by Maxim Gorky

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Part II - Chapter XV

Pavel and Andrey sat side by side; along with them on the first bench were Mazin, Samoylov, and the Gusevs. Andrey had shaved his beard, but his mustache had grown and hung down, and gave his round head the appearance of a seacow or walrus. Something new lay on his face; something sharp and biting in the folds about his mouth; something black in his eyes. On Mazin's upper lip two black streaks were limned, his face was fuller. Samoylov was just as curly-haired as before; and Ivan Gusev smiled just as broadly.

"Ah, Fedka, Fedka!" whispered Sizov, drooping his head.

The mother felt she could breathe more freely. She heard the indistinct questions of the old man, which he put without looking at the prisoners; and his head rested motionless on the collar of his uniform. She heard the calm, brief answers of her son. It seemed to her that the oldest judge and his associates could be neither evil nor cruel people. Looking carefully at their faces she tried to guess something, softly listening to the growth of a new hope in her breast.

The porcelain-faced man read a paper indifferently; his even voice filled the hall with weariness, and the people, enfolded by it, sat motionless as if benumbed. Four lawyers softly but animatedly conversed with the prisoners.[Pg 436] They all moved powerfully, briskly, and called to mind large blackbirds.

On one side of the old man a judge with small, bleared eyes filled the armchair with his fat, bloated body. On the other side sat a stooping man with reddish mustache on his pale face. His head was wearily thrown on the back of the chair, his eyes, half-closed, he seemed to be reflecting over something. The face of the prosecuting attorney was also worn, bored, and unexpectant. Behind the judge sat the mayor of the city, a portly man, who meditatively stroked his cheek; the marshal of the nobility, a gray-haired, large-bearded, ruddy-faced man, with large, kind eyes; and the district elder, who wore a sleeveless peasant overcoat, and possessed a huge belly which apparently embarrassed him; he endeavored to cover it with the folds of his overcoat, but it always slid down and showed again.

"There are no criminals here and no judges," Pavel's vigorous voice was heard. "There are only captives here, and conquerors!"

Silence fell. For a few seconds the mother's ears heard only the thin, hasty scratch of the pen on the paper and the beating of her own heart.

The oldest judge also seemed to be listening to something from afar. His associates stirred. Then he said:

"Hm! yes—Andrey Nakhodka, do you admit——"

Somebody whispered, "Rise!"

Andrey slowly rose, straightened himself, and pulling his mustache looked at the old man from the corners of his eyes.

"Yes! To what can I confess myself guilty?" said the Little Russian in his slow, surging voice, shrugging his shoulders. "I did not murder nor steal; I simply[Pg 437] am not in agreement with an order of life in which people are compelled to rob and kill one another."

"Answer briefly—yes or no?" the old man said with an effort, but distinctly.

On the benches back of her the mother felt there was animation; the people began to whisper to one another about something and stirred, sighing as if freeing themselves from the cobweb spun about them by the gray words of the porcelain-faced man.

"Do you hear how they speak?" whispered Sizov.


"Fedor Mazin, answer!"

"I don't want to!" said Fedya clearly, jumping to his feet. His face reddened with excitation, his eyes sparkled. For some reason he hid his hands behind his back.

Sizov groaned softly, and the mother opened her eyes wide in astonishment.

"I declined a defense—I'm not going to say anything—I don't regard your court as legal! Who are you? Did the people give you the right to judge us? No, they did not! I don't know you." He sat down and concealed his heated face behind Andrey's shoulders.

The fat judge inclined his head to the old judge and whispered something. The old judge, pale-faced, raised his eyelids and slanted his eyes at the prisoners, then extended his hand on the table, and wrote something in pencil on a piece of paper lying before him. The district elder swung his head, carefully shifting his feet, rested his abdomen on his knees, and his hands on his abdomen. Without moving his head the old judge turned his body to the red-mustached judge, and began to speak to him quickly. The red-mustached judge inclined his head to listen. The marshal of the nobility conversed[Pg 438] with the prosecuting attorney; the mayor of the city listened and smiled, rubbing his cheek. Again the dull speech of the old judge was heard. All four lawyers listened attentively. The prisoners exchanged whispers with one another, and Fedya, smiling in confusion, hid his face.

