The Forged Coupon and Other Stories
THE FORGED COUPON
And Other Stories
By Leo Tolstoy
THE FORGED COUPON
AFTER THE DANCE
ALYOSHA THE POT
THERE ARE NO GUILTY PEOPLE
THE YOUNG TSAR
IN an age of materialism like our own the phenomenon 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
ourselves. Like the wind, it permeates the atmosphere we breathe, and
baffles while it stimulates the mind with its intangible but compelling
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
diverse creeds and nationalities. Apart from those who, like Buddha
and Mahomet, have been raised to the height of demi-gods by worshipping
millions, there are names which leap inevitably to the mind--such names
as Savonarola, Luther, Calvin, Rousseau--which stand for types and
exemplars 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 became 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 idealist 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 audiences. 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 sinking of class hatred in a deep sense of universal
Unhappily, when an idealistic creed is formulated in precise and
dogmatic language, it invariably 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 humanity, but it is
masked by a manner that is sometimes uncouth and frequently obscure.
Owing to these, and other instances, idealism suggests 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 peasant was still religious at heart with
a naive unquestioning faith--more characteristic of the fourteenth or
fifteenth century than of to-day--and still fervently aspired to God
although sunk in superstition 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
submissive moujik found in Tolstoy a living voice to express his
Tolstoy was well fitted by nature and circumstances 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 halting-place for pilgrims journeying to and from
the great monastic shrines, but gave shelter to a number 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
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 engulfed by seas of doubt. But the
affection he felt in boyhood towards the moujiks became tinged with
contempt when his attempts to improve their condition--some of which are
described in "Anna Karenina" and in the "Landlord'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
unconscious heroism, an unquestioning faith in God, a kindliness and
simplicity of heart rarely possessed by his commanding officer.
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 numbers.'
"'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
"'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,"
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
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 Russian 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
morning, 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 errands; 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
sympathy with the group of literary men who gathered 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 literary 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 Germany, 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 indifference 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 intelligent 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 interesting record of one
of Tolstoy's rare friendships with women, revealing in his unguarded
confidences 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 appear 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 extracts 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 uttered 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 apotheosis. 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 occasionally into the vein of self-analysis which
in later days became habitual.
"As a child I believed with passion and without 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 distributed, and there was no
room for religion. Then came a time when everything grew intelligible;
there were no more secrets in life, but life itself had lost its
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 reading 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
discovered 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
At this point one realises the gulf which divides the Slavonic from
the English temperament. No average Englishman of seven-and-twenty (as
Tolstoy 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 sport.
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
described 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 circumstances which
sub-consciously influenced Tolstoy'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
Russian 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 difficult
to restrain a smile at the poignant mental discomfort endured by
the sensitive Slav in the company of the frigid and silent English
frequenters 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 Russian
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 he belonged by birth and natural affinities.
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 discussions give him keen enjoyment,
for he is garrulous, metaphysical, and argumentative. In money
matters careless and extravagant, dilatory and venal in affairs; fond,
especially in the peasant class, of singing, dancing, and carousing; but
his irresponsible gaiety and heedlessness of consequences balanced by
a fatalistic courage and endurance 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 organised effort. The Englishman by contrast appears cold and
calculating, incapable of rising above questions of practical utility;
neither interested in other men's antecedents and experiences nor
willing to retail his own. The catechism which Plato puts Pierre
through on their first encounter ("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 questioner 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 himself, and combines in a curious way a firm
belief in the omnipotence and wisdom of his social superiors with a
rooted distrust of their intentions regarding himself. He is like a
beast of burden who flinches from every approach, expecting always 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 character, 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, patron
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 landscape than our own migratory populations,
and patriotism with them has a deep and vital meaning, which is
expressed unconsciously in their lives.
This spirit of patriotism which Tolstoy repudiated 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 frequently 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 despondency.
"'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 believe either in your hopes or in your
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 verdure, 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 disappeared;
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 feeling 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
morning," while he notes that the buds are swelling on the lilacs, and
"the birds no longer sing at random," 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
Doubt and despondency, increased by the vexations and failures attending
his philanthropic endeavours, at length obsessed Tolstoy to the verge of
"The disputes over arbitration had become so painful to me, the
schoolwork so vague, my doubts arising from the wish to teach others,
while dissembling 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, mysticism and altruism, all
were swept aside by the impetus of triumphant love and of all-sufficing
conjugal happiness. When in June of the following 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 realised 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 material event, in no way affecting the mutual
relations 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 return."
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 marriage, bear
witness to the stimulus which his genius had received. His dawning
recognition of the power and extent of female influence appears
incidentally 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 public opinion, and
in our day women are particularly 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 instinct perversely directed.
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 struggle, and contending with current ideas, lies in
the above-mentioned "What then must we do?" Certain it is that no human
document ever revealed the soul of its author with greater sincerity.
