Count Leo Tolstoy
Part 8 out of 11
do it for diplomatic reasons, but because such was his character.
"Ah, that's right that you have come. Would you like some
breakfast? Sit down, the beefsteaks are fine! I always begin with
something substantial--begin and finish, too. Ha! ha! ha! Well,
then, have a glass of wine," he shouted, pointing to a decanter
of claret. "I have been thinking of you. I will hand on the
petition. I shall put it into his own hands. You may count on
that, only it occurred to me that it would be best for you to
call on Toporoff."
Nekhludoff made a wry face at the mention of Toporoff.
"It all depends on him. He will be consulted, anyhow. And perhaps
he may himself meet your wishes."
"If you advise it I shall go."
"That's right. Well, and how does Petersburg agree with you?"
shouted Bogatyreff. "Tell me. Eh?"
"I feel myself getting hypnotised," replied Nekhludoff.
"Hypnotised!" Bogatyreff repeated, and burst out laughing. "You
won't have anything? Well, just as you please," and he wiped his
moustaches with his napkin. "Then you'll go? Eh? If he does not
do it, give the petition to me, and I shall hand it on
to-morrow." Shouting these words, he rose, crossed himself just
as naturally as he had wiped his mouth, and began buckling on his
"And now good-bye; I must go. We are both going out," said
Nekhludoff, and shaking Bogatyreff's strong, broad hand, and with
the sense of pleasure which the impression of something healthy
and unconsciously fresh always gave him, Nekhludoff parted from
Bogatyreff on the door-steps.
Though he expected no good result from his visit, still
Nekhludoff, following Bogatyreff's advice, went to see Toporoff,
on whom the sectarians' fate depended.
The position occupied by Toporoff, involving as it did an
incongruity of purpose, could only be held by a dull man devoid
of moral sensibility. Toporoff possessed both these negative
qualities. The incongruity of the position he occupied was this.
It was his duty to keep up and to defend, by external measures,
not excluding violence, that Church which, by its own
declaration, was established by God Himself and could not be
shaken by the gates of hell nor by anything human. This divine
and immutable God-established institution had to be sustained and
defended by a human institution--the Holy Synod, managed by
Toporoff and his officials. Toporoff did not see this
contradiction, nor did he wish to see it, and he was therefore
much concerned lest some Romish priest, some pastor, or some
sectarian should destroy that Church which the gates of hell
could not conquer.
Toporoff, like all those who are quite destitute of the
fundamental religious feeling that recognises the equality and
brotherhood of men, was fully convinced that the common people
were creatures entirely different from himself, and that the
people needed what he could very well do without, for at the
bottom of his heart he believed in nothing, and found such a
state very convenient and pleasant. Yet he feared lest the people
might also come to such a state, and looked upon it as his sacred
duty, as he called it, to save the people therefrom.
A certain cookery book declares that some crabs like to be boiled
alive. In the same way he thought and spoke as if the people
liked being kept in superstition; only he meant this in a literal
sense, whereas the cookery book did not mean its words literally.
His feelings towards the religion he was keeping up were the same
as those of the poultry-keeper towards the carrion he fed his
fowls on. Carrion was very disgusting, but the fowls liked it;
therefore it was right to feed the fowls on carrion. Of course
all this worship of the images of the Iberian, Kasan and Smolensk
Mothers of God was a gross superstition, but the people liked it
and believed in it, and therefore the superstition must be kept
Thus thought Toporoff, not considering that the people only liked
superstition because there always have been, and still are, men
like himself who, being enlightened, instead of using their light
to help others to struggle out of their dark ignorance, use it to
plunge them still deeper into it.
When Nekhludoff entered the reception-room Toporoff was in his
study talking with an abbess, a lively and aristocratic lady, who
was spreading the Greek orthodox faith in Western Russia among
the Uniates (who acknowledge the Pope of Rome), and who have the
Greek religion enforced on them. An official who was in the
reception-room inquired what Nekhludoff wanted, and when he heard
that Nekhludoff meant to hand in a petition to the Emperor, he
asked him if he would allow the petition to be read first.
Nekhludoff gave it him, and the official took it into the study.
The abbess, with her hood and flowing veil and her long train
trailing behind, left the study and went out, her white hands
(with their well-tended nails) holding a topaz rosary. Nekhludoff
was not immediately asked to come in. Toporoff was reading the
petition and shaking his head. He was unpleasantly surprised by
the clear and emphatic wording of it.
"If it gets into the hands of the Emperor it may cause
misunderstandings, and unpleasant questions may be asked," he
thought as he read. Then he put the petition on the table, rang,
and ordered Nekhludoff to be asked in.
He remembered the case of the sectarians; he had had a petition
from them before. The case was this: These Christians, fallen
away from the Greek Orthodox Church, were first exhorted and then
tried by law, but were acquitted. Then the Archdeacon and the
Governor arranged, on the plea that their marriages were illegal,
to exile these sectarians, separating the husbands, wives, and
children. These fathers and wives were now petitioning that they
should not he parted. Toporoff recollected the first time the
case came to his notice: he had at that time hesitated whether he
had not better put a stop to it. But then he thought no harm
could result from his confirming the decision to separate and
exile the different members of the sectarian families, whereas
allowing the peasant sect to remain where it was might have a bad
effect on the rest of the inhabitants of the place and cause them
to fall away from Orthodoxy. And then the affair also proved the
zeal of the Archdeacon, and so he let the case proceed along the
lines it had taken. But now that they had a defender such as
Nekhludoff, who had some influence in Petersburg, the case might
be specially pointed out to the Emperor as something cruel, or it
might get into the foreign papers. Therefore he at once took an
"How do you do?" he said, with the air of a very busy man,
receiving Nekhludoff standing, and at once starting on the
business. "I know this case. As soon as I saw the names I
recollected this unfortunate business," he said, taking up the
petition and showing it to Nekhludoff. "And I am much indebted to
you for reminding me of it. It is the over-zealousness of the
Nekhludoff stood silent, looking with no kindly feelings at the
immovable, pale mask of a face before him.
"And I shall give orders that these measures should he revoked
and the people reinstated in their homes."
"So that I need not make use of this petition?"
"I promise you most assuredly," answered Toporoff, laying a
stress on the word I, as if quite convinced that his honesty, his
word was the best guarantee. "It will be best if I write at once.
Take a seat, please."
He went up to the table and began to write. As Nekhludoff sat
down he looked at the narrow, bald skull, at the fat, blue-veined
hand that was swiftly guiding the pen, and wondered why this
evidently indifferent man was doing what he did and why he was
doing it with such care.
"Well, here you are," said Toporoff, sealing the envelope; "you
may let your clients know," and he stretched his lips to imitate
"Then what did these people suffer for?" Nekhludoff asked, as he
took the envelope.
Toporoff raised his head and smiled, as if Nekhludoff's question
gave him pleasure. "That I cannot tell. All I can say is that the
interests of the people guarded by us are so important that too
great a zeal in matters of religion is not so dangerous or so
harmful as the indifference which is now spreading--"
"But how is it that in the name of religion the very first
demands of righteousness are violated--families are separated?"
Toporoff continued to smile patronisingly, evidently thinking
what Nekhludoff said very pretty. Anything that Nekhludoff could
say he would have considered very pretty and very one-sided, from
the height of what he considered his far-reaching office in the
"It may seem so from the point of view of a private individual,"
he said, "but from an administrative point of view it appears in
a rather different light. However, I must bid you good-bye, now,"
said Toporoff, bowing his head and holding out his hand, which
"The interests of the people! Your interests is what you mean!"
thought Nekhludoff as he went out. And he ran over in his mind
the people in whom is manifested the activity of the institutions
that uphold religion and educate the people. He began with the
woman punished for the illicit sale of spirits, the boy for
theft, the tramp for tramping, the incendiary for setting a house
on fire, the banker for fraud, and that unfortunate Lydia
Shoustova imprisoned only because they hoped to get such
information as they required from her. Then he thought of the
sectarians punished for violating Orthodoxy, and Gourkevitch for
wanting constitutional government, and Nekhludoff clearly saw
that all these people were arrested, locked up, exiled, not
really because they transgressed against justice or behaved
unlawfully, but only because they were an obstacle hindering the
officials and the rich from enjoying the property they had taken
away from the people. And the woman who sold wine without having
a license, and the thief knocking about the town, and Lydia
Shoustova hiding proclamations, and the sectarians upsetting
superstitions, and Gourkevitch desiring a constitution, were a
real hindrance. It seemed perfectly clear to Nekhludoff that all
these officials, beginning with his aunt's husband, the Senators,
and Toporoff, down to those clean and correct gentlemen who sat
at the tables in the Ministry Office, were not at all troubled by
the fact that that in such a state of things the innocent had to
suffer, but were only concerned how to get rid of the really
dangerous, so that the rule that ten guilty should escape rather
than that one innocent should be condemned was not observed, but,
on the contrary, for the sake of getting rid of one really
dangerous person, ten who seemed dangerous were punished, as,
when cutting a rotten piece out of anything, one has to cut away
some that is good.
This explanation seemed very simple and clear to Nekhludoff; but
its very simplicity and clearness made him hesitate to accept it.
Was it possible that so complicated a phenomenon could have so
simple and terrible an explanation? Was it possible that all
these words about justice, law, religion, and God, and so on,
were mere words, hiding the coarsest cupidity and cruelty?
THE MEANING OF MARIETTE'S ATTRACTION.
