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Tolstoy is equally known for his complicated and paradoxical persona and for his extreme moralistic and ascetic views, which he adopted after a moral crisis and spiritual awakening in the 1870s, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer.
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All the efforts of several hundred thousand people, crowded in a small space, to disfigure the land on which they lived; all the stone they covered it with to keep it barren; how so diligently every sprouting blade of grass was removed; all the smoke of coal and naphtha; all the cutting down of trees and driving off of cattle could not shut out the spring, even from the city. The sun was shedding its light; the grass, revivified, was blooming forth, where it was left uncut, not only on the greenswards of the boulevard, but between the flag-stones, and the birches, poplars and wild-berry trees were unfolding their viscous leaves; the limes were unfolding their buds; the daws, sparrows and pigeons were joyfully making their customary nests, and the flies were buzzing on the sun-warmed walls. Plants, birds, insects and children were equally joyful. Only men—grown-up men—continued cheating and tormenting themselves and each other. People saw nothing holy in this spring morning, in this beauty of God’s world—a gift to all living creatures—inclining to peace, good-will and love, but worshiped their own inventions for imposing their will on each other.
The joy of spring felt by animals and men did not penetrate the office of the county jail, but the one thing of supreme importance there was a document received the previous evening, with title, number and seal, which ordered the bringing into court for trial, this 28th day of April, at nine o’clock in the morning, three prisoners—two women and one man. One of the women, as the more dangerous criminal, was to be brought separately. So, in pursuance of that order, on the 28th day of April, at eight o’clock in the morning, the jail warden entered the dingy corridor of the woman’s ward. Immediately behind him came a woman with weary countenance and disheveled gray hair, wearing a crown-laced jacket, and girdled with a blueedged sash. She was the matron. “You want Maslova?” she asked the warden, as they neared one of the cells opening into the corridor.
The warden, with a loud clanking of iron, unlocked and opened the door of the cell, releasing an even fouler odor than permeated the corridor, and shouted:“Maslova to the court!” and again closing the door he waited for her appearance.
The fresh, vivifying air of the fields, carried to the city by the wind, filled even the court-yard of the jail. But in the corridor the oppressive air, laden with the smell of tar and putrescence, saddened and dejected the spirit of every new-comer. The same feeling was experienced by the jail matron, notwithstanding she was accustomed to bad air. On entering the corridor she suddenly felt a weariness coming over her that inclined her to slumber.There was a bustling in the cell; women’s voices and steps of bare feet were heard. “Hurry up, Maslova! Come on, I say!” shouted the warden into the cell-door.
Presently at the cell-door appeared a middle-sized, full-breasted young woman, dressed in a long, gray coat over a white waist and skirt. She approached with firm step, and, facing about, stood before the warden. Over her linen stockings she wore jail shoes; her head was covered with a white ‘kerchief, from under which black curls were evidently purposely brushed over the forehead. The face of the woman was of that whiteness peculiar to people who have been a long time in confinement, and which reminds one of potato-sprouts in a cellar. Her small, wide hands, her white, full neck, showing from under the large collar of the coat, were of a similar hue. On the dull pallor of that face the most striking feature was the black, sparkling eyes, somewhat swollen, but very bright eyes, one of which slightly squinted. She held herself erect, putting forth her full chest. Emerging into the corridor, throwing her head back a little, she looked into the eyes of the warden and stood ready to do his bidding. The warden was about to shut the door, when a pale, severe, wrinkled face of an old woman with disheveled hair was thrust out. The old woman began to say something to Maslova. But the warden pressed the door against the head of the woman, and she disappeared. In the cell a woman’s voice burst into laughter. Maslova also smiled, and turned to the grated little opening in the door. The old woman pressed her forehead to the grating, and said in a hoarse voice:“Above all, don’t speak too much; stick to one thing, and that is all.” “Of course. It cannot be any worse,” said Maslova.
“You certainly cannot stick to two things,” said the chief warden, with official assurance of his own wit. “Follow me, now! Forward! March!”
The eye looking from behind the grating disappeared, and Maslova took to the middle of the corridor, and with short, but rapid strides, followed the warden. They descended the stone stairway, and as they passed the men’s ward, noisy and more noisome even than the woman’s ward, scores of eyes followed them from behind the gratings. They entered the office, where an armed escort of two soldiers stood. The clerk handed one of the soldiers a document, reeking of tobacco smoke, and, pointing to the prisoner, said:“Take her.”
The soldier, a Nijhni peasant with a red and pock-marked face, placed the paper into the cuff of his coat sleeve, and, smiling, winked to his muscular comrade. The soldiers and prisoner descended the stairs and went in the direction of the main entrance.
A small door in the gate opened, and, crossing the threshold, they passed through the inclosure and took the middle of the paved street. Drivers, shop-keepers, kitchen maids, laborers and officials halted and gazed with curiosity at the prisoner. Some shook their heads and thought: “There is the result of evil conduct—how unlike ours!” Children looked with horror at the cut-throat, but the presence of the soldiers reassured them, for she was now powerless to do harm. A villager, returning from the mart, where he had disposed of his charcoal and visited an inn, offered her a kopeck. The prisoner blushed, drooped her head and murmured something.
Conscious of the attention that was shown her, without turning her head she looked askance at the onlookers and rather enjoyed it. She also enjoyed the comparatively pure spring air, but the walking on the cobblestones was painful to her feet, unused as they were to walking, and shod in clumsy prison shoes. She looked at her feet and endeavored to step as lightly as possible. Passing by a food store, in front of which some pigeons were picking grain, she came near striking with her foot a dove-colored bird. It rose with a flutter of its wings, and flew past the very ear of the prisoner, fanning her face with its wings. She smiled, then sighed deeply, remembering her own condition. CHAPTER II.
The history of the prisoner Maslova was a very common one. Maslova was the daughter of an unmarried menial who lived with her mother, a cowherd, on the estate of two spinsters. This unmarried woman gave birth to a child every year, and, as is the custom in the villages, baptized them; then neglected the troublesome newcomers, and they finally starved to death.
Thus five children died. Every one of these was baptized, then it starved and finally died. The sixth child, begotten of a passing gypsy, was a girl, who would have shared the same fate, but it happened that one of the two old maidens entered the cow-shed to reprimand the milkmaids for carelessness in skimming the cream, and there saw the mother with the healthy and beautiful child. The old maiden chided them for the cream and for permitting the woman to lie in the cow-shed, and was on the point of departing, but noticing the child, was moved to pity, and afterward consented to stand godmother to the child. She baptized the child, and in pity for her god-daughter, furnished her with milk, gave the mother some money, and the babe thrived. Wherefore the old maidens called it “the saved one.”