"How he cut them off! Straight, downright, better than all!" Sizov whispered in amazement in the ear of the mother. "Ah, you little boy!"

The mother smiled in perplexity. The proceedings seemed to be nothing but the necessary preliminary to something terrible, which would appear and at once stifle everybody with its cold horror. But the calm words of Pavel and Andrey had sounded so fearless and firm, as if uttered in the little house of the suburb, and not in the presence of the court. Fedya's hot, youthful sally amused her; something bold and fresh grew up in the hall, and she guessed from the movement of the people back of her that she was not the only one who felt this.

"Your opinion," said the old judge.

The bald-headed prosecuting attorney arose, and, steadying himself on the desk with one hand, began to speak rapidly, quoting figures. In his voice nothing terrible was heard.

At the same time, however, a sudden dry, shooting attack disturbed the heart of the mother. It was an uneasy suspicion of something hostile to her, which did not threaten, did not shout, but unfolded itself unseen, soundless, intangible. It swung lazily and dully about the judges, as if enveloping them with an impervious cloud, through which nothing from the outside could reach them. She looked at them. They were incomprehensible to her. They were not angry at Pavel or at[Pg 439] Fedya; they did not shout at the young men, as she had expected; they did not abuse them in words, but put all their questions reluctantly, with the air of "What's the use?". It cost them an effort to hear the answers to the end. Apparently they lacked interest because they knew everything beforehand.

There before her stood the gendarme, and spoke in a bass voice:

"Pavel Vlasov was named as the ringleader."

"And Nakhodka?" asked the fat judge in his lazy undertone.

"He, too."

"May I——"

The old judge asked a question of somebody:

"You have nothing?"

All the judges seemed to the mother to be worn out and ill. A sickened weariness marked their poses and voices, a sickened weariness and a bored, gray ennui. It was an evident nuisance to them, all this—the uniforms, the hall, the gendarmes, the lawyers, the obligation to sit in armchairs, and to put questions concerning things perforce already known to them. The mother in general was but little acquainted with the masters; she had scarcely ever seen them; and now she regarded the faces of the judges as something altogether new and incomprehensible, deserving pity, however, rather than inspiring horror.

The familiar, yellow-faced officer stood before them, and told about Pavel and Andrey, stretching the words with an air of importance. The mother involuntarily laughed, and thought: "You don't know much, my little father."

And now, as she looked at the people behind the grill, she ceased to feel dread for them; they did not evoke[Pg 440] alarm, pity was not for them; they one and all called forth in her only admiration and love, which warmly embraced her heart; the admiration was calm, the love joyously distinct. There they sat to one side, by the wall, young, sturdy, scarcely taking any part in the monotonous talk of the witnesses and judges, or in the disputes of the lawyers with the prosecuting attorney. They behaved as if the talk did not concern them in the least. Sometimes somebody would laugh contemptuously, and say something to the comrades, across whose faces, then, a sarcastic smile would also quickly pass. Andrey and Pavel conversed almost the entire time with one of their lawyers, whom the mother had seen the day before at Nikolay's, and had heard Nikolay address as comrade. Mazin, brisker and more animated than the others, listened to the conversation. Now and then Samoylov said something to Ivan Gusev; and the mother noticed that each time Ivan gave a slight elbow nudge to a comrade, he could scarcely restrain a laugh; his face would grow red, his cheeks would puff up, and he would have to incline his head. He had already sniffed a couple of times, and for several minutes afterward sat with blown cheeks trying to be serious. Thus, in each comrade his youth played and sparkled after his fashion, lightly bursting the restraint he endeavored to put upon its lively effervescence. She looked, compared, and reflected. She was unable to understand or express in words her uneasy feeling of hostility.

Sizov touched her lightly with his elbow; she turned to him, and found a look of contentment and slight preoccupation on his face.

