As soon as the Senators were seated round the table in the debating-room, Wolf began to bring forward with great animation all the motives in favour of a repeal. The chairman, an ill-natured man at best, was in a particularly bad humour that day. His thoughts were concentrated on the words he had written down in his memoranda on the occasion when not he but Viglanoff was appointed to the important post he had long coveted. It was the chairman, Nikitin’s, honest conviction that his opinions of the officials of the two upper classes with which he was in connection would furnish valuable material for the historians. He had written a chapter the day before in which the officials of the upper classes got it hot for preventing him, as he expressed it, from averting the ruin towards which the present rulers of Russia were driving it, which simply meant that they had prevented his getting a better salary. And now he was considering what a new light to posterity this chapter would shed on events.
“Yes, certainly,” he said, in reply to the words addressed to him by Wolf, without listening to them.
Bay was listening to Wolf with a sad face and drawing a garland on the paper that lay before him. Bay was a Liberal of the very first water. He held sacred the Liberal traditions of the sixth decade of this century, and if he ever overstepped the limits of strict neutrality it was always in the direction of Liberalism. So in this case; beside the fact that the swindling director, who was prosecuting for libel, was a bad lot, the prosecution of a journalist for libel in itself tending, as it did, to restrict the freedom of the press, inclined Bay to reject the appeal.
When Wolf concluded his arguments Bay stopped drawing his garland and began in a sad and gentle voice (he was sad because he was obliged to demonstrate such truisms) concisely, simply and convincingly to show how unfounded the accusation was, and then, bending his white head, he continued drawing his garland.
Skovorodnikoff, who sat opposite Wolf, and, with his fat fingers, kept shoving his beard and moustaches into his mouth, stopped chewing his beard as soon as Bay was silent, and said with a loud, grating voice, that, notwithstanding the fact of the director being a terrible scoundrel, he would have been for the repeal of the sentence if there were any legal reasons for it; but, as there were none, he was of Bay’s opinion. He was glad to put this spoke in Wolf’s wheel.
The chairman agreed with Skovorodnikoff, and the appeal was rejected.
Wolf was dissatisfied, especially because it was like being caught acting with dishonest partiality; so he pretended to be indifferent, and, unfolding the document which contained Maslova’s case, he became engrossed in it. Meanwhile the Senators rang and ordered tea, and began talking about the event that, together with the duel, was occupying the Petersburgers.
It was the case of the chief of a Government department, who was accused of the crime provided for in Statute 995.
“What nastiness,” said Bay, with disgust.
“Why; where is the harm of it? I can show you a Russian book containing the project of a German writer, who openly proposes that it should not be considered a crime,” said Skovorodnikoff, drawing in greedily the fumes of the crumpled cigarette, which he held between his fingers close to the palm, and he laughed boisterously.
“Impossible!” said Bay.
“I shall show it you,” said Skovorodnikoff, giving the full title of the book, and even its date and the name of its editor.
“I hear he has been appointed governor to some town in Siberia.”
“That’s fine. The archdeacon will meet him with a crucifix. They ought to appoint an archdeacon of the same sort,” said Skovorodnikoff. “I could recommend them one,” and he threw the end of his cigarette into his saucer, and again shoved as much of his beard and moustaches as he could into his mouth and began chewing them.
The usher came in and reported the advocate’s and Nekhludoff’s desire to be present at the examination of Maslova’s case.
“This case,” Wolf said, “is quite romantic,” and he told them what he knew about Nekhludoff’s relations with Maslova. When they had spoken a little about it and finished their tea and cigarettes, the Senators returned into the Senate Chamber and proclaimed their decision in the libel case, and began to hear Maslova’s case.
Wolf, in his thin voice, reported Maslova’s appeal very fully, but again not without some bias and an evident wish for the repeal of the sentence.
“Have you anything to add?” the chairman said, turning to Fanarin. Fanarin rose, and standing with his broad white chest expanded, proved point by point, with wonderful exactness and persuasiveness, how the Court had in six points strayed from the exact meaning of the law; and besides this he touched, though briefly, on the merits of the case, and on the crying injustice of the sentence. The tone of his speech was one of apology to the Senators, who, with their penetration and judicial wisdom, could not help seeing and understanding it all better than he could. He was obliged to speak only because the duty he had undertaken forced him to do so.
After Fanarin’s speech one might have thought that there could not remain the least doubt that the Senate ought to repeal the decision of the Court. When he had finished his speech, Fanarin looked round with a smile of triumph, seeing which Nekhludoff felt certain that the case was won. But when he looked at the Senators he saw that Fanarin smiled and triumphed all alone. The Senators and the Public Prosecutor did not smile nor triumph, but looked like people wearied, and who were thinking “We have often heard the like of you; it is all in vain,” and were only too glad when he stopped and ceased uselessly detaining them there. Immediately after the end of the advocate’s speech the chairman turned to the Public Prosecutor. Selenin briefly and clearly expressed himself in favour of leaving the decision of the Court unaltered, as he considered all the reasons for appealing inadequate. After this the Senators went out into the debating-room. They were divided in their opinions. Wolf was in favour of altering the decision. Bay, when he had understood the case, took up the same side with fervour, vividly presenting the scene at the court to his companions as he clearly saw it himself. Nikitin, who always was on the side of severity and formality, took up the other side. All depended on Skovorodnikoff’s vote, and he voted for rejecting the appeal, because Nekhludoff’s determination to marry the woman on moral grounds was extremely repugnant to him.
Skovorodnikoff was a materialist, a Darwinian, and counted every manifestation of abstract morality, or, worse still, religion, not only as a despicable folly, but as a personal affront to himself. All this bother about a prostitute, and the presence of a celebrated advocate and Nekhludoff in the Senate were in the highest degree repugnant to him. So he shoved his beard into his mouth and made faces, and very skilfully pretended to know nothing of this case, excepting that the reasons for an appeal were insufficient, and that he, therefore, agreed with the chairman to leave the decision of the Court unaltered.
So the sentence remained unrepealed.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00