The child was three years old when the mother fell ill and died. She was a great burden to her grandmother, so the old maidens adopted her. The dark-eyed girl became unusually lively and pretty, and her presence cheered them.
Of the two old maidens, the younger one—Sophia Ivanovna—was the kindlier, while the older one—Maria Ivanovna—was of austere disposition. Sophia Ivanovna kept the girl in decent clothes, taught her to read and intended to give her an education. Maria Ivanovna said that the girl ought to be taught to work that she might become a useful servant, was exacting, punished, and even beat her when in bad humor. Under such conditions the girl grew up half servant, half lady. Her position was reflected even in her name, for she was not called by the gentle Katinka, nor yet by the disdainful Katka, but Katiousha, which stands sentimentally between the two. She sewed, cleaned the rooms, cleaned the ikons with chalk, ground, cooked and served coffee, washed, and sometimes she read for the ladies.
She was wooed, but would marry no one, feeling that life with any one of her wooers would be hard, spoiled, as she was, more or less, by the comparative ease she enjoyed in the manor.
She had just passed her sixteenth year when the ladies were visited by their nephew, a rich student, and Katiousha, without daring to confess it to him, or even to herself, fell in love with him. Two years afterward, while on his way to the war, he again visited his aunts, and during his four days’ stay, consummated her ruin. Before his departure he thrust a hundred ruble bill into her hand.
Thenceforward life ceased to have any charms for her, and her only thought was to escape the shame which awaited her, and not only did she become lax in her duties, but—and she did not know herself how it happened—all of a sudden she gave vent to her ill temper. She said some rude things to the ladies, of which she afterward repented, and left them.
Dissatisfied with her behavior, they did not detain her. She then obtained employment as servant in the house of the commissary of rural police, but was obliged to give up the position at the end of the third month, for the commissary, a fifty-year old man, pursued her with his attentions, and when, on one occasion, he became too persistent, she flared up, called him an old fool, and threw him to the ground. Then she was driven from the house. She was now so far advanced on the road to maternity that to look for a position was out of the question. Hence she took lodgings with an old midwife, who was also a wine dealer. The confinement came off painlessly. But the midwife was attending a sick woman in the village, infected Katiousha with puerperal fever, and the child, a boy, was taken to a foundling asylum where, she was told, he died immediately after his arrival there. When Katiousha took lodgings with the midwife she had 127 rubles; 27 rubles of which she had earned, and 100 rubles which had been given her by her seducer. When she left her she had but six rubles left. She was not economical, and spent on herself as well as others. She paid 40 rubles to the midwife for two months’ board; 25 rubles it cost her to have the child taken away; 40 rubles the midwife borrowed of her to buy a cow with; the balance was spent on dresses, presents, etc., so that after the confinement she was practically penniless, and was compelled to look for a position. She was soon installed in the house of a forester who was married, and who, like the commissary, began to pay court to her. His wife became aware of it, and when, on one occasion, she found them both in the room, she fell on Katiousha and began to beat her. The latter resented it, and the result was a scrimmage, after which she was driven out of the house, without being paid the wages due her. Katiousha went to the city, where she stopped with her aunt. Her aunt’s husband was a bookbinder. Formerly he used to earn a competence, but had lost his customers, and was now given to drink, spending everything that came into his hands.
With the aid of a small laundry she was keeping, her aunt supported her children as well as her husband. She offered Maslova work as a washerwoman, but seeing what a hard life the washerwomen at her aunt’s establishment were leading, she searched through the intelligence offices for a position as servant. She found such a place with a lady who was living with her two student boys. A week after she had entered upon her duties, the oldest son neglected his studies and made life miserable for Maslova. The mother threw all blame upon Maslova and discharged her. She was some time without any occupation. In one of these intelligence offices she once met a lady richly dressed and adorned with diamonds. This lady, learning of the condition of Maslova, who was looking for a position, gave her her card and invited her to call. The lady received Maslova affectionately, treated her to choice cakes and sweet wine, while she dispatched her servant somewhere with a note. In the evening a tall man with long hair just turning gray, and gray beard, came into the room. The old man immediately seated himself beside Maslova and began to jest. The hostess called him into an adjoining room, and Maslova overheard her say: “As fresh as a rose; just from the country.” Then the hostess called in Maslova and told her that the man was an author, very rich, and will be very generous if he takes a liking to her. He did take a liking to her, gave her twenty-five rubles, and promised to call on her often. The money was soon spent in settling for her board at her aunt’s, for a new dress, hat and ribbons. A few days afterward the author sent for her a second time. She called. He gave her another twenty-five ruble bill and offered to rent apartments for her where she could reside separately.
While living in the apartments rented by the author, Maslova became infatuated with a jolly clerk living in the same house. She herself told the author of her infatuation, and moved into a smaller apartment. The clerk, who had promised to marry her, without saying anything, left for Nijhni, evidently casting her off, and Maslova remained alone. She wished to remain in the apartment, but the landlord would not permit a single woman to occupy it, and she returned to her aunt. Her fashionable dress, cape and hat won her the respect of her aunt, who no longer dared to offer her work as a washerwoman, considering her present position far above it. The question of working in the laundry did not even occur to Maslova now. She looked with compassion on the life of drudgery led by these pale, emaciated washerwomen, some of whom showed symptoms of consumption, washing and ironing in a stifling, steamladen atmosphere with the windows open summer and winter, and she was horrified at the thought that she, too, might be driven to such drudgery.
Maslova had for a long time been addicted to cigarette smoking, but of late she had been getting more and more accustomed to drink. The wine attracted her, not because of its taste, but because it enabled her to forget her past life, to comfort herself with ease, and the confidence of her own worth that it gave her. Without wine she was despondent and abashed. There was the choice of two things before her; either the humiliating occupation of a servant, with the certain unwelcome attentions of the men, or a secure, quiet and legitimatized position of everybody’s mistress. She wished to revenge herself on her seducer, as well as the clerk, and all those that brought misfortune upon her. Besides, she could not withstand the temptation of having all the dresses her heart desired—dresses made of velvet, gauze and silk—ball dresses, with open neck and short sleeves. And when Maslova imagined herself in a bright yellow silk dress, with velvet trimmings, decolette, she made her choice.
