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The Forged Coupon and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy

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night at his house. The carter was not in. He
said he would wait for him, and in the meanwhile
began talking to the carter's wife. But when she
moved to the stove, with her back turned to him,
the idea entered his mind to kill her. He mar-
velled at himself at first, and shook his head; but
the next moment he seized the knife he had hid-
den in his boot, knocked the woman down on the
floor, and cut her throat. When the children be-
gan to scream, he killed them also and went away.
He did not look out for another place to spend
the night, but at once left the town. In a village
some distance away he went to the inn and slept
there. The next day he returned to the district
town, and there he overheard in the street Maria
Semenovna's talk with the schoolmaster. Her
look frightened him, but yet he made up his mind
to creep into her house, and rob her of the money
she had received. When the night came he broke
the lock and entered the house. The first person
who heard his steps was the younger daughter,
the married one. She screamed. Stepan stabbed
her immediately with his knife. Her husband
woke up and fell upon Stepan, seized him by his
throat, and struggled with him desperately. But
Stepan was the stronger man and overpowered
him. After murdering him, Stepan, excited by
the long fight, stepped into the next room be-
hind a partition. That was Maria Semenovna's
bedroom. She rose in her bed, looked at
Stepan with her mild frightened eyes, and crossed

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 pe-
culiar lisping voice. Stepan saw over again and
over again before him all he had done to her. In
horror he shut his eyes, and shook his hairy head,
to drive away these thoughts and recollections.
For a moment he would get rid of them, but in
their place horrid black faces with red eyes ap-
peared and frightened him continuously. They
grinned at him, and kept repeating, "Now you
have done away with her you must do away with
yourself, or we will not leave you alone " He
opened his eyes, and again he saw HER and heard
her voice; and felt an immense pity for her and
a deep horror and disgust with himself. Once
more he shut his eyes, and the black faces reap-
peared. Towards the evening of the next day
he rose and went, with hardly any strength left,
to a public-house. There he ordered a drink, and
repeated his demands over and over again, but
no quantity of liquor could make him intoxicated.
He was sitting at a table, and swallowed silently
one glass after another.

A police officer came in. "Who are you?" he
asked Stepan.

"I am the man who murdered all the Dobrot-
vorov people last night," he answered.

He was arrested, bound with ropes, and brought
to the nearest police-station; the next day he was
transferred to the prison in the town. The in-
spector of the prison recognised him as an old in-
mate, and a very turbulent one; and, hearing that
he had now become a real criminal, accosted him
very harshly.

"You had better be quiet here," he said in a
hoarse voice, frowning, and protruding his lower
jaw. "The moment you don't behave, I'll flog
you to death! Don't try to escape--I will see
to that!"

"I have no desire to escape," said Stepan, drop-
ping his eyes. "I surrendered of my own free

"Shut up! You must look straight into your
superior's eyes when you talk to him," cried the
inspector, and struck Stepan with his fist under
the jaw.

At that moment Stepan again saw the murdered
woman before him, and heard her voice; he did
not pay attention, therefore, to the inspector's

"What?" he asked, coming to his senses when
he felt the blow on his face.

"Be off! Don't pretend you don't hear."

The inspector expected Stepan to be violent, to
talk to the other prisoners, to make attempts to
escape from prison. But nothing of the kind ever
happened. Whenever the guard or the inspector
himself looked into his cell through the hole in
the door, they saw Stepan sitting on a bag filled
with straw, holding his head with his hands and
whispering to himself. On being brought before
the examining magistrate charged with the inquiry
into his case, he did not behave like an ordinary
convict. He was very absent-minded, hardly list-
ening to the questions; but when he heard what
was asked, he answered truthfully, causing the
utmost perplexity to the magistrate, who, accus-
tomed as he was to the necessity of being very
clever and very cunning with convicts, felt a
strange sensation just as if he were lifting up his
foot to ascend a step and found none. Stepan
told him the story of all his murders; and did it
frowning, with a set look, in a quiet, businesslike
voice, trying to recollect all the circumstances of
his crimes. "He stepped out of the house," said
Stepan, telling the tale of his first murder, "and
stood barefooted at the door; I hit him, and he
just groaned; I went to his wife, . . ." And
so on.

One day the magistrate, visiting the prison cells,
asked Stepan whether there was anything he had
to complain of, or whether he had any wishes that
might be granted him. Stepan said he had no
wishes whatever, and had nothing to complain of
the way he was treated in prison. The magis-
trate, on leaving him, took a few steps in the foul
passage, then stopped and asked the governor who
had accompanied him in his visit how this pris-
oner was behaving.

"I simply wonder at him," said the governor,
who was very pleased with Stepan, and spoke
kindly of him. "He has now been with us about
two months, and could be held up as a model of
good behaviour. But I am afraid he is plotting
some mischief. He is a daring man, and excep-
tionally strong."


DURING the first month in prison Stepan suffered
from the same agonising vision. He saw the
grey wall of his cell, he heard the sounds of the
prison; the noise of the cell below him, where a
number of convicts were confined together; the
striking of the prison clock; the steps of the sentry
in the passage; but at the same time he saw HER
with that kindly face which conquered his heart
the very first time he met her in the street, with
that thin, strongly-marked neck, and he heard her
soft, lisping, pathetic voice: "To destroy some-
body's soul . . . and, worst of all, your own.
. . . How can you? . . ."

After a while her voice would die away, and
then black faces would appear. They would ap-
pear whether he had his eyes open or shut. With
his closed eyes he saw them more distinctly. When
he opened his eyes they vanished for a moment,
melting away into the walls and the door; but
after a while they reappeared and surrounded him
from three sides, grinning at him and saying over
and over: "Make an end! Make an end! Hang
yourself! Set yourself on fire!" Stepan shook
all over when he heard that, and tried to say all
the prayers he knew: "Our Lady" or "Our
Father " At first this seemed to help. In say-
ing his prayers he began to recollect his whole
life; his father, his mother, the village, the dog
"Wolf," the old grandfather lying on the stove,
the bench on which the children used to play; then
the girls in the village with their songs, his horses
and how they had been stolen, and how the thief
was caught and how he killed him with a stone.
He recollected also the first prison he was in and
his leaving it, and the fat innkeeper, the carter's
wife and the children. Then again SHE came to
his mind and again he was terrified. Throwing
his prison overcoat off his shoulders, he jumped
out of bed, and, like a wild animal in a cage, be-
gan pacing up and down his tiny cell, hastily turn-
ing round when he had reached the damp walls.
Once more he tried to pray, but it was of no use

The autumn came with its long nights. One
evening when the wind whistled and howled in the
pipes, Stepan, after he had paced up and down his
cell for a long time, sat down on his bed. He felt
he could not struggle any more; the black demons
had overpowered him, and he had to submit. For
some time he had been looking at the funnel of the
oven. If he could fix on the knob of its lid a loop
made of thin shreds of narrow linen straps it
would hold. . . . But he would have to man-
age it very cleverly. He set to work, and spent
two days in making straps out of the linen bag on
which he slept. When the guard came into the
cell he covered the bed with his overcoat. He
tied the straps with big knots and made them
double, in order that they might be strong enough
to hold his weight. During these preparations he
was free from tormenting visions. When the
straps were ready he made a slip-knot out of them,
and put it round his neck, stood up in his bed, and
hanged himself. But at the very moment that his
tongue began to protrude the straps got loose, and
he fell down. The guard rushed in at the noise.
The doctor was called in, Stepan was brought to
the infirmary. The next day he recovered, and
was removed from the infirmary, no more to soli-
tary confinement, but to share the common cell
with other prisoners.

