“Terrible,” said Nekhludoff, as he went out into the waiting-room with the advocate, who was arranging the papers in his portfolio. “In a matter which is perfectly clear they attach all the importance to the form and reject the appeal. Terrible!”
“The case was spoiled in the Criminal Court,” said the advocate.
“And Selenin, too, was in favour of the rejection. Terrible! terrible!” Nekhludoff repeated. “What is to be done now?”
“We will appeal to His Majesty, and you can hand in the petition yourself while you are here. I will write it for you.”
At this moment little Wolf, with his stars and uniform, came out into the waiting-room and approached Nekhludoff. “It could not be helped, dear Prince. The reasons for an appeal were not sufficient,” he said, shrugging his narrow shoulders and closing his eyes, and then he went his way.
After Wolf, Selenin came out too, having heard from the Senators that his old friend Nekhludoff was there.
“Well, I never expected to see you here,” he said, coming up to Nekhludoff, and smiling only with his lips while his eyes remained sad. “I did not know you were in Petersburg.”
“And I did not know you were Public Prosecutor-in-Chief.”
“How is it you are in the Senate?” asked Selenin. “I had heard, by the way, that you were in Petersburg. But what are you doing here?”
“Here? I am here because I hoped to find justice and save a woman innocently condemned.”
“The one whose case has just been decided.”
“Oh! Maslova’s case,” said Selenin, suddenly remembering it. “The appeal had no grounds whatever.”
“It is not the appeal; it’s the woman who is innocent, and is being punished.”
Selenin sighed. “That may well be, but ——”
“Not may be, but is.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I was on the jury. I know how we made the mistake.”
Selenin became thoughtful. “You should have made a statement at the time,” he said.
“I did make the statement.”
“It should have been put down in an official report. If this had been added to the petition for the appeal —”
“Yes, but still, as it is, the verdict is evidently absurd.”
“The Senate has no right to say so. If the Senate took upon itself to repeal the decision of the law courts according to its own views as to the justice of the decisions in themselves, the verdict of the jury would lose all its meaning, not to mention that the Senate would have no basis to go upon, and would run the risk of infringing justice rather than upholding it,” said Selenin, calling to mind the case that had just been heard.
“All I know is that this woman is quite innocent, and that the last hope of saying her from an unmerited punishment is gone. The grossest injustice has been confirmed by the highest court.”
“It has not been confirmed. The Senate did not and cannot enter into the merits of the case in itself,” said Selenin. Always busy and rarely going out into society, he had evidently heard nothing of Nekhludoff’s romance. Nekhludoff noticed it, and made up his mind that it was best to say nothing about his special relations with Maslova.
“You are probably staying with your aunt,” Selenin remarked, apparently wishing to change the subject. “She told me you were here yesterday, and she invited me to meet you in the evening, when some foreign preacher was to lecture,” and Selenin again smiled only with his lips.
“Yes, I was there, but left in disgust,” said Nekhludoff angrily, vexed that Selenin had changed the subject.
“Why with disgust? After all, it is a manifestation of religious feeling, though one-sided and sectarian,” said Selenin.
“Why, it’s only some kind of whimsical folly.”
“Oh, dear, no. The curious thing is that we know the teaching of our church so little that we see some new kind of revelation in what are, after all, our own fundamental dogmas,” said Selenin, as if hurrying to let his old friend know his new views.
Nekhludoff looked at Selenin scrutinisingly and with surprise, and Selenin dropped his eyes, in which appeared an expression not only of sadness but also of ill-will.
“Do you, then, believe in the dogmas of the church?” Nekhludoff asked.
“Of course I do,” replied Selenin, gazing straight into Nekhludoff’s eyes with a lifeless look.
Nekhludoff sighed. “It is strange,” he said.
“However, we shall have a talk some other time,” said Selenin. “I am coming,” he added, in answer to the usher, who had respectfully approached him. “Yes, we must meet again,” he went on with a sigh. “But will it be possible for me to find you? You will always find me in at seven o’clock. My address is Nadejdinskaya,” and he gave the number. “Ah, time does not stand still,” and he turned to go, smiling only with his lips.
“I will come if I can,” said Nekhludoff, feeling that a man once near and dear to him had, by this brief conversation, suddenly become strange, distant, and incomprehensible, if not hostile to him.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00