The Forged Coupon and Other Stories
by Leo Tolstoy
AFTER THE DANCE
ALYOSHA THE POT
THERE ARE NO
THE YOUNG TSAR
IN an age of materialism like our own the phe- nomenon of spiritual
power is as significant and inspiring as it is rare. No longer
associated with the "divine right" of kings, it has survived the
downfall of feudal and theocratic systems as a mystic personal
emanation in place of a coercive weapon of statecraft.
Freed from its ancient shackles of dogma and despotism it eludes
analysis. We know not how to gauge its effect on others, nor even upon
our- selves. Like the wind, it permeates the atmos- phere we breathe,
and baffles while it stimulates the mind with its intangible but
This psychic power, which the dead weight of materialism is
impotent to suppress, is revealed in the lives and writings of men of
the most di- verse creeds and nationalities. Apart from those who,
like Buddha and Mahomet, have been raised to the height of demi-gods by
worshipping mil- lions, there are names which leap inevitably to the
mind--such names as Savonarola, Luther, Cal- vin, Rousseau--which stand
for types and ex- emplars of spiritual aspiration. To this high
priesthood of the quick among the dead, who can doubt that time will
admit Leo Tolstoy--a genius whose greatness has been obscured from us
rather than enhanced by his duality; a realist who strove to demolish
the mysticism of Christianity, and be- came himself a mystic in the
contemplation of Nature; a man of ardent temperament and robust
physique, keenly susceptible to human passions and desires, who battled
with himself from early manhood until the spirit, gathering strength
with years, inexorably subdued the flesh.
Tolstoy the realist steps without cavil into the front rank of
modern writers; Tolstoy the ideal- ist has been constantly derided and
scorned by men of like birth and education with himself-- his altruism
denounced as impracticable, his preaching compared with his mode of
life to prove him inconsistent, if not insincere. This is the
prevailing attitude of politicians and literary men.
Must one conclude that the mass of mankind has lost touch with
idealism? On the contrary, in spite of modern materialism, or even
because of it, many leaders of spiritual thought have arisen in our
times, and have won the ear of vast audi- ences. Their message is a
call to a simpler life, to a recognition of the responsibilities of
wealth, to the avoidance of war by arbitration, and sink- ing of class
hatred in a deep sense of universal brotherhood.
Unhappily, when an idealistic creed is formu- lated in precise and
dogmatic language, it invari- ably loses something of its pristine
beauty in the process of transmutation. Hence the Positivist
philosophy of Comte, though embodying noble aspirations, has had but a
limited influence. Again, the poetry of Robert Browning, though less
frankly altruistic than that of Cowper or Wordsworth, is inherently
ethical, and reveals strong sympathy with sinning and suffering hu-
manity, but it is masked by a manner that is sometimes uncouth and
frequently obscure. Ow- ing to these, and other instances, idealism
sug- gests to the world at large a vague sentimentality peculiar to the
poets, a bloodless abstraction toyed with by philosophers, which must
remain a closed book to struggling humanity.
Yet Tolstoy found true idealism in the toiling peasant who believed
in God, rather than in his intellectual superior who believed in
himself in the first place, and gave a conventional assent to the
existence of a deity in the second. For the peas- ant was still
religious at heart with a naive unques- tioning faith--more
characteristic of the four- teenth or fifteenth century than of
to-day--and still fervently aspired to God although sunk in su-
perstition and held down by the despotism of the Greek Church. It was
the cumbrous ritual and dogma of the orthodox state religion which
roused Tolstoy to impassioned protests, and led him step by step to
separate the core of Christianity from its sacerdotal shell, thus
bringing upon himself the ban of excommunication.
The signal mark of the reprobation of "Holy Synod" was slow in
coming--it did not, in fact, become absolute until a couple of years
after the publication of "Resurrection," in 1901, in spite of the
attitude of fierce hostility to Church and State which Tolstoy had
maintained for so long. This hostility, of which the seeds were
primarily sown by the closing of his school and inquisition of his
private papers in the summer of 1862, soon grew to proportions far
greater than those arising from a personal wrong. The dumb and submis-
sive moujik found in Tolstoy a living voice to ex- press his
Tolstoy was well fitted by nature and circum- stances to be the
peasant's spokesman. He had been brought into intimate contact with
him in the varying conditions of peace and war, and he knew him at his
worst and best. The old home of the family, Yasnaya Polyana, where
Tolstoy, his brothers and sister, spent their early years in charge of
two guardian aunts, was not only a halt- ing-place for pilgrims
journeying to and from the great monastic shrines, but gave shelter to
a num- ber of persons of enfeebled minds belonging to the peasant
class, with whom the devout and kindly Aunt Alexandra spent many hours
daily in religious conversation and prayer.
In "Childhood" Tolstoy apostrophises with feeling one of those
"innocents," a man named Grisha, "whose faith was so strong that you
felt the nearness of God, your love so ardent that the words flowed
from your lips uncontrolled by your reason. And how did you celebrate
his Majesty when, words failing you, you prostrated yourself on the
ground, bathed in tears " This picture of humble religious faith was
amongst Tolstoy's earliest memories, and it returned to comfort him and
uplift his soul when it was tossed and en- gulfed by seas of doubt.
But the affection he felt in boyhood towards the moujiks became tinged
with contempt when his attempts to im- prove their condition--some of
which are de- scribed in "Anna Karenina" and in the "Land- lord's
Morning"--ended in failure, owing to the ignorance and obstinacy of the
people. It was not till he passed through the ordeal of war in Turkey
and the Crimea that he discovered in the common soldier who fought by
his side an un- conscious heroism, an unquestioning faith in God, a
kindliness and simplicity of heart rarely pos- sessed by his commanding
The impressions made upon Tolstoy during this period of active
service gave vivid reality to the battle-scenes in "War and Peace," and
are traceable in the reflections and conversation of the two heroes,
Prince Andre and Pierre Besukhov. On the eve of the battle of
Borodino, Prince Andre, talking with Pierre in the presence of his
devoted soldier-servant Timokhine, says,--
"'Success cannot possibly be, nor has it ever been, the result of
strategy or fire-arms or num- bers.'
"'Then what does it result from?' said Pierre.
"'From the feeling that is in me, that is in him'--pointing to
Timokhine--'and that is in each individual soldier.'"
He then contrasts the different spirit animating the officers and
"'The former,' he says, 'have nothing in view but their personal
interests. The critical moment for them is the moment at which they
are able to supplant a rival, to win a cross or a new order. I see
only one thing. To-morrow one hundred thousand Russians and one
hundred thousand Frenchmen will meet to fight; they who fight the
hardest and spare themselves the least will win the day.'
"'There's the truth, your Excellency, the real truth,' murmurs
Timokhine; 'it is not a time to spare oneself. Would you believe it,
the men of my battalion have not tasted brandy? "It's not a day for
that," they said.'"
During the momentous battle which followed, Pierre was struck by
the steadfastness under fire which has always distinguished the Russian
"The fall of each man acted as an increasing stimulus. The faces
of the soldiers brightened more and more, as if challenging the storm
let loose on them."
In contrast with this picture of fine "morale" is that of the young
white-faced officer, looking nervously about him as he walks backwards
with lowered sword.
In other places Tolstoy does full justice to the courage and
patriotism of all grades in the Rus- sian army, but it is constantly
evident that his sympathies are most heartily with the rank and file.
What genuine feeling and affection rings in this sketch of Plato, a
common soldier, in "War and Peace!"
"Plato Karataev was about fifty, judging by the number of campaigns
in which he had served; he could not have told his exact age himself,
and when he laughed, as he often did, he showed two rows of strong,
white teeth. There was not a grey hair on his head or in his beard,
and his bearing wore the stamp of activity, resolution, and above all,
stoicism. His face, though much lined, had a touching expression of
simplicity, youth, and innocence. When he spoke, in his soft sing-song
voice, his speech flowed as from a well- spring. He never thought
about what he had said or was going to say next, and the vivacity and
the rhythmical inflections of his voice gave it a penetrating
persuasiveness. Night and morn- ing, when going to rest or getting up,
he said, 'O God, let me sleep like a stone and rise up like a loaf.'
And, sure enough, he had no sooner lain down than he slept like a lump
of lead, and in the morning on waking he was bright and lively, and
ready for any work. He could do anything, just not very well nor very
ill; he cooked, sewed, planed wood, cobbled his boots, and was always
occupied with some job or other, only allowing himself to chat and sing
at night. He sang, not like a singer who knows he has listeners, but
as the birds sing to God, the Father of all, feeling it as necessary as
walking or stretching himself. His singing was tender, sweet,
plaintive, almost feminine, in keeping with his serious countenance.
When, after some weeks of captivity his beard had grown again, he
seemed to have got rid of all that was not his true self, the borrowed
face which his soldiering life had given him, and to have become, as
before, a peasant and a man of the people. In the eyes of the other
prisoners Plato was just a common soldier, whom they chaffed at times
and sent on all manner of er- rands; but to Pierre he remained ever
after the personification of simplicity and truth, such as he had
divined him to be since the first night spent by his side."
This clearly is a study from life, a leaf from Tolstoy's "Crimean
Journal " It harmonises with the point of view revealed in the
"Letters from Sebastopol" (especially in the second and third series),
and shows, like them, the change effected by the realities of war in
the intolerant young aristocrat, who previously excluded all but the
comme-il-faut from his consideration. With widened outlook and new
ideals he returned to St. Petersburg at the close of the Crimean
campaign, to be welcomed by the elite of letters and courted by
society. A few years before he would have been delighted with such a
reception. Now it jarred on his awakened sense of the tragedy of
existence. He found himself entirely out of sym- pathy with the group
of literary men who gath- ered round him, with Turgenev at their head.
In Tolstoy's eyes they were false, paltry, and immoral, and he was at
no pains to disguise his opinions. Dissension, leading to violent
scenes, soon broke out between Turgenev and Tolstoy; and the latter,
completely disillusioned both in regard to his great contemporary and
to the lit- erary world of St. Petersburg, shook off the dust of the
capital, and, after resigning his commission in the army, went abroad
on a tour through Ger- many, Switzerland, and France.
In France his growing aversion from capital punishment became
intensified by his witnessing a public execution, and the painful
thoughts aroused by the scene of the guillotine haunted his sensitive
spirit for long. He left France for Switzerland, and there, among
beautiful natural surroundings, and in the society of friends, he
enjoyed a respite from mental strain.
"A fresh, sweet-scented flower seemed to have blossomed in my
spirit; to the weariness and in- difference to all things which before
possessed me had succeeded, without apparent transition, a thirst for
love, a confident hope, an inexplicable joy to feel myself alive."
Those halcyon days ushered in the dawn of an intimate friendship
between himself and a lady who in the correspondence which ensued
usually styled herself his aunt, but was in fact a second cousin. This
lady, the Countess Alexandra A. Tolstoy, a Maid of Honour of the
Bedchamber, moved exclusively in Court circles. She was in- telligent
and sympathetic, but strictly orthodox and mondaine, so that, while
Tolstoy's view of life gradually shifted from that of an aristocrat to
that of a social reformer, her own remained unaltered; with the result
that at the end of some forty years of frank and affectionate
interchange of ideas, they awoke to the painful consciousness that the
last link of mutual understanding had snapped and that their friendship
was at an end.
But the letters remain as a valuable and inter- esting record of
one of Tolstoy's rare friendships with women, revealing in his
unguarded confi- dences fine shades of his many-sided nature, and
throwing light on the impression he made both on his intimates and on
those to whom he was only known as a writer, while his moral philosophy
was yet in embryo. They are now about to ap- pear in book form under
the auspices of M. Stakhovich, to whose kindness in giving me free
access to the originals I am indebted for the ex- tracts which follow.
From one of the countess's first letters we learn that the feelings of
affection, hope, and happiness which possessed Tolstoy in Switzerland
irresistibly communicated themselves to those about him.
"You are good in a very uncommon way, she writes," and that is why
it is difficult to feel unhappy in your company. I have never seen you
without wishing to be a better creature. Your presence is a consoling
idea. . . . know all the elements in you that revive one's heart,
possibly without your being even aware of it."
A few years later she gives him an amusing account of the
impression his writings had already made on an eminent statesman.
"I owe you a small episode. Not long ago, when lunching with the
Emperor, I sat next our little Bismarck, and in a spirit of mischief I
began sounding him about you. But I had hardly ut- tered your name
when he went off at a gallop with the greatest enthusiasm, firing off
the list of your perfections left and right, and so long as he
declaimed your praises with gesticulations, cut and thrust, powder and
shot, it was all very well and quite in character; but seeing that I
listened with interest and attention my man took the bit in his teeth,
and flung himself into a psychic apoth- eosis. On reaching full pitch
he began to get muddled, and floundered so helplessly in his own
phrases! all the while chewing an excellent cutlet to the bone, that at
last I realised nothing but the tips of his ears--those two great ears
of his. What a pity I can't repeat it verbatim! but how? There was
nothing left but a jumble of confused sounds and broken words."
Tolstoy on his side is equally expansive, and in the early stages
of the correspondence falls occa- sionally into the vein of
self-analysis which in later days became habitual.
"As a child I believed with passion and with- out any thought.
Then at the age of fourteen I began to think about life and
preoccupied myself with religion, but it did not adjust itself to my
theories and so I broke with it. Without it I was able to live quite
contentedly for ten years . . . everything in my life was evenly dis-
tributed, and there was no room for religion. Then came a time when
everything grew intelli- gible; there were no more secrets in life, but
life itself had lost its significance."
He goes on to tell of the two years that he spent in the Caucasus
before the Crimean War, when his mind, jaded by youthful excesses,
gradually regained its freshness, and he awoke to a sense of communion
with Nature which he retained to his life's end.
"I have my notes of that time, and now read- ing them over I am not
able to understand how a man could attain to the state of mental
exaltation which I arrived at. It was a torturing but a happy time."
Further on he writes,--
"In those two years of intellectual work, I dis- covered a truth
which is ancient and simple, but which yet I know better than others
do. I found out that immortal life is a reality, that love is a
reality, and that one must live for others if one would be unceasingly
At this point one realises the gulf which divides the Slavonic from
the English temperament. No average Englishman of seven-and-twenty (as
Tol- stoy was then) would pursue reflections of this kind, or if he
did, he would in all probability keep them sedulously to himself.
To Tolstoy and his aunt, on the contrary, it seemed the most
natural thing in the world to indulge in egoistic abstractions and to
expatiate on them; for a Russian feels none of the Anglo- Saxon's
mauvaise honte in describing his spiritual condition, and is no more
daunted by metaphysics than the latter is by arguments on politics and
To attune the Anglo-Saxon reader's mind to sympathy with a
mentality so alien to his own, requires that Tolstoy's environment
should be de- scribed more fully than most of his biographers have
cared to do. This prefatory note aims, therefore, at being less
strictly biographical than illustrative of the contributory elements
and cir- cumstances which sub-consciously influenced Tol- stoy's
spiritual evolution, since it is apparent that in order to judge a
man's actions justly one must be able to appreciate the motives from
which they spring; those motives in turn requiring the key which lies
in his temperament, his associations, his nationality. Such a key is
peculiarly necessary to English or American students of Tolstoy,
because of the marked contrast existing between the Rus- sian and the
Englishman or American in these respects, a contrast by which Tolstoy
himself was forcibly struck during the visit to Switzerland, of which
mention has been already made. It is diffi- cult to restrain a smile
at the poignant mental dis- comfort endured by the sensitive Slav in
the company of the frigid and silent English frequent- ers of the
Schweitzerhof ("Journal of Prince D. Nekhludov " Lucerne, 1857), whose
reserve, he realised, was "not based on pride, but on the absence of
any desire to draw nearer to each other"; while he looked back
regretfully to the pension in Paris where the table d' hote was a scene
of spontaneous gaiety. The problem of British taciturnity passed his
comprehension; but for us the enigma of Tolstoy's temperament is half
solved if we see him not harshly silhouetted against a blank wall, but
suffused with his native atmosphere, amid his native surroundings. Not
till we understand the main outlines of the Rus- sian temperament can
we realise the individuality of Tolstoy himself: the personality that
made him lovable, the universality that made him great.
So vast an agglomeration of races as that which constitutes the
Russian empire cannot obviously be represented by a single type, but it
will suffice for our purposes to note the characteristics of the
inhabitants of Great Russia among whom Tolstoy spent the greater part
of his lifetime and to whom be belonged by birth and natural
It may be said of the average Russian that in exchange for a
precocious childhood he retains much of a child's lightness of heart
throughout his later years, alternating with attacks of morbid
despondency. He is usually very susceptible to feminine charm, an
ardent but unstable lover, whose passions are apt to be as shortlived
as they are violent. Story-telling and long-winded dis- cussions give
him keen enjoyment, for he is gar- rulous, metaphysical, and
argumentative. In money matters careless and extravagant, dilatory and
venal in affairs; fond, especially in the peas- ant class, of singing,
dancing, and carousing; but his irresponsible gaiety and heedlessness
of conse- quences balanced by a fatalistic courage and en- durance in
the face of suffering and danger. Capable, besides, of high flights of
idealism, which result in epics, but rarely in actions, owing to the
Slavonic inaptitude for sustained and or- ganised effort. The
Englishman by contrast ap- pears cold and calculating, incapable of
rising above questions of practical utility; neither inter- ested in
other men's antecedents and experiences nor willing to retail his own.
The catechism which Plato puts Pierre through on their first en-
counter ("War and Peace") as to his family, possessions, and what not,
are precisely similar to those to which I have been subjected over and
over again by chance acquaintances in country- houses or by fellow
travellers on journeys by boat or train. The naivete and kindliness of
the ques- tioner makes it impossible to resent, though one may feebly
try to parry his probing. On the other hand he offers you free access
to the inmost recesses of his own soul, and stupefies you with the
candour of his revelations. This, of course, relates more to the
landed and professional classes than to the peasant, who is slower to
express him- self, and combines in a curious way a firm belief in the
omnipotence and wisdom of his social su- periors with a rooted distrust
of their intentions regarding himself. He is like a beast of burden
who flinches from every approach, expecting al- ways a kick or a blow.
On the other hand, his affection for the animals who share his daily
work is one of the most attractive points in his char- acter, and one
which Tolstoy never wearied of emphasising--describing, with the simple
pathos of which he was master, the moujik inured to his own privations
but pitiful to his horse, shielding him from the storm with his own
coat, or saving him from starvation with his own meagre ration; and
mindful of him even in his prayers, invoking, like Plato, the blessings
of Florus and Laura, pa- tron saints of horses, because "one mustn't
forget the animals."
The characteristics of a people so embedded in the soil bear a
closer relation to their native land- scape than our own migratory
populations, and patriotism with them has a deep and vital mean- ing,
which is expressed unconsciously in their lives.
This spirit of patriotism which Tolstoy repudi- ated is none the
less the animating power of the noble epic, "War and Peace," and of his
peasant- tales, of his rare gift of reproducing the expressive Slav
vernacular, and of his magical art of infusing his pictures of Russian
scenery not merely with beauty, but with spiritual significance. I can
think of no prose writer, unless it be Thoreau, so wholly under the
spell of Nature as Tolstoy; and while Thoreau was preoccupied with the
normal phenomena of plant and animal life, Tolstoy, coming near to
Pantheism, found responses to his moods in trees, and gained spiritual
expansion from the illimitable skies and plains. He fre- quently
brings his heroes into touch with Nature, and endows them with all the
innate mysticism of his own temperament, for to him Nature was "a guide
to God " So in the two-fold incident of Prince Andre and the oak tree
("War and Peace") the Prince, though a man of action rather than of
sentiment and habitually cynical, is ready to find in the aged oak by
the roadside, in early spring, an animate embodiment of his own
"'Springtime, love, happiness?--are you still cherishing those
deceptive illusions?' the old oak seemed to say. 'Isn't it the same
fiction ever? There is neither spring, nor love, nor happiness! Look at
those poor weather-beaten firs, always the same . . . look at the
knotty arms issuing from all up my poor mutilated trunk--here I am,
such as they have made me, and I do not be- lieve either in your hopes
or in your illusions.'"
And after thus exercising his imagination, Prince Andre still casts
backward glances as he passes by,
"but the oak maintained its obstinate and sullen immovability in
the midst of the flowers and grass growing at its feet. 'Yes, that oak
is right, right a thousand times over. One must leave illusions to
youth. But the rest of us know what life is worth; it has nothing left
to offer us.'"
Six weeks later he returns homeward the same way, roused from his
melancholy torpor by his recent meeting with Natasha.
"The day was hot, there was storm in the air; a slight shower
watered the dust on the road and the grass in the ditch; the left side
of the wood remained in the shade; the right side, lightly stirred by
the wind, glittered all wet in the sun; everything was in flower, and
from near and far the nightingales poured forth their song. 'I fancy
there was an oak here that understood me,' said Prince Andre to
himself, looking to the left and attracted unawares by the beauty of
the very tree he sought. The transformed old oak spread out in a dome
of deep, luxuriant, blooming ver- dure, which swayed in a light breeze
in the rays of the setting sun. There were no longer cloven branches
nor rents to be seen; its former aspect of bitter defiance and sullen
grief had disap- peared; there were only the young leaves, full of sap
that had pierced through the centenarian bark, making the beholder
question with surprise if this patriarch had really given birth to
them. 'Yes, it is he, indeed!' cried Prince Andre, and he felt his
heart suffused by the intense joy which the springtime and this new
life gave him . . . 'No, my life cannot end at thirty-one! . . . It is
not enough myself to feel what is within me, others must know it too!
Pierre and that "slip" of a girl, who would have fled into cloudland,
must learn to know me! My life must colour theirs, and their lives must
mingle with mine!'"
In letters to his wife, to intimate friends, and in his diary,
Tolstoy's love of Nature is often- times expressed. The hair shirt of
the ascetic and the prophet's mantle fall from his shoulders, and all
the poet in him wakes when, "with a feel- ing akin to ecstasy," he
looks up from his smooth-running sledge at "the enchanting, starry
winter sky overhead," or in early spring feels on a ramble "intoxicated
by the beauty of the morn- ing," while he notes that the buds are
swelling on the lilacs, and "the birds no longer sing at ran- dom," but
have begun to converse.
But though such allusions abound in his diary and private
correspondence, we must turn to "The Cossacks," and "Conjugal
Happiness" for the exquisitely elaborated rural studies, which give
those early romances their fresh idyllic charm.
What is interesting to note is that this artistic freshness and joy
in Nature coexisted with acute intermittent attacks of spiritual
lassitude. In "The Cossacks," the doubts, the mental gropings of
Olenine--whose personality but thinly veils that of Tolstoy--haunt him
betimes even among the delights of the Caucasian woodland; Serge, the
fatalistic hero of "Conjugal Happiness," calmly acquiesces in the
inevitableness of "love's sad satiety " amid the scent of roses and the
songs of nightingales.
Doubt and despondency, increased by the vexa- tions and failures
attending his philanthropic en- deavours, at length obsessed Tolstoy to
the verge of suicide.
"The disputes over arbitration had become so painful to me, the
schoolwork so vague, my doubts arising from the wish to teach others,
while dis- sembling my own ignorance of what should be taught, were so
heartrending that I fell ill. I might then have reached the despair to
which I all but succumbed fifteen years later, if there had not been a
side of life as yet unknown to me which promised me salvation: this
was family life" ("My Confession").
In a word, his marriage with Mademoiselle Sophie Andreevna Bers
(daughter of Dr. Bers of Moscow) was consummated in the autumn of
1862--after a somewhat protracted courtship, owing to her extreme
youth--and Tolstoy entered upon a period of happiness and mental peace
such as he had never known. His letters of this period to Countess A.
A. Tolstoy, his friend Fet, and others, ring with enraptured allusions
to his new-found joy. Lassitude and indecision, mysti- cism and
altruism, all were swept aside by the im- petus of triumphant love and
of all-sufficing conjugal happiness. When in June of the follow- ing
year a child was born, and the young wife, her features suffused with
"a supernatural beauty" lay trying to smile at the husband who knelt
sobbing beside her, Tolstoy must have real- ised that for once his
prophetic intuition had been unequal to its task. If his imagination
could have conceived in prenuptial days what depths of emotion might be
wakened by fatherhood, he would not have treated the birth of Masha's
first child in "Conjugal Happiness" as a trivial ma- terial event, in
no way affecting the mutual rela- tions of the disillusioned pair. He
would have understood that at this supreme crisis, rather than in the
vernal hour of love's avowal, the heart is illumined with a joy which
is fated "never to re- turn."
The parting of the ways, so soon reached by Serge and Masha, was in
fact delayed in Tolstoy's own life by his wife's intelligent assistance
in his literary work as an untiring amanuensis, and in the mutual
anxieties and pleasures attending the care of a large family of young
children. Wider horizons opened to his mental vision, his whole being
was quickened and invigorated. "War and Peace," "Anna Karenina," all
the splendid fruit of the teeming years following upon his mar- riage,
bear witness to the stimulus which his genius had received. His
dawning recognition of the power and extent of female influence appears
in- cidentally in the sketches of high society in those two
masterpieces as well as in the eloquent closing passages of "What then
must we do?" (1886). Having affirmed that "it is women who form pub-
lic opinion, and in our day women are particu- larly powerful," he
finally draws a picture of the ideal wife who shall urge her husband
and train her children to self-sacrifice. "Such women rule men and are
their guiding stars. O women-- mothers! The salvation of the world lies
in your hands!" In that appeal to the mothers of the world there lurks
a protest which in later writings developed into overwhelming
condemnation. True, he chose motherhood for the type of self-
sacrificing love in the treatise "On Life," which appeared soon after
"What then must we do?" but maternal love, as exemplified in his own
home and elsewhere, appeared to him as a noble in- stinct perversely
The roots of maternal love are sunk deep in conservatism. The
child's physical well-being is the first essential in the mother's
eyes--the growth of a vigorous body by which a vigorous mind may be
fitly tenanted--and this form of materialism which Tolstoy as a father
accepted, Tolstoy as idealist condemned; while the penury he courted as
a lightening of his soul's burden was averted by the strenuous
exertions of his wife. So a rift grew without blame attaching to
either, and Tolstoy henceforward wandered solitary in spirit through a
wilderness of thought, seeking rest and finding none, coming perilously
near to suicide before he reached haven.
To many it will seem that the finest outcome of that period of
mental groping, internal strug- gle, and contending with current ideas,
lies in the above-mentioned "What then must we do?" Certain it is that
no human document ever re- vealed the soul of its author with greater
sincer- ity. Not for its practical suggestions, but for its
impassioned humanity, its infectious altruism, "What then must we do?"
takes its rank among the world's few living books. It marks that stage
of Tolstoy's evolution when he made successive essays in practical
philanthropy which filled him with discouragement, yet were "of use to
his soul" in teaching him how far below the surface lie the seeds of
human misery. The slums of Moscow, crowded with beings sunk beyond re-
demption; the famine-stricken plains of Samara where disease and
starvation reigned, notwith- standing the stream of charity set flowing
by Tol- stoy's appeals and notwithstanding his untiring personal
devotion, strengthened further the con- viction, so constantly affirmed
in his writings, of the impotence of money to alleviate distress.
Whatever negations of this dictum our own sys- tems of charitable
organizations may appear to offer, there can be no question but that in
Russia it held and holds true.
The social condition of Russia is like a tideless sea, whose sullen
quiescence is broken from time to time by terrific storms which spend
themselves in unavailing fury. Reaction follows upon every forward
motion, and the advance made by each succeeding generation is barely
But in the period of peace following upon the close of the Crimean
War the soul of the Russian people was deeply stirred by the spirit of
Prog- ress, and hope rose high on the accession of Alex- ander II.
The emancipation of the serfs was only one among a number of
projected reforms which en- gaged men's minds. The national conscience
awoke and echoed the cry of the exiled patriot Herzen, "Now or never!"
Educational enter- prise was aroused, and some forty schools for
peasant children were started on the model of that opened by Tolstoy at
Yasnaya Polyana (1861). The literary world throbbed with new life, and
a brilliant company of young writers came to the surface, counting
among them names of European celebrity, such as Dostoevsky, Ne-
krassov, and Saltykov. Unhappily the reign of Progress was short. The
bureaucratic circle hem- ming in the Czar took alarm, and made haste
to secure their ascendancy by fresh measures of op- pression. Many
schools were closed, including that of Tolstoy, and the nascent liberty
of the Press was stifled by the most rigid censor- ship.
In this lamentable manner the history of Rus- sia's internal
misrule and disorder has continued to repeat itself for the last sixty
years, revolving in the same vicious circle of fierce repression and
persecution and utter disregard of the rights of individuals, followed
by fierce reprisals on the part of the persecuted; the voice of protest
no sooner raised than silenced in a prison cell or among Siberian
snow-fields, yet rising again and again with inextinguishable
reiteration; appeals for political freedom, for constitutional govern-
ment, for better systems and wider dissemination of education, for
liberty of the Press, and for an enlightened treatment of the masses,
callously re- ceived and rejected. The answer with which these appeals
have been met by the rulers of Rus- sia is only too well known to the
civilised world, but the obduracy of Pharoah has called forth the
plagues of Egypt. Despite the unrivalled agrarian fertility of Russia,
famines recur with dire frequency, with disease and riot in their
train, while the ignominious termination of the Russo- Japanese war
showed that even the magnificent morale of the Russian soldier had been
under- mined and was tainted by the rottenness of the authorities set
over him. What in such circum- stances as these can a handful of
philanthropists achieve, and what avails alms-giving or the scat-
tering of largesse to a people on the point of spir- itual dissolution?
In these conditions Tolstoy's abhorrence of money, and his
assertion of its futility as a pana- cea for human suffering, appears
not merely com- prehensible but inevitable, and his renunciation of
personal property the strictly logical outcome of his conclusions. The
partition of his estates between his wife and children, shortly before
the outbreak of the great famine in 1892, served to relieve his mind
partially; and the writings of Henry George, with which he became
acquainted at this critical time, were an additional incentive to
concentrate his thoughts on the land question. He began by reading the
American propagandist's "Social Problems," which arrested his attention
by its main principles and by the clearness and novelty of his
arguments. Deeply impressed by the study of this book, no sooner had
he finished it than he possessed himself of its forerunner, "Progress
and Poverty," in which the essence of George's revolutionary doctrines
is worked out.
The plan of land nationalisation there explained provided Tolstoy
with well thought-out and log- ical reasons for a policy that was
already more than sympathetic to him. Here at last was a means of
ensuring economic equality for all, from the largest landowner to the
humblest peasant-- a practical suggestion how to reduce the inequali-
ties between rich and poor.
Henry George's ideas and methods are easy of comprehension. The
land was made by God for every human creature that was born into the
world, and therefore to confine the ownership of land to the few is
wrong. If a man wants a piece of land, he ought to pay the rest of the
community for the enjoyment of it. This payment or rent should be the
only tax paid into the Treasury of the State. Taxation on men's own
property (the produce of their own labour) should be done away with,
and a rent graduated according to the site- value of the land should be
substituted. Monop- olies would cease without violently and unjustly
disturbing society with confiscation and redistribu- tion. No one
would keep land idle if he were taxed according to its value to the
community, and not according to the use to which he individ- ually
wished to put it. A man would then read- ily obtain possession of
land, and could turn it to account and develop it without being taxed
on his own industry. All human beings would thus be- come free in
their lives and in their labour. They would no longer be forced to
toil at demor- alising work for low wages; they would be inde- pendent
producers instead of earning a living by providing luxuries for the
rich, who had enslaved them by monopolising the land. The single tax
thus created would ultimately overthrow the pres- ent "civilisation"
which is chiefly built up on wage-slavery.
Tolstoy gave his whole-hearted adhesion to this doctrine,
predicting a day of enlightenment when men would no longer tolerate a
form of slavery which he considered as revolting as that which had so
recently been abolished. Some long conversations with Henry George,
while he was on a visit to Yasnaya Polyana, gave additional strength to
Tolstoy's conviction that in these theories lay the elements essential
to the trans- formation and rejuvenation of human nature, go- ing far
towards the levelling of social inequalities. But to inoculate the
landed proprietors of Russia as a class with those theories was a task
which even his genius could not hope to accomplish.
He recognised the necessity of proceeding from the particular to
the general, and that the perfect- ing of human institutions was
impossible without a corresponding perfection in the individual. To
this end therefore the remainder of his life was dedicated. He had
always held in aversion what he termed external epidemic influences:
he now endeavoured to free himself not only from all current
conventions, but from every association which he had formerly
cherished. Self-analysis and general observation had taught him that
men are sensual beings, and that sensualism must die for want of food
if it were not for sex instincts, if it were not for Art, and
especially for Music. This view of life he forcibly expressed in the
"Kreutzer Sonata," in which Woman and Music, the two magnets of his
youth, were impeached as powers of evil. Already, in "War and Peace"
and in "Anna Karenina," his descriptions of fe- male charms resembled
catalogues of weapons against which a man must arm himself or perish.