In the common cell he lived in the company of
twenty men, but felt as if he were quite alone.
He did not notice the presence of the rest; did not
speak to anybody, and was tormented by the old
agony. He felt it most of all when the men were
sleeping and he alone could not get one moment
of sleep. Continually he saw HER before his eyes,
heard her voice, and then again the black devils
with their horrible eyes came and tortured him in
the usual way.

He again tried to say his prayers, but, just as
before, it did not help him. One day when, after
his prayers, she was again before his eyes, he be-
gan to implore her dear soul to forgive him his sin,
and release him. Towards morning, when he fell
down quite exhausted on his crushed linen bag, he
fell asleep at once, and in his dream she came to
him with her thin, wrinkled, and severed neck.
"Will you forgive me?" he asked. She looked
at him with her mild eyes and did not answer.
"Will you forgive me?" And so he asked her
three times. But she did not say a word, and he
awoke. From that time onwards he suffered less,
and seemed to come to his senses, looked around
him, and began for the first time to talk to the
other men in the cell.


STEPAN'S cell was shared among others by the
former yard-porter, Vassily, who had been sen-
tenced to deportation for robbery, and by Chouev,
sentenced also to deportation. Vassily sang songs
the whole day long with his fine voice, or told his
adventures to the other men in the cell. Chouev
was working at something all day, mending his
clothes, or reading the Gospel and the Psalter.

Stepan asked him why he was put into prison,
and Chouev answered that he was being perse-
cuted because of his true Christian faith by the
priests, who were all of them hypocrites and hated
those who followed the law of Christ. Stepan
asked what that true law was, and Chouev made
clear to him that the true law consists in not wor-
shipping gods made with hands, but worshipping
the spirit and the truth. He told him how he had
learnt the truth from the lame tailor at the time
when they were dividing the land.

"And what will become of those who have
done evil?" asked Stepan.

" The Scriptures give an answer to that," said
Chouev, and read aloud to him Matthew xxv.

"When the Son of Man shall come in His
glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall
He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before
Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall
separate them one from another, as a shepherd
divideth His sheep from the goats: and He shall
set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on
the left. Then shall the King say unto them on
His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world: for I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave
Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:
naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye
visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying,
Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed
Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When
saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or
naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee
sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the
King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say
unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these My brethren, ye have done it
unto Me. Then shall He say also unto them on
the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his an-
gels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no
meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I
was a stranger and ye took Me not in: naked, and
ye clothed Me not; sick, and in prison, and ye
visited Me not. Then shall they also answer
Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hun-
gred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick,
or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?
Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say
unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the
least of these, ye did it not to Me. And these
shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the
righteous into life 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 vil-
lains, into everlasting punishment, since you did
not give food to the hungry, but swallowed it all
yourself. Serves them right! I have read the
holy Nikodim's writings," he added, showing off
his erudition.

"And will they never be pardoned?" asked
Stepan, who had listened silently, with his hairy
head bent low down.

"Wait a moment, and be silent," said Chouev
to Vassily, who went on talking about the rich
who had not given meat to the stranger, nor vis-
ited him in the prison.

"Wait, I say!" said Chouev, again turning
over the leaves of the Gospel. Having found
what he was looking for, Chouev smoothed the
page with his large and strong hand, which had
become exceedingly white in 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 Je-
sus said unto him, 'Verily I say unto thee, to-day
shalt thou be with Me in paradise.'"

Stepan did not say anything, and was sitting
in thought, as if he were listening.

Now he knew what the true faith was. Those
only will be saved who have given food and drink
to the poor and visited the prisoners; those who
have not done it, go to hell. And yet the male-
factor had repented on the cross, and went never-
theless to paradise. This did not strike him as
being inconsistent. Quite the contrary. The one
confirmed the other: the fact that the merciful
will go to Heaven, and the unmerciful to hell,
meant that everybody ought to be merciful, and
the malefactor having been forgiven by Christ
meant that Christ was merciful. This was all
new to Stepan, and he wondered why it had been
hidden from him so long.

From that day onward he spent all his free time
with Chouev, asking him questions and listening
to him. He saw but a single truth at the bottom
of the teaching of Christ as revealed to him by
Chouev: that all men are brethren, and that they
ought to love and pity one another in order that
all might be happy. And when he listened to
Chouev, everything that was consistent with this
fundamental truth came to him like a thing he
had known before and only forgotten since, while
whatever he heard that seemed to contradict it,
he would take no notice of, as he thought that he
simply had not understood the real meaning.
And from that time Stepan was a different


STEPAN had been very submissive and meek ever
since he came to the prison, but now he made the
prison authorities and all his fellow-prisoners
wonder at the change in him. Without being or-
dered, and out of his proper turn he would do all
the very hardest work in prison, and the dirtiest
too. But in spite of his humility, the other pris-
oners stood in awe of him, and were afraid of him,
as they knew he was a resolute man, possessed of
great physical strength. Their respect for him
increased after the incident of the two tramps
who fell upon him; he wrenched himself loose
from them and broke the arm of one of them in
the fight. These tramps had gambled with a
young prisoner of some means and deprived him
of all his money. Stepan took his part, and de-
prived the tramps of their winnings. The tramps
poured their abuse on him; but when they attacked
him, he got the better of them. When the Gov-
ernor asked how the fight had come about, the
tramps declared that it was Stepan who had begun
it. Stepan did not try to exculpate himself, and
bore patiently his sentence which was three days
in the punishment-cell, and after that solitary con-

In his solitary cell he suffered because he could
no longer listen to Chouev and his Gospel. He
was also afraid that the former visions of HER and
of the black devils would reappear to torment
him. But the visions were gone for good. His
soul was full of new and happy ideas. He felt
glad to be alone if only he could read, and if he
had the Gospel. He knew that he might have
got hold of the Gospel, but he could not read.

He had started to learn the alphabet in his
boyhood, but could not grasp the joining of the
syllables, and remained illiterate. He made up
his mind to start reading anew, and asked the
guard to bring him the Gospels. They were
brought to him, and he sat down to work. He
contrived to recollect the letters, but could not join
them into syllables. He tried as hard as he could
to understand how the letters ought to be put to-
gether to form words, but with no result whatever.
He lost his sleep, had no desire to eat, and a deep
sadness came over him, which he was unable to
shake off.

