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BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXI.


"JUST A WORTHLESS TRAMP."

Nekhludoff stood on the edge of the raft looking at the broad river. Two pictures kept rising up in his mind. One, that of Kryltzoff, unprepared for death and dying, made a heavy, sorrowful impression on him. The other, that of Katusha, full of energy, having gained the love of such a man as Simonson, and found a true and solid path towards righteousness, should have been pleasant, yet it also created a heavy impression on Nekhludoff's mind, and he could not conquer this impression.

The vibrating sounds of a big brass bell reached them from the town. Nekhludoff's driver, who stood by his side, and the other men on the raft raised their caps and crossed themselves, all except a short, dishevelled old man, who stood close to the railway and whom Nekhludoff had not noticed before. He did not cross himself, but raised his head and looked at Nekhludoff. This old man wore a patched coat, cloth trousers and worn and patched shoes. He had a small wallet on his back, and a high fur cap with the fur much rubbed on his head.

"Why don't you pray, old chap?" asked Nekhludoff's driver as he replaced and straightened his cap. "Are you unbaptized?"

"Who's one to pray to?" asked the old man quickly, in a determinately aggressive tone.

"To whom? To God, of course," said the driver sarcastically.

"And you just show me where he is, that god." There was something so serious and firm in the expression of the old man, that the driver felt that he had to do with a strong-minded man, and was a bit abashed. And trying not to show this, not to be silenced, and not to be put to shame before the crowd that was observing them, he answered quickly.

"Where? In heaven, of course."

"And have you been up there?"

"Whether I've been or not, every one knows that you must pray to God."

""No one has ever seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him," said the old man in the same rapid manner, and with a severe frown on his brow.

"It's clear you are not a Christian, but a hole worshipper. You pray to a hole," said the driver, shoving the handle of his whip into his girdle, pulling straight the harness on one of the horses.

Some one laughed.

"What is your faith, Dad?" asked a middle-aged man, who stood by his cart on the same side of the raft.

"I have no kind of faith, because I believe no one--no one but myself," said the old man as quickly and decidedly as before.

"How can you believe yourself?" Nekhludoff asked, entering into a conversation with him. "You might make a mistake."

"Never in your life," the old man said decidedly, with a toss of his head.

"Then why are there different faiths?" Nekhludoff asked.

"It's just because men believe others and do not believe themselves that there are different faiths. I also believed others, and lost myself as in a swamp,--lost myself so that I had no hope of finding my way out. Old believers and new believers and Judaisers and Khlysty and Popovitzy, and Bespopovitzy and Avstriaks and Molokans and Skoptzy --every faith praises itself only, and so they all creep about like blind puppies. There are many faiths, but the spirit is one--in me and in you and in him. So that if every one believes himself all will he united. Every one he himself, and all will be as one."

The old man spoke loudly and often looked round, evidently wishing that as many as possible should hear him.

"And have you long held this faith?"

"I? A long time. This is the twenty-third year that they persecute me."

"Persecute you? How?

"As they persecuted Christ, so they persecute me. They seize me, and take me before the courts and before the priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees. Once they put me into a madhouse; but they can do nothing because I am free. They say, 'What is your name?' thinking I shall name myself. But I do not give myself a name. I have given up everything: I have no name, no place, no country, nor anything. I am just myself. 'What is your name?' 'Man.' 'How old are you?' I say, 'I do not count my years and cannot count them, because I always was, I always shall be.' ' Who are your parents?' 'I have no parents except God and Mother Earth. God is my father.' 'And the Tsar? Do you recognise the Tsar?' they say. I say, 'Why not? He is his own Tsar, and I am my own Tsar.' 'Where's the good of talking to him,' they say, and I say, 'I do not ask you to talk to me.' And so they begin tormenting me."

"And where are you going now?" asked Nekhludoff.

"Where God will lead me. I work when I can find work, and when I can't I beg." The old man noticed that the raft was approaching the bank and stopped, looking round at the bystanders with a look of triumph.

Nekhludoff got out his purse and offered some money to the old man, but he refused, saying:

"I do not accept this sort of thing--bread I do accept."

"Well, then, excuse me."

"There is nothing to excuse, you have not offended me. And it is not possible to offend me." And the old man put the wallet he had taken off again on his back. Meanwhile, the post-cart had been landed and the horses harnessed.

"I wonder you should care to talk to him, sir," said the driver, when Nekhludoff, having tipped the bowing ferryman, got into the cart again. "He is just a worthless tramp."

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXII.


NEKHLUDOFF SEES THE GENERAL.

When they got to the top of the hill bank the driver turned to Nekhludoff.

"Which hotel am I to drive to?"

"Which is the best?"

"Nothing could be better than the Siberian, but Dukeoff's is also good."

"Drive to whichever you like."

The driver again seated himself sideways and drove faster. The town was like all such towns. The same kind of houses with attic windows and green roofs, the same kind of cathedral, the same kind of shops and stores in the principal street, and even the same kind of policemen. Only the houses were almost all of them wooden, and the streets were not paved. In one of the chief streets the driver stopped at the door of an hotel, but there was no room to be had, so he drove to another. And here Nekhludoff, after two months, found himself once again in surroundings such as he had been accustomed to as far as comfort and cleanliness went. Though the room he was shown to was simple enough, yet Nekhludoff felt greatly relieved to be there after two months of post-carts, country inns and halting stations. His first business was to clean himself of the lice which he had never been able to get thoroughly rid of after visiting a halting station. When he had unpacked he went to the Russian bath, after which he made himself fit to be seen in a town, put on a starched shirt, trousers that had got rather creased along the seams, a frock-coat and an overcoat, and drove to the Governor of the district. The hotel-keeper called an isvostchik, whose well-fed Kirghiz horse and vibrating trap soon brought Nekhludoff to the large porch of a big building, in front of which stood sentinels and a policeman. The house had a garden in front, and at the back, among the naked branches of aspen and birch trees, there grew thick and dark green pines and firs. The General was not well, and did not receive; but Nekhludoff asked the footman to hand in his card all the same, and the footman came back with a favourable reply.