The beautiful Princess Helena, with her gleam- ing shoulders, her
faultless white bosom, and her eternal smile is evidently an object of
aversion to her creator; even as the Countess Betsy, with her petty
coquetries and devices for attracting atten- tion at the Opera and
elsewhere, is a target for his contempt. "Woman is a stumbling-block
in a man's career," remarks a philosophical husband in "Anna Karenina."
"It is difficult to love a woman and do any good work, and the only
way to escape being reduced to inaction is to marry."
Even in his correspondence with the Countess A. A. Tolstoy this
slighting tone prevails. "A woman has but one moral weapon instead of
the whole male arsenal. That is love, and only with this weapon is
feminine education successfully car- ried forward " Tolstoy, in fact,
betrayed a touch of orientalism in his attitude towards women. In part
no doubt as a result of his motherless youth, in part to the fact that
his idealism was never stimulated by any one woman as it was by
individual men, his views retained this colouring on sex questions
while they became widened and modified in almost every other field of
human philosophy. It was only that, with a revulsion of feeling not
seldom experienced by earnest thinkers, attraction was succeeded by a
repulsion which reached the high note of exasperation when he wrote to
a man friend, "A woman in good health--why, she is a regular beast of
None the less, he showed great kindness and sympathy to the women
who sought his society, appealing to him for guidance. One of these
(an American, and herself a practical philanthropist), Miss Jane
Addams, expressed with feeling her sense of his personal influence.
"The glimpse of Tolstoy has made a profound impression on me, not so
much by what he said, as the life, the gentleness, the soul of him. I
am sure you will understand my saying that I got more of Tolstoy's
philosophy from our conversations than I had gotten from our books."
(Quoted by Aylmer Maude in his "Life of Tolstoy.")
As frequently happens in the lives of reformers, Tolstoy found
himself more often in affinity with strangers than with his own kin.
The estrange- ment of his ideals from those of his wife neces- sarily
affected their conjugal relations, and the decline of mutual sympathy
inevitably induced physical alienation. The stress of mental anguish
arising from these conditions found vent in pages of his diaries (much
of which I have been per- mitted to read), pages containing matter too
sa- cred and intimate to use. The diaries shed a flood of light on
Tolstoy's ideas, motives, and manner of life, and have modified some of
my opinions, explaining many hitherto obscure points, while they have
also enhanced my admiration for the man. They not only touch on many
delicate subjects--on his relations to his wife and family --but they
also give the true reasons for leaving his home at last, and explain
why he did not do so before. The time, it seems to me, is not ripe
for disclosures of this nature, which so closely concern the living.
Despite a strong rein of restraint his mental distress permeates
the touching letter of fare- well which he wrote some sixteen years
before his death. He, however, shrank from acting upon it, being
unable to satisfy himself that it was a right step. This letter has
already appeared in foreign publications,* but it is quoted here
* And in Birukov's short Life of Tolstoy, 1911. of the light which
it throws on the character and disposition of the writer, the workings
of his mind being of greater moment to us than those impul- sive
actions by which he was too often judged.
"I have suffered long, dear Sophie, from the discord between my
life and my beliefs.
"I cannot constrain you to alter your life or your accustomed ways.
Neither have I had the strength to leave you ere this, for I thought
my absence might deprive the little ones, still so young, of whatever
influence I may have over them, and above all that I should grieve you.
But I can no longer live as I have lived these last sixteen years,
sometimes battling with you and ir- ritating you, sometimes myself
giving way to the influences and seductions to which I am accus- tomed
and which surround me. I have now re- solved to do what I have long
desired: to go away . . . Even as the Hindoos, at the age of sixty,
betake themselves to the jungle; even as every aged and
religious-minded man desires to conse- crate the last years of his life
to God and not to idle talk, to making jokes, to gossiping, to lawn-
tennis; so I, having reached the age of seventy, long with all my soul
for calm and solitude, and if not perfect harmony, at least a cessation
from this horrible discord between my whole life and my conscience.
"If I had gone away openly there would have been entreaties,
discussions: I should have wa- vered, and perhaps failed to act on my
decision, whereas it must be so. I pray of you to forgive me if my
action grieves you. And do you, Sophie, in particular let me go,
neither seeking me out, nor bearing me ill-will, nor blaming me . . .
the fact that I have left you does not mean that I have cause of
complaint against you . . . I know you were not able, you were
incapable of thinking and seeing as I do, and therefore you could not
change your life and make sacrifices to that which you did not accept.
Besides, I do not blame you; on the contrary, I remember with love and
gratitude the thirty-five long years of our life in common, and
especially the first half of the time when, with the courage and
devotion of your maternal nature, you bravely bore what you re- garded
as your mission. You have given largely of maternal love and made some
heavy sacrifices . . . but during the latter part of our life to-
gether, during the last fifteen years, our ways have parted. I cannot
think myself the guilty one; I know that if I have changed it is not
owing to you, or to the world, but because I could not do otherwise;
nor can I judge you for not having followed me, and I thank you for
what you have given me and will ever remember it with affection.
Adieu, my dear Sophie, I love you."
The personal isolation he craved was never to be his; but the
isolation of spirit essential to leadership, whether of thought or
action, grew year by year, so that in his own household he was
veritably "in it but not of it."
At times his loneliness weighed upon him, as when he wrote: "You
would find it difficult to imagine how isolated I am, to what an extent
my true self is despised by those who surround me." But he must, none
the less, have realised, as all prophets and seers have done, that
solitariness of soul and freedom from the petty complexities of social
life are necessary to the mystic whose constant endeavour is to
simplify and to winnow, the transient from the eternal.
Notwithstanding the isolation of his inner life he remained--or it
might more accurately be said he became--the most accessible of men.
Appeals for guidance came to him from all parts of the
world--America, France, China, Japan--while Yasnaya Polyana was the
frequent resort of those needing advice, sympathy, or prac- tical
assistance. None appealed to him in vain; at the same time, he was
exceedingly chary of ex- plicit rules of conduct. It might be said of
Tol- stoy that he became a spiritual leader in spite of himself, so
averse was he from assuming author- ity. His aim was ever to teach his
followers themselves to hear the inward monitory voice, and to obey it
of their own accord. "To know the meaning of Life, you must first know
the meaning of Love," he would say; "and then see that you do what love
bids you " His distrust of "epidemic ideas" extended to religious com-
munities and congregations.
"We must not go to meet each other, but go each of us to God. You
say it is easier to go all together? Why yes, to dig or to mow. But
one can only draw near to God in isolation . . . I picture the world to
myself as a vast temple, in which the light falls from above in the
very centre. To meet together all must go to- wards the light. There
we shall find ourselves, gathered from many quarters, united with men
we did not expect to see; therein is joy."
The humility which had so completely sup- planted his youthful
arrogance, and which made him shrink from impelling others to follow in
his steps, endued him also with the teachableness of a child towards
those whom he accepted as his spiritual mentors. It was a peasant
noncon- formist writer, Soutaev, who by conversing with him on the
revelations of the Gospels helped him to regain his childhood's faith,
and incidentally brought him into closer relations with religious, but
otherwise untaught, men of the people. He saw how instead of railing
against fate after the manner of their social superiors, they endured
sickness and misfortune with a calm confidence that all was by the will
of God, as it must be and should be. From his peasant teachers he drew
the watchwords Faith, Love, and Labour, and by their light he
established that concord in his own life without which the concord of
the universe re- mains impossible to realise. The process of in- ward
struggle--told with unsparing truth in "Confession"--is finely painted
in "Father Serge," whose life story points to the conclusion at which
Tolstoy ultimately arrived, namely, that not in withdrawal from the
common trials and temptations of men, but in sharing them, lies our
best fulfilment of our duty towards mankind and towards God. Tolstoy
gave practical effect to this principle, and to this long-felt desire
to be of use to the poor of the country, by editing and pub- lishing,
aided by his friend Chertkov,* popular
* In Russia and out of it Mr. Chertkov has been the subject of
violent attack. Many of the misunderstandings of Tolstoy's later years
have also been attributed by critics, and by those who hate or belittle
his ideas, to the influence of this friend. These at- tacks are very
regrettable and require a word of protest. From tales, suited to the
means and intelligence of the humblest peasant. The undertaking was
initiated in 1885, and continued for many years to occupy much of
Tolstoy's time and energies. He threw himself with ardour into his
editorial duties; read- ing and correcting manuscripts, returning them
sometimes to the authors with advice as to their reconstruction, and
making translations from for- eign works--all this in addition to his
own orig- inal contributions, in which he carried out the principle
which he constantly laid down for his collaborators, that literary
graces must be set aside, and that the mental calibre of those for whom
the books were primarily intended must be constantly borne in mind. He
attained a splendid fulfilment of his own theories, employing the
moujik's expressive vernacular in portraying his homely wisdom,
religious faith, and goodness of nature. Sometimes the prevailing
simplicity of style and motive is tinged with a vague colour- ing of
oriental legend, but the personal accent is marked throughout. No
similar achievement in
the beginning Mr. Chertkov has striven to spread the ideas of
Tolstoy, and has won neither glory nor money from his faithful and
single-hearted devotion. He has carried on his work with a rare love
and sympathy in spite of difficulties. No one appre- ciated or valued
his friendship and self-sacrifice more than Tolstoy himself, who was
firmly attached to him from the date of his first meeting, consulting
him and confiding in him at every moment, even during Mr. Chertkov's
long exile. modern literature has awakened so universal a sense of
sympathy and admiration, perhaps be- cause none has been so entirely a
labour of love.
The series of educational primers which Tol- stoy prepared and
published concurrently with the "Popular Tales" have had an equally
large, though exclusively Russian, circulation, being ad- mirably
suited to their purpose--that of teach- ing young children the
rudiments of history, geography, and science. Little leisure remained
for the service of Art.
The history of Tolstoy as a man of letters forms a separate page of
his biography, and one into which it is not possible to enter in the
brief compass of this introduction. It requires, how- ever, a passing
allusion. Tolstoy even in his early days never seems to have
approached near to that manner of life which the literary man leads:
neither to have shut himself up in his study, nor to have barred the
entrance to disturbing friends. On the one hand, he was fond of
society, and dur- ing his brief residence in St. Petersburg was never
so engrossed in authorship as to forego the pleas- ure of a ball or
evening entertainment. Little wonder, when one looks back at the
brilliant young officer surrounded and petted by the great hos- tesses
of Russia. On the other hand, he was no devotee at the literary altar.
No patron of lit- erature could claim him as his constant visitor; no
inner circle of men of letters monopolised his idle hours. Afterwards,
when he left the capital and settled in the country, he was almost
entirely cut off from the association of literary men, and never seems
to have sought their companionship. Nevertheless, he had all through
his life many fast friends, among them such as the poet Fet, the nov-
elist Chekhov, and the great Russian librarian Stassov, who often came
to him. These visits always gave him pleasure. The discussions,
whether on the literary movements of the day or on the merits of Goethe
or the humour of Gogol, were welcome interruptions to his
ever-absorbing metaphysical studies. In later life, also, though never
in touch with the rising generation of authors, we find him
corresponding with them, criticising their style and subject matter.
When Andreev, the most modern of all modern Russian writers, came to
pay his respects to Tolstoy some months before his death, he was
received with cordiality, although Tolstoy, as he expressed him- self
afterwards, felt that there was a great gulf fixed between them.
Literature, as literature, had lost its charm for him. "You are
perfectly right," he writes to a friend; "I care only for the idea, and
I pay no attention to my style " The idea was the impor- tant thing to
Tolstoy in everything that he read or wrote. When his attention was
drawn to an illuminating essay on the poet Lermontov he was pleased
with it, not because it demonstrated Ler- montov's position in the
literary history of Rus- sia, but because it pointed out the moral aims
which underlay the wild Byronism of his works. He reproached the
novelist Leskov, who had sent him his latest novel, for the
"exuberance" of his flowers of speech and for his florid sentences--
beautiful in their way, he says, but inexpedient and unnecessary. He
even counselled the younger generation to give up poetry as a form of
expres- sion and to use prose instead. Poetry, he main- tained, was
always artificial and obscure. His attitude towards the art of writing
remained to the end one of hostility. Whenever he caught himself
working for art he was wont to reproach himself, and his diaries
contain many recrimina- tions against his own weakness in yielding to
this besetting temptation. Yet to these very lapses we are indebted
for this collection of fragments.
The greater number of stories and plays con- tained in these
volumes date from the years fol- lowing upon Tolstoy's pedagogic
activity. Long intervals, however, elapsed in most cases between the
original synopsis and the final touches. Thus "Father Serge," of which
he sketched the outline to Mr. Chertkov in 1890, was so often put aside
to make way for purely ethical writings that not till 1898 does the
entry occur in his diary, "To- day, quite unexpectedly, I finished
Serge " A year previously a dramatic incident had come to his
knowledge, which he elaborated in the play entitled "The Man who was
dead " It ran on the lines familiarised by Enoch Arden and similar
stories, of a wife deserted by her husband and supported in his absence
by a benefactor, whom she subsequently marries. In this instance the
supposed dead man was suddenly resuscitated as the result of his own
admissions in his cups, the wife and her second husband being
consequently arrested and condemned to a term of imprison- ment.
Tolstoy seriously attacked the subject during the summer of 1900, and
having brought it within a measurable distance of completion in a
shorter time than was usual with him, submitted it to the judgment of a
circle of friends. The drama made a deep impression on the privileged
few who read it, and some mention of it appeared in the newspapers.
Shortly afterwards a young man came to see Tolstoy in private. He
begged him to refrain from publishing "The Man who was dead," as it was
the history of his mother's life, and would dis- tress her gravely,
besides possibly occasioning further police intervention. Tolstoy
promptly consented, and the play remained, as it now ap- pears, in an
unfinished condition. He had al- ready felt doubtful whether "it was a
thing God would approve," Art for Art's sake having in his eyes no
right to existence. For this reason a didactic tendency is
increasingly evident in these later stories. "After the Ball" gives a
painful picture of Russian military cruelty; "The Forged Coupon" traces
the cancerous growth of evil, and demonstrates with dramatic force the
cumu- lative misery resulting from one apparently trivial act of
Of the three plays included in these volumes, "The Light that
shines in Darkness" has a spe- cial claim to our attention as an
example of auto- biography in the guise of drama. It is a speci- men
of Tolstoy's gift of seeing himself as others saw him, and viewing a
question in all its bear- ings. It presents not actions but ideas,
giving with entire impartiality the opinions of his home circle, of his
friends, of the Church and of the State, in regard to his altruistic
propaganda and to the anarchism of which he has been accused. The
scene of the renunciation of the estates of the hero may be taken as a
literal version of what actually took place in regard to Tolstoy
himself, while the dialogues by which the piece is carried forward are
more like verbatim records than im- aginary conversations.
This play was, in addition, a medium by which Tolstoy emphasised
his abhorrence of military service, and probably for this reason its
produc- tion is absolutely forbidden in Russia. A word may be said
here on Tolstoy's so-called Anarchy, a term admitting of grave
misconstruction. In that he denied the benefit of existing governments
to the people over whom they ruled, and in that he stigmatised standing
armies as "collections of disciplined murderers," Tolstoy was an
Anarchist; but in that he reprobated the methods of violence, no matter
how righteous the cause at stake, and upheld by word and deed the
gospel of Love and submission, he cannot be judged guilty of Anar-
chism in its full significance. He could not, how- ever, suppress the
sympathy which he felt with those whose resistance to oppression
brought them into deadly conflict with autocracy. He found in the
Caucasian chieftain, Hadji Murat, a sub- ject full of human interest
and dramatic possibili- ties; and though some eight years passed before
he corrected the manuscript for the last time (in 1903), it is evident
from the numbers of entries in his diary that it had greatly occupied
his thoughts so far back even as the period which he spent in Tiflis
prior to the Crimean war. It was then that the final subjugation of
the Caucasus took place, and Shamil and his devoted band made their
last struggle for freedom. After the lapse of half a century, Tolstoy
gave vent in "Hadji Murat" to the resentment which the military
despotism of Nicholas I. had roused in his sensitive and fearless
Courage was the dominant note in Tolstoy's character, and none have
excelled him in portray- ing brave men. His own fearlessness was of
the rarest, in that it was both physical and moral. The mettle tried
and proved at Sebastopol sus- tained him when he had drawn on himself
the bitter animosity of "Holy Synod" and the relent- less anger of
Czardom. In spite of his non- resistance doctrine, Tolstoy's courage
was not of the passive order. It was his natural bent to rouse his
foes to combat, rather than wait for their attack, to put on the
defensive every false- hood and every wrong of which he was cognisant.
Truth in himself and in others was what he most desired, and that to
which he strove at all costs to attain. He was his own severest
critic, weigh- ing his own actions, analysing his own thoughts, and
baring himself to the eyes of the world with unflinching candour.
Greatest of autobiogra- phers, he extenuates nothing: you see the
whole man with his worst faults and best qualities; weak- nesses
accentuated by the energy with which they are charactered, apparent
waste of mental forces bent on solving the insoluble, inherited tastes
and prejudices, altruistic impulses and virile passions, egoism and
idealism, all strangely mingled and continually warring against each
other, until from the death-throes of spiritual conflict issued a new
birth and a new life. In the ancient Scripture "God is love" Tolstoy
discerned fresh meaning, and strove with superhuman energy to bring
home that meaning to the world at large. His doctrine in fact appears
less as a new light in the darkness than as a revival of the pure flame
of "the Mystic of the Galilean hills," whose teaching he accepted while
denying His divinity.
Of Tolstoy's beliefs in regard to the Christian religion it may be
said that with advancing years he became more and more disposed to
regard religious truth as one continuous stream of spirit- ual thought
flowing through the ages of man's history, emanating principally from
the inspired prophets and seers of Israel, India, and China. Finally,
in 1909, in a letter to a friend he summed up his conviction in the
"For me the doctrine of Jesus is simply one of those beautiful
religious doctrines which we have received from Egyptian, Jewish,
Hindoo, Chi- nese, and Greek antiquity. The two great prin- ciples of
Jesus: love of God--in a word absolute perfection--and love of one's
neighbour, that is to say, love of all men without distinction, have
been preached by all the sages of the world-- Krishna, Buddha, Lao-tse,
Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and among the
moderns, Rousseau, Pascal, Kant, Emerson, Channing, and many others.
Religious and moral truth is everywhere and always the same. I have
no predilection whatever for Christianity. If I have been particularly
interested in the doc- trine of Jesus it is, firstly, because I was
born in that religion and have lived among Christians; secondly,
because I have found a great spiritual joy in freeing the doctrine in
its purity from the astounding falsifications. wrought by the
Tolstoy's life-work was indeed a splendid striv- ing to free truth
from falsehood, to simplify the complexities of civilisation and
demonstrate their futility. Realists as gifted have come and gone and
left but little trace. It is conceivable that the great trilogy of
"Anna Karenina," " War and Peace," and "Resurrection" may one day be
for- gotten, but Tolstoy's teaching stands on firmer foundations, and
has stirred the hearts of thou- sands who are indifferent to the finest
display of psychic analysis. He has taught men to venture beyond the
limits set by reason, to rise above the actual and to find the meaning
of life in love. It was his mission to probe our moral ulcers to the
roots and to raise moribund ideals from the dust, breathing his own
vitality into them, till they rose before our eyes as living
aspirations. The spir- itual joy of which he wrote was no rhetorical
hyperbole; it was manifest in the man himself, and was the fount of the
lofty idealism which made him not only "the Conscience of Russia" but
of the civilised world.
Idealism is one of those large abstractions which are invested by
various minds with varying shades of meaning, and which find expression
in an infinite number of forms. Ideals bred and fos- tered in the
heart of man receive at birth an im- press from the life that engenders
them, and when that life is tempest-tossed the thought that springs
from it must bear a birth-mark of the storm. That birth-mark is
stamped on all Tolstoy's utter- ances, the simplest and the most
metaphysical. But though he did not pass scathless through the purging
fires, nor escape with eyes undimmed from the mystic light which
flooded his soul, his ideal is not thereby invalidated. It was, he
admitted, unattainable, but none the less a state of perfec- tion to
which we must continually aspire, un- daunted by partial failure.
"There is nothing wrong in not living up to the ideal which you
have made for yourself, but what is wrong is, if on looking back, you
cannot see that you have made the least step nearer to your ideal."
How far Tolstoy's doctrines may influence suc- ceeding generations
it is impossible to foretell; but when time has extinguished what is
merely personal or racial, the divine spark which he re- ceived from
his great spiritual forerunners in other times and countries will
undoubtedly be found alight. His universality enabled him to unite
himself closely with them in mental sympathy; sometimes so closely, as
in the case of J. J. Rous- seau, as to raise analogies and comparisons
de- signed to show that he merely followed in a well- worn pathway.
Yet the similarity of Tolstoy's ideas to those of the author of the
"Contrat So- cial" hardly goes beyond a mutual distrust of Art and
Science as aids to human happiness and virtue, and a desire to
establish among mankind a true sense of brotherhood. For the rest, the
appeals which they individually made to Human- ity were as dissimilar
as the currents of their lives, and equally dissimilar in effect.
The magic flute of Rousseau's eloquence breathed fanaticism into
his disciples, and a desire to mass themselves against the foes of
liberty. Tolstoy's trumpet-call sounds a deeper note. It pierces the
heart, summoning each man to the in- quisition of his own conscience,
and to justify his existence by labour, that he may thereafter sleep
the sleep of peace.
The exaltation which he awakens owes nothing to rhythmical language
nor to subtle interpreta- tions of sensuous emotion; it proceeds from a
per- ception of eternal truth, the truth that has love, faith, courage,
and self-sacrifice for the corner- stones of its enduring edifice
NOTE--Owing to circumstances entirely outside the control of the
editor some of these translations have been done in haste and there has
not been sufficient time for revision.
The translators were chosen by an agent of the executor and not by
LIST OF POSTHUMOUS WORKS, GIVING DATE
WHEN EACH WAS FINISHED OR LENGTH OF
TIME OCCUPIED IN WRITING.
Father Serge. 1890-98. Introduction to the History of a Mother.
1894. Memoirs of a Mother. 1894. The Young Czar. 1894. Diary of a
Lunatic. 1896. Hadji Murat. 1896-1904. The Light that shines in
Darkness. 1898-1901. The Man who was dead. 1900. After the Ball. 1903.
The Forged Coupon. 1904. Alexis. 1905. Diary of Alexander I. 1905. The
Dream. 1906. Father Vassily. 1906. There are no Guilty People. 1909.
The Wisdom of Children. 1909. The Cause of it All. 1910. Chodynko.
1910. Two Travellers. Date uncertain.
THE FORGED COUPON
FEDOR MIHAILOVICH SMOKOVNIKOV, the presi- dent of the local Income
Tax Department, a man of unswerving honesty--and proud of it, too-- a
gloomy Liberal, a free-thinker, and an enemy to every manifestation of
religious feeling, which he thought a relic of superstition, came home
from his office feeling very much annoyed. The Gov- ernor of the
province had sent him an extraordi- narily stupid minute, almost
assuming that his dealings had been dishonest.
Fedor Mihailovich felt embittered, and wrote at once a sharp
answer. On his return home everything seemed to go contrary to his
It was five minutes to five, and he expected the dinner to be
served at once, but he was told it was not ready. He banged the door
and went to his study. Somebody knocked at the door. "Who the devil
is that?" he thought; and shouted,--
"Who is there?"
The door opened and a boy of fifteen came in, the son of Fedor
Mihailovich, a pupil of the fifth class of the local school.
"What do you want?"
"It is the first of the month to-day, father."
"Well! You want your money?"
It had been arranged that the father should pay his son a monthly
allowance of three roubles as pocket money. Fedor Mihailovich frowned,
took out of his pocket-book a coupon of two roubles fifty kopeks which
he found among the bank- notes, and added to it fifty kopeks in silver
out of the loose change in his purse. The boy kept si- lent, and did
not take the money his father prof- fered him.
"Father, please give me some more in ad- vance."
"I would not ask for it, but I have borrowed a small sum from a
friend, and promised upon my word of honour to pay it off. My honour
is dear to me, and that is why I want another three rou- bles. I don't
like asking you; but, please, father, give me another three roubles."
"I have told you--"
"I know, father, but just for once."
"You have an allowance of three roubles and you ought to be
content. I had not fifty kopeks when I was your age."
"Now, all my comrades have much more. Petrov and Ivanitsky have
fifty roubles a month."
"And I tell you that if you behave like them you will be a
scoundrel. Mind that."
"What is there to mind? You never under- stand my position. I
shall be disgraced if I don't pay my debt. It is all very well for you
to speak as you do."
"Be off, you silly boy! Be off!"
Fedor Mihailovich jumped from his seat and pounced upon his son.
"Be off, I say!" he shouted. "You deserve a good thrashing, all you
His son was at once frightened and embittered. The bitterness was
even greater than the fright. With his head bent down he hastily
turned to the door. Fedor Mihailovich did not intend to strike him,
but he was glad to vent his wrath, and went on shouting and abusing the
boy till he had closed the door.
When the maid came in to announce that din- ner was ready, Fedor
"At last!" he said. "I don't feel hungry any longer."
He went to the dining-room with a sullen face. At table his wife
made some remark, but he gave her such a short and angry answer that
she ab- stained from further speech. The son also did not lift his
eyes from his plate, and was silent all the time. The trio finished
their dinner in si- lence, rose from the table and separated, without a
After dinner the boy went to his room, took the coupon and the
change out of his pocket, and threw the money on the table. After that
he took off his uniform and put on a jacket.
He sat down to work, and began to study Latin grammar out of a
dog's-eared book. After a while he rose, closed and bolted the door,
shifted the money into a drawer, took out some ciga- rette papers,
rolled one up, stuffed it with cotton wool, and began to smoke.
He spent nearly two hours over his grammar and writing books
without understanding a word of what he saw before him; then he rose
and be- gan to stamp up and down the room, trying to recollect all that
his father had said to him. All the abuse showered upon him, and worst
of all his father's angry face, were as fresh in his mem- ory as if he
saw and heard them all over again. "Silly boy! You ought to get a good
thrash- ing!" And the more he thought of it the angrier be grew. He
remembered also how his father said: "I see what a scoundrel you will
turn out. I know you will. You are sure to become a cheat, if you go
on like that. . . " He had cer- tainly forgotten how he felt when he
was young! "What crime have I committed, I wonder? I wanted to go to
the theatre, and having no money borrowed some from Petia Grouchetsky.
Was that so very wicked of me? Another father would have been sorry
for me; would have asked how it all happened; whereas he just called me
names. He never thinks of anything but himself. When it is he who has
not got something he wants --that is a different matter! Then all the
house is upset by his shouts. And I--I am a scoundrel, a cheat, he
says. No, I don't love him, although he is my father. It may be
wrong, but I hate him."
There was a knock at the door. The servant brought a letter--a
message from his friend. They want an answer," said the servant.
The letter ran as follows: " I ask you now for the third time to
pay me back the six roubles you have borrowed; you are trying to avoid
me. That is not the way an honest man ought to be- have. Will you
please send the amount by my messenger? I am myself in a frightful fix.
Can you not get the money somewhere?--Yours, ac- cording to whether
you send the money or not, with scorn, or love, Grouchetsky."
"There we have it! Such a pig! Could he not wait a while? I will
have another try."
Mitia went to his mother. This was his last hope. His mother was
very kind, and hardly ever refused him anything. She would probably
have helped him this time also out of his trouble, but she was in great
anxiety: her younger child, Petia, a boy of two, had fallen ill. She
got angry with Mitia for rushing so noisily into the nursery, and
refused him almost without listening to what he had to say. Mitia
muttered something to him- self and turned to go. The mother felt
sorry for him. "Wait, Mitia,"" she said; "I have not got the money you
want now, but I will get it for you to-morrow."
But Mitia was still raging against his father.
"What is the use of having it to-morrow, when I want it to-day? I
am going to see a friend. That is all I have got to say."
He went out, banging the door. . . .
"Nothing else is left to me. He will tell me how to pawn my
watch," he thought, touching his watch in his pocket.
Mitia went to his room, took the coupon and the watch from the
drawer, put on his coat, and went to Mahin.
MAHIN was his schoolfellow, his senior, a grown- up young man with
a moustache. He gambled, had a large feminine acquaintance, and always
had ready cash. He lived with his aunt. Mitia quite realised that
Mahin was not a respectable fellow, but when he was in his company he
could not help doing what he wished. Mahin was in when Mitia called,
and was just preparing to go to the theatre. His untidy room smelt of
scented soap and eau-de-Cologne.
"That's awful, old chap," said Mahin, when Mitia telling him about
his troubles, showed the coupon and the fifty kopeks, and added that he
wanted nine roubles more. "We might, of course, go and pawn your
watch. But we might do something far better " And Mahin winked an
"Something quite simple " Mahin took the coupon in his hand. "
Put ONE before the 2.50 and it will be 12.50."
"But do such coupons exist?"
"Why, certainly; the thousand roubles notes have coupons of 12.50.
I have cashed one in the same way."
"You don't say so?"
"Well, yes or no?" asked Mahin, taking the pen and smoothing the
coupon with the fingers of his left hand.
"But it is wrong."
"Nonsense, indeed," thought Mitia, and again his father's hard
words came back to his memory. "Scoundrel! As you called me that, I
might as well be it " He looked into Mahin's face. Mahin looked at
him, smiling with perfect ease.
"Well?" he said.
"All right. I don't mind."
Mahin carefully wrote the unit in front of 2.50.
"Now let us go to the shop across the road; they sell
photographers' materials there. I just happen to want a frame--for
this young person here " He took out of his pocket a photograph of a
young lady with large eyes, luxuriant hair, and an uncommonly
"Is she not sweet? Eh?"
"Yes, yes. . .of course. . ."
"Well, you see.--But let us go."
Mahin took his coat, and they left the house.
THE two boys, having rung the door-bell, entered the empty shop,
which had shelves along the walls and photographic appliances on them,
together with show-cases on the counters. A plain woman, with a kind
face, came through the inner door and asked from behind the counter
what they required.
"A nice frame, if you please, madam."
"At what price?" asked the woman; she wore mittens on her swollen
fingers with which she rap- idly handled picture-frames of different
"These are fifty kopeks each; and these are a little more
expensive. There is rather a pretty one, of quite a new style; one
rouble and twenty kopeks."
"All right, I will have this. But could not you make it cheaper?
Let us say one rouble."
"We don't bargain in our shop," said the shopkeeper with a
"Well, I will take it," said Mahin, and put the coupon on the
counter. "Wrap up the frame and give me change. But please be quick.
We must be off to the theatre, and it is getting late."
"You have plenty of time," said the shop- keeper, examining the
coupon very closely because of her shortsightedness.
"It will look lovely in that frame, don't you think so? " said
Mahin, turning to Mitia.
"Have you no small change? " asked the shop- woman.
"I am sorry, I have not. My father gave me that, so I have to cash
"But surely you have one rouble twenty?"
"I have only fifty kopeks in cash. But what are you afraid of? You
don't think, I suppose, that we want to cheat you and give you bad
"Oh, no; I don't mean anything of the sort."
"You had better give it to me back. We will cash it somewhere
"How much have I to pay you back? Eleven and something."
She made a calculation on the counter, opened the desk, took out a
ten-roubles note, looked for change and added to the sum six
twenty-kopeks coins and two five-kopek pieces.
"Please make a parcel of the frame," said Mahin, taking the money
in a leisurely fashion.
"Yes, sir " She made a parcel and tied it with a string.
Mitia only breathed freely when the door bell rang behind them, and
they were again in the street.
"There are ten roubles for you, and let me have the rest. I will
give it back to you."
Mahin went off to the theatre, and Mitia called on Grouchetsky to
repay the money he had bor- rowed from him.
AN hour after the boys were gone Eugene Mihail- ovich, the owner of
the shop, came home, and be- gan to count his receipts.
"Oh, you clumsy fool! Idiot that you are!" he shouted, addressing
his wife, after having seen the coupon and noticed the forgery.
"But I have often seen you, Eugene, accepting coupons in payment,
and precisely twelve rouble ones," retorted his wife, very humiliated,
grieved, and all but bursting into tears. "I really don't know how
they contrived to cheat me," she went on. "They were pupils of the
school, in uni- form. One of them was quite a handsome boy, and looked
so comme il faut."
"A comme il faut fool, that is what you are!" The husband went on
scolding her, while he counted the cash. . . . When I accept coupons,
I see what is written on them. And you probably looked only at the
boys' pretty faces. You had better behave yourself in your old age."
His wife could not stand this, and got into a fury.
"That is just like you men! Blaming every- body around you. But
when it is you who lose fifty-four roubles at cards--that is of no
conse- quence in your eyes."
"That is a different matter
"I don't want to talk to you," said his wife, and went to her room.
