not pay
anything. There were more than eighty thousand roubles debts. I
changed it all in one year, and have got 70 per cent. more out of
it. What do you think of that?" he asked proudly.
Nekhludoff remembered having heard that this Schonbock, just
because, he had spent all he had, had attained by some special
influence the post of guardian to a rich old man who was
squandering his property--and was now evidently living by this
"How am I to get rid of him without offending him?" thought
Nekhludoff, looking at this full, shiny face with the stiffened
moustache and listening to his friendly, good-humoured chatter
about where one gets fed best, and his bragging about his doings
as a guardian.
"Well, then, where do we dine?"
"Really, I have no time to spare," said Nekhludoff, glancing at
"Then, look here. To-night, at the races--will you be there?"
"No, I shall not be there."
"Do come. I have none of my own now, but I back Grisha's horses.
You remember; he has a fine stud. You'll come, won't you? And
we'll have some supper together."
"No, I cannot have supper with you either," said Nekhludoff with
"Well, that's too bad! And where are you off to now? Shall I give
you a lift?"
"I am going to see an advocate, close to here round the corner."
"Oh, yes, of course. You have got something to do with the
prisons--have turned into a prisoners' mediator, I hear," said
Schonbock, laughing. "The Korchagins told me. They have left town
already. What does it all mean? Tell me."
"Yes, yes, it is quite true," Nekhludoff answered; "but I cannot
tell you about it in the street."
"Of course; you always were a crank. But you will come to the
"No. I neither can nor wish to come. Please do not be angry with
"Angry? Dear me, no. Where do you live?" And suddenly his face
became serious, his eyes fixed, and he drew up his brows. He
seemed to be trying to remember something, and Nekhludoff noticed
the same dull expression as that of the man with the raised brows
and pouting lips whom he had seen at the window of the
"How cold it is! Is it not? Have you got the parcels?" said
Schonbock, turning to the isvostchik.
"All right. Good-bye. I am very glad indeed to have met you," and
warmly pressing Nekhludoff's hand, he jumped into the trap and
waved his white-gloved hand in front of his shiny face, with his
usual smile, showing his exceptionally white teeth.
"Can I have also been like that?" Nekhludoff thought, as he
continued his way to the advocate's. "Yes, I wished to be like
that, though I was not quite like it. And I thought of living my
life in that way."
AN ADVOCATE'S VIEWS ON JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS.
Nekhludoff was admitted by the advocate before his turn. The
advocate at once commenced to talk about the Menshoffs' case,
which he had read with indignation at the inconsistency of the
"This case is perfectly revolting," he said; "it is very likely
that the owner himself set fire to the building in order to get
the insurance money, and the chief thing is that there is no
evidence to prove the Menshoffs' guilt. There are no proofs
whatever. It is all owing to the special zeal of the examining
magistrate and the carelessness of the prosecutor. If they are
tried here, and not in a provincial court, I guarantee that they
will be acquitted, and I shall charge nothing. Now then, the next
case, that of Theodosia Birukoff. The appeal to the Emperor is
written. If you go to Petersburg, you'd better take it with you,
and hand it in yourself, with a request of your own, or else they
will only make a few inquiries, and nothing will come of it. You
must try and get at some of the influential members of the Appeal
"Well, is this all?"
"No; here I have a letter . . . I see you have turned into a
pipe--a spout through which all the complaints of the prison are
poured," said the advocate, with a smile. "It is too much; you'll
not be able to manage it."
"No, but this is a striking case," said Nekhludoff, and gave a
brief outline of the case of a peasant who began to read the
Gospels to the peasants in the village, and to discuss them with
his friends. The priests regarded this as a crime and informed
the authorities. The magistrate examined him and the public
prosecutor drew up an act of indictment, and the law courts
committed him for trial.
"This is really too terrible," Nekhludoff said. "Can it be true?"
"What are you surprised at?"
"Why, everything. I can understand the police-officer, who simply
obeys orders, but the prosecutor drawing up an act of that kind.
An educated man . . ."
"That is where the mistake lies, that we are in the habit of
considering that the prosecutors and the judges in general are
some kind of liberal persons. There was a time when they were
such, but now it is quite different. They are just officials,
only troubled about pay-day. They receive their salaries and want
them increased, and there their principles end. They will accuse,
judge, and sentence any one you like."