"You are asked to come in."

The hall, the footman, the orderly, the staircase, the dancing-room, with its well-polished floor, were very much the same as in Petersburg, only more imposing and rather dirtier. Nekhludoff was shown into the cabinet.

The General, a bloated, potato-nosed man, with a sanguine disposition, large bumps on his forehead, bald head, and puffs under his eyes, sat wrapped in a Tartar silk dressing-gown smoking a cigarette and sipping his tea out of a tumbler in a silver holder.

"How do you do, sir? Excuse my dressing-gown; it is better so than if I had not received you at all," he said, pulling up his dressing-gown over his fat neck with its deep folds at the nape. "I am not quite well, and do not go out. What has brought you to our remote region?"

"I am accompanying a gang of prisoners, among whom there is a person closely connected with me, said Nekhludoff, and now I have come to see your Excellency partly in behalf of this person, and partly about another business." The General took a whiff and a sip of tea, put his cigarette into a malachite ashpan, with his narrow eyes fixed on Nekhludoff, listening seriously. He only interrupted him once to offer him a cigarette.

The General belonged to the learned type of military men who believed that liberal and humane views can be reconciled with their profession. But being by nature a kind and intelligent man, he soon felt the impossibility of such a reconciliation; so as not to feel the inner discord in which he was living, he gave himself up more and more to the habit of drinking, which is so widely spread among military men, and was now suffering from what doctors term alcoholism. He was imbued with alcohol, and if he drank any kind of liquor it made him tipsy. Yet strong drink was an absolute necessity to him, he could not live without it, so he was quite drunk every evening; but had grown so used to this state that he did not reel nor talk any special nonsense. And if he did talk nonsense, it was accepted as words of wisdom because of the important and high position which he occupied. Only in the morning, just at the time Nekhludoff came to see him, he was like a reasonable being, could understand what was said to him, and fulfil more or less aptly a proverb he was fond of repeating: "He's tipsy, but he's wise, so he's pleasant in two ways."

The higher authorities knew he was a drunkard, but he was more educated than the rest, though his education had stopped at the spot where drunkenness had got hold of him. He was bold, adroit, of imposing appearance, and showed tact even when tipsy; therefore, he was appointed, and was allowed to retain so public and responsible an office.

Nekhludoff told him that the person he was interested in was a woman, that she was sentenced, though innocent, and that a petition had been sent to the Emperor in her behalf.

"Yes, well?" said the General.

"I was promised in Petersburg that the news concerning her fate should be sent to me not later than this month and to this place-"

The General stretched his hand with its stumpy fingers towards the table, and rang a bell, still looking at Nekhludoff and puffing at his cigarette.

"So I would like to ask you that this woman should he allowed to remain here until the answer to her petition comes."

The footman, an orderly in uniform, came in.

"Ask if Anna Vasilievna is up," said the General to the orderly, "and bring some more tea." Then, turning to Nekhludoff, "Yes, and what else?"

"My other request concerns a political prisoner who is with the same gang."

"Dear me," said the General, with a significant shake of the head.

"He is seriously ill--dying, and he will probably he left here in the hospital, so one of the women prisoners would like to stay behind with him."

"She is no relation of his?"

"No, but she is willing to marry him if that will enable her to remain with him."

The General looked fixedly with twinkling eyes at his interlocutor, and, evidently with a wish to discomfit him, listened, smoking in silence.

When Nekhludoff had finished, the General took a book off the table, and, wetting his finger, quickly turned over the pages and found the statute relating to marriage.

"What is she sentenced to?" he asked, looking up from the book.

"She? To hard labour."

"Well, then, the position of one sentenced to that cannot be bettered by marriage."

"Yes, but-"

"Excuse me. Even if a free man should marry her, she would have to serve her term. The question in such cases is, whose is the heavier punishment, hers or his?"

"They are both sentenced to hard labour."

"Very well; so they are quits," said the General, with a laugh. She's got what he has, only as he is sick he may be left behind, and of course what can be done to lighten his fate shall be done. But as for her, even if she did marry him, she could not remain behind."

"The Generaless is having her coffee," the footman announced.

The General nodded and continued:

"However, I shall think about it. What are their names? Put them down here."

Nekhludoff wrote down the names.

Nekhludoff's request to be allowed to see the dying man the General answered by saying, "Neither can I do that. Of course I do not suspect you, but you take an interest in him and in the others, and you have money, and here with us anything can be done with money. I have been told to put down bribery. But how can I put down bribery when everybody takes bribes? And the lower their rank the more ready they are to be bribed. How can one find it out across more than three thousand miles? There any official is a little Tsar, just as I am here," and he laughed. "You have in all likelihood been to see the political prisoners; you gave money and got permission to see them," he said, with a smile. "Is it not so?

"Yes, it is."

"I quite understand that you had to do it. You pity a political prisoner and wish to see him. And the inspector or the convoy soldier accepts, because he has a salary of twice twenty copecks and a family, and he can't help accepting it. In his place and yours I should have acted in the same way as you and he did. But in my position I do not permit myself to swerve an inch from the letter of the law, just because I am a man, and might be influenced by pity. But I am a member of the executive, and I have been placed in a position of trust on certain conditions, and these conditions I must carry out. Well, so this business is finished. And now let us hear what is going on in the metropolis." And the General began questioning with the evident desire to hear the news and to show how very human he was.

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXIII.


THE SENTENCE COMMUTED.