"Just see how they've intrenched themselves in their defiance! Fine stuff in 'em! Eh? Barons, eh? Well, and yet they're going to be sentenced!"[Pg 441]

The mother listened, unconsciously repeating to herself:

"Who will pass the sentence? Whom will they sentence?"

The witnesses spoke quickly, in their colorless voices, the judges reluctantly and listlessly. Their bloodless, worn-out faces stared into space unconcernedly. They did not expect to see or hear anything new. At times the fat judge yawned, covering his smile with his puffy hand, while the red-mustached judge grew still paler, and sometimes raised his hand to press his finger tightly on the bone of his temple, as he looked up to the ceiling with sorrowful, widened eyes. The prosecuting attorney infrequently scribbled on his paper, and then resumed his soundless conversation with the marshal of the nobility, who stroked his gray beard, rolled his large, beautiful eyes, and smiled, nodding his head with importance. The city mayor sat with crossed legs, and beat a noiseless tattoo on his knee, giving the play of his fingers concentrated attention. The only one who listened to the monotonous murmur of the voices seemed to be the district elder, who sat with inclined head, supporting his abdomen on his knees and solicitously holding it up with his hands. The old judge, deep in his armchair, stuck there immovably. The proceedings continued to drag on in this way for a long, long time; and ennui again numbed the people with its heavy, sticky embrace.

The mother saw that this large hall was not yet pervaded by that cold, threatening justice which sternly uncovers the soul, examines it, and seeing everything estimates its value with incorruptible eyes, weighing it rigorously with honest hands. Here was nothing to frighten her by its power or majesty.[Pg 442]

"I declare—" said the old judge clearly, and arose as he crushed the following words with his thin lips.

The noise of sighs and low exclamations, of coughing and scraping of feet, filled the hall as the court retired for a recess. The prisoners were led away. As they walked out, they nodded their heads to their relatives and familiars with a smile, and Ivan Gusev shouted to somebody in a modulated voice:

"Don't lose courage, Yegor."

The mother and Sizov walked out into the corridor.

"Will you go to the tavern with me to take some tea?" the old man asked her solicitously. "We have an hour and a half's time."

"I don't want to."

"Well, then I won't go, either. No, say! What fellows those are! They act as if they were the only real people, and the rest nothing at all. They'll all go scot-free, I'm sure. Look at Fedka, eh?"

Samoylov's father came up to them holding his hat in his hand. He smiled sullenly and said:

"My Vasily! He declined a defense, and doesn't want to palaver. He was the first to have the idea. Yours, Pelagueya, stood for lawyers; and mine said: 'I don't want one.' And four declined after him. Hm, ye-es."

At his side stood his wife. She blinked frequently, and wiped her nose with the end of her handkerchief. Samoylov took his beard in his hand, and continued looking at the floor.

"Now, this is the queer thing about it: you look at them, those devils, and you think they got up all this at random—they're ruining themselves for nothing. And suddenly you begin to think: 'And maybe they're right!'[Pg 443] You remember that in the factory more like them keep on coming, keep on coming. They always get caught; but they're not destroyed, no more than common fish in the river get destroyed. No. And again you think, 'And maybe power is with them, too.'"

"It's hard for us, Stepan Petrov, to understand this affair," said Sizov.

"It's hard, yes," agreed Samoylov.

His wife noisily drawing in air through her nose remarked:

"They're all strong, those imps!" With an unrestrained smile on her broad, wizened face, she continued: "You, Nilovna, don't be angry with me because I just now slapped you, when I said that your son is to blame. A dog can tell who's the more to blame, to tell you the truth. Look at the gendarmes and the spies, what they said about our Vasily! He has shown what he can do too!"

She apparently was proud of her son, perhaps even without understanding her feeling; but the mother did understand her feeling, and answered with a kind smile and quiet words:

"A young heart is always nearer to the truth."

People rambled about the corridor, gathered into groups, speaking excitedly and thoughtfully in hollow voices. Scarcely anybody stood alone; all faces bore evidence of a desire to speak, to ask, to listen. In the narrow white passageway the people coiled about in sinuous curves, like dust carried in circles before a powerful wind. Everybody seemed to be seeking something hard and firm to stand upon.