There she began to re- mind herself that her family was opposed to her
marriage, thinking her present husband far below her in social rank,
and that it was she who insisted on marrying him. Then she went on
thinking of the child she had lost, and how indifferent her husband had
been to their loss. She hated him so intensely at that moment that she
wished for his death. Her wish frightened her, however, and she
hurriedly began to dress and left the house. When her husband came
from the shop to the inner rooms of their flat she was gone. Without
waiting for him she had dressed and gone off to friends--a teacher of
French in the school, a Russified Pole, and his wife--who had invited
her and her husband to a party in their house that evening.
THE guests at the party had tea and cakes offered to them, and sat
down after that to play whist at a number of card-tables.
The partners of Eugene Mihailovich's wife were the host himself, an
officer, and an old and very stupid lady in a wig, a widow who owned a
music-shop; she loved playing cards and played remarkably well. But it
was Eugene Mihailo- vich's wife who was the winner all the time. The
best cards were continually in her hands. At her side she had a plate
with grapes and a pear and was in the best of spirits.
"And Eugene Mihailovich? Why is he so late?" asked the hostess, who
played at another table.
"Probably busy settling accounts," said Eugene Mihailovich's wife.
"He has to pay off the tradesmen, to get in firewood " The quarrel
she had with her husband revived in her memory; she frowned, and her
hands, from which she had not taken off the mittens, shook with fury
"Oh, there he is.--We have just been speak- ing of you," said the
hostess to Eugene Mihailo- vich, who came in at that very moment. "Why
are you so late?"
"I was busy," answered Eugene Mihailovich, in a gay voice, rubbing
his hands. And to his wife's surprise he came to her side and said,--
"You know, I managed to get rid of the cou- pon."
"No! You don't say so!"
"Yes, I used it to pay for a cart-load of fire- wood I bought from
And Eugene Mihailovich related with great in- dignation to the
company present--his wife add- ing more details to his narrative--how
his wife had been cheated by two unscrupulous schoolboys.
"Well, and now let us sit down to work," he said, taking his place
at one of the whist-tables when his turn came, and beginning to shuffle
EUGENE MIHAILOVICH had actually used the cou- pon to buy firewood
from the peasant Ivan Mi- ronov, who had thought of setting up in
business on the seventeen roubles he possessed. He hoped in this way
to earn another eight roubles, and with the twenty-five roubles thus
amassed he intended to buy a good strong horse, which he would want in
the spring for work in the fields and for driv- ing on the roads, as
his old horse was almost played out.
Ivan Mironov's commercial method consisted in buying from the
stores a cord of wood and di- viding it into five cartloads, and then
driving about the town, selling each of these at the price the stores
charged for a quarter of a cord. That unfortunate day Ivan Mironov
drove out very early with half a cartload, which he soon sold. He
loaded up again with another cartload which he hoped to sell, but he
looked in vain for a cus- tomer; no one would buy it. It was his bad
luck all that day to come across experienced towns- people, who knew
all the tricks of the peasants in selling firewood, and would not
believe that he had actually brought the wood from the country as he
assured them. He got hungry, and felt cold in his ragged woollen coat.
It was nearly below zero when evening came on; his horse which he had
treated without mercy, hoping soon to sell it to the knacker's yard,
refused to move a step. So Ivan Mironov was quite ready to sell his
firewood at a loss when he met Eugene Mihail- ovich, who was on his way
home from the tobac- conist.
"Buy my cartload of firewood, sir. I will give it to you cheap.
My poor horse is tired, and can't go any farther."
"Where do you come from?"
"From the country, sir. This firewood is from our place. Good dry
wood, I can assure you."
"Good wood indeed! I know your tricks. Well, what is your price?"
Ivan Mironov began by asking a high price, but reduced it once, and
finished by selling the cartload for just what it had cost him.
"I'm giving it to you cheap, just to please you, sir.--Besides, I
am glad it is not a long way to your house," he added.
Eugene Mihailovich did not bargain very much. He did not mind
paying a little more, because he was delighted to think he could make
use of the coupon and get rid of it. With great difficulty Ivan
Mironov managed at last, by pulling the shafts himself, to drag his
cart into the courtyard, where he was obliged to unload the firewood
un- aided and pile it up in the shed. The yard-porter was out. Ivan
Mironov hesitated at first to ac- cept the coupon, but Eugene
Mihailovich insisted, and as he looked a very important person the
peas- ant at last agreed.
He went by the backstairs to the servants' room, crossed himself
before the ikon, wiped his beard which was covered with icicles, turned
up the skirts of his coat, took out of his pocket a leather purse, and
out of the purse eight roubles and fifty kopeks, and handed the change
to Eu- gene Mihailovich. Carefully folding the coupon, he put it in
the purse. Then, according to cus- tom, he thanked the gentleman for
his kindness, and, using the whip-handle instead of the lash, he
belaboured the half-frozen horse that he had doomed to an early death,
and betook himself to a public-house.
Arriving there, Ivan Mironov called for vodka and tea for which he
paid eight kopeks. Com- fortable and warm after the tea, he chatted in
the very best of spirits with a yard-porter who was sitting at his
table. Soon he grew communicative and told his companion all about the
conditions of his life. He told him he came from the village
Vassilievsky, twelve miles from town, and also that he had his
allotment of land given to him by his family, as he wanted to live
apart from his father and his brothers; that he had a wife and two
children; the elder boy went to school, and did not yet help him in his
work. He also said he lived in lodgings and intended going to the
horse- fair the next day to look for a good horse, and, may be, to buy
one. He went on to state that he had now nearly twenty-five
roubles--only one rouble short--and that half of it was a coupon. He
took the coupon out of his purse to show to his new friend. The
yard-porter was an illiterate man, but he said he had had such coupons
given him by lodgers to change; that they were good; but that one might
also chance on forged ones; so he advised the peasant, for the sake of
security, to change it at once at the counter. Ivan Mironov gave the
coupon to the waiter and asked for change. The waiter, however, did
not bring the change, but came back with the manager, a bald- headed
man with a shining face, who was holding the coupon in his fat hand.
"Your money is no good," he said, showing the coupon, but
apparently determined not to give it back.
"The coupon must be all right. I got it from a gentleman."
"It is bad, I tell you. The coupon is forged."
"Forged? Give it back to me."
"I will not. You fellows have got to be pun- ished for such
tricks. Of course, you did it your- self--you and some of your
"Give me the money. What right have you--"
"Sidor! Call a policeman," said the barman to the waiter. Ivan
Mironov was rather drunk, and in that condition was hard to manage. He
seized the manager by the collar and began to shout.
"Give me back my money, I say. I will go to the gentleman who gave
it to me. I know where he lives."
The manager had to struggle with all his force to get loose from
Ivan Mironov, and his shirt was torn,--
"Oh, that's the way you behave! Get hold of him."
The waiter took hold of Ivan Mironov; at that moment the policeman
arrived. Looking very important, he inquired what had happened, and
unhesitatingly gave his orders:
"Take him to the police-station."
As to the coupon, the policeman put it in his pocket; Ivan Mironov,
together with his horse, was brought to the nearest station.
IVAN MIRONOV had to spend the night in the po- lice-station, in the
company of drunkards and thieves. It was noon of the next day when he
was summoned to the police officer; put through a close examination,
and sent in the care of a po- liceman to Eugene Mihailovich's shop.
Ivan Mi- ronov remembered the street and the house.
The policeman asked for the shopkeeper, showed him the coupon and
confronted him with Ivan Mironov, who declared that he had received the
coupon in that very place. Eugene Mihailo- vich at once assumed a very
severe and astonished air.
"You are mad, my good fellow," he said. "I have never seen this
man before in my life," he added, addressing the policeman.
"It is a sin, sir," said Ivan Mironov " Think of the hour when you
"Why, you must be dreaming I You have sold your firewood to some
one else," said Eu- gene Mihailovich. "But wait a minute. I will go
and ask my wife whether she bought any fire- wood yesterday " Eugene
Mihailovich left them and immediately called the yard-porter Vassily, a
strong, handsome, quick, cheerful, well-dressed man.
He told Vassily that if any one should inquire where the last
supply of firewood was bought, he was to say they'd got it from the
stores, and not from a peasant in the street.
"A peasant has come," he said to Vassily, "who has declared to the
police that I gave him a forged coupon. He is a fool and talks non-
sense, but you, are a clever man. Mind you say that we always get the
firewood from the stores. And, by the way, I've been thinking some
time of giving you money to buy a new jacket," added Eu- gene
Mihailovich, and gave the man five roubles. Vassily looking with
pleasure first at the five rou- ble note, then at Eugene Mihailovich's
face, shook his head and smiled.
"I know, those peasant folks have no brains. Ignorance, of course.
Don't you be uneasy. I know what I have to say."
Ivan Mironov, with tears in his eyes, implored Eugene Mihailovich
over and over again to ac- knowledge the coupon he had given him, and
the yard-porter to believe what he said, but it proved quite useless;
they both insisted that they had never bought firewood from a peasant
in the street. The policeman brought Ivan Mironov back to the
police-station, and he was charged with forging the coupon. Only after
taking the ad- vice of a drunken office clerk in the same cell with
him, and bribing the police officer with five rou- bles, did Ivan
Mironov get out of jail, without the coupon, and with only seven
roubles left out of the twenty-five he had the day before.
Of these seven roubles he spent three in the public-house and came
home to his wife dead drunk, with a bruised and swollen face.
His wife was expecting a child, and felt very ill. She began to
scold her husband; he pushed her away, and she struck him. Without
answer- ing a word he lay down on the plank and began to weep bitterly.
Not till the next day did he tell his wife what had actually
happened. She believed him at once, and thoroughly cursed the
dastardly rich man who had cheated Ivan. He was sobered now, and
remembering the advice a workman had given him, with whom he had many a
drink the day before, decided to go to a lawyer and tell him of the
wrong the owner of the photograph shop had done him.
THE lawyer consented to take proceedings on be- half of Ivan
Mironov, not so much for the sake of the fee, as because he believed
the peasant, and was revolted by the wrong done to him.
Both parties appeared in the court when the case was tried, and the
yard-porter Vassily was summoned as witness. They repeated in the
court all they had said before to the police officials. Ivan Mironov
again called to his aid the name of the Divinity, and reminded the
shopkeeper of the hour of death. Eugene Mihailovich, although quite
aware of his wickedness, and the risks he was running, despite the
rebukes of his conscience, could not now change his testimony, and went
on calmly to deny all the allegations made against him.
The yard-porter Vassily had received another ten roubles from his
master, and, quite unper- turbed, asserted with a smile that he did not
know anything about Ivan Mironov. And when he was called upon to take
the oath, he overcame his inner qualms, and repeated with assumed ease
the terms of the oath, read to him by the old priest appointed to the
court. By the holy Cross and the Gospel, he swore that he spoke the
The case was decided against Ivan Mironov, who was sentenced to pay
five roubles for expenses. This sum Eugene Mihailovich generously paid
for him. Before dismissing Ivan Mironov, the judge severely admonished
him, saying he ought to take care in the future not to accuse
respectable people, and that he also ought to be thankful that he was
not forced to pay the costs, and that he had escaped a prosecution for
slander, for which he would have been condemned to three months' im-
"I offer my humble thanks," said Ivan Mi- ronov; and, shaking his
head, left the court with a heavy sigh.
The whole thing seemed to have ended well for Eugene Mihailovich
and the yard-porter Vassily. But only in appearance. Something had
hap- pened which was not noticed by any one, but which was much more
important than all that had been exposed to view.
Vassily had left his village and settled in town over two years
ago. As time went on he sent less and less money to his father, and he
did not ask his wife, who remained at home, to join him. He was in no
need of her; he could in town have as many wives as he wished, and much
better ones too than that clumsy, village-bred woman. Vas- sily, with
each recurring year, became more and more familiar with the ways of the
town people, forgetting the conventions of a country life. There
everything was so vulgar, so grey, so poor and untidy. Here, in town,
all seemed on the contrary so refined, nice, clean, and rich; so or-
derly too. And he became more and more con- vinced that people in the
country live just like wild beasts, having no idea of what life is, and
that only life in town is real. He read books written by clever
writers, and went to the perform- ances in the Peoples' Palace. In the
country, people would not see such wonders even in dreams. In the
country old men say: "Obey the law, and live with your wife; work;
don't eat too much; don't care for finery," while here, in town, all
the clever and learned people--those, of course, who know what in
reality the law is--only pur- sue their own pleasures. And they are
the bet- ter for it.
Previous to the incident of the forged coupon, Vassily could not
actually believe that rich people lived without any moral law. But
after that, still more after having perjured himself, and not being the
worse for it in spite of his fears--on the contrary, he had gained ten
roubles out of it --Vassily became firmly convinced that no moral laws
whatever exist, and that the only thing to do is to pursue one's own
interests and pleasures. This he now made his rule in life. He
accord- ingly got as much profit as he could out of pur- chasing goods
for lodgers. But this did not pay all his expenses. Then he took to
stealing, when- ever chance offered--money and all sorts of val-
uables. One day he stole a purse full of money from Eugene
Mihailovich, but was found out. Eugene Mihailovich did not hand him
over to the police, but dismissed him on the spot.
Vassily had no wish whatever to return home to his village, and
remained in Moscow with his sweetheart, looking out for a new job. He
got one as yard-porter at a grocer's, but with only small wages. The
next day after he had entered that service he was caught stealing bags.
The grocer did not call in the police, but gave him a good thrashing
and turned him out. After that he could not find work. The money he
had left was soon gone; he had to sell all his clothes and went about
nearly in rags. His sweetheart left him. But notwithstanding, he kept
up his high spirits, and when the spring came he started to walk home.
PETER NIKOLAEVICH SVENTIZKY, a short man in black spectacles (he
had weak eyes, and was threatened with complete blindness), got up, as
was his custom, at dawn of day, had a cup of tea, and putting on his
short fur coat trimmed with astrachan, went to look after the work on
his es- tate.
Peter Nikolaevich had been an official in the Customs, and had
gained eighteen thousand rou- bles during his service. About twelve
years ago he quitted the service--not quite of his own ac- cord: as a
matter of fact he had been compelled to leave--and bought an estate
from a young land-owner who had dissipated his fortune. Peter
Nikolaevich had married at an earlier period, while still an official
in the Customs. His wife, who belonged to an old noble family, was an
orphan, and was left without money. She was a tall, stoutish,
good-looking woman. They had no children. Peter Nikolaevich had
considerable practical talents and a strong will. He was the son of a
Polish gentleman, and knew nothing about agriculture and land
management; but when he acquired an estate of his own, he man- aged it
so well that after fifteen years the waste piece of land, consisting of
three hundred acres, became a model estate. All the buildings, from
the dwelling-house to the corn stores and the shed for the fire engine
were solidly built, had iron roofs, and were painted at the right time.
In the tool house carts, ploughs, harrows, stood in per- fect order,
the harness was well cleaned and oiled. The horses were not very big,
but all home-bred, grey, well fed, strong and devoid of blemish.
The threshing machine worked in a roofed barn, the forage was kept
in a separate shed, and a paved drain was made from the stables. The
cows were home-bred, not very large, but giving plenty of milk; fowls
were also kept in the poultry yard, and the hens were of a special
kind, laying a great quantity of eggs. In the orchard the fruit trees
were well whitewashed and propped on poles to enable them to grow
straight. Everything was looked after--solid, clean, and in perfect
order. Peter Nikolaevich rejoiced in the perfect condi- tion of his
estate, and was proud to have achieved it--not by oppressing the
peasants, but, on the contrary, by the extreme fairness of his dealings
Among the nobles of his province he belonged to the advanced party,
and was more inclined to liberal than conservative views, always taking
the side of the peasants against those who were still in favour of
serfdom. "Treat them well, and they will be fair to you," he used to
say. Of course, he did not overlook any carelessness on the part of
those who worked on his estate, and he urged them on to work if they
were lazy; but then he gave them good lodging, with plenty of good
food, paid their wages without any delay, and gave them drinks on days
Walking cautiously on the melting snow--for the time of the year
was February--Peter Nikol- aevich passed the stables, and made his way
to the cottage where his workmen were lodged. It was still dark, the
darker because of the dense fog; but the windows of the cottage were
lighted. The men had already got up. His intention was to urge them
to begin work. He had arranged that they should drive out to the
forest and bring back the last supply of firewood he needed before
"What is that?" he thought, seeing the door of the stable wide
open. "Hallo, who is there?"
No answer. Peter Nikolaevich stepped into the stable. It was
dark; the ground was soft under his feet, and the air smelt of dung; on
the right side of the door were two loose boxes for a pair of grey
horses. Peter Nikolaevich stretched out his hand in their
direction--one box was empty. He put out his foot--the horse might
have been lying down. But his foot did not touch anything solid.
"Where could they have taken the horse?" he thought. They cer- tainly
had not harnessed it; all the sledges stood still outside. Peter
Nikolaevich went out of the stable.
"Stepan, come here!" he called.
Stepan was the head of the workmen's gang. He was just stepping
out of the cottage.
"Here I am!" he said, in a cheerful voice. "Oh, is that you, Peter
Nikolaevich? Our men are coming."
"Why is the stable door open?
"Is it? I don't know anything about it. I say, Proshka, bring the
Proshka came with the lantern. They all went to the stable, and
Stepan knew at once what had happened.
"Thieves have been here, Peter Nikolaevich," he said. "The lock is
"No; you don't say so!"
"Yes, the brigands! I don't see 'Mashka.' 'Hawk' is here. But
'Beauty' is not. Nor yet 'Dapple-grey.'"
Three horses had been stolen!
Peter Nikolaevich did not utter a word at first. He only frowned
and took deep breaths.
"Oh," he said after a while. "If only I could lay hands on them!
Who was on guard?"
"Peter. He evidently fell asleep."
Peter Nikolaevich called in the police, and making an appeal to all
the authorities, sent his men to track the thieves. But the horses
were not to be found.
"Wicked people," said Peter Nikolaevich. "How could they! I was
always so kind to them. Now, wait! Brigands! Brigands the whole lot of
them. I will no longer be kind."
IN the meanwhile the horses, the grey ones, had all been disposed
of; Mashka was sold to the gip- sies for eighteen roubles; Dapple-grey
was ex- changed for another horse, and passed over to another peasant
who lived forty miles away from the estate; and Beauty died on the way.
The man who conducted the whole affair was--Ivan Mi- ronov. He had
been employed on the estate, and knew all the whereabouts of Peter
Nikolaevich. He wanted to get back the money he had lost, and stole the
horses for that reason.
After his misfortune with the forged coupon, Ivan Mironov took to
drink; and all he possessed would have gone on drink if it had not been
for his wife, who locked up his clothes, the horses' collars, and all
the rest of what he would other- wise have squandered in public-houses.
In his drunken state Ivan Mironov was continually thinking, not only
of the man who had wronged him, but of all the rich people who live on
robbing the poor. One day he had a drink with some peasants from the
suburbs of Podolsk, and was walking home together with them. On the
way the peasants, who were completely drunk, told him they had stolen a
horse from a peasant's cottage. Ivan Mironov got angry, and began to
abuse the horse-thieves.
"What a shame!" he said. "A horse is like a brother to the
peasant. And you robbed him of it? It is a great sin, I tell you. If
you go in for stealing horses, steal them from the landowners. They
are worse than dogs, and deserve anything."
The talk went on, and the peasants from Po- dolsk told him that it
required a great deal of cunning to steal a horse on an estate.
"You must know all the ins and outs of the place, and must have
somebody on the spot to help you."
Then it occurred to Ivan Mironov that he knew a
landowner--Sventizky; he had worked on his estate, and Sventizky, when
paying him off, had deducted one rouble and a half for a broken tool.
He remembered well the grey horses which he used to drive at
Ivan Mironov called on Peter Nikolaevich pre- tending to ask for
employment, but really in or- der to get the information he wanted. He
took precautions to make sure that the watchman was absent, and that
the horses were standing in their boxes in the stable. He brought the
thieves to the place, and helped them to carry off the three horses.
They divided their gains, and Ivan Mironov returned to his wife
with five roubles in his pocket. He had nothing to do at home, having
no horse to work in the field, and therefore continued to steal horses
in company with professional horse- thieves and gipsies.
PETER NIKOLAEVICH SVENTIZKY did his best to discover who had stolen
his horses. He knew somebody on the estate must have helped the
thieves, and began to suspect all his staff. He inquired who had slept
out that night, and the gang of the working men told him Proshka had
not been in the whole night. Proshka, or Prokofy Nikolaevich, was a
young fellow who had just fin- ished his military service, handsome,
and skilful in all he did; Peter Nikolaevich employed him at times as
coachman. The district constable was a friend of Peter Nikolaevich, as
were the provin- cial head of the police, the marshal of the nobility,
and also the rural councillor and the examining magistrate. They all
came to his house on his saint's day, drinking the cherry brandy he
offered them with pleasure, and eating the nice preserved mushrooms of
all kinds to accompany the liqueurs. They all sympathised with him in
his trouble and tried to help him.
"You always used to take the side of the peas- ants," said the
district constable, "and there you are! I was right in saying they are
worse than wild beasts. Flogging is the only way to keep them in
order. Well, you say it is all Proshka's doings. Is it not he who was
your coachman sometimes?"
"Yes, that is he."
"Will you kindly call him?"
Proshka was summoned before the constable, who began to examine
"Where were you that night?"
Proshka pushed back his hair, and his eyes sparkled.
"How so? All the men say you were not in."
"Just as you please, your honour."
"My pleasure has nothing to do with the mat- ter. Tell me where
you were that night."
"Very well. Policeman, bring him to the po- lice-station."
The reason why Proshka did not say where he had been that night was
that he had spent it with his sweetheart, Parasha, and had promised not
to give her away. He kept his word. No proofs were discovered against
him, and he was soon dis- charged. But Peter Nikolaevich was convinced
that Prokofy had been at the bottom of the whole affair, and began to
hate him. One day Proshka bought as usual at the merchant's two
measures of oats. One and a half he gave to the horses, and half a
measure he gave back to the merchant; the money for it he spent in
drink. Peter Nikolae- vich found it out, and charged Prokofy with
cheat- ing. The judge sentenced the man to three months' imprisonment.
Prokofy had a rather proud nature, and thought himself superior to
others. Prison was a great humiliation for him. He came out of it
very depressed; there was nothing more to be proud of in life. And
more than that, he felt extremely bitter, not only against Peter
Nikolaevich, but against the whole world.
On the whole, as all the people around him no- ticed, Prokofy
became another man after his im- prisonment, both careless and lazy; he
took to drink, and he was soon caught stealing clothes at some woman's
house, and found himself again in prison.
All that Peter Nikolaevich discovered about his grey horses was the
hide of one of them, Beauty, which had been found somewhere on the
estate. The fact that the thieves had got off scot-free irritated
Peter Nikolaevich still more. He was unable now to speak of the
peasants or to look at them without anger. And whenever he could he
tried to oppress them.
AFTER having got rid of the coupon, Eugene Mihailovich forgot all
about it; but his wife, Ma- ria Vassilievna, could not forgive herself
for hav- ing been taken in, nor yet her husband for his cruel words.
And most of all she was furious against the two boys who had so
skilfully cheated her. From the day she had accepted the forged coupon
as payment, she looked closely at all the school- boys who came in her
way in the streets. One day she met Mahin, but did not recognise him,
for on seeing her he made a face which quite changed his features. But
when, a fortnight after the incident with the coupon, she met Mitia
Smokovnikov face to face, she knew him at once.
She let him pass her, then turned back and followed him, and
arriving at his house she made inquiries as to whose son he was. The
next day she went to the school and met the divinity instructor, the
priest Michael Vedensky, in the hall. He asked her what she wanted.
She an- swered that she wished to see the head of the school. "He is
not quite well," said the priest. "Can I be of any use to you, or give
him your message?"
Maria Vassilievna thought that she might as well tell the priest
what was the matter. Michael Vedensky was a widower, and a very
ambitious man. A year ago he had met Mitia Smokovni- kov's father in
society, and had had a discussion with him on religion. Smokovnikov
had beaten him decisively on all points; indeed, he had made him appear
quite ridiculous. Since that time the priest had decided to pay
special attention to Smokovnikov's son; and, finding him as indifferent
to religious matters as his father was, he began to persecute him, and
even brought about his fail- ure in examinations.
When Maria Vassilievna told him what young Smokovnikov had done to
her, Vedensky could not help feeling an inner satisfaction. He saw in
the boy's conduct a proof of the utter wickedness of those who are not
guided by the rules of the Church. He decided to take advantage of
this great opportunity of warning unbelievers of the perils that
threatened them. At all events, he wanted to persuade himself that
this was the only motive that guided him in the course he had re-
solved to take. But at the bottom of his heart he was only anxious to
get his revenge on the proud atheist.
"Yes, it is very sad indeed," said Father Mi- chael, toying with
the cross he was wearing over his priestly robes, and passing his hands
over its polished sides. "I am very glad you have given me your
confidence. As a servant of the Church I shall admonish the young
man--of course with the utmost kindness. I shall certainly do it in
the way that befits my holy office," said Father Michael to himself,
really thinking that he had forgotten the ill-feeling the boy's father
had to- wards him. He firmly believed the boy's soul to be the only
object of his pious care.
The next day, during the divinity lesson which Father Michael was
giving to Mitia Smokovni- kov's class, he narrated the incident of the
forged coupon, adding that the culprit had been one of the pupils of
the school. "It was a very wicked thing to do," he said; "but to deny
the crime is still worse. If it is true that the sin has been com-
mitted by one of you, let the guilty one confess." In saying this,
Father Michael looked sharply at Mitia Smokovnikov. All the boys,
following his glance, turned also to Mitia, who blushed, and felt
extremely ill at ease, with large beads of perspiration on his face.
Finally, he burst into tears, and ran out of the classroom. His
mother, noticing his trouble, found out the truth, ran at once to the
photographer's shop, paid over the twelve roubles and fifty kopeks to
Maria Vas- silievna, and made her promise to deny the boy's guilt. She
further implored Mitia to hide the truth from everybody, and in any
case to withhold it from his father.
Accordingly, when Fedor Mihailovich had heard of the incident in
the divinity class, and his son, questioned by him, had denied all
accusations, he called at once on the head of the school, told him what
had happened, expressed his indignation at Father Michael's conduct,
and said he would not let matters remain as they were.
Father Michael was sent for, and immediately fell into a hot
dispute with Smokovnikov.
"A stupid woman first falsely accused my son, then retracts her
accusation, and you of course could not hit on anything more sensible
to do than to slander an honest and truthful boy!"
"I did not slander him, and I must beg you not to address me in
such a way. You forget what is due to my cloth."
"Your cloth is of no consequence to me."
"Your perversity in matters of religion is known to everybody in
the town!" replied Father Michael; and he was so transported with anger
that his long thin head quivered.
"Gentlemen! Father Michael!" exclaimed the director of the school,
trying to appease their wrath. But they did not listen to him.
"It is my duty as a priest to look after the religious and moral
education of our pupils."
"Oh, cease your pretence to be religious! Oh, stop all this humbug
of religion! As if I did not know that you believe neither in God nor
"I consider it beneath my dignity to talk to a man like you," said
Father Michael, very much hurt by Smokovnikov's last words, the more so
because he knew they were true.
Michael Vedensky carried on his studies in the academy for priests,
and that is why, for a long time past, he ceased to believe in what he
con- fessed to be his creed and in what he preached from the pulpit; he
only knew that men ought to force themselves to believe in what he
tried to make himself believe.
Smokovnikov was not shocked by Father Mi- chael's conduct; he only
thought it illustrative of the influence the Church was beginning to
exercise on society, and he told all his friends how his son had been
insulted by the priest.
Seeing not only young minds, but also the elder generation,
contaminated by atheistic tendencies, Father Michael became more and
more convinced of the necessity of fighting those tendencies. The more
he condemned the unbelief of Smokovnikov, and those like him, the more
confident he grew in the firmness of his own faith, and the less he
felt the need of making sure of it, or of bringing his life into
harmony with it. His faith, acknowl- edged as such by all the world
around him, be- came Father Michael's very best weapon with which to
fight those who denied it.
The thoughts aroused in him by his conflict with Smokovnikov,
together with the annoyance of being blamed by his chiefs in the
school, made him carry out the purpose he had entertained ever since
his wife's death--of taking monastic orders, and of following the
course carried out by some of his fellow-pupils in the academy. One of
them was already a bishop, another an archimandrite and on the way to
become a bishop.
At the end of the term Michael Vedensky gave up his post in the
school, took orders under the name of Missael, and very soon got a post
as rector in a seminary in a town on the river Volga.
MEANWHILE the yard-porter Vassily was march- ing on the open road
down to the south.
He walked in daytime, and when night came some policeman would get
him shelter in a peas- ant's cottage. He was given bread everywhere,
and sometimes he was asked to sit down to the evening meal. In a
village in the Orel district, where he had stayed for the night, he
heard that a merchant who had hired the landowner's or- chard for the
season, was looking out for strong and able men to serve as watchmen
for the fruit- crops. Vassily was tired of tramping, and as he had
also no desire whatever to go back to his native village, he went to
the man who owned the orchard, and got engaged as watchman for five
roubles a month.
Vassily found it very agreeable to live in his orchard shed, and
all the more so when the apples and pears began to grow ripe, and when
the men from the barn supplied him every day with large bundles of
fresh straw from the threshing ma- chine. He used to lie the whole day
long on the fragrant straw, with fresh, delicately smell- ing apples in
heaps at his side, looking out in every direction to prevent the
village boys from stealing fruit; and he used to whistle and sing
meanwhile, to amuse himself. He knew no end of songs, and had a fine
voice. When peasant women and young girls came to ask for apples, and
to have a chat with him, Vassily gave them larger or smaller apples
according as he liked their looks, and received eggs or money in re-
turn. The rest of the time he had nothing to do, but to lie on his
back and get up for his meals in the kitchen. He had only one shirt
left, one of pink cotton, and that was in holes. But he was strongly
built and enjoyed excellent health. When the kettle with black gruel
was taken from the stove and served to the working men, Vassily used to
eat enough for three, and filled the old watchman on the estate with
unceasing wonder. At nights Vassily never slept. He whistled or
shouted from time to time to keep off thieves, and his piercing,
cat-like eyes saw clearly in the dark- ness.
One night a company of young lads from the village made their way
stealthily to the orchard to shake down apples from the trees.
Vassily, coming noiselessly from behind, attacked them; they tried to
escape, but he took one of them prisoner to his master.
Vassily's first shed stood at the farthest end of the orchard, but
after the pears had been picked he had to remove to another shed only
forty paces away from the house of his master. He liked this new place
very much. The whole day long he could see the young ladies and
gentlemen en- joying themselves; going out for drives in the evenings
and quite late at nights, playing the piano or the violin, and singing
and dancing. He saw the ladies sitting with the young students on the
window sills, engaged in animated conversation, and then going in pairs
to walk the dark avenue of lime trees, lit up only by streaks of moon-
light. He saw the servants running about with food and drink, he saw
the cooks, the stewards, the laundresses, the gardeners, the coachmen,
hard at work to supply their masters with food and drink and constant
amusement. Sometimes the young people from the master's house came to
the shed, and Vassily offered them the choicest apples, juicy and red.
The young ladies used to take large bites out of the apples on the
spot, praising their taste, and spoke French to one an- other--Vassily
quite understood it was all about him--and asked Vassily to sing for
Vassily felt the greatest admiration for his master's mode of
living, which reminded him of what he had seen in Moscow; and he became
more and more convinced that the only thing that mat- tered in life was
money. He thought and thought how to get hold of a large sum of money.
He remembered his former ways of making small profits whenever he
could, and came to the con- clusion that that was altogether wrong.
Occa- sional stealing is of no use, he thought. He must arrange a
well-prepared plan, and after getting all the information he wanted,
carry out his pur- pose so as to avoid detection.
After the feast of Nativity of the Blessed Vir- gin Mary, the last
crop of autumn apples was gathered; the master was content with the
results, paid off Vassily, and gave him an extra sum as reward for his
Vassily put on his new jacket, and a new hat --both were presents
from his master's son-- but did not make his way homewards. He hated
the very thought of the vulgar peasants' life. He went back to Moscow
in company of some drunken soldiers, who had been watchmen in the
orchard together with him. On his arrival there he at once resolved,
under cover of night, to break into the shop where he had been
employed, and beaten, and then turned out by the proprietor without be-
ing paid. He knew the place well, and knew where the money was locked
up. So he bade the soldiers, who helped him, keep watch outside, and
forcing the courtyard door entered the shop and took all the money he
could lay his hands on. All this was done very cleverly, and no trace
was left of the burglary. The money Vassily had found in the shop
amounted to 370 roubles. He gave a hundred roubles to his assistants,
and with the rest left for another town where he gave way to
dissipation in company of friends of both sexes. The police traced his
movements, and when at last he was arrested and put into prison he had
hardly anything left out of the money which he had stolen.