Nekhludoff would have left Petersburg on the evening of the same
day, but he had promised Mariette to meet her at the theatre, and
though he knew that he ought not to keep that promise, he
deceived himself into the belief that it would not be right to
break his word.
"Am I capable of withstanding these temptations?" he asked
himself not quite honestly. "I shall try for the last time."
He dressed in his evening clothes, and arrived at the theatre
during the second act of the eternal Dame aux Camelias, in which
a foreign actress once again, and in a novel manner, showed how
women die of consumption.
The theatre was quite full. Mariette's box was at once, and with
great deference, shown to Nekhludoff at his request. A liveried
servant stood in the corridor outside; he bowed to Nekhludoff as
to one whom he knew, and opened the door of the box.
All the people who sat and stood in the boxes on the opposite
side, those who sat near and those who were in the parterre, with
their grey, grizzly, bald, or curly heads--all were absorbed in
watching the thin, bony actress who, dressed in silks and laces,
was wriggling before them, and speaking in an unnatural voice.
Some one called "Hush!" when the door opened, and two streams,
one of cool, the other of hot, air touched Nekhludoff's face.
Mariette and a lady whom he did not know, with a red cape and a
big, heavy head-dress, were in the box, and two men also,
Mariette's husband, the General, a tall, handsome man with a
severe, inscrutable countenance, a Roman nose, and a uniform
padded round the chest, and a fair man, with a bit of shaved chin
between pompous whiskers.
Mariette, graceful, slight, elegant, her low-necked dress showing
her firm, shapely, slanting shoulders, with a little black mole
where they joined her neck, immediately turned, and pointed with
her face to a chair behind her in an engaging manner, and smiled
a smile that seemed full of meaning to Nekhludoff.
The husband looked at him in the quiet way in which he did
everything, and bowed. In the look he exchanged with his wife,
the master, the owner of a beautiful woman, was to be seen at
When the monologue was over the theatre resounded with the
clapping of hands. Mariette rose, and holding up her rustling
silk skirt, went into the back of the box and introduced
Nekhludoff to her husband.
The General, without ceasing to smile with his eyes, said he was
very pleased, and then sat inscrutably silent.
"I ought to have left to-day, had I not promised," said
Nekhludoff to Mariette.
"If you do not care to see me," said Mariette, in answer to what
his words implied, "you will see a wonderful actress. Was she not
splendid in the last scene?" she asked, turning to her husband.
The husband bowed his head.
"This sort of thing does not touch me," said Nekhludoff. "I have
seen so much real suffering lately that--"
"Yes, sit down and tell me."
The husband listened, his eyes smiling more and more ironically.
"I have been to see that woman whom they have set free, and who
has been kept in prison for so long; she is quite broken down."
"That is the woman I spoke to you about," Mariette said to her
"Oh, yes, I was very pleased that she could be set free," said
the husband quietly, nodding and smiling under his moustache with
evident irony, so it seemed to Nekhludoff. "I shall go and have a
Nekhludoff sat waiting to hear what the something was that
Mariette had to tell him. She said nothing, and did not even try
to say anything, but joked and spoke about the performance, which
she thought ought to touch Nekhludoff. Nekhludoff saw that she
had nothing to tell, but only wished to show herself to him in
all the splendour of her evening toilet, with her shoulders and
little mole; and this was pleasant and yet repulsive to him.
The charm that had veiled all this sort of thing from Nekhludoff
was not removed, but it was as if he could see what lay beneath.
Looking at Mariette, he admired her, and yet he knew that she was
a liar, living with a husband who was making his career by means
of the tears and lives of hundreds and hundreds of people, and
that she was quite indifferent about it, and that all she had
said the day before was untrue. What she wanted--neither he nor
she knew why--was to make him fall in love with her. This both
attracted and disgusted him. Several times, on the point of going
away, he took up his hat, and then stayed on.
But at last, when the husband returned with a strong smell of
tobacco in his thick moustache, and looked at Nekhludoff with a
patronising, contemptuous air, as if not recognising him,
Nekhludoff left the box before the door was closed again, found
his overcoat, and went out of the theatre. As he was walking home
along the Nevski, he could not help noticing a well-shaped and
aggressively finely-dressed woman, who was quietly walking in
front of him along the broad asphalt pavement. The consciousness
of her detestable power was noticeable in her face and the whole
of her figure. All who met or passed that woman looked at her.
Nekhludoff walked faster than she did and, involuntarily, also
looked her in the face. The face, which was probably painted, was
handsome, and the woman looked at him with a smile and her eyes
sparkled. And, curiously enough, Nekhludoff was suddenly reminded
of Mariette, because he again felt both attracted and disgusted
just as when in the theatre.
Having hurriedly passed her, Nekhludoff turned off on to the
Morskaya, and passed on to the embankment, where, to the surprise
of a policeman, he began pacing up and down the pavement.
"The other one gave me just such a smile when I entered the
theatre," he thought, "and the meaning of the smile was the same.
The only difference is, that this one said plainly, 'If you want
me, take me; if not, go your way,' and the other one pretended
that she was not thinking of this, but living in some high and
refined state, while this was really at the root. Besides, this
one was driven to it by necessity, while the other amused herself
by playing with that enchanting, disgusting, frightful passion.
This woman of the street was like stagnant, smelling water
offered to those whose thirst was greater than their disgust;
that other one in the theatre was like the poison which,
unnoticed, poisons everything it gets into."
Nekhludoff recalled his liaison with the Marechal's wife, and
shameful memories rose before him.
"The animalism of the brute nature in man is disgusting," thought
he, "but as long as it remains in its naked form we observe it
from the height of our spiritual life and despise it;
and--whether one has fallen or resisted--one remains what one was
before. But when that same animalism hides under a cloak of
poetry and aesthetic feeling and demands our worship--then we are
swallowed up by it completely, and worship animalism, no longer
distinguishing good from evil. Then it is awful."
Nekhludoff perceived all this now as clearly as he saw the
palace, the sentinels, the fortress, the river, the boats, and
the Stock Exchange. And just as on this northern summer night
there was no restful darkness on the earth, but only a dismal,
dull light coming from an invisible source, so in Nekhludoff's
soul there was no longer the restful darkness, ignorance.
Everything seemed clear. It was clear that everything considered
important and good was insignificant and repulsive, and that all
the glamour and luxury hid the old, well-known crimes, which not
only remained unpunished but were adorned with all the splendour
which men were capable of inventing.
Nekhludoff wished to forget all this, not to see it, but he could
no longer help seeing it. Though he could not see the source of
the light which revealed it to him any more than he could see the
source of the light which lay over Petersburg; and though the
light appeared to him dull, dismal, and unnatural, yet he could
not help seeing what it revealed, and he felt both joyful and
FOR HER SAKE AND FOR GOD'S.
On his return to Moscow Nekhludoff went at once to the prison
hospital to bring Maslova the sad news that the Senate had
confirmed the decision of the Court, and that she must prepare to
go to Siberia. He had little hope of the success of his petition
to the Emperor, which the advocate had written for him, and which
he now brought with him for Maslova to sign. And, strange to say,
he did not at present even wish to succeed; he had got used to
the thought of going to Siberia and living among the exiled and
the convicts, and he could not easily picture to himself how his
life and Maslova's would shape if she were acquitted. He
remembered the thought of the American writer, Thoreau, who at
the time when slavery existed in America said that "under a
government that imprisons any unjustly the true place for a just
man is also a prison." Nekhludoff, especially after his visit to
Petersburg and all he discovered there, thought in the same way.
"Yes, the only place befitting an honest man in Russia at the
present time is a prison," he thought, and even felt that this
applied to him personally, when he drove up to the prison and
entered its walls.
The doorkeeper recognised Nekhludoff, and told him at once that
Maslova was no longer there.
"Where is she, then?"
"In the cell again."
"Why has she been removed?" Nekhludoff asked.
"Oh, your excellency, what are such people?" said the doorkeeper,
contemptuously. "She's been carrying on with the medical
assistant, so the head doctor ordered her back."
Nekhludoff had had no idea how near Maslova and the state of her
mind were to him. He was stunned by the news.
He felt as one feels at the news of a great and unforeseen
misfortune, and his pain was very severe. His first feeling was
one of shame. He, with his joyful idea of the change that he
imagined was going on in her soul, now seemed ridiculous in his
own eyes. He thought that all her pretence of not wishing to
accept his sacrifice, all the reproaches and tears, were only the
devices of a depraved woman, who wished to use him to the best
advantage. He seemed to remember having seen signs of obduracy at
his last interview with her. All this flashed through his mind as
he instinctively put on his hat and left the hospital.
"What am I to do now? Am I still bound to her? Has this action of
hers not set me free?" And as he put these questions to himself
he knew at once that if he considered himself free, and threw her
up, he would be punishing himself, and not her, which was what he
wished to do, and he was seized with fear.
"No, what has happened cannot alter--it can only strengthen my
resolve. Let her do what flows from the state her mind is in. If
it is carrying on with the medical assistant, let her carry on
with the medical assistant; that is her business. I must do what
my conscience demands of me. And my conscience expects me to
sacrifice my freedom. My resolution to marry her, if only in
form, and to follow wherever she may be sent, remains
unalterable." Nekhludoff said all this to himself with vicious
obstinacy as he left the hospital and walked with resolute steps
towards the big gates of the prison. He asked the warder on duty
at the gate to inform the inspector that he wished to see
Maslova. The warder knew Nekhludoff, and told him of an important
change that had taken place in the prison. The old inspector had
been discharged, and a new, very severe official appointed in his
"They are so strict nowadays, it's just awful," said the jailer.
