Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

Chapter XXII.

The Trial — The Summing up.

After the last words of the prisoners had been heard, the form in which the questions were to be put to the jury was settled, which also took some time. At last the questions were formulated, and the president began the summing up.

Before putting the case to the jury, he spoke to them for some time in a pleasant, homely manner, explaining that burglary was burglary and theft was theft, and that stealing from a place which was under lock and key was stealing from a place under lock and key. While he was explaining this, he looked several times at Nekhludoff as if wishing to impress upon him these important facts, in hopes that, having understood it, Nekhludoff would make his fellow-jurymen also understand it. When he considered that the jury were sufficiently imbued with these facts, he proceeded to enunciate another truth — namely, that a murder is an action which has the death of a human being as its consequence, and that poisoning could therefore also be termed murder. When, according to his opinion, this truth had also been received by the jury, he went on to explain that if theft and murder had been committed at the same time, the combination of the crimes was theft with murder.

Although he was himself anxious to finish as soon as possible, although he knew that his Swiss friend would be waiting for him, he had grown so used to his occupation that, having begun to speak, he could not stop himself, and therefore he went on to impress on the jury with much detail that if they found the prisoners guilty, they would have the right to give a verdict of guilty; and if they found them not guilty, to give a verdict of not guilty; and if they found them guilty of one of the crimes and not of the other, they might give a verdict of guilty on the one count and of not guilty on the other. Then he explained that though this right was given them they should use it with reason.

He was going to add that if they gave an affirmative answer to any question that was put to them they would thereby affirm everything included in the question, so that if they did not wish to affirm the whole of the question they should mention the part of the question they wished to be excepted. But, glancing at the clock, and seeing it was already five minutes to three, he resolved to trust to their being intelligent enough to understand this without further comment.

“The facts of this case are the following,” began the president, and repeated all that had already been said several times by the advocates, the public prosecutor and the witnesses.

The president spoke, and the members on each side of him listened with deeply-attentive expressions, but looked from time to time at the clock, for they considered the speech too long though very good — i.e., such as it ought to be. The public prosecutor, the lawyers, and, in fact, everyone in the court, shared the same impression. The president finished the summing up. Then he found it necessary to tell the jury what they all knew, or might have found out by reading it up — i.e., how they were to consider the case, count the votes, in case of a tie to acquit the prisoners, and so on.

Everything seemed to have been told; but no, the president could not forego his right of speaking as yet. It was so pleasant to hear the impressive tones of his own voice, and therefore he found it necessary to say a few words more about the importance of the rights given to the jury, how carefully they should use the rights and how they ought not to abuse them, about their being on their oath, that they were the conscience of society, that the secrecy of the debating-room should be considered sacred, etc.

From the time the president commenced his speech, Maslova watched him without moving her eyes as if afraid of losing a single word; so that Nekhludoff was not afraid of meeting her eyes and kept looking at her all the time. And his mind passed through those phases in which a face which we have not seen for many years first strikes us with the outward changes brought about during the time of separation, and then gradually becomes more and more like its old self, when the changes made by time seem to disappear, and before our spiritual eyes rises only the principal expression of one exceptional, unique individuality. Yes, though dressed in a prison cloak, and in spite of the developed figure, the fulness of the bosom and lower part of the face, in spite of a few wrinkles on the forehead and temples and the swollen eyes, this was certainly the same Katusha who, on that Easter eve, had so innocently looked up to him whom she loved, with her fond, laughing eyes full of joy and life.

“What a strange coincidence that after ten years, during which I never saw her, this case should have come up today when I am on the jury, and that it is in the prisoners’ dock that I see her again! And how will it end? Oh, dear, if they would only get on quicker.”

Still he would not give in to the feelings of repentance which began to arise within him. He tried to consider it all as a coincidence, which would pass without infringing his manner of life. He felt himself in the position of a puppy, when its master, taking it by the scruff of its neck, rubs its nose in the mess it has made. The puppy whines, draws back and wants to get away as far as possible from the effects of its misdeed, but the pitiless master does not let go.

And so, Nekhludoff, feeling all the repulsiveness of what he had done, felt also the powerful hand of the Master, but he did not feel the whole significance of his action yet and would not recognise the Master’s hand. He did not wish to believe that it was the effect of his deed that lay before him, but the pitiless hand of the Master held him and he felt he could not get away. He was still keeping up his courage and sat on his chair in the first row in his usual self-possessed pose, one leg carelessly thrown over the other, and playing with his pince-nez. Yet all the while, in the depths of his soul, he felt the cruelty, cowardice and baseness, not only of this particular action of his but of his whole self-willed, depraved, cruel, idle life; and that dreadful veil which had in some unaccountable manner hidden from him this sin of his and the whole of his subsequent life was beginning to shake, and he caught glimpses of what was covered by that veil.

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