"Well, have you not yet mastered it?" asked
the guard one day.


"Do you know 'Our Father'?"

"I do."

"Since you do, read it in the Gospels. Here
it is," said the guard, showing him the prayer in
the Gospels. Stepan began to read it, comparing
the letters he knew with the familiar sounds.

And all of a sudden the mystery of the sylla-
bles was revealed to him, and he began to read.
This was a great joy. From that moment he
could read, and the meaning of the words, spelt
out with such great pains, became more significant.

Stepan did not mind any more being alone.
He was so full of his work that he did not feel
glad when he was transferred back to the common
cell, his private cell being needed for a political
prisoner who had been just sent to prison.


IN the meantime Mahin, the schoolboy who had
taught his friend Smokovnikov to forge the cou-
pon, had finished his career at school and then at
the university, where he had studied law. He
had the advantage of being liked by women, and
as he had won favour with a vice-minister's former
mistress, he was appointed when still young as
examining magistrate. He was dishonest, had
debts, had gambled, and had seduced many
women; but he was clever, sagacious, and a good
magistrate. He was appointed to the court of
the district where Stepan Pelageushkine had been
tried. When Stepan was brought to him the first
time to give evidence, his sincere and quiet answers
puzzled the magistrate. He somehow uncon-
sciously felt that this man, brought to him in fet-
ters and with a shorn head, guarded by two
soldiers who were waiting to take him back to
prison, had a free soul and was immeasurably su-
perior to himself. He was in consequence some-
what troubled, and had to summon up all his
courage in order to go on with the inquiry and
not blunder in his questions. He was amazed
that Stepan should narrate the story of his crimes
as if they had been things of long ago, and com-
mitted not by him but by some different 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."

"But why?

"Because I have come to know that all men
are brethren."

"What about me? Am I your brother also?"

"Of course you are."

"And how is it that I, your brother, am send-
ing you to hard 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 pris-
oners, Vassily, and a convict called Mahorkin, a
murderer who had become a hangman. Twice
during his stay in this prison he was called upon
to do duty as hangman, and both times in far-
away places where nobody could be found to ex-
ecute the sentences.

Two of the peasants who had killed Peter
Nikolaevich Sventizky, had been sentenced to
the gallows, and Mahorkin was ordered to go to
Pensa to hang them. On all previous occasions
he used to write a petition to the governor of the
province--he knew well how to read and to write
--stating that he had been ordered to fulfil his
duty, and asking for money for his expenses. But
now, to the greatest astonishment of the prison
authorities, he said he did not intend to go, and
added that he would not be a hangman any more.

"And what about being flogged?" cried the
governor of the prison.

"I will have to bear it, as the law commands
us not to kill."

"Did you get that from Pelageushkine? A
nice sort of a prison prophet! You just wait and
see what this will cost you!"

When Mahin was told of that incident, he was
greatly impressed by the fact of Stepan's influence
on the hangman, who refused to do his duty, run-
ning the risk of being hanged himself for insub-


AT an evening party at the Eropkins, Mahin, who
was paying attentions to the two young daughters
of the house--they were rich matches, both of
them--having earned great applause for his fine
singing and playing the piano, began telling the
company about the strange convict who had con-
verted the hangman. Mahin told his story very
accurately, as he had a very good memory, which
was all the more retentive because of his total in-
difference to those with whom he had to deal.
He never paid the slightest attention to other peo-
ple's feelings, and was therefore better able to
keep all they did or said in his memory. He got
interested in Stepan Pelageushkine, and, although
he did not thoroughly understand him, yet asked
himself involuntarily what was the matter with
the man? He could not find an answer, but feel-
ing that there was certainly something remarkable
going on in Stepan's soul, he told the company at
the Eropkins all about Stepan's conversion of the
hangman, and also about his strange behaviour
in prison, his reading the Gospels and his great
influence on the rest of the prisoners. All this
made a special impression on the younger daugh-
ter of the family, Lisa, a girl of eighteen, who
was just recovering from the artificial life she had
been living in a boarding-school; she felt as if
she had emerged out of water, and was taking in
the fresh air of true life with ecstasy. She asked
Mahin to tell her more about the man Pelageush-
kine, and to explain to her how such a great change
had come over him. Mahin told her what he
knew from the police official about Stepan's last
murder, and also what he had heard from Pela-
geushkine himself--how he had been conquered
by the humility, mildness, and fearlessness of a
kind woman, who had been his last victim, and
how his eyes had been opened, while the reading
of the Gospels had completed the change in him.

Lisa Eropkin was not able to sleep that night.
For a couple of months a struggle had gone on in
her heart between society life, into which her sis-
ter was dragging her, and her infatuation for
Mahin, combined with a desire to reform him.
This second desire now became the stronger.
She had already heard about poor Maria Seme-
novna. But, after that kind woman had been
murdered in such a ghastly way, and after Mahin,
who learnt it from Stepan, had communicated to
her all the facts concerning Maria Semenovna's
life, Lisa herself passionately desired to become
like her. She was a rich girl, and was afraid
that Mahin had been courting her because of her
money. So she resolved to give all she possessed
to the poor, and told Mahin about it.

Mahin was very glad to prove his disinterest-
edness, and told Lisa that he loved her and not
her money. Such proof of his innate nobility
made him admire himself greatly. Mahin
helped Lisa to carry out her decision. And the
more he did so, the more he came to realise the
new world of Lisa's spiritual ambitions, quite un-
known to him heretofore.


ALL were silent in the common cell. Stepan was
lying in his bed, but was not yet asleep. Vassily
approached him, and, pulling him by his leg,
asked him in a whisper to get up and to come to
him. Stepan stepped out of his bed, and came
up to Vassily.

"Do me a kindness, brother," said Vassily.
"Help me!"

"In what?"

"I am going to fly from the prison."

Vassily told Stepan that he had everything ready
for his flight.

"To-morrow I shall stir them up--" He
pointed to the prisoners asleep in their beds.
"They will give me away, and I shall be trans-
ferred to the cell in the upper floor. I know my
way from there. What I want you for is to un-
screw the prop in the door of the mortuary."
"I can do that. But where will you go?"

"I don't care where. Are not there plenty of
wicked people in every place?"

"Quite so, brother. But it is not our business
to judge them."

"I am not a murderer, to be sure. I have not
destroyed a living soul in my life. As for steal-
ing, I don't see any harm in that. As if they have
not robbed us!"

"Let them answer for it themselves, if they

"Bother them all!" Suppose I rob a church,
who will be hurt? This time I will take care
not to break into a small shop, but will get
hold of a lot of money, and then I will help people
with it. I will give it to all good people."

One of the prisoners rose in his bed and lis-
tened. Stepan and Vassily broke off their con-
versation. The next day Vassily carried out his
idea. He began complaining of the bread in
prison, saying it was moist, and induced the pris-
oners to call the governor and to tell him of their
discontent. The governor came, abused them all,
and when he heard it was Vassily who had stirred
up the men, he ordered him to be transferred
into solitary confinement in the cell on the upper
floor. This was all Vassily wanted.


