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Part 1 Chapter 31

THE PRISONERS.

When the padlock rattled and the door opened to let Maslova into the cell, all turned towards her. Even the deacon's daughter stopped for a moment and looked at her with lifted brows before resuming her steady striding up and down.

Korableva stuck her needle into the brown sacking and looked questioningly at Maslova through her spectacles. "Eh, eh, deary me, so you have come back. And I felt sure they'd acquit you. So you've got it?" She took off her spectacles and put her work down beside her on the shelf bed.

"And here have I and the old lady been saying, 'Why, it may well be they'll let her go free at once.' Why, it happens, ducky, they'll even give you a heap of money sometimes, that's sure," the watchman's wife began, in her singing voice: "Yes, we were wondering, 'Why's she so long?' And now just see what it is. Well, our guessing was no use. The Lord willed otherwise," she went on in musical tones.

"Is it possible? Have they sentenced you?" asked Theodosia, with concern, looking at Maslova with her bright blue, child-like eyes; and her merry young face changed as if she were going to cry.

Maslova did not answer, but went on to her place, the second from the end, and sat down beside Korableva.

"Have you eaten anything?" said Theodosia, rising and coming up to Maslova.

Maslova gave no reply, but putting the rolls on the bedstead, took off her dusty cloak, the kerchief off her curly black head, and began pulling off her shoes. The old woman who had been playing with the boy came up and stood in front of Maslova. "Tz, tz, tz," she clicked with her tongue, shaking her head pityingly. The boy also came up with her, and, putting out his upper lip, stared with wide open eyes at the roll Maslova had brought. When Maslova saw the sympathetic faces of her fellow-prisoners, her lips trembled and she felt inclined to cry, but she succeeded in restraining herself until the old woman and the boy came up. When she heard the kind, pitying clicking of the old woman's tongue, and met the boy's serious eyes turned from the roll to her face, she could bear it no longer; her face quivered and she burst into sobs.

"Didn't I tell you to insist on having a proper advocate?" said Norableva. "Well, what is it? Exile?"

Maslova could not answer, but took from inside the roll a box of cigarettes, on which was a picture of a lady with hair done up very high and dress cut low in front, and passed the box to Korableva. Korableva looked at it and shook her head, chiefly because see did not approve of Maslova's putting her money to such bad use; but still she took out a cigarette, lit it at the lamp, took a puff, and almost forced it into Maslova's hand. Maslova, still crying, began greedily to inhale the tobacco smoke. "Penal servitude," she muttered, blowing out the smoke and sobbing.

"Don't they fear the Lord, the cursed soul-slayers?" muttered Korableva, "sentencing the lass for nothing." At this moment the sound of loud, coarse laughter came from the women who were still at the window. The little girl also laughed, and her childish treble mixed with the hoarse and screeching laughter of the others. One of the convicts outside had done something that produced this effect on the onlookers.

"Lawks! see the shaved hound, what he's doing," said the red-haired woman, her whole fat body shaking with laughter; and leaning against the grating she shouted meaning less obscene words.

"Ugh, the fat fright's cackling," said Korableva, who disliked the red-haired woman. Then, turning to Maslova again, she asked: "How many years?"

"Four," said Maslova, and the tears ran down her cheeks in such profusion that one fell on the cigarette. Maslova crumpled it up angrily and took another.

Though the watchman's wife did not smoke she picked up the cigarette Maslova had thrown away and began straightening it out, talking unceasingly.

"There, now, ducky, so it's true," she said. "Truth's gone to the dogs and they do what they please, and here we were guessing that you'd go free. Norableva says, 'She'll go free.' I say, 'No,' say I. 'No, dear, my heart tells me they'll give it her.' And so it's turned out," she went on, evidently listening with pleasure to her own voice.

The women who had been standing by the window now also came up to Maslova, the convicts who had amused them having gone away. The first to come up were the woman imprisoned for illicit trade in spirits, and her little girl. "Why such a hard sentence?" asked the woman, sitting down by Maslova and knitting fast.