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 redemption; the famine-stricken
plains of Samara where disease and starvation reigned, notwithstanding
the stream of charity set flowing by Tolstoy's appeals and
notwithstanding his untiring personal devotion, strengthened further the
conviction, so constantly affirmed in his writings, of the impotence of
money to alleviate distress. Whatever negations of this dictum our own
systems 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
Progress, and hope rose high on the accession of Alexander II.
The emancipation of the serfs was only one among a number of projected
reforms which engaged men's minds. The national conscience awoke and
echoed the cry of the exiled patriot Herzen, "Now or never!" Educational
enterprise 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, Nekrassov, and Saltykov.
Unhappily the reign of Progress was short. The bureaucratic circle
hemming in the Czar took alarm, and made haste to secure their
ascendancy by fresh measures of oppression. Many schools were closed,
including that of Tolstoy, and the nascent liberty of the Press was
stifled by the most rigid censorship.
In this lamentable manner the history of Russia'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
government, for better systems and wider dissemination of education, for
liberty of the Press, and for an enlightened treatment of the masses,
callously received and rejected. The answer with which these appeals
have been met by the rulers of Russia 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 undermined
and was tainted by the rottenness of the authorities set over him. What
in such circumstances as these can a handful of philanthropists achieve,
and what avails alms-giving or the scattering of largesse to a people on
the point of spiritual dissolution?
In these conditions Tolstoy's abhorrence of money, and his assertion
of its futility as a panacea for human suffering, appears not merely
comprehensible 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 logical 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 inequalities between rich and
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.
Monopolies would cease without violently and unjustly disturbing society
with confiscation and redistribution. 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 individually wished to put it. A man would then
readily 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 become free in their lives and in their labour. They would no
longer be forced to toil at demoralising work for low wages; they
would be independent 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 present
"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
transformation and rejuvenation of human nature, going 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 perfecting 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 female
charms resembled catalogues of weapons against which a man must arm
himself or perish. The beautiful Princess Helena, with her gleaming
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 attention 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 carried 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 prey!"
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
estrangement of his ideals from those of his wife necessarily 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 permitted to read), pages containing matter too sacred 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 farewell 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 because "I have suffered
long, dear Sophie, from the discord between my life and my beliefs.
* 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 impulsive actions by which he was too often
"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 irritating you, sometimes myself giving
way to the influences and seductions to which I am accustomed and which
surround me. I have now resolved 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
consecrate 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 wavered, 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 regarded as your mission. You have
given largely of maternal love and made some heavy sacrifices . . . but
during the latter part of our life together, 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 practical assistance. None appealed
to him in vain; at the same time, he was exceedingly chary of explicit
rules of conduct. It might be said of Tolstoy that he became a spiritual
leader in spite of himself, so averse was he from assuming authority.
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 communities 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 towards 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 supplanted 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 nonconformist
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 remains
impossible to realise. The process of inward 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 publishing, aided by his friend Chertkov,*
modern literature has awakened so universal a sense of sympathy and
admiration, perhaps because none has been so entirely a labour of love.
* 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 attacks 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; reading
and correcting manuscripts, returning them sometimes to the
authors with advice as to their reconstruction, and making
translations from foreign works--all this in addition to his
own original 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 colouring 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 appreciated 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.
The series of educational primers which Tolstoy prepared and published
concurrently with the "Popular Tales" have had an equally large, though
exclusively Russian, circulation, being admirably suited to their
purpose--that of teaching 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, however, 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 during his brief
residence in St. Petersburg was never so engrossed in authorship as to
forego the pleasure of a ball or evening entertainment. Little wonder,
when one looks back at the brilliant young officer surrounded and petted
by the great hostesses of Russia. On the other hand, he was no devotee
at the literary altar. No patron of literature 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 novelist 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 himself 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 important 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 Lermontov's position in the literary
history of Russia, 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 expression and to use prose
instead. Poetry, he maintained, 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 recriminations 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 contained in these volumes
date from the years following 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 imprisonment. 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 distress her gravely, besides
possibly occasioning further police intervention. Tolstoy promptly
consented, and the play remained, as it now appears, in an unfinished
condition. He had already 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 cumulative
misery resulting from one apparently trivial act of wrongdoing.
Of the three plays included in these volumes, "The Light that shines
in Darkness" has a special claim to our attention as an example of
autobiography in the guise of drama. It is a specimen of Tolstoy's gift
of seeing himself as others saw him, and viewing a question in all
its bearings. 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 imaginary conversations.
This play was, in addition, a medium by which Tolstoy emphasised
his abhorrence of military service, and probably for this reason its
production 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 Anarchism in its full
significance. He could not, however, 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 subject full of human interest and dramatic possibilities; 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 spirit.