The older brother of Bukin, a tall, red-faced fellow, waved his hands and turned about rapidly in all directions.

[Pg 444]"The district elder Klepanov has no place in this case," he declared aloud.

"Keep still, Konstantin!" his father, a little old man, tried to dissuade him, and looked around cautiously.

"No; I'm going to speak out! There's a rumor afloat about him that last year he killed a clerk of his on account of the clerk's wife. What kind of a judge is he? permit me to ask. He lives with the wife of his clerk—what have you got to say to that? Besides, he's a well-known thief!"

"Oh, my little father—Konstantin!"

"True!" said Samoylov. "True, the court is not a very just one."

Bukin heard his voice and quickly walked up to him, drawing the whole crowd after him. Red with excitement, he waved his hands and said:

"For thievery, for murder, jurymen do the trying. They're common people, peasants, merchants, if you please; but for going against the authorities you're tried by the authorities. How's that?"

"Konstantin! Why are they against the authorities? Ah, you! They——"

"No, wait! Fedor Mazin said the truth. If you insult me, and I land you one on your jaw, and you try me for it, of course I'm going to turn out guilty. But the first offender—who was it? You? Of course, you!"

The watchman, a gray man with a hooked nose and medals on his chest, pushed the crowd apart, and said to Bukin, shaking his finger at him:

"Hey! don't shout! Don't you know where you are? Do you think this is a saloon?"

"Permit me, my cavalier, I know where I am. Listen! If I strike you and you me, and I go and try you, what would you think?"

[Pg 445]"And I'll order you out," said the watchman sternly.

"Where to? What for?"

"Into the street, so that you shan't bawl."

"The chief thing for them is that people should keep their mouths shut."

"And what do you think?" the old man bawled. Bukin threw out his hands, and again measuring the public with his eyes, began to speak in a lower voice:

"And again—why are the people not permitted to be at the trial, but only the relatives? If you judge righteously, then judge in front of everybody. What is there to be afraid of?"

Samoylov repeated, but this time in a louder tone:

"The trial is not altogether just, that's true."

The mother wanted to say to him that she had heard from Nikolay of the dishonesty of the court; but she had not wholly comprehended Nikolay, and had forgotten some of his words. While trying to recall them she moved aside from the people, and noticed that somebody was looking at her—a young man with a light mustache. He held his right hand in the pocket of his trousers, which made his left shoulder seem lower than the right, and this peculiarity of his figure seemed familiar to the mother. But he turned from her, and she again lost herself in the endeavor to recollect, and forgot about him immediately. In a minute, however, her ear was caught by the low question:

"This woman on the left?"

And somebody in a louder voice cheerfully answered:


She looked around. The man with the uneven shoulders stood sidewise toward her, and said something to his neighbor, a black-bearded fellow with a short overcoat and boots up to his knees.

[Pg 446]Again her memory stirred uneasily, but did not yield any distinct results.

The watchman opened the door of the hall, and shouted:

"Relatives, enter; show your tickets!"

A sullen voice said lazily:

"Tickets! Like a circus!"

All the people now showed signs of a dull excitement, an uneasy passion. They began to behave more freely, and hummed and disputed with the watchman.

Sitting down on the bench, Sizov mumbled something to the mother.

"What is it?" asked the mother.

"Oh, nothing—the people are fools! They know nothing; they live groping about and groping about."

The bellman rang; somebody announced indifferently:

"The session has begun!"

Again all arose, and again, in the same order, the judges filed in and sat down; then the prisoners were led in.

"Pay attention!" whispered Sizov; "the prosecuting attorney is going to speak."

The mother craned her neck and extended her whole body. She yielded anew to expectation of the horrible.