From this day on Maslova began to lead a life to which hundreds of thousands of women are driven, and which, in nine cases out of ten, ends in painful disease, premature decrepitude and death.
After a night’s orgies there would come a deep slumber till three or four o’clock in the afternoon; then the weary rising from a dirty couch; seltzer-water to remove the effect of excessive drinking, coffee. Then came the sauntering through the rooms in dressinggown, looking through the windows; the languid quarrels; then the perfuming of her body and hair, the trying on of dresses, and the quarrels with the mistress which they occasioned; contemplating herself in the mirror, rouging her face, darkening her eyebrows. Then came the sweet, rich food, the bright silk dress, the entry into the brightly lighted parlor, the arrival of the guests, music, dancing, confectionery, wine and cigarettes.
Thus Maslova lived for seven years. On the eighth, when she had reached her twenty-sixth year, there happened that for which she had been jailed, and for which she was now led to the court, after six months of confinement among thieves and murderers. CHAPTER III.
At the time when Maslova, exhausted by the long walk, was approaching with the armed convoy the building in which court was held, the same nephew of the ladies that brought her up, Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff, who deceived her, lay on his high, soft, spring feather-bed, in spotless Holland linen, smoking a cigarette. He was gazing before him, contemplating the events of the previous day and considering what he had before him for that day. As he thought of the previous evening, spent at the Korchagins, a wealthy and influential family, whose daughter, rumor had it, he was to marry, he sighed, and throwing away the butt of his cigarette, he was on the point of taking another from the silver cigarette holder, but changed his mind. Half rising, he slipped his smooth, white feet into the slippers, threw a silk morning gown over his broad shoulders, and with quick and heavy stride, walked into the adjoining dressing-room, which was permeated with the artificial odors of elixirs, perfumes, cosmetics. There he washed his partly gold-filled teeth with a tooth-powder, rinsed them with a perfumed mouth-wash, then began to sponge himself and dry his body with Turkish towels. After washing his hands with perfumed soap, carefully brushing his trimmed nails and washing his face and stout neck in a marble basin, he walked into a third room, where a shower-bath was ready. Here he received a cold-water douche, and after rubbing his white and muscular body with coarse towels and donning his white linen, he seated himself before the mirror and began to brush his short, curly beard and the thinning curls of his forehead.
Everything used by him—the linen, clothing, shoes, scarfs, scarfpins, cuff-buttons, were of the very best quality, simple, tasteful and expensive.
He then picked out the first of a dozen scarfs and pins that came into his hand—it was no more novel and amusing, as it used to be—and he was quite indifferent as to which he put on. He dressed himself in his brushed clothes which lay on the chair and went out, though not quite refreshed, yet clean and fragrant. In the oblong dining-room, the inlaid floor of which had been polished by three of his men the day before, and containing a massive oaken sideboard and a similar extension table, the legs of which were carved in the shape of lion’s paws, giving it a pompous appearance, breakfast stood ready for him. A fine, starched cloth with large monograms was spread on the table, on which stood a silver coffee-pot, containing fragrant, steaming coffee, a sugar bowl and cream pitcher to match, fresh rolls and various kinds of biscuits. Beside them lay the last number of the “Revue des deux Mondes,” newspapers and his mail. Nekhludoff was about to open the letters, when a middle-aged woman, with a lace head-gear over her unevenly parted hair, glided into the room. This was Agrippina Petrovna, servant of his mother, who died in this very house. She was now stewardess to the son.
Agrippina Petrovna had traveled many years abroad with Nekhludoff’s mother, and had acquired the manners of a lady. She had lived in the house of the Nekhludoffs since childhood, and knew Dmitri Ivanovitch when he was called by the diminutive Mitenka.“Good-morning, Dmitri Ivanovitch.” “How do you do, Agrippina Petrovna? What’s the news?” asked Nekhludoff, jesting.
“A letter from the old Princess, or the young one, perhaps. The maid brought it long ago, and is now waiting in my room,” said Agrippina Petrovna, handing him the letter with a significant smile.
“Very well; I will attend to it immediately,” said Nekhludoff, taking the letter and then, noticing the smile on Agrippina’s face, he frowned.
The smile on Agrippina’s face signified that the letter came from Princess Korchagin, whom, according to Agrippina Petrovna, he was to marry. And this supposition, expressed by her smile, displeased Nekhludoff. “Then I will bid her wait,” and Agrippina Petrovna glided out of the dining-room, first replacing the crumb-brush, which lay on the table, in its holder.Nekhludoff opened the perfumed letter and began to read:
“In fulfillment of the duty I assumed of being your memory,” the letter ran, “I call to your mind that you have been summoned to serve as juror to-day, the 28th of April, and that, therefore, you cannot accompany us and Kolosoff to the art exhibition, as you promised yesterday in your customary forgetfulness; à moins que vous ne soyez disposé à payer à la cour d’assises les 300 rubles d’amende que vous vous refusez pour votre cheval, for your failure to appear in time. I remembered it yesterday, when you had left. So keep it in mind.“Princess M. Korchagin.” On the other side was a postscript: “Maman vous fait dire que votre couvert vous attendra jusqu’ à la nuit. Venez absolument à quelle heure que cela soit. M. K.”
Nekhludoff knit his brows. The note was the continuation of a skillful strategem whereby the Princess sought, for the last two months, to fasten him with invisible bonds. But Nekhludoff, besides the usual irresoluteness before marriage of people of his age, and who are not passionately in love, had an important reason for withholding his offer of marriage for the time being. The reason was not that ten years before he had ruined and abandoned Katiousha, which incident he had entirely forgotten, but that at this very time he was sustaining relations with a married woman, and though he now considered them at an end, they were not so considered by her.
In the presence of women, Nekhludoff was very shy, but it was this very shyness that determined the married woman to conquer him. This woman was the wife of the commander of the district in which Nekhludoff was one of the electors. She led him into relations with her which held him fast, and at the same time grew more and more repulsive to him. At first Nekhludoff could not resist her wiles, then, feeling himself at fault, he could not break off the relations against her will. This was the reason why Nekhludoff considered that he had no right, even if he desired, to ask for the hand of Korchagin. A letter from the husband of that woman happened to lay on the table. Recognizing the handwriting and the stamp, Nekhludoff flushed and immediately felt an influx of that energy which he always experienced in the face of danger. But there was no cause for his agitation; the husband, as commander of the district where Nekhludoff’s estates were situated, informed the latter of a special meeting of the local governing body, and asked him to be present without fail, and donner un coup d’épaule in the important measures to be submitted concerning the schools and roads, and that the reactionary party was expected to offer strong opposition.The commander was a liberal-minded man, entirely absorbed with the struggles, and knew nothing about his wretched family life.