"Yes; but do laws really exist that can condemn a man to Siberia
for reading the Bible with his friends?"
"Not only to be exiled to the less remote parts of Siberia, but
even to the mines, if you can only prove that reading the Bible
they took the liberty of explaining it to others not according to
orders, and in this way condemned the explanations given by the
Church. Blaming the Greek orthodox religion in the presence of
the common people means, according to Statute . . . the mines."
"I assure you it is so. I always tell these gentlemen, the
judges," the advocate continued, "that I cannot look at them
without gratitude, because if I am not in prison, and you, and
all of us, it is only owing to their kindness. To deprive us of
our privileges, and send us all to the less remote parts of
Siberia, would be an easy thing for them."
"Well, if it is so, and if everything depends on the Procureur
and others who can, at will, either enforce the laws or not, what
are the trials for?"
The advocate burst into a merry laugh. "You do put strange
questions. My dear sir, that is philosophy. Well, we might have a
talk about that, too. Could you come on Saturday? You will meet
men of science, literary men, and artists at my house, and then
we might discuss these general questions," said the advocate,
pronouncing the words "general questions" with ironical pathos.
"You have met my wife? Do come."
"Thank you; I will try to," said Nekhludoff, and felt that he was
saying an untruth, and knew that if he tried to do anything it
would be to keep away froth the advocate's literary evening, and
the circle of the men of science, art, and literature.
The laugh with which the advocate met Nekhludoff's remark that
trials could have no meaning if the judges might enforce the laws
or not, according to their notion, and the tone with which he
pronounced the words "philosophy" and "general questions" proved
to Nekhludoff how very differently he and the advocate and,
probably, the advocate's friends, looked at things; and he felt
that in spite of the distance that now existed between himself
and his former companions, Schonbock, etc., the difference
between himself and the circle of the advocate and his friends
was still greater.
WHY THE PEASANTS FLOCK TO TOWN.
The prison was a long way off and it was getting late, so
Nekhludoff took an isvostchik. The isvostchik, a middle-aged man
with an intelligent and kind face, turned round towards
Nekhludoff as they were driving along one of the streets and
pointed to a huge house that was being built there.
"Just see what a tremendous house they have begun to build," he
said, as if he was partly responsible for the building of the
house and proud of it. The house was really immense and was being
built in a very original style. The strong pine beams of the
scaffolding were firmly fixed together with iron bands and a
plank wall separated the building from the street.
On the boards of the scaffolding workmen, all bespattered with
plaster, moved hither and thither like ants. Some were laying
bricks, some hewing stones, some carrying up the heavy hods and
pails and bringing them down empty. A fat and finely-dressed
gentleman--probably the architect--stood by the scaffolding,
pointing upward and explaining something to a contractor, a
peasant from the Vladimir Government, who was respectfully
listening to him. Empty carts were coming out of the gate by
which the architect and the contractor were standing, and loaded
ones were going in. "And how sure they all are--those that do the
work as well as those that make them do it--that it ought to be;
that while their wives at home, who are with child, are labouring
beyond their strength, and their children with the patchwork
caps, doomed soon to the cold grave, smile with suffering and
contort their little legs, they must be building this stupid and
useless palace for some stupid and useless person--one of those
who spoil and rob them," Nekhludoff thought, while looking at the
"Yes, it is a stupid house," he said, uttering his thought out
"Why stupid?" replied the isvostchik, in an offended tone.
"Thanks to it, the people get work; it's not stupid."
"But the work is useless."
"It can't be useless, or why should it be done?" said the
isvostchik. "The people get bread by it."
Nekhludoff was silent, and it would have been difficult to talk
because of the clatter the wheels made.
When they came nearer the prison, and the isvostchik turned off
the paved on to the macadamised road, it became easier to talk,
and he again turned to Nekhludoff.
"And what a lot of these people are flocking to the town
nowadays; it's awful," he said, turning round on the box and
pointing to a party of peasant workmen who were coming towards
them, carrying saws, axes, sheepskins, coats, and bags strapped
to their shoulders.
"More than in other years?" Nekhludoff asked.
"By far. This year every place is crowded, so that it's just
terrible. The employers just fling the workmen about like chaff.
Not a job to be got."
"Why is that?"
"They've increased. There's no room for them."
