Nekhludoff had to wait in the hall for a long time. When he had arrived at the prison and rung at the entrance door, he handed the permission of the Procureur to the jailer on duty who met him.
“No, no,” the jailer on duty said hurriedly, “the inspector is engaged.”
“In the office?” asked Nekhludoff.
“No, here in the interviewing-room.”.
“Why, is it a visiting day to-day?”
“No; it’s special business.”
“I should like to see him. What am I to do?” said Nekhludoff.
“When the inspector comes out you’ll tell him — wait a bit,” said the jailer.
At this moment a sergeant-major, with a smooth, shiny face and moustaches impregnated with tobacco smoke, came out of a side door, with the gold cords of his uniform glistening, and addressed the jailer in a severe tone.
“What do you mean by letting any one in here? The office . . . .”
“I was told the inspector was here,” said Nekhludoff, surprised at the agitation he noticed in the sergeant-major’s manner.
At this moment the inner door opened, and Petrov came out, heated and perspiring.
“He’ll remember it,” he muttered, turning to the sergeant major. The latter pointed at Nekhludoff by a look, and Petrov knitted his brows and went out through a door at the back.
“Who will remember it? Why do they all seem so confused? Why did the sergeant-major make a sign to him?” Nekhludoff thought.
The sergeant-major, again addressing Nekhludoff, said: “You cannot meet here; please step across to the office.” And Nekhludoff was about to comply when the inspector came out of the door at the back, looking even more confused than his subordinates, and sighing continually. When he saw Nekhludoff he turned to the jailer.
“Fedotoff, have Maslova, cell 5, women’s ward, taken to the office.”
“Will you come this way, please,” he said, turning to Nekhludoff. They ascended a steep staircase and entered a little room with one window, a writing-table, and a few chairs in it. The inspector sat down.
“Mine are heavy, heavy duties,” he remarked, again addressing Nekhludoff, and took out a cigarette.
“You are tired, evidently,” said Nekhludoff.
“Tired of the whole of the service — the duties are very trying. One tries to lighten their lot and only makes it worse; my only thought is how to get away. Heavy, heavy duties!”
Nekhludoff did not know what the inspector’s particular difficulties were, but he saw that to-day he was in a peculiarly dejected and hopeless condition, calling for pity.
“Yes, I should think the duties were heavy for a kind-hearted man,” he said. “Why do you serve in this capacity?”
“I have a family.”
“But, if it is so hard —”
“Well, still you know it is possible to be of use in some measure; I soften down all I can. Another in my place would conduct the affairs quite differently. Why, we have more than 2,000 persons here. And what persons! One must know how to manage them. It is easier said than done, you know. After all, they are also men; one cannot help pitying them.” The inspector began telling Nekhludoff of a fight that had lately taken place among the convicts, which had ended by one man being killed.
The story was interrupted by the entrance of Maslova, who was accompanied by a jailer.
Nekhludoff saw her through the doorway before she had noticed the inspector. She was following the warder briskly, smiling and tossing her head. When she saw the inspector she suddenly changed, and gazed at him with a frightened look; but, quickly recovering, she addressed Nekhludoff boldly and gaily.
“How d’you do?” she said, drawling out her words, and Resurrection smilingly took his hand and shook it vigorously, not like the first time.
“Here, I’ve brought you a petition to sign,” said Nekhludoff, rather surprised by the boldness with which she greeted him to-day.
“The advocate has written out a petition which you will have to sign, and then we shall send it to Petersburg.”
“All right! That can be done. Anything you like,” she said, with a wink and a smile.
And Nekhludoff drew a folded paper from his pocket and went up to the table.
“May she sign it here?” asked Nekhludoff, turning to the inspector.
“It’s all right, it’s all right! Sit down. Here’s a pen; you can write?” said the inspector.
“I could at one time,” she said; and, after arranging her skirt and the sleeves of her jacket, she sat down at the table, smiled awkwardly, took the pen with her small, energetic hand, and glanced at Nekhludoff with a laugh.
Nekhludoff told her what to write and pointed out the place where to sign.
Sighing deeply as she dipped her pen into the ink, and carefully shaking some drops off the pen, she wrote her name.
“Is it all?” she asked, looking from Nekhludoff to the inspector, and putting the pen now on the inkstand, now on the papers.
“I have a few words to tell you,” Nekhludoff said, taking the pen from her.
“All right; tell me,” she said. And suddenly, as if remembering something, or feeling sleepy, she grew serious.
The inspector rose and left the room, and Nekhludoff remained with her.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00