"By-the-way, where are you staying?" asked the General as he was taking leave of Nekhludoff. "At Duke's? Well, it's horrid enough there. Come and dine with us at five o'clock. You speak English?

"Yes, I do."

"That's good. You see, an English traveller has just arrived here. He is studying the question of transportation and examining the prisons of Siberia. Well, he is dining with us to-night, and you come and meet him. We dine at five, and my wife expects punctuality. Then I shall also give you an answer what to do about that woman, and perhaps it may be possible to leave some one behind with the sick prisoner."

Having made his bow to the General, Nekhludoff drove to the post-office, feeling himself in an extremely animated and energetic frame of mind.

The post-office was a low-vaulted room. Several officials sat behind a counter serving the people, of whom there was quite a crowd. One official sat with his head bent to one side and kept stamping the envelopes, which he slipped dexterously under the stamp. Nekhludoff had not long to wait. As soon as he had given his name, everything that had come for him by post was at once handed to him. There was a good deal: letters, and money, and books, and the last number of Fatherland Notes. Nekhludoff took all these things to a wooden bench, on which a soldier with a book in his hand sat waiting for something, took the seat by his side, and began sorting the letters. Among them was one registered letter in a fine envelope, with a distinctly stamped bright red seal. He broke the seal, and seeing a letter from Selenin and some official paper inside the envelope, he felt the blood rush to his face, and his heart stood still. It was the answer to Katusha's petition. What would that answer be? Nekhludoff glanced hurriedly through the letter, written in an illegibly small, hard, and cramped hand, and breathed a sigh of relief. The answer was a favourable one.

"Dear friend," wrote Selenin, "our last talk has made a profound impression on me. You were right concerning Maslova. I looked carefully through the case, and see that shocking injustice has been done her. It could he remedied only by the Committee of Petitions before which you laid it. I managed to assist at the examination of the case, and I enclose herewith the copy of the mitigation of the sentence. Your aunt, the Countess Katerina Ivanovna, gave me the address which I am sending this to. The original document has been sent to the place where she was imprisoned before her trial, and will from there he probably sent at once to the principal Government office in Siberia. I hasten to communicate this glad news to you and warmly press your hand.

                    "Yours,

                        "SELENIN."

The document ran thus: "His Majesty's office for the reception of petitions, addressed to his Imperial name"--here followed the date----"by order of the chief of his Majesty's office for the reception of petitions addressed to his Imperial name. The meschanka Katerina Maslova is hereby informed that his Imperial Majesty, with reference to her most loyal petition, condescending to her request, deigns to order that her sentence to hard labour should be commuted to one of exile to the less distant districts of Siberia-"

This was joyful and important news; all that Nekhludoff could have hoped for Katusha, and for himself also, had happened. It was true that the new position she was in brought new complications with it. While she was a convict, marriage with her could only be fictitious, and would have had no meaning except that he would have been in a position to alleviate her condition. And now there was nothing to prevent their living together, and Nekhludoff had not prepared himself for that. And, besides, what of her relations to Simonson? What was the meaning of her words yesterday? If she consented to a union with Simonson, would it be well? He could not unravel all these questions, and gave up thinking about it. "It will all clear itself up later on," he thought; "I must not think about it now, but convey the glad news to her as soon as possible, and set her free. He thought that the copy of the document he had received would suffice, so when he left the post-office he told the isvostchik to drive him to the prison.

Though he had received no order from the governor to visit the prison that morning, he knew by experience that it was easy to get from the subordinates what the higher officials would not grant, so now he meant to try and get into the prison to bring Katusha the joyful news, and perhaps to get her set free, and at the same time to inquire about Kryltzoff's state of health, and tell him and Mary Pavlovna what the general had said. The prison inspector was a tall, imposing-looking man, with moustaches and whiskers that twisted towards the corners of his mouth. He received Nekhludoff very gravely, and told him plainly that he could not grant an outsider the permission to interview the prisoners without a special order from his chief. To Nekhludoff's remark that he had been allowed to visit the prisoners even in the cities he answered:

"That may be so, but I do not allow it," and his tone implied, "You city gentlemen may think to surprise and perplex us, but we in Eastern Siberia also know what the law is, and may even teach it you." The copy of a document straight from the Emperor's own office did not have any effect on the prison inspector either. He decidedly refused to let Nekhludoff come inside the prison walls. He only smiled contemptuously at Nekhludoff's naive conclusion, that the copy he had received would suffice to set Maslova free, and declared that a direct order from his own superiors would be needed before any one could be set at liberty. The only things he agreed to do were to communicate to Maslova that a mitigation had arrived for her, and to promise that he would not detain her an hour after the order from his chief to liberate her would arrive. He would also give no news of Kryltzoff, saying he could not even tell if there was such a prisoner; and so Nekhludoff, having accomplished next to nothing, got into his trap and drove back to his hotel.

The strictness of the inspector was chiefly due to the fact that an epidemic of typhus had broken out in the prison, owing to twice the number of persons that it was intended for being crowded in it. The isvostchik who drove Nekhludoff said, "Quite a lot of people are dying in the prison every day, some kind of disease having sprung up among them, so that as many as twenty were buried in one day."

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXIV.


THE GENERAL'S HOUSEHOLD.

In spite of his ineffectual attempt at the prison, Nekhludoff, still in the same vigorous, energetic frame of mind, went to the Governor's office to see if the original of the document had arrived for Maslova. It had not arrived, so Nekhludoff went back to the hotel and wrote without delay to Selenin and the advocate about it. When he had finished writing he looked at his watch and saw it was time to go to the General's dinner party.

On the way he again began wondering how Katusha would receive the news of the mitigation of her sentence. Where she would be settled? How he should live with her? What about Simonson? What would his relations to her be? He remembered the change that had taken place in her, and this reminded him of her past. "I must forget it for the present," he thought, and again hastened to drive her out of his mind. "When the time comes I shall see," he said to himself, and began to think of what he ought to say to the General.