VASSILY knew well that cell on the upper floor.
He knew its floor, and began at once to take out
bits of it. When he had managed to get under
the floor he took out pieces of the ceiling beneath,
and jumped down into the mortuary a floor below.
That day only one corpse was lying on the table.
There in the corner of the room were stored bags
to make hay mattresses for the prisoners. Vas-
sily knew about the bags, and that was why the
mortuary served his purposes. The prop in the
door had been unscrewed and put in again. He
took it out, opened the door, and went out into
the passage to the lavatory which was being built.
In the lavatory was a large hole connecting the
third floor with the basement floor. After hav-
ing found the door of the lavatory he went back
to the mortuary, stripped the sheet off the dead
body which was as cold as ice (in taking off the
sheet Vassily touched his hand), took the bags,
tied them together to make a rope, and carried
the rope to the lavatory. Then he attached it
to the cross-beam, and climbed down along it.
The rope did not reach the ground, but he did
not know how much was wanting. Anyhow, he
had to take the risk. He remained hanging in
the air, and then jumped down. His legs were
badly hurt, but he could still walk on. The
basement had two windows; he could have climbed
out of one of them but for the grating protecting
them. He had to break the grating, but there
was no tool to do it with. Vassily began to look
around him, and chanced on a piece of plank with
a sharp edge; armed with that weapon he tried
to loosen the bricks which held the grating. He
worked a long time at that task. The cock
crowed for the second time, but the grating still
held. At last he had loosened one side; and then
he pushed the plank under the loosened end and
pressed with all his force. The grating gave way
completely, but at that moment one of the bricks
fell down heavily. The noise could have been
heard by the sentry. Vassily stood motionless.
But silence reigned. He climbed out of the win-
dow. His way of escape was to climb the wall.
An outhouse stood in the corner of the courtyard.
He had to reach its roof, and pass thence to the
top of the wall. But he would not be able to
reach the roof without the help of the plank; so
he had to go back through the basement window
to fetch it. A moment later he came out of the
window with the plank in his hands; he stood still
for a while listening to the steps of the sentry.
His expectations were justified. The sentry was
walking up and down on the other side of the
courtyard. Vassily came up to the outhouse,
leaned the plank against it, and began climbing.
The plank slipped and fell on the ground. Vas-
sily had his stockings on; he took them off so that
be could cling with his bare feet in coming down.
Then he leaned the plank again against the house,
and seized the water-pipe with his hands. If only
this time the plank would hold! A quick move-
ment up the water-pipe, and his knee rested on
the roof. The sentry was approaching. Vassily
lay motionless. The sentry did not notice him,
and passed on. Vassily leaped to his feet; the
iron roof cracked under him. Another step or
two, and he would reach the wall. He could
touch it with his hand now. He leaned forward
with one hand, then with the other, stretched out
his body as far as he could, and found himself
on the wall. Only, not to break his legs in jump-
ing down, Vassily turned round, remained hang-
ing in the air by his hands, stretched himself out,
loosened the grip of one hand, then the other.
"Help, me, God!" He was on the ground.
And the ground was soft. His legs were not
hurt, and he ran at the top of his speed. In a
suburb, Malania opened her door, and he crept
under her warm coverlet, made of small pieces
of different colours stitched together.


THE wife of Peter Nikolaevich Sventizky, a tall
and handsome woman, as quiet and sleek as a
well-fed heifer, had seen from her window how
her husband had been murdered and dragged away
into the fields. The horror of such a sight to
Natalia Ivanovna was so intense--how could it
be otherwise?--that all her other feelings van-
ished. No sooner had the crowd disappeared
from view behind the garden fence, and the voices
had become still; no sooner had the bare-footed
Malania, their servant, run in with her eyes start-
ing out of her head, calling out in a voice more
suited to the proclamation of glad tidings the
news that Peter Nikolaevich had been murdered
and thrown into the ravine, than Natalia Ivan-
ovna felt that behind her first sensation of horror,
there was another sensation; a feeling of joy at
her deliverance from the tyrant, who through all
the nineteen years of their married life had made
her work without a moment's rest. Her joy
made her aghast; she did not confess it to herself,
but hid it the more from those around. When
his mutilated, yellow and hairy body was being
washed and put into the coffin, she cried with hor-
ror, and wept and sobbed. When the coroner--
a special coroner for serious cases--came and
was taking her evidence, she noticed in the room,
where the inquest was taking place, two peasants
in irons, who had been charged as the principal
culprits. One of them was an old man with a
curly white beard, and a calm and severe coun-
tenance. The other was rather young, of a gipsy
type, with bright eyes and curly dishevelled hair.
She declared that they were the two men who had
first seized hold of Peter Nikolaevich's hands.
In spite of the gipsy-like peasant looking at her
with his eyes glistening from under his moving
eyebrows, and saying reproachfully: "A great
sin, lady, it is. Remember your death hour!"
--in spite of that, she did not feel at all sorry for
them. On the contrary, she began to hate them
during the inquest, and wished desperately to
take revenge on her husband's murderers.

A month later, after the case, which was com-
mitted for trial by court-martial, had ended in
eight men being sentenced to hard labour, and in
two--the old man with the white beard, and the
gipsy boy, as she called the other--being con-
demned to be hanged, Natalia felt vaguely uneasy.
But unpleasant doubts soon pass away under the
solemnity of a trial. Since such high authorities
considered that this was the right thing to do, it
must be right.

The execution was to take place in the village
itself. One Sunday Malania came home from
church in her new dress and her new boots, and
announced to her mistress that the gallows were
being erected, and that the hangman was expected
from Moscow on Wednesday. She also an-
nounced that the families of the convicts were
raging, and that their cries could be heard all over
the village.

Natalia Ivanovna did not go out of her house;
she did not wish to see the gallows and the people
in the village; she only wanted what had to hap-
pen to be over quickly. She only considered her
own feelings, and did not care for the convicts
and their families.

On Tuesday the village constable called on
Natalia Ivanovna. He was a friend, and she of-
fered him vodka and preserved mushrooms of her
own making. The constable, after eating a little,
told her that the execution was not to take place
the next day.


"A very strange thing has happened. There
is no hangman to be found. They had one in
Moscow, my son told me, but he has been reading
the Gospels a good deal and says: 'I will not
commit a murder.' He had himself been sen-
tenced to hard labour for having committed a mur-
der, and now he objects to hang when the law or-
ders him. He was threatened with flogging.
'You may flog me,' he said, 'but I won't do it.'"

Natalia Ivanovna grew red and hot at the
thought which suddenly came into her head.

"Could not the death sentence be commuted

"How so, since the judges have passed it?
The Czar alone has the right of amnesty."

"But how would he know?"

"They have the right of appealing to him."

"But it is on my account they are to die," said
that stupid woman, Natalia Ivanovna. "And I
forgive them."