"Well, what if they have increased? Why do not they stay in the
"There's nothing for them to do in the village--no land to be
Nekhludoff felt as one does when touching a sore place. It feels
as if the bruised part was always being hit; yet it is only
because the place is sore that the touch is felt.
"Is it possible that the same thing is happening everywhere?" he
thought, and began questioning the isvostchik about the quantity
of land in his village, how much land the man himself had, and
why he had left the country.
"We have a desiatin per man, sir," he said. "Our family have
three men's shares of the land. My father and a brother are at
home, and manage the land, and another brother is serving in the
army. But there's nothing to manage. My brother has had thoughts
of coming to Moscow, too."
"And cannot land be rented?"
"How's one to rent it nowadays? The gentry, such as they were,
have squandered all theirs. Men of business have got it all into
their own hands. One can't rent it from them. They farm it
themselves. We have a Frenchman ruling in our place; he bought
the estate from our former landlord, and won't let it--and
there's an end of it."
"Who's that Frenchman?"
"Dufour is the Frenchman's name. Perhaps you've heard of him. He
makes wigs for the actors in the big theatre; it is a good
business, so he's prospering. He bought it from our lady, the
whole of the estate, and now he has us in his power; he just
rides on us as he pleases. The Lord be thanked, he is a good man
himself; only his wife, a Russian, is such a brute that--God have
mercy on us. She robs the people. It's awful. Well, here's the
prison. Am I to drive you to the entrance? I'm afraid they'll not
let us do it, though."
When he rang the bell at the front entrance Nekhludoff's heart
stood still with horror as he thought of the state he might find
Maslova in to-day, and at the mystery that he felt to be in her
and in the people that were collected in the prison. He asked the
jailer who opened the door for Maslova. After making the
necessary inquiry the jailer informed him that she was in the
hospital. Nekhludoff went there. A kindly old man, the hospital
doorkeeper, let him in at once and, after asking Nekhludoff whom
he wanted, directed him to the children's ward. A young doctor
saturated with carbolic acid met Nekhludoff in the passage and
asked him severely what he wanted. This doctor was always making
all sorts of concessions to the prisoners, and was therefore
continually coming into conflict with the prison authorities and
even with the head doctor. Fearing lest Nekhludoff should demand
something unlawful, and wishing to show that he made no
exceptions for any one, he pretended to be cross. "There are no
women here; it is the children's ward," he said.
"Yes, I know; but a prisoner has been removed here to be an
"Yes, there are two such here. Then whom do you want?"
"I am closely connected with one of them, named Maslova,"
Nekhludoff answered, "and should like to speak to her. I am going
to Petersburg to hand in an appeal to the Senate about her case
and should like to give her this. It is only a photo," Nekhludoff
said, taking an envelope out of his pocket.
"All right, you may do that," said the doctor, relenting, and
turning to an old woman with a white apron, he told her to call
the prisoner--Nurse Maslova.
"Will you take a seat, or go into the waiting-room?"
"Thanks," said Nekhludoff, and profiting by the favourable change
in the manner of the doctor towards him asked how they were
satisfied with Maslova in the hospital.
"Oh, she is all right. She works fairly well, if you the
conditions of her former life into account. But here she is."
The old nurse came in at one of the doors, followed by Maslova,
who wore a blue striped dress, a white apron, a kerchief that
quite covered her hair. When she saw Nekhludoff her face flushed,
and she stopped as if hesitating, then frowned, and with downcast
eyes went quickly towards him along the strip of carpet in the
middle of the passage. When she came up to Nekhludoff she did not
wish to give him her hand, and then gave it, growing redder
still. Nekhludoff had not seen her since the day when she begged
forgiveness for having been in a passion, and he expected to find
her the same as she was then. But to-day she quite different.
There was something new in the expression of her face, reserve
and shyness, and, as it seemed to him, animosity towards him. He
told her what he had already said to the doctor, i.e., that he
was going to Petersburg, and he handed her the envelope with the
photograph which he had brought from Panovo.
"I found this in Panovo--it's an old photo; perhaps you would like
it. Take it."
Lifting her dark eyebrows, she looked at him with surprise in her
squinting eyes, as if asking, "What is this for?" took the photo
silently and put it in the bib of her apron.
"I saw your aunt there," said Nekhludoff.
"Did you?" she said, indifferently.
"Are you all right here?" Nekhludoff asked.