"He is in here; they will let him know directly."
The new inspector was in the prison and soon came to Nekhludoff.
He was a tall, angular man, with high cheek bones, morose, and
very slow in his movements.
"Interviews are allowed in the visiting room on the appointed
days," he said, without looking at Nekhludoff.
"But I have a petition to the Emperor, which I want signed."
"You can give it to me."
"I must see the prisoner myself. I was always allowed to before."
"That was so, before," said the inspector, with a furtive glance
"I have a permission from the governor," insisted Nekhludoff, and
took out his pocket-book.
"Allow me," said the inspector, taking the paper from Nekhludoff
with his long, dry, white fingers, on the first of which was a
gold ring, still without looking him in the eyes. He read the
paper slowly. "Step into the office, please."
This time the office was empty. The inspector sat down by the
table and began sorting some papers that lay on it, evidently
intending to be present at the interview.
When Nekhludoff asked whether he might see the political
prisoner, Doukhova, the inspector answered, shortly, that he
could not. "Interviews with political prisoners are not
permitted," he said, and again fixed his attention on his papers.
With a letter to Doukhova in his pocket, Nekhludoff felt as if he
had committed some offence, and his plans had been discovered and
When Maslova entered the room the inspector raised his head, and,
without looking at either her or Nekhludoff, remarked: "You may
talk," and went on sorting his papers. Maslova had again the
white jacket, petticoat and kerchief on. When she came up to
Nekhludoff and saw his cold, hard look, she blushed scarlet, and
crumbling the hem of her jacket with her hand, she cast down her
eyes. Her confusion, so it seemed to Nekhludoff, confirmed the
hospital doorkeeper's words.
Nekhludoff had meant to treat her in the same way as before, but
could not bring himself to shake hands with her, so disgusting
was she to him now.
"I have brought you had news," he said, in a monotonous voice,
without looking at her or taking her hand. "The Senate has
"I knew it would," she said, in a strange tone, as if she were
gasping for breath.
Formerly Nekhludoff would have asked why she said she knew it
would; now he only looked at her. Her eyes were full of tears.
But this did not soften him; it roused his irritation against her
The inspector rose and began pacing up and down the room.
In spite of the disgust Nekhludoff was feeling at the moment, he
considered it right to express his regret at the Senate's
"You must not despair," he said. "The petition to the Emperor may
meet with success, and I hope---"
"I'm not thinking of that," she said, looking piteously at him
with her wet, squinting eyes.
"What is it, then?"
"You have been to the hospital, and they have most likely told
you about me--"
"What of that? That is your affair," said Nekhludoff coldly, and
frowned. The cruel feeling of wounded pride that had quieted down
rose with renewed force when she mentioned the hospital.
"He, a man of the world, whom any girl of the best families would
think it happiness to marry, offered himself as a husband to this
woman, and she could not even wait, but began intriguing with the
medical assistant," thought he, with a look of hatred.
"Here, sign this petition," he said, taking a large envelope from
his pocket, and laying the paper on the table. She wiped the
tears with a corner of her kerchief, and asked what to write and
He showed her, and she sat down and arranged the cuff of her
right sleeve with her left hand; he stood behind her, and
silently looked at her back, which shook with suppressed emotion,
and evil and good feelings were fighting in his breast--feelings
of wounded pride and of pity for her who was suffering--and the
last feeling was victorious.
He could not remember which came first; did the pity for her
first enter his heart, or did he first remember his own sins--his
own repulsive actions, the very same for which he was condemning
her? Anyhow, he both felt himself guilty and pitied her.
Having signed the petition and wiped her inky finger on her
petticoat, she got up and looked at him.
"Whatever happens, whatever comes of it, my resolve remains
unchanged," said Nekhludoff. The thought that he had forgiven her
heightened his feeling of pity and tenderness for her, and he
wished to comfort her. "I will do what I have said; wherever they
take you I shall be with you."
"What's the use?" she interrupted hurriedly, though her whole
face lighted up.
"Think what you will want on the way--"
"I don't know of anything in particular, thank you."
The inspector came up, and without waiting for a remark from him
Nekhludoff took leave, and went out with peace, joy, and love
towards everybody in his heart such as he had never felt before.
The certainty that no action of Maslova could change his love for
her filled him with joy and raised him to a level which he had
never before attained. Let her intrigue with the medical
assistant; that was her business. He loved her not for his own
but for her sake and for God's.
And this intrigue, for which Maslova was turned out of the
hospital, and of which Nekhludoff believed she was really guilty,
consisted of the following:
Maslova was sent by the head nurse to get some herb tea from the
dispensary at the end of the corridor, and there, all alone, she
found the medical assistant, a tall man, with a blotchy face, who
had for a long time been bothering her. In trying to get away
from him Maslova gave him such a push that he knocked his head
against a shelf, from which two bottles fell and broke. The head
doctor, who was passing at that moment, heard the sound of
breaking glass, and saw Maslova run out, quite red, and shouted
"Ah, my good woman, if you start intriguing here, I'll send you
about your business. What is the meaning of it?" he went on,
addressing the medical assistant, and looking at him over his
The assistant smiled, and began to justify himself. The doctor
gave no heed to him, but, lifting his head so that he now looked
through his spectacles, he entered the ward. He told the
inspector the same day to send another more sedate
assistant-nurse in Maslova's place. And this was her "intrigue"
with the medical assistant.
Being turned out for a love intrigue was particularly painful to
Maslova, because the relations with men, which had long been
repulsive to her, had become specially disgusting after meeting
Nekhludoff. The thought that, judging her by her past and present
position, every man, the blotchy assistant among them, considered
he had a right to offend her, and was surprised at her refusal,
hurt her deeply, and made her pity herself and brought tears to
When she went out to Nekhludoff this time she wished to clear
herself of the false charge which she knew he would certainly
have heard about. But when she began to justify herself she felt
he did not believe her, and that her excuses would only
strengthen his suspicions; tears choked her, and she was silent.
Maslova still thought and continued to persuade herself that she
had never forgiven him, and hated him, as she told him at their
second interview, but in reality she loved him again, and loved
him so that she did all he wished her to do; left off drinking,
smoking, coquetting, and entered the hospital because she knew he
wished it. And if every time he reminded her of it, she refused
so decidedly to accept his sacrifice and marry him, it was
because she liked repeating the proud words she had once uttered,
and because she knew that a marriage with her would be a
misfortune for him.
She had resolutely made up her mind that she would not accept his
sacrifice, and yet the thought that he despised her and believed
that she still was what she had been, and did not notice the
change that had taken place in her, was very painful. That he
could still think she had done wrong while in the hospital
tormented her more than the news that her sentence was confirmed.
THE ASTONISHING INSTITUTION CALLED CRIMINAL LAW.
Maslova might be sent off with the first gang of prisoners,
therefore Nekhludoff got ready for his departure. But there was
so much to be done that he felt that he could not finish it,
however much time he might have. It was quite different now from
what it had been. Formerly he used to be obliged to look for an
occupation, the interest of which always centred in one person,
i.e., Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff, and yet, though every
interest of his life was thus centred, all these occupations were
very wearisome. Now all his occupations related to other people
and not to Dmitri Ivanovitch, and they were all interesting and
attractive, and there was no end to them. Nor was this all.
Formerly Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff's occupations always made
him feel vexed and irritable; now they produced a joyful state of
mind. The business at present occupying Nekhludoff could be
divided under three headings. He himself, with his usual
pedantry, divided it in that way, and accordingly kept the papers
referring to it in three different portfolios. The first referred
to Maslova, and was chiefly that of taking steps to get her
petition to the Emperor attended to, and preparing for her
probable journey to Siberia.
The second was about his estates. In Panovo he had given the land
to the peasants on condition of their paying rent to be put to
their own communal use. But he had to confirm this transaction by
a legal deed, and to make his will, in accordance with it. In
Kousminski the state of things was still as he had first arranged
it, i.e., he was to receive the rent; but the terms had to be
fixed, and also how much of the money he would use to live on,
and how much he would leave for the peasants' use. As he did not
know what his journey to Siberia would cost him, he could not
decide to lose this revenue altogether, though he reduced the
income from it by half.
The third part of his business was to help the convicts, who
applied more and more often to him. At first when he came in
contact with the prisoners, and they appealed to him for help, he
at once began interceding for them, hoping to lighten their fate,
but he soon had so many applications that he felt the
impossibility of attending to all of them, and that naturally led
him to take up another piece of work, which at last roused his
interest even more than the three first. This new part of his
business was finding an answer to the following questions: What
was this astonishing institution called criminal law, of which
the results were that in the prison, with some of the inmates of
which he had lately become acquainted, and in all those other
places of confinement, from the Peter and Paul Fortress in
Petersburg to the island of Sakhalin, hundreds and thousands of
victims were pining? What did this strange criminal law exist
for? How had it originated?
From his personal relations with the prisoners, from notes by
some of those in confinement, and by questioning the advocate and
the prison priest, Nekhludoff came to the conclusion that the
convicts, the so-called criminals, could be divided into five
classes. The first were quite innocent people, condemned by
judicial blunder. Such were the Menshoffs, supposed to be
incendiaries, Maslova, and others. There were not many of these;
according to the priest's words, only seven per cent., but their
condition excited particular interest.