IVAN MIRONOV had become a very clever, fear- less and successful
horse-thief. Afimia, his wife, who at first used to abuse him for his
evil ways, as she called it, was now quite content and felt proud of
her husband, who possessed a new sheep- skin coat, while she also had a
warm jacket and a new fur cloak.
In the village and throughout the whole dis- trict every one knew
quite well that Ivan Mironov was at the bottom of all the
horse-stealing; but nobody would give him away, being afraid of the
consequences. Whenever suspicion fell on him, he managed to clear his
character. Once during the night he stole horses from the pasture
ground in the village Kolotovka. He generally preferred to steal
horses from landowners or tradespeople. But this was a harder job, and
when he had no chance of success he did not mind robbing peasants too.
In Kolotovka he drove off the horses with- out making sure whose they
were. He did not go himself to the spot, but sent a young and clever
fellow, Gerassim, to do the stealing for him. The peasants only got to
know of the theft at dawn; they rushed in all directions to hunt for
the rob- bers. The horses, meanwhile, were hidden in a ravine in the
forest lands belonging to the state.
Ivan Mironov intended to leave them there till the following night,
and then to transport them with the utmost haste a hundred miles away
to a man he knew. He visited Gerassim in the forest, to see how he was
getting on, brought him a pie and some vodka, and was returning home by
a side track in the forest where he hoped to meet nobody. But by
ill-luck, he chanced on the keeper of the forest, a retired soldier.
"I say! Have you been looking for mush- rooms?" asked the soldier.
"There were none to be found," answered Ivan Mironov, showing the
basket of lime bark he had taken with him in case he might want it.
"Yes, mushrooms are scarce this summer," said the soldier. He
stood still for a moment, pon- dered, and then went his way. He
clearly saw that something was wrong. Ivan Mironov had no business
whatever to take early morning walks in that forest. The soldier went
back after a while and looked round. Suddenly he heard the snorting of
horses in the ravine. He made his way cautiously to the place whence
the sounds came. The grass in the ravine was trodden down, and the
marks of horses' hoofs were clearly to be seen. A little further he
saw Gerassim, who was sitting and eating his meal, and the horses tied
to a tree.
The soldier ran to the village and brought back the bailiff, a
police officer, and two witnesses. They surrounded on three sides the
spot where Gerassim was sitting and seized the man. He did not deny
anything; but, being drunk, told them at once how Ivan Mironov had
given him plenty of drink, and induced him to steal the horses; he also
said that Ivan Mironov had promised to come that night in order to take
the horses away. The peasants left the horses and Gerassim in the ra-
vine, and hiding behind the trees prepared to lie in ambush for Ivan
Mironov. When it grew dark, they heard a whistle. Gerassim answered
it with a similar sound. The moment Ivan Mironov de- scended the
slope, the peasants surrounded him and brought him back to the village.
The next morning a crowd assembled in front of the bailiff's cottage.
Ivan Mironov was brought out and sub- jected to a close examination.
Stepan Pelageush- kine, a tall, stooping man with long arms, an
aquiline nose, and a gloomy face was the first to put questions to him.
Stepan had terminated his military service, and was of a solitary turn
of mind. When he had separated from his father, and started his own
home, he had his first experi- ence of losing a horse. After that he
worked for two years in the mines, and made money enough to buy two
horses. These two had been stolen by Ivan Mironov.
"Tell me where my horses are!" shouted Stepan, pale with fury,
alternately looking at the ground and at Ivan Mironov's face.
Ivan Mironov denied his guilt. Then Stepan aimed so violent a blow
at his face that he smashed his nose and the blood spurted out.
"Tell the truth, I say, or I'll kill you!"
Ivan Mironov kept silent, trying to avoid the blows by stooping.
Stepan hit him twice more with his long arm. Ivan Mironov remained
silent, turning his head backwards and forwards.
"Beat him, all of you!" cried the bailiff, and the whole crowd
rushed upon Ivan Mironov. He fell without a word to the ground, and
"Devils, wild beasts, kill me if that's what you want! I am not
afraid of you!"
Stepan seized a stone out of those that had been collected for the
purpose, and with a heavy blow smashed Ivan Mironov's head.
IVAN MIRONOV'S murderers were brought to trial, Stepan
Pelageushkine among them. He had a heavier charge to answer than the
others, all the witnesses having stated that it was he who had smashed
Ivan Mironov's head with a stone. Stepan concealed nothing when in
court. He con- tented himself with explaining that, having been robbed
of his two last horses, he had informed the police. Now it was
comparatively easy at that time to trace the horses with the help of
profes- sional thieves among the gipsies. But the police officer would
not even permit him, and no search had been ordered.
"Nothing else could be done with such a man. He has ruined us
"But why did not the others attack him. It was you alone who broke
his head open."
"That is false. We all fell upon him. The village agreed to kill
him. I only gave the final stroke. What is the use of inflicting
unnecessary sufferings on a man?"
The judges were astonished at Stepan's wonder- ful coolness in
narrating the story of his crime-- how the peasants fell upon Ivan
Mironov, and how he had given the final stroke. Stepan act- ually did
not see anything particularly revolting in this murder. During his
military service he had been ordered on one occasion to shoot a
soldier, and, now with regard to Ivan Mironov, he saw nothing loathsome
in it. "A man shot is a dead man--that's all. It was him to-day, it
might be me to-morrow," he thought. Stepan was only sentenced to one
year's imprisonment, which was a mild punishment for what he had done.
His peasant's dress was taken away from him and put in the prison
stores, and he had a prison suit and felt boots given to him instead.
Stepan had never had much respect for the authorities, but now he
became quite convinced that all the chiefs, all the fine folk, all
except the Czar--who alone had pity on the peasants and was just--all
were robbers who suck blood out of the people. All he heard from the
deported convicts, and those sentenced to hard labour, with whom he had
made friends in prisons, confirmed him in his views. One man had been
sentenced to hard labour for having con- victed his superiors of a
theft; another for having struck an official who had unjustly
confiscated the property of a peasant; a third because he forged bank
notes. The well-to-do-people, the mer- chants, might do whatever they
chose and come to no harm; but a poor peasant, for a trumpery reason or
for none at all, was sent to prison to become food for vermin.
He had visits from his wife while in prison. Her life without him
was miserable enough, when, to make it worse, her cottage was destroyed
by fire. She was completely ruined, and had to take to begging with
her children. His wife's misery embittered Stepan still more. He got
on very badly with all the people in the prison; was rude to every one;
and one day he nearly killed the cook with an axe, and therefore got an
additional year in prison. In the course of that year he received the
news that his wife was dead, and that he had no longer a home.
When Stepan had finished his time in prison, he was taken to the
prison stores, and his own dress was taken down from the shelf and
handed to him.
"Where am I to go now?" he asked the prison officer, putting on his
"I have no home. I shall have to go on the road. Robbery will not
be a pleasant occupa- tion."
"In that case you will soon be back here."
"I am not so sure of that."
And Stepan left the prison. Nevertheless he took the road to his
own place. He had nowhere else to turn.
On his way he stopped for a night's rest in an inn that had a
public bar attached to it. The inn was kept by a fat man from the
town, Vladimir, and he knew Stepan. He knew that Stepan had been put
into prison through ill luck, and did not mind giving him shelter for
the night. He was a rich man, and had persuaded his neighbour's wife
to leave her husband and come to live with him. She lived in his house
as his wife, and helped him in his business as well.
Stepan knew all about the innkeeper's affairs-- how he had wronged
the peasant, and how the woman who was living with him had left her
hus- band. He saw her now sitting at the table in a rich dress, and
looking very hot as she drank her tea. With great condescension she
asked Stepan to have tea with her. No other travellers were stopping
in the inn that night. Stepan was given a place in the kitchen where
he might sleep. Ma- trena--that was the woman's name--cleared the
table and went to her room. Stepan went to lie down on the large stove
in the kitchen, but he could not sleep, and the wood splinters put on
the stove to dry were crackling under him, as he tossed from side to
side. He could not help thinking of his host's fat paunch protruding
under the belt of his shirt, which had lost its colour from having been
washed ever so many times. Would not it be a good thing to make a good
clean incision in that paunch. And that woman, too, he thought.
One moment he would say to himself, "I had better go from here
to-morrow, bother them all!" But then again Ivan Mironov came back to
his mind, and he went on thinking of the innkeeper's paunch and
Matrena's white throat bathed in per- spiration. "Kill I must, and it
must be both!"
He heard the cock crow for the second time.
"I must do it at once, or dawn will be here " He had seen in the
evening before he went to bed a knife and an axe. He crawled down from
the stove, took the knife and axe, and went out of the kitchen door.
At that very moment he heard the lock of the entrance door open. The
inn- keeper was going out of the house to the court- yard. It all
turned out contrary to what Stepan desired. He had no opportunity of
using the knife; he just swung the axe and split the innkeep- er's head
in two. The man tumbled down on the threshold of the door, then on the
Stepan stepped into the bedroom. Matrena jumped out of bed, and
remained standing by its side. With the same axe Stepan killed her
Then he lighted the candle, took the money out of the desk, and
left the house.
IN a small district town, some distance away from the other
buildings, an old man, a former official, who had taken to drink, lived
in his own house with his two daughters and his son-in-law. The
married daughter was also addicted to drink and led a bad life, and it
was the elder daughter, the widow Maria Semenovna, a wrinkled woman of
fifty, who supported the whole family. She had a pension of two
hundred and fifty roubles a year, and the family lived on this. Maria
Semenovna did all the work in the house, looked after the drunken old
father, who was very weak, attended to her sister's child, and managed
all the cooking and the washing of the family. And, as is al- ways the
case, whatever there was to do, she was expected to do it, and was,
moreover, continually scolded by all the three people in the house; her
brother-in-law used even to beat her when he was drunk. She bore it
all patiently, and as is also always the case, the more work she had to
face, the quicker she managed to get through it. She helped the poor,
sacrificing her own wants; she gave them her clothes, and was a
ministering angel to the sick.
Once the lame, crippled village tailor was work- ing in Maria
Semenovna's house. He had to mend her old father's coat, and to mend
and re- pair Maria Semenovna's fur-jacket for her to wear in winter
when she went to market.
The lame tailor was a clever man, and a keen observer: he had seen
many different people ow- ing to his profession, and was fond of
reflection, condemned as he was to a sedentary life.
Having worked a week at Maria Semenovna's, he wondered greatly
about her life. One day she came to the kitchen, where he was sitting
with his work, to wash a towel, and began to ask him how he was getting
on. He told her of the wrong he had suffered from his brother, and how
he now lived on his own allotment of land, separated from that of his
"I thought I should have been better off that way," he said. "But
I am now just as poor as before."
"It is much better never to change, but to take life as it comes,"
said Maria Semenovna. "Take life as it comes," she repeated.
"Why, I wonder at you, Maria Semenovna," said the lame tailor.
"You alone do the work, and you are so good to everybody. But they
don't repay you in kind, I see."
Maria Semenovna did not utter a word in an- swer.
"I dare say you have found out in books that we are rewarded in
heaven for the good we do here."
"We don't know that. But we must try to do the best we can."
"Is it said so in books?"
"In books as well," she said, and read to him the Sermon on the
Mount. The tailor was much impressed. When he had been paid for his
job and gone home, he did not cease to think about Maria Semenovna,
both what she had said and what she had read to him.
PETER NIKOLAEVICH SVENTIZKY'S views of the peasantry had now
changed for the worse, and the peasants had an equally bad opinion of
him. In the course of a single year they felled twenty-seven oaks in
his forest, and burnt a barn which had not been insured. Peter
Nikolaevich came to the con- clusion that there was no getting on with
the people around him.
At that very time the landowner, Liventsov, was trying to find a
manager for his estate, and the Marshal of the Nobility recommended
Peter Nikolaevich as the ablest man in the district in the management
of land. The estate owned by Liventsov was an extremely large one, but
there was no revenue to be got out of it, as the peasants appropriated
all its wealth to their own profit. Peter Nikolaevich undertook to
bring everything into order; rented out his own land to somebody else;
and settled with his wife on the Liventsov estate, in a distant
province on the river Volga.
Peter Nikolaevich was always fond of order, and wanted things to be
regulated by law; and now he felt less able of allowing those raw and
rude peasants to take possession, quite illegally too, of property that
did not belong to them. He was glad of the opportunity of giving them
a good lesson, and set seriously to work at once. One peasant was sent
to prison for stealing wood; to another he gave a thrashing for not
having made way for him on the road with his cart, and for not having
lifted his cap to salute him. As to the pasture ground which was a
subject of dispute, and was considered by the peasants as their prop-
erty, Peter Nikolaevich informed the peasants that any of their cattle
grazing on it would be driven away by him.
The spring came and the peasants, just as they had done in previous
years, drove their cattle on to the meadows belonging to the landowner.
Peter Nikolaevich called some of the men work- ing on the estate and
ordered them to drive the cattle into his yard. The peasants were
working in the fields, and, disregarding the screaming of the women,
Peter Nikolaevich's men succeeded in driving in the cattle. When they
came home the peasants went in a crowd to the cattle-yard on the
estate, and asked for their cattle. Peter Nikolae- vich came out to
talk to them with a gun slung on his shoulder; he had just returned
from a ride of inspection. He told them that he would not let them
have their cattle unless they paid a fine of fifty kopeks for each of
the horned cattle, and twenty kopeks for each sheep. The peasants
loudly declared that the pasture ground was their property, because
their fathers and grandfathers had used it, and protested that he had
no right whatever to lay hand on their cattle.
"Give back our cattle, or you will regret it," said an old man
coming up to Peter Nikolaevich.
"How shall I regret it?" cried Peter Niko- laevich, turning pale,
and coming close to the old man.
"Give them back, you villain, and don't pro- voke us."
"What?" cried Peter Nikolaevich, and slapped the old man in the
"You dare to strike me? Come along, you fellows, let us take back
our cattle by force."
The crowd drew close to him. Peter Niko- laevich tried to push his
way, through them, but the peasants resisted him. Again he tried
His gun, accidentally discharged in the melee, killed one of the
peasants. Instantly the fight began. Peter Nikolaevich was trodden
down, and five minutes later his mutilated body was dragged into the
The murderers were tried by martial law, and two of them sentenced
to the gallows.
IN the village where the lame tailor lived, in the Zemliansk
district of the Voronesh province, five rich peasants hired from the
landowner a hundred and five acres of rich arable land, black as tar,
and let it out on lease to the rest of the peasants at fifteen to
eighteen roubles an acre. Not one acre was given under twelve roubles.
They got a very profitable return, and the five acres which were left
to each of their company practically cost them nothing. One of the
five peasants died, and the lame tailor received an offer to take his
When they began to divide the land, the tailor gave up drinking
vodka, and, being consulted as to how much land was to be divided, and
to whom it should be given, he proposed to give allotments to all on
equal terms, not taking from the tenants more than was due for each
piece of land out of the sum paid to the landowner.
"We are no heathens, I should think," he said. "It is all very well
for the masters to be unfair, but we are true Christians. We must do
as God bids. Such is the law of Christ."
"Where have you got that law from?
"It is in the Book, in the Gospels. just come to me on Sunday. I
will read you a few passages, and we will have a talk afterwards."
They did not all come to him on Sunday, but three came, and he
began reading to them.
He read five chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel, and they talked.
One man only, Ivan Chouev, accepted the lesson and carried it out
completely, following the rule of Christ in everything from that day.
His family did the same. Out of the arable land he took only what was
his due, and refused to take more.
The lame tailor and Ivan had people calling on them, and some of
these people began to grasp the meaning of the Gospels, and in
consequence gave up smoking, drinking, swearing, and using bad language
and tried to help one another. They also ceased to go to church, and
took their ikons to the village priest, saying they did not want them
any more. The priest was frightened, and reported what had occurred to
the bishop. The bishop was at a loss what to do. At last he resolved
to send the archimandrite Missael to the village, the one who had
formerly been Mitia Smokovnikov's teacher of religion.
ASKING Father Missael on his arrival to take a seat, the bishop
told him what had happened in his diocese.
"It all comes from weakness of spirit and from ignorance. You are
a learned man, and I rely on you. Go to the village, call the
parishioners to- gether, and convince them of their error."
"If your Grace bids me go, and you give me your blessing, I will do
my best," said Father Missael. He was very pleased with the task en-
trusted to him. Every opportunity he could find to demonstrate the
firmness of his faith was a boon to him. In trying to convince others
he was chiefly intent on persuading himself that he was really a firm
"Do your best. I am greatly distressed about my flock," said the
bishop, leisurely taking a cup with his white plump hands from the
servant who brought in the tea.
"Why is there only one kind of jam? Bring another," he said to the
servant. "I am greatly distressed," he went on, turning to Father Mis-
Missael earnestly desired to prove his zeal; but, being a man of
small means, he asked to be paid for the expenses of his journey; and
being afraid of the rough people who might be ill-dis- posed towards
him, he also asked the bishop to get him an order from the governor of
the province, so that the local police might help him in case of need.
The bishop complied with his wishes, and Missael got his things ready
with the help of his servant and his cook. They furnished him with a
case full of wine, and a basket with the victuals he might need in
going to such a lonely place. Fully provided with all he wanted, he
started for the village to which he was commissioned. He was
pleasantly conscious of the importance of his mission. All his doubts
as to his own faith passed away, and he was now fully convinced of its
His thoughts, far from being concerned with the real foundation of
his creed--this was ac- cepted as an axiom--were occupied with the
argu- ments used against the forms of worship.
THE village priest and his wife received Father Missael with great
honours, and the next day after he had arrived the parishioners were
invited to assemble in the church. Missael in a new silk cassock, with
a large cross on his chest, and his long hair carefully combed,
ascended the pulpit; the priest stood at his side, the deacons and the
choir at a little distance behind him, and the side entrances were
guarded by the police. The dis- senters also came in their dirty
After the service Missael delivered a sermon, admonishing the
dissenters to return to the bosom of their mother, the Church,
threatening them with the torments of hell, and promising full for-
giveness to those who would repent.
The dissenters kept silent at first. Then, be- ing asked
questions, they gave answers. To the question why they dissented, they
said that their chief reason was the fact that the Church wor- shipped
gods made of wood, which, far from be- ing ordained, were condemned by
When asked by Missael whether they actually considered the holy
ikons to be mere planks of wood, Chouev answered,--
"Just look at the back of any ikon you choose and you will see what
they are made of."
When asked why they turned against the priests, their answer was
that the Scripture says: "As you have received it without fee, so you
must give it to the others; whereas the priests require pay- ment for
the grace they bestow by the sacraments." To all attempts which Missael
made to oppose them by arguments founded on Holy Writ, the tailor and
Ivan Chouev gave calm but very firm answers, contradicting his
assertions by appeal to the Scriptures, which they knew uncommonly
Missael got angry and threatened them with persecution by the
authorities. Their answer was: It is said, I have been persecuted and
so will you be.
The discussion came to nothing, and all would have ended well if
Missael had not preached the next day at mass, denouncing the wicked
seducers of the faithful and saying that they deserved the worst
punishment. Coming out of the church, the crowd of peasants began to
consult whether it would not be well to give the infidels a good lesson
for disturbing the minds of the community. The same day, just when
Missael was enjoying some salmon and gangfish, dining at the village
priest's in company with the inspector, a violent brawl arose in the
village. The peasants came in a crowd to Chouev's cottage, and waited
for the dissenters to come out in order to give them a thrashing.
The dissenters assembled in the cottage num- bered about twenty men
and women. Missael's sermon and the attitude of the orthodox peasants,
together with their threats, aroused in the mind of the dissenters
angry feelings, to which they had before been strangers. It was near
evening, the women had to go and milk the cows, and the peasants were
still standing and waiting at the door.
A boy who stepped out of the door was beaten and driven back into
the house. The people within began consulting what was to be done, and
could come to no agreement. The tailor said, "We must bear whatever is
done to us, and not resist." Chouev replied that if they decided on
that course they would, all of them, be beaten to death. In
consequence, he seized a poker and went out of the house. "Come!" he
shouted, let us follow the law of Moses!" And, falling upon the
peasants, he knocked out one man's eye, and in the meanwhile all those
who had been in his house contrived to get out and make their way home.
Chouev was thrown into prison and charged with sedition and
Two years previous to those events a strong and handsome young girl
of an eastern type, Katia Turchaninova, came from the Don military
settle- ments to St. Petersburg to study in the university college for
women. In that town she met a stu- dent, Turin, the son of a district
governor in the Simbirsk province, and fell in love with him. But her
love was not of the ordinary type, and she had no desire to become his
wife and the mother of his children. He was a dear comrade to her, and
their chief bond of union was a feeling of re- volt they had in common,
as well as the hatred they bore, not only to the existing forms of gov-
ernment, but to all those who represented that government. They had
also in common the sense that they both excelled their enemies in
culture, in brains, as well as in morals. Katia Turchan- inova was a
gifted girl, possessed of a good mem- ory, by means of which she easily
mastered the lec- tures she attended. She was successful in her ex-
aminations, and, apart from that, read all the new- est books. She was
certain that her vocation was not to bear and rear children, and even
looked on such a task with disgust and contempt. She thought herself
chosen by destiny to destroy the present government, which was
fettering the best abilities of the nation, and to reveal to the people
a higher standard of life, inculcated by the latest writers of other
countries. She was handsome, a little inclined to stoutness: she had
a good com- plexion, shining black eyes, abundant black hair. She
inspired the men she knew with feelings she neither wished nor had time
to share, busy as she was with propaganda work, which consisted chiefly
in mere talking. She was not displeased, how- ever, to inspire these
feelings; and, without dress- ing too smartly, did not neglect her
appearance. She liked to be admired, as it gave her opportuni- ties of
showing how little she prized what was valued so highly by other women.
In her views concerning the method of fighting the government she
went further than the majority of her comrades, and than her friend
Turin; all means, she taught, were justified in such a struggle, not
excluding murder. And yet, with all her revo- lutionary ideas, Katia
Turchaninova was in her soul a very kind girl, ready to sacrifice
herself for the welfare and the happiness of other people, and
sincerely pleased when she could do a kind- ness to anybody, a child,
an old person, or an ani- mal.
She went in the summer to stay with a friend, a schoolmistress in a
small town on the river Volga. Turin lived near that town, on his
father's estate. He often came to see the two girls; they gave each
other books to read, and had long discussions, expressing their common
indignation with the state of affairs in the country. The district
doctor, a friend of theirs, used also to join them on many oc- casions.
The estate of the Turins was situated in the neighbourhood of the
Liventsov estate, the one that was entrusted to the management of Peter
Nikolaevich Sventizky. Soon after Peter Niko- laevich had settled
there, and begun to en- force order, young Turin, having observed an
in- dependent tendency in the peasants on the Livent- sov estate, as
well as their determination to up- hold their rights, became interested
in them. He came often to the village to talk with the men, and
developed his socialistic theories, insisting par- ticularly on the
nationalisation of the land.
After Peter Nikolaevich had been murdered, and the murderers sent
to trial, the revolutionary group of the small town boiled over with
indigna- tion, and did not shrink from openly expressing it. The fact
of Turin's visits to the village and his propaganda work among the
students, became known to the authorities during the trial. A search
was made in his house; and, as the police found a few revolutionary
leaflets among his ef- fects, he was arrested and transferred to prison
in St. Petersburg.
Katia Turchaninova followed him to the metrop- olis, and went to
visit him in prison. She was not admitted on the day she came, and was
told to come on the day fixed by regulations for visits to the
prisoners. When that day arrived, and she was finally allowed to see
him, she had to talk to him through two gratings separating the pris-
oner from his visitor. This visit increased her in- dignation against
the authorities. And her feel- ings become all the more revolutionary
after a visit she paid to the office of a gendarme officer who had to
deal with the Turin case. The offi- cer, a handsome man, seemed
obviously disposed to grant her exceptional favours in visiting the
prisoner, if she would allow him to make love to her. Disgusted with
him, she appealed to the chief of police. He pretended--just as the
officer did when talking officially to her--to be power- less himself,
and to depend entirely on orders coming from the minister of state.
She sent a petition to the minister asking for an interview, which was
Then she resolved to do a desperate thing and bought a revolver.
THE minister was receiving petitioners at the usual hour appointed
for the reception. He had talked successively to three of them, and
now a pretty young woman with black eyes, who was holding a petition in
her left hand, approached. The minister's eyes gleamed when he saw how
attract- ive the petitioner was, but recollecting his high po- sition
he put on a serious face.
"What do you want?" he asked, coming down to where she stood.
Without answering his ques- tion the young woman quickly drew a
revolver from under her cloak and aiming it at the min- ister's chest
fired--but missed him.
The minister rushed at her, trying to seize her hand, but she
escaped, and taking a step back, fired a second time. The minister ran
out of the room. The woman was immediately seized. She was trembling
violently, and could not utter a single word; after a while she
suddenly burst into a hys- terical laugh. The minister was not even
That woman was Katia Turchaninova. She was put into the prison of
preliminary detention. The minister received congratulations and marks
of sympathy from the highest quarters, and even from the emperor
himself, who appointed a com- mission to investigate the plot that had
led to the attempted assassination. As a matter of fact there was no
plot whatever, but the police officials and the detectives set to work
with the utmost zeal to discover all the threads of the non-existing
con- spiracy. They did everything to deserve the fees they were paid;
they got up in the small hours of the morning, searched one house after
another, took copies of papers and of books they found, read diaries,
personal letters, made extracts from them on the very best notepaper
and in beautiful handwriting, interrogated Katia Turchaninova ever so
many times, and confronted her with all those whom they suspected of
conspiracy, in order to extort from her the names of her accomplices.
The minister, a good-natured man at heart, was sincerely sorry for
the pretty girl. But he said to himself that he was bound to consider
his high state duties imposed upon him, even though they did not imply
much work and trouble. So, when his former colleague, a chamberlain
and a friend of the Turins, met him at a court ball and tried to rouse
his pity for Turin and the girl Turchani- nova, he shrugged his
shoulders, stretching the red ribbon on his white waistcoat, and said:
"Je ne demanderais pas mieux que de relacher cette pau- vre fillette,
mais vous savez le devoir." And in the meantime Katia Turchaninova was
kept in prison. She was at times in a quiet mood, com- municated with
her fellow-prisoners by knocking on the walls, and read the books that
were sent to her. But then came days when she had fits of desperate
fury, knocking with her fists against the wall, screaming and laughing
like a mad- woman.
ONE day Maria Semenovna came home from the treasurer's office,
where she had received her pen- sion. On her way she met a
schoolmaster, a friend of hers.
"Good day, Maria Semenovna! Have you re- ceived your money?" the
schoolmaster asked, in a loud voice from the other side of the street.
"I have," answered Maria Semenovna. "But it was not much; just
enough to fill the holes."
"Oh, there must be some tidy pickings out of such a lot of money,"
said the schoolmaster, and passed on, after having said good-bye.
"Good-bye," said Maria Semenovna. While she was looking at her
friend, she met a tall man face to face, who had very long arms and a
stern look in his eyes. Coming to her house, she was very startled on
again seeing the same man with the long arms, who had evidently
followed her. He remained standing another moment after she had gone
in, then turned and walked away.
Maria Semenovna felt somewhat frightened at first. But when she
had entered the house, and had given her father and her nephew Fedia
the presents she had brought for them, and she had patted the dog
Treasure, who whined with joy, she forgot her fears. She gave the
money to her father and began to work, as there was always plenty for
her to do.
The man she met face to face was Stepan.
After he had killed the innkeeper, he did not return to town.
Strange to say, he was not sorry to have committed that murder. His
mind went back to the murdered man over and over again during the
following day; and he liked the recol- lection of having done the thing
so skilfully, so cleverly, that nobody-would ever discover it, and he
would not therefore be prevented from mur- dering other people in the
same way. Sitting in the public-house and having his tea, he looked at
the people around him with the same thought how he should murder them.
In the evening he called at a carter's, a man from his village, to
spend the night at his house. The carter was not in. He said he would
wait for him, and in the meanwhile began talking to the carter's wife.
But when she moved to the stove, with her back turned to him, the idea
entered his mind to kill her. He mar- velled at himself at first, and
shook his head; but the next moment he seized the knife he had hid- den
in his boot, knocked the woman down on the floor, and cut her throat.
When the children be- gan to scream, he killed them also and went
away. He did not look out for another place to spend the night, but at
once left the town. In a village some distance away he went to the inn
and slept there. The next day he returned to the district town, and
there he overheard in the street Maria Semenovna's talk with the
schoolmaster. Her look frightened him, but yet he made up his mind to
creep into her house, and rob her of the money she had received. When
the night came he broke the lock and entered the house. The first
person who heard his steps was the younger daughter, the married one.
She screamed. Stepan stabbed her immediately with his knife. Her
husband woke up and fell upon Stepan, seized him by his throat, and
struggled with him desperately. But Stepan was the stronger man and
overpowered him. After murdering him, Stepan, excited by the long
fight, stepped into the next room be- hind a partition. That was Maria
Semenovna's bedroom. She rose in her bed, looked at Stepan with her
mild frightened eyes, and crossed herself.
Once more her look scared Stepan. He dropped his eyes.
"Where is your money?" he asked, without raising his face.
She did not answer.
"Where is the money?" asked Stepan again, showing her his knife.
"How can you . . ." she said.
"You will see how."
Stepan came close to her, in order to seize her hands and prevent
her struggling with him, but she did not even try to lift her arms or
offer any resistance; she pressed her hands to her chest, and sighed
"Oh, what a great sin!" she cried. "How can you! Have mercy on
yourself. To destroy somebody's soul . . . and worse, your own! . . ."
Stepan could not stand her voice any longer, and drew his knife
sharply across her throat. "Stop that talk!" he said. She fell back
with a hoarse cry, and the pillow was stained with blood. He turned
away, and went round the rooms in order to collect all he thought worth
taking. Having made a bundle of the most valuable things, he lighted a
cigarette, sat down for a while, brushed his clothes, and left the
house. He thought this murder would not matter to him more than those
he had committed before; but before he got a night's lodging, he felt
suddenly so exhausted that he could not walk any farther. He stepped
down into the gutter and remained lying there the rest of the night,
and the next day and the next night.
THE whole time he was lying in the gutter Stepan saw continually
before his eyes the thin, kindly, and frightened face of Maria
Semenovna, and seemed to hear her voice. "How can you?" she went on
saying in his imagination, with her pe- culiar lisping voice. Stepan
saw over again and over again before him all he had done to her. In
horror he shut his eyes, and shook his hairy head, to drive away these
thoughts and recollections. For a moment he would get rid of them, but
in their place horrid black faces with red eyes ap- peared and
frightened him continuously. They grinned at him, and kept repeating,
"Now you have done away with her you must do away with yourself, or we
will not leave you alone " He opened his eyes, and again he saw HER
and heard her voice; and felt an immense pity for her and a deep horror
and disgust with himself. Once more he shut his eyes, and the black
faces reap- peared. Towards the evening of the next day he rose and
went, with hardly any strength left, to a public-house. There he
ordered a drink, and repeated his demands over and over again, but no
quantity of liquor could make him intoxicated. He was sitting at a
table, and swallowed silently one glass after another.
A police officer came in. "Who are you?" he asked Stepan.
"I am the man who murdered all the Dobrot- vorov people last
night," he answered.
He was arrested, bound with ropes, and brought to the nearest
police-station; the next day he was transferred to the prison in the
town. The in- spector of the prison recognised him as an old in- mate,
and a very turbulent one; and, hearing that he had now become a real
criminal, accosted him very harshly.
"You had better be quiet here," he said in a hoarse voice,
frowning, and protruding his lower jaw. "The moment you don't behave,
I'll flog you to death! Don't try to escape--I will see to that!"
"I have no desire to escape," said Stepan, drop- ping his eyes. "I
surrendered of my own free will."
"Shut up! You must look straight into your superior's eyes when you
talk to him," cried the inspector, and struck Stepan with his fist
under the jaw.
At that moment Stepan again saw the murdered woman before him, and
heard her voice; he did not pay attention, therefore, to the
"What?" he asked, coming to his senses when he felt the blow on his
"Be off! Don't pretend you don't hear."
The inspector expected Stepan to be violent, to talk to the other
prisoners, to make attempts to escape from prison. But nothing of the
kind ever happened. Whenever the guard or the inspector himself looked
into his cell through the hole in the door, they saw Stepan sitting on
a bag filled with straw, holding his head with his hands and whispering
to himself. On being brought before the examining magistrate charged
with the inquiry into his case, he did not behave like an ordinary
convict. He was very absent-minded, hardly list- ening to the
questions; but when he heard what was asked, he answered truthfully,
causing the utmost perplexity to the magistrate, who, accus- tomed as
he was to the necessity of being very clever and very cunning with
convicts, felt a strange sensation just as if he were lifting up his
foot to ascend a step and found none. Stepan told him the story of all
his murders; and did it frowning, with a set look, in a quiet,
businesslike voice, trying to recollect all the circumstances of his
crimes. "He stepped out of the house," said Stepan, telling the tale
of his first murder, "and stood barefooted at the door; I hit him, and
he just groaned; I went to his wife, . . ." And so on.