Nekhludoff recalled all the tortures this man had occasioned him; how on one occasion he thought that the husband had discovered all, and he was preparing to fight a duel with him, intending to use a blank cartridge, and the ensuing scene where she, in despair, ran to the pond, intending to drown herself, while he ran to search for her. “I cannot go now, and can undertake nothing until I have heard from her,” thought Nekhludoff. The preceding week he had written to her a decisive letter, acknowledging his guilt, and expressing his readiness to redeem it in any manner she should suggest, but for her own good, considered their relations ended. It is to this letter that he expected a reply. He considered it a favorable sign that no reply came. If she had not consented to a separation, she would have answered long ago, or would have come personally, as she often did before. Nekhludoff had heard that an army officer was courting her, and while he was tormented by jealousy, he was at the same time gladdened by the hope of release from the oppressive lie. The other letter was from the steward in charge of his estates. Nekhludoff was requested to return and establish his right to the inheritance and also to decide on the future management of the estates; whether the same system of letting out to the peasants, which prevailed during the lifetime of his mother, was to be continued, or, as the steward had strongly advised the deceased Princess, and now advised the young Prince, to augment the stock and work all the land himself. The steward wrote that the land could thus best be exploited. He also apologized for his failure to send the three thousand rubles due on the first of the month, which he would send by the next mail, explaining it by the difficulty of collecting the rents from the peasants whose bad faith had reached a point where it became necessary to resort to the courts to collect them. This letter was partly agreeable and partly disagreeable to Nekhludoff. It was agreeable to feel the power of authority over so vast an estate, and it was disagreeable, because in his youth he was an enthusiastic adherent of Herbert Spencer, and being himself a large land owner, was struck by the proposition in Social Statics that private ownership of land is contrary to the dictates of justice. With the frankness and boldness of youth, he not only then spoke of the injustice of private ownership of land; not only did he compose theses in the university on the subject, but he actually distributed among the peasants the few hundred acres of land left him by his father, not desiring to own land contrary to his convictions. Now that he found himself the owner of vast estates, he was confronted by two alternatives: either to waive his ownership in favor of the peasants, as he did ten years ago with the two hundred acres, or, by tacit acquiescence, confess that all his former ideas were erroneous and false.
He could not carry out the first, because he possessed no resources outside of the land. He did not wish to go into service, and yet he had luxurious habits of life which he thought he could not abandon. Indeed, there was no necessity of abandoning these habits, since he had lost the strength of conviction as well as the resolution, the vanity and the desire to astonish people that he had possessed in his youth. The other alternative—to reject all the arguments against private ownership of land which he gathered from Spencer’s Social Statics, and of which he found confirmation in the works of Henry George—he could follow even less.For this reason the steward’s letter was disagreeable to him. CHAPTER IV.
Having breakfasted, Nekhludoff went to the cabinet to see for what hour he was summoned to appear at court, and to answer the Princess’ note. In the work-room stood an easel with a half-finished painting turned face downward, and on the wall hung studies in drawing. On seeing that painting, on which he had worked two years, and those drawings, he called to mind the feeling of impotence, which he experienced of late with greatest force, to make further advance in the art. He explained this feeling by the development of a fine aesthetic taste, and yet this consciousness caused him unpleasant sensations.
Seven years before he had retired from active service he decided that his true vocation in life was painting, and from the height of his artistic activity he looked down upon all other occupations. And now it appeared that he had no right to do so, and every recollection of it was disagreeable to him. He looked on all the luxurious appointments of the work-room with heavy heart, and walked into the cabinet in ill humor. The cabinet was a high room, profusely ornamented, and containing every imaginable device of comfort and necessity.
He produced from one of the drawers of a large table the summons, and, ascertaining that he must appear at eleven o’clock, he sat down and wrote to the Princess, thanking her for the invitation, and saying that he should try to call for dinner. The tone of the note seemed to him too intimate, and he tore it up; he wrote another, but that was too formal, almost offensive. Again he tore it up, and touched a button on the wall. A servant, morose, with flowing side-whiskers and in a gray apron, entered.“Please send for a carriage.” “Yes, sir.” “And tell the Korchagins’ maid that I thank them; I will try to call.” “Yes, sir.” “It is impolite, but I cannot write. But I will see her to-day,” thought Nekhludoff, and started to dress himself. When he emerged from the house a carriage with rubber tires awaited him.
“You had scarcely left Prince Korchagin’s house yesterday when I called for you,” said the driver, half-turning his stout, sun-burned neck in the white collar of his shirt, “and the footman said that you had just gone.”
“Even the drivers know of my relations to the Korchagins,” thought Nekhludoff, and the unsolved question which continually occupied his mind of late—whether or not he ought to marry Princess Korchagin—again occurred to him, and, like most questions that he was called upon to decide at that time, it remained unsolved.
He had many reasons for, and as many against, marriage. There was the pleasure of domestic life, which made it possible to lead a moral life, as he called married life; then, and principally, the family and children would infuse his present aimless life with a purpose. This was for marriage generally. On the other hand there was, first, the loss of freedom which all elderly bachelors fear so much; and, second, an unconscious awe of that mysterious creature, woman.
However, in favor of marrying Missy in particular (Korchagin’s name was Maria, but, as usual in families of the higher classes, she received a nickname) there was, first, the fact that she came of good stock, and was in everything, from her dress to her manner of speaking, walking and laughing, distinguished not by any exceptional qualities, but by “good breeding”—he knew no other expression for the quality which he prized very highly. Second, she valued him above all other men, hence, he thought she understood him. And this appreciation of him, that is, acknowledging his high qualities, was proof to Nekhludoff of her intelligence and correct judgment. Finally, against marrying Missy in particular, was, first, the extreme probability of his finding a girl of much better qualities than Missy, and, consequently, more worthy of him; and, second, Missy was twenty-seven years old and had probably loved other men before him. This thought tormented him. His pride could not reconcile itself to the thought that she could love some one else, even in the past. Of course, she could not be expected to know that she would meet him, but the very thought that she could have loved some one else before offended him.