Courage was the dominant note in Tolstoy's character, and none have
excelled him in portraying brave men. His own fearlessness was of the
rarest, in that it was both physical and moral. The mettle tried and
proved at Sebastopol sustained him when he had drawn on himself the
bitter animosity of "Holy Synod" and the relentless anger of Czardom.
In spite of his nonresistance 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
falsehood 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, weighing his own
actions, analysing his own thoughts, and baring himself to the eyes
of the world with unflinching candour. Greatest of autobiographers, he
extenuates nothing: you see the whole man with his worst faults and
best qualities; weaknesses 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 spiritual 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
following words:--"For me the doctrine of Jesus is simply one of those
beautiful religious doctrines which we have received from Egyptian,
Jewish, Hindoo, Chinese, and Greek antiquity. The two great principles
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 doctrine 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 Churches."
Tolstoy's life-work was indeed a splendid striving 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 forgotten,
but Tolstoy's teaching stands on firmer foundations, and has stirred the
hearts of thousands 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 spiritual 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 fostered in the heart of
man receive at birth an impress 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 utterances, 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 perfection to which we must continually aspire,
undaunted 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 succeeding generations it is
impossible to foretell; but when time has extinguished what is merely
personal or racial, the divine spark which he received 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.
Rousseau, as to raise analogies and comparisons designed 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 Social" 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
Humanity 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 inquisition of his own conscience, and to
justify his existence by labour, that he may thereafter sleep the sleep
The exaltation which he awakens owes nothing to rhythmical language
nor to subtle interpretations of sensuous emotion; it proceeds from a
perception of eternal truth, the truth that has love, faith, courage,
and self-sacrifice for the cornerstones 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 the editor.
LIST OF POSTHUMOUS WORKS, GIVING DATE WHEN EACH WAS FINISHED OR
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.
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.
Two Travellers. Date uncertain.
THE FORGED COUPON
FEDOR MIHAILOVICH SMOKOVNIKOV, the president 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 Governor of the province
had sent him an extraordinarily 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 wishes.
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 silent, and did not
take the money his father proffered him.
"Father, please give me some more in advance."
"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 roubles. 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.
"What is there to mind? You never understand 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 boys!"
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 dinner 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
abstained 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 silence, rose from the table and separated, without a word.
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 cigarette 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 began
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 memory as if he saw and heard
them all over again. "Silly boy! You ought to get a good thrashing!" And
the more he thought of it the angrier he 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
certainly 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 behave. Will you please send the
amount by my messenger? I am myself in a frightful fix. Can you not get
the money somewhere?--Yours, according 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
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 himself 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
"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 eye.
"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 well-developed bust.
"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
"A nice frame, if you please, madam."
"At what price?" asked the woman; she wore mittens on her swollen
fingers with which she rapidly 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
"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 dignified
"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 shopkeeper, 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 it."
"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 money?"
"Oh, no; I don't mean anything of the sort."
"You had better give it to me back. We will cash it somewhere else."
"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
"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 borrowed from him.
AN hour after the boys were gone Eugene Mihailovich, the owner of the
shop, came home, and began 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 uniform. One of them was quite a handsome boy, and looked so comme il
"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 everybody around you. But when it is
you who lose fifty-four roubles at cards--that is of no consequence in
"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 remind 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 Mihailovich'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 against him.
"Oh, there he is.--We have just been speaking of you," said the hostess
to Eugene Mihailovich, who came in at that very moment. "Why are you so
"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 coupon."
"No! You don't say so!"
"Yes, I used it to pay for a cartload of firewood I bought from a
And Eugene Mihailovich related with great indignation to the company
present--his wife adding 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 the
EUGENE MIHAILOVICH had actually used the coupon to buy firewood from the
peasant Ivan Mironov, 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 driving on the roads, as his old horse was almost
Ivan Mironov's commercial method consisted in buying from the stores a
cord of wood and dividing 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
customer; 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
Mihailovich, who was on his way home from the tobacconist.
"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 unaided and pile
it up in the shed. The yard-porter was out. Ivan Mironov hesitated at
first to accept the coupon, but Eugene Mihailovich insisted, and as he
looked a very important person the peasant 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 Eugene Mihailovich. Carefully folding the coupon, he put it in the
purse. Then, according to custom, 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. Comfortable 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
"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 punished for such tricks. Of
course, you did it yourself--you and some of your rascally friends."
"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 police-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 policeman to Eugene Mihailovich's shop. Ivan
Mironov 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 Mihailovich 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 will
"Why, you must be dreaming! You have sold your firewood to some one
else," said Eugene Mihailovich. "But wait a minute. I will go and ask my
wife whether she bought any firewood 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 nonsense,
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 Eugene Mihailovich, and gave the
man five roubles. Vassily looking with pleasure first at the five rouble
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 acknowledge 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 advice
of a drunken office clerk in the same cell with him, and bribing the
police officer with five roubles, 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 answering 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 behalf 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 unperturbed, 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' imprisonment.