"Oh, yes, it's all right," she said.
"Not too difficult?"
"Oh, no. But I am not used to it yet."
"I am glad, for your sake. Anyhow, it is better than there."
"Than where--there?" she asked, her face flushing again.
"There--in the prison," Nekhludoff hurriedly answered.
"Why better?" she asked.
"I think the people are better. Here are none such as there must
"There are many good ones there," she said.
"I have been seeing about the Menshoffs, and hope they will be
liberated," said Nekhludoff.
"God grant they may. Such a splendid old woman," she said, again
repeating her opinion of the old woman, and slightly smiling.
"I am going to Petersburg to-day. Your case will come on soon,
and I hope the sentence will be repealed."
"Whether it is repealed or not won't matter now," she said.
"Why not now?"
"So," she said, looking with a quick, questioning glance into his
Nekhludoff understood the word and the look to mean that she
wished to know whether he still kept firm to his decision or had
accepted her refusal.
"I do not know why it does not matter to you," he said. "It
certainly does not matter as far as I am concerned whether you
are acquitted or not. I am ready to do what I told you in any
case," he said decidedly.
She lifted her head and her black squinting eyes remained fixed
on him and beyond him, and her face beamed with joy. But the
words she spoke were very different from what her eyes said.
"You should not speak like that," she said.
"I am saying it so that you should know."
"Everything has been said about that, and there is no use
speaking," she said, with difficulty repressing a smile.
A sudden noise came from the hospital ward, and the sound of a
"I think they are calling me," she said, and looked round
"Well, good-bye, then," he said. She pretended not to see his
extended hand, and, without taking it, turned away and hastily
walked along the strip of carpet, trying to hide the triumph she
"What is going on in her? What is she thinking? What does she
feel? Does she mean to prove me, or can she really not forgive
me? Is it that she cannot or that she will not express what she
feels and thinks? Has she softened or hardened?" he asked
himself, and could find no answer. He only knew that she had
altered and that an important change was going on in her soul,
and this change united him not only to her but also to Him for
whose sake that change was being wrought. And this union brought
on a state of joyful animation and tenderness.
When she returned to the ward, in which there stood eight small
beds, Maslova began, in obedience to the nurse's order, to
arrange one of the beds; and, bending over too far with the
sheet, she slipped and nearly fell down.
A little convalescent boy with a bandaged neck, who was looking
at her, laughed. Maslova could no longer contain herself and
burst into loud laughter, and such contagious laughter that
several of the children also burst out laughing, and one of the
sisters rebuked her angrily.
"What are you giggling at? Do you think you are where you used to
be? Go and fetch the food." Maslova obeyed and went where she was
sent; but, catching the eye of the bandaged boy who was not
allowed to laugh, she again burst out laughing.
Whenever she was alone Maslova again and again pulled the
photograph partly out of the envelope and looked at it
admiringly; but only in the evening when she was off duty and
alone in the bedroom which she shared with a nurse, did she take
it quite out of the envelope and gaze long at the faded yellow
photograph, caressing with, her eyes every detail of faces and
clothing, the steps of the veranda, and the bushes which served
as a background to his and hers and his aunts' faces, and could
not cease from admiring especially herself--her pretty young face
with the curly hair round the forehead. She was so absorbed that
she did not hear her fellow-nurse come into the room.
"What is it that he's given you?" said the good-natured, fat
nurse, stooping over the photograph.
"Who's this? You?"
"Who else?" said Maslova, looking into her companion's face with
"And who's this?"
"And is this his mother?"
"No, his aunt. Would you not have known me?"
"Never. The whole face is altered. Why, it must be 10 years since
"Not years, but a lifetime," said Maslova. And suddenly her
animation went, her face grew gloomy, and a deep line appeared
between her brows.
"Why so? Your way of life must have been an easy one."
"Easy, indeed," Maslova reiterated, closing her eyes and shaking
her head. "It is hell."
"Why, what makes it so?"
"What makes it so! From eight till four in the morning, and every
night the same!"
"Then why don't they give it up?"
"They can't give it up if they want to. But what's the use of
talking?" Maslova said, jumping up and throwing the photograph
into the drawer of the table. And with difficulty repressing
angry tears, she ran out into the passage and slammed the door.