One day the magistrate, visiting the prison cells, asked Stepan
whether there was anything he had to complain of, or whether he had any
wishes that might be granted him. Stepan said he had no wishes
whatever, and had nothing to complain of the way he was treated in
prison. The magis- trate, on leaving him, took a few steps in the foul
passage, then stopped and asked the governor who had accompanied him in
his visit how this pris- oner was behaving.
"I simply wonder at him," said the governor, who was very pleased
with Stepan, and spoke kindly of him. "He has now been with us about
two months, and could be held up as a model of good behaviour. But I
am afraid he is plotting some mischief. He is a daring man, and excep-
DURING the first month in prison Stepan suffered from the same
agonising vision. He saw the grey wall of his cell, he heard the
sounds of the prison; the noise of the cell below him, where a number
of convicts were confined together; the striking of the prison clock;
the steps of the sentry in the passage; but at the same time he saw HER
with that kindly face which conquered his heart the very first time he
met her in the street, with that thin, strongly-marked neck, and he
heard her soft, lisping, pathetic voice: "To destroy some- body's soul
. . . and, worst of all, your own. . . . How can you? . . ."
After a while her voice would die away, and then black faces would
appear. They would ap- pear whether he had his eyes open or shut.
With his closed eyes he saw them more distinctly. When he opened his
eyes they vanished for a moment, melting away into the walls and the
door; but after a while they reappeared and surrounded him from three
sides, grinning at him and saying over and over: "Make an end! Make an
end! Hang yourself! Set yourself on fire!" Stepan shook all over when
he heard that, and tried to say all the prayers he knew: "Our Lady"
or "Our Father " At first this seemed to help. In say- ing his
prayers he began to recollect his whole life; his father, his mother,
the village, the dog "Wolf," the old grandfather lying on the stove,
the bench on which the children used to play; then the girls in the
village with their songs, his horses and how they had been stolen, and
how the thief was caught and how he killed him with a stone. He
recollected also the first prison he was in and his leaving it, and the
fat innkeeper, the carter's wife and the children. Then again SHE came
to his mind and again he was terrified. Throwing his prison overcoat
off his shoulders, he jumped out of bed, and, like a wild animal in a
cage, be- gan pacing up and down his tiny cell, hastily turn- ing round
when he had reached the damp walls. Once more he tried to pray, but it
was of no use now.
The autumn came with its long nights. One evening when the wind
whistled and howled in the pipes, Stepan, after he had paced up and
down his cell for a long time, sat down on his bed. He felt he could
not struggle any more; the black demons had overpowered him, and he had
to submit. For some time he had been looking at the funnel of the
oven. If he could fix on the knob of its lid a loop made of thin
shreds of narrow linen straps it would hold. . . . But he would have
to man- age it very cleverly. He set to work, and spent two days in
making straps out of the linen bag on which he slept. When the guard
came into the cell he covered the bed with his overcoat. He tied the
straps with big knots and made them double, in order that they might be
strong enough to hold his weight. During these preparations he was
free from tormenting visions. When the straps were ready he made a
slip-knot out of them, and put it round his neck, stood up in his bed,
and hanged himself. But at the very moment that his tongue began to
protrude the straps got loose, and he fell down. The guard rushed in
at the noise. The doctor was called in, Stepan was brought to the
infirmary. The next day he recovered, and was removed from the
infirmary, no more to soli- tary confinement, but to share the common
cell with other prisoners.
In the common cell he lived in the company of twenty men, but felt
as if he were quite alone. He did not notice the presence of the rest;
did not speak to anybody, and was tormented by the old agony. He felt
it most of all when the men were sleeping and he alone could not get
one moment of sleep. Continually he saw HER before his eyes, heard her
voice, and then again the black devils with their horrible eyes came
and tortured him in the usual way.
He again tried to say his prayers, but, just as before, it did not
help him. One day when, after his prayers, she was again before his
eyes, he be- gan to implore her dear soul to forgive him his sin, and
release him. Towards morning, when he fell down quite exhausted on his
crushed linen bag, he fell asleep at once, and in his dream she came to
him with her thin, wrinkled, and severed neck. "Will you forgive me?"
he asked. She looked at him with her mild eyes and did not answer.
"Will you forgive me?" And so he asked her three times. But she did
not say a word, and he awoke. From that time onwards he suffered less,
and seemed to come to his senses, looked around him, and began for the
first time to talk to the other men in the cell.
STEPAN'S cell was shared among others by the former yard-porter,
Vassily, who had been sen- tenced to deportation for robbery, and by
Chouev, sentenced also to deportation. Vassily sang songs the whole
day long with his fine voice, or told his adventures to the other men
in the cell. Chouev was working at something all day, mending his
clothes, or reading the Gospel and the Psalter.
Stepan asked him why he was put into prison, and Chouev answered
that he was being perse- cuted because of his true Christian faith by
the priests, who were all of them hypocrites and hated those who
followed the law of Christ. Stepan asked what that true law was, and
Chouev made clear to him that the true law consists in not wor-
shipping gods made with hands, but worshipping the spirit and the
truth. He told him how he had learnt the truth from the lame tailor at
the time when they were dividing the land.
"And what will become of those who have done evil?" asked Stepan.
" The Scriptures give an answer to that," said Chouev, and read
aloud to him Matthew xxv. 31:--
"When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy
angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and
before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them
one from another, as a shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats: and
He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed
of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation
of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was
thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:
naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in
prison, and ye came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him,
saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty,
and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or
naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and
came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I
say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me. Then shall He say also
unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting
fire, prepared for the devil and his an- gels: for I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was
a stranger and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick,
and in prison, and ye visited Me not. Then shall they also answer Him,
saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hun- gred, or athirst, or a stranger,
or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee? Then
shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did
it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these
shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life
Vassily, who was sitting on the floor at Chouev's side, and was
listening to his reading the Gospel, nodded his handsome head in
approval. "True," he said in a resolute tone. "Go, you cursed vil-
lains, into everlasting punishment, since you did not give food to the
hungry, but swallowed it all yourself. Serves them right! I have read
the holy Nikodim's writings," he added, showing off his erudition.
"And will they never be pardoned?" asked Stepan, who had listened
silently, with his hairy head bent low down.
"Wait a moment, and be silent," said Chouev to Vassily, who went on
talking about the rich who had not given meat to the stranger, nor vis-
ited him in the prison.
"Wait, I say!" said Chouev, again turning over the leaves of the
Gospel. Having found what he was looking for, Chouev smoothed the page
with his large and strong hand, which had become exceedingly white in
"And there were also two other malefactors, led with Him"--it
means with Christ--"to be put to death. And when they were come to the
place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the
malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then
said Jesus,-- 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'
And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided
Him, saying,-- 'He saved others; let Him save Himself if He be Christ,
the chosen of God.' And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him,
and offering Him vinegar, and saying, 'If Thou be the King of the Jews
save Thyself.' And a superscription also was written over Him in
letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, 'This is the King of the
Jews.' And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him,
saying, 'If thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.' But the other
answering rebuked Him, saying, 'Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art
in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due
reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.' And he
said unto Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.'
And Je- sus said unto him, 'Verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou
be with Me in paradise.'"
Stepan did not say anything, and was sitting in thought, as if he
Now he knew what the true faith was. Those only will be saved who
have given food and drink to the poor and visited the prisoners; those
who have not done it, go to hell. And yet the male- factor had
repented on the cross, and went never- theless to paradise. This did
not strike him as being inconsistent. Quite the contrary. The one
confirmed the other: the fact that the merciful will go to Heaven, and
the unmerciful to hell, meant that everybody ought to be merciful, and
the malefactor having been forgiven by Christ meant that Christ was
merciful. This was all new to Stepan, and he wondered why it had been
hidden from him so long.
From that day onward he spent all his free time with Chouev, asking
him questions and listening to him. He saw but a single truth at the
bottom of the teaching of Christ as revealed to him by Chouev: that
all men are brethren, and that they ought to love and pity one another
in order that all might be happy. And when he listened to Chouev,
everything that was consistent with this fundamental truth came to him
like a thing he had known before and only forgotten since, while
whatever he heard that seemed to contradict it, he would take no notice
of, as he thought that he simply had not understood the real meaning.
And from that time Stepan was a different man.
STEPAN had been very submissive and meek ever since he came to the
prison, but now he made the prison authorities and all his
fellow-prisoners wonder at the change in him. Without being or- dered,
and out of his proper turn he would do all the very hardest work in
prison, and the dirtiest too. But in spite of his humility, the other
pris- oners stood in awe of him, and were afraid of him, as they knew
he was a resolute man, possessed of great physical strength. Their
respect for him increased after the incident of the two tramps who fell
upon him; he wrenched himself loose from them and broke the arm of one
of them in the fight. These tramps had gambled with a young prisoner
of some means and deprived him of all his money. Stepan took his part,
and de- prived the tramps of their winnings. The tramps poured their
abuse on him; but when they attacked him, he got the better of them.
When the Gov- ernor asked how the fight had come about, the tramps
declared that it was Stepan who had begun it. Stepan did not try to
exculpate himself, and bore patiently his sentence which was three days
in the punishment-cell, and after that solitary con- finement.
In his solitary cell he suffered because he could no longer listen
to Chouev and his Gospel. He was also afraid that the former visions
of HER and of the black devils would reappear to torment him. But the
visions were gone for good. His soul was full of new and happy ideas.
He felt glad to be alone if only he could read, and if he had the
Gospel. He knew that he might have got hold of the Gospel, but he
could not read.
He had started to learn the alphabet in his boyhood, but could not
grasp the joining of the syllables, and remained illiterate. He made
up his mind to start reading anew, and asked the guard to bring him the
Gospels. They were brought to him, and he sat down to work. He
contrived to recollect the letters, but could not join them into
syllables. He tried as hard as he could to understand how the letters
ought to be put to- gether to form words, but with no result whatever.
He lost his sleep, had no desire to eat, and a deep sadness came over
him, which he was unable to shake off.
"Well, have you not yet mastered it?" asked the guard one day.
"Do you know 'Our Father'?"
"Since you do, read it in the Gospels. Here it is," said the
guard, showing him the prayer in the Gospels. Stepan began to read it,
comparing the letters he knew with the familiar sounds.
And all of a sudden the mystery of the sylla- bles was revealed to
him, and he began to read. This was a great joy. From that moment he
could read, and the meaning of the words, spelt out with such great
pains, became more significant.
Stepan did not mind any more being alone. He was so full of his
work that he did not feel glad when he was transferred back to the
common cell, his private cell being needed for a political prisoner who
had been just sent to prison.
IN the meantime Mahin, the schoolboy who had taught his friend
Smokovnikov to forge the cou- pon, had finished his career at school
and then at the university, where he had studied law. He had the
advantage of being liked by women, and as he had won favour with a
vice-minister's former mistress, he was appointed when still young as
examining magistrate. He was dishonest, had debts, had gambled, and
had seduced many women; but he was clever, sagacious, and a good
magistrate. He was appointed to the court of the district where Stepan
Pelageushkine had been tried. When Stepan was brought to him the first
time to give evidence, his sincere and quiet answers puzzled the
magistrate. He somehow uncon- sciously felt that this man, brought to
him in fet- ters and with a shorn head, guarded by two soldiers who
were waiting to take him back to prison, had a free soul and was
immeasurably su- perior to himself. He was in consequence some- what
troubled, and had to summon up all his courage in order to go on with
the inquiry and not blunder in his questions. He was amazed that
Stepan should narrate the story of his crimes as if they had been
things of long ago, and com- mitted not by him but by some different
"Had you no pity for them?" asked Mahin.
"No. I did not know then."
"Well, and now?"
Stepan smiled with a sad smile. "Now," he said, "I would not do it
even if I were to be burned alive."
"Because I have come to know that all men are brethren."
"What about me? Am I your brother also?"
"Of course you are."
"And how is it that I, your brother, am send- ing you to hard
"It is because you don't know."
"What do I not know?"
"Since you judge, it means obviously that you don't know."
"Go on. . . .What next?"
Now it was not Chouev, but Stepan who used to read the gospel in
the common cell. Some of the prisoners were singing coarse songs,
while others listened to Stepan reading the gospel and talking about
what he had read. The most attentive among those who listened were two
of the pris- oners, Vassily, and a convict called Mahorkin, a murderer
who had become a hangman. Twice during his stay in this prison he was
called upon to do duty as hangman, and both times in far- away places
where nobody could be found to ex- ecute the sentences.
Two of the peasants who had killed Peter Nikolaevich Sventizky, had
been sentenced to the gallows, and Mahorkin was ordered to go to Pensa
to hang them. On all previous occasions he used to write a petition to
the governor of the province--he knew well how to read and to write
--stating that he had been ordered to fulfil his duty, and asking for
money for his expenses. But now, to the greatest astonishment of the
prison authorities, he said he did not intend to go, and added that he
would not be a hangman any more.
"And what about being flogged?" cried the governor of the prison.
"I will have to bear it, as the law commands us not to kill."
"Did you get that from Pelageushkine? A nice sort of a prison
prophet! You just wait and see what this will cost you!"
When Mahin was told of that incident, he was greatly impressed by
the fact of Stepan's influence on the hangman, who refused to do his
duty, run- ning the risk of being hanged himself for insub- ordination.
AT an evening party at the Eropkins, Mahin, who was paying
attentions to the two young daughters of the house--they were rich
matches, both of them--having earned great applause for his fine
singing and playing the piano, began telling the company about the
strange convict who had con- verted the hangman. Mahin told his story
very accurately, as he had a very good memory, which was all the more
retentive because of his total in- difference to those with whom he had
to deal. He never paid the slightest attention to other peo- ple's
feelings, and was therefore better able to keep all they did or said in
his memory. He got interested in Stepan Pelageushkine, and, although
he did not thoroughly understand him, yet asked himself involuntarily
what was the matter with the man? He could not find an answer, but
feel- ing that there was certainly something remarkable going on in
Stepan's soul, he told the company at the Eropkins all about Stepan's
conversion of the hangman, and also about his strange behaviour in
prison, his reading the Gospels and his great influence on the rest of
the prisoners. All this made a special impression on the younger
daugh- ter of the family, Lisa, a girl of eighteen, who was just
recovering from the artificial life she had been living in a
boarding-school; she felt as if she had emerged out of water, and was
taking in the fresh air of true life with ecstasy. She asked Mahin to
tell her more about the man Pelageush- kine, and to explain to her how
such a great change had come over him. Mahin told her what he knew
from the police official about Stepan's last murder, and also what he
had heard from Pela- geushkine himself--how he had been conquered by
the humility, mildness, and fearlessness of a kind woman, who had been
his last victim, and how his eyes had been opened, while the reading of
the Gospels had completed the change in him.
Lisa Eropkin was not able to sleep that night. For a couple of
months a struggle had gone on in her heart between society life, into
which her sis- ter was dragging her, and her infatuation for Mahin,
combined with a desire to reform him. This second desire now became
the stronger. She had already heard about poor Maria Seme- novna.
But, after that kind woman had been murdered in such a ghastly way,
and after Mahin, who learnt it from Stepan, had communicated to her all
the facts concerning Maria Semenovna's life, Lisa herself passionately
desired to become like her. She was a rich girl, and was afraid that
Mahin had been courting her because of her money. So she resolved to
give all she possessed to the poor, and told Mahin about it.
Mahin was very glad to prove his disinterest- edness, and told Lisa
that he loved her and not her money. Such proof of his innate nobility
made him admire himself greatly. Mahin helped Lisa to carry out her
decision. And the more he did so, the more he came to realise the new
world of Lisa's spiritual ambitions, quite un- known to him heretofore.
ALL were silent in the common cell. Stepan was lying in his bed,
but was not yet asleep. Vassily approached him, and, pulling him by
his leg, asked him in a whisper to get up and to come to him. Stepan
stepped out of his bed, and came up to Vassily.
"Do me a kindness, brother," said Vassily. "Help me!"
"I am going to fly from the prison."
Vassily told Stepan that he had everything ready for his flight.
"To-morrow I shall stir them up--" He pointed to the prisoners
asleep in their beds. "They will give me away, and I shall be trans-
ferred to the cell in the upper floor. I know my way from there. What
I want you for is to un- screw the prop in the door of the mortuary."
"I can do that. But where will you go?"
"I don't care where. Are not there plenty of wicked people in
"Quite so, brother. But it is not our business to judge them."
"I am not a murderer, to be sure. I have not destroyed a living
soul in my life. As for steal- ing, I don't see any harm in that. As
if they have not robbed us!"
"Let them answer for it themselves, if they do."
"Bother them all!" Suppose I rob a church, who will be hurt? This
time I will take care not to break into a small shop, but will get hold
of a lot of money, and then I will help people with it. I will give it
to all good people."
One of the prisoners rose in his bed and lis- tened. Stepan and
Vassily broke off their con- versation. The next day Vassily carried
out his idea. He began complaining of the bread in prison, saying it
was moist, and induced the pris- oners to call the governor and to tell
him of their discontent. The governor came, abused them all, and when
he heard it was Vassily who had stirred up the men, he ordered him to
be transferred into solitary confinement in the cell on the upper
floor. This was all Vassily wanted.
VASSILY knew well that cell on the upper floor. He knew its floor,
and began at once to take out bits of it. When he had managed to get
under the floor he took out pieces of the ceiling beneath, and jumped
down into the mortuary a floor below. That day only one corpse was
lying on the table. There in the corner of the room were stored bags
to make hay mattresses for the prisoners. Vas- sily knew about the
bags, and that was why the mortuary served his purposes. The prop in
the door had been unscrewed and put in again. He took it out, opened
the door, and went out into the passage to the lavatory which was being
built. In the lavatory was a large hole connecting the third floor
with the basement floor. After hav- ing found the door of the lavatory
he went back to the mortuary, stripped the sheet off the dead body
which was as cold as ice (in taking off the sheet Vassily touched his
hand), took the bags, tied them together to make a rope, and carried
the rope to the lavatory. Then he attached it to the cross-beam, and
climbed down along it. The rope did not reach the ground, but he did
not know how much was wanting. Anyhow, he had to take the risk. He
remained hanging in the air, and then jumped down. His legs were badly
hurt, but he could still walk on. The basement had two windows; he
could have climbed out of one of them but for the grating protecting
them. He had to break the grating, but there was no tool to do it
with. Vassily began to look around him, and chanced on a piece of
plank with a sharp edge; armed with that weapon he tried to loosen the
bricks which held the grating. He worked a long time at that task.
The cock crowed for the second time, but the grating still held. At
last he had loosened one side; and then he pushed the plank under the
loosened end and pressed with all his force. The grating gave way
completely, but at that moment one of the bricks fell down heavily.
The noise could have been heard by the sentry. Vassily stood
motionless. But silence reigned. He climbed out of the win- dow. His
way of escape was to climb the wall. An outhouse stood in the corner
of the courtyard. He had to reach its roof, and pass thence to the top
of the wall. But he would not be able to reach the roof without the
help of the plank; so he had to go back through the basement window to
fetch it. A moment later he came out of the window with the plank in
his hands; he stood still for a while listening to the steps of the
sentry. His expectations were justified. The sentry was walking up
and down on the other side of the courtyard. Vassily came up to the
outhouse, leaned the plank against it, and began climbing. The plank
slipped and fell on the ground. Vas- sily had his stockings on; he
took them off so that be could cling with his bare feet in coming down.
Then he leaned the plank again against the house, and seized the
water-pipe with his hands. If only this time the plank would hold! A
quick move- ment up the water-pipe, and his knee rested on the roof.
The sentry was approaching. Vassily lay motionless. The sentry did
not notice him, and passed on. Vassily leaped to his feet; the iron
roof cracked under him. Another step or two, and he would reach the
wall. He could touch it with his hand now. He leaned forward with one
hand, then with the other, stretched out his body as far as he could,
and found himself on the wall. Only, not to break his legs in jump-
ing down, Vassily turned round, remained hang- ing in the air by his
hands, stretched himself out, loosened the grip of one hand, then the
other. "Help, me, God!" He was on the ground. And the ground was soft.
His legs were not hurt, and he ran at the top of his speed. In a
suburb, Malania opened her door, and he crept under her warm coverlet,
made of small pieces of different colours stitched together.
THE wife of Peter Nikolaevich Sventizky, a tall and handsome woman,
as quiet and sleek as a well-fed heifer, had seen from her window how
her husband had been murdered and dragged away into the fields. The
horror of such a sight to Natalia Ivanovna was so intense--how could it
be otherwise?--that all her other feelings van- ished. No sooner had
the crowd disappeared from view behind the garden fence, and the voices
had become still; no sooner had the bare-footed Malania, their servant,
run in with her eyes start- ing out of her head, calling out in a voice
more suited to the proclamation of glad tidings the news that Peter
Nikolaevich had been murdered and thrown into the ravine, than Natalia
Ivan- ovna felt that behind her first sensation of horror, there was
another sensation; a feeling of joy at her deliverance from the tyrant,
who through all the nineteen years of their married life had made her
work without a moment's rest. Her joy made her aghast; she did not
confess it to herself, but hid it the more from those around. When his
mutilated, yellow and hairy body was being washed and put into the
coffin, she cried with hor- ror, and wept and sobbed. When the
coroner-- a special coroner for serious cases--came and was taking her
evidence, she noticed in the room, where the inquest was taking place,
two peasants in irons, who had been charged as the principal culprits.
One of them was an old man with a curly white beard, and a calm and
severe coun- tenance. The other was rather young, of a gipsy type,
with bright eyes and curly dishevelled hair. She declared that they
were the two men who had first seized hold of Peter Nikolaevich's
hands. In spite of the gipsy-like peasant looking at her with his eyes
glistening from under his moving eyebrows, and saying reproachfully:
"A great sin, lady, it is. Remember your death hour!" --in spite of
that, she did not feel at all sorry for them. On the contrary, she
began to hate them during the inquest, and wished desperately to take
revenge on her husband's murderers.
A month later, after the case, which was com- mitted for trial by
court-martial, had ended in eight men being sentenced to hard labour,
and in two--the old man with the white beard, and the gipsy boy, as she
called the other--being con- demned to be hanged, Natalia felt vaguely
uneasy. But unpleasant doubts soon pass away under the solemnity of a
trial. Since such high authorities considered that this was the right
thing to do, it must be right.
The execution was to take place in the village itself. One Sunday
Malania came home from church in her new dress and her new boots, and
announced to her mistress that the gallows were being erected, and that
the hangman was expected from Moscow on Wednesday. She also an-
nounced that the families of the convicts were raging, and that their
cries could be heard all over the village.
Natalia Ivanovna did not go out of her house; she did not wish to
see the gallows and the people in the village; she only wanted what had
to hap- pen to be over quickly. She only considered her own feelings,
and did not care for the convicts and their families.
On Tuesday the village constable called on Natalia Ivanovna. He
was a friend, and she of- fered him vodka and preserved mushrooms of
her own making. The constable, after eating a little, told her that
the execution was not to take place the next day.
"A very strange thing has happened. There is no hangman to be
found. They had one in Moscow, my son told me, but he has been reading
the Gospels a good deal and says: 'I will not commit a murder.' He had
himself been sen- tenced to hard labour for having committed a mur-
der, and now he objects to hang when the law or- ders him. He was
threatened with flogging. 'You may flog me,' he said, 'but I won't do
Natalia Ivanovna grew red and hot at the thought which suddenly
came into her head.
"Could not the death sentence be commuted now?"
"How so, since the judges have passed it? The Czar alone has the
right of amnesty."
"But how would he know?"
"They have the right of appealing to him."
"But it is on my account they are to die," said that stupid woman,
Natalia Ivanovna. "And I forgive them."
The constable laughed. "Well--send a pe- tition to the Czar."
"May I do it?"
"Of course you may."
"But is it not too late?"
"Send it by telegram."
"To the Czar himself?"
"To the Czar, if you like."
The story of the hangman having refused to do his duty, and
preferring to take the flogging instead, suddenly changed the soul of
Natalia Ivanovna. The pity and the horror she felt the moment she
heard that the peasants were sen- tenced to death, could not be stifled
now, but filled her whole soul.
"Filip Vassilievich, my friend. Write that tel- egram for me. I
want to appeal to the Czar to pardon them."
The constable shook his head. "I wonder whether that would not
involve us in trouble?"
"I do it upon my own responsibility. I will not mention your
"Is not she a kind woman," thought the con- stable. "Very
kind-hearted, to be sure. If my wife had such a heart, our life would
be a para- dise, instead of what it is now " And he wrote the
" To his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor. "Your Majesty's loyal
subject, the widow of Pe- ter Nikolaevich Sventizky, murdered by the
peas- ants, throws herself at the sacred feet (this sentence, when he
wrote it down, pleased the con- stable himself most of all) of your
Imperial Majesty, and implores you to grant an amnesty to the peasants
so and so, from such a province, district, and village, who have been
sentenced to death."
The telegram was sent by the constable him- self, and Natalia
Ivanovna felt relieved and happy. She had a feeling that since she,
the widow of the murdered man, had forgiven the murderers, and was
applying for an amnesty, the Czar could not possibly refuse it.
LISA EROPKIN lived in a state of continual ex- citement. The
longer she lived a true Christian life as it had been revealed to her,
the more con- vinced she became that it was the right way, and her
heart was full of joy.
She had two immediate aims before her. The one was to convert
Mahin; or, as she put it to herself, to arouse his true nature, which
was good and kind. She loved him, and the light of her love revealed
the divine element in his soul which is at the bottom of all souls.
But, further, she saw in him an exceptionally kind and tender heart,
as well as a noble mind. Her other aim was to abandon her riches. She
had first thought of giving away what she possessed in order to test
Mahin; but afterwards she wanted to do so for her own sake, for the
sake of her own soul. She began by simply giving money to any one who
wanted it. But her father stopped that; besides which, she felt
disgusted at the crowd of suppli- cants who personally, and by letters,
besieged her with demands for money. Then she resolved to apply to an
old man, known to be a saint by his life, and to give him her money to
dispose of in the way he thought best. Her father got angry with her
when he heard about it. During a vio- lent altercation he called her
mad, a raving luna- tic, and said he would take measures to prevent her
from doing injury to herself.
Her father's irritation proved contagious. Losing all control over
herself, and sobbing with rage, she behaved with the greatest
impertinence to her father, calling him a tyrant and a miser.
Then she asked his forgiveness. He said he did not mind what she
said; but she saw plainly that he was offended, and in his heart did
not forgive her. She did not feel inclined to tell Mahin about her
quarrel with her father; as to her sister, she was very cold to Lisa,
being jealous of Mahin's love for her.
"I ought to confess to God," she said to her- self. As all this
happened in Lent, she made up her mind to fast in preparation for the
communion, and to reveal all her thoughts to the father con- fessor,
asking his advice as to what she ought to decide for the future.
At a small distance from her town a monastery was situated, where
an old monk lived who had gained a great reputation by his holy life,
by his sermons and prophecies, as well as by the mar- vellous cures
ascribed to him.
The monk had received a letter from Lisa's father announcing the
visit of his daughter, and telling him in what a state of excitement
the young girl was. He also expressed the hope in that letter that the
monk would influence her in the right way, urging her not to depart
from the golden mean, and to live like a good Christian without trying
to upset the present conditions of her life.
The monk received Lisa after he had seen many other people, and
being very tired, began by quietly recommending her to be modest and to
submit to her present conditions of life and to her parents. Lisa
listened silently, blushing and flushed with excitement. When he had
finished admonishing her, she began saying with tears in her eyes,
timidly at first, that Christ bade us leave father and mother to follow
Him. Getting more and more excited, she told him her conception of
Christ. The monk smiled slightly, and replied as he generally did when
admonishing his peni- tents; but after a while he remained silent,
repeating with heavy sighs, "O God!" Then he said, "Well, come to
confession to- morrow," and blessed her with his wrinkled hands.
The next day Lisa came to confession, and without renewing their
interrupted conversation, he absolved her and refused to dispose of her
for- tune, giving no reasons for doing so.
Lisa's purity, her devotion to God and her ar- dent soul, impressed
the monk deeply. He had desired long ago to renounce the world
entirely; but the brotherhood, which drew a large income from his work
as a preacher, insisted on his con- tinuing his activity. He gave way,
although he had a vague feeling that he was in a false posi- tion. It
was rumoured that he was a miracle- working saint, whereas in reality
he was a weak man, proud of his success in the world. When the soul of
Lisa was revealed to him, he saw clearly into his own soul. He
discovered how different he was to what he wanted to be, and realised
the desire of his heart.
Soon after Lisa's visit he went to live in a sep- arate cell as a
hermit, and for three weeks did not officiate again in the church of
the friary. After the celebration of the mass, he preached a sermon
denouncing his own sins and those of the world, and urging all to
From that day he preached every fortnight, and his sermons
attracted increasing audiences. His fame as a preacher spread abroad.
His sermons were extraordinarily fearless and sin- cere, and deeply
impressed all who listened to him.
VASSILY was actually carrying out the object he bad in leaving the
prison. With the help of a few friends he broke into the house of the
rich mer- chant Krasnopuzov, whom he knew to be a miser and a
debauchee. Vassily took out of his writing- desk thirty thousand
roubles, and began disposing of them as he thought right. He even gave
up drink, so as not to spend that money on himself, but to distribute
it to the poor; helping poor girls to get married; paying off people's
debts, and do- ing this all without ever revealing himself to those he
helped; his only desire was to distribute his money in the right way.
As he also gave bribes to the police, he was left in peace for a long
His heart was singing for joy. When at last he was arrested and
put to trial, he confessed with pride that he had robbed the fat
merchant. "The money," he said, "was lying idle in that fool's desk,
and he did not even know how much he had, whereas I have put it into
circulation and helped a lot of good people."
The counsel for the defence spoke with such good humour and
kindness that the jury felt in- clined to discharge Vassily, but
sentenced him nevertheless to confinement in prison. He thanked the
jury, and assured them that he would find his way out of prison before
NATALIA IVANOVNA SVENTIZKY'S telegram proved useless. The
committee appointed to deal with the petitions in the Emperor's name,
de- cided not even to make a report to the Czar. But one day when the
Sventizky case was dis- cussed at the Emperor's luncheon-table, the
chair- man of the committee, who was present, mentioned the telegram
which had been received from Sven- tizky's widow.
"C'est tres gentil de sa part," said one of the ladies of the
The Emperor sighed, shrugged his shoulders, adorned with
epaulettes. "The law," he said; and raised his glass for the groom of
the chamber to pour out some Moselle.
All those present pretended to admire the wis- dom of the
sovereign's words. There was no further question about the telegram.
The two peasants, the old man and the young boy, were hanged by a
Tartar hangman from Kazan, a cruel convict and a murderer.
The old man's wife wanted to dress the body of her husband in a
white shirt, with white bands which serve as stockings, and new boots,
but she was not allowed to do so. The two men were buried together in
the same pit outside the church- yard wall.
"Princess Sofia Vladimirovna tells me he is a very remarkable
preacher," remarked the old Em- press, the Emperor's mother, one day to
her son: "Faites le venir. Il peut precher a la cathedrale."
"No, it would be better in the palace church," said the Emperor,
and ordered the hermit Isidor to be invited.
All the generals, and other high officials, as- sembled in the
church of the imperial palace; it was an event to hear the famous
A thin and grey old man appeared, looked at those present, and
said: "In the name of God, the Son, and the Holy Ghost," and began to
At first all went well, but the longer he spoke the worse it
became. "Il devient de plus en plus aggressif," as the Empress put it
afterwards. He fulminated against every one. He spoke about the
executions and charged the government with having made so many
necessary. How can the government of a Christian country kill men?
Everybody looked at everybody else, thinking of the bad taste of
the sermon, and how unpleas- ant it must be for the Emperor to listen
to it; but nobody expressed these thoughts aloud.
When Isidor had said Amen, the metropolitan approached, and asked
him to call on him.
After Isidor had had a talk with the metropol- itan and with the
attorney-general, he was imme- diately sent away to a friary, not his
own, but one at Suzdal, which had a prison attached to it; the prior of
that friary was now Father Missael.
EVERY one tried to look as if Isidor's sermon contained nothing
unpleasant, and nobody men- tioned it. It seemed to the Czar that the
hermit's words had not made any impression on himself; but once or
twice during that day he caught him- self thinking of the two peasants
who had been hanged, and the widow of Sventizky who had asked an
amnesty for them. That day the Em- peror had to be present at a
parade; after which he went out for a drive; a reception of ministers
came next, then dinner, after dinner the theatre. As usual, the Czar
fell asleep the moment his head touched the pillow. In the night an
awful dream awoke him: he saw gallows in a large field and corpses
dangling on them; the tongues of the corpses were protruding, and their
bodies moved and shook. And somebody shouted, "It is you --you who
have done it " The Czar woke up bathed in perspiration and began to
think. It was the first time that he had ever thought of the
responsibilities which weighed on him, and the words of old Isidor came
back to his mind. . . .
