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Part 3 Chapter 9

THE POLITICAL PRISONERS.

Accompanied by the orderly, Nekhludoff went out into the courtyard, which was dimly lit up by the red light of the lamps.

"Where to?" asked the convoy sergeant, addressing the orderly.

"Into the separate cell, No. 5."

"You can't pass here; the boss has gone to the village and taken the keys."

"Well, then, pass this way."

The soldier led Nekhludoff along a board to another entrance. While still in the yard Nekhludoff could hear the din of voices and general commotion going on inside as in a beehive when the bees are preparing to swarm; but when he came nearer and the door opened the din grew louder, and changed into distinct sounds of shouting, abuse and laughter. He heard the clatter of chairs and smelt the well-known foul air. This din of voices and the clatter of the chairs, together with the close smell, always flowed into one tormenting sensation, and produced in Nekhludoff a feeling of moral nausea which grew into physical sickness, the two feelings mingling with and heightening each other.

The first thing Nekhludoff saw, on entering, was a large, stinking tub. A corridor into which several doors opened led from the entrance. The first was the family room, then the bachelors' room, and at the very end two small rooms were set apart for the political prisoners.

The buildings, which were arranged to hold one hundred and fifty prisoners, now that there were four hundred and fifty inside, were so crowded that the prisoners could not all get into the rooms, but filled the passage, too. Some were sitting or lying on the floor, some were going out with empty teapots, or bringing them back filled with boiling water. Among the latter was Taras. He overtook Nekhludoff and greeted him affectionately. The kind face of Taras was disfigured by dark bruises on his nose and under his eye.

"What has happened to you?" asked Nekhludoff.

"Yes, something did happen," Taras said, with a smile.

"All because of the woman," added a prisoner, who followed Taras; "he's had a row with Blind Fedka."

"And how's Theodosia?"

"She's all right. Here I am bringing her the water for her tea," Taras answered, and went into the family room.

Nekhludoff looked in at the door. The room was crowded with women and men, some of whom were on and some under the bedsteads; it was full of steam from the wet clothes that were drying, and the chatter of women's voices was unceasing. The next door led into the bachelors' room. This room was still more crowded; even the doorway and the passage in front of it were blocked by a noisy crowd of men, in wet garments, busy doing or deciding something or other.

The convoy sergeant explained that it was the prisoner appointed to buy provisions, paying off out of the food money what was owing to a sharper who had won from or lent money to the prisoners, and receiving back little tickets made of playing cards. When they saw the convoy soldier and a gentleman, those who were nearest became silent, and followed them with looks of ill-will. Among them Nekhludoff noticed the criminal Fedoroff, whom he knew, and who always kept a miserable lad with a swelled appearance and raised eyebrows beside him, and also a disgusting, noseless, pock-marked tramp, who was notorious among the prisoners because he killed his comrade in the marshes while trying to escape, and had, as it was rumoured, fed on his flesh. The tramp stood in the passage with his wet cloak thrown over one shoulder, looking mockingly and boldly at Nekhludoff, and did not move out of the way. Nekhludoff passed him by.

Though this kind of scene had now become quite familiar to him, though he had during the last three months seen these four hundred criminal prisoners over and over again in many different circumstances; in the heat, enveloped in clouds of dust which they raised as they dragged their chained feet along the road, and at the resting places by the way, where the most horrible scenes of barefaced debauchery had occurred, yet every time he came among them, and felt their attention fixed upon him as it was now, shame and consciousness of his sin against them tormented him. To this sense of shame and guilt was added an unconquerable feeling of loathing and horror. He knew that, placed in a position such as theirs, they could not he other than they were, and yet he was unable to stifle his disgust.

"It's well for them do-nothings," Nekhludoff heard some one say in a hoarse voice as he approached the room of the political prisoners. Then followed a word of obscene abuse, and spiteful, mocking laughter.

聂赫留朵夫由传令兵护送着,又来到路灯昏黄的黑暗院子里。

“上哪儿去?”一个押解兵迎面走来,问护送聂赫留朵夫的传令兵说。

“到隔离室去,第五号。”

“这里过不去,锁上了,得穿过那门廊。”

“怎么锁上了?”