"I offer my humble thanks," said Ivan Mironov; 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 happened
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. Vassily, 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 orderly too. And he
became more and more convinced 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
performances 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 pursue their own
pleasures. And they are the better 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 accordingly got as
much profit as he could out of purchasing goods for lodgers. But this
did not pay all his expenses. Then he took to stealing, whenever chance
offered--money and all sorts of valuables. 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
Peter Nikolaevich had been an official in the Customs, and had gained
eighteen thousand roubles during his service. About twelve years ago he
quitted the service--not quite of his own accord: as a matter of fact he
had been compelled to leave--and bought an estate from a young landowner
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 managed 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
perfect 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
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 condition 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 with them.
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 of festival.
Walking cautiously on the melting snow--for the time of the year was
February--Peter Nikolaevich 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 spring.
"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 certainly 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
"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
"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 gipsies for eighteen roubles; Dapple-grey was
exchanged 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 Mironov. 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 otherwise 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
"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 Podolsk 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 Sventizky's.
Ivan Mironov called on Peter Nikolaevich pretending to ask for
employment, but really in order 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 finished 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 provincial
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 peasants," 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
"Yes, that is he."
"Will you kindly call him?"
Proshka was summoned before the constable, who began to examine him.
"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 matter. Tell me where you were
"Very well. Policeman, bring him to the police-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 discharged. 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
Nikolaevich found it out, and charged Prokofy with cheating. 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 noticed, Prokofy became
another man after his imprisonment, 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
AFTER having got rid of the coupon, Eugene Mihailovich forgot all about
it; but his wife, Maria Vassilievna, could not forgive herself for
having 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 schoolboys 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 answered 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 Smokovnikov'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 failure 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 resolved to take. But
at the bottom of his heart he was only anxious to get his revenge on the
"Yes, it is very sad indeed," said Father Michael, 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 towards 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 Smokovnikov'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 committed 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 Vassilievna, 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
"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
confessed 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 Michael'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
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, acknowledged as such by all the world around him, became 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 marching on the open road down to
He walked in daytime, and when night came some policeman would get
him shelter in a peasant'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 orchard 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 machine. He used to lie the whole day long on the
fragrant straw, with fresh, delicately smelling 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 return. 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 darkness.
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
enjoying 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 moonlight. 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 another--Vassily quite understood
it was all about him--and asked Vassily to sing for them.
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 mattered 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 conclusion that that was altogether wrong. Occasional
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 purpose
so as to avoid detection.
After the feast of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin 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 faithful
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 being 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, fearless 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 sheepskin coat, while she also had a warm
jacket and a new fur cloak.
In the village and throughout the whole district 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 without 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 robbers. The horses,
meanwhile, were hidden in a ravine in the forest lands belonging to the
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 mushrooms?" 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, pondered, 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 ravine, 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 descended 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 subjected to a close examination. Stepan Pelageushkine,
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
experience 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 then
shouted,--"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 contented
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 professional 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 all."
"But why did not the others attack him. It was you alone who broke his
"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 wonderful coolness in narrating
the story of his crime--how the peasants fell upon Ivan Mironov, and
how he had given the final stroke. Stepan actually 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
convicted 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 merchants,
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
"Where am I to go now?" he asked the prison officer, putting on his old
"I have no home. I shall have to go on the road. Robbery will not be a
"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 husband.
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.
Matrena--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 perspiration. "Kill I must, and it must
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 innkeeper
was going out of the house to the courtyard. 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 innkeeper's head in two. The man
tumbled down on the threshold of the door, then on the ground.
Stepan stepped into the bedroom. Matrena jumped out of bed, and remained
standing by its side. With the same axe Stepan killed her also.
Then he lighted the candle, took the money out of the desk, and left the
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 always 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
Once the lame, crippled village tailor was working in Maria Semenovna's
house. He had to mend her old father's coat, and to mend and repair
Maria Semenovna's fur-jacket for her to wear in winter when she went to
The lame tailor was a clever man, and a keen observer: he had seen many
different people owing 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 brother.
"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 answer.
"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
conclusion 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 property, 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 working 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 Nikolaevich 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 Nikolaevich, turning pale, and
coming close to the old man.
"Give them back, you villain, and don't provoke us."
"What?" cried Peter Nikolaevich, and slapped the old man in the face.
"You dare to strike me? Come along, you fellows, let us take back our
cattle by force."
The crowd drew close to him. Peter Nikolaevich tried to push his way,
through them, but the peasants resisted him. Again he tried force.
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 ravine.
The murderers were tried by martial law, and two of them sentenced to
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 place.
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
together, 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 entrusted
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 believer.
"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
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 reality.