To the second class belong persons condemned for actions done
under peculiar circumstances, i.e., in a fit of passion, jealousy,
or drunkenness, circumstances under which those who judged them
would surely have committed the same actions.
The third class consisted of people punished for having committed
actions which, according to their understanding, were quite
natural, and even good, but which those other people, the men who
made the laws, considered to be crimes. Such were the persons who
sold spirits without a license, smugglers, those who gathered
grass and wood on large estates and in the forests belonging to
the Crown; the thieving miners; and those unbelieving people who
To the fourth class belonged those who were imprisoned only
because they stood morally higher than the average level of
society. Such were the Sectarians, the Poles, the Circassians
rebelling in order to regain their independence, the political
prisoners, the Socialists, the strikers condemned for
withstanding the authorities. There was, according to
Nekhludoff's observations, a very large percentage belonging to
this class; among them some of the best of men.
The fifth class consisted of persons who had been far more sinned
against by society than they had sinned against it. These were
castaways, stupefied by continual oppression and temptation, such
as the boy who had stolen the rugs, and hundreds of others whom
Nekhludoff had seen in the prison and out of it. The conditions
under which they lived seemed to lead on systematically to those
actions which are termed crimes. A great many thieves and
murderers with whom he had lately come in contact, according to
Nekhludoff's estimate, belonged to this class. To this class
Nekhludoff also reckoned those depraved, demoralised creatures
whom the new school of criminology classify as the criminal type,
and the existence of which is considered to be the chief proof of
the necessity of criminal law and punishment. This demoralised,
depraved, abnormal type was, according to Nekhludoff, exactly the
same as that against whom society had sinned, only here society
had sinned not directly against them, but against their parents
Among this latter class Nekhludoff was specially struck by one
Okhotin, an inveterate thief, the illegitimate son of a
prostitute, brought up in a doss-house, who, up to the age of 30,
had apparently never met with any one whose morality was above
that of a policeman, and who had got into a band of thieves when
quite young. He was gifted with an extraordinary sense of humour,
by means of which he made himself very attractive. He asked
Nekhludoff for protection, at the same time making fun of
himself, the lawyers, the prison, and laws human and divine.
Another was the handsome Fedoroff, who, with a band of robbers,
of whom he was the chief, had robbed and murdered an old man, an
official. Fedoroff was a peasant, whose father had been
unlawfully deprived of his house, and who, later on, when serving
as a soldier, had suffered much because he had fallen in love
with an officer's mistress. He had a fascinating, passionate
nature, that longed for enjoyment at any cost. He had never met
anybody who restrained himself for any cause whatever, and had
never heard a word about any aim in life other than enjoyment.
Nekhludoff distinctly saw that both these men were richly endowed
by nature, but had been neglected and crippled like uncared-for
He had also met a tramp and a woman who had repelled him by their
dulness and seeming cruelty, but even in them he could find no
trace of the criminal type written about by the Italian school,
but only saw in them people who were repulsive to him personally,
just in the same way as some he had met outside the prison, in
swallow-tail coats wearing epaulettes, or bedecked with lace. And
so the investigation of the reasons why all these very different
persons were put in prison, while others just like them were
going about free and even judging them, formed a fourth task for
He hoped to find an answer to this question in books, and bought
all that referred to it. He got the works of Lombroso, Garofalo,
Ferry, List, Maudsley, Tard, and read them carefully. But as he
read he became more and more disappointed. It happened to him as
it always happens to those who turn to science not in order to
play a part in it, nor to write, nor to dispute, nor to teach,
but simply for an answer to an every-day question of life.
Science answered thousands of different very subtle and ingenious
questions touching criminal law, but not the one he was trying to
solve. He asked a very simple question: "Why, and with what
right, do some people lock up, torment, exile, flog, and kill
others, while they are themselves just like those whom they
torment, flog, and kill?" And in answer he got deliberations as
to whether human beings had free will or not. Whether signs of
criminality could be detected by measuring the skulls or not.
What part heredity played in crime. Whether immorality could be
inherited. What madness is, what degeneration is, and what
temperament is. How climate, food, ignorance, imitativeness,
hypnotism, or passion act. What society is. What are its duties,
These disquisitions reminded him of the answer he once got from a
little boy whom he met coming home from school. Nekhludoff asked
him if he had learned his spelling.
"I have," answered the boy.
"Well, then, tell me, how do you spell 'leg'?"
"A dog's leg, or what kind of leg?" the boy answered, with a sly
Answers in the form of new questions, like the boy's, was all
Nekhludoff got in reply to his one primary question. He found
much that was clever, learned much that was interesting, but what
he did not find was an answer to the principal question: By what
right some people punish others?
Not only did he not find any answer, but all the arguments were
brought forward in order to explain and vindicate punishment, the
necessity of which was taken as an axiom.
Nekhludoff read much, but only in snatches, and putting down his
failure to this superficial way of reading, hoped to find the
answer later on. He would not allow himself to believe in the
truth of the answer which began, more and more often, to present
itself to him.
NEKHLUDOFF'S SISTER AND HER HUSBAND.
The gang of prisoners, with Maslova among them, was to start on
the 5th July. Nekhludoff arranged to start on the same day.
The day before, Nekhludoff's sister and her husband came to town
to see him.
Nekhludoff's sister, Nathalie Ivanovna Rogozhinsky, was 10 years
older than her brother. She had been very fond of him when he was
a boy, and later on, just before her marriage, they grew very
close to each other, as if they were equals, she being a young
woman of 25, he a lad of 15. At that time she was in love with
his friend, Nikolenka Irtenieff, since dead. They both loved
Nikolenka, and loved in him and in themselves that which is good,
and which unites all men. Since then they had both been depraved,
he by military service and a vicious life, she by marriage with a
man whom she loved with a sensual love, who did not care for the
things that had once been so dear and holy to her and to her
brother, nor even understand the meaning of those aspirations
towards moral perfection and the service of mankind, which once
constituted her life, and put them down to ambition and the wish
to show off; that being the only explanation comprehensible to
Nathalie's husband had been a man without a name and without
means, but cleverly steering towards Liberalism or Conservatism,
according to which best suited his purpose, he managed to make a
comparatively brilliant judicial career. Some peculiarity which
made him attractive to women assisted him when he was no longer
in his first youth. While travelling abroad he made Nekhludoff's
acquaintance, and managed to make Nathalie, who was also no
longer a girl, fall in love with him, rather against her mother's
wishes who considered a marriage with him to be a misalliance for
her daughter. Nekhludoff, though he tried to hide it from
himself, though he fought against it, hated his brother-in-law.
Nekhludoff had a strong antipathy towards him because of the
vulgarity of his feelings, his assurance and narrowness, but
chiefly because of Nathalie, who managed to love him in spite of
the narrowness of his nature, and loved him so selfishly, so
sensually, and stifled for his sake all the good that had been in
It always hurt Nekhludoff to think of Nathalie as the wife of
that hairy, self-assured man with the shiny, bald patch on his
head. He could not even master a feeling of revulsion towards
their children, and when he heard that she was again going to
have a baby, he felt something like sorrow that she had once more
been infected with something bad by this man who was so foreign
to him. The Rogozhinskys had come to Moscow alone, having left
their two children--a boy and a girl--at home, and stopped in the
best rooms of the best hotel. Nathalie at once went to her
mother's old house, but hearing from Agraphena Petrovna that her
brother had left, and was living in a lodging-house, she drove
there. The dirty servant met her in the stuffy passage, dark but
for a lamp which burnt there all day. He told her that the Prince
was not in.
Nathalie asked to be shown into his rooms, as she wished to leave
a note for him, and the man took her up.
Nathalie carefully examined her brother's two little rooms. She
noticed in everything the love of cleanliness and order she knew
so well in him, and was struck by the novel simplicity of the
surroundings. On his writing-table she saw the paper-weight with
the bronze dog on the top which she remembered; the tidy way in
which his different portfolios and writing utensils were placed
on the table was also familiar, and so was the large, crooked
ivory paper knife which marked the place in a French book by
Tard, which lay with other volumes on punishment and a book in
English by Henry George. She sat down at the table and wrote a
note asking him to be sure to come that same day, and shaking her
head in surprise at what she saw, she returned to her hotel.
Two questions regarding her brother now interested Nathalie: his
marriage with Katusha, which she had heard spoken about in their
town--for everybody was speaking about it--and his giving away
the land to the peasants, which was also known, and struck many
as something of a political nature, and dangerous. The Carriage
with Katusha pleased her in a way. She admired that resoluteness
which was so like him and herself as they used to be in those
happy times before her marriage. And yet she was horrified when
she thought her brother was going to marry such a dreadful woman.
The latter was the stronger feeling of the two, and she decided
to use all her influence to prevent him from doing it, though she
knew how difficult this would be.
The other matter, the giving up of the land to the peasants, did
not touch her so nearly, but her husband was very indignant about
it, and expected her to influence her brother against it.
Rogozhinsky said that such an action was the height of
inconsistency, flightiness, and pride, the only possible
explanation of which was the desire to appear original, to brag,
to make one's self talked about.
"What sense could there be in letting the land to the peasants,
on condition that they pay the rent to themselves?" he said. "If
he was resolved to do such a thing, why not sell the land to them
through the Peasants' Bank? There might have been some sense in
that. In fact, this act verges on insanity."
And Rogozhinsky began seriously thinking about putting Nekhludoff
under guardianship, and demanded of his wife that she should
speak seriously to her brother about his curious intention.