The dinner at the General's, with the luxury habitual to the lives of the wealthy and those of high rank, to which Nekhludoff had been accustomed, was extremely enjoyable after he had been so long deprived not only of luxury but even of the most ordinary comforts. The mistress of the house was a Petersburg grande dame of the old school, a maid of honour at the court of Nicholas I., who spoke French quite naturally and Russian very unnaturally. She held herself very erect and, moving her hands, she kept her elbows close to her waist. She was quietly and, somewhat sadly considerate for her husband, and extremely kind to all her visitors, though with a tinge of difference in her behaviour according to their position. She received Nekhludoff as if he were one of them, and her fine, almost imperceptible flattery made him once again aware of his virtues and gave him a feeling of satisfaction. She made him feel that she knew of that honest though rather singular step of his which had brought him to Siberia, and held him to be an exceptional man. This refined flattery and the elegance and luxury of the General's house had the effect of making Nekhludoff succumb to the enjoyment of the handsome surroundings, the delicate dishes and the case and pleasure of intercourse with educated people of his own class, so that the surroundings in the midst of which he had lived for the last months seemed a dream from which he had awakened to reality. Besides those of the household, the General's daughter and her husband and an aide-de-camp, there were an Englishman, a merchant interested in gold mines, and the governor of a distant Siberian town. All these people seemed pleasant to Nekhludoff. The Englishman, a healthy man with a rosy complexion, who spoke very bad French, but whose command of his own language was very good and oratorically impressive, who had seen a great deal, was very interesting to listen to when he spoke about America, India, Japan and Siberia.

The young merchant interested in the gold mines, the son of a peasant, whose evening dress was made in London, who had diamond studs to his shirt, possessed a fine library, contributed freely to philanthropic work, and held liberal European views, seemed pleasant to Nekhludoff as a sample of a quite new and good type of civilised European culture, grafted on a healthy, uncultivated peasant stem.

The governor of the distant Siberian town was that same man who had been so much talked about in Petersburg at the time Nekhludoff was there. He was plump, with thin, curly hair, soft blue eyes, carefully-tended white hands, with rings on the fingers, a pleasant smile, and very big in the lower part of his body. The master of the house valued this governor because of all the officials he was the only one who would not be bribed. The mistress of the house, who was very fond of music and a very good pianist herself, valued him because he was a good musician and played duets with her.

Nekhludoff was in such good humour that even this man was not unpleasant to him, in spite of what he knew of his vices. The bright, energetic aide-de-camp, with his bluey grey chin, who was continually offering his services, pleased Nekhludoff by his good nature. But it was the charming young couple, the General's daughter and her husband, who pleased Nekhludoff best. The daughter was a plain-looking, simple-minded young woman, wholly absorbed in her two children. Her husband, whom she had fallen in love with and married after a long struggle with her parents, was a Liberal, who had taken honours at the Moscow University, a modest and intellectual young man in Government service, who made up statistics and studied chiefly the foreign tribes, which he liked and tried to save from dying out.

All of them were not only kind and attentive to Nekhludoff, but evidently pleased to see him, as a new and interesting acquaintance. The General, who came in to dinner in uniform and with a white cross round his neck, greeted Nekhludoff as a friend, and asked the visitors to the side table to take a glass of vodka and something to whet their appetites. The General asked Nekhludoff what he had been doing since he left that morning, and Nekhludoff told him he had been to the post-office and received the news of the mitigation of that person's sentence that he had spoken of in the morning, and again asked for a permission to visit the prison.

The General, apparently displeased that business should be mentioned at dinner, frowned and said nothing.

"Have a glass of vodka" he said, addressing the Englishman, who had just come up to the table. The Englishman drank a glass, and said he had been to see the cathedral and the factory, but would like to visit the great transportation prison.

"Oh, that will just fit in," said the General to Nekhludoff. "You will he able to go together. Give them a pass," he added, turning to his aide-de-camp.

"When would you like to go?" Nekhludoff asked.

"I prefer visiting the prisons in the evening," the Englishman answered. "All are indoors and there is no preparation; you find them all as they are."

"Ah, he would like to see it in all its glory! Let him do so. I have written about it and no attention has been paid to it. Let him find out from foreign publications," the General said, and went up to the dinner table, where the mistress of the house was showing the visitors their places. Nekhludoff sat between his hostess and the Englishman. In front of him sat the General's daughter and the ex-director of the Government department in Petersburg. The conversation at dinner was carried on by fits and starts, now it was India that the Englishman talked about, now the Tonkin expedition that the General strongly disapproved of, now the universal bribery and corruption in Siberia. All these topics did not interest Nekhludoff much.

But after dinner, over their coffee, Nekhludoff and the Englishman began a very interesting conversation about Gladstone, and Nekhludoff thought he had said many clever things which were noticed by his interlocutor. And Nekhludoff felt it more and more pleasant to be sipping his coffee seated in an easy-chair among amiable, well-bred people. And when at the Englishman's request the hostess went up to the piano with the ex-director of the Government department, and they began to play in well-practised style Beethoven's fifth symphony, Nekhludoff fell into a mental state of perfect self-satisfaction to which he had long been a stranger, as though he had only just found out what a good fellow he was.

The grand piano was a splendid instrument, the symphony was well performed. At least, so it seemed to Nekhludoff, who knew and liked that symphony. Listening to the beautiful andante, he felt a tickling in his nose, he was so touched by his many virtues.

Nekhludoff thanked his hostess for the enjoyment that he had been deprived of for so long, and was about to say goodbye and go when the daughter of the house came up to him with a determined look and said, with a blush, "You asked about my children. Would you like to see them?"