His thoughts, far from being concerned with the real foundation of his
creed--this was accepted as an axiom--were occupied with the arguments
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 dissenters also came in their dirty sheepskin coats.
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 forgiveness to those who
The dissenters kept silent at first. Then, being asked questions, they
gave answers. To the question why they dissented, they said that their
chief reason was the fact that the Church worshipped gods made of wood,
which, far from being ordained, were condemned by the Scriptures.
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 payment 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 well.
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 numbered 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 blasphemy.
Two years previous to those events a strong and handsome young girl
of an eastern type, Katia Turchaninova, came from the Don military
settlements to St. Petersburg to study in the university college for
women. In that town she met a student, 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 revolt they had in common,
as well as the hatred they bore, not only to the existing forms of
government, 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 Turchaninova was a
gifted girl, possessed of a good memory, by means of which she
easily mastered the lectures she attended. She was successful in her
examinations, and, apart from that, read all the newest 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
complexion, 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, however, to inspire these feelings;
and, without dressing too smartly, did not neglect her appearance. She
liked to be admired, as it gave her opportunities 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 revolutionary 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 kindness to anybody, a child, an old person, or an
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 occasions.
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 Nikolaevich had settled there,
and begun to enforce order, young Turin, having observed an independent
tendency in the peasants on the Liventsov estate, as well as their
determination to uphold their rights, became interested in them. He came
often to the village to talk with the men, and developed his socialistic
theories, insisting particularly 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
indignation, 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 effects, he was arrested and transferred to prison in St.
Katia Turchaninova followed him to the metropolis, 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 prisoner from his
visitor. This visit increased her indignation against the authorities.
And her feelings 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 officer, 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 powerless 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 refused.
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
attractive the petitioner was, but recollecting his high position he put
on a serious face.
"What do you want?" he asked, coming down to where she stood. Without
answering his question the young woman quickly drew a revolver from
under her cloak and aiming it at the minister's chest fired--but missed
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
hysterical laugh. The minister was not even wounded.
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 commission 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
conspiracy. 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 Turchaninova, he shrugged his shoulders,
stretching the red ribbon on his white waistcoat, and said: "Je ne
demanderais pas mieux que de relacher cette pauvre fillette, mais vous
savez le devoir." And in the meantime Katia Turchaninova was kept
in prison. She was at times in a quiet mood, communicated 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
ONE day Maria Semenovna came home from the treasurer's office, where she
had received her pension. On her way she met a schoolmaster, a friend of
"Good day, Maria Semenovna! Have you received 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
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 recollection of having done the thing so skilfully, so
cleverly, that nobody-would ever discover it, and he would not therefore
be prevented from murdering 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
marvelled at himself at first, and shook his head; but the next moment
he seized the knife he had hidden in his boot, knocked the woman down
on the floor, and cut her throat. When the children began 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 behind 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 heavily.
"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 peculiar 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 appeared 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
reappeared. 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 Dobrotvorov people last night," he
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 inspector of the prison recognised him as an old inmate, 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, dropping 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
At that moment Stepan again saw the murdered woman before him, and
heard her voice; he did not pay attention, therefore, to the inspector's
"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 listening to the questions; but when
he heard what was asked, he answered truthfully, causing the utmost
perplexity to the magistrate, who, accustomed 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
magistrate, 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 prisoner 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
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 somebody'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 appear 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 saying 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, began pacing up and down his
tiny cell, hastily turning 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 manage 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 solitary 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
began 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 sentenced 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 persecuted 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 worshipping 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
"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 angels: 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 hungred, 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 eternal."
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 villains,
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
visited 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 prison:
"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 Jesus 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 were
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 malefactor had repented on
the cross, and went nevertheless 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 ordered, 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 prisoners
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 deprived 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 Governor 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 confinement.
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
together 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 syllables 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 coupon, 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 unconsciously felt that this man, brought to him in fetters 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 superior to
himself. He was in consequence somewhat 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 committed not by him
but by some different man.
"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 sending you to hard labour?"
"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
prisoners, 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 execute 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,
running the risk of being hanged himself for insubordination.
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
converted 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 indifference to those with whom he had to deal. He never paid the
slightest attention to other people'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 feeling 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 daughter 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 Pelageushkine, 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 Pelageushkine 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
sister 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 Semenovna. 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 disinterestedness, 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 unknown 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 transferred to the
cell in the upper floor. I know my way from there. What I want you for
is to unscrew 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 every
"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 stealing, 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
One of the prisoners rose in his bed and listened. Stepan and Vassily
broke off their conversation. The next day Vassily carried out his idea.