Standing sidewise toward the judges, his head turned to them, leaning his elbow on the desk, the prosecuting attorney sighed, and abruptly waving his right hand in the air, began to speak:

The mother could not make out the first words. The prosecuting attorney's voice was fluent, thick; it sped on unevenly, now a bit slower, now a bit faster. His words stretched out in a thin line, like a gray seam; suddenly they burst out quickly and whirled like a flock of black[Pg 447] flies around a piece of sugar. But she did not find anything horrible in them, nothing threatening. Cold as snow, gray as ashes, they fell and fell, filling the hall with something which recalled a slushy day in early autumn. Scant in feeling, rich in words, the speech seemed not to reach Pavel and his comrades. Apparently it touched none of them; they all sat there quite composed, smiling at times as before, and conversed without sound. At times they frowned to cover up their smiles.

"He lies!" whispered Sizov.

She could not have said it. She understood that the prosecuting attorney charged all the comrades with guilt, not singling out any one of them. After having spoken about Pavel, he spoke about Fedya, and having put him side by side with Pavel, he persistently thrust Bukin up against them. It seemed as if he packed and sewed them into a sack, piling them up on top of one another. But the external sense of his words did not satisfy, did not touch, did not frighten her. She still waited for the horrible, and rigorously sought something beyond his words—something in his face, his eyes, his voice, in his white hand, which slowly glided in the air. Something terrible must be there; she felt it, but it was impalpable; it did not yield to her consciousness, which again covered her heart with a dry, pricking dust.

She looked at the judges. There was no gainsaying that they were bored at having to listen to this speech. The lifeless, yellow faces expressed nothing. The sickly, the fat, or the extremely lean, motionless dead spots all grew dimmer and dimmer in the dull ennui that filled the hall. The words of the prosecuting attorney spurted into the air like a haze imperceptible to the eye, growing and thickening around the judges, enveloping them more closely in a cloud of dry indifference, of weary waiting.[Pg 448] At times one of them changed his pose; but the lazy movement of the tired body did not rouse their drowsy souls. The oldest judge did not stir at all; he was congealed in his erect position, and the gray blots behind the eyeglasses at times disappeared, seeming to spread over his whole face. The mother realized this dead indifference, this unconcern without malice in it, and asked herself in perplexity, "Are they judging?"

The question pressed her heart, and gradually squeezed out of it her expectation of the horrible. It pinched her throat with a sharp feeling of wrong.

The speech of the prosecuting attorney snapped off unexpectedly. He made a few quick, short steps, bowed to the judges, and sat down, rubbing his hands. The marshal of the nobility nodded his head to him, rolling his eyes; the city mayor extended his hand, and the district elder stroked his belly and smiled.

But the judges apparently were not delighted by the speech, and did not stir.

"The scabby devil!" Sizov whispered the oath.

"Next," said the old judge, bringing the paper to his face, "lawyers for the defendants, Fedoseyev, Markov, Zagarov."

The lawyer whom the mother had seen at Nikolay's arose. His face was broad and good-natured; his little eyes smiled radiantly and seemed to thrust out from under his eyebrows two sharp blades, which cut the air like scissors. He spoke without haste, resonantly, and clearly; but the mother was unable to listen to his speech. Sizov whispered in her ear:

"Did you understand what he said? Did you understand? 'People,' he says, 'are poor, they are all upset, insensate.' Is that Fedor? He says they don't understand anything; they're savages."[Pg 449]

The feeling of wrong grew, and passed into revolt. Along with the quick, loud voice of the lawyer, time also passed more quickly.

"A live, strong man having in his breast a sensitive, honest heart cannot help rebelling with all his force against this life so full of open cynicism, corruption, falsehood, and so blunted by vapidity. The eyes of honest people cannot help seeing such glaring contradictions——"

The judge with the green face bent toward the president and whispered something to him; then the old man said dryly:

"Please be more careful!"

"Ha!" Sizov exclaimed softly.

"Are they judging?" thought the mother, and the word seemed hollow and empty as an earthen vessel. It seemed to make sport of her fear of the terrible.

"They're a sort of dead body," she answered the old man.

"Don't fear; they're livening up."