“队长锁上的,他自己到村子里去了。”

“哦,那么往这儿走。”

传令兵领聂赫留朵夫往另一个门廊走去,沿着铺木板的路,来到另一个门口。还在院子里就听见嘈杂的说话声和人们活动的声音,好象一群将要离窝的蜜蜂。聂赫留朵夫走近去,推开门,喧闹声就更响了。听得出有叫嚷、谩骂和哄笑。还听见哐啷啷的镣铐声。空中弥漫着熟悉的粪便和煤焦油的恶臭。

镣铐的哐啷声和刺鼻的恶臭,这两样东西合在一起,总是使聂赫留朵夫感到难受,精神上感到恶心,又渐渐变成生理上的恶心。这两样东西混合在一起,相互助长,确实使人觉得特别难受。

旅站门廊里放着一个臭烘烘的大木桶,就是“便桶”。聂赫留朵夫踏进门,第一眼就看见一个女人坐在便桶边上。她的面前站着一个剃阴阳头的男人,头上歪戴着一顶薄饼般帽子。他们正谈得起劲。男犯一看见聂赫留朵夫,挤了挤眼,说:

“就是皇帝也憋不住尿哇!”

那女人放下囚袍下摆,低下头。

从门廊往里走是一条过道。过道两边的牢房门都开着。第一间是带家眷的牢房,第二间是单身犯人的大牢房。过道另一头有两个小间,是关政治犯的。这个旅站的房子原定可关一百五十人,现在却关了四百五十人,十分拥挤,犯人在牢房里住不下,把过道都挤满了。有人在地板上坐着或者躺着,有人拿着空茶壶出去,或者提着装满开水的茶壶回来。塔拉斯也在这些人中间。他赶上聂赫留朵夫,亲切地同他打招呼。塔拉斯那张和蔼可亲的脸显得难看了,因为鼻子上和眼睛底下有好几处乌青块。

“你这是怎么了?”聂赫留朵夫问。

“出了一点毛病,”塔拉斯笑眯眯地说。

“他们老是打架,”押解兵鄙夷不屑地说。

“为了婆娘,”他们后面有个犯人说,“他跟瞎子费特卡干了一家伙。”

“费多霞怎么样?”聂赫留朵夫问。

“没什么,身体很好,我这就是打开水来给她沏茶的,”塔拉斯说着走进带家属的牢房。

聂赫留朵夫往门里望了一眼。整个牢房挤满了男男女女,有的坐在板床上,有的躺在板床下。牢房里晾着湿衣服,弥漫着水蒸汽。还听见女人们一刻不停的叫嚷声。隔壁是单身犯人的牢房。这间牢房更加拥挤,连门口和过道里都站满一群群喧闹的犯人。他们穿着湿衣服,正在分配什么东西,或者解决什么问题。押解兵向聂赫留朵夫解释说,监狱里有个开赌场的犯人,专门借钱给别的犯人,谁一时还不出就用纸牌剪成纸片作借据,此刻犯人头正根据纸片从伙食费中扣下钱来还给赌场老板。那些站得近的犯人看见军士和一个老爷,就住了口,恶狠狠地打量着他们。在分钱的人中间,聂赫留朵夫发现他认识的苦役犯费多罗夫。费多罗夫身边总带着一个皮肤白净、面孔浮肿、眉头紧皱、模样可怜的小伙子。另外,他还看见一个麻脸、烂鼻、面目可憎的流浪汉。据说这人在原始森林里杀死了同伴,吃了他的肉。流浪汉一个肩膀上披着湿囚袍,站在过道里,嘲弄而大胆地瞧着聂赫留朵夫,没有给他让路。聂赫留朵夫就从他身旁绕过去。

尽管聂赫留朵夫对这种景象十分熟悉,尽管在过去三个月中,他常常看到这四百名刑事犯处在各种不同的场合:大热天,他们在灰砂飞扬的大道上拖着脚镣行进,或者在大路旁休息,逢到天气暖和的日子,还看到男女犯人在旅站院子里公开通奸的可怕景象,虽然如此,他每次来到他们中间,象现在这样发现他们的目光集中在他身上,还是觉得羞愧和负疚。尤其难堪的