The constable laughed. "Well--send a pe-
tition to the Czar."

"May I do it?"

"Of course you may."

"But is it not too late?"

"Send it by telegram."

"To the Czar himself?"

"To the Czar, if you like."

The story of the hangman having refused to
do his duty, and preferring to take the flogging
instead, suddenly changed the soul of Natalia
Ivanovna. The pity and the horror she felt the
moment she heard that the peasants were sen-
tenced to death, could not be stifled now, but
filled her whole soul.

"Filip Vassilievich, my friend. Write that tel-
egram for me. I want to appeal to the Czar to
pardon them."

The constable shook his head. "I wonder
whether that would not involve us in trouble?"

"I do it upon my own responsibility. I will
not mention your name."

"Is not she a kind woman," thought the con-
stable. "Very kind-hearted, to be sure. If my
wife had such a heart, our life would be a para-
dise, instead of what it is now " And he wrote
the telegram,--

" To his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor.
"Your Majesty's loyal subject, the widow of Pe-
ter Nikolaevich Sventizky, murdered by the peas-
ants, throws herself at the sacred feet (this
sentence, when he wrote it down, pleased the con-
stable himself most of all) of your Imperial
Majesty, and implores you to grant an amnesty
to the peasants so and so, from such a province,
district, and village, who have been sentenced to

The telegram was sent by the constable him-
self, and Natalia Ivanovna felt relieved and
happy. She had a feeling that since she, the
widow of the murdered man, had forgiven the
murderers, and was applying for an amnesty, the
Czar could not possibly refuse it.


LISA EROPKIN lived in a state of continual ex-
citement. The longer she lived a true Christian
life as it had been revealed to her, the more con-
vinced she became that it was the right way, and
her heart was full of joy.

She had two immediate aims before her. The
one was to convert Mahin; or, as she put it to
herself, to arouse his true nature, which was good
and kind. She loved him, and the light of her
love revealed the divine element in his soul which
is at the bottom of all souls. But, further, she
saw in him an exceptionally kind and tender
heart, as well as a noble mind. Her other aim
was to abandon her riches. She had first thought
of giving away what she possessed in order to
test Mahin; but afterwards she wanted to do so
for her own sake, for the sake of her own soul.
She began by simply giving money to any one who
wanted it. But her father stopped that; besides
which, she felt disgusted at the crowd of suppli-
cants who personally, and by letters, besieged her
with demands for money. Then she resolved to
apply to an old man, known to be a saint by his
life, and to give him her money to dispose of in
the way he thought best. Her father got angry
with her when he heard about it. During a vio-
lent altercation he called her mad, a raving luna-
tic, and said he would take measures to prevent
her from doing injury to herself.

Her father's irritation proved contagious.
Losing all control over herself, and sobbing with
rage, she behaved with the greatest impertinence
to her father, calling him a tyrant and a miser.

Then she asked his forgiveness. He said he
did not mind what she said; but she saw plainly
that he was offended, and in his heart did not
forgive her. She did not feel inclined to tell
Mahin about her quarrel with her father; as to
her sister, she was very cold to Lisa, being jealous
of Mahin's love for her.

"I ought to confess to God," she said to her-
self. As all this happened in Lent, she made up
her mind to fast in preparation for the communion,
and to reveal all her thoughts to the father con-
fessor, asking his advice as to what she ought to
decide for the future.

At a small distance from her town a monastery
was situated, where an old monk lived who had
gained a great reputation by his holy life, by his
sermons and prophecies, as well as by the mar-
vellous cures ascribed to him.

The monk had received a letter from Lisa's
father announcing the visit of his daughter, and
telling him in what a state of excitement the young
girl was. He also expressed the hope in that
letter that the monk would influence her in the
right way, urging her not to depart from the
golden mean, and to live like a good Christian
without trying to upset the present conditions of
her life.

The monk received Lisa after he had seen
many other people, and being very tired, began
by quietly recommending her to be modest and to
submit to her present conditions of life and to
her parents. Lisa listened silently, blushing and
flushed with excitement. When he had finished
admonishing her, she began saying with tears in
her eyes, timidly at first, that Christ bade us leave
father and mother to follow Him. Getting more
and more excited, she told him her conception of
Christ. The monk smiled slightly, and replied
as he generally did when admonishing his peni-
tents; but after a while he remained silent,
repeating with heavy sighs, "O God!"
Then he said, "Well, come to confession to-
morrow," and blessed her with his wrinkled

The next day Lisa came to confession, and
without renewing their interrupted conversation,
he absolved her and refused to dispose of her for-
tune, giving no reasons for doing so.

Lisa's purity, her devotion to God and her ar-
dent soul, impressed the monk deeply. He had
desired long ago to renounce the world entirely;
but the brotherhood, which drew a large income
from his work as a preacher, insisted on his con-
tinuing his activity. He gave way, although he
had a vague feeling that he was in a false posi-
tion. It was rumoured that he was a miracle-
working saint, whereas in reality he was a weak
man, proud of his success in the world. When
the soul of Lisa was revealed to him, he saw
clearly into his own soul. He discovered how
different he was to what he wanted to be, and
realised the desire of his heart.

Soon after Lisa's visit he went to live in a sep-
arate cell as a hermit, and for three weeks did not
officiate again in the church of the friary. After
the celebration of the mass, he preached a sermon
denouncing his own sins and those of the world,
and urging all to 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 sin-
cere, and deeply impressed all who listened to him.


VASSILY was actually carrying out the object he
bad in leaving the prison. With the help of a few
friends he broke into the house of the rich mer-
chant Krasnopuzov, whom he knew to be a miser
and a debauchee. Vassily took out of his writing-
desk thirty thousand roubles, and began disposing
of them as he thought right. He even gave up
drink, so as not to spend that money on himself,
but to distribute it to the poor; helping poor girls
to get married; paying off people's debts, and do-
ing this all without ever revealing himself to those
he helped; his only desire was to distribute his
money in the right way. As he also gave bribes
to the police, he was left in peace for a long 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 in-
clined to discharge Vassily, but sentenced him
nevertheless to confinement in prison. He
thanked the jury, and assured them that he would
find his way out of prison before long.


proved useless. The committee appointed to
deal with the petitions in the Emperor's name, de-
cided not even to make a report to the Czar.
But one day when the Sventizky case was dis-
cussed at the Emperor's luncheon-table, the chair-
man of the committee, who was present, mentioned
the telegram which had been received from Sven-
tizky's widow.

"C'est tres gentil de sa part," said one of the
ladies of the imperial family.

The Emperor sighed, shrugged his shoulders,
adorned with epaulettes. "The law," he said;
and raised his glass for the groom of the chamber
to pour out some Moselle.

All those present pretended to admire the wis-
dom of the sovereign's words. There was no
further question about the telegram. The two
peasants, the old man and the young boy, were
hanged by a Tartar hangman from Kazan, a cruel
convict and a murderer.