She looked at them, and she actually saw something like a shadow of uneasiness on the faces of the judges. Another man was already speaking, a little lawyer with a sharp, pale, satiric face. He spoke very respectfully:

"With all due respect, I permit myself to call the attention of the court to the solid manner of the honorable prosecuting attorney, to the conduct of the safety department, or, as such people are called in common parlance, spies——"

The judge with the green face again began to whisper something to the president. The prosecuting attorney jumped up. The lawyer continued without changing his voice:

"The spy Gyman tells us about the witness: 'I frightened[Pg 450] him.' The prosecuting attorney also, as the court has heard, frightened witnesses; as a result of which act, at the insistence of the defense, he called forth a rebuke from the presiding judge."

The prosecuting attorney began to speak quickly and angrily; the old judge followed suit; the lawyer listened to them respectfully, inclining his head. Then he said:

"I can even change the position of my words if the prosecuting attorney deems it is not in the right place; but that will not change the plan of my defense. However, I cannot understand the excitement of the prosecuting attorney."

"Go for him!" said Sizov. "Go for him, tooth and nail! Pick him open down to his soul, wherever that may be!"

The hall became animated; a fighting passion flared up; the defense attacked from all sides, provoking and disturbing the judges, driving away the cold haze that enveloped them, pricking the old skin of the judges with sharp words. The judges had the air of moving more closely to one another, or suddenly they would puff and swell, repulsing the sharp, caustic raps with the mass of their soft, mellow bodies. They acted as if they feared that the blow of the opponent might call forth an echo in their empty bosoms, might shake their resolution, which sprang not from their own will but from a will strange to them. Feeling this conflict, the people on the benches back of the mother sighed and whispered.

But suddenly Pavel arose; tense quiet prevailed. The mother stretched her entire body forward.

"A party man, I recognize only the court of my party and will not speak in my defense. According to the desire of my comrades, I, too, declined a defense. I will merely try to explain to you what you don't understand.[Pg 451] The prosecuting attorney designated our coming out under the banner of the Social Democracy as an uprising against the superior power, and regarded us as nothing but rebels against the Czar. I must declare to you that to us the Czar is not the only chain that fetters the body of the country. We are obliged to tear off only the first and nearest chain from the people."

The stillness deepened under the sound of the firm voice; it seemed to widen the space between the walls of the hall. Pavel, by his words, removed the people to a distance from himself, and thereby grew in the eyes of the mother. His stony, calm, proud face with the beard, his high forehead, and blue eyes, somewhat stern, all became more dazzling and more prominent.

The judges began to stir heavily and uneasily; the marshal of the nobility was the first to whisper something to the judge with the indolent face. The judge nodded his head and turned to the old man; on the other side of him the sick judge was talking. Rocking back and forth in the armchair, the old judge spoke to Pavel, but his voice was drowned in the even, broad current of the young man's speech.

"We are Socialists! That means we are enemies to private property, which separates people, arms them against one another, and brings forth an irreconcilable hostility of interests; brings forth lies that endeavor to cover up, or to justify, this conflict of interests, and corrupt all with falsehood, hypocrisy and malice. We maintain that a society that regards man only as a tool for its enrichment is anti-human; it is hostile to us; we cannot be reconciled to its morality; its double-faced and lying cynicism. Its cruel relation to individuals is repugnant to us. We want to fight, and will fight, every form of the physical and moral enslavement of man by such a [Pg 452] society; we will fight every measure calculated to disintegrate society for the gratification of the interests of gain. We are workers—men by whose labor everything is created, from gigantic machines to childish toys. We are people devoid of the right to fight for our human dignity. Everyone strives to utilize us, and may utilize us, as tools for the attainment of his ends. Now we want to have as much freedom as will give us the possibility in time to come to conquer all the power. Our slogan is simple: 'All the power for the people; all the means of production for the people; work obligatory on all. Down with private property!' You see, we are not rebels."

Pavel smiled, and the kindly fire of his blue eyes blazed forth more brilliantly.