He began complaining of the bread in prison, saying it was moist, and
induced the prisoners 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 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. Vassily 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 having 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 window. 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. Vassily
had his stockings on; he took them off so that he 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 movement 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
jumping down, Vassily turned round, remained hanging 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 vanished. No sooner had the
crowd disappeared from view behind the garden fence, and the voices had
become still; no sooner had the barefooted Malania, their servant, run
in with her eyes starting 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
Ivanovna 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 horror, 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 countenance.
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 committed 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 condemned 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 announced
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
happen 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 offered 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 sentenced to hard labour for having committed a murder, and
now he objects to hang when the law orders him. He was threatened with
flogging. 'You may flog me,' he said, 'but I won't do it.'"
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
"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 petition 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 sentenced to death, could not be stifled now, but filled
her whole soul.
"Filip Vassilievich, my friend. Write that telegram 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 name."
"Is not she a kind woman," thought the constable. "Very kind-hearted,
to be sure. If my wife had such a heart, our life would be a paradise,
instead of what it is now." And he wrote the telegram,--"To his Imperial
Majesty, the Emperor. Your Majesty's loyal subject, the widow of Peter
Nikolaevich Sventizky, murdered by the peasants, throws herself at the
sacred feet (this sentence, when he wrote it down, pleased the constable
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 himself, 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 excitement. The longer she
lived a true Christian life as it had been revealed to her, the more
convinced she became that it was the right way, and her heart was full
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
supplicants 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 violent altercation he called her mad, a raving lunatic, 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 herself. 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 confessor, 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 marvellous cures ascribed to
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 penitents; 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
fortune, giving no reasons for doing so.
Lisa's purity, her devotion to God and her ardent 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 continuing his activity. He gave way, although he had a
vague feeling that he was in a false position. 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 separate 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 repent.
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 sincere, and deeply impressed all who
listened to him.
VASSILY was actually carrying out the object he had in leaving the
prison. With the help of a few friends he broke into the house of the
rich merchant 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 doing
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 time.
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 inclined 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 long.
NATALIA IVANOVNA SVENTIZKY'S telegram proved useless. The committee
appointed to deal with the petitions in the Emperor's name, decided not
even to make a report to the Czar. But one day when the Sventizky case
was discussed at the Emperor's luncheon-table, the chairman of the
committee, who was present, mentioned the telegram which had been
received from Sventizky's widow.
"C'est tres gentil de sa part," said one of the ladies of the imperial
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 wisdom 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 Empress, 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, assembled in the church of
the imperial palace; it was an event to hear the famous preacher.
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 speak.
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 unpleasant 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 metropolitan and with the
attorney-general, he was immediately 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 mentioned 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 himself thinking of the two peasants who had
been hanged, and the widow of Sventizky who had asked an amnesty for
them. That day the Emperor 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 that.
HAVING served his second term in the prison, Prokofy, 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 something 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 harrow 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
"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'
imprisonment. 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
superintendent would not light the fires in the hospital 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
superintendent 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
contrary, 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 living 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 Mihailovich 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
They had some hope of the merchant Krasnopuzov, 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 squandering 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 married."
"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 moment."
"I cannot." The strange man handed the letter and disappeared.
"How extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailovich, 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 Mihailovich 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 orthodox 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
separate cell as a serious criminal. After a fortnight 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 you
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
Isidor fell on his knees.
"Brother," said Isidor. "What are you doing 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 finished 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 offered him a convict, Stepan Pelageushkine, to
accompany him on his journey.
"A convict, you say? But is not that dangerous?"
"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 one.
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 Vasilievich, after a conversation
between us on the impossibility 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 incidents 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
handsome; but in her youth, at eighteen, she was exquisite--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
"What an entrancing description you give, Ivan Vasilievich!"
"Description, indeed! I could not possibly describe 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," interrupted a lady near him.
"We have seen your photograph. Not ugly, indeed! You were a handsome
"Handsome, if you like. That does not matter. 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 shoulders
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
belonging 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 dancing 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
forward 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,
'Encore'; 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 existence, but
of hers," said one of the party.
Ivan Vasilievich cried out, almost shouting in anger: "There you are,
moderns all over! Nowadays 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 corporeal 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 room.
"'The quadrille after supper is mine,' I said, taking her to her place.
"'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 fan.
"'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 Valdislavovich,' she said, turning to the colonel.
"Varinka's father was a very handsome, well-preserved old man. He had
a good colour, moustaches 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 discipline of
Emperor Nicolas I.
"When we approached the door the colonel was just refusing to dance,
saying that he had quite forgotten 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
"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 admired, I regarded them with enraptured sympathy. 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 gracefully 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,
smiling kindly, as he replaced his sword in the sheath.
"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
loving 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 tenderness
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 interfere with my great joy.
"When I went home, and began to undress for the night, I found it quite
out of the question. I 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 partners. 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 happiness.
"He and she were united in my mind in one rush of pathetic tenderness.
"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 experiencing. 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 occupied 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 melting, and water dripping from the eaves.