While looking at the group she imagined herself such as she was
there and dreamt of her happiness then and of the possibility of
happiness with him now. But her companion's words reminded her of
what she was now and what she had been, and brought back all the
horrors of that life, which she had felt but dimly, and not
allowed herself to realise.
It was only now that the memory of all those terrible nights came
vividly back to her, especially one during the carnival when she
was expecting a student who had promised to buy her out. She
remembered how she--wearing her low necked silk dress stained
with wine, a red bow in her untidy hair, wearied, weak, half
tipsy, having seen her visitors off, sat down during an interval
in the dancing by the piano beside the bony pianiste with the
blotchy face, who played the accompaniments to the violin, and
began complaining of her hard fate; and how this pianiste said
that she, too, was feeling how heavy her position was and would
like to change it; and how Clara suddenly came up to them; and
how they all three decided to change their life. They thought
that the night was over, and were about to go away, when suddenly
the noise of tipsy voices was herd in the ante-room. The
violinist played a tune and the pianiste began hammering the
first figure of a quadrille on the piano, to the tune of a most
merry Russian song. A small, perspiring man, smelling of spirits,
with a white tie and swallow-tail coat, which he took off after
the first figure, came up to her, hiccoughing, and caught her up,
while another fat man, with a beard, and also wearing a
dress-coat (they had come straight from a ball) caught Clara up,
and for a long time they turned, danced, screamed, drank. . . .
And so it went on for another year, and another, and a third. How
could she help changing? And he was the cause of it all. And,
suddenly, all her former bitterness against him reawoke; she
wished to scold, to reproach him. She regretted having neglected
the opportunity of repeating to him once more that she knew him,
and would not give in to him--would not let him make use of her
spiritually as he had done physically.
And she longed for drink in order to stifle the feeling of pity
to herself and the useless feeling of reproach to him. And she
would have broken her word if she had been inside the prison.
Here she could not get any spirits except by applying to the
medical assistant, and she was afraid of him because he made up
to her, and intimate relations with men were disgusting to her
now. After sitting a while on a form in the passage she returned
to her little room, and without paying any heed to her
companion's words, she wept for a long time over her wrecked
AN ARISTOCRATIC CIRCLE.
Nekhludoff had four matters to attend to in Petersburg. The first
was the appeal to the Senate in Maslova's case; the second, to
hand in Theodosia Birukoff's petition to the committee; the
third, to comply with Vera Doukhova's requests--i.e., try to get
her friend Shoustova released from prison, and get permission for
a mother to visit her son in prison. Vera Doukhova had written to
him about this, and he was going to the Gendarmerie Office to
attend to these two matters, which he counted as one.
The fourth matter he meant to attend to was the case of some
sectarians who had been separated from their families and exiled
to the Caucasus because they read and discussed the Gospels. It
was not so much to them as to himself he had promised to do all
he could to clear up this affair.
Since his last visit to Maslennikoff, and especially since he had
been in the country, Nekhludoff had not exactly formed a
resolution but felt with his whole nature a loathing for that
society in which he had lived till then, that society which so
carefully hides the sufferings of millions in order to assure
ease and pleasure to a small number of people, that the people
belonging to this society do not and cannot see these sufferings,
nor the cruelty and wickedness of their life. Nekhludoff could no
longer move in this society without feeling ill at ease and
reproaching himself. And yet all the ties of relationship and
friendship, and his own habits, were drawing him back into this
society. Besides, that which alone interested him now, his desire
to help Maslova and the other sufferers, made it necessary to ask
for help and service from persons belonging to that society,
persons whom he not only could not respect, but who often aroused
in him indignation and a feeling of contempt.
When he came to Petersburg and stopped at his aunt's--his
mother's sister, the Countess Tcharsky, wife of a former
minister--Nekhludoff at once found himself in the very midst of
that aristocratic circle which had grown so foreign to him. This
was very unpleasant, but there was no possibility of getting out
of it. To put up at an hotel instead of at his aunt's house would
have been to offend his aunt, and, besides, his aunt had
important connections and might be extremely useful in all these
matters he meant to attend to.
"What is this I hear about you? All sorts of marvels," said the
Countess Katerina Ivanovna Tcharsky, as she gave him his coffee
immediately after his arrival. "_Vous posez pour un Howard_.
Helping criminals, going the round of prisons, setting things
"Oh, no. I never thought of it."
