The Murder -
Yakov Ivanitch's money was in the bank of the
town and was invested in second mortgages; he only kept a little
at home, Just what was wanted for necessary expenses. Going into
the kitchen he felt for the matchbox, and while the sulphur was
burning with a blue light he had time to make out the figure of
Matvey, which was still lying on the floor near the table, but
now it was covered with a white sheet, and nothing could be seen
but his boots. A cricket was chirruping. Aglaia and Dashutka
were not in the room, they were both sitting behind the counter
in the tea-room, spinning yarn in silence. Yakov Ivanitch
crossed to his own room with a little lamp in his hand, and
pulled from under the bed a little box in which he kept his
money. This time there were in it four hundred and twenty one-rouble
notes and silver to the amount of thirty-five roubles; the notes
had an unpleasant heavy smell. Putting the money together in his
cap, Yakov Ivanitch went out into the yard and then out of the
gate. He walked, looking from side to side, but there was no
sign of the waiter.
"Hi!" cried Yakov.
A dark figure stepped out from the barrier at the railway
crossing and came irresolutely towards him.
"Why do you keep walking about?" said Yakov with vexation, as he
recognized the waiter. "Here you are; there is a little less
than five hundred. . . . I've no more in the house."
"Very well; . . . very grateful to you," muttered Sergey
Nikanoritch, taking the money greedily and stuffing it into his
pockets. He was trembling all over, and that was perceptible in
spite of the darkness. "Don't worry yourself, Yakov Ivanitch. .
. . What should I chatter for: I came and went away, that's all
I've had to do with it. As the saying is, I know nothing and I
can tell nothing . . ." And at once he added with a sigh "Cursed
For a minute they stood in silence, without looking at each
"So it all came from a trifle, goodness knows how, . . ." said
the waiter, trembling. "I was sitting counting to myself when
all at once a noise. . . . I looked through the door, and just
on account of Lenten oil you. . . . Where is he now?"
"Lying there in the kitchen."
"You ought to take him somewhere. . . . Why put it off?"
Yakov accompanied him to the station without a word, then went
home again and harnessed the horse to take Matvey to Limarovo.
He had decided to take him to the forest of Limarovo, and to
leave him there on the road, and then he would tell everyone
that Matvey had gone off to Vedenyapino and had not come back,
and then everyone would think that he had been killed by someone
on the road. He knew there was no deceiving anyone by this, but
to move, to do something, to be active, was not as agonizing as
to sit still and wait. He called Dashutka, and with her carried
Matvey out. Aglaia stayed behind to clean up the kitchen.
When Yakov and Dashutka turned back they were detained at the
railway crossing by the barrier being let down. A long goods
train was passing, dragged by two engines, breathing heavily,
and flinging puffs of crimson fire out of their funnels.
The foremost engine uttered a piercing whistle at the crossing
in sight of the station.
"It's whistling, . . ." said Dashutka.
The train had passed at last, and the signalman lifted the
barrier without haste.
"Is that you, Yakov Ivanitch? I didn't know you, so you'll be
And then when they had reached home they had to go to bed.
Aglaia and Dashutka made themselves a bed in the tea-room and
lay down side by side, while Yakov stretched himself on the
counter. They neither said their prayers nor lighted the ikon
lamp before lying down to sleep. All three lay awake till
morning, but did not utter a single word, and it seemed to them
that all night someone was walking about in the empty storey
Two days later a police inspector and the examining magistrate
came from the town and made a search, first in Matvey's room and
then in the whole tavern. They questioned Yakov first of all,
and he testified that on the Monday Matvey had gone to
Vedenyapino to confess, and that he must have been killed by the
sawyers who were working on the line.
And when the examining magistrate had asked him how it had
happened that Matvey was found on the road, while his cap had
turned up at home -- surely he had not gone to Vedenyapino
without his cap? -- and why they had not found a single drop of
blood beside him in the snow on the road, though his head was
smashed in and his face and chest were black with blood, Yakov
was confused, lost his head and answered:
"I cannot tell."
And just what Yakov had so feared happened: the policeman came,
the district police officer smoked in the prayer-room and Aglaia
fell upon him with abuse and was rude to the police inspector;
and afterwards when Yakov and Aglaia were led out to the yard,
the peasants crowded at the gates and said, "They are taking the
Godlies!" and it seemed that they were all glad.
At the inquiry the policeman stated positively that Yakov and
Aglaia had killed Matvey in order not to share with him, and
that Matvey had money of his own, and that if it was not found
at the search evidently Yakov and Aglaia had got hold of it. And
Dashutka was questioned. She said that Uncle Matvey and Aunt
Aglaia quarrelled and almost fought every day over money, and
that Uncle Matvey was rich, so much so that he had given someone
-- "his Darling" -- nine hundred roubles.
Dashutka was left alone in the tavern. No one came now to drink
tea or vodka, and she divided her time between cleaning up the
rooms, drinking mead and eating rolls; but a few days later they
questioned the signalman at the railway crossing, and he said
that late on Monday evening he had seen Yakov and Dashutka
driving from Limarovo. Dashutka, too, was arrested, taken to the
town and put in prison. It soon became known, from what Aglaia
said, that Sergey Nikanoritch had been present at the murder. A
search was made in his room, and money was found in an unusual
place, in his snowboots under the stove, and the money was all
in small change, three hundred one-rouble notes. He swore he had
made this money himself, and that he hadn't been in the tavern
for a year, but witnesses testified that he was poor and had
been in great want of money of late, and that he used to go
every day to the tavern to borrow from Matvey; and the policeman
described how on the day of the murder he had himself gone twice
to the tavern with the waiter to help him to borrow. It was
recalled at this juncture that on Monday evening Sergey
Nikanoritch had not been there to meet the passenger train, but
had gone off somewhere. And he, too, was arrested and taken to
The trial took place eleven months later.
Yakov Ivanitch looked much older and much thinner, and spoke in
a low voice like a sick man. He felt weak, pitiful, lower in
stature that anyone else, and it seemed as though his soul, too,
like his body, had grown older and wasted, from the pangs of his
conscience and from the dreams and imaginings which never left
him all the while he was in prison. When it came out that he did
not go to church the president of the court asked him:
"Are you a dissenter?"
"I can't tell," he answered.
He had no religion at all now; he knew nothing and understood
nothing; and his old belief was hateful to him now, and seemed
to him darkness and folly. Aglaia was not in the least subdued,
and she still went on abusing the dead man, blaming him for all
their misfortunes. Sergey Nikanoritch had grown a beard instead
of whiskers. At the trial he was red and perspiring, and was
evidently ashamed of his grey prison coat and of sitting on the
same bench with humble peasants. He defended himself awkwardly,
and, trying to prove that he had not been to the tavern for a
whole year, got into an altercation with every witness, and the
spectators laughed at him. Dashutka had grown fat in prison. At
the trial she did not understand the questions put to her, and
only said that when they killed Uncle Matvey she was dreadfully
frightened, but afterwards she did not mind.
All four were found guilty of murder with mercenary motives.
Yakov Ivanitch was sentenced to penal servitude for twenty
years; Aglaia for thirteen and a half; Sergey Nikanoritch to
ten; Dashutka to six.