So that there were as many reasons for as there were against marriage in general and marrying Missy in particular. At all events the arguments were equally strong on both sides, and Nekhludoff laughed as he compared himself to the ass in the fable who, while deciding which of the two bales of hay before him he should have his meal from, starved himself.
“However, until I have heard from Maria Vasilieona, the wife of the commander, and have done with her for good, I can do nothing,” he said to himself.And the consciousness that he could and must defer his decision pleased him.
“Ah, but I will consider it all later,” he said to himself, as his cabriolet silently approached the asphalt pavement of the courthouse.
“And now I must do my duty to the community conscientiously, as I always do, and think it one’s duty to do. Besides, it is often interesting,” he said, and went past the door-keeper into the vestibule of the court. CHAPTER V.There was great commotion in the corridors of the court when Nekhludoff entered.
The attendants flitted to and fro breathlessly, delivering orders and documents. Police captains, lawyers and clerks passed now one way, now the other; complainants and defendants under bail leaned sadly against the walls, or were sitting and waiting.“Where is the Circuit Court?” asked Nekhludoff of one of the attendants. “Which one? There is a civil division and a criminal one.” “I am a juror.” “Criminal division. You should have said so. This way, to the right, then turn to your left. The second door.” Nekhludoff went as directed.
At the door two men stood waiting. One was a tall, stout merchant, a good-natured man, who had evidently partaken of some liquor and was in very high spirits; the other was a clerk of Jewish extraction. They were talking about the price of wool when Nekhludoff approached them and asked if that was the jury’s room.“Here, sir, here. Are you also one of the jurymen?” mirthfully winking his eyes, the good-natured merchant asked.
“Well, we will drudge together, I suppose,” he continued in response to Nekhludoff’s affirmative answer. “My name is Baklashoff, merchant of the second guild,” he introduced himself, extending his soft, broad hand; “we must do our duty. Whom have I the honor of addressing?” Nekhludoff gave his name and passed into the jury-room.
In the small jury-room there were about ten men of every description. They had just arrived; some were sitting, others walked about, eyeing, and making each other’s acquaintance. One was a retired officer in uniform; others were in short coats, and but one in peasant garb.
Notwithstanding that they were all complaining that the jury duty was burdensome, and was taking them away from their business, they all seemed to be pleased with the consciousness of performing an important civic duty.
The jurymen talked among themselves of the weather, of the premature spring, of the business before them. Those who were not acquainted with Nekhludoff hastened to become so, evidently considering it an honor. And Nekhludoff, as was usual with him among strangers, received it as his due. If he were asked why he considered himself above the majority of people he would not be able to answer, as there was nothing in his life transcending the commonplace. The fact that he spoke English, French and German fluently; that his linen, clothing, scarf and cuff-buttons were of superior make would not be sufficient reason for assuming his superiority, as he himself well understood. And yet he doubtless acknowledged in himself this superiority, and regarded the respect shown him as his due, and was offended when it was not forthcoming. It just happened that in the jury-room Nekhludoff experienced this disagreeable feeling of being treated with disrespect. Among the jurymen there was an acquaintance of Nekhludoff. This was Peter Gerasimovitch (Nekhludoff never knew, and even boasted of the fact that he did not know his surname), who was at one time tutor to his sister’s children. Peter Gerasimovitch was now teacher in a college. Nekhludoff could never bear his familiarity, his self-satisfied laughter—in a word, his “communizing,” as Nekhludoff’s sister used to put it.
“Ha, ha! So you are also trapped?” he greeted Nekhludoff with a loud burst of laughter. “You did not escape it?” “I never intended to evade my duty,” sternly and gloomily said Nekhludoff.
“That I call civic virtue. But wait till you are hungry and sleepy, you will sing another tune,” Peter Gerasimovitch said, laughing still louder.
“This son of an archdeacon will soon begin to ‘thou’ me,” thought Nekhludoff, with an expression of sadness on his face, as though he had just learned of a grievous loss in his family. He turned from the ex-tutor and approached a group of people that had formed around a clean-faced, tall man, of dignified carriage, who were holding a spirited conversation. The man was speaking of a case that was being tried in the civil division, showing his familiarity with the judges and the famous lawyers by referring to them by name. He was telling them of the remarkable turn given to the probable result of the case by the dexterity of a famous lawyer, by which an old lady, who was in the right, would be obliged to pay an enormous sum to the adverse side.“He is a most ingenious attorney,” he said.
He was listened to with respect, and some attempted to interrupt him with some remarks, but he cut them short as if he alone knew the true facts.Although Nekhludoff arrived late, there was a long wait before him, which was caused by the failure of one of the judges to appear. CHAPTER VI.
The presiding justice arrived early. He was a tall, stout man, with long, grayish side-whiskers. He was married, but, like his wife, led a very dissolute life. They did not interfere with each other. On the morning in question he received a note from a Swiss governess, who had lived in his house during the summer, and was now passing on her way from the South to St. Petersburg. She wrote that she would be in town between three and six o’clock p. m., and wait for him at the “Hotel Italia.” He was, therefore, anxious to end his day’s sitting before six o’clock, that he might meet the red-haired Clara Vasilievna.
Entering his private chamber, and locking the door behind him, he produced from the lower shelf of a book-case two dumb-bells, made twenty motions upward, forward, sidewise and downward, and three times lowered himself, holding the bells above his head.
“Nothing so refreshes one as a cold-water bath and exercise,” he thought, feeling with his left hand, on the fourth finger of which was a gold ring, the biceps of his right arm. He had to go through two more movements (these exercises he went through every day before court opened), when the door rattled. Some one was attempting to open it. The judge quickly replaced the dumb-bells and opened the door.“I beg your pardon,” he said.
One of the members of the court, wearing gold eye-glasses, of medium height, with high shoulders and frowning countenance, entered.“Matvei Nikitich is late again,” said the newcomer, with an air of displeasure.
“Yes,” said the presiding judge, donning his robes. “He is always late.” “It is a shame,” said the member, and sat down angrily, then lighted a cigarette.
This member of the court, a very punctilious man, had this morning had an unpleasant encounter with his wife, which was caused by her spending her monthly allowance before the month was up. She asked for a sum of money in advance, and he refused. The result was a quarrel. She said that unless he gave her the money there would be no dinner that night, and that he would have to dine outside. He departed in fear that she would carry out her threat, as anything might be expected from her.