"Why not? It is a good thing, only there seems to be some
romantic story connected with it. Let us hear all about it."
Nekhludoff told her the whole truth about his relations to
"Yes, yes, I remember your poor mother telling me about it. That
was when you were staying with those old women. I believe they
wished to marry you to their ward (the Countess Katerina Ivanovna
had always despised Nekhludoff's aunts on his father's side). So
it's she. _Elle est encore jolie?_"
Katerina Ivanovna was a strong, bright, energetic, talkative
woman of 60. She was tall and very stout, and had a decided black
moustache on her lip. Nekhludoff was fond of her and had even as
a child been infected by her energy and mirth.
"No, ma tante, that's at an end. I only wish to help her, because
she is innocently accused. I am the cause of it and the cause of
her fate being what it is. I feel it my duty to do all I can for
"But what is this I have heard about your intention of marrying
"Yes, it was my intention, but she does not wish it."
Katerina Ivanovna looked at her nephew with raised brows and
drooping eyeballs, in silent amazement. Suddenly her face
changed, and with a look of pleasure she said: "Well, she is
wiser than you. Dear me, you are a fool. And you would have
"After her having been what she was?"
"All the more, since I was the cause of it."
"Well, you are a simpleton," said his aunt, repressing a smile,
"a terrible simpleton; but it is just because you are such a
terrible simpleton that I love you." She repeated the word,
evidently liking it, as it seemed to correctly convey to her mind
the idea of her nephew's moral state. "Do you know--What a lucky
chance. Aline has a wonderful home--the Magdalene Home. I went
there once. They are terribly disgusting. After that I had to
pray continually. But Aline is devoted to it, body and soul, so
we shall place her there--yours, I mean."
"But she is condemned to Siberia. I have come on purpose to
appeal about it. This is one of my requests to you."
"Dear me, and where do you appeal to in this case?"
"To the Senate."
"Ah, the Senate! Yes, my dear Cousin Leo is in the Senate, but he
is in the heraldry department, and I don't know any of the real
ones. They are all some kind of Germans--Gay, Fay, Day--tout
l'alphabet, or else all sorts of Ivanoffs, Simenoffs, Nikitines,
or else Ivanenkos, Simonenkos, Nikitenkos, pour varier. Des gens
de l'autre monde. Well, it is all the same. I'll tell my husband,
he knows them. He knows all sorts of people. I'll tell him, but
you will have to explain, he never understands me. Whatever I may
say, he always maintains he does not understand it. C'est un
parti pris, every one understands but only not he."
At this moment a footman with stockinged legs came in with a note
on a silver platter.
"There now, from Aline herself. You'll have a chance of hearing
"Who is Kiesewetter?"
"Kiesewetter? Come this evening, and you will find out who he is.
He speaks in such a way that the most hardened criminals sink on
their knees and weep and repent."
The Countess Katerina Ivanovna, however strange it may seem, and
however little it seemed in keeping with the rest of her
character, was a staunch adherent to that teaching which holds
that the essence of Christianity lies in the belief in
redemption. She went to meetings where this teaching, then in
fashion, was being preached, and assembled the "faithful" in her
own house. Though this teaching repudiated all ceremonies, icons,
and sacraments, Katerina Ivanovna had icons in every room, and
one on the wall above her bed, and she kept all that the Church
prescribed without noticing any contradiction in that.
"There now; if your Magdalene could hear him she would be
converted," said the Countess. "Do stay at home to-night; you
will hear him. He is a wonderful man."
"It does not interest me, ma tante."
"But I tell you that it is interesting, and you must come home.
Now you may go. What else do you want of me? _Videz votre sac_."
"The next is in the fortress."
"In the fortress? I can give you a note for that to the Baron
Kriegsmuth. _Cest un tres brave homme_. Oh, but you know him; he
was a comrade of your father's. _Il donne dans le spiritisme_. But
that does not matter, he is a good fellow. What do you want
"I want to get leave for a mother to visit her son who is
imprisoned there. But I was told that this did not depend on
Kriegsmuth but on Tcherviansky."
"I do not like Tcherviansky, but he is Mariette's husband; we
might ask her. She will do it for me. _Elle est tres gentille_."
"I have also to petition for a woman who is imprisoned there
without knowing what for."
"No fear; she knows well enough. They all know it very well, and
it serves them right, those short-haired [many advanced women wear
their hair short, like men] ones."