"Why so hard? Because there's no money. That's why! Had there been money, and had a good lawyer that's up to their tricks been hired, they'd have acquitted her, no fear," said Korableva. "There's what's-his-name--that hairy one with the long nose. He'd bring you out clean from pitch, mum, he would. Ah, if we'd only had him!"

"Him, indeed," said Khoroshavka. "Why, he won't spit at you for less than a thousand roubles."

"Seems you've been born under an unlucky star," interrupted the old woman who was imprisoned for incendiarism. "Only think, to entice the lad's wife and lock him himself up to feed vermin, and me, too, in my old days--" she began to retell her story for the hundredth time. "If it isn't the beggar's staff it's the prison. Yes, the beggar's staff and the prison don't wait for an invitation."

"Ah, it seems that's the way with all of them," said the spirit trader; and after looking at her little girl she put down her knitting, and, drawing the child between her knees, began to search her head with deft fingers. "Why do you sell spirits?" she went on. "Why? but what's one to feed the children on?"

These words brought back to Maslova's mind her craving for drink.

"A little vodka," she said to Korableva, wiping the tears with her sleeve and sobbing less frequently.

"All right, fork out," said Korableva.

铁锁哐啷响了一声,玛丝洛娃又被关进牢房。牢里的人都向她转过身去。就连诵经士的女儿也站住,扬起眉毛,瞧了瞧进来的人,但她一言不发,接着又迈开她那有力的大步走了起来。柯拉勃列娃把针扎在粗麻布上,从眼镜上方疑问地凝视着玛丝洛娃。

“哎呀,老天爷!你回来啦。我还以为他们会把你释放呢,”她用男人一般沙哑低沉的声音说。“看样子他们要你坐牢喽。”

她摘下眼镜,把针线活放在身边的板铺上。

“好姑娘,我刚才还跟大婶说过,也许会当场把你释放的。据说这样的事是常有的。还会给些钱呢,全得看你的造化了,”道口工立刻用唱歌一般好听的声音说。“唉,真是没想到。看来我们占的卦都不灵。好姑娘,看来上帝有上帝的安排,”她一口气说出一套亲切动听的话来。

“难道真的判刑了?”费多霞现出满腔同情的神色,用她那双孩子般清澈的蓝眼睛瞧着玛丝洛娃,问。她那张快乐而年轻的脸整个儿变了样,仿佛要哭出来。

玛丝洛娃什么也没回答,默默地走到自己的铺位上坐下。

她的床铺在靠墙第二张,紧挨着柯拉勃列娃。

“你大概还没有吃过饭吧?”费多霞说着站起来,走到玛丝洛娃跟前。

玛丝洛娃没有回答,却把两个白面包放在床头上,开始脱衣服。她脱下满是灰土的囚袍,从鬈曲的黑头发上摘下头巾,坐下来。

背有点驼的老太婆在板铺另一头逗着小男孩玩,这时也走过来,站在玛丝洛娃面前。

“啧,啧,啧!”她满心怜悯地摇摇头,啧着舌头说。

那个男孩子也跟着老太婆走过来,眼睛睁得老大,翘起上嘴唇,盯着玛丝洛娃带来的白面包。经过这一天的折腾以后,玛丝洛娃看见这一张张满怀同情的脸,她忍不住想哭,嘴唇都哆嗦起来。但她竭力忍住,直到老太婆和男孩子向她走过来。当她听到老太婆充满同情的啧啧声,看见男孩子聚精会神地盯着白面包的眼睛又转过来瞧着她时,她再也忍不住了。她整个脸都哆嗦着,接着放声痛哭起来。