But only dimly could he see himself as a mere human being, and he
could not consider his mere human wants and duties, because of all that
was required of him as Czar. As to acknowledging that human duties
were more obligatory than those of a Czar--he had not strength for
HAVING served his second term in the prison, Pro- kofy, who had
formerly worked on the Sventizky estate, was no longer the brisk,
ambitious, smartly dressed fellow he had been. He seemed, on the
contrary, a complete wreck. When sober he would sit idle and would
refuse to do any work, however much his father scolded him; moreover,
he was continually seeking to get hold of some- thing secretly, and
take it to the public-house for a drink. When he came home he would
continue to sit idle, coughing and spitting all the time. The doctor
on whom he called, examined his chest and shook his head.
"You, my man, ought to have many things which you have not got."
"That is usually the case, isn't it?
"Take plenty of milk, and don't smoke."
"These are days of fasting, and besides we have no cow."
Once in spring he could not get any sleep; he was longing to have a
drink. There was nothing in the house he could lay his hand on to take
to the public-house. He put on his cap and went out. He walked along
the street up to the house where the priest and the deacon lived
together. The deacon's harrow stood outside leaning against the hedge.
Prokofy approached, took the har- row upon his shoulder, and walked to
an inn kept by a woman, Petrovna. She might give him a small bottle of
vodka for it. But he had hardly gone a few steps when the deacon came
out of his house. It was already dawn, and he saw that Prokofy was
carrying away his harrow.
"Hey, what's that?" cried the deacon.
The neighbours rushed out from their houses. Prokofy was seized,
brought to the police station, and then sentenced to eleven months'
imprison- ment. It was autumn, and Prokofy had to be transferred to
the prison hospital. He was coughing badly; his chest was heaving from
the exertion; and he could not get warm. Those who were stronger
contrived not to shiver; Prokofy on the contrary shivered day and
night, as the su- perintendent would not light the fires in the hos-
pital till November, to save expense.
Prokofy suffered greatly in body, and still more in soul. He was
disgusted with his surroundings, and hated every one--the deacon, the
superin- tendent who would not light the fires, the guard, and the man
who was lying in the bed next to his, and who had a swollen red lip.
He began also to hate the new convict who was brought into hospital.
This convict was Stepan. He was suffering from some disease on his
head, and was transferred to the hospital and put in a bed at Prokofy's
side. After a time that hatred to Stepan changed, and Prokofy became,
on the con- trary, extremely fond of him; he delighted in talking to
him. It was only after a talk with Stepan that his anguish would cease
for a while. Stepan always told every one he met about his last
murder, and how it had impressed him.
Far from shrieking, or anything of that kind," he said to Prokofy,
"she did not move. 'Kill me! There I am,' she said. 'But it is not my
soul you destroy, it is your own.'"
"Well, of course, it is very dreadful to kill. I had one day to
slaughter a sheep, and even that made me half mad. I have not
destroyed any liv- ing soul; why then do those villains kill me? I have
done no harm to anybody . . ."
"That will be taken into consideration."
"By God, to be sure."
"I have not seen anything yet showing that God exists, and I don't
believe in Him, brother. I think when a man dies, grass will grow over
the spot, and that is the end of it."
"You are wrong to think like that. I have murdered so many people,
whereas she, poor soul, was helping everybody. And you think she and I
are to have the same lot? Oh no! Only wait."
"Then you believe the soul lives on after a man is dead?"
"To be sure; it truly lives."
Prokofy suffered greatly when death drew near. He could hardly
breathe. But in the very last hour he felt suddenly relieved from all
pain. He called Stepan to him. "Farewell, brother," he said. "Death
has come, I see. I was so afraid of it before. And now I don't mind.
I only wish it to come quicker."
IN the meanwhile, the affairs of Eugene Mihailo- vich had grown
worse and worse. Business was very slack. There was a new shop in the
town; he was losing his customers, and the interest had to be paid. He
borrowed again on interest. At last his shop and his goods were to be
sold up. Eugene Mihailovich and his wife applied to every one they
knew, but they could not raise the four hundred roubles they needed to
save the shop any- where.
They had some hope of the merchant Krasno- puzov, Eugene
Mihailovich's wife being on good terms with his mistress. But news
came that Krasnopuzov had been robbed of a huge sum of money. Some
said of half a million roubles. "And do you know who is said to be the
thief?" said Eugene Mihailovich to his wife. "Vassily, our former
yard-porter. They say he is squan- dering the money, and the police
are bribed by him."
"I knew he was a villain. You remember how he did not mind
perjuring himself? But I did not expect it would go so far."
"I hear he has recently been in the courtyard of our house. Cook
says she is sure it was he. She told me he helps poor girls to get
"They always invent tales. I don't believe it."
At that moment a strange man, shabbily dressed, entered the shop.
"What is it you want?"
"Here is a letter for you."
"You will see yourself."
"Don't you require an answer? Wait a mo- ment."
"I cannot " The strange man handed the let- ter and disappeared.
"How extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailo- vich, and tore open the
envelope. To his great amazement several hundred rouble notes fell
out. "Four hundred roubles!" he exclaimed, hardly believing his eyes.
"What does it mean?"
The envelope also contained a badly-spelt letter, addressed to
Eugene Mihailovich. "It is said in the Gospels," ran the letter, " do
good for evil. You have done me much harm; and in the coupon case you
made me wrong the peasants greatly. But I have pity for you. Here are
four hundred notes. Take them, and remember your porter Vassily."
"Very extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailo- vich to his wife and to
himself. And each time he remembered that incident, or spoke about it
to his wife, tears would come to his eyes.
FOURTEEN priests were kept in the Suzdal friary prison, chiefly for
having been untrue to the or- thodox faith. Isidor had been sent to
that place also. Father Missael received him according to the
instructions he had been given, and without talking to him ordered him
to be put into a sep- arate cell as a serious criminal. After a fort-
night Father Missael, making a round of the prison, entered Isidor's
cell, and asked him whether there was anything he wished for.
"There is a great deal I wish for," answered Isidor; "but I cannot
tell you what it is in the presence of anybody else. Let me talk to
They looked at each other, and Missael saw he had nothing to be
afraid of in remaining alone with Isidor. He ordered Isidor to be
brought into his own room, and when they were alone, he said,--
"Well, now you can speak."
Isidor fell on his knees.
"Brother," said Isidor. "What are you do- ing to yourself! Have
mercy on your own soul. You are the worst villain in the world. You
have offended against all that is sacred . . ."
A month after Missael sent a report, asking that Isidor should be
released as he had repented, and he also asked for the release of the
rest of the prisoners. After which he resigned his post.
TEN years passed. Mitia Smokovnikov had fin- ished his studies in
the Technical College; he was now an engineer in the gold mines in
Siberia, and was very highly paid. One day he was about to make a
round in the district. The governor of- fered him a convict, Stepan
Pelageushkine, to ac- company him on his journey.
"A convict, you say? But is not that danger- ous?"
"Not if it is this one. He is a holy man. You may ask anybody,
they will all tell you so."
"Why has he been sent here?"
The governor smiled. "He had committed six murders, and yet he is
a holy man. I go bail for him."
Mitia Smokovnikov took Stepan, now a bald- headed, lean, tanned
man, with him on his journey. On their way Stepan took care of
Smokovnikov, like his own child, and told him his story; told him why
he had been sent here, and what now filled his life.
And, strange to say, Mitia Smokovnikov, who up to that time used to
spend his time drinking, eating, and gambling, began for the first time
to meditate on life. These thoughts never left him now, and produced a
complete change in his habits. After a time he was offered a very
advantageous position. He refused it, and made up his mind to buy an
estate with the money he had, to marry, and to devote himself to the
peasantry, helping them as much as he could.
HE carried out his intentions. But before retiring to his estate
he called on his father, with whom he had been on bad terms, and who
had settled apart with his new family. Mitia Smokovnikov wanted to
make it up. The old man wondered at first, and laughed at the change
he noticed in his son; but after a while he ceased to find fault with
him, and thought of the many times when it was he who was the guilty
AFTER THE DANCE
"--AND you say that a man cannot, of himself,
understand what is good and evil; that it is all
environment, that the environment swamps the
man. But I believe it is all chance. Take my
own case . . ."
Thus spoke our excellent friend, Ivan Vasilie- vich, after a
conversation between us on the impos- sibility of improving individual
character without a change of the conditions under which men live.
Nobody had actually said that one could not of oneself understand good
and evil; but it was a habit of Ivan Vasilievich to answer in this way
the thoughts aroused in his own mind by conversation, and to illustrate
those thoughts by relating inci- dents in his own life. He often quite
forgot the reason for his story in telling it; but he always told it
with great sincerity and feeling.
He did so now.
"Take my own case. My whole life was moulded, not by environment,
but by something quite different."
"By what, then?" we asked.
"Oh, that is a long story. I should have to tell you about a great
many things to make you understand."
"Well, tell us then."
Ivan Vasilievich thought a little, and shook his head.
"My whole life," he said, "was changed in one night, or, rather,
"Why, what happened?" one of us asked.
"What happened was that I was very much in love. I have been in
love many times, but this was the most serious of all. It is a thing
of the past; she has married daughters now. It was Varinka B---- "
Ivan Vasilievich mentioned her surname. "Even at fifty she is
remarkably hand- some; but in her youth, at eighteen, she was ex-
quisite--tall, slender, graceful, and stately. Yes, stately is the
word; she held herself very erect, by instinct as it were; and carried
her head high, and that together with her beauty and height gave her a
queenly air in spite of being thin, even bony one might say. It might
indeed have been deterring had it not been for her smile, which was
always gay and cordial, and for the charming light in her eyes and for
her youthful sweetness."
"What an entrancing description you give, Ivan Vasilievich!"
"Description, indeed! I could not possibly de- scribe her so that
you could appreciate her. But that does not matter; what I am going to
tell you happened in the forties. I was at that time a student in a
provincial university. I don't know whether it was a good thing or no,
but we had no political clubs, no theories in our universities then.
We were simply young and spent our time as young men do, studying and
amusing ourselves. I was a very gay, lively, careless fellow, and had
plenty of money too. I had a fine horse, and used to go tobogganing
with the young ladies. Skating had not yet come into fashion. I went
to drinking parties with my comrades--in those days we drank nothing
but champagne--if we had no champagne we drank nothing at all. We
never drank vodka, as they do now. Evening parties and balls were my
favourite amusements. I danced well, and was not an ugly fellow."
"Come, there is no need to be modest," inter- rupted a lady near
him. "We have seen your photograph. Not ugly, indeed! You were a
"Handsome, if you like. That does not mat- ter. When my love for
her was at its strongest, on the last day of the carnival, I was at a
ball at the provincial marshal's, a good-natured old man, rich and
hospitable, and a court chamberlain. The guests were welcomed by his
wife, who was as good-natured as himself. She was dressed in
puce-coloured velvet, and had a diamond diadem on her forehead, and her
plump, old white shoul- ders and bosom were bare like the portraits of
Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great.
"It was a delightful ball. It was a splendid room, with a gallery
for the orchestra, which was famous at the time, and consisted of serfs
belong- ing to a musical landowner. The refreshments were magnificent,
and the champagne flowed in rivers. Though I was fond of champagne I
did not drink that night, because without it I was drunk with love.
But I made up for it by danc- ing waltzes and polkas till I was ready
to drop-- of course, whenever possible, with Varinka. She wore a white
dress with a pink sash, white shoes, and white kid gloves, which did
not quite reach to her thin pointed elbows. A disgusting engineer
named Anisimov robbed me of the mazurka with her--to this day I cannot
forgive him. He asked her for the dance the minute she arrived, while
I had driven to the hair-dresser's to get a pair of gloves, and was
late. So I did not dance the mazurka with her, but with a German girl
to whom I had previously paid a little attention; but I am afraid I did
not behave very politely to her that evening. I hardly spoke or looked
at her, and saw nothing but the tall, slender figure in a white dress,
with a pink sash, a flushed, beaming, dimpled face, and sweet, kind
eyes. I was not alone; they were all looking at her with admiration,
the men and women alike, although she outshone all of them. They could
not help admiring her.
"Although I was not nominally her partner for the mazurka, I did as
a matter of fact dance nearly the whole time with her. She always came
for- ward boldly the whole length of the room to pick me out. I flew
to meet her without waiting to be chosen, and she thanked me with a
smile for my intuition. When I was brought up to her with somebody
else, and she guessed wrongly, she took the other man's hand with a
shrug of her slim shoulders, and smiled at me regretfully.
"Whenever there was a waltz figure in the mazurka, I waltzed with
her for a long time, and breathing fast and smiling, she would say,
'En- core'; and I went on waltzing and waltzing, as though unconscious
of any bodily existence."
"Come now, how could you be unconscious of it with your arm round
her waist? You must have been conscious, not only of your own exist-
ence, but of hers," said one of the party.
Ivan Vasilievich cried out, almost shouting in anger: " There you
are, moderns all over! Now- adays you think of nothing but the body.
It was different in our day. The more I was in love the less
corporeal was she in my eyes. Nowadays you think of nothing but the
body. It was different in our day. The more I was in love the less
cor- poreal was she in my eyes. Nowadays you set legs, ankles, and I
don't know what. You undress the women you are in love with. In my
eyes, as Alphonse Karr said--and he was a good writer --'the one I
loved was always draped in robes of bronze.' We never thought of doing
so; we tried to veil her nakedness, like Noah's good-natured son. Oh,
well, you can't understand."
"Don't pay any attention to him. Go on," said one of them.
"Well, I danced for the most part with her, and did not notice how
time was passing. The musicians kept playing the same mazurka tunes
over and over again in desperate exhaustion--you know what it is
towards the end of a ball. Papas and mammas were already getting up
from the card-tables in the drawing-room in expectation of supper, the
men-servants were running to and fro bringing in things. It was nearly
three o'clock. I had to make the most of the last minutes. I chose
her again for the mazurka, and for the hundredth time we danced across
"'The quadrille after supper is mine,' I said, taking her to her
"'Of course, if I am not carried off home,' she said, with a smile.
"'I won't give you up,' I said.
"'Give me my fan, anyhow,' she answered.
"'I am so sorry to part with it,' I said, handing her a cheap white
"'Well, here's something to console you,' she said, plucking a
feather out of the fan, and giving it to me.
"I took the feather, and could only express my rapture and
gratitude with my eyes. I was not only pleased and gay, I was happy,
delighted; I was good, I was not myself but some being not of this
earth, knowing nothing of evil. I hid the feather in my glove, and
stood there unable to tear myself away from her.
"'Look, they are urging father to dance,' she said to me, pointing
to the tall, stately figure of her father, a colonel with silver
epaulettes, who was standing in the doorway with some ladies.
"'Varinka, come here!' exclaimed our hostess, the lady with the
diamond ferronniere and with shoulders like Elizabeth, in a loud voice.
"'Varinka went to the door, and I followed her.
"'Persuade your father to dance the mazurka with you, ma
chere.--Do, please, Peter Valdislavo- vich,' she said, turning to the
"Varinka's father was a very handsome, well- preserved old man. He
had a good colour, mous- taches curled in the style of Nicolas I., and
white whiskers which met the moustaches. His hair was combed on to his
forehead, and a bright smile, like his daughter's, was on his lips and
in his eyes. He was splendidly set up, with a broad military chest, on
which he wore some decorations, and he had powerful shoulders and long
slim legs. He was that ultra-military type produced by the disci-
pline of Emperor Nicolas I.
"When we approached the door the colonel was just refusing to
dance, saying that he had quite for- gotten how; but at that instant he
smiled, swung his arm gracefully around to the left, drew his sword
from its sheath, handed it to an obliging young man who stood near, and
smoothed his suede glove on his right hand.
"'Everything must be done according to rule,' he said with a smile.
He took the hand of his daughter, and stood one-quarter turned,
waiting for the music.
"At the first sound of the mazurka, he stamped one foot smartly,
threw the other forward, and, at first slowly and smoothly, then
buoyantly and impetuously, with stamping of feet and clicking of boots,
his tall, imposing figure moved the length of the room. Varinka swayed
gracefully beside him, rhythmically and easily, making her steps short
or long, with her little feet in their white satin slippers.
"All the people in the room followed every movement of the couple.
As for me I not only ad- mired, I regarded them with enraptured sym-
pathy. I was particularly impressed with the old gentleman's boots.
They were not the modern pointed affairs, but were made of cheap
leather, squared-toed, and evidently built by the regimental cobbler.
In order that his daughter might dress and go out in society, he did
not buy fashionable boots, but wore home-made ones, I thought, and his
square toes seemed to me most touching. It was obvious that in his
time he had been a good dancer; but now he was too heavy, and his legs
had not spring enough for all the beautiful steps he tried to take.
Still, he contrived to go twice round the room. When at the end,
standing with legs apart, he suddenly clicked his feet together and
fell on one knee, a bit heavily, and she danced grace- fully around
him, smiling and adjusting her skirt, the whole room applauded.
"Rising with an effort, he tenderly took his daughter's face
between his hands. He kissed her on the forehead, and brought her to
me, under the impression that I was her partner for the mazurka. I
said I was not. 'Well, never mind. just go around the room once with
her,' he said, smil- ing kindly, as he replaced his sword in the
"As the contents of a bottle flow readily when the first drop has
been poured, so my love for Varinka seemed to set free the whole force
of lov- ing within me. In surrounding her it embraced the world. I
loved the hostess with her diadem and her shoulders like Elizabeth, and
her husband and her guests and her footmen, and even the engineer
Anisimov who felt peevish towards me. As for Varinka's father, with
his home-made boots and his kind smile, so like her own, I felt a sort
of ten- derness for him that was almost rapture.
"After supper I danced the promised quadrille with her, and though
I had been infinitely happy before, I grew still happier every moment.
"We did not speak of love. I neither asked myself nor her whether
she loved me. It was quite enough to know that I loved her. And I had
only one fear--that something might come to in- terfere with my great
"When I went home, and began to undress for the night, I found it
quite out of the question. held the little feather out of her fan in my
hand, and one of her gloves which she gave me when I helped her into
the carriage after her mother. Looking at these things, and without
closing my eyes I could see her before me as she was for an instant
when she had to choose between two part- ners. She tried to guess what
kind of person was represented in me, and I could hear her sweet voice
as she said, 'Pride--am I right?' and merrily gave me her hand. At
supper she took the first sip from my glass of champagne, looking at me
over the rim with her caressing glance. But, plainest of all, I could
see her as she danced with her father, gliding along beside him, and
looking at the admiring observers with pride and happi- ness.
"He and she were united in my mind in one rush of pathetic
"I was living then with my brother, who has since died. He
disliked going out, and never went to dances; and besides, he was busy
preparing for his last university examinations, and was leading a very
regular life. He was asleep. I looked at him, his head buried in the
pillow and half covered with the quilt; and I affectionately pitied
him, pitied him for his ignorance of the bliss I was ex- periencing.
Our serf Petrusha had met me with a candle, ready to undress me, but I
sent him away. His sleepy face and tousled hair seemed to me so
touching. Trying not to make a noise, I went to my room on tiptoe and
sat down on my bed. No, I was too happy; I could not sleep. Besides,
it was too hot in the rooms. Without taking off my uniform, I went
quietly into the hall, put on my overcoat, opened the front door and
stepped out into the street.
"It was after four when I had left the ball; going home and
stopping there a while had occu- pied two hours, so by the time I went
out it was dawn. It was regular carnival weather--foggy, and the road
full of water-soaked snow just melt- ing, and water dripping from the
eaves. Varin- ka's family lived on the edge of town near a large
field, one end of which was a parade ground: at the other end was a
boarding-school for young ladies. I passed through our empty little
street and came to the main thoroughfare, where I met pedestrians and
sledges laden with wood, the run- ners grating the road. The horses
swung with regular paces beneath their shining yokes, their backs
covered with straw mats and their heads wet with rain; while the
drivers, in enormous boots, splashed through the mud beside the
sledges. All this, the very horses themselves, seemed to me
stimulating and fascinating, full of suggestion.
"When I approached the field near their house, I saw at one end of
it, in the direction of the pa- rade ground, something very huge and
black, and I heard sounds of fife and drum proceeding from it. My heart
had been full of song, and I had heard in imagination the tune of the
mazurka, but this was very harsh music. It was not pleas- ant.
"'What can that be?' I thought, and went towards the sound by a
slippery path through the centre of the field. Walking about a hundred
paces, I began to distinguish many black objects through the mist.
They were evidently soldiers. 'It is probably a drill,' I thought.
"So I went along in that direction in company with a blacksmith,
who wore a dirty coat and an apron, and was carrying something. He
walked ahead of me as we approached the place. The soldiers in black
uniforms stood in two rows, fac- ing each other motionless, their guns
at rest. Be- hind them stood the fifes and drums, incessantly
repeating the same unpleasant tune.
"'What are they doing?' I asked the black- smith, who halted at my
"'A Tartar is being beaten through the ranks for his attempt to
desert,' said the blacksmith in an angry tone, as he looked intently at
the far end of the line.
"I looked in the same direction, and saw be- tween the files
something horrid approaching me. The thing that approached was a man,
stripped to the waist, fastened with cords to the guns of two soldiers
who were leading him. At his side an officer in overcoat and cap was
walking, whose figure had a familiar look. The victim advanced under
the blows that rained upon him from both sides, his whole body
plunging, his feet dragging through the snow. Now he threw himself
back- ward, and the subalterns who led him thrust him forward. Now he
fell forward, and they pulled him up short; while ever at his side
marched the tall officer, with firm and nervous pace. It was Varinka's
father, with his rosy face and white moustache.
"At each stroke the man, as if amazed, turned his face, grimacing
with pain, towards the side whence the blow came, and showing his white
teeth repeated the same words over and over. But I could only hear
what the words were when he came quite near. He did not speak them, he
sobbed them out,--
"'Brothers, have mercy on me! Brothers, have mercy on me!' But the
brothers had, no mercy, and when the procession came close to me, I saw
how a soldier who stood opposite me took a firm step forward and
lifting his stick with a whirr, brought it down upon the man's back.
The man plunged forward, but the subalterns pulled him back, and
another blow came down from the other side, then from this side and
then from the other. The colonel marched beside him, and looking now
at his feet and now at the man, inhaled the air, puffed out his cheeks,
and breathed it out between his protruded lips. When they passed the
place where I stood, I caught a glimpse between the two files of the
back of the man that was being pun- ished. It was something so
many-coloured, wet, red, unnatural, that I could hardly believe it was
a human body.
"'My God!' muttered the blacksmith.
The procession moved farther away. The blows continued to rain
upon the writhing, falling creature; the fifes shrilled and the drums
beat, and the tall imposing figure of the colonel moved along- side the
man, just as before. Then, suddenly, the colonel stopped, and rapidly
approached a man in the ranks.
"'I'll teach you to hit him gently,' I heard his furious voice say.
'Will you pat him like that? Will you?' and I saw how his strong hand
in the suede glove struck the weak, bloodless, terrified soldier for
not bringing down his stick with suffi- cient strength on the red neck
of the Tartar.
"'Bring new sticks!' he cried, and looking round, he saw me.
Assuming an air of not know- ing me, and with a ferocious, angry
frown, he hastily turned away. I felt so utterly ashamed that I didn't
know where to look. It was as if I had been detected in a disgraceful
act. I dropped my eyes, and quickly hurried home. All the way I had
the drums beating and the fifes whistling in my ears. And I heard the
words, 'Brothers, have mercy on me!' or 'Will you pat him? Will you?'
My heart was full of physical disgust that was almost sickness. So
much so that I halted sev- eral times on my way, for I had the feeling
that I was going to be really sick from all the horrors that possessed
me at that sight. I do not remem- ber how I got home and got to bed.
But the mo- ment I was about to fall asleep I heard and saw again all
that had happened, and I sprang up.
"'Evidently he knows something I do not know,' I thought about the
colonel. 'If I knew what he knows I should certainly grasp--under-
stand--what I have just seen, and it would not cause me such
"But however much I thought about it, I could not understand the
thing that the colonel knew. It was evening before I could get to
sleep, and then only after calling on a friend and drinking till I; was
"Do you think I had come to the conclusion that the deed I had
witnessed was wicked? Oh, no. Since it was done with such assurance,
and was rec- ognised by every one as indispensable, they doubt- less
knew something which I did not know. So I thought, and tried to
understand. But no matter, I could never understand it, then or
afterwards. And not being able to grasp it, I could not enter the
service as I had intended. I don't mean only the military service: I
did not enter the Civil Serv- ice either. And so I have been of no use
whatever, as you can see."
"Yes, we know how useless you've been," said one of us. "Tell us,
rather, how many people would be of any use at all if it hadn't been
"Oh, that's utter nonsense," said Ivan Vasilie- vich, with genuine
"Well; and what about the love affair?
"My love? It decreased from that day. When, as often happened, she
looked dreamy and meditative, I instantly recollected the colonel on
the parade ground, and I felt so awkward and uncomfortable that I began
to see her less fre- quently. So my love came to naught. Yes; such
chances arise, and they alter and direct a man's whole life," he said
in summing up. "And you say . . ."
ALYOSHA THE POT
ALYOSHA was the younger brother. He was called the Pot, because
his mother had once sent him with a pot of milk to the deacon's wife,
and he had stumbled against something and broken it. His mother had
beaten him, and the children had teased him. Since then he was
nicknamed the Pot. Alyosha was a tiny, thin little fellow, with ears
like wings, and a huge nose. "Alyosha has a nose that looks like a dog
on a hill!" the children used to call after him. Alyosha went to the
village school, but was not good at lessons; besides, there was so
little time to learn. His elder brother was in town, working for a
merchant, so Alyosha had to help his father from a very early age.
When he was no more than six he used to go out with the girls to watch
the cows and sheep in the pasture, and a little later he looked after
the horses by day and by night. And at twelve years of age he had
already begun to plough and to drive the cart. The skill was there
though the strength was not. He was always cheerful. Whenever the
children made fun of him, he would either laugh or be silent. When his
father scolded him he would stand mute and listen attentively, and as
soon as the scolding was over would smile and go on with his work.
Alyosha was nineteen when his brother was taken as a soldier. So his
father placed him with the merchant as a yard-porter. He was given his
brother's old boots, his father's old coat and cap, and was taken to
town. Alyosha was de- lighted with his clothes, but the merchant was
not impressed by his appearance.
"I thought you would bring me a man in Sime- on's place," he said,
scanning Alyosha; "and you've brought me THIS! What's the good of
"He can do everything; look after horses and drive. He's a good
one to work. He looks rather thin, but he's tough enough. And he's
"He looks it. All right; we'll see what we can do with him."
So Alyosha remained at the merchant's.
The family was not a large one. It consisted of the merchant's
wife: her old mother: a married son poorly educated who was in his
father's busi- ness: another son, a learned one who had finished
school and entered the University, but having been expelled, was living
at home: and a daughter who still went to school.
They did not take to Alyosha at first. He was uncouth, badly
dressed, and had no manner, but they soon got used to him. Alyosha
worked even better than his brother had done; he was really very
willing. They sent him on all sorts of er- rands, but he did
everything quickly and readily, going from one task to another without
stopping. And so here, just as at home, all the work was put upon his
shoulders. The more he did, the more he was given to do. His
mistress, her old mother, the son, the daughter, the clerk, and the
cook--all ordered him about, and sent him from one place to another.
"Alyosha, do this! Alyosha, do that! What! have you forgotten,
Alyosha? Mind you don't forget, Alyosha!" was heard from morning till
night. And Alyosha ran here, looked after this and that, forgot
nothing, found time for every- thing, and was always cheerful.
His brother's old boots were soon worn out, and his master scolded
him for going about in tat- ters with his toes sticking out. He
ordered an- other pair to be bought for him in the market. Alyosha was
delighted with his new boots, but was angry with his feet when they
ached at the end of the day after so much running about. And then he
was afraid that his father would be annoyed when he came to town for
his wages, to find that his master had deducted the cost of the boots.
In the winter Alyosha used to get up before day- break. He would
chop the wood, sweep the yard, feed the cows and horses, light the
stoves, clean the boots, prepare the samovars and polish them
afterwards; or the clerk would get him to bring up the goods; or the
cook would set him to knead the bread and clean the saucepans. Then he
was sent to town on various errands, to bring the daughter home from
school, or to get some olive oil for the old mother. "Why the devil
have you been so long?" first one, then another, would say to him. Why
should they go? Alyosha can go. "Alyosha! Alyosha!" And Alyosha ran
here and there. He breakfasted in snatches while he was working, and
rarely managed to get his dinner at the proper hour. The cook used to
scold him for being late, but she was sorry for him all the same, and
would keep something hot for his dinner and supper.
At holiday times there was more work than ever, but Alyosha liked
holidays because everybody gave him a tip. Not much certainly, but it
would amount up to about sixty kopeks [1s 2d]--his very own money. For
Alyosha never set eyes on his wages. His father used to come and take
them from the merchant, and only scold Alyosha for wearing out his
When he had saved up two roubles [4s], by the advice of the cook he
bought himself a red knitted jacket, and was so happy when he put it
on, that he couldn't close his mouth for joy. Alyosha was not
talkative; when he spoke at all, he spoke abruptly, with his head
turned away. When told to do anything, or asked if he could do it, he
would say yes without the smallest hesitation, and set to work at once.
Alyosha did not know any prayer; and had for- gotten what his
mother had taught him. But he prayed just the same, every morning and
every evening, prayed with his hands, crossing himself.
He lived like this for about a year and a half, and towards the end
of the second year a most startling thing happened to him. He
discovered one day, to his great surprise, that, in addition to the
relation of usefulness existing between people, there was also another,
a peculiar relation of quite a different character. Instead of a man
being wanted to clean boots, and go on errands and har- ness horses, he
is not wanted to be of any service at all, but another human being
wants to serve him and pet him. Suddenly Alyosha felt he was such a
He made this discovery through the cook Us- tinia. She was young,
had no parents, and worked as hard as Alyosha. He felt for the first
time in his life that he--not his services, but he himself --was
necessary to another human being. When his mother used to be sorry for
him, he had taken no notice of her. It had seemed to him quite
natural, as though he were feeling sorry for him- self. But here was
Ustinia, a perfect stranger, and sorry for him. She would save him
some hot porridge, and sit watching him, her chin propped on her bare
arm, with the sleeve rolled up, while he was eating it. When he looked
at her she would begin to laugh, and he would laugh too.
This was such a new, strange thing to him that it frightened
Alyosha. He feared that it might interfere with his work. But he was
pleased, nev- ertheless, and when he glanced at the trousers that
Ustinia had mended for him, he would shake his head and smile. He
would often think of her while at work, or when running on errands. "A
fine girl, Ustinia!" he sometimes exclaimed.
Ustinia used to help him whenever she could, and he helped her.
She told him all about her life; how she had lost her parents; how her
aunt had taken her in and found a place for her in the town; how the
merchant's son had tried to take lib- erties with her, and how she had
rebuffed him. She liked to talk, and Alyosha liked to listen to her.
He had heard that peasants who came up to work in the towns frequently
got married to servant girls. On one occasion she asked him if his
par- ents intended marrying him soon. He said that he did not know;
that he did not want to marry any of the village girls.
"Have you taken a fancy to some one, then?"
"I would marry you, if you'd be willing."
"Get along with you, Alyosha the Pot; but you've found your tongue,
haven't you?" she ex- claimed, slapping him on the back with a towel
she held in her hand. "Why shouldn't I?"
At Shrovetide Alyosha's father came to town for his wages. It had
come to the ears of the mer- chant's wife that Alyosha wanted to marry
Ustinia, and she disapproved of it. "What will be the use of her with
a baby?" she thought, and in- formed her husband.
The merchant gave the old man Alyosha's wages.
"How is my lad getting on?" he asked. "I told you he was willing."
"That's all right, as far as it goes, but he's taken some sort of
nonsense into his head. He wants to marry our cook. Now I don't
approve of married servants. We won't have them in the house."
"Well, now, who would have thought the fool would think of such a
thing?" the old man ex- claimed. "But don't you worry. I'll soon
He went into the kitchen, and sat down at the table waiting for his
son. Alyosha was out on an errand, and came back breathless.
"I thought you had some sense in you; but what's this you've taken
into your head?" his father began.
"How, nothing? They tell me you want to get married. You shall get
married when the time comes. I'll find you a decent wife, not some
His father talked and talked, while Alyosha stood still and sighed.
When his father had quite finished, Alyosha smiled.
"All right. I'll drop it."
"Now that's what I call sense."
When he was left alone with Ustinia he told her what his father had
said. (She had listened at the door.)
"It's no good; it can't come off. Did you hear? He was
angry--won't have it at any price."
Ustinia cried into her apron.
Alyosha shook his head.
"What's to be done? We must do as we're told."
