Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XX.

The Trial — The Medical Report.

But, as if to spite him, the case dragged out to a great length. After each witness had been examined separately and the expert last of all, and a great number of useless questions had been put, with the usual air of importance, by the public prosecutor and by both advocates, the president invited the jury to examine the objects offered as material evidence. They consisted of an enormous diamond ring, which had evidently been worn on the first finger, and a test tube in which the poison had been analysed. These things had seals and labels attached to them.

Just as the witnesses were about to look at these things, the public prosecutor rose and demanded that before they did this the results of the doctor’s examination of the body should be read. The president, who was hurrying the business through as fast as he could in order to visit his Swiss friend, though he knew that the reading of this paper could have no other effect than that of producing weariness and putting off the dinner hour, and that the public prosecutor wanted it read simply because he knew he had a right to demand it, had no option but to express his consent.

The secretary got out the doctor’s report and again began to read in his weary lisping voice, making no distinction between the “r’s” and “l’s.”

The external examination proved that:

“1. Theropont Smelkoff’s height was six feet five inches.

“Not so bad, that. A very good size,” whispered the merchant, with interest, into Nekhludoff’s ear.

2. He looked about 40 years of age.

3. The body was of a swollen appearance.

4. The flesh was of a greenish colour, with dark spots in several places.

5. The skin was raised in blisters of different sizes and in places had come off in large pieces.

6. The hair was chestnut; it was thick, and separated easily from the skin when touched.

7. The eye-balls protruded from their sockets and the cornea had grown dim.

8. Out of the nostrils, both ears, and the mouth oozed serous liquid; the mouth was half open.

9. The neck had almost disappeared, owing to the swelling of the face and chest.”

And so on and so on.

Four pages were covered with the 27 paragraphs describing all the details of the external examination of the enormous, fat, swollen, and decomposing body of the merchant who had been making merry in the town. The indefinite loathing that Nekhludoff felt was increased by the description of the corpse. Katusha’s life, and the scrum oozing from the nostrils of the corpse, and the eyes that protruded out of their sockets, and his own treatment of her — all seemed to belong to the same order of things, and he felt surrounded and wholly absorbed by things of the same nature.

When the reading of the report of the external examination was ended, the president heaved a sigh and raised his hand, hoping it was finished; but the secretary at once went on to the description of the internal examination. The president’s head again dropped into his hand and he shut his eyes. The merchant next to Nekhludoff could hardly keep awake, and now and then his body swayed to and fro. The prisoners and the gendarmes sat perfectly quiet.

The internal examination showed that:

“1. The skin was easily detachable from the bones of the skull, and there was no coagulated blood.

“2. The bones of the skull were of average thickness and in sound condition.

“3. On the membrane of the brain there were two discoloured spots about four inches long, the membrane itself being of a dull white.” And so on for 13 paragraphs more. Then followed the names and signatures of the assistants, and the doctor’s conclusion showing that the changes observed in the stomach, and to a lesser degree in the bowels and kidneys, at the postmortem examination, and described in the official report, gave great probability to the conclusion that Smelkoff’s death was caused by poison which had entered his stomach mixed with alcohol. To decide from the state of the stomach what poison had been introduced was difficult; but it was necessary to suppose that the poison entered the stomach mixed with alcohol, since a great quantity of the latter was found in Smelkoff’s stomach.

“He could drink, and no mistake,” again whispered the merchant, who had just waked up.

The reading of this report had taken a full hour, but it had not satisfied the public prosecutor, for, when it had been read through and the president turned to him, saying, “I suppose it is superfluous to read the report of the examination of the internal organs?” he answered in a severe tone, without looking at the president, “I shall ask to have it read.”

He raised himself a little, and showed by his manner that he had a right to have this report read, and would claim this right, and that if that were not granted it would serve as a cause of appeal.

The member of the Court with the big beard, who suffered from catarrh of the stomach, feeling quite done up, turned to the president:

“What is the use of reading all this? It is only dragging it out. These new brooms do not sweep clean; they only take a long while doing it.”

The member with the gold spectacles said nothing, but only looked gloomily in front of him, expecting nothing good, either from his wife or life in general. The reading of the report commenced.

“In the year 188-, on February 15th, I, the undersigned, commissioned by the medical department, made an examination, No. 638,” the secretary began again with firmness and raising the pitch of his voice as if to dispel the sleepiness that had overtaken all present, “in the presence of the assistant medical inspector, of the internal organs:

“1. The right lung and the heart (contained in a 6-lb. glass jar).

“2. The contents of the stomach (in a 6-lb. glass jar).

“3. The stomach itself (in a 6-lb. glass jar).

“4. The liver, the spleen and the kidneys (in a 9-lb. glass jar).

5. The intestines (in a 9-lb. earthenware jar).”

The president here whispered to one of the members, then stooped to the other, and having received their consent, he said: “The Court considers the reading of this report superfluous.” The secretary stopped reading and folded the paper, and the public prosecutor angrily began to write down something. “The gentlemen of the jury may now examine the articles of material evidence,” said the president. The foreman and several of the others rose and went to the table, not quite knowing what to do with their hands. They looked in turn at the glass, the test tube, and the ring. The merchant even tried on the ring.

“Ah! that was a finger,” he said, returning to his place; “like a cucumber,” he added. Evidently the image he had formed in his mind of the gigantic merchant amused him.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 20:04