“我早就说过,得找一位有本事的律师,”柯拉勃列娃说。

“怎么,要把你流放吗?”她问。

玛丝洛娃想回答,可是说不出话。她一面哭,一面从面包里挖出那包香烟。烟盒上印着一个脸色白里透红的太太,头发梳得很高,敞开的领子露出一块三角形的胸部。玛丝洛娃把那包烟交给柯拉勃列娃。柯拉勃列娃瞧了瞧烟盒上的画,不以为然地摇摇头,主要是怪玛丝洛娃不该这样乱花钱。她取出一支烟,凑着油灯点着,自己先吸了一口,然后把它交给玛丝洛娃。玛丝洛娃没有停止哭,一口接一口地拚命吸烟,然后把烟雾吐出来。

“服苦役,”她呜咽着说。

“这帮恶霸,该死的吸血鬼,不敬畏上帝,”柯拉勃列娃说。“平白无故就把人家姑娘判了刑。”

这当儿,那些留在窗口的女人迸发出一阵哄笑声。小女孩也笑了。她那尖细的孩子的笑声,同三个大人沙哑而刺耳的笑声汇成了一片。院子里有个男犯作了个什么怪动作,逗得窗口的看客都忍不住笑起来。

“呸,这条剃光头毛的公狗!他这是干什么呀!”那个红头发的女人说,笑得浑身的胖肉都抖动起来。她把脸贴在铁栅栏上,嘴里胡乱嚷着下流话。

“嘿,这没良心的东西!有什么好笑的!”柯拉勃列娃对红头发女人摇摇头,说。接着她又问玛丝洛娃:“判了好多年吗?”

“四年,”玛丝洛娃说,眼睛里饱含着泪水,有一滴眼泪落到香烟上。

玛丝洛娃怒气冲冲地把那支烟揉成一团,扔掉,又拿了一支。

道口工虽然不吸烟,却连忙把烟头捡起来,把它弄直了,同时嘴里说个不停。

“看来一点儿也不错,好姑娘,”她说,“真理让骗猪给吃了。他们想干什么就干什么。柯拉勃列娃大婶说他们会把你放了的,我说不会。我说,好人儿,我的心觉得出来,他们不会放过她的。可怜的姑娘,果然没错,”她说,得意地听着自己的声音。

这时,男犯都已从院子里走掉,同他们搭话的女人也都离开窗口,来到玛丝洛娃跟前。第一个走过来的是带着女孩的暴眼睛私酒贩子。

“怎么判得这样重啊?”她一边问,一边挨着玛丝洛娃坐下来,手里继续迅速地编着袜子。

“因为没有钱才判得那么重。要是有钱,请上一个有本事的讼师,包管就没有事了,”柯拉勃列娃说。“那个家伙……他叫什么呀……蓬头散发的,大鼻子……嘿,我的太太,要是能把他请来,他就会把你从水里捞起来,让你身上不沾一滴水。”

“哼,怎么请得起,”俏娘们龇着牙冷笑了一声,挨着她们坐下,“没有一千卢布你就甭想请得动他。”

“看样子,你生来就是这样的命,”因犯纵火罪而坐牢的老太婆插嘴说。“我的命也真苦,人家把我的儿媳妇抢走了,还把儿子关到牢里喂虱子,连我这么一把年纪的人都被关进来了,”她又讲起她那讲过成百遍的身世来。“看样子,坐牢也罢,要饭也罢,你就甭想躲开它。不是要饭,就是坐牢。”

“他们都是一路货,”贩私酒的女人说,她仔细察看女孩的头,就放下手里的袜子,把女孩拉过来夹在两腿中间,手指灵活地在她的头上找虱子。“他们问我:‘你为什么贩卖私酒?’请问,叫我拿什么来养活孩子呢?”她一面说,一面熟练地做她做惯的活儿。

私酒贩子的这番话使玛丝洛娃想起了酒。

“最好弄点酒来喝喝,”她对柯拉勃列娃说,用衬衫袖子擦擦眼泪,只偶尔抽搭一声。

“要喝吗?行,拿钱来,”柯拉勃列娃说。



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