As soon as Nekhludoff returned that evening and saw his sister's
note on the table he started to go and see her. He found Nathalie
alone, her husband having gone to take a rest in the next room.
She wore a tightly-fitting black silk dress, with a red bow in
front. Her black hair was crimped and arranged according to the
The pains she took to appear young, for the sake of her husband,
whose equal she was in years, were very obvious.
When she saw her brother she jumped up and hurried towards him,
with her silk dress rustling. They kissed, and looked smilingly
at each other. There passed between them that mysterious exchange
of looks, full of meaning, in which all was true, and which
cannot be expressed in words. Then came words which were not
true. They had not met since their mother's death.
"You have grown stouter and younger," he said, and her lips
puckered up with pleasure.
"And you have grown thinner."
"Well, and how is your husband?" Nekhludoff asked.
"He is taking a rest; he did not sleep all night." There was much
to say, but it was not said in words; only their looks expressed
what their words failed to say.
"I went to see you."
"Yes, I know. I moved because the house is too big for me. I was
lonely there, and dull. I want nothing of all that is there, so
that you had better take it all--the furniture, I mean, and
"Yes, Agraphena Petrovna told me. I went there. Thanks, very
At this moment the hotel waiter brought in a silver tea-set.
While he set the table they were silent. Then Nathalie sat down
at the table and made the tea, still in silence. Nekhludoff also
At last Nathalie began resolutely. "Well, Dmitri, I know all
about it." And she looked at him.
"What of that? l am glad you know."
"How can you hope to reform her after the life she has led?" she
He sat quite straight on a small chair, and listened attentively,
trying to understand her and to answer rightly. The state of mind
called forth in him by his last interview with Maslova still
filled his soul with quiet joy and good will to all men.
"It is not her but myself I wish to reform," he replied.
"There are other means besides marriage to do that."
"But I think it is the best. Besides, it leads me into that world
in which I can be of use."
"I cannot believe you will be happy," said Nathalie.
"It's not my happiness that is the point."
"Of course, but if she has a heart she cannot be happy--cannot
even wish it."
"She does not wish it."
"I understand; but life--"
"Demands something different."
"It demands nothing but that we should do what is right," said
Nekhludoff, looking into her face, still handsome, though
slightly wrinkled round eyes and mouth.
"I do not understand," she said, and sighed.
"Poor darling; how could she change so?" he thought, calling back
to his mind Nathalie as she had been before her marriage, and
feeling towards her a tenderness woven out of innumerable
memories of childhood. At that moment Rogozhinsky entered the
room, with head thrown back and expanded chest, and stepping
lightly and softly in his usual manner, his spectacles, his bald
patch, and his black beard all glistening.
"How do you do? How do you do?" he said, laying an unnatural and
intentional stress on his words. (Though, soon after the
marriage, they had tried to be more familiar with each other,
they had never succeeded.)
They shook hands, and Rogozhinsky sank softly into an easy-chair.
"Am I not interrupting your conversation?"
"No, I do not wish to hide what I am saying or doing from any
As soon as Nekhludoff saw the hairy hands, and heard the
patronising, self-assured tones, his meekness left him in a
"Yes, we were talking about his intentions," said Nathalie.
"Shall I give you a cup of tea?" she added, taking the teapot.
"Yes, please. What particular intentions do you mean?"
"That of going to Siberia with the gang of prisoners, among whom
is the woman I consider myself to have wronged," uttered
"I hear not only to accompany her, but more than that."
"Yes, and to marry her if she wishes it."
"Dear me! But if you do not object I should like to ask you to
explain your motives. I do not understand them."
"My motives are that this woman--that this woman's first step on
her way to degradation--" Nekhludoff got angry with himself, and
was unable to find the right expression. "My motives are that I
am the guilty one, and she gets the punishment."
"If she is being punished she cannot be innocent, either."
"She is quite innocent." And Nekhludoff related the whole
incident with unnecessary warmth.
"Yes, that was a case of carelessness on the part of the
president, the result of which was a thoughtless answer on the
part of the jury; but there is the Senate for cases like that."
"The Senate has rejected the appeal."
"Well, if the Senate has rejected it, there cannot have been
sufficient reasons for an appeal," said Rogozhinsky, evidently
sharing the prevailing opinion that truth is the product of
judicial decrees. "The Senate cannot enter into the question on
its merits. If there is a real mistake, the Emperor should be
"That has been done, but there is no probability of success. They
will apply to the Department of the Ministry, the Department will
consult the Senate, the Senate will repeat its decision, and, as
usual, the innocent will get punished."
"In the first place, the Department of the Ministry won't consult
the Senate," said Rogozhinsky, with a condescending smile; "it
will give orders for the original deeds to be sent from the Law
Court, and if it discovers a mistake it will decide accordingly.
And, secondly, the innocent are never punished, or at least in
very rare, exceptional cases. It is the guilty who are punished,"
Rogozhinsky said deliberately, and smiled self-complacently.
"And I have become fully convinced that most of those condemned
by law are innocent."
"Innocent in the literal sense. Just as this woman is innocent of
poisoning any one; as innocent as a peasant I have just come to
know, of the murder he never committed; as a mother and son who
were on the point of being condemned for incendiarism, which was
committed by the owner of the house that was set on fire."
"Well, of course there always have been and always will be
judicial errors. Human institutions cannot be perfect."
"And, besides, there are a great many people convicted who are
innocent of doing anything considered wrong by the society they
have grown up in."
"Excuse me, this is not so; every thief knows that stealing is
wrong, and that we should not steal; that it is immoral," said
Rogozhinsky, with his quiet, self-assured, slightly contemptuous
smile, which specially irritated Nekhludoff.
"No, he does not know it; they say to him 'don't steal,' and he
knows that the master of the factory steals his labour by keeping
back his wages; that the Government, with its officials, robs him
continually by taxation."
"Why, this is anarchism," Rogozhinsky said, quietly defining his
"I don't know what it is; I am only telling you the truth,"
Nekhludoff continued. "He knows that the Government is robbing
him, knows that we landed proprietors have robbed him long since,
robbed him of the land which should be the common property of
all, and then, if he picks up dry wood to light his fire on that
land stolen from him, we put him in jail, and try to persuade him
that he is a thief. Of course he knows that not he but those who
robbed him of the land are thieves, and that to get any
restitution of what has been robbed is his duty towards his
"I don't understand, or if I do I cannot agree with it. The land
must be somebody's property," began Rogozhinsky quietly, and,
convinced that Nekhludoff was a Socialist, and that Socialism
demands that all the land should be divided equally, that such a
division would be very foolish, and that he could easily prove it
to be so, he said. "If you divided it equally to-day, it would
to-morrow be again in the hands of the most industrious and
"Nobody is thinking of dividing the land equally. The land must
not be anybody's property; must not be a thing to be bought and
sold or rented."
"The rights of property are inborn in man; without them the
cultivation of land would present no interest. Destroy the rights
of property and we lapse into barbarism." Rogozhinsky uttered
this authoritatively, repeating the usual argument in favour of
private ownership of land which is supposed to be irrefutable,
based on the assumption that people's desire to possess land
proves that they need it.
"On the contrary, only when the land is nobody's property will it
cease to lie idle, as it does now, while the landlords, like dogs
in the manger, unable themselves to put it to use, will not let
those use it who are able."
"But, Dmitri Ivanovitch, what you are saying is sheer madness. Is
it possible to abolish property in land in our age? I know it is
your old hobby. But allow me to tell you straight," and
Rogozhinsky grew pale, and his voice trembled. It was evident
that this question touched him very nearly. "I should advise you
to consider this question well before attempting to solve it
"Are you speaking of my personal affairs?"
"Yes, I hold that we who are placed in special circumstances
should bear the responsibilities which spring from those
circumstances, should uphold the conditions in which we were
born, and which we have inherited from our predecessors, and
which we ought to pass on to our descendants."
"I consider it my duty--"
"Wait a bit," said Rogozhinsky, not permitting the interruption.
"I am not speaking for myself or my children. The position of my
children is assured, and I earn enough for us to live
comfortably, and I expect my children will live so too, so that
my interest in your action--which, if you will allow me to say
so, is not well considered--is not based on personal motives; it
is on principle that I cannot agree with you. I should advise you
to think it well over, to read---?"
"Please allow me to settle my affairs, and to choose what to read
and what not to read, myself," said Nekhludoff, turning pale.
Feeling his hands grow cold, and that he was no longer master of
himself, he stopped, and began drinking his tea.
THE AIM OF THE LAW.
"Well, and how are the children?" Nekhludoff asked his sister
when he was calmer. The sister told him about the children. She
said they were staying with their grandmother (their father's
mother), and, pleased that his dispute with her husband had come
to an end, she began telling him how her children played that
they were travelling, just as he used to do with his three dolls,
one of them a negro and another which he called the French lady.
"Can you really remember it all?" said Nekhludoff, smiling.
"Yes, and just fancy, they play in the very same way."