"Well, are you going to give up that nonsense, as your father told
you?" his mistress asked, as he was putting up the shutters in the
"To be sure we are," Alyosha replied with a smile, and then burst
From that day Alyosha went about his work as usual, and no longer
talked to Ustinia about their getting married. One day in Lent the
clerk told him to clear the snow from the roof. Alyosha climbed on to
the roof and swept away all the snow; and, while he was still raking
out some frozen lumps from the gutter, his foot slipped and he fell
over. Unfortunately he did not fall on the snow, but on a piece of
iron over the door. Us- tinia came running up, together with the mer-
"Have you hurt yourself, Alyosha?"
"Ah! no, it's nothing."
But he could not raise himself when he tried to, and began to
He was taken into the lodge. The doctor ar- rived, examined him,
and asked where he felt the pain.
"I feel it all over," he said. "But it doesn't matter. I'm only
afraid master will be annoyed. Father ought to be told."
Alyosha lay in bed for two days, and on the third day they sent for
"Are you really going to die?" Ustinia asked.
"Of course I am. You can't go on living for ever. You must go
when the time comes " Aly- osha spoke rapidly as usual. "Thank you,
Us- tinia. You've been very good to me. What a lucky thing they
didn't let us marry! Where should we have been now? It's much better as
When the priest came, he prayed with his bands and with his heart.
"As it is good here when you obey and do no harm to others, so it will
be there," was the thought within it.
He spoke very little; he only said he was thirsty, and he seemed
full of wonder at something.
He lay in wonderment, then stretched himself, and died.
"As a daughter she no longer exists for me. Can't you understand?
She simply doesn't ex- ist. Still, I cannot possibly leave her to the
char- ity of strangers. I will arrange things so that she can live as
she pleases, but I do not wish to hear of her. Who would ever have
thought . . . the horror of it, the horror of it."
He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and raised his eyes.
These words were spoken by Prince Michael Ivanovich to his brother
Peter, who was governor of a province in Central Rus- sia. Prince
Peter was a man of fifty, Michael's junior by ten years.
On discovering that his daughter, who had left his house a year
before, had settled here with her child, the elder brother had come
from St. Peters- burg to the provincial town, where the above con-
versation took place.
Prince Michael Ivanovich was a tall, handsome, white-haired, fresh
coloured man, proud and at- tractive in appearance and bearing. His
family consisted of a vulgar, irritable wife, who wran- gled with him
continually over every petty detail, a son, a ne'er-do-well,
spendthrift and roue-- yet a "gentleman," according to his father's
code, two daughters, of whom the elder had married well, and was living
in St. Petersburg; and the younger, Lisa--his favourite, who had disap-
peared from home a year before. Only a short while ago he had found
her with her child in this provincial town.
Prince Peter wanted to ask his brother how, and under what
circumstances, Lisa had left home, and who could possibly be the father
of her child. But he could not make up his mind to in- quire.
That very morning, when his wife had at- tempted to condole with
her brother-in-law, Prince Peter had observed a look of pain on his
brother's face. The look had at once been masked by an expression of
unapproachable pride, and he had begun to question her about their
flat, and the price she paid. At luncheon, before the family and
guests, he had been witty and sarcastic as usual. Towards every one,
excepting the chil- dren, whom he treated with almost reverent ten-
derness, he adopted an attitude of distant hauteur. And yet it was so
natural to him that every one somehow acknowledged his right to be
In the evening his brother arranged a game of whist. When he
retired to the room which had been made ready for him, and was just
beginning to take out his artificial teeth, some one tapped lightly on
the door with two fingers.
"Who is that?"
"C'est moi, Michael."
Prince Michael Ivanovich recognised the voice of his sister-in-law,
frowned, replaced his teeth, and said to himself, "What does she want?"
Aloud he said, "Entrez."
His sister-in-law was a quiet, gentle creature, who bowed in
submission to her husband's will. But to many she seemed a crank, and
some did not hesitate to call her a fool. She was pretty, but her hair
was always carelessly dressed, and she herself was untidy and
absent-minded. She had, also, the strangest, most unaristocratic
ideas, by no means fitting in the wife of a high official. These ideas
she would express most unexpectedly, to everybody's astonishment, her
husband's no less than her friends'.
"Fous pouvez me renvoyer, mais je ne m'en irai pas, je vous le dis
d'avance," she began, in her characteristic, indifferent way.
"Dieu preserve," answered her brother-in-law, with his usual
somewhat exaggerated politeness, and brought forward a chair for her.
"Ca ne vous derange pas?" she asked, taking out a cigarette. "I'm
not going to say anything unpleasant, Michael. I only wanted to say
some- thing about Lisochka."
Michael Ivanovich sighed--the word pained him; but mastering
himself at once, he answered with a tired smile. "Our conversation can
only be on one subject, and that is the subject you wish to discuss "
He spoke without looking at her, and avoided even naming the subject.
But his plump, pretty little sister-in-law was unabashed. She
continued to regard him with the same gentle, imploring look in her
blue eyes, sighing even more deeply.
"Michael, mon bon ami, have pity on her. She is only human."
"I never doubted that," said Michael Ivano- vich with a bitter
"She is your daughter."
"She was--but my dear Aline, why talk about this?"
"Michael, dear, won't you see her? I only wanted to say, that the
one who is to blame--"
Prince Michael Ivanovich flushed; his face be- came cruel.
"For heaven's sake, let us stop. I have suf- fered enough. I have
now but one desire, and that is to put her in such a position that she
will be independent of others, and that she shall have no further need
of communicating with me. Then she can live her own life, and my
family and I need know nothing more about her. That is all I can do."
"Michael, you say nothing but 'I'! She, too, is 'I.'"
"No doubt; but, dear Aline, please let us drop the matter. I feel
it too deeply."
Alexandra Dmitrievna remained silent for a few moments, shaking her
head. "And Masha, your wife, thinks as you do?"
Alexandra Dmitrievna made an inarticulate sound.
"Brisons la dessus et bonne nuit," said he. But she did not go.
She stood silent a moment. Then,--
"Peter tells me you intend to leave the money with the woman where
she lives. Have you the address?"
"Don't leave it with the woman, Michael! Go yourself. Just see how
she lives. If you don't want to see her, you need not. HE isn't
there; there is no one there."
Michael Ivanovich shuddered violently.
"Why do you torture me so? It's a sin against hospitality!"
Alexandra Dmitrievna rose, and almost in tears, being touched by
her own pleading, said, "She is so miserable, but she is such a dear."
He got up, and stood waiting for her to finish. She held out her
"Michael, you do wrong," said she, and left him.
For a long while after she had gone Michael Ivanovich walked to and
fro on the square of carpet. He frowned and shivered, and ex- claimed,
"Oh, oh!" And then the sound of his own voice frightened him, and he
His wounded pride tortured him. His daugh- ter--his--brought up in
the house of her mother, the famous Avdotia Borisovna, whom the Empress
honoured with her visits, and acquaint- ance with whom was an honour
for all the world! His daughter--; and he had lived his life as a
knight of old, knowing neither fear nor blame. The fact that he had a
natural son born of a Frenchwoman, whom he had settled abroad, did not
lower his own self-esteem. And now this daughter, for whom he had not
only done every- thing that a father could and should do; this daughter
to whom he had given a splendid educa- tion and every opportunity to
make a match in the best Russian society--this daughter to whom he had
not only given all that a girl could desire, but whom he had really
LOVED; whom he had admired, been proud of--this daughter had repaid him
with such disgrace, that he was ashamed and could not face the eyes of
He recalled the time when she was not merely his child, and a
member of his family, but his darling, his joy and his pride. He saw
her again, a little thing of eight or nine, bright, intelligent,
lively, impetuous, graceful, with brilliant black eyes and flowing
auburn hair. He remembered how she used to jump up on his knees and
hug him, and tickle his neck; and how she would laugh, regardless of
his protests, and continue to tickle him, and kiss his lips, his eyes,
and his cheeks. He was naturally opposed to all demonstration, but
this impetuous love moved him, and he often submitted to her petting.
He remembered also how sweet it was to caress her. To remember all
this, when that sweet child had become what she now was, a creature of
whom he could not think without loathing.
He also recalled the time when she was growing into womanhood, and
the curious feeling of fear and anger that he experienced when he
became aware that men regarded her as a woman. He thought of his
jealous love when she came coquet- tishly to him dressed for a ball,
and knowing that she was pretty. He dreaded the passionate glances
which fell upon her, that she not only did not understand but rejoiced
in. "Yes," thought he, "that superstition of woman's purity! Quite
the contrary, they do not know shame--they lack this sense " He
remembered how, quite inexpli- cably to him, she had refused two very
good suit- ors. She had become more and more fascinated by her own
success in the round of gaieties she lived in.
But this success could not last long. A year passed, then two,
then three. She was a familiar figure, beautiful--but her first youth
had passed, and she had become somehow part of the ball- room
furniture. Michael Ivanovich remembered how he had realised that she
was on the road to spinsterhood, and desired but one thing for her. He
must get her married off as quickly as possible, perhaps not quite so
well as might have been ar- ranged earlier, but still a respectable
But it seemed to him she had behaved with a pride that bordered on
insolence. Remembering this, his anger rose more and more fiercely
against her. To think of her refusing so many decent men, only to end
in this disgrace. "Oh, oh!" he groaned again.
Then stopping, he lit a cigarette, and tried to think of other
things. He would send her money, without ever letting her see him.
But memories came again. He remembered--it was not so very long ago,
for she was more than twenty then --her beginning a flirtation with a
boy of four- teen, a cadet of the Corps of Pages who had been staying
with them in the country. She had driven the boy half crazy; he had
wept in his distraction. Then how she had rebuked her father severely,
coldly, and even rudely, when, to put an end to this stupid affair, he
had sent the boy away. She seemed somehow to consider herself
insulted. Since then father and daughter had drifted into undisguised
"I was right," he said to himself. "She is a wicked and shameless
And then, as a last ghastly memory, there was the letter from
Moscow, in which she wrote that she could not return home; that she was
a miser- able, abandoned woman, asking only to be for- given and
forgotten. Then the horrid recollec- tion of the scene with his wife
came to him; their surmises and their suspicions, which became a cer-
tainty. The calamity had happened in Finland, where they had let her
visit her aunt; and the culprit was an insignificant Swede, a student,
an empty-headed, worthless creature--and married.
All this came back to him now as he paced backwards and forwards on
the bedroom carpet, recollecting his former love for her, his pride in
her. He recoiled with terror before the incom- prehensible fact of her
downfall, and he hated her for the agony she was causing him. He
remem- bered the conversation with his sister-in-law, and tried to
imagine how he might forgive her. But as soon as the thought of "him"
arose, there surged up in his heart horror, disgust, and wounded pride.
He groaned aloud, and tried to think of something else.
"No, it is impossible; I will hand over the money to Peter to give
her monthly. And as for me, I have no longer a daughter."
And again a curious feeling overpowered him: a mixture of self-pity
at the recollection of his love for her, and of fury against her for
causing him this anguish.
DURING the last year Lisa had without doubt lived through more than
in all the preceding twenty-five. Suddenly she had realised the empti-
ness of her whole life. It rose before her, base and sordid--this life
at home and among the rich set in St. Petersburg--this animal existence
that never sounded the depths, but only touched the shallows of life.
It was well enough for a year or two, or per- haps even three. But
when it went on for seven or eight years, with its parties, balls,
concerts, and suppers; with its costumes and coiffures to display the
charms of the body; with its adorers old and young, all alike seemingly
possessed of some unaccountable right to have everything, to laugh at
everything; and with its summer months spent in the same way,
everything yielding but a superficial pleasure, even music and reading
merely touching upon life's problems, but never solving them--all this
holding out no promise of change, and losing its charm more and
more--she began to despair. She had desperate moods when she longed to
Her friends directed her thoughts to charity. On the one hand, she
saw poverty which was real and repulsive, and a sham poverty even more
re- pulsive and pitiable; on the other, she saw the ter- rible
indifference of the lady patronesses who came in carriages and gowns
worth thousands. Life became to her more and more unbearable. She
yearned for something real, for life itself--not this playing at
living, not this skimming life of its cream. Of real life there was
none. The best of her memories was her love for the little cadet Koko.
That had been a good, honest, straight- forward impulse, and now there
was nothing like it. There could not be. She grew more and more
depressed, and in this gloomy mood she went to visit an aunt in
Finland. The fresh scenery and surroundings, the people strangely
different to her own, appealed to her at any rate as a new experience.
How and when it all began she could not clearly remember. Her aunt
had another guest, a Swede. He talked of his work, his people, the
latest Swedish novel. Somehow, she herself did not know how that
terrible fascination of glances and smiles began, the meaning of which
cannot be put into words.
These smiles and glances seemed to reveal to each, not only the
soul of the other, but some vital and universal mystery. Every word
they spoke was invested by these smiles with a pro- found and wonderful
significance. Music, too, when they were listening together, or when
they sang duets, became full of the same deep meaning. So, also, the
words in the books they read aloud. Sometimes they would argue, but
the moment their eyes met, or a smile flashed between them, the
discussion remained far behind. They soared beyond it to some higher
plane consecrated to themselves.
How it had come about, how and when the devil, who had seized hold
of them both, first appeared behind these smiles and glances, she could
not say. But, when terror first seized her, the invisible threads that
bound them were already so interwoven that she had no power to tear
her- self free. She could only count on him and on his honour. She
hoped that he would not make use of his power; yet all the while she
vaguely de- sired it.
Her weakness was the greater, because she had nothing to support
her in the struggle. She was weary of society life and she had no
affection for her mother. Her father, so she thought, had cast her
away from him, and she longed passion- ately to live and to have done
with play. Love, the perfect love of a woman for a man, held the
promise of life for her. Her strong, passionate nature, too, was
dragging her thither. In the tall, strong figure of this man, with his
fair hair and light upturned moustache, under which shone a smile
attractive and compelling, she saw the prom- ise of that life for which
she longed. And then the smiles and glances, the hope of something so
incredibly beautiful, led, as they were bound to lead, to that which
she feared but unconsciously awaited.
Suddenly all that was beautiful, joyous, spir- itual, and full of
promise for the future, became animal and sordid, sad and despairing.
She looked into his eyes and tried to smile, pretending that she
feared nothing, that every- thing was as it should be; but deep down in
her soul she knew it was all over. She understood that she had not
found in him what she had sought; that which she had once known in
herself and in Koko. She told him that he must write to her father
asking her hand in marriage. This he promised to do; but when she met
him next he said it was impossible for him to write just then. She saw
something vague and furtive in his eyes, and her distrust of him grew.
The following day he wrote to her, telling her that he was already
mar- ried, though his wife had left him long since; that he knew she
would despise him for the wrong he had done her, and implored her
forgiveness. She made him come to see her. She said she loved him;
that she felt herself bound to him for ever whether he was married or
not, and would never leave him. The next time they met he told her
that he and his parents were so poor that he could only offer her the
meanest existence. She answered that she needed nothing, and was ready
to go with him at once wherever he wished. He endeavoured to dissuade
her, advising her to wait; and so she waited. But to live on with this
se- cret, with occasional meetings, and merely cor- responding with
him, all hidden from her family, was agonising, and she insisted again
that he must take her away. At first, when she returned to St.
Petersburg, be wrote promising to come, and then letters ceased and she
knew no more of him.
She tried to lead her old life, but it was im- possible. She fell
ill, and the efforts of the doc- tors were unavailing; in her
hopelessness she resolved to kill herself. But how was she to do this,
so that her death might seem natural? She really desired to take her
life, and imagined that she had irrevocably decided on the step. So,
ob- taining some poison, she poured it into a glass, and in another
instant would have drunk it, had not her sister's little son of five at
that very mo- ment run in to show her a toy his grandmother had given
him. She caressed the child, and, suddenly stopping short, burst into
The thought overpowered her that she, too, might have been a mother
had he not been mar- ried, and this vision of motherhood made her look
into her own soul for the first time. She began to think not of what
others would say of her, but of her own life. To kill oneself because
of what the world might say was easy; but the moment she saw her own
life dissociated from the world, to take that life was out of the
question. She threw away the poison, and ceased to think of sui- cide.
Then her life within began. It was real life, and despite the
torture of it, had the possibility been given her, she would not have
turned back from it. She began to pray, but there was no comfort in
prayer; and her suffering was less for herself than for her father,
whose grief she fore- saw and understood.
Thus months dragged along, and then some- thing happened which
entirely transformed her life. One day, when she was at work upon a
quilt, she suddenly experienced a strange sensa- tion. No--it seemed
impossible. Motionless she sat with her work in hand. Was it possi-
ble that this was IT. Forgetting everything, his baseness and deceit,
her mother's querulousness, and her father's sorrow, she smiled. She
shud- dered at the recollection that she was on the point of killing
it, together with herself.
She now directed all her thoughts to getting away--somewhere where
she could bear her child--and become a miserable, pitiful mother, but a
mother withal. Somehow she planned and arranged it all, leaving her
home and settling in a distant provincial town, where no one could find
her, and where she thought she would be far from her people. But,
unfortunately, her father's brother received an appointment there, a
thing she could not possibly foresee. For four months she had been
living in the house of a midwife--one Maria Ivanovna; and, on learning
that her uncle had come to the town, she was preparing to fly to a
still remoter hiding-place.
MICHAEL IVANOVICH awoke early next morning. He entered his
brother's study, and handed him the cheque, filled in for a sum which
he asked him to pay in monthly instalments to his daughter. He
inquired when the express left for St. Peters- burg. The train left at
seven in the evening, giving him time for an early dinner before leav-
ing. He breakfasted with his sister-in-law, who refrained from
mentioning the subject which was so painful to him, but only looked at
him timidly; and after breakfast he went out for his regular morning
Alexandra Dmitrievna followed him into the hall.
"Go into the public gardens, Michael--it is very charming there,
and quite near to Every- thing," said she, meeting his sombre looks
with a pathetic glance.
Michael Ivanovich followed her advice and went to the public
gardens, which were so near to Everything, and meditated with annoyance
on the stupidity, the obstinacy, and heartlessness of women.
"She is not in the very least sorry for me," he thought of his
sister-in-law. "She cannot even understand my sorrow. And what of
her?" He was thinking of his daughter. "She knows what all this means
to me--the torture. What a blow in one's old age! My days will be
short- ened by it! But I'd rather have it over than endure this agony.
And all that 'pour les beaux yeux d'un chenapan'--oh!" he moaned; and
a wave of hatred and fury arose in him as he thought of what would be
said in the town when every one knew. (And no doubt every one knew
already.) Such a feeling of rage possessed him that he would have
liked to beat it into her head, and make her understand what she had
done. These women never understand. "It is quite near Everything,"
suddenly came to his mind, and getting out his notebook, he found her
address. Vera Ivanovna Silvestrova, Kukonskaya Street, Abromov's
house. She was living under this name. He left the gardens and called
"Whom do you wish to see, sir?" asked the midwife, Maria Ivanovna,
when he stepped on the narrow landing of the steep, stuffy staircase.
"Does Madame Silvestrova live here?"
"Vera Ivanovna? Yes; please come in. She has gone out; she's gone
to the shop round the corner. But she'll be back in a minute."
Michael Ivanovich followed the stout figure of Maria Ivanovna into
a tiny parlour, and from the next room came the screams of a baby,
sounding cross and peevish, which filled him with disgust. They cut
him like a knife.
Maria Ivanovna apologised, and went into the room, and he could
hear her soothing the child. The child became quiet, and she returned.
"That is her baby; she'll be back in a minute. You are a friend of
hers, I suppose?"
"Yes--a friend--but I think I had better come back later on," said
Michael Ivanovich, pre- paring to go. It was too unbearable, this
prep- aration to meet her, and any explanation seemed impossible.
He had just turned to leave, when he heard quick, light steps on
the stairs, and he recognised Lisa's voice.
"Maria Ivanovna--has he been crying while I've been gone--I was--"
Then she saw her father. The parcel she was carrying fell from her
"Father!" she cried, and stopped in the door- way, white and
He remained motionless, staring at her. She had grown so thin.
Her eyes were larger, her nose sharper, her hands worn and bony. He
neither knew what to do, nor what to say. He forgot all his grief
about his dishonour. He only felt sorrow, infinite sorrow for her;
sorrow for her thinness, and for her miserable rough cloth- ing; and
most of all, for her pitiful face and im- ploring eyes.
"Father--forgive," she said, moving towards him.
"Forgive--forgive me," he murmured; and he began to sob like a
child, kissing her face and hands, and wetting them with his tears.
In his pity for her he understood himself. And when he saw himself
as he was, he realised how he had wronged her, how guilty he had been
in his pride, in his coldness, even in his anger towards her. He was
glad that it was he who was guilty, and that he had nothing to forgive,
but that he himself needed forgiveness. She took him to her tiny room,
and told him how she lived; but she did not show him the child, nor did
she mention the past, knowing how painful it would be to him.
He told her that she must live differently.
"Yes; if I could only live in the country," said she.
"We will talk it over," he said. Suddenly the child began to wail
and to scream. She opened her eyes very wide; and, not taking them
from her father's face, remained hesitating and motionless.
"Well--I suppose you must feed him," said Michael Ivanovich, and
frowned with the obvious effort.
She got up, and suddenly the wild idea seized her to show him whom
she loved so deeply the thing she now loved best of all in the world.
But first she looked at her father's face. Would he be angry or not?
His face revealed no anger, only suffering.
"Yes, go, go," said he; "God bless you. Yes. I'll come again
to-morrow, and we will decide. Good-bye, my darling--good-bye " Again
he found it hard to swallow the lump in his throat.
When Michael Ivanovich returned to his brother's house, Alexandra
Dmitrievna imme- diately rushed to him.
"Have you seen?" she asked, guessing from his expression that
something had happened.
"Yes," he answered shortly, and began to cry. "I'm getting old and
stupid," said he, mastering his emotion.
"No; you are growing wise--very wise."
THERE ARE NO GUILTY PEOPLE
MINE is a strange and wonderful lot! The chances are that there is
not a single wretched beggar suffering under the luxury and oppression
of the rich who feels anything like as keenly as I do either the
injustice, the cruelty, and the horror of their oppression of and
contempt for the poor; or the grinding humiliation and misery which
befall the great majority of the workers, the real producers of all
that makes life possible. I have felt this for a long time, and as the
years have passed by the feeling has grown and grown, until recently it
reached its climax. Although I feel all this so vividly, I still live
on amid the depravity and sins of rich society; and I cannot leave it,
because I have neither the knowledge nor the strength to do so. I
cannot. I do not know how to change my life so that my physical needs
--food, sleep, clothing, my going to and fro-- may be satisfied without
a sense of shame and wrongdoing in the position which I fill.
There was a time when I tried to change my position, which was not
in harmony with my conscience; but the conditions created by the past,
by my family and its claims upon me, were so complicated that they
would not let me out of their grasp, or rather, I did not know how to
free myself. I had not the strength. Now that I am over eighty and
have become feeble, I have given up trying to free myself; and, strange
to say, as my feebleness increases I realise more and more strongly the
wrongfulness of my position, and it grows more and more intolerable to
It has occurred to me that I do not occupy this position for
nothing: that Providence intended that I should lay bare the truth of
my feelings, so that I might atone for all that causes my suffering,
and might perhaps open the eyes of those--or at least of some of
those--who are still blind to what I see so clearly, and thus might
lighten the burden of that vast majority who, under existing
conditions, are subjected to bodily and spiritual suffering by those
who deceive them and also deceive themselves. Indeed, it may be that
the position which I occupy gives me special facilities for revealing
the artificial and criminal relations which exist between men--for
telling the whole truth in regard to that position without confusing
the issue by attempting to vindicate myself, and without rousing the
envy of the rich and feelings of oppression in the hearts of the poor
and down- trodden. I am so placed that I not only have no desire to
vindicate myself; but, on the contrary, I find it necessary to make an
effort lest I should exaggerate the wickedness of the great among whom
I live, of whose society I am ashamed, whose attitude towards their
fellow-men I detest with my whole soul, though I find it impossible to
separate my lot from theirs. But I must also avoid the error of those
democrats and others who, in defending the oppressed and the enslaved,
do not see their failings and mistakes, and who do not make sufficient
allowance for the difficulties created, the mistakes inherited from the
past, which in a degree lessens the responsibility of the upper
Free from desire for self-vindication, free from fear of an
emancipated people, free from that envy and hatred which the oppressed
feel for their oppressors, I am in the best possible position to see
the truth and to tell it. Perhaps that is why Providence placed me in
such a position. I will do my best to turn it to account.
Alexander Ivanovich Volgin, a bachelor and a clerk in a Moscow bank
at a salary of eight thousand roubles a year, a man much respected in
his own set, was staying in a country-house. His host was a wealthy
landowner, owning some twenty-five hundred acres, and had married his
guest's cousin. Volgin, tired after an evening spent in playing vint*
for small stakes with [* A game of cards similar to auction bridge.]
members of the family, went to his room and placed his watch, silver
cigarette-case, pocket-book, big leather purse, and pocket-brush and
comb on a small table covered with a white cloth, and then, taking off
his coat, waistcoat, shirt, trousers, and underclothes, his silk socks
and English boots, put on his nightshirt and dressing-gown. His watch
pointed to midnight. Volgin smoked a cigarette, lay on his face for
about five minutes reviewing the day's impressions; then, blowing out
his candle, he turned over on his side and fell asleep about one
o'clock, in spite of a good deal of rest- lessness. Awaking next
morning at eight he put on his slippers and dressing-gown, and rang the
The old butler, Stephen, the father of a
family and the grandfather of six grandchildren, who had served in
that house for thirty years, entered the room hurriedly, with bent
legs, carry- ing in the newly blackened boots which Volgin had taken
off the night before, a well-brushed suit, and a clean shirt. The
guest thanked him, and then asked what the weather was like (the blinds
were drawn so that the sun should not prevent any one from sleeping
till eleven o'clock if he were so inclined), and whether his hosts had
slept well. He glanced at his watch--it was still early-- and began to
wash and dress. His water was ready, and everything on the
washing-stand and dressing-table was ready for use and properly laid
out--his soap, his tooth and hair brushes, his nail scissors and files.
He washed his hands and face in a leisurely fashion, cleaned and
manicured his nails, pushed back the skin with the towel, and sponged
his stout white body from head to foot. Then he began to brush his
hair. Standing in front of the mirror, he first brushed his curly
beard, which was beginning to turn grey, with two English brushes,
parting it down the middle. Then he combed his hair, which was already
show- ing signs of getting thin, with a large tortoise- shell comb.
Putting on his underlinen, his socks, his boots, his trousers--which
were held up by elegant braces--and his waistcoat, he sat down coatless
in an easy chair to rest after dressing, lit a cigarette, and began to
think where he should go for a walk that morning--to the park or to
Lit- tleports (what a funny name for a wood!). He thought he would go
to Littleports. Then he must answer Simon Nicholaevich's letter; but
there was time enough for that. Getting up with an air of resolution,
he took out his watch. It was already five minutes to nine. He put
his watch into his waistcoat pocket, and his purse-- with all that was
left of the hundred and eighty roubles he had taken for his journey,
and for the incidental expenses of his fortnight's stay with his
cousin--and then he placed into his trouser pocket his cigarette-case
and electric cigarette- lighter, and two clean handkerchiefs into his
coat pockets, and went out of the room, leaving as usual the mess and
confusion which he had made to be cleared up by Stephen, an old man of
over fifty. Stephen expected Volgin to "remunerate" him, as he said,
being so accustomed to the work that he did not feel the slightest
repugnance for it. Glancing at a mirror, and feeling satisfied with
his appearance, Volgin went into the dining-room.
There, thanks to the efforts of the housekeeper, the footman, and
under-butler--the latter had risen at dawn in order to run home to
sharpen his son's scythe--breakfast was ready. On a spot- less white
cloth stood a boiling, shiny, silver samovar (at least it looked like
silver), a coffee- pot, hot milk, cream, butter, and all sorts of fancy
white bread and biscuits. The only persons at table were the second
son of the house, his tutor (a student), and the secretary. The host,
who was an active member of the Zemstvo and a great farmer, had already
left the house, having gone at eight o'clock to attend to his work.
Volgin, while drinking his coffee, talked to the student and the
secretary about the weather, and yester- day's vint, and discussed
Theodorite's peculiar be- haviour the night before, as he had been very
rude to his father without the slightest cause. Theodorite was the
grown-up son of the house, and a ne'er-do-well. His name was Theodore,
but some one had once called him Theodorite either as a joke or to
tease him; and, as it seemed funny, the name stuck to him, although his
doings were no longer in the least amusing. So it was now. He had
been to the university, but left it in his second year, and joined a
regiment of horse guards; but he gave that up also, and was now living
in the country, doing nothing, finding fault, and feeling discontented
with everything. Theo- dorite was still in bed: so were the other
members of the household--Anna Mikhailovna, its mis- tress; her sister,
the widow of a general; and a landscape painter who lived with the
Volgin took his panama hat from the hall table (it had cost twenty
roubles) and his cane with its carved ivory handle, and went out.
Crossing the veranda, gay with flowers, he walked through the flower
garden, in the centre of which was a raised round bed, with rings of
red, white, and blue flowers, and the initials of the mistress of the
house done in carpet bedding in the centre. Leaving the flower garden
Volgin entered the avenue of lime trees, hundreds of years old, which
peasant girls were tidying and sweeping with spades and brooms. The
gardener was busy measuring, and a boy was bringing something in a
cart. Passing these Volgin went into the park of at least a hundred
and twenty-five acres, filled with fine old trees, and intersected by a
network of well-kept walks. Smoking as he strolled Volgin took his
favourite path past the summer-house into the fields beyond. It was
pleasant in the park, but it was still nicer in the fields. On the
right some women who were dig- ging potatoes formed a mass of bright
red and white colour; on the left were wheat fields, mead- ows, and
grazing cattle; and in the foreground, slightly to the right, were the
dark, dark oaks of Littleports. Volgin took a deep breath, and felt
glad that he was alive, especially here in his cousin's home, where he
was so thoroughly en- joying the rest from his work at the bank.
"Lucky people to live in the country," he thought. "True, what
with his farming and his Zemstvo, the owner of the estate has very
little peace even in the country, but that is his own lookout " Volgin
shook his head, lit another cigarette, and, stepping out firmly with
his power- ful feet clad in his thick English boots, began to think of
the heavy winter's work in the bank that was in front of him. "I shall
be there every day from ten to two, sometimes even till five. And the
board meetings . . . And private inter- views with clients. . . .
Then the Duma. Whereas here. . . . It is delightful. It may be a
little dull, but it is not for long " He smiled. After a stroll in
Littleports he turned back, going straight across a fallow field which
was being ploughed. A herd of cows, calves, sheep, and pigs, which
belonged to the village community, was grazing there. The shortest way
to the park was to pass through the herd. He frightened the sheep,
which ran away one after another, and were followed by the pigs, of
which two little ones stared solemnly at him. The shepherd boy called
to the sheep and cracked his whip. "How far behind Europe we are,"
thought Volgin, recalling his frequent holidays abroad. "You would not
find a single cow like that anywhere in Europe " Then, wanting to find
out where the path which branched off from the one he was on led to and
who was the owner of the herd, he called to the boy.
"Whose herd is it?"
The boy was so filled with wonder, verging on terror, when he gazed
at the hat, the well-brushed beard, and above all the gold-rimmed
eyeglasses, that he could not reply at once. When Volgin repeated his
question the boy pulled himself to- gether, and said, "Ours." "But
whose is 'ours'?" said Volgin, shaking his head and smiling. The boy
was wearing shoes of plaited birch bark, bands of linen round his legs,
a dirty, unbleached shirt ragged at the shoulder, and a cap the peak of
which had been torn.
"Whose is 'ours'?"
"The Pirogov village herd."
"How old are you?
"I don't know."
"Can you read?"
"No, I can't."
"Didn't you go to school?"
"Yes, I did."
"Couldn't you learn to read?"
"Where does that path lead?"
The boy told him, and Volgin went on to- wards the house, thinking
how he would chaff Nicholas Petrovich about the deplorable condi- tion
of the village schools in spite of all his ef- forts.
On approaching the house Volgin looked at his watch, and saw that
it was already past eleven. He remembered that Nicholas Petrovich was
going to drive to the nearest town, and that he had meant to give him a
letter to post to Moscow; but the letter was not written. The letter
was a very important one to a friend, asking him to bid for him for a
picture of the Madonna which was to be offered for sale at an auction.
As he reached the house he saw at the door four big, well-fed,
well-groomed, thoroughbred horses har- nessed to a carriage, the black
lacquer of which glistened in the sun. The coachman was seated on the
box in a kaftan, with a silver belt, and the horses were jingling their
silver bells from time to time.
A bare-headed, bare-footed peasant in a ragged kaftan stood at the
front door. He bowed. Volgin asked what he wanted.
"I have come to see Nicholas Petrovich."