“Is it worth while leading a good, moral life?” he thought, as he looked at the beaming, healthy, joyful and good-natured presiding justice, who, spreading his elbows, stroked his long, gray whiskers; “he is always contented and cheerful, while I am suffering.”The secretary entered and handed the presiding justice a document. “Thank you,” he said, and lighted a cigarette. “Which case shall be taken up first?” “The poison case, I think,” the secretary answered, with feigned indifference.
“Very well; so let it be the poison case,” said the justice, considering that that case could be disposed of by four o’clock and make it possible for him to keep the appointment. “Has Matvei Nikitich arrived?”“Not yet.” “Is Breae here?” “Yes,” answered the secretary.
“Then tell him that we shall try the poisoning case.” Breae was an assistant prosecuting attorney and was assigned to this term of the court.
The secretary met Breae in the corridor. With uplifted shoulders, his robe unbuttoned, and portfolio under his arm, he almost ran, his heels clattering on the floor, and his disengaged hand outstretched in the direction in which he was going.“Michael Petrovich desires to know if you are ready,” said the secretary. “Certainly; I am always ready,” said the assistant prosecutor; “which is the first case?” “The poisoning case.”
“Very well,” said the assistant prosecutor, but he did not consider it well at all—he had not slept all night. A send-off had been given to a departing friend, and he drank and played till two in the morning, so that he was entirely unfamiliar with this case, and now hastened to glance over the indictment. The secretary had purposely suggested the case, knowing that the prosecutor had not read it. The secretary was a man of liberal, even radical, ideas. Breae was conservative, and the secretary disliked him, and envied his position.“And what about the Skoptzy?”[A]
“I have already said that I cannot prosecute them in the absence of witnesses,” said the assistant prosecutor, “and I will so declare to the court.”“But you don’t need——” “I cannot,” said the assistant prosecutor, and waving his hand, ran to his office.
He was postponing the case against the Skoptzy, although the absent witness was an entirely unnecessary one. The real reason of the postponement was that the prosecutor feared that their trial before an intelligent jury might end in their acquittal. By an understanding with the presiding justice their case was to be transferred to the session of the District Court, where the preponderance of peasants on the jury would insure their conviction.
The commotion in the corridor increased. The greatest crowd was before the Civil Court, where the case of which the portly gentleman was telling the jurymen was being tried. During a recess the same old lady from whom the ingenious attorney managed to win her property in favor of his shrewd client, came out of the court-room. That he was not entitled to the property was known to the judges as well as to the claimant and his attorney, but the mode of their procedure was such that it was impossible to dismiss their claim. The old lady was stout, in smart attire, and with large flowers on her hat. As she passed into the corridor she stopped, and turning to her lawyer, kept repeating:“How can it be? Great heavens! I don’t understand it!” The lawyer did not listen to her, but looked at the flowers on her hat, making mental calculations.
Behind the old lady, beaming in his wide-open vest, and with a selfsufficient smile on his face, came that same famous lawyer who so managed the case that the lady with the large flowers lost all her property, while his shrewd client, who paid him ten thousand rubles, received over a hundred thousand. All eyes were directed toward him. He was conscious of it and seemed to say by his demeanor:“Never mind your expressions of devotion,” and brushed past the crowd. FOOTNOTES: [A] A sect of eunuchs. CHAPTER VII.
Finally Matvei Nikitich arrived, and the usher, a long-necked and lean man, with a sideling gait and protruding lower lip, entered the jury-room.
The usher was an honest man, with a university education, but he could not hold any employment on account of his tippling habit. A countess, his wife’s patroness, had obtained him his present position three months ago; he still retained it, and was exceedingly glad.“Are you all here, gentlemen?” he asked, putting on his pince-nez and looking through it. “I think so,” said the cheerful merchant.
“Let us see,” said the usher, and drawing a sheet of paper from his pocket, began to call the names of the jury, looking at those that responded to their names now through his pince-nez, now over it.“Counsilor of State E. M. Nikiforoff.” “Here,” said the portly gentleman, who was familiar with all the litigations. “Retired Colonel Ivan Semionovich Ivanoff.” “Present,” answered a lank man in the uniform of a retired officer. “Merchant of the second guild, Peter Baklashoff.” “Here,” said the good-natured merchant, smiling from ear to ear. “We are ready.” “Lieutenant of the Guards, Prince Dmitri Nekhludoff.”
“Here,” answered Nekhludoff. The usher, looking politely and pleasantly through his pince-nez, bowed, thereby distinguishing him from the rest, as it were.“Captain Uri Dmitrievich Danchenko; merchant Gregory Ephimovich Kouleshoff,” etc., etc., etc. There were but two missing from the panel. “You will now, gentlemen, walk into the court,” said the usher, pointing to the door with a polite sweep of the hand. They all rose from their seats, and passing each other through the door, made their way through the corridor to the court-room.
The court was held in a large, oblong room. At one end was a platform, reached by three steps. In the middle of the platform stood a table, covered with green cloth, which was fringed with a darkgreen lace. Behind the table stood three arm-chairs with high, carved backs. In an image-case suspended in the right corner was a representation of Christ with a crown of thorns, and beneath it a reading-desk, and on the same side stood the prosecutor’s desk. To the left, opposite this desk, was the secretary’s table, and dividing these from the seats reserved for spectators was a carved railing, along which stood the prisoners’ bench, as yet unoccupied.
On an elevation to the right were two rows of chairs, also with high backs, reserved for the jury; below these were tables for the attorneys. All this was in the front part of the court-room, which was divided in two by a railing. In the rear part of the room benches in lines extended to the wall. In the front row sat four women, either servants or factory employees, and two men, also workmen, who were evidently awed by the grandeur of the ornamentations, and were timidly whispering to each other.Soon after the jurymen came the usher, who, walking sidewise to the middle of the room, shouted, as if he meant to frighten those present:
“The court is coming!” Everybody stood up, and the judges ascended the platform. First came the presiding judge with his muscles and beautiful whiskers. Then came the gold-spectacled, gloomy member of the court—now even more gloomy, for before the opening of the session he met his brother-in-law, a candidate for a judicial office, who told him that he had seen his sister, and that she declared that there would be no dinner at home this day.“So that, it seems, we will have to dine at an inn,” said the brotherin-law, laughing. “What is there droll about it?” said the gloomy member of the court, and sank into a still deeper gloom.