"She thinks that everybody wants to see her children," said her mother, smiling at her daughter's winning tactlessness. "The Prince is not at all interested."

"On the contrary, I am very much interested," said Nekhludoff, touched by this overflowing, happy mother-love. "Please let me see them."

"She's taking the Prince to see her babies," the General shouted, laughing from the card-table, where he sat with his son-in-law, the mine owner and the aide-de-camp. "Go, go, pay your tribute."

The young woman, visibly excited by the thought that judgment was about to be passed on her children, went quickly towards the inner apartments, followed by Nekhludoff. In the third, a lofty room, papered with white and lit up by a shaded lamp, stood two small cots, and a nurse with a white cape on her shoulders sat between the cots. She had a kindly, true Siberian face, with its high cheek-bones.

The nurse rose and bowed. The mother stooped over the first cot, in which a two-year-old little girl lay peacefully sleeping with her little mouth open and her long, curly hair tumbled over the pillow.

"This is Katie," said the mother, straightening the white and blue crochet coverlet, from under which a little white foot pushed itself languidly out.

"Is she not pretty? She's only two years old, you know."

"Lovely."

"And this is Vasiuk, as 'grandpapa' calls him. Quite a different type. A Siberian, is he not?"

"A splendid boy," said Nekhludoff, as he looked at the little fatty lying asleep on his stomach.

"Yes," said the mother, with a smile full of meaning.

Nekhludoff recalled to his mind chains, shaved heads, fighting debauchery, the dying Kryltzoff, Katusha and the whole of her past, and he began to feel envious and to wish for what he saw here, which now seemed to him pure and refined happiness.

After having repeatedly expressed his admiration of the children, thereby at least partially satisfying their mother, who eagerly drank in this praise, he followed her back to the drawing-room, where the Englishman was waiting for him to go and visit the prison, as they had arranged. Having taken leave of their hosts, the old and the young ones, the Englishman and Nekhludoff went out into the porch of the General's house.

The weather had changed. It was snowing, and the snow fell densely in large flakes, and already covered the road, the roof and the trees in the garden, the steps of the porch, the roof of the trap and the back of the horse.

The Englishman had a trap of his own, and Nekhludoff, having told the coachman to drive to the prison, called his isvostchik and got in with the heavy sense of having to fulfil an unpleasant duty, and followed the Englishman over the soft snow, through which the wheels turned with difficulty.

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXV.


MASLOVA'S DECISION.

The dismal prison house, with its sentinel and lamp burning under the gateway, produced an even more dismal impression, with its long row of lighted windows, than it had done in the morning, in spite of the white covering that now lay over everything--the porch, the roof and the walls.

The imposing inspector came up to the gate and read the pass that had been given to Nekhludoff and the Englishman by the light of the lamp, shrugged his fine shoulders in surprise, but, in obedience to the order, asked the visitors to follow him in. He led them through the courtyard and then in at a door to the right and up a staircase into the office. He offered them a seat and asked what he could do for them, and when he heard that Nekhludoff would like to see Maslova at once, he sent a jailer to fetch her. Then he prepared himself to answer the questions which the Englishman began to put to him, Nekhludoff acting as interpreter.

"How many persons is the prison built to hold?" the Englishman asked. "How many are confined in it? How many men? How many women? Children? How many sentenced to the mines? How many exiles? How many sick persons?"

Nekhludoff translated the Englishman's and the inspector's words without paying any attention to their meaning, and felt an awkwardness he had not in the least expected at the thought of the impending interview. When, in the midst of a sentence he was translating for the Englishman, he heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and the office door opened, and, as had happened many times before, a jailer came in, followed by Katusha, and he saw her with a kerchief tied round her head, and in a prison jacket a heavy sensation came over him. "I wish to live, I want a family, children, I want a human life." These thoughts flashed through his mind as she entered the room with rapid steps and blinking her eyes.

He rose and made a few steps to meet her, and her face appeared hard and unpleasant to him. It was again as it had been at the time when she reproached him. She flushed and turned pale, her fingers nervously twisting a corner of her jacket. She looked up at him, then cast down her eyes.

"You know that a mitigation has come?"

"Yes, the jailer told me."

"So that as soon as the original document arrives you may come away and settle where you like. We shall consider--"

She interrupted him hurriedly. "What have I to consider? Where Valdemar Simonson goes, there I shall follow." In spite of the excitement she was in she raised her eyes to Nekhludoff's and pronounced these words quickly and distinctly, as if she had prepared what she had to say.

"Indeed!"

"Well, Dmitri Ivanovitch, you see he wishes me to live with him--" and she stopped, quite frightened, and corrected herself. "He wishes me to be near him. What more can I desire? I must look upon it as happiness. What else is there for me--"

"One of two things," thought he. "Either she loves Simonson and does not in the least require the sacrifice I imagined I was bringing her, or she still loves me and refuses me for my own sake, and is burning her ships by uniting her fate with Simonson." And Nekhludoff felt ashamed and knew that he was blushing.

"And you yourself, do you love him?" he asked.

"Loving or not loving, what does it matter? I have given up all that. And then Valdemar Simonson is quite an exceptional man."

"Yes, of course," Nekhludoff began. "He is a splendid man, and I think--"

But she again interrupted him, as if afraid that he might say too much or that she should not say all. "No, Dmitri Ivanovitch, you must forgive me if I am not doing what you wish," and she looked at him with those unfathomable, squinting eyes of hers. "Yes, it evidently must be so. You must live, too."

She said just what he had been telling himself a few moments before, but he no longer thought so now and felt very differently. He was not only ashamed, but felt sorry to lose all he was losing with her. "I did not expect this," he said.

"Why should you live here and suffer? You have suffered enough."

"I have not suffered. It was good for me, and I should like to go on serving you if I could."

"We do not want anything," she said, and looked at him.