The old man's wife wanted to dress the body of
her husband in a white shirt, with white bands
which serve as stockings, and new boots, but she
was not allowed to do so. The two men were
buried together in the same pit outside the church-
yard wall.

"Princess Sofia Vladimirovna tells me he is a
very remarkable preacher," remarked the old Em-
press, the Emperor's mother, one day to her son:
"Faites le venir. Il peut precher a la cathedrale."

"No, it would be better in the palace church,"
said the Emperor, and ordered the hermit Isidor
to be invited.

All the generals, and other high officials, as-
sembled in the church of the imperial palace; it
was an event to hear the famous 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

At first all went well, but the longer he spoke
the worse it became. "Il devient de plus en plus
aggressif," as the Empress put it afterwards.
He fulminated against every one. He spoke
about the executions and charged the government
with having made so many necessary. How can
the government of a Christian country kill men?

Everybody looked at everybody else, thinking
of the bad taste of the sermon, and how unpleas-
ant it must be for the Emperor to listen to it; but
nobody expressed these thoughts aloud.

When Isidor had said Amen, the metropolitan
approached, and asked him to call on him.

After Isidor had had a talk with the metropol-
itan and with the attorney-general, he was imme-
diately sent away to a friary, not his own, but one
at Suzdal, which had a prison attached to it; the
prior of that friary was now Father Missael.


EVERY one tried to look as if Isidor's sermon
contained nothing unpleasant, and nobody men-
tioned it. It seemed to the Czar that the hermit's
words had not made any impression on himself;
but once or twice during that day he caught him-
self thinking of the two peasants who had been
hanged, and the widow of Sventizky who had
asked an amnesty for them. That day the Em-
peror had to be present at a parade; after which
he went out for a drive; a reception of ministers
came next, then dinner, after dinner the theatre.
As usual, the Czar fell asleep the moment his head
touched the pillow. In the night an awful dream
awoke him: he saw gallows in a large field and
corpses dangling on them; the tongues of the
corpses were protruding, and their bodies moved
and shook. And somebody shouted, "It is you
--you who have done it " The Czar woke up
bathed in perspiration and began to think. It
was the first time that he had ever thought of the
responsibilities which weighed on him, and the
words of old Isidor came back to his
mind. . . .

But only dimly could he see himself as a mere
human being, and he could not consider his mere
human wants and duties, because of all that was
required of him as Czar. As to acknowledging
that human duties were more obligatory than
those of a Czar--he had not strength for that.


HAVING served his second term in the prison, Pro-
kofy, who had formerly worked on the Sventizky
estate, was no longer the brisk, ambitious, smartly
dressed fellow he had been. He seemed, on the
contrary, a complete wreck. When sober he
would sit idle and would refuse to do any work,
however much his father scolded him; moreover,
he was continually seeking to get hold of some-
thing secretly, and take it to the public-house for
a drink. When he came home he would continue
to sit idle, coughing and spitting all the time.
The doctor on whom he called, examined his chest
and shook his head.

"You, my man, ought to have many things
which you have not got."

"That is usually the case, isn't it?

"Take plenty of milk, and don't smoke."

"These are days of fasting, and besides we
have no cow."

Once in spring he could not get any sleep; he
was longing to have a drink. There was nothing
in the house he could lay his hand on to take to
the public-house. He put on his cap and went
out. He walked along the street up to the house
where the priest and the deacon lived together.
The deacon's harrow stood outside leaning against
the hedge. Prokofy approached, took the har-
row upon his shoulder, and walked to an inn kept
by a woman, Petrovna. She might give him a
small bottle of vodka for it. But he had hardly
gone a few steps when the deacon came out of his
house. It was already dawn, and he saw that
Prokofy was carrying away his harrow.

"Hey, what's that?" cried the deacon.

The neighbours rushed out from their houses.
Prokofy was seized, brought to the police station,
and then sentenced to eleven months' imprison-
ment. It was autumn, and Prokofy had to be
transferred to the prison hospital. He was
coughing badly; his chest was heaving from the
exertion; and he could not get warm. Those who
were stronger contrived not to shiver; Prokofy
on the contrary shivered day and night, as the su-
perintendent would not light the fires in the hos-
pital till November, to save expense.

Prokofy suffered greatly in body, and still more
in soul. He was disgusted with his surroundings,
and hated every one--the deacon, the superin-
tendent who would not light the fires, the guard,
and the man who was lying in the bed next to his,
and who had a swollen red lip. He began also
to hate the new convict who was brought into
hospital. This convict was Stepan. He was
suffering from some disease on his head, and was
transferred to the hospital and put in a bed at
Prokofy's side. After a time that hatred to
Stepan changed, and Prokofy became, on the con-
trary, extremely fond of him; he delighted in
talking to him. It was only after a talk with
Stepan that his anguish would cease for a while.
Stepan always told every one he met about his
last murder, and how it had impressed him.

Far from shrieking, or anything of that
kind," he said to Prokofy, "she did not move.
'Kill me! There I am,' she said. 'But it is not
my soul you destroy, it is your own.'"

"Well, of course, it is very dreadful to kill. I
had one day to slaughter a sheep, and even that
made me half mad. I have not destroyed any liv-
ing soul; why then do those villains kill me? I
have done no harm to anybody . . ."

"That will be taken into consideration."

"By whom?"

"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

"Then you believe the soul lives on after a
man is dead?"

"To be sure; it truly lives."

Prokofy suffered greatly when death drew
near. He could hardly breathe. But in the very
last hour he felt suddenly relieved from all pain.
He called Stepan to him. "Farewell, brother,"
he said. "Death has come, I see. I was so
afraid of it before. And now I don't mind. I
only wish it to come quicker."


IN the meanwhile, the affairs of Eugene Mihailo-
vich had grown worse and worse. Business was
very slack. There was a new shop in the town;
he was losing his customers, and the interest had
to be paid. He borrowed again on interest. At
last his shop and his goods were to be sold up.
Eugene Mihailovich and his wife applied to every
one they knew, but they could not raise the four
hundred roubles they needed to save the shop any-

They had some hope of the merchant Krasno-
puzov, Eugene Mihailovich's wife being on good
terms with his mistress. But news came that
Krasnopuzov had been robbed of a huge sum of
money. Some said of half a million roubles.
"And do you know who is said to be the thief?"
said Eugene Mihailovich to his wife. "Vassily,
our former yard-porter. They say he is squan-
dering the money, and the police are bribed by him."

"I knew he was a villain. You remember how
he did not mind perjuring himself? But I did
not expect it would go so far."

"I hear he has recently been in the courtyard
of our house. Cook says she is sure it was he.
She told me he helps poor girls to get 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."

"From whom?"

"You will see yourself."

"Don't you require an answer? Wait a mo-

"I cannot " The strange man handed the let-
ter and disappeared.

"How extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailo-
vich, and tore open the envelope. To his great
amazement several hundred rouble notes fell out.
"Four hundred roubles!" he exclaimed, hardly
believing his eyes. "What does it mean?"