"Please, more to the point!" said the presiding judge distinctly and aloud. He turned his chest to Pavel, and regarded him. It seemed to the mother that his dim left eye began to burn with a sinister, greedy fire. The look all the judges cast on her son made her uneasy for him. She fancied that their eyes clung to his face, stuck to his body, thirsted for his blood, by which they might reanimate their own worn-out bodies. And he, erect and tall, standing firmly and vigorously, stretched out his hand to them while he spoke distinctly:

"We are revolutionists, and will be such as long as private property exists, as long as some merely command, and as long as others merely work. We take stand against the society whose interests you are bidden to protect as your irreconcilable enemies, and reconciliation between us is impossible until we shall have been victorious. We will conquer—we workingmen! Your society is not at all so powerful as it thinks itself. That very property, for the production and preservation of which it sacrifices millions of people enslaved by it—that very [Pg 453]force which gives it the power over us—stirs up discord within its own ranks, destroys them physically and morally. Property requires extremely great efforts for its protection; and in reality all of you, our rulers, are greater slaves than we—you are enslaved spiritually, we only physically. You cannot withdraw from under the weight of your prejudices and habits, the weight which deadens you spiritually; nothing hinders us from being inwardly free. The poisons with which you poison us are weaker than the antidote you unwittingly administer to our consciences. This antidote penetrates deeper and deeper into the body of workingmen; the flames mount higher and higher, sucking in the best forces, the spiritual powers, the healthy elements even from among you. Look! Not one of you can any longer fight for your power as an ideal! You have already expended all the arguments capable of guarding you against the pressure of historic justice. You can create nothing new in the domain of ideas; you are spiritually barren. Our ideas grow; they flare up ever more dazzling; they seize hold of the mass of the people, organizing them for the war of freedom. The consciousness of their great rôle unites all the workingmen of the world into one soul. You have no means whereby to hinder this renovating process in life except cruelty and cynicism. But your cynicism is very evident, your cruelty exasperates, and the hands with which you stifle us to-day will press our hands in comradeship to-morrow. Your energy, the mechanical energy of the increase of gold, separates you, too, into groups destined to devour one another. Our energy is a living power, founded on the ever-growing consciousness of the solidarity of all workingmen. Everything you do is criminal, for it is directed toward the enslavement of the people. Our work frees the world from the delusions and [Pg 454]monsters which are produced by your malice and greed, and which intimidate the people. You have torn man away from life and disintegrated him. Socialism will unite the world, rent asunder by you, into one huge whole. And this will be!"

Pavel stopped for a second, and repeated in a lower tone, with greater emphasis, "This will be!"

The judges whispered to one another, making strange grimaces. And still their greedy looks were fastened on the body of Nilovna's son. The mother felt that their gaze tarnished this supple, vigorous body; that they envied its strength, power, freshness. The prisoners listened attentively to the speech of their comrade; their faces whitened, their eyes flashed joy. The mother drank in her son's words, which cut themselves into her memory in regular rows. The old judge stopped Pavel several times and explained something to him. Once he even smiled sadly. Pavel listened to him silently, and again began to speak in an austere but calm voice, compelling everybody to listen to him, subordinating the will of the judges to his will. This lasted for a long time. Finally, however, the old man shouted, extending his hand to Pavel, whose voice in response flowed on calmly, somewhat sarcastically.

"I am reaching my conclusion. To insult you personally was not my desire; on the contrary, as an involuntary witness to this comedy which you call a court trial, I feel almost compassion for you, I may say. You are human beings after all; and it is saddening to see human beings, even our enemies, so shamefully debased in the service of violence, debased to such a degree that they lose consciousness of their human dignity."

He sat down without looking at the judges.

Andrey, all radiant with joy, pressed his hand firmly;[Pg 455] Samoylov, Mazin, and the rest animatedly stretched toward him. He smiled, a bit embarrassed by the transport of his comrades. He looked toward his mother, and nodded his head as if asking, "Is it so?"

She answered him all a-tremble, all suffused with warm joy.

"There, now the trial has begun!" whispered Sizov. "How he gave it to them! Eh, mother?"


Return to the Mother Summary Return to the Maxim Gorky Library

© 2022