The unpleasant conversation had been brought to an end, and
Nathalie was quieter, but she did not care to talk in her
husband's presence of what could be comprehensible only to her
brother, so, wishing to start a general conversation, she began
talking about the sorrow of Kamenski's mother at losing her only
son, who had fallen in a duel, for this Petersburg topic of the
day had now reached Moscow. Rogozhinsky expressed disapproval at
the state of things that excluded murder in a duel from the
ordinary criminal offences. This remark evoked a rejoinder from
Nekhludoff, and a new dispute arose on the subject. Nothing was
fully explained, neither of the antagonists expressed all he had
in his mind, each keeping to his conviction, which condemned the
other. Rogozhinsky felt that Nekhludoff condemned him and
despised his activity, and he wished to show him the injustice of
Nekhludoff, on the other hand, felt provoked by his
brother-in-law's interference in his affairs concerning the land.
And knowing in his heart of hearts that his sister, her husband,
and their children, as his heirs, had a right to do so, was
indignant that this narrow-minded man persisted with calm
assurance to regard as just and lawful what Nekhludoff no longer
doubted was folly and crime.
This man's arrogance annoyed Nekhludoff.
"What could the law do?" he asked.
"It could sentence one of the two duellists to the mines like an
Nekhludoff's hands grew cold.
"Well, and what good would that be?" he asked, hotly.
"It would be just."
"As if justice were the aim of the law," said Nekhludoff.
"The upholding of class interests! I think the law is only an
instrument for upholding the existing order of things beneficial
to our class."
"This is a perfectly new view," said Rogozhinsky with a quiet
smile; "the law is generally supposed to have a totally different
"Yes, so it has in theory but not in practice, as I have found
out. The law aims only at preserving the present state of things,
and therefore it persecutes and executes those who stand above
the ordinary level and wish to raise it--the so-called political
prisoners, as well as those who are below the average--the
so-called criminal types."
"I do not agree with you. In the first place, I cannot admit that
the criminals classed as political are punished because they are
above the average. In most cases they are the refuse of society,
just as much perverted, though in a different way, as the
criminal types whom you consider below the average."
"But I happen to know men who are morally far above their judges;
all the sectarians are moral, from--"
But Rogozhinsky, a man not accustomed to be interrupted when he
spoke, did not listen to Nekhludoff, but went on talking at the
same time, thereby irritating him still more.
"Nor can I admit that the object of the law is the upholding of
the present state of things. The law aims at reforming--"
"A nice kind of reform, in a prison!" Nekhludoff put in.
"Or removing," Rogozhinsky went on, persistently, "the perverted
and brutalised persons that threaten society."
"That's just what it doesn't do. Society has not the means of
doing either the one thing or the other."
"How is that? I don't understand," said Rogozhinsky with a forced
"I mean that only two reasonable kinds of punishment exist. Those
used in the old days: corporal and capital punishment, which, as
human nature gradually softens, come more and more into disuse,"
"There, now, this is quite new and very strange to hear from your
"Yes, it is reasonable to hurt a man so that he should not do in
future what he is hurt for doing, and it is also quite reasonable
to cut a man's head off when he is injurious or dangerous to
society. These punishments have a reasonable meaning. But what
sense is there in locking up in a prison a man perverted by want
of occupation and bad example; to place him in a position where
he is provided for, where laziness is imposed on him, and where
he is in company with the most perverted of men? What reason is
there to take a man at public cost (it comes to more than 500
roubles per head) from the Toula to the Irkoatsk government, or
"Yes, but all the same, people are afraid of those journeys at
public cost, and if it were not for such journeys and the
prisons, you and I would not be sitting here as we are."
"The prisons cannot insure our safety, because these people do
not stay there for ever, but are set free again. On the contrary,
in those establishments men are brought to the greatest vice and
degradation, so that the danger is increased."
"You mean to say that the penitentiary system should be
"It cannot he improved. Improved prisons would cost more than all
that is being now spent on the people's education, and would lay
a still heavier burden on the people."
"The shortcomings of the penitentiary system in nowise invalidate
the law itself," Rogozhinsky continued again, without heeding his
"There is no remedy for these shortcomings," said Nekhludoff,
raising his voice.
"What of that? Shall we therefore go and kill, or, as a certain
statesman proposed, go putting out people's eyes?" Rogozhinsky
"Yes; that would be cruel, but it would be effective. What is
done now is cruel, and not only ineffective, but so stupid that
one cannot understand how people in their senses can take part in
so absurd and cruel a business as criminal law."
"But I happen to take part in it," said Rogozhinsky, growing
"That is your business. But to me it is incomprehensible."
"I think there are a good many things incomprehensible to you,"
said Rogozhinsky, with a trembling voice.
"I have seen how one public prosecutor did his very best to get
an unfortunate boy condemned, who could have evoked nothing but
sympathy in an unperverted mind. I know how another
cross-examined a sectarian and put down the reading of the
Gospels as a criminal offence; in fact, the whole business of the
Law Courts consists in senseless and cruel actions of that sort."
"I should not serve if I thought so," said Rogozhinsky, rising.
Nekhludoff noticed a peculiar glitter under his brother-in-law's
spectacles. "Can it be tears?" he thought. And they were really
tears of injured pride. Rogozhinsky went up to the window, got
out his handkerchief, coughed and rubbed his spectacles, took
them off, and wiped his eyes.
When he returned to the sofa he lit a cigar, and did not speak
Nekhludoff felt pained and ashamed of having offended his
brother-in-law and his sister to such a degree, especially as he
was going away the next day.
He parted with them in confusion, and drove home.
"All I have said may be true--anyhow he did not reply. But it was
not said in the right way. How little I must have changed if I
could be carried away by ill-feeling to such an extent as to hurt
and wound poor Nathalie in such a way!" he thought.
THE PRISONERS START FOR SIBERIA.
The gang of prisoners, among whom was Maslova, was to leave
Moscow by rail at 3 p.m.; therefore, in order to see the gang
start, and walk to the station with the prisoners Nekhludoff
meant to reach the prison before 12 o'clock.
The night before, as he was packing up and sorting his papers, he
came upon his diary, and read some bits here and there. The last
bit written before he left for Petersburg ran thus: "Katusha
does not wish to accept my sacrifice; she wishes to make a
sacrifice herself. She has conquered, and so have I. She makes me
happy by the inner change, which seems to me, though I fear to
believe it, to be going on in her. I fear to believe it, yet she
seems to be coming back to life." Then further on he read. "I
have lived through something very hard and very joyful. I learnt
that she has behaved very badly in the hospital, and I suddenly
felt great pain. I never expected that it could be so painful. I
spoke to her with loathing and hatred, then all of a sudden I
called to mind how many times I have been, and even still am,
though but in thought, guilty of the thing that I hated her for,
and immediately I became disgusting to myself, and pitied her and
felt happy again. If only we could manage to see the beam in our
own eye in time, how kind we should be." Then he wrote: "I have
been to see Nathalie, and again self-satisfaction made me unkind
and spiteful, and a heavy feeling remains. Well, what is to be
done? Tomorrow a new life will begin. A final good-bye to the
old! Many new impressions have accumulated, but I cannot yet
bring them to unity."
When he awoke the next morning Nekhludoff's first feeling was
regret about the affair between him and his brother-in-law.
"I cannot go away like this," he thought. "I must go and make it
up with them." But when he looked at his watch he saw that he had
not time to go, but must hurry so as not to be too late for the
departure of the gang. He hastily got everything ready, and sent
the things to the station with a servant and Taras, Theodosia's
husband, who was going with them. Then he took the first
isvostchik he could find and drove off to the prison.
The prisoners' train started two hours before the train by which
he was going, so Nekhludoff paid his bill in the lodgings and
left for good.
It was July, and the weather was unbearably hot. From the stones,
the walls, the iron of the roofs, which the sultry night had not
cooled, the beat streamed into the motionless air. When at rare
intervals a slight breeze did arise, it brought but a whiff of
hot air filled with dust and smelling of oil paint.
There were few people in the streets, and those who were out
tried to keep on the shady side. Only the sunburnt peasants, with
their bronzed faces and bark shoes on their feet, who were
mending the road, sat hammering the stones into the burning sand
in the sun; while the policemen, in their holland blouses, with
revolvers fastened with orange cords, stood melancholy and
depressed in the middle of the road, changing from foot to foot;
and the tramcars, the horses of which wore holland hoods on their
heads, with slits for the ears, kept passing up and down the
sunny road with ringing bells.
When Nekhludoff drove up to the prison the gang had not left the
yard. The work of delivering and receiving the prisoners that had
commenced at 4 A.M. was still going on. The gang was to consist
of 623 men and 64 women; they had all to be received according to
the registry lists. The sick and the weak to be sorted out, and
all to be delivered to the convoy. The new inspector, with two
assistants, the doctor and medical assistant, the officer of the
convoy, and the clerk, were sitting in the prison yard at a table
covered with writing materials and papers, which was placed in
the shade of a wall. They called the prisoners one by one,
examined and questioned them, and took notes. The rays of the sun
had gradually reached the table, and it was growing very hot and
oppressive for want of air and because of the breathing crowd of
prisoners that stood close by.
"Good gracious, will this never come to an end!" the convoy
officer, a tall, fat, red-faced man with high shoulders, who kept
puffing the smoke, of his cigarette into his thick moustache,
asked, as he drew in a long puff. "You are killing me. From where
have you got them all? Are there many more?" the clerk inquired.
"Twenty-four men and the women."
"What are you standing there for? Come on," shouted the convoy
officer to the prisoners who had not yet passed the revision, and
who stood crowded one behind the other. The prisoners had been
standing there more than three hours, packed in rows in the full
sunlight, waiting their turns.