"You have done so much for me as it is. If it had not been for you--" She wished to say more, but her voice trembled.

"You certainly have no reason to thank me," Nekhludoff said.

"Where is the use of our reckoning? God will make up our accounts," she said, and her black eyes began to glisten with the tears that filled them.

"What a good woman you are," he said.

"I good?" she said through her tears, and a pathetic smile lit up her face.

"Are you ready?" the Englishman asked.

"Directly," replied Nekhludoff and asked her about Kryltzoff.

She got over her emotion and quietly told him all she knew. Kryltzoff was very weak and had been sent into the infirmary. Mary Pavlovna was very anxious, and had asked to be allowed to go to the infirmary as a nurse, but could not get the permission.

"Am I to go?" she asked, noticing that the Englishman was waiting.

"I will not say good-bye; I shall see you again," said Nekhludoff, holding out his hand.

"Forgive me," she said so low that he could hardly hear her. Their eyes met, and Nekhludoff knew by the strange look of her squinting eyes and the pathetic smile with which she said not "Good-bye" but "Forgive me," that of the two reasons that might have led to her resolution, the second was the real one. She loved him, and thought that by uniting herself to him she would be spoiling his life. By going with Simonson she thought she would be setting Nekhludoff free, and felt glad that she had done what she meant to do, and yet she suffered at parting from him.

She pressed his hand, turned quickly and left the room.

Nekhludoff was ready to go, but saw that the Englishman was noting something down, and did not disturb him, but sat down on a wooden seat by the wall, and suddenly a feeling of terrible weariness came over him. It was not a sleepless night that had tired him, not the journey, not the excitement, but he felt terribly tired of living. He leaned against the back of the bench, shut his eyes and in a moment fell into a deep, heavy sleep.

"Well, would you like to look round the cells now?" the inspector asked.

Nekhludoff looked up and was surprised to find himself where he was. The Englishman had finished his notes and expressed a wish to see the cells.

Nekhludoff, tired and indifferent, followed him.

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXVI.


THE ENGLISH VISITOR.

When they had passed the anteroom and the sickening, stinking corridor, the Englishman and Nekhludoff, accompanied by the inspector, entered the first cell, where those sentenced to hard labour were confined. The beds took up the middle of the cell and the prisoners were all in bed. There were about 70 of them. When the visitors entered all the prisoners jumped up and stood beside the beds, excepting two, a young man who was in a state of high fever, and an old man who did nothing but groan.

The Englishman asked if the young man had long been ill. The inspector said that he was taken ill in the morning, but that the old man had long been suffering with pains in the stomach, but could not be removed, as the infirmary had been overfilled for a long time. The Englishman shook his head disapprovingly, said he would like to say a few words to these people, asking Nekhludoff to interpret. It turned out that besides studying the places of exile and the prisons of Siberia, the Englishman had another object in view, that of preaching salvation through faith and by the redemption.

"Tell them," he said, "that Christ died for them. If they believe in this they shall be saved." While he spoke, all the prisoners stood silent with their arms at their sides. "This book, tell them," he continued, "says all about it. Can any of them read?"

There were more than 20 who could.

The Englishman took several bound Testaments out of a hang-bag, and many strong hands with their hard, black nails stretched out from beneath the coarse shirt-sleeves towards him. He gave away two Testaments in this cell.

The same thing happened in the second cell. There was the same foul air, the same icon hanging between the windows, the same tub to the left of the door, and they were all lying side by side close to one another, and jumped up in the same manner and stood stretched full length with their arms by their sides, all but three, two of whom sat up and one remained lying, and did not even look at the newcomers; these three were also ill. The Englishman made the same speech and again gave away two books.

In the third room four were ill. When the Englishman asked why the sick were not put all together into one cell, the inspector said that they did not wish it themselves, that their diseases were not infectious, and that the medical assistant watched them and attended to them.

"He has not set foot here for a fortnight," muttered a voice.

The inspector did not say anything and led the way to the next cell. Again the door was unlocked, and all got up and stood silent. Again the Englishman gave away Testaments. It was the same in the fifth and sixth cells, in those to the right and those to the left.

From those sentenced to hard labour they went on to the exiles.

From the exiles to those evicted by the Commune and those who followed of their own free will.

Everywhere men, cold, hungry, idle, infected, degraded, imprisoned, were shown off like wild beasts.

The Englishman, having given away the appointed number of Testaments, stopped giving any more, and made no speeches. The oppressing sight, and especially the stifling atmosphere, quelled even his energy, and he went from cell to cell, saying nothing but "All right" to the inspector's remarks about what prisoners there were in each cell.

Nekhludoff followed as in a dream, unable either to refuse to go on or to go away, and with the same feelings of weariness and hopelessness.

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXVII.


KRYLTZOFF AT REST.

In one of the exiles' cells Nekhludoff, to his surprise, recognised the strange old man he had seen crossing the ferry that morning. This old man was sitting on the floor by the beds, barefooted, with only a dirty cinder-coloured shirt on, torn on one shoulder, and similar trousers. He looked severely and enquiringly at the newcomers. His emaciated body, visible through the holes of his shirt, looked miserably weak, but in his face was even more concentrated seriousness and animation than when Nekhludoff saw him crossing the ferry. As in all the other cells, so here also the prisoners jumped up and stood erect when the official entered, but the old man remained sitting. His eyes glittered and his brows frowned with wrath.

"Get up," the inspector called out to him.

The old man did not rise and only smiled contemptuously.

"Thy servants are standing before thee. I am not thy servant. Thou bearest the seal--" The old man pointed to the inspector's forehead.

"Wha-a-t?" said the inspector threateningly, and made a step towards him.

"I know this man," Nekhludoff hastened to say; "what is he imprisoned for?"