Varinka'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 runners 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
"When I approached the field near their house, I saw at one end of it,
in the direction of the parade 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 pleasant.
"'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, facing each other motionless, their guns at rest.
Behind them stood the fifes and drums, incessantly repeating the same
"'What are they doing?' I asked the blacksmith, who halted at my side.
"'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 between 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 backward, 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 punished. 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 sufficient strength on the red neck of the
"'Bring new sticks!' he cried, and looking round, he saw me. Assuming
an air of not knowing 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
several 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 remember how I got home and got to bed. But the moment I was about
to fall asleep I heard and saw again all that had happened, and I sprang
"'Evidently he knows something I do not know,' I thought about
the colonel. 'If I knew what he knows I should certainly
grasp--understand--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 quite
"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
recognised by every one as indispensable, they doubtless 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 Service
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 for
"Oh, that's utter nonsense," said Ivan Vasilievich, 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 frequently. 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 delighted with his clothes, but the
merchant was not impressed by his appearance.
"I thought you would bring me a man in Simeon's place," he said,
scanning Alyosha; "and you've brought me THIS! What's the good of him?"
"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 very
"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
business: 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 errands, 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 everything, and was always cheerful.
His brother's old boots were soon worn out, and his master scolded
him for going about in tatters with his toes sticking out. He ordered
another 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 daybreak. 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
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 forgotten 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 harness 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 man.
He made this discovery through the cook Ustinia. 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 himself. 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,
nevertheless, 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 liberties 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 parents 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 exclaimed, 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 merchant'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 informed 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 exclaimed. "But don't you worry. I'll soon settle
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 town
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 evening.
"To be sure we are," Alyosha replied with a smile, and then burst into
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.
Ustinia came running up, together with the merchant's daughter.
"Have you hurt yourself, Alyosha?"
"Ah! no, it's nothing."
But he could not raise himself when he tried to, and began to smile.
He was taken into the lodge. The doctor arrived, 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 the
"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." Alyosha spoke rapidly as usual. "Thank you, Ustinia. 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 it is."
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 exist. Still, I cannot possibly leave her to the charity
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 Russia. 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.
Petersburg to the provincial town, where the above conversation took
Prince Michael Ivanovich was a tall, handsome, white-haired, fresh
coloured man, proud and attractive in appearance and bearing. His family
consisted of a vulgar, irritable wife, who wrangled 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 disappeared 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 inquire.
That very morning, when his wife had attempted 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
children, whom he treated with almost reverent tenderness, he adopted an
attitude of distant hauteur. And yet it was so natural to him that every
one somehow acknowledged his right to be haughty.
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
"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
"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
something 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 Ivanovich with a bitter smile.
"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 became cruel.
"For heaven's sake, let us stop. I have suffered 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
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 hand.
"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 exclaimed, "Oh,
oh!" And then the sound of his own voice frightened him, and he was
His wounded pride tortured him. His daughter--his--brought up in the
house of her mother, the famous Avdotia Borisovna, whom the Empress
honoured with her visits, and acquaintance 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
everything that a father could and should do; this daughter to whom he
had given a splendid education 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 men!
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
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 coquettishly 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 inexplicably
to him, she had refused two very good suitors. She had become more and
more fascinated by her own success in the round of gaieties she lived
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 arranged earlier, but still a respectable match.
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 fourteen,
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 hostility.
"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
miserable, abandoned woman, asking only to be forgiven and forgotten.
Then the horrid recollection of the scene with his wife came to him;
their surmises and their suspicions, which became a certainty. 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 incomprehensible fact of
her downfall, and he hated her for the agony she was causing him. He
remembered 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 emptiness
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 perhaps 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 die.
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
repulsive and pitiable; on the other, she saw the terrible 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 profound 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
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 herself
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 desired
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 passionately 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 promise 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, spiritual, 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 everything 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 married, 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 secret, with occasional meetings, and merely
corresponding 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, he 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 impossible. She fell ill,
and the efforts of the doctors 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, obtaining 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 moment run in to
show her a toy his grandmother had given him. She caressed the child,
and, suddenly stopping short, burst into tears.
The thought overpowered her that she, too, might have been a mother had
he not been married, 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 suicide.
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
foresaw and understood.
Thus months dragged along, and then something happened which entirely
transformed her life. One day, when she was at work upon a quilt, she
suddenly experienced a strange sensation. No--it seemed impossible.
Motionless she sat with her work in hand. Was it possible that this
was IT. Forgetting everything, his baseness and deceit, her mother's
querulousness, and her father's sorrow, she smiled. She shuddered at
the recollection that she was on the point of killing it, together with
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
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. Petersburg. The train left at seven in the evening,
giving him time for an early dinner before leaving. 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 walk.
Alexandra Dmitrievna followed him into the hall.