While this was going on in the prison yard, outside the gate,
besides the sentinel who stood there as usual with a gun, were
drawn up about 20 carts, to carry the luggage of the prisoners
and such prisoners as were too weak to walk, and a group of
relatives and friends waiting to see the prisoners as they came
out and to exchange a few words if a chance presented itself and
to give them a few things. Nekhludoff took his place among the
group. He had stood there about an hour when the clanking of
chains, the noise of footsteps, authoritative voices, the sound
of coughing, and the low murmur of a large crowd became audible.
This continued for about five minutes, during which several
jailers went in and out of the gateway. At last the word of
command was given. The gate opened with a thundering noise, the
clattering of the chains became louder, and the convoy soldiers,
dressed in white blouses and carrying guns, came out into the
street and took their places in a large, exact circle in front of
the gate; this was evidently a usual, often-practised manoeuvre.
Then another command was given, and the prisoners began coming
out in couples, with flat, pancake-shaped caps on their shaved
heads and sacks over their shoulders, dragging their chained legs
and swinging one arm, while the other held up a sack.
First came the men condemned to hard labour, all dressed alike in
grey trousers and cloaks with marks on the back. All of
them--young and old, thin and fat, pale and red, dark and bearded
and beardless, Russians, Tartars, and Jews--came out, clattering
with their chains and briskly swinging their arms as if prepared
to go a long distance, but stopped after having taken ten steps,
and obediently took their places behind each other, four abreast.
Then without interval streamed out more shaved men, dressed in
the same manner but with chains only on their legs. These were
condemned to exile. They came out as briskly and stopped as
suddenly, taking their places four in a row. Then came those
exiled by their Communes. Then the women in the same order, first
those condemned to hard labour, with grey cloaks and kerchiefs;
then the exiled women, and those following their husbands of
their own free will, dressed in their own town or village
clothing. Some of the women were carrying babies wrapped in the
fronts of their grey cloaks.
With the women came the children, boys and girls, who, like colts
in a herd of horses, pressed in among the prisoners.
The men took their places silently, only coughing now and then,
or making short remarks.
The women talked without intermission. Nekhludoff thought he saw
Maslova as they were coming out, but she was at once lost in the
large crowd, and he could only see grey creatures, seemingly
devoid of all that was human, or at any rate of all that was
womanly, with sacks on their backs and children round them,
taking their places behind the men.
Though all the prisoners had been counted inside the prison
walls, the convoy counted them again, comparing the numbers with
the list. This took very long, especially as some of the
prisoners moved and changed places, which confused the convoy.
The convoy soldiers shouted and pushed the prisoners (who
complied obediently, but angrily) and counted them over again.
When all had been counted, the convoy officer gave a command, and
the crowd became agitated. The weak men and women and children
rushed, racing each other, towards the carts, and began placing
their bags on the carts and climbing up themselves. Women with
crying babies, merry children quarrelling for places, and dull,
careworn prisoners got into the carts.
Several of the prisoners took off their caps and came up to the
convoy officer with some request. Nekhludoff found out later that
they were asking for places on the carts. Nekhludoff saw how the
officer, without looking at the prisoners, drew in a whiff from
his cigarette, and then suddenly waved his short arm in front of
one of the prisoners, who quickly drew his shaved head back
between his shoulders as if afraid of a blow, and sprang back.
"I will give you a lift such that you'll remember. You'll get
there on foot right enough," shouted the officer. Only one of the
men was granted his request--an old man with chains on his legs;
and Nekhludoff saw the old man take off his pancake-shaped cap,
and go up to the cart crossing himself. He could not manage to
get up on the cart because of the chains that prevented his
lifting his old legs, and a woman who was sitting in the cart at
last pulled him in by the arm.
When all the sacks were in the carts, and those who were allowed
to get in were seated, the officer took off his cap, wiped his
forehead, his bald head and fat, red neck, and crossed himself.
"March," commanded the officer. The soldiers' guns gave a click;
the prisoners took off their caps and crossed themselves, those
who were seeing them off shouted something, the prisoners shouted
in answer, a row arose among the women, and the gang, surrounded
by the soldiers in their white blouses, moved forward, raising
the dust with their chained feet. The soldiers went in front;
then came the convicts condemned to hard labour, clattering with
their chains; then the exiled and those exiled by the Communes,
chained in couples by their wrists; then the women. After them,
on the carts loaded with sacks, came the weak. High up on one of
the carts sat a woman closely wrapped up, and she kept shrieking
NOT MEN BUT STRANGE AND TERRIBLE CREATURES?
The procession was such a long one that the carts with the
luggage and the weak started only when those in front were
already out of sight. When the last of the carts moved,
Nekhludoff got into the trap that stood waiting for him and told
the isvostchik to catch up the prisoners in front, so that he
could see if he knew any of the men in the gang, and then try and
find out Maslova among the women and ask her if she had received
the things he sent.
It was very hot, and a cloud of dust that was raised by a
thousand tramping feet stood all the time over the gang that was
moving down the middle of the street. The prisoners were walking
quickly, and the slow-going isvostchik's horse was some time in
catching them up. Row upon row they passed, those strange and
terrible-looking creatures, none of whom Nekhludoff knew.
On they went, all dressed alike, moving a thousand feet all shod
alike, swinging their free arms as if to keep up their spirits.
There were so many of them, they all looked so much alike, and
they were all placed in such unusual, peculiar circumstances,
that they seemed to Nekhludoff to be not men but some sort of
strange and terrible creatures. This impression passed when he
recognised in the crowd of convicts the murderer Federoff, and
among the exiles Okhotin the wit, and another tramp who had
appealed to him for assistance. Almost all the prisoners turned
and looked at the trap that was passing them and at the gentleman
inside. Federoff tossed his head backwards as a sign that he had
recognised Nekhludoff, Okhotin winked, but neither of them bowed,
considering it not the thing.
As soon as Nekhludoff came up to the women he saw Maslova; she
was in the second row. The first in the row was a short-legged,
black-eyed, hideous woman, who had her cloak tucked up in her
girdle. This was Koroshavka. The next was a pregnant woman, who
dragged herself along with difficulty. The third was Maslova; she
was carrying her sack on her shoulder, and looking straight
before her. Her face looked calm and determined. The fourth in
the row was a young, lovely woman who was walking along briskly,
dressed in a short cloak, her kerchief tied in peasant fashion.
This was Theodosia.
Nekhludoff got down and approached the women, meaning to ask
Maslova if she had got the things he had sent her, and how she
was feeling, but the convoy sergeant, who was walking on that
side, noticed him at once, and ran towards him.
"You must not do that, sir. It is against the regulations to
approach the gang," shouted the sergeant as he came up.
But when he recognised Nekhludoff (every one in the prison knew
Nekhludoff) the sergeant raised his fingers to his cap, and,
stopping in front of Nekhludoff, said: "Not now; wait till we get
to the railway station; here it is not allowed. Don't lag behind;
march!" he shouted to the convicts, and putting on a brisk air,
he ran back to his place at a trot, in spite of the heat and the
elegant new boots on his feet.
Nekhludoff went on to the pavement and told the isvostchik to
follow him; himself walking, so as to keep the convicts in sight.
Wherever the gang passed it attracted attention mixed with horror
and compassion. Those who drove past leaned out of the vehicles
and followed the prisoners with their eyes. Those on foot stopped
and looked with fear and surprise at the terrible sight. Some
came up and gave alms to the prisoners. The alms were received by
the convoy. Some, as if they were hypnotised, followed the gang,
but then stopped, shook their heads, and followed the prisoners
only with their eyes. Everywhere the people came out of the gates
and doors, and called others to come out, too, or leaned out of
the windows looking, silent and immovable, at the frightful
procession. At a cross-road a fine carriage was stopped by the
gang. A fat coachman, with a shiny face and two rows of buttons
on his back, sat on the box; a married couple sat facing the
horses, the wife, a pale, thin woman, with a light-coloured
bonnet on her head and a bright sunshade in her hand, the husband
with a top-hat and a well-cut light-coloured overcoat. On the
seat in front sat their children--a well-dressed little girl,
with loose, fair hair, and as fresh as a flower, who also held a
bright parasol, and an eight-year-old boy, with a long, thin neck
and sharp collarbones, a sailor hat with long ribbons on his
The father was angrily scolding the coachman because he had not
passed in front of the gang when he had a chance, and the mother
frowned and half closed her eyes with a look of disgust,
shielding herself from the dust and the sun with her silk
sunshade, which she held close to her face.
The fat coachman frowned angrily at the unjust rebukes of his
master--who had himself given the order to drive along that
street--and with difficulty held in the glossy, black horses,
foaming under their harness and impatient to go on.
The policeman wished with all his soul to please the owner of the
fine equipage by stopping the gang, yet felt that the dismal
solemnity of the procession could not be broken even for so rich
a gentleman. He only raised his fingers to his cap to show his
respect for riches, and looked severely at the prisoners as if
promising in any case to protect the owners of the carriage from
them. So the carriage had to wait till the whole of the
procession had passed, and could only move on when the last of
the carts, laden with sacks and prisoners, rattled by. The
hysterical woman who sat on one of the carts, and had grown calm,
again began shrieking and sobbing when she saw the elegant
carriage. Then the coachman tightened the reins with a slight
touch, and the black trotters, their shoes ringing against the
paving stones, drew the carriage, softly swaying on its rubber
tires, towards the country house where the husband, the wife, the
girl, and the boy with the sharp collar-bones were going to amuse
themselves. Neither the father nor the mother gave the girl and
boy any explanation of what they had seen, so that the children
had themselves to find out the meaning of this curious sight. The
girl, taking the expression of her father's and mother's faces
into consideration, solved the problem by assuming that these
people were quite another kind of men and women than her father
and mother and their acquaintances, that they were bad people,
and that they had therefore to be treated in the manner they were
Therefore the girl felt nothing but fear, and was glad when she
could no longer see those people.