"The police have sent him here because he has no passport. We ask them not to send such, but they will do it," said the inspector, casting an angry side look at the old man.

"And so it seems thou, too, art one of Antichrist's army?" the old man said to Nekhludoff.

"No, I am a visitor," said Nekhludoff.

"What, hast thou come to see how Antichrist tortures men? There, look, he has locked them up in a cage, a whole army of them. Men should cat bread in the sweat of their brow. And he has locked them up with no work to do, and feeds them like swine, so that they should turn into beasts."

"What is he saying?" asked the Englishman.

Nekhludoff told him the old man was blaming the inspector for keeping men imprisoned.

"Ask him how he thinks one should treat those who do not keep to the laws," said the Englishman.

Nekhludoff translated the question. The old man laughed in a strange manner, showing his teeth.

"The laws?" he repeated with contempt. "He first robbed everybody, took all the earth, all the rights away from men, killed all those who were against him, and then wrote laws, forbidding robbery and murder. He should have written these laws before."

Nekhludoff translated. The Englishman smiled. "Well, anyhow, ask him how one should treat thieves and murderers at present?"

Nekhludoff again translated his question.

"Tell him he should take the seal of Antichrist off himself," the old man said, frowning severely; "then there will he no thieves and murderers. Tell him so."

"He is crazy," said the Englishman, when Nekhludoff had translated the old man's words, and, shrugging his shoulders, he left the cell.

"Do thy business and leave them alone. Every one for himself. God knows whom to execute, whom to forgive, and we do not know," said the old man. "Every man be his own chief, then the chiefs will not be wanted. Go, go!" he added, angrily frowning and looking with glittering eyes at Nekhludoff, who lingered in the cell. "Hast thou not looked on long enough how the servants of Antichrist feed lice on men? Go, go!"

When Nekhludoff went out he saw the Englishman standing by the open door of an empty cell with the inspector, asking what the cell was for. The inspector explained that it was the mortuary.

"Oh," said the Englishman when Nekhludoff had translated, and expressed the wish to go in.

The mortuary was an ordinary cell, not very large. A small lamp hung on the wall and dimly lit up sacks and logs of wood that were piled up in one corner, and four dead bodies lay on the bedshelves to the right. The first body had a coarse linen shirt and trousers on; it was that of a tall man with a small beard and half his head shaved. The body was quite rigid; the bluish hands, that had evidently been folded on the breast, had separated; the legs were also apart and the bare feet were sticking out. Next to him lay a bare-footed old woman in a white petticoat, her head, with its thin plait of hair, uncovered, with a little, pinched yellow face and a sharp nose. Beyond her was another man with something lilac on. This colour reminded Nekhludoff of something. He came nearer and looked at the body. The small, pointed beard sticking upwards, the firm, well-shaped nose, the high, white forehead, the thin, curly hair; he recognised the familiar features and could hardly believe his eyes. Yesterday he had seen this face, angry, excited, and full of suffering; now it was quiet, motionless, and terribly beautiful. Yes, it was Kryltzoff, or at any rate the trace that his material existence had left behind. "Why had he suffered? Why had he lived? Does he now understand?" Nekhludoff thought, and there seemed to be no answer, seemed to be nothing but death, and he felt faint. Without taking leave of the Englishman, Nekhludoff asked the inspector to lead him out into the yard, and feeling the absolute necessity of being alone to think over all that had happened that evening, he drove back to his hotel.

BOOK III.

CHAPTER XXVIII.


A NEW LIFE DAWNS FOR NEKHLUDOFF.

Nekhludoff did not go to bed, but went up and down his room for a long time. His business with Katusha was at an end. He was not wanted, and this made him sad and ashamed. His other business was not only unfinished, but troubled him more than ever and demanded his activity. All this horrible evil that he had seen and learned to know lately, and especially to-day in that awful prison, this evil, which had killed that dear Kryltzoff, ruled and was triumphant, and he could foreseen possibility of conquering or even knowing how to conquer it. Those hundreds and thousands of degraded human beings locked up in the noisome prisons by indifferent generals, procureurs, inspectors, rose up in his imagination; he remembered the strange, free old man accusing the officials, and therefore considered mad, and among the corpses the beautiful, waxen face of Kryltzoff, who had died in anger. And again the question as to whether he was mad or those who considered they were in their right minds while they committed all these deeds stood before him with renewed force and demanded an answer.

Tired of pacing up and down, tired of thinking, he sat down on the sofa near the lamp and mechanically opened the Testament which the Englishman had given him as a remembrance, and which he had thrown on the table when he emptied his pockets on coming in.

"It is said one can find an answer to everything here," he thought, and opened the Testament at random and began reading Matt. xviii. 1-4: "In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? And He called to Him a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in nowise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."

"Yes, yes, that is true," he said, remembering that he had known the peace and joy of life only when he had humbled himself.

"And whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me, but whoso shall cause one of these little ones to stumble, it is more profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea." (Matt. xviii. 5, 6.)

"What is this for, 'Whosoever shall receive?' Receive where? And what does 'in my name' mean?" he asked, feeling that these words did not tell him anything. "And why 'the millstone round his neck and the depths of the sea?' No, that is not it: it is not clear," and he remembered how more than once in his life he had taken to reading the Gospels, and how want of clearness in these passages had repulsed him. He went on to read the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth verses about the occasions of stumbling, and that they must come, and about punishment by casting men into hell fire, and some kind of angels who see the face of the Father in Heaven. "What a pity that this is so incoherent," he thought, "yet one feels that there is something good in it."

"For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost," he continued to read.

"How think ye? If any man have a hundred sheep and one of them go astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine and go into the mountains and seek that which goeth astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth over it more than over the ninety and nine which have not gone astray.

"Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish."

"Yes, it is not the will of the Father that they should perish, and here they are perishing by hundreds and thousands. And there is no possibility of saving them," he thought.