"We do not know whether it serves them right or not. But they
suffer. You are a Christian and believe in the Gospel teaching
and yet you are so pitiless."
"That has nothing to do with it. The Gospels are the Gospels, but
what is disgusting remains disgusting. It would be worse if I
pretended to love Nihilists, especially short-haired women
Nihilists, when I cannot bear them."
"Why can you not bear them?"
"You ask why, after the 1st of March?" [The Emperor Alexander II
was killed on the first of March, old style.]
"They did not all take part in it on the 1st of March."
"Never mind; they should not meddle with what is no business of
theirs. It's not women's business."
"Yet you consider that Mariette may take part in business."
"Mariette? Mariette is Mariette, and these are goodness knows
what. Want to teach everybody."
"Not to teach but simply to help the people."
"One knows whom to help and whom not to help without them."
"But the peasants are in great need. I have just returned from
the country. Is it necessary, that the peasants should work to
the very limits of their strength and never have sufficient to
eat while we are living in the greatest luxury?" said Nekhludoff,
involuntarily led on by his aunt's good nature into telling her
what he was in his thoughts.
"What do you want, then? That I should work and not eat
"No, I do not wish you not to eat. I only wish that we should all
work and all eat." He could not help smiling as he said it.
Again raising her brow and drooping her eyeballs his aunt look at
him curiously. "_Mon cher vous finirez mal_," she said.
Just then the general, and former minister, Countess Tcharsky's
husband, a tall, broad-shouldered man, came into the room.
"Ah, Dmitri, how d'you do?" he said, turning his freshly-shaved
cheek to Nekhludoff to be kissed. "When did you get here?" And he
silently kissed his wife on the forehead.
"_Non il est impayable_," the Countess said, turning to her
husband. "He wants me to go and wash clothes and live on
potatoes. He is an awful fool, but all the same do what he is
going to ask of you. A terrible simpleton," she added. "Have you
heard? Kamenskaya is in such despair that they fear for her
life," she said to her husband. "You should go and call there."
"Yes; it is dreadful," said her husband.
"Go along, then, and talk to him. I must write some letters."
Hardly had Nekhludoff stepped into the room next the drawing-room
than she called him back.
"Shall I write to Mariette, then?"
"Please, ma tante."
"I shall leave a blank for what you want to say about the
short-haired one, and she will give her husband his orders, and
he'll do it. Do not think me wicked; they are all so disgusting,
your prologues, but _je ne leur veux pas de mal_, bother them.
Well, go, but be sure to stay at home this evening to hear
Kiesewetter, and we shall have some prayers. And if only you do
not resist _cela vous fera beaucoup de bien_. I know your poor
mother and all of you were always very backward in these things."
AN AVERAGE STATESMAN.
Count Ivan Michaelovitch had been a minister, and was a man of
strong convictions. The convictions of Count Ivan Michaelovitch
consisted in the belief that, just as it was natural for a bird
to feed on worms, to be clothed in feathers and down, and to fly
in the air, so it was natural for him to feed on the choicest and
most expensive food, prepared by highly-paid cooks, to wear the
most comfortable and most expensive clothing, to drive with the
best and fastest horses, and that, therefore, all these things
should be ready found for him. Besides this, Count Ivan
Michaelovitch considered that the more money he could get out of
the treasury by all sorts of means, the more orders he had,
including different diamond insignia of something or other, and
the oftener he spoke to highly-placed individuals of both sexes,
so much the better it was.
All the rest Count Ivan Michaelovitch considered insignificant
and uninteresting beside these dogmas. All the rest might be as
it was, or just the reverse. Count Ivan Michaelovitch lived and
acted according to these lights for 40 years, and at the end of
40 years reached the position of a Minister of State. The chief
qualities that enabled Count Ivan Michaelovitch to reach this
position were his capacity of understanding the meaning of
documents and laws and of drawing up, though clumsily,
intelligible State papers, and of spelling them correctly;
secondly, his very stately appearance, which enabled him, when
necessary, to seem not only extremely proud, but unapproachable
and majestic, while at other times he could be abjectly and
almost passionately servile; thirdly, the absence of any general
principles or rules, either of personal or administrative
morality, which made it possible for him either to agree or
disagree with anybody according to what was wanted at the time.
