Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.

By Leo Tolstoy

(Russian novelist and reformer, 1828–1910. In this novel the greatest of modern religious teachers has presented his indictment of the government and church of his country. The hero is a Russian prince who in early youth seduces a peasant girl, and in after life meets her, a prostitute on trial for murder. He follows her to Siberia, in an effort to reclaim her. Near the end of his story Tolstoi introduces this scene. The Englishman may be said to represent modern science, which asks questions and accumulates futile statistics; while the old man voices the peculiar Christian Anarchism of the author, who at the age of eighty-two left his home and wandered out into the steppes to die)
IN one of the exiles’ wards, Nehlúdof [the prince] recognized the strange old man he had seen crossing the ferry that morning. This tattered and wrinkled old man was sitting on the floor by the beds, barefooted, wearing only a dirty cinder-colored shirt, torn on one shoulder, and similar trousers. He looked severely and inquiringly at the new-comers. His emaciated body, visible through the holes in his dirty shirt, looked miserably weak, but in his face was more concentrated seriousness and animation than even when Nehlúdof saw him crossing the ferry. As in all the other wards, so here also the prisoners jumped up and stood erect when the official entered; but the old man remained sitting. His eyes glittered and his brow frowned wrathfully.  1
  “Get up!” the inspector called out to him.  2
  The old man did not rise, but only smiled contemptuously.  3
  “Thy servants are standing before thee, I am not thy servant. Thou bearest the seal.…” said the old man, pointing to the inspector’s forehead.  4
  “Wha—a—t?” said the inspector threateningly, and made a step towards him.  5
  “I know this man,” said Nehlúdof. “What is he imprisoned for?”  6
  “The police have sent him here because he has no passport. We ask them not to send such, but they will do it,” said the inspector, casting an angry side glance at the old man.  7
  “And so it seems thou, too, art one of Antichrist’s army?” said the old man to Nehlúdof.  8
  “No, I am a visitor,” said Nehlúdof.  9
  “What, hast thou come to see how Antichrist tortures men? Here, see. He has locked them up in a cage, a whole army of them. Men should eat bread in the sweat of their brow. But He has locked them up with no work to do, and feeds them like swine, so that they should turn into beasts.”  10
  “What is he saying?” asked the Englishman.  11
  Nehlúdof told him the old man was blaming the inspector for keeping men imprisoned.  12
  “Ask him how he thinks one should treat those who do not keep the laws,” said the Englishman.  13
  Nehlúdof translated the question.  14
  The old man laughed strangely, showing his regular teeth.  15
  “The laws?” he repeated with contempt. “First Antichrist robbed everybody, took all the earth, and all rights away from them—took them all for himself—killed all those who were against him—and then He wrote laws forbidding to rob and to kill. He should have written those laws sooner.”  16
  Nehlúdof translated. The Englishman smiled.  17
  “Well, anyhow, ask him how one should treat thieves and murderers now?”  18
  Nehlúdof again translated the question.  19
  “Tell him he should take the seal of Antichrist off from himself,” the old man said, frowning severely; “then he will know neither thieves nor murderers. Tell him so.”  20
  “He is crazy,” said the Englishman, when Nehlúdof had translated the old man’s words; and shrugging his shoulders he left the cell.  21
  “Do thine own task and leave others alone. Every one for himself. God knows whom to execute, whom to pardon, but we do not know,” said the old man. “Be your own chief, then chiefs will not be wanted. Go, go,” he added, frowning angrily, and looking with glittering eyes at Nehlúdof, who lingered in the ward. “Hast thou not gazed enough on how the servants of Antichrist feed lice on men? Go! Go!”  22

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.