The envelope also contained a badly-spelt letter,
addressed to Eugene Mihailovich. "It is said in
the Gospels," ran the letter, " do good for evil.
You have done me much harm; and in the coupon
case you made me wrong the peasants greatly.
But I have pity for you. Here are four hundred
notes. Take them, and remember your porter

"Very extraordinary!" said Eugene Mihailo-
vich to his wife and to himself. And each time
he remembered that incident, or spoke about it
to his wife, tears would come to his eyes.


FOURTEEN priests were kept in the Suzdal friary
prison, chiefly for having been untrue to the or-
thodox faith. Isidor had been sent to that place
also. Father Missael received him according to
the instructions he had been given, and without
talking to him ordered him to be put into a sep-
arate cell as a serious criminal. After a fort-
night Father Missael, making a round of the
prison, entered Isidor's cell, and asked him
whether there was anything he wished for.

"There is a great deal I wish for," answered
Isidor; "but I cannot tell you what it is in the
presence of anybody else. Let me talk to 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

"Well, now you can speak."

Isidor fell on his knees.

"Brother," said Isidor. "What are you do-
ing to yourself! Have mercy on your own soul.
You are the worst villain in the world. You have
offended against all that is sacred . . ."

A month after Missael sent a report, asking
that Isidor should be released as he had repented,
and he also asked for the release of the rest of
the prisoners. After which he resigned his post.


TEN years passed. Mitia Smokovnikov had fin-
ished his studies in the Technical College; he was
now an engineer in the gold mines in Siberia, and
was very highly paid. One day he was about to
make a round in the district. The governor of-
fered him a convict, Stepan Pelageushkine, to ac-
company him on his journey.

"A convict, you say? But is not that danger-

"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

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.



"--AND you say that a man cannot, of himself,
understand what is good and evil; that it is all
environment, that the environment swamps the
man. But I believe it is all chance. Take my
own case . . ."

Thus spoke our excellent friend, Ivan Vasilie-
vich, after a conversation between us on the impos-
sibility of improving individual character without
a change of the conditions under which men live.
Nobody had actually said that one could not of
oneself understand good and evil; but it was a
habit of Ivan Vasilievich to answer in this way the
thoughts aroused in his own mind by conversation,
and to illustrate those thoughts by relating inci-
dents in his own life. He often quite forgot the
reason for his story in telling it; but he always told
it with great sincerity and feeling.

He did so now.

"Take my own case. My whole life was
moulded, not by environment, but by something
quite different."

"By what, then?" we asked.

"Oh, that is a long story. I should have to
tell you about a great many things to make you

"Well, tell us then."

Ivan Vasilievich thought a little, and shook his

"My whole life," he said, "was changed in one
night, or, rather, morning."

"Why, what happened?" one of us asked.

"What happened was that I was very much in
love. I have been in love many times, but this
was the most serious of all. It is a thing of the
past; she has married daughters now. It was
Varinka B---- " Ivan Vasilievich mentioned her
surname. "Even at fifty she is remarkably hand-
some; but in her youth, at eighteen, she was ex-
quisite--tall, slender, graceful, and stately. Yes,
stately is the word; she held herself very erect, by
instinct as it were; and carried her head high, and
that together with her beauty and height gave her
a queenly air in spite of being thin, even bony one
might say. It might indeed have been deterring
had it not been for her smile, which was always
gay and cordial, and for the charming light in
her eyes and for her youthful sweetness."

"What an entrancing description you give, Ivan

"Description, indeed! I could not possibly de-
scribe her so that you could appreciate her. But
that does not matter; what I am going to tell you
happened in the forties. I was at that time a
student in a provincial university. I don't know
whether it was a good thing or no, but we had no
political clubs, no theories in our universities then.
We were simply young and spent our time as young
men do, studying and amusing ourselves. I was a
very gay, lively, careless fellow, and had plenty of
money too. I had a fine horse, and used to go
tobogganing with the young ladies. Skating had
not yet come into fashion. I went to drinking
parties with my comrades--in those days we
drank nothing but champagne--if we had no
champagne we drank nothing at all. We never
drank vodka, as they do now. Evening parties
and balls were my favourite amusements. I
danced well, and was not an ugly fellow."

"Come, there is no need to be modest," inter-
rupted a lady near him. "We have seen your
photograph. Not ugly, indeed! You were a
handsome fellow."

"Handsome, if you like. That does not mat-
ter. When my love for her was at its strongest,
on the last day of the carnival, I was at a ball at
the provincial marshal's, a good-natured old man,
rich and hospitable, and a court chamberlain. The
guests were welcomed by his wife, who was as
good-natured as himself. She was dressed in
puce-coloured velvet, and had a diamond diadem
on her forehead, and her plump, old white shoul-
ders and bosom were bare like the portraits of
Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the

"It was a delightful ball. It was a splendid
room, with a gallery for the orchestra, which was
famous at the time, and consisted of serfs belong-
ing to a musical landowner. The refreshments
were magnificent, and the champagne flowed in
rivers. Though I was fond of champagne I did
not drink that night, because without it I was
drunk with love. But I made up for it by danc-
ing waltzes and polkas till I was ready to drop--
of course, whenever possible, with Varinka. She
wore a white dress with a pink sash, white shoes,
and white kid gloves, which did not quite reach to
her thin pointed elbows. A disgusting engineer
named Anisimov robbed me of the mazurka with
her--to this day I cannot forgive him. He asked
her for the dance the minute she arrived, while
I had driven to the hair-dresser's to get a pair of
gloves, and was late. So I did not dance the
mazurka with her, but with a German girl to whom
I had previously paid a little attention; but I am
afraid I did not behave very politely to her that
evening. I hardly spoke or looked at her, and saw
nothing but the tall, slender figure in a white dress,
with a pink sash, a flushed, beaming, dimpled
face, and sweet, kind eyes. I was not alone; they
were all looking at her with admiration, the men
and women alike, although she outshone all of
them. They could not help admiring her.

"Although I was not nominally her partner for
the mazurka, I did as a matter of fact dance nearly
the whole time with her. She always came for-
ward boldly the whole length of the room to pick
me out. I flew to meet her without waiting to be
chosen, and she thanked me with a smile for my
intuition. When I was brought up to her with
somebody else, and she guessed wrongly, she took
the other man's hand with a shrug of her slim
shoulders, and smiled at me regretfully.

"Whenever there was a waltz figure in the
mazurka, I waltzed with her for a long time, and
breathing fast and smiling, she would say, 'En-
core'; and I went on waltzing and waltzing, as
though unconscious of any bodily existence."

"Come now, how could you be unconscious of
it with your arm round her waist? You must
have been conscious, not only of your own exist-
ence, but of hers," said one of the party.