And last of all came the third member of the court, that same Matvei Nikitich, who was always late. He wore a long beard, and had large, kindly eyes, with drooping eyelids. He suffered from catarrh of the stomach, and by the advice of his physician had adopted a new regimen, and this new regimen detained him this morning longer than usual. When he ascended the platform he seemed to be wrapped in thought, but only because he had the habit of making riddles of every question that occurred to him. At this moment he was occupied with the following enigmatical proposition:
If the number of steps in the distance between the cabinet-door and the arm-chair will divide by three without a remainder, then the new regimen will cure him; but if it does not so divide, then it will not. There were twenty-six steps, but he made one short step and reached the chair with the twenty-seventh.
As the judges ascended the elevation in their uniforms, with goldlaced collars, they presented an imposing array. They themselves felt it, and all three, as if confused by their own greatness, modestly lowered their eyes, and hastily seated themselves behind the table on which clean paper and freshly-pointed lead pencils of all sizes had been placed. The prosecutor, who entered with the judges, also hastily walked to his place near the window, his portfolio still under his arm, and waving his hand he began to read the papers in the case, utilizing every moment to prepare himself.
This was his fifth case as prosecuting attorney. He was ambitious, and was determined to make his career, and hence he endeavored to obtain a conviction in every case he prosecuted. He knew the main points of the poisoning case, and had already planned his speech; but he needed to know some particulars of which he was now making extracts from the papers.
The secretary sat on the opposite side of the elevation, and, having prepared all the papers that might be necessary to produce on trial, was glancing over a newspaper article, which he had obtained and read the day before. He was anxious to talk to the member of the court with the long beard, who shared his views, and before doing so wished to better familiarize himself with it. CHAPTER VIII.
The presiding justice looked over the papers, asked some questions of the usher, and receiving affirmative answers, ordered that the prisoners be brought into court. Immediately a door beyond the grating opened, and two gendarmes with unsheathed swords and caps on their heads, stepped into the court-room. Behind them came a freckled, red-haired man and two women. The man was dressed in prisoner’s garb which was too long and too wide for him. As he entered the court-room he held up with outspread fingers the sleeves which were too long. Without looking at the judges or the spectators, his attention was absorbed by the bench around which he was led. When he had passed around he carefully seated himself on the edge, and making room for the others, began to stare at the presiding justice, the muscles of his cheeks moving as if he were whispering something. He was followed by a middle-aged woman, also dressed in a prisoner’s coat. A white prison cap covered her head; her face was grayish, and her eyes were devoid of either eye-lashes or eyebrows. She seemed quite composed. As she was passing the railing to take her seat, her coat caught at something; without haste, she carefully disengaged it, then smoothed it and took her seat.The third prisoner was Maslova.
No sooner did she enter than all the male spectators turned their eyes toward her, attracted by her white face, lustrous black eyes and high breast. Even the gendarme whom she passed gazed at her until she seated herself; then, as if feeling himself guilty, he quickly turned his head from her and straightening himself, he began to gaze into the window directly in front of him.The presiding justice waited until all the prisoners took their places, and as soon as Maslova was seated, he turned to the secretary.
Then commenced the customary proceeding; calling of the jurymen, fining the absent ones, listening to the claims of exemption from jury duty and filling the panel from a number of reserves. Then the presiding justice folded the slips of paper, placed them in a glass vase, and turning up his gold-laced sleeve drew the slips one by one, unrolled them and read them aloud. Then he straightened his sleeve and called on the priest to swear in the jury.
An old little priest with a swollen, pale yellow face, in a brown cassock and gold cross on his breast and some small badges pinned to the cassock, slowly moving his swollen feet under the cassock, approached the reading desk under the image.The jury rose and, crowding each other, came forward.
“Come nearer, please,” said the priest, touching with his swollen hand the cross on his breast, and waiting until all the jury were near him.
While the jury were mounting the steps to the elevation where the desk stood, the priest wriggled his bald, hoary head through the opening of the stole, then rearranging his scanty hair, he turned to the jury:
“Raise your right hands and keep your fingers thus,” he said, in a slow, feeble voice, raising his bloated hand and pointing at his forehead with the first three of its dimpled fingers. “Now repeat after me: ‘I promise and swear by the Almighty God, His Holy Gospel, and by the life-giving cross of our Lord, that in the case’”— he continued, resting after each phrase. “Don’t drop your hand; hold it thus,” he turned to a young man who let his hand fall—”‘that in the case which——’”
The portly, whiskered gentleman, the colonel, merchant and others held their hands as directed by the priest, and seemed to do so with particular pleasure, holding their hands quite high, and their fingers most proper; others seemed to do it against their will, and carelessly. Some repeated the words too loudly, in a provoking manner, with an expression on the face which seemed to say: “I will repeat as I please;” others whispered, fell behind the priest and then, as if frightened, hastened to catch up with him. Some held their fingers tightly closed, as if challenging anyone to part them; others, again, loosened them, now closed them again. After the jury was sworn, the presiding justice directed them to choose a foreman. They arose and, crowding each other, went into the consultation room, where almost every one produced cigarettes and began to smoke. Some one proposed the portly gentleman, who was immediately chosen, then they threw away their cigarettes and returned to the court. The gentleman declared to the presiding justice that he was chosen foreman, and stepping over the feet of each other, the jury again seated themselves in the two rows of high-backed chairs.
Everything proceeded smoothly, quickly and not without solemnity, and the regularity, order and solemnity evidently pleased the participants, confirming their sense of rendering important public service. Nekhludoff also experienced this feeling.
As soon as the jury seated themselves the presiding justice instructed them in their rights, duties and responsibilities. While speaking, he was constantly changing his attitude; now he leaned on his right hand, now on his left; then he reclined in his chair, or rested his hands on the arms of the chair, smoothed the corners of the paper on the table, polished the paper-knife or clutched the lead pencil.
Their rights, according to him, consisted in that they were allowed to question prisoners, through the presiding justice; they might keep pencils and paper, and might also view exhibits. Their duties consisted in not giving a false verdict. And their responsibilities consisted in that if they failed to keep secret their deliberations, or spoke to outsiders, they would be liable to punishment.