When acting thus his only endeavour was to sustain the appearance
of good breeding and not to seem too plainly inconsistent. As for
his actions being moral or not, in themselves, or whether they
were going to result in the highest welfare or greatest evil for
the whole of the Russian Empire, or even the entire world, that
was quite indifferent to him. When he became minister, not only
those dependent on him (and there were great many of them) and
people connected with him, but many strangers and even he himself
were convinced that he was a very clever statesman. But after
some time had elapsed and he had done nothing and had nothing to
show, and when in accordance with the law of the struggle for
existence others, like himself, who had learnt to write and
understand documents, stately and unprincipled officials, had
displaced him, he turned out to be not only far from clever but
very limited and badly educated. Though self-assured, his views
hardly reaching the level of those in the leading articles of the
Conservative papers, it became apparent that there was nothing in
him to distinguish him from those other badly-educated and
self-assured officials who had pushed him out, and he himself saw
it. But this did not shake his conviction that he had to receive
a great deal of money out of the Treasury every year, and new
decorations for his dress clothes. This conviction was so firm
that no one had the pluck to refuse these things to him, and he
received yearly, partly in form of a pension, partly as a salary
for being a member in a Government institution and chairman of
all sorts of committees and councils, several tens of thousands
of roubles, besides the right--highly prized by him--of sewing
all sorts of new cords to his shoulders and trousers, and ribbons
to wear under and enamel stars to fix on to his dress coat. In
consequence of this Count Ivan Michaelovitch had very high
Count Ivan Michaelovitch listened to Nekhludoff as he was wont to
listen to the reports of the permanent secretary of his
department, and, having heard him, said he would give him two
notes, one to the Senator Wolff, of the Appeal Department. "All
sorts of things are reported of him, but dans tous les cas c'est
un homme tres comme ii faut," he said. "He is indebted to me, and
will do all that is possible." The other note Count Ivan
Michaelovitch gave Nekhludoff was to an influential member of the
Petition Committee. The story of Theodosia Birukoff as told by
Nekhludoff interested him very much. When Nekhludoff said that he
thought of writing to the Empress, the Count replied that it
certainly was a very touching story, and might, if occasion
presented itself, be told her, but he could not promise. Let the
petition be handed in in due form.
Should there be an opportunity, and if a petit comite were called
on Thursday, he thought he would tell her the story. As soon as
Nekhludoff had received these two notes, and a note to Mariette
from his aunt, he at once set off to these different places.
First he went to Mariette's. He had known her as a half-grown
girl, the daughter of an aristocratic but not wealthy family, and
had heard how she had married a man who was making a career, whom
Nekhludoff had heard badly spoken of; and, as usual, he felt it
hard to ask a favour of a man he did not esteem. In these cases
he always felt an inner dissension and dissatisfaction, and
wavered whether to ask the favour or not, and always resolved to
ask. Besides feeling himself in a false position among those to
whose set he no longer regarded himself as belonging, who yet
regarded him as belonging to them, he felt himself getting into
the old accustomed rut, and in spite of himself fell into the
thoughtless and immoral tone that reigned in that circle. He felt
that from the first, with his aunt, he involuntarily fell into a
bantering tone while talking about serious matters.
Petersburg in general affected him with its usual physically
invigorating and mentally dulling effect.
Everything so clean, so comfortably well-arranged and the people
so lenient in moral matters, that life seemed very easy.
A fine, clean, and polite isvostchik drove him past fine, clean,
polite policemen, along the fine, clean, watered streets, past
fine, clean houses to the house in which Mariette lived. At the
front door stood a pair of English horses, with English harness,
and an English-looking coachman on the box, with the lower part
of his face shaved, proudly holding a whip. The doorkeeper,
dressed in a wonderfully clean livery, opened the door into the
hall, where in still cleaner livery with gold cords stood the
footman with his splendid whiskers well combed out, and the
orderly on duty in a brand-new uniform. "The general does not
receive, and the generaless does not receive either. She is just
going to drive out."
Nekhludoff took out Katerina Ivanovna's letter, and going up to a
table on which lay a visitors' book, began to write that he was
sorry not to have been able to see any one; when the footman went
up the staircase the doorkeeper went out and shouted to the
coachman, and the orderly stood up rigid with his arms at his
sides following with his eyes a little, slight lady, who was
coming down the stairs with rapid steps not in keeping with all
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