Then came Peter and said to him, How oft shall my brother offend me and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven.

"Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king which made a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me; I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants which owed him a hundred pence; and he laid hold on him and took him by the throat, saying, Pay what thou owest. So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me and I will pay thee. And he would not, but went and cast him into prison till he should pay that which was due. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him unto him and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou besought me; shouldst not thou also have mercy on thy fellow-servant as I had mercy on thee?"

"And is this all?" Nekhludoff suddenly exclaimed aloud, and the inner voice of the whole of his being said, "Yes, it is all." And it happened to Nekhludoff, as it often happens to men who are living a spiritual life. The thought that seemed strange at first and paradoxical or even to be only a joke, being confirmed more and more often by life's experience, suddenly appeared as the simplest, truest certainty. In this way the idea that the only certain means of salvation from the terrible evil from which men were suffering was that they should always acknowledge themselves to be sinning against God, and therefore unable to punish or correct others, because they were dear to Him. It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails and the quiet self-satisfaction of the perpetrators of this evil were the consequences of men trying to do what was impossible; trying to correct evil while being evil themselves; vicious men were trying to correct other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means, and the only consequence of all this was that the needs and the cupidity of some men induced them to take up this so-called punishment and correction as a profession, and have themselves become utterly corrupt, and go on unceasingly depraving those whom they torment. Now he saw clearly what all the terrors he had seen came from, and what ought to be done to put a stop to them. The answer he could not find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was that we should forgive always an infinite number of times because there are no men who have not sinned themselves, and therefore none can punish or correct others.

"But surely it cannot he so simple," thought Nekhludoff, and yet he saw with certainty, strange as it had seemed at first, that it was not only a theoretical but also a practical solution of the question. The usual objection, "What is one to do with the evil doers? Surely not let them go unpunished?" no longer confused him. This objection might have a meaning if it were proved that punishment lessened crime, or improved the criminal, but when the contrary was proved, and it was evident that it was not in people's power to correct each other, the only reasonable thing to do is to leave off doing the things which are not only useless, but harmful, immoral and cruel.

For many centuries people who were considered criminals have been tortured. Well, and have they ceased to exist? No; their numbers have been increased not alone by the criminals corrupted by punishment but also by those lawful criminals, the judges, procureurs, magistrates and jailers, who judge and punish men. Nekhludoff now understood that society and order in general exists not because of these lawful criminals who judge and punish others, but because in spite of men being thus depraved, they still pity and love one another.

In hopes of finding a confirmation of this thought in the Gospel, Nekhludoff began reading it from the beginning. When he had read the Sermon on the Mount, which had always touched him, he saw in it for the first time to-day not beautiful abstract thoughts, setting forth for the most part exaggerated and impossible demands, but simple, clear, practical laws. If these laws were carried out in practice (and this was quite possible) they would establish perfectly new and surprising conditions of social life, in which the violence that filled Nekhludoff with such indignation would cease of itself. Not only this, but the greatest blessing that is obtainable to men, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth would he established. There were five of these laws.

The first (Matt. v. 21-26), that man should not only do no murder, but not even be angry with his brother, should not consider any one worthless: "Raca," and if he has quarrelled with any one he should make it up with him before bringing his gift to God--i.e., before praying.

The second (Matt. v. 27-32), that man should not only not commit adultery but should not even seek for enjoyment in a woman's beauty, and if he has once come together with a woman he should never be faithless to her.

The third (Matt. 33-37), that man should never bind himself by oath.

The fourth (Matt. 38-42), that man should not only not demand an eye for an eye, but when struck on one cheek should hold out the other, should forgive an offence and bear it humbly, and never refuse the service others demand of him.

The fifth (Matt. 43-48), that man should not only not hate his enemy and not fight him, but love him, help him, serve him.

Nekhludoff sat staring at the lamp and his heart stood still. Recalling the monstrous confusion of the life we lead, he distinctly saw what that life could be if men were brought up to obey these rules, and rapture such as he had long not felt filled his soul, just as if after long days of weariness and suffering he had suddenly found ease and freedom.

He did not sleep all night, and as it happens to many and many a man who reads the Gospels he understood for the first time the full meaning of the words read so often before but passed by unnoticed. He imbibed all these necessary, important and joyful revelations as a sponge imbibes water. And all he read seemed so familiar and seemed to confirm, to form into a conception, what he had known long ago, but had never realised and never quite believed. Now he realised and believed it, and not only realised and believed that if men would obey these laws they would obtain the highest blessing they can attain to, he also realised and believed that the only duty of every man is to fulfil these laws; that in this lies the only reasonable meaning of life, that every stepping aside from these laws is a mistake which is immediately followed by retribution. This flowed from the whole of the teaching, and was most strongly and clearly illustrated in the parable of the vineyard.

The husbandman imagined that the vineyard in which they were sent to work for their master was their own, that all that was in was made for them, and that their business was to enjoy life in this vineyard, forgetting the Master and killing all those who reminded them of his existence. "Are we do not doing the same," Nekhludoff thought, "when we imagine ourselves to be masters of our lives, and that life is given us for enjoyment? This evidently is an incongruity. We were sent here by some one's will and for some reason. And we have concluded that we live only for our own joy, and of course we feel unhappy as labourers do when not fulfilling their Master's orders. The Master's will is expressed in these commandments. If men will only fulfil these laws, the Kingdom of Heaven will be established on earth, and men will receive the greatest good that they can attain to.

"'Seek ye first the Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.'

"And so here it is, the business of my life. Scarcely have I finished one and another has commenced." And a perfectly new life dawned that night for Nekhludoff, not because he had entered into new conditions of life, but because everything he did after that night had a new and quite different significance than before. How this new period of his life will end time alone will prove.


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