They all listened with respectful attention. The merchant, from whom the fumes of wine spread through the jury box, and who was suppressing the noisy rising of gases in his stomach, approvingly nodded at every sentence. CHAPTER IX.After he had finished the instructions, the presiding justice turned to the prisoners. “Simon Kartinkin, rise!” he said. Simon sprang up nervously. The muscles of his cheeks began to twitch still quicker. “What is your name?” “Simon Petroff Kartinkin,” he said quickly, in a sharp voice, evidently prepared for the question. “What estate?” “Peasant.” “What government, district?” “Government of Tula, district of Krapivensk, Kupian township, village of Borki.” “How old are you?” “Thirty-four; born in eighteen hundred——” “What faith?” “Of the Russian orthodox faith.” “Are you married?” “O, no!” “What is your occupation?” “I was employed in the Hotel Mauritania.” “Were you ever arrested before?” “I was never arrested before, because where I lived——” “You were not arrested?” “God forbid! Never!” “Have you received a copy of the indictment?” “Yes.” “Sit down. Euphemia Ivanovna Bochkova!” The presiding justice turned to the next prisoner. But Simon remained standing in front of Bochkova. “Kartinkin, sit down!” Kartinkin still remained standing. “Kartinkin, sit down!” But Kartinkin stood still until the usher, his head leaning to the side, and with wide-open eyes, whispered to him in a tragic tone: “Sit down, sit down!” Kartinkin sat down as quickly as he rose, and wrapping himself in his coat began to move his cheeks.
“Your name?” With a sigh of weariness the presiding justice turned to the next prisoner without looking at her, and consulted a paper before him. He was so accustomed to the business that to expedite matters he could try two cases at once. Bochkova was forty-two years old, a burgess of the town of Koloma; by occupation a servant—in the same Hotel Mauritania. Was never arrested before, and had received a copy of the indictment. She gave the answers very boldly and with an intonation which seemed to add to every answer.“Yes, Bochkova, Euphemia, have received a copy, and am proud of it, and will permit no one to laugh at me.” Without waiting to be told to sit down, Bochkova sat down immediately after the questioning ceased.
“Your name?” asked the presiding justice of the third prisoner. “You must rise,” he added, gently and courteously, seeing Maslova still in her seat.
With quick movement Maslova rose with an air of submissiveness, and throwing back her shoulders, looked into the face of the presiding justice with her smiling, somewhat squinting black eyes.“What are you called?” “They used to call me Lubka,” she answered, rapidly. Meanwhile Nekhludoff put on his pince-nez and examined the prisoners while they were questioned. “It is impossible,” he thought, looking intently at the prisoner. “But her name is Lubka,” he thought, as he heard her answer.
The presiding justice was about to continue his interrogation when the member with the eye-glasses, angrily whispering something, stopped him. The presiding justice nodded his assent and turned to the prisoner.“You say ‘Lubka,’ but a different name is entered here.” The prisoner was silent. “I ask you what is your real name?” “What name did you receive at baptism?” asked the angry member. “Formerly I was called Katherine.”
“It is impossible,” Nekhludoff continued to repeat, although there was no doubt in his mind now that it was she, that same servant ward with whom he had been in love at one time—yes, in love, real love, and whom in a moment of mental fever he led astray, then abandoned, and to whom he never gave a second thought, because the recollection of it was too painful, revealed too manifestly that he, who prided himself of his good breeding, not only did not treat her decently, but basely deceived her.
Yes, it was she. He saw plainly the mysterious peculiarity that distinguishes every individual from every other individual. Notwithstanding the unnatural whiteness and fullness of her face, this pleasant peculiarity was in the face, in the lips, in the slightly squinting eyes, and, principally, in the naive, smiling glance, and in the expression of submissiveness not only in the face, but in the whole figure.“You should have said so,” again very gently said the presiding justice. “What is your patronymic?” “I am illegitimate,” said Maslova. “But yet you were named after your godfather?” “Michailova.” “What crime could she have committed?” Nekhludoff thought meanwhile, his breath almost failing him. “What is your surname—your family name?” continued the presiding justice. “Maslova—after my mother.” “Your estate?” “Burgess.” “Of the orthodox faith?” “Yes.” “Your occupation? What was your occupation?” Maslova was silent. “What was your occupation?” repeated the justiciary. “You know!” said Maslova. She smiled and quickly glanced around, then looked squarely at the justiciary.
There was something so unusual in the expression of her face— something so terrible and piteous in the meaning of her words, in that smile, that quick glance which she cast over the court-room— that the justiciary hung his head, and for a moment there was perfect silence.
A burst of laughter from some spectator interrupted the silence. Some one hissed. The justiciary raised his head and continued the interrogation.“Were you ever arrested?” “No.” Maslova said in an undertone, sighing. “Have you received a copy of the indictment?” “Yes.”
“Sit down.” The prisoner raised her skirt with the customary movement of a fashionable lady, arranging her train, and sat down, folding her hands in the sleeves of her coat, and still looking at the justiciary.
Then began the recounting of witnesses, their removal to a separate room, the decision on the evidence of the medical expert. Then the secretary arose and began to read the indictment, loud and with distinctness, but so rapidly that his incorrect sounding of the letters l and r turned his reading into one continuous, weary drone. The judges leaned now on one side, now on the other side of their armchairs, then on the table, and again on the backs of the chairs, or closed their eyes, or opened them and whispered to each other. One of the gendarmes several times stifled a yawn.
The convulsions of Kartinkin’s cheeks did not cease. Bochkova sat quietly and erect, now and then scratching with her finger under her cap.
Maslova sat motionless, listening to the reading, and looking at the clerk; at times she shuddered and made a movement as if desiring to object, blushed, then sighed deeply, changed the position of her hands, glanced around and again looked at the clerk.
Nekhludoff sat on the high-backed chair in the front row, second to the aisle, and without removing his pince-nez looked at Maslova, while his soul was being racked by a fierce and complicated struggle. CHAPTER X.The indictment read as follows:
“On the 17th of January, 18—, suddenly died in the Hotel Mauritania, merchant of the second guild, Therapont Emelianovich Smelkoff.“The local police physician certified that the cause of death of said Smelkoff was rupture of the heart, caused by excessive use of liquor. “The body of Smelkoff was interred.
“On the 21st day of January, a townsman and comrade of Smelkoff, on returning from St. Petersburg, and hearing of the circumstances of his death, declared his suspicion that Smelkoff was poisoned with a view of robbing him of the money he carried about his person.
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