But the boy with the long, thin neck, who looked at the
procession of prisoners without taking his eyes off them, solved
the question differently.
He still knew, firmly and without any doubt, for he had it from
God, that these people were just the same kind of people as he
was, and like all other people, and therefore some one had done
these people some wrong, something that ought not to have been
done, and he was sorry for them, and felt no horror either of
those who were shaved and chained or of those who had shaved and
chained them. And so the boy's lips pouted more and more, and he
made greater and greater efforts not to cry, thinking it a shame
to cry in such a case.
THE TENDER MERCIES OF THE LORD.
Nekhludoff kept up with the quick pace of the convicts. Though
lightly clothed he felt dreadfully hot, and it was hard to
breathe in the stifling, motionless, burning air filled with
When he had walked about a quarter of a mile he again got into
the trap, but it felt still hotter in the middle of the street.
He tried to recall last night's conversation with his
brother-in-law, but the recollections no longer excited him as
they had done in the morning. They were dulled by the impressions
made by the starting and procession of the gang, and chiefly by
the intolerable heat.
On the pavement, in the shade of some trees overhanging a fence,
he saw two schoolboys standing over a kneeling man who sold ices.
One of the boys was already sucking a pink spoon and enjoying his
ices, the other was waiting for a glass that was being filled
with something yellowish.
"Where could I get a drink?" Nekhludoff asked his isvostchik,
feeling an insurmountable desire for some refreshment.
"There is a good eating-house close by," the isvostchik answered,
and turning a corner, drove up to a door with a large signboard.
The plump clerk in a Russian shirt, who stood behind the counter,
and the waiters in their once white clothing who sat at the
tables (there being hardly any customers) looked with curiosity
at the unusual visitor and offered him their services. Nekhludoff
asked for a bottle of seltzer water and sat down some way from
the window at a small table covered with a dirty cloth. Two men
sat at another table with tea-things and a white bottle in front
of them, mopping their foreheads, and calculating something in a
friendly manner. One of them was dark and bald, and had just such
a border of hair at the back as Rogozhinsky. This sight again
reminded Nekhludoff of yesterday's talk with his brother-in-law
and his wish to see him and Nathalie.
"I shall hardly be able to do it before the train starts," he
thought; "I'd better write." He asked for paper, an envelope, and
a stamp, and as he was sipping the cool, effervescent water he
considered what he should say. But his thoughts wandered, and he
could not manage to compose a letter.
"My dear Nathalie,--I cannot go away with the heavy impression
that yesterday's talk with your husband has left," he began.
"What next? Shall I ask him to forgive me what I said yesterday?
But I only said what I felt, and he will think that I am taking
it back. Besides, this interference of his in my private matters.
. . . No, I cannot," and again he felt hatred rising in his heart
towards that man so foreign to him. He folded the unfinished
letter and put it in his pocket, paid, went out, and again got
into the trap to catch up the gang. It had grown still hotter.
The stones and the walls seemed to be breathing out hot air. The
pavement seemed to scorch the feet, and Nekhludoff felt a burning
sensation in his hand when he touched the lacquered splashguard
of his trap.
The horse was jogging along at a weary trot, beating the uneven,
dusty road monotonously with its hoofs, the isvostchik kept
falling into a doze, Nekhludoff sat without thinking of anything.
At the bottom of a street, in front of a large house, a group of
people had collected, and a convoy soldier stood by.
"What has happened?" Nekhludoff asked of a porter.
"Something the matter with a convict."
Nekhludoff got down and came up to the group. On the rough
stones, where the pavement slanted down to the gutter, lay a
broadly-built, red-bearded, elderly convict, with his head lower
than his feet, and very red in the face. He had a grey cloak and
grey trousers on, and lay on his back with the palms of his
freckled hands downwards, and at long intervals his broad, high
chest heaved, and he groaned, while his bloodshot eyes were fixed
on the sky. By him stood a cross-looking policeman, a pedlar, a
postman, a clerk, an old woman with a parasol, and a short-haired
boy with an empty basket.
"They are weak. Having been locked up in prison they've got weak,
and then they lead them through the most broiling heat," said the
clerk, addressing Nekhludoff, who had just come up.
"He'll die, most likely," said the woman with the parasol, in a
"His shirt should be untied," said the postman.
The policeman began, with his thick, trembling fingers, clumsily
to untie the tapes that fastened the shirt round the red, sinewy
neck. He was evidently excited and confused, but still thought it
necessary to address the crowd.
"What have you collected here for? It is hot enough without your
keeping the wind off."
"They should have been examined by a doctor, and the weak ones
left behind," said the clerk, showing off his knowledge of the
The policeman, having undone the tapes of the shirt, rose and
"Move on, I tell you. It is not your business, is it? What's
there to stare at?" he said, and turned to Nekhludoff for
sympathy, but not finding any in his face he turned to the convoy
But the soldier stood aside, examining the trodden-down heel of
his boot, and was quite indifferent to the policeman's
"Those whose business it is don't care. Is it right to do men to
death like this? A convict is a convict, but still he is a man,"
different voices were heard saying in the crowd.
"Put his head up higher, and give him some water," said
"Water has been sent for," said the policeman, and taking the
prisoner under the arms he with difficulty pulled his body a
little higher up.
"What's this gathering here?" said a decided, authoritative
voice, and a police officer, with a wonderfully clean, shiny
blouse, and still more shiny top-boots, came up to the assembled
"Move on. No standing about here," he shouted to the crowd,
before he knew what had attracted it.
When he came near and saw the dying convict, he made a sign of
approval with his head, just as if he had quite expected it, and,
turning to the policeman, said, "How is this?"
The policeman said that, as a gang of prisoners was passing, one
of the convicts had fallen down, and the convoy officer had
ordered him to be left behind.
"Well, that's all right. He must be taken to the police station.
Call an isvostchik."
"A porter has gone for one," said the policeman, with his fingers
raised to his cap.
The shopman began something about the heat.
"Is it your business, eh? Move on," said the police officer, and
looked so severely at him that the clerk was silenced.
"He ought to have a little water," said Nekhludoff. The police
officer looked severely at Nekhludoff also, but said nothing.
When the porter brought a mug full of water, he told the
policeman to offer some to the convict. The policeman raised the
drooping head, and tried to pour a little water down the mouth;
but the prisoner could not swallow it, and it ran down his beard,
wetting his jacket and his coarse, dirty linen shirt.
"Pour it on his head," ordered the officer; and the policeman
took off the pancake-shaped cap and poured the water over the red
curls and bald part of the prisoner's head. His eyes opened wide
as if in fear, but his position remained unchanged.
Streams of dirt trickled down his dusty face, but the mouth
continued to gasp in the same regular way, and his whole body
"And what's this? Take this one," said the police officer,
pointing to Nekhludoff's isvostchik. "You, there, drive up."
"I am engaged," said the isvostchik, dismally, and without
"It is my isvostchik; but take him. I will pay you," said
Nekhludoff, turning to the isvostchik.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" shouted the officer. "Catch
The policeman, the porter, and the convoy soldier lifted the
dying man and carried him to the trap, and put him on the seat.
But he could not sit up; his head fell back, and the whole of his
body glided off the seat.
"Make him lie down," ordered the officer.
"It's all right, your honour; I'll manage him like this," said
the policeman, sitting down by the dying man, and clasping his
strong, right arm round the body under the arms. The convoy
soldier lifted the stockingless feet, in prison shoes, and put
them into the trap.
The police officer looked around, and noticing the pancake-shaped
hat of the convict lifted it up and put it on the wet, drooping
"Go on," he ordered.
The isvostchik looked angrily round, shook his head, and,
accompanied by the convoy soldier, drove back to the police
station. The policeman, sitting beside the convict, kept dragging
up the body that was continually sliding down from the seat,
while the head swung from side to side.
The convoy soldier, who was walking by the side of the trap, kept
putting the legs in their place. Nekhludoff followed the trap.
SPILLED LIKE WATER ON THE GROUND.
The trap passed the fireman who stood sentinel at the entrance,
[the headquarters of the fire brigade and the police stations are
generally together in Moscow] drove into the yard of the police
station, and stopped at one of the doors. In the yard several
firemen with their sleeves tucked up were washing some kind of
cart and talking loudly. When the trap stopped, several policemen
surrounded it, and taking the lifeless body of the convict under
the arms, took him out of the trap, which creaked under him. The
policeman who had brought the body got down, shook his numbed
arm, took off his cap, and crossed himself. The body was carried
through the door and up the stairs. Nekhludoff followed. In the
small, dirty room where the body was taken there stood four beds.
On two of them sat a couple of sick men in dressing-gowns, one
with a crooked mouth, whose neck was bandaged, the other one in
consumption. Two of the beds were empty; the convict was laid on
one of them. A little man, wish glistening eyes and continually
moving brows, with only his underclothes and stockings on, came
up with quick, soft steps, looked at the convict and then at
Nekhludoff, and burst into loud laughter. This was a madman who
was being kept in the police hospital.
"They wish to frighten me, but no, they won't succeed," he said.
Back to Full Books