"Go into the public gardens, Michael--it is very charming there, and
quite near to Everything," said she, meeting his sombre looks with a
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 shortened
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 a cab.
"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,
"Yes--a friend--but I think I had better come back later on," said
Michael Ivanovich, preparing to go. It was too unbearable, this
preparation 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 doorway, white and trembling.
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 clothing; and most of all, for her
pitiful face and imploring 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 immediately rushed to him.
"Have you seen?" she asked, guessing from his expression that something
"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 downtrodden. 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 classes.
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 restlessness. Awaking next morning
at eight he put on his slippers and dressing-gown, and rang the bell.
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, carrying 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
showing 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 Littleports
(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 spotless 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 yesterday's vint, and discussed Theodorite's peculiar
behaviour 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. Theodorite
was still in bed: so were the other members of the household--Anna
Mikhailovna, its mistress; her sister, the widow of a general; and a
landscape painter who lived with the family.
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 digging potatoes formed a mass of bright red and
white colour; on the left were wheat fields, meadows, 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 enjoying 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 powerful
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 interviews 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
"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 together, 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 towards the house, thinking how
he would chaff Nicholas Petrovich about the deplorable condition of the
village schools in spite of all his efforts.
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 harnessed 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, barefooted 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 children, and this had been his only horse. Now it was gone.
"What are you going to do?"
"To beg." And he knelt down, and remained kneeling in spite of Volgin's
"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 gratitude by touching the ground with his forehead, and
then went into the house. His host was standing in the hall.
"Where is your letter?" he asked, approaching Volgin; "I am just off."
"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,
Arsenty?" 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
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, theatres, 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 waterjugs, 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 everything that she had been doing,
thinking, and saying; 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 everything
she said was stupid, but it would never do to let it be seen, and so he
kept up the conversation. Theodorite was glum and silent; the student
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 hurried 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 bargaining over the price of the
skin. Then he borrowed 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 console 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 arranged the linen bands on his legs, and went
through the yard into the hut. His wife was putting 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 our Father.
"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 fingers 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 horse-driven machine.
"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
Petrovich, he returned to his house, gave the money to his wife, and
went to his neighbour's. The thrashing 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 the
Mitri took off his ragged coat, laid it out of the way near the fence,
and then began to work vigorously, 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 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 table.
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
"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 selling a cow. When he returned to the others, they were
already back at work again; and so it went on till the evening.
Among these downtrodden, duped, and defrauded 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 vitiated and trained into moral
Here is a bachelor grown old, the owner of thousands of acres, who has
lived a life of idleness, greed, and over-indulgence, who reads The
New Times, and is astonished that the government 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, barefooted, 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
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, receiving 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 ordinary 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 millions 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 reported 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 Article 1830 of the penal code,
providing for the punishment of tramps. In his conference with the
Minister of the Interior he ratified the order concerning 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 already 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
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
consciousness 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
irresistible--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 comfortable, and was so utterly happy
that he only felt a desire not to be aroused from this delightful state.
And then what happens to all of us every day happened to him--he fell
asleep without knowing 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 dozed
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 necessary 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 command 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 unconscious a
long or a short time, but when he recovered 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 without 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 continual, 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, apparently 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 movements. 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
looking. 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, apparently 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 condition
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 his flight.
"What does all this mean?" asked the Tsar.
"These are the guards on the frontier, enforcing 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 consciousness. 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 eyeballs; 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 officials 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 student was reading aloud. The father and daughter of the family
entered the room noisily.
"You signed the order concerning the sale of spirits," said the guide to
"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 Moroshkine."
"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 tremens."
"It's no wonder--the whole family are drunkards. 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 sister.
"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
countries 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 themselves--they are always drinking the health
of somebody: 'Gentlemen, the Regiment!' The preachers drink, the bishops
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 peasant--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 sentence. 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
audience. 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 assaulted the constable of the
When the young Tsar again lost consciousness, he awoke to find himself
in the middle of a village, where he saw hungry, half-frozen children
and the wife of the man who had assaulted the constable broken down from
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 arrangement, and
he is allowed to stay on in the lodgings.
The chief of police takes a bribe. The governor 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 lash!
"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 refusing first to marry, then to bury a Protestant. Orders
given concerning the passage of the Imperial railway train. Soldiers
kept sitting in the mud--cold, hungry, and cursing. Decrees issued
relating to the educational institutions of the Empress Mary Department.
Corruption rampant 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 encampment. 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, debauchery,
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 provinces, 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 confinement 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 education, 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 impossible. It is as if we were trying to make
buckwheat 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 being ruined.
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 power
"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 actually 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
"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 thunderbolt--an accident, or
the will of God. You have but one responsibility: to fulfil your task
courageously 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
committed 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 qualities 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 happiness, 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 responsibilities 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 arguments, 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
"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.