"Because I am in distress--my horse has died."
Volgin began to question him. The peasant told him how he was
situated. He had five chil- dren, and this had been his only horse.
Now it was gone. He wept.
"What are you going to do?"
"To beg " And he knelt down, and remained kneeling in spite of
"What is your name?"
"Mitri Sudarikov," answered the peasant, still kneeling.
Volgin took three roubles from his purse and gave them to the
peasant, who showed his grat- itude by touching the ground with his
forehead, and then went into the house. His host was standing in the
"Where is your letter?" he asked, approach- ing Volgin; "I am just
"I'm awfully sorry, I'll write it this minute, if you will let me.
I forgot all about it. It's so pleasant here that one can forget
"All right, but do be quick. The horses have already been standing
a quarter of an hour, and the flies are biting viciously. Can you
wait, Ar- senty?" he asked the coachman.
"Why not?" said the coachman, thinking to himself, "why do they
order the horses when they aren't ready? The rush the grooms and I
had--just to stand here and feed the flies."
"Directly, directly," Volgin went towards his room, but turned back
to ask Nicholas Petrovich about the begging peasant.
"Did you see him?--He's a drunkard, but still he is to be pitied.
Do be quick!"
Volgin got out his case, with all the requisites for writing, wrote
the letter, made out a cheque for a hundred and eighty roubles, and,
sealing down the envelope, took it to Nicholas Petrovich.
Volgin read the newspapers till luncheon. He only read the Liberal
papers: The Russian Gazette, Speech, sometimes The Russian Word --but
he would not touch The New Times, to which his host subscribed.
While he was scanning at his ease the political news, the Tsar's
doings, the doings of President, and ministers and decisions in the
Duma, and was just about to pass on to the general news, thea- tres,
science, murders and cholera, he heard the luncheon bell ring.
Thanks to the efforts of upwards of ten human beings--counting
laundresses, gardeners, cooks, kitchen-maids, butlers and footmen--the
table was sumptuously laid for eight, with silver water- jugs,
decanters, kvass, wine, mineral waters, cut glass, and fine table
linen, while two men-servants were continually hurrying to and fro,
bringing in and serving, and then clearing away the hors d'oeuvre and
the various hot and cold courses.
The hostess talked incessantly about every- thing that she had been
doing, thinking, and say- ing; and she evidently considered that
everything that she thought, said, or did was perfect, and that it
would please every one except those who were fools. Volgin felt and
knew that every- thing she said was stupid, but it would never do to
let it be seen, and so he kept up the conversa- tion. Theodorite was
glum and silent; the stu- dent occasionally exchanged a few words with
the widow. Now and again there was a pause in the conversation, and
then Theodorite interposed, and every one became miserably depressed.
At such moments the hostess ordered some dish that had not been
served, and the footman hurried off to the kitchen, or to the
housekeeper, and hur- ried back again. Nobody felt inclined either to
talk or to eat. But they all forced themselves to eat and to talk, and
so luncheon went on.
The peasant who had been begging because his horse had died was
named Mitri Sudarikov. He had spent the whole day before he went to
the squire over his dead horse. First of all he went to the knacker,
Sanin, who lived in a village near. The knacker was out, but he waited
for him, and it was dinner-time when he had finished bargain- ing over
the price of the skin. Then he bor- rowed a neighbour's horse to take
his own to a field to be buried, as it is forbidden to bury dead
animals near a village. Adrian would not lend his horse because he was
getting in his potatoes, but Stephen took pity on Mitri and gave way to
his persuasion. He even lent a hand in lifting the dead horse into the
cart. Mitri tore off the shoes from the forelegs and gave them to his
wife. One was broken, but the other one was whole. While he was
digging the grave with a spade which was very blunt, the knacker
appeared and took off the skin; and the carcass was then thrown into
the hole and covered up. Mitri felt tired, and went into Matrena's
hut, where he drank half a bottle of vodka with Sanin to con- sole
himself. Then he went home, quarrelled with his wife, and lay down to
sleep on the hay. He did not undress, but slept just as he was, with a
ragged coat for a coverlet. His wife was in the hut with the
girls--there were four of them, and the youngest was only five weeks
old. Mitri woke up before dawn as usual. He groaned as the memory of
the day before broke in upon him --how the horse had struggled and
struggled, and then fallen down. Now there was no horse, and all he
had was the price of the skin, four roubles and eighty kopeks. Getting
up he ar- ranged the linen bands on his legs, and went through the yard
into the hut. His wife was put- ting straw into the stove with one
hand, with the other she was holding a baby girl to her breast, which
was hanging out of her dirty chemise.
Mitri crossed himself three times, turning towards the corner in
which the ikons hung, and repeated some utterly meaningless words,
which he called prayers, to the Trinity and the Virgin, the Creed and
"Isn't there any water?"
"The girl's gone for it. I've got some tea. Will you go up to the
"Yes, I'd better " The smoke from the stove made him cough. He
took a rag off the wooden bench and went into the porch. The girl had
just come back with the water. Mitri filled his mouth with water from
the pail and squirted it out on his hands, took some more in his mouth
to wash his face, dried himself with the rag, then parted and smoothed
his curly hair with his fin- gers and went out. A little girl of about
ten, with nothing on but a dirty shirt, came towards him.
"Good-morning, Uncle Mitri," she said; "you are to come and thrash."
"All right, I'll come," replied Mitri. He understood that he was
expected to return the help given the week before by Kumushkir, a man
as poor as he was himself, when he was thrashing his own corn with a
"Tell them I'll come--I'll come at lunch time. I've got to go to
Ugrumi " Mitri went back to the hut, and changing his birch-bark shoes
and the linen bands on his legs, started off to see the squire. After
he had got three roubles from Volgin, and the same sum from Nicholas
Petro- vich, he returned to his house, gave the money to his wife, and
went to his neighbour's. The thrash- ing machine was humming, and the
driver was shouting. The lean horses were going slowly round him,
straining at their traces. The driver was shouting to them in a
monotone, "Now, there, my dears " Some women were unbinding sheaves,
others were raking up the scattered straw and ears, and others again
were gathering great armfuls of corn and handing them to the men to
feed the machine. The work was in full swing. In the kitchen garden,
which Mitri had to pass, a girl, clad only in a long shirt, was digging
potatoes which she put into a basket.
"Where's your grandfather?" asked Mitri. "He's in the barn " Mitri
went to the barn and set to work at once. The old man of eighty knew
of Mitri's trouble. After greeting him, he gave him his place to feed
Mitri took off his ragged coat, laid it out of the way near the
fence, and then began to work vig- orously, raking the corn together
and throwing it into the machine. The work went on without
interruption until the dinner-hour. The cocks had crowed two or three
times, but no one paid any attention to them; not because the workers
did not believe them, but because they were scarcely heard for the
noise of the work and the talk about it. At last the whistle of the
squire's steam thrasher sounded three miles away, and then the owner
came into the barn. He was a straight old man of eighty. "It's time
to stop," he said; "it's dinner-time " Those at work seemed to
redouble their efforts. In a moment the straw was cleared away; the
grain that had been thrashed was separated from the chaff and brought
in, and then the workers went into the hut.
The hut was smoke-begrimed, as its stove had no chimney, but it had
been tidied up, and benches stood round the table, making room for all
those who had been working, of whom there were nine, not counting the
owners. Bread, soup, boiled potatoes, and kvass were placed on the
An old one-armed beggar, with a bag slung over his shoulder, came
in with a crutch during the meal.
"Peace be to this house. A good appetite to you. For Christ's
sake give me something."
"God will give it to you," said the mistress, already an old woman,
and the daughter-in-law of the master. "Don't be angry with us " An
old man, who was still standing near the door, said, "Give him some
bread, Martha. How can you?"
"I am only wondering whether we shall have enough." "Oh, it is
wrong, Martha. God tells us to help the poor. Cut him a slice."
Martha obeyed. The beggar went away. The man in charge of the
thrashing-machine got up, said grace, thanked his hosts, and went away
Mitri did not lie down, but ran to the shop to buy some tobacco.
He was longing for a smoke. While he smoked he chatted to a man from
Demensk, asking the price of cattle, as he saw that he would not be
able to manage without sell- ing a cow. When he returned to the
others, they were already back at work again; and so it went on till
Among these downtrodden, duped, and de- frauded men, who are
becoming demoralised by overwork, and being gradually done to death by
underfeeding, there are men living who consider themselves Christians;
and others so enlightened that they feel no further need for
Christianity or for any religion, so superior do they appear in their
own esteem. And yet their hideous, lazy lives are supported by the
degrading, excessive labour of these slaves, not to mention the labour
of millions of other slaves, toiling in factories to produce samovars,
silver, carriages, machines, and the like for their use. They live
among these horrors, seeing them and yet not seeing them, although
often kind at heart--old men and women, young men and maidens, mothers
and children--poor children who are being viti- ated and trained into
Here is a bachelor grown old, the owner of thousands of acres, who
has lived a life of idle- ness, greed, and over-indulgence, who reads
The New Times, and is astonished that the govern- ment can be so unwise
as to permit Jews to enter the university. There is his guest,
formerly the governor of a province, now a senator with a big salary,
who reads with satisfaction that a congress of lawyers has passed a
resolution in favor of capital punishment. Their political enemy, N.
P., reads a liberal paper, and cannot understand the blindness of the
government in allowing the union of Russian men to exist.
Here is a kind, gentle mother of a little girl reading a story to
her about Fox, a dog that lamed some rabbits. And here is this little
girl. During her walks she sees other children, bare- footed, hungry,
hunting for green apples that have fallen from the trees; and, so
accustomed is she to the sight, that these children do not seem to her
to be children such as she is, but only part of the usual
surroundings--the familiar landscape.
Why is this?
THE YOUNG TSAR
THE young Tsar had just ascended the throne. For five weeks he had
worked without ceasing, in the way that Tsars are accustomed to work.
He had been attending to reports, signing papers, re- ceiving
ambassadors and high officials who came to be presented to him, and
reviewing troops. He was tired, and as a traveller exhausted by heat
and thirst longs for a draught of water and for rest, so he longed for
a respite of just one day at least from receptions, from speeches, from
parades--a few free hours to spend like an ordi- nary human being with
his young, clever, and beautiful wife, to whom he had been married only
a month before.
It was Christmas Eve. The young Tsar had arranged to have a
complete rest that evening. The night before he had worked till very
late at documents which his ministers of state had left for him to
examine. In the morning he was present at the Te Deum, and then at a
military service. In the afternoon he received official visitors; and
later he had been obliged to listen to the reports of three ministers
of state, and had given his assent to many important matters. In his
conference with the Minister of Finance he had agreed to an increase of
duties on imported goods, which should in the future add many mil-
lions to the State revenues. Then he sanctioned the sale of brandy by
the Crown in various parts of the country, and signed a decree
permitting the sale of alcohol in villages having markets. This was
also calculated to increase the principal revenue to the State, which
was derived from the sale of spirits. He had also approved of the
issuing of a new gold loan required for a financial negotiation. The
Minister of justice having re- ported on the complicated case of the
succession of the Baron Snyders, the young Tsar confirmed the decision
by his signature; and also approved the new rules relating to the
application of Arti- cle 1830 of the penal code, providing for the pun-
ishment of tramps. In his conference with the Minister of the Interior
he ratified the order con- cerning the collection of taxes in arrears,
signed the order settling what measures should be taken in regard to
the persecution of religious dissenters, and also one providing for the
continuance of martial law in those provinces where it had al- ready
been established. With the Minister of War he arranged for the
nomination of a new Corps Commander for the raising of recruits, and
for punishment of breach of discipline. These things kept him occupied
till dinner-time, and even then his freedom was not complete. A number
of high officials had been invited to dinner, and he was obliged to
talk to them: not in the way he felt disposed to do, but according to
what he was expected to say. At last the tiresome dinner was over, and
the guests departed.
The young Tsar heaved a sigh of relief, stretched himself and
retired to his apartments to take off his uniform with the decorations
on it, and to don the jacket he used to wear before his accession to
the throne. His young wife had also retired to take off her
dinner-dress, remarking that she would join him presently.
When he had passed the row of footmen who were standing erect
before him, and reached his room; when he had thrown off his heavy
uniform and put on his jacket, the young Tsar felt glad to be free from
work; and his heart was filled with a tender emotion which sprang from
the conscious- ness of his freedom, of his joyous, robust young life,
and of his love. He threw himself on the sofa, stretched out his legs
upon it, leaned his head on his hand, fixed his gaze on the dull glass
shade of the lamp, and then a sensation which he had not experienced
since his childhood,--the pleasure of going to sleep, and a drowsiness
that was irresist- ible--suddenly came over him.
"My wife will be here presently and will find me asleep. No, I
must not go to sleep," he thought. He let his elbow drop down, laid
his cheek in the palm of his hand, made himself com- fortable, and was
so utterly happy that he only felt a desire not to be aroused from this
delight- ful state.
And then what happens to all of us every day happened to him--he
fell asleep without know- ing himself when or how. He passed from one
state into another without his will having any share in it, without
even desiring it, and without regretting the state out of which he had
passed. He fell into a heavy sleep which was like death. How long he
had slept he did not know, but he was suddenly aroused by the soft
touch of a hand upon his shoulder.
"It is my darling, it is she," he thought. "What a shame to have
But it was not she. Before his eyes, which were wide open and
blinking at the light, she, that charming and beautiful creature whom
he was expecting, did not stand, but HE stood. Who HE was the young
Tsar did not know, but somehow it did not strike him that he was a
stranger whom he had never seen before. It seemed as if he had known
him for a long time and was fond of him, and as if he trusted him as he
would trust himself. He had expected his beloved wife, but in her
stead that man whom he had never seen before had come. Yet to the
young Tsar, who was far from feeling regret or astonishment, it seemed
not only a most natural, but also a neces- sary thing to happen.
"Come!" said the stranger.
"Yes, let us go," said the young Tsar, not knowing where he was to
go, but quite aware that he could not help submitting to the com- mand
of the stranger. "But how shall we go?" he asked.
"In this way."
The stranger laid his hand on the Tsar's head, and the Tsar for a
moment lost consciousness. He could not tell whether he had been
uncon- scious a long or a short time, but when he re- covered his
senses he found himself in a strange place. The first thing he was
aware of was a strong and stifling smell of sewage. The place in which
he stood was a broad passage lit by the red glow of two dim lamps.
Running along one side of the passage was a thick wall with windows
protected by iron gratings. On the other side were doors secured with
locks. In the passage stood a soldier, leaning up against the wall,
asleep. Through the doors the young Tsar heard the muffled sound of
living human beings: not of one alone, but of many. HE was standing
at the side of the young Tsar, and pressing his shoulder slightly with
his soft hand, pushed him to the first door, unmindful of the sentry.
The young Tsar felt he could not do otherwise than yield, and
approached the door. To his amazement the sentry looked straight at
him, evidently with- out seeing him, as he neither straightened himself
up nor saluted, but yawned loudly and, lifting his hand, scratched the
back of his neck. The door had a small hole, and in obedience to the
pressure of the hand that pushed him, the young Tsar approached a step
nearer and put his eye to the small opening. Close to the door, the
foul smell that stifled him was stronger, and the young Tsar hesitated
to go nearer, but the hand pushed him on. He leaned forward, put his
eye close to the opening, and suddenly ceased to perceive the odour.
The sight he saw deadened his sense of smell. In a large room, about
ten yards long and six yards wide, there walked unceasingly from one
end to the other, six men in long grey coats, some in felt boots, some
barefoot. There were over twenty men in all in the room, but in that
first moment the young Tsar only saw those who were walking with quick,
even, silent steps. It was a horrid sight to watch the con- tinual,
quick, aimless movements of the men who passed and overtook each other,
turning sharply when they reached the wall, never looking at one
another, and evidently concentrated each on his own thoughts. The
young Tsar had observed a similar sight one day when he was watching a
tiger in a menagerie pacing rapidly with noiseless tread from one end
of his cage to the other, waving its tail, silently turning when it
reached the bars, and looking at nobody. Of these men one, appar-
ently a young peasant, with curly hair, would have been handsome were
it not for the unnatural pallor of his face, and the concentrated,
wicked, scarcely human, look in his eyes. Another was a Jew, hairy and
gloomy. The third was a lean old man, bald, with a beard that had been
shaven and had since grown like bristles. The fourth was
extraordinarily heavily built, with well-developed muscles, a low
receding forehead and a flat nose. The fifth was hardly more than a
boy, long, thin, obviously consumptive. The sixth was small and dark,
with nervous, convulsive move- ments. He walked as if he were
skipping, and muttered continuously to himself. They were all walking
rapidly backwards and forwards past the hole through which the young
Tsar was look- ing. He watched their faces and their gait with keen
interest. Having examined them closely, he presently became aware of a
number of other men at the back of the room, standing round, or lying
on the shelf that served as a bed. Standing close to the door he also
saw the pail which caused such an unbearable stench. On the shelf
about ten men, entirely covered with their cloaks, were sleeping. A
red-haired man with a huge beard was sitting sideways on the shelf,
with his shirt off. He was examining it, lifting it up to the light,
and evidently catching the vermin on it. Another man, aged and white
as snow, stood with his profile turned towards the door. He was
praying, crossing himself, and bowing low, ap- parently so absorbed in
his devotions as to be oblivious of all around him.
"I see--this is a prison," thought the young Tsar. "They certainly
deserve pity. It is a dreadful life. But it cannot be helped. It is
their own fault."
But this thought had hardly come into his head before HE, who was
his guide, replied to it.
"They are all here under lock and key by your order. They have all
been sentenced in your name. But far from meriting their present con-
dition which is due to your human judgment, the greater part of them
are far better than you or those who were their judges and who keep
them here. This one"--he pointed to the handsome, curly-headed
fellow--"is a murderer. I do not consider him more guilty than those
who kill in war or in duelling, and are rewarded for their deeds. He
had neither education nor moral guidance, and his life had been cast
among thieves and drunkards. This lessens his guilt, but he has done
wrong, nevertheless, in being a murderer. He killed a merchant, to rob
him. The other man, the Jew, is a thief, one of a gang of thieves.
That uncommonly strong fellow is a horse-stealer, and guilty also, but
compared with others not as culpable. Look!"--and suddenly the young
Tsar found himself in an open field on a vast frontier. On the right
were potato fields; the plants had been rooted out, and were lying in
heaps, blackened by the frost; in alternate streaks were rows of winter
corn. In the distance a little village with its tiled roofs was
visible; on the left were fields of winter corn, and fields of stubble.
No one was to be seen on any side, save a black human figure in front
at the border-line, a gun slung on his back, and at his feet a dog. On
the spot where the young Tsar stood, sitting beside him, almost at his
feet, was a young Russian soldier with a green band on his cap, and
with his rifle slung over his shoulders, who was rolling up a paper to
make a cigarette. The soldier was obviously unaware of the presence of
the young Tsar and his companion, and had not heard them. He did now
turn round when the Tsar, who was standing directly over the soldier,
asked, "Where are we?" "On the Prussian frontier," his guide answered.
Suddenly, far away in front of them, a shot was fired. The soldier
jumped to his feet, and seeing two men running, bent low to the ground,
hastily put his tobacco into his pocket, and ran after one of them.
"Stop, or I'll shoot!" cried the soldier. The fugitive, without
stopping, turned his head and called out something evidently abusive or
"Damn you!" shouted the soldier, who put one foot a little forward
and stopped, after which, bending his head over his rifle, and raising
his right hand, he rapidly adjusted something, took aim, and, pointing
the gun in the direction of the fugitive, probably fired, although no
sound was heard. "Smokeless powder, no doubt," thought the young Tsar,
and looking after the fleeing man saw him take a few hurried steps, and
bending lower and lower, fall to the ground and crawl on his hands and
knees. At last he remained lying and did not move. The other
fugitive, who was ahead of him, turned round and ran back to the man
who was lying on the ground. He did something for him and then resumed
"What does all this mean? " asked the Tsar.
"These are the guards on the frontier, enforc- ing the revenue
laws. That man was killed to protect the revenues of the State."
"Has he actually been killed? "
The guide again laid his hand upon the head of the young Tsar, and
again the Tsar lost conscious- ness. When he had recovered his senses
he found himself in a small room--the customs office. The dead body of
a man, with a thin grizzled beard, an aquiline nose, and big eyes with
the eyelids closed, was lying on the floor. His arms were thrown
asunder, his feet bare, and his thick, dirty toes were turned up at
right angles and stuck out straight. He had a wound in his side, and
on his ragged cloth jacket, as well as on his blue shirt, were stains
of clotted blood, which had turned black save for a few red spots here
and there. A woman stood close to the wall, so wrapped up in shawls
that her face could scarcely be seen. Motionless she gazed at the
aquiline nose, the upturned feet, and the protruding eye- balls;
sobbing and sighing, and drying her tears at long, regular intervals.
A pretty girl of thirteen was standing at her mother's side, with her
eyes and mouth wide open. A boy of eight clung to his mother's skirt,
and looked intensely at his dead father without blinking.
From a door near them an official, an officer, a doctor, and a
clerk with documents, entered. After them came a soldier, the one who
had shot the man. He stepped briskly along behind his superiors, but
the instant he saw the corpse he went suddenly pale, and quivered; and
dropping his head stood still. When the official asked him whether
that was the man who was escaping across the frontier, and at whom he
had fired, he was unable to answer. His lips trembled, and his face
twitched. "The s--s--s--" he began, but could not get out the words
which he wanted to say. "The same, your excellency." The of- ficials
looked at each other and wrote something down.
"You see the beneficial results of that same system!"
In a room of sumptuous vulgarity two men sat drinking wine. One of
them was old and grey, the other a young Jew. The young Jew was
holding a roll of bank-notes in his hand, and was bargaining with the
old man. He was buying smuggled goods.
"You've got 'em cheap," he said, smiling.
"Yes--but the risk--"
"This is indeed terrible," said the young Tsar; but it cannot be
avoided. Such proceedings are necessary."
His companion made no response, saying merely, "Let us move on,"
and laid his hand again on the head of the Tsar. When the Tsar
recovered consciousness, he was standing in a small room lit by a
shaded lamp. A woman was sitting at the table sewing. A boy of eight
was bending over the table, drawing, with his feet doubled up under him
in the armchair. A stu- dent was reading aloud. The father and daugh-
ter of the family entered the room noisily.
"You signed the order concerning the sale of spirits," said the
guide to the Tsar.
"Well?" said the woman.
"He's not likely to live."
"What's the matter with him?"
"They've kept him drunk all the time."
"It's not possible!" exclaimed the wife.
"It's true. And the boy's only nine years old, that Vania
"What did you do to try to save him?" asked the wife.
"I tried everything that could be done. I gave him an emetic and
put a mustard-plaster on him. He has every symptom of delirium
"It's no wonder--the whole family are drunk- ards. Annisia is only
a little better than the rest, and even she is generally more or less
drunk," said the daughter.
"And what about your temperance society?" the student asked his
"What can we do when they are given every opportunity of drinking?
Father tried to have the public-house shut up, but the law is against
him. And, besides, when I was trying to convince Vasily Ermiline that
it was disgraceful to keep a public-house and ruin the people with
drink, he answered very haughtily, and indeed got the better of me
before the crowd: 'But I have a license with the Imperial eagle on it.
If there was anything wrong in my business, the Tsar wouldn't have
issued a decree authorising it.' Isn't it terrible? The whole village
has been drunk for the last three days. And as for feast- days, it is
simply horrible to think of! It has been proved conclusively that
alcohol does no good in any case, but invariably does harm, and it has
been demonstrated to be an absolute poison. Then, ninety-nine per
cent. of the crimes in the world are committed through its influence.
We all know how the standard of morality and the general welfare
improved at once in all the coun- tries where drinking has been
suppressed--like Sweden and Finland, and we know that it can be
suppressed by exercising a moral influence over the masses. But in our
country the class which could exert that influence--the Government, the
Tsar and his officials--simply encourage drink. Their main revenues
are drawn from the continual drunkenness of the people. They drink
them- selves--they are always drinking the health of somebody:
'Gentlemen, the Regiment!' The preachers drink, the bishops drink--"
Again the guide touched the head of the young Tsar, who again lost
consciousness. This time he found himself in a peasant's cottage. The
peas- ant--a man of forty, with red face and blood- shot eyes--was
furiously striking the face of an old man, who tried in vain to protect
himself from the blows. The younger peasant seized the beard of the
old man and held it fast.
"For shame! To strike your father--!"
"I don't care, I'll kill him! Let them send me to Siberia, I don't
The women were screaming. Drunken officials rushed into the
cottage and separated father and son. The father had an arm broken and
the son's beard was torn out. In the doorway a drunken girl was making
violent love to an old besotted peasant.
"They are beasts!" said the young Tsar.
Another touch of his guide's hand and the young Tsar awoke in a new
place. It was the office of the justice of the peace. A fat, bald-
headed man, with a double chin and a chain round his neck, had just
risen from his seat, and was reading the sentence in a loud voice,
while a crowd of peasants stood behind the grating. There was a woman
in rags in the crowd who did not rise. The guard gave her a push.
"Asleep! I tell you to stand up!" The woman rose.
"According to the decree of his Imperial Majesty--" the judge began
reading the sen- tence. The case concerned that very woman. She had
taken away half a bundle of oats as she was passing the thrashing-floor
of a landowner. The justice of the peace sentenced her to two months'
imprisonment. The landowner whose oats had been stolen was among the
audi- ence. When the judge adjourned the court the landowner
approached, and shook hands, and the judge entered into conversation
with him. The next case was about a stolen samovar. Then there was a
trial about some timber which had been cut, to the detriment of the
landowner. Some peasants were being tried for having as- saulted the
constable of the district.
When the young Tsar again lost consciousness, he awoke to find
himself in the middle of a vil- lage, where he saw hungry, half-frozen
children and the wife of the man who had assaulted the constable broken
down from overwork.
Then came a new scene. In Siberia, a tramp is being flogged with
the lash, the direct result of an order issued by the Minister of
justice. Again oblivion, and another scene. The family of a Jewish
watchmaker is evicted for being too poor. The children are crying, and
the Jew, Isaaks, is greatly distressed. At last they come to an ar-
rangement, and he is allowed to stay on in the lodgings.
The chief of police takes a bribe. The gov- ernor of the province
also secretly accepts a bribe. Taxes are being collected. In the
village, while a cow is sold for payment, the police inspector is
bribed by a factory owner, who thus escapes taxes altogether. And
again a village court scene, and a sentence carried into execution--the
"Ilia Vasilievich, could you not spare me that?"
The peasant burst into tears. "Well, of course, Christ suffered,
and He bids us suffer too."
Then other scenes. The Stundists--a sect --being broken up and
dispersed; the clergy re- fusing first to marry, then to bury a
Protestant. Orders given concerning the passage of the Im- perial
railway train. Soldiers kept sitting in the mud--cold, hungry, and
cursing. Decrees is- sued relating to the educational institutions of
the Empress Mary Department. Corruption ram- pant in the foundling
homes. An undeserved monument. Thieving among the clergy. The
reinforcement of the political police. A woman being searched. A
prison for convicts who are sentenced to be deported. A man being
hanged for murdering a shop assistant.
Then the result of military discipline: soldiers wearing uniform
and scoffing at it. A gipsy en- campment. The son of a millionaire
exempted from military duty, while the only support of a large family
is forced to serve. The university: a teacher relieved of military
service, while the most gifted musicians are compelled to perform it.
Soldiers and their debauchery--and the spreading of disease.
Then a soldier who has made an attempt to desert. He is being
tried. Another is on trial for striking an officer who has insulted
his mother. He is put to death. Others, again, are tried for having
refused to shoot. The runaway soldier sent to a disciplinary battalion
and flogged to death. Another, who is guiltless, flogged, and his
wounds sprinkled with salt till he dies. One of the superior officers
stealing money belonging to the soldiers. Nothing but drunkenness, de-
bauchery, gambling, and arrogance on the part of the authorities.
What is the general condition of the people: the children are
half-starving and degenerate; the houses are full of vermin; an
everlasting dull round of labour, of submission, and of sadness. On
the other hand: ministers, governors of prov- inces, covetous,
ambitious, full of vanity, and anxious to inspire fear.
"But where are men with human feelings?"
"I will show you where they are."
Here is the cell of a woman in solitary confine- ment at
Schlusselburg. She is going mad. Here is another woman--a
girl--indisposed, violated by soldiers. A man in exile, alone,
embittered, half-dead. A prison for convicts condemned to hard labour,
and women flogged. They are many.
Tens of thousands of the best people. Some shut up in prisons,
others ruined by false educa- tion, by the vain desire to bring them up
as we wish. But not succeeding in this, whatever might have been is
ruined as well, for it is made impos- sible. It is as if we were
trying to make buck- wheat out of corn sprouts by splitting the ears.
One may spoil the corn, but one could never change it to buckwheat.
Thus all the youth of the world, the entire younger generation, is
But woe to those who destroy one of these little ones, woe to you
if you destroy even one of them. On your soul, however, are hosts of
them, who have been ruined in your name, all of those over whom your
"But what can I do?" exclaimed the Tsar in despair. "I do not wish
to torture, to flog, to corrupt, to kill any one! I only want the
welfare of all. Just as I yearn for happiness myself, so I want the
world to be happy as well. Am I actu- ally responsible for everything
that is done in my name? What can I do? What am I to do to rid myself
of such a responsibility? What can I do? I do not admit that the
responsibility for all this is mine. If I felt myself responsible for
one- hundredth part of it, I would shoot myself on the spot. It would
not be possible to live if that were true. But how can I put an end,
to all this evil? It is bound up with the very existence of the State.
I am the head of the State! What am I to do? Kill myself? Or abdicate?
But that would mean renouncing my duty. O God, O God, God, help me!" He
burst into tears and awoke.
"How glad I am that it was only a dream," was his first thought.
But when he began to recollect what he had seen in his dream, and to
compare it with actuality, he realised that the problem propounded to
him in dream remained just as important and as insoluble now that he
was awake. For the first time the young Tsar became aware of the heavy
responsibility weighing on him, and was aghast. His thoughts no longer
turned to the young Queen and to the happiness he had anticipated for
that evening, but became centred on the unanswerable question which
hung over him: "What was to be done?"
In a state of great agitation he arose and went into the next room.
An old courtier, a co-worker and friend of his father's, was standing
there in the middle of the room in conversation with the young Queen,
who was on her way to join her husband. The young Tsar approached
them, and addressing his conversation principally to the old courtier,
told him what he had seen in his dream and what doubts the dream had
left in his mind.
"That is a noble idea. It proves the rare nobility of your
spirit," said the old man. "But forgive me for speaking frankly--you
are too kind to be an emperor, and you exaggerate your responsibility.
In the first place, the state of things is not as you imagine it to
be. The people are not poor. They are well-to-do. Those who are poor
are poor through their own fault. Only the guilty are punished, and if
an unavoidable mistake does sometimes occur, it is like a thunder-
bolt--an accident, or the will of God. You have but one
responsibility: to fulfil your task coura- geously and to retain the
power that is given to you. You wish the best for your people and God
sees that. As for the errors which you have com- mitted unwittingly,
you can pray for forgiveness, and God will guide you and pardon you.
All the more because you have done nothing that demands forgiveness,
and there never have been and never will be men possessed of such
extraordinary qual- ities as you and your father. Therefore all we
implore you to do is to live, and to reward our endless devotion and
love with your favour, and every one, save scoundrels who deserve no
happi- ness, will be happy."
"What do you think about that?" the young Tsar asked his wife.
"I have a different opinion," said the clever young woman, who had
been brought up in a free country. "I am glad you had that dream, and
I agree with you that there are grave responsibili- ties resting upon
you. I have often thought about it with great anxiety, and I think
there is a simple means of casting off a part of the responsibility you
are unable to bear, if not all of it. A large proportion of the power
which is too heavy for you, you should delegate to the people, to its
representatives, reserving for yourself only the supreme control, that
is, the general direction of the affairs of State."
The Queen had hardly ceased to expound her views, when the old
courtier began eagerly to refute her arguments, and they started a
polite but very heated discussion.
For a time the young Tsar followed their argu- ments, but presently
he ceased to be aware of what they said, listening only to the voice of
him who had been his guide in the dream, and who was now speaking
audibly in his heart.
"You are not only the Tsar," said the voice, "but more. You are a
human being, who only yesterday came into this world, and will
perchance to-morrow depart out of it. Apart from your duties as a
Tsar, of which that old man is now speaking, you have more immediate
duties not by any means to be disregarded; human duties, not the duties
of a Tsar towards his subjects, which are only accidental, but an
eternal duty, the duty of a man in his relation to God, the duty toward
your own soul, which is to save it, and also, to serve God in
establishing his kingdom on earth. You are not to be guarded in your
actions either by what has been or what will be, but only by what it is
your own duty to do.
He opened his eyes--his wife was awakening him. Which of the three
courses the young Tsar chose, will be told in fifty years.