Ivan Vasilievich cried out, almost shouting in
anger: " There you are, moderns all over! Now-
adays you think of nothing but the body. It was
different in our day. The more I was in love the
less corporeal was she in my eyes. Nowadays you
think of nothing but the body. It was different
in our day. The more I was in love the less cor-
poreal was she in my eyes. Nowadays you set
legs, ankles, and I don't know what. You undress
the women you are in love with. In my eyes, as
Alphonse Karr said--and he was a good writer
--'the one I loved was always draped in robes of
bronze.' We never thought of doing so; we tried
to veil her nakedness, like Noah's good-natured
son. Oh, well, you can't understand."

"Don't pay any attention to him. Go on," said
one of them.

"Well, I danced for the most part with her,
and did not notice how time was passing. The
musicians kept playing the same mazurka tunes
over and over again in desperate exhaustion--you
know what it is towards the end of a ball. Papas
and mammas were already getting up from the
card-tables in the drawing-room in expectation of
supper, the men-servants were running to and
fro bringing in things. It was nearly three
o'clock. I had to make the most of the last
minutes. I chose her again for the mazurka, and
for the hundredth time we danced across the

"'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 Valdislavo-
vich,' she said, turning to the colonel.

"Varinka's father was a very handsome, well-
preserved old man. He had a good colour, mous-
taches curled in the style of Nicolas I., and white
whiskers which met the moustaches. His hair was
combed on to his forehead, and a bright smile,
like his daughter's, was on his lips and in his eyes.
He was splendidly set up, with a broad military
chest, on which he wore some decorations, and he
had powerful shoulders and long slim legs. He
was that ultra-military type produced by the disci-
pline of Emperor Nicolas I.

"When we approached the door the colonel was
just refusing to dance, saying that he had quite for-
gotten how; but at that instant he smiled, swung
his arm gracefully around to the left, drew his
sword from its sheath, handed it to an obliging
young man who stood near, and smoothed his
suede glove on his right hand.

"'Everything must be done according to rule,'
he said with a smile. He took the hand of his
daughter, and stood one-quarter turned, waiting
for the music.

"At the first sound of the mazurka, he stamped
one foot smartly, threw the other forward, and,
at first slowly and smoothly, then buoyantly and
impetuously, with stamping of feet and clicking of
boots, his tall, imposing figure moved the length
of the room. Varinka swayed gracefully beside
him, rhythmically and easily, making her steps
short or long, with her little feet in their white satin

"All the people in the room followed every
movement of the couple. As for me I not only ad-
mired, I regarded them with enraptured sym-
pathy. I was particularly impressed with the old
gentleman's boots. They were not the modern
pointed affairs, but were made of cheap leather,
squared-toed, and evidently built by the regimental
cobbler. In order that his daughter might dress
and go out in society, he did not buy fashionable
boots, but wore home-made ones, I thought, and
his square toes seemed to me most touching. It
was obvious that in his time he had been a good
dancer; but now he was too heavy, and his legs had
not spring enough for all the beautiful steps he
tried to take. Still, he contrived to go twice round
the room. When at the end, standing with legs
apart, he suddenly clicked his feet together and fell
on one knee, a bit heavily, and she danced grace-
fully around him, smiling and adjusting her skirt,
the whole room applauded.

"Rising with an effort, he tenderly took his
daughter's face between his hands. He kissed her
on the forehead, and brought her to me, under the
impression that I was her partner for the mazurka.
I said I was not. 'Well, never mind. just go
around the room once with her,' he said, smil-
ing kindly, as he replaced his sword in the

"As the contents of a bottle flow readily when
the first drop has been poured, so my love for
Varinka seemed to set free the whole force of lov-
ing within me. In surrounding her it embraced the
world. I loved the hostess with her diadem and
her shoulders like Elizabeth, and her husband and
her guests and her footmen, and even the engineer
Anisimov who felt peevish towards me. As for
Varinka's father, with his home-made boots and
his kind smile, so like her own, I felt a sort of ten-
derness for him that was almost rapture.

"After supper I danced the promised quadrille
with her, and though I had been infinitely happy
before, I grew still happier every moment.

"We did not speak of love. I neither asked
myself nor her whether she loved me. It was
quite enough to know that I loved her. And I had
only one fear--that something might come to in-
terfere with my great joy.

"When I went home, and began to undress for
the night, I found it quite out of the question.
held the little feather out of her fan in my hand,
and one of her gloves which she gave me when I
helped her into the carriage after her mother.
Looking at these things, and without closing my
eyes I could see her before me as she was for an
instant when she had to choose between two part-
ners. She tried to guess what kind of person
was represented in me, and I could hear her
sweet voice as she said, 'Pride--am I right?' and
merrily gave me her hand. At supper she took the
first sip from my glass of champagne, looking at
me over the rim with her caressing glance. But,
plainest of all, I could see her as she danced with
her father, gliding along beside him, and looking
at the admiring observers with pride and happi-

"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 ex-
periencing. Our serf Petrusha had met me with a
candle, ready to undress me, but I sent him away.
His sleepy face and tousled hair seemed to me so
touching. Trying not to make a noise, I went to
my room on tiptoe and sat down on my bed. No,
I was too happy; I could not sleep. Besides, it
was too hot in the rooms. Without taking off my
uniform, I went quietly into the hall, put on my
overcoat, opened the front door and stepped out
into the street.

"It was after four when I had left the ball;
going home and stopping there a while had occu-
pied two hours, so by the time I went out it was
dawn. It was regular carnival weather--foggy,
and the road full of water-soaked snow just melt-
ing, and water dripping from the eaves. Varin-
ka's family lived on the edge of town near a large
field, one end of which was a parade ground: at
the other end was a boarding-school for young
ladies. I passed through our empty little street
and came to the main thoroughfare, where I met
pedestrians and sledges laden with wood, the run-
ners grating the road. The horses swung with
regular paces beneath their shining yokes, their
backs covered with straw mats and their heads wet
with rain; while the drivers, in enormous boots,
splashed through the mud beside the sledges. All
this, the very horses themselves, seemed to me
stimulating and fascinating, full of suggestion.

"When I approached the field near their house,
I saw at one end of it, in the direction of the pa-
rade ground, something very huge and black, and
I heard sounds of fife and drum proceeding from
it. My heart had been full of song, and I had
heard in imagination the tune of the mazurka,
but this was very harsh music. It was not pleas-

"'What can that be?' I thought, and went
towards the sound by a slippery path through the
centre of the field. Walking about a hundred
paces, I began to distinguish many black objects
through the mist. They were evidently soldiers.
'It is probably a drill,' I thought.

"So I went along in that direction in company
with a blacksmith, who wore a dirty coat and an
apron, and was carrying something. He walked
ahead of me as we approached the place. The
soldiers in black uniforms stood in two rows, fac-
ing each other motionless, their guns at rest. Be-
hind them stood the fifes and drums, incessantly
repeating the same unpleasant tune.

"'What are they doing?' I asked the black-
smith, who halted at my side.

"'A Tartar is being beaten through the ranks
for his attempt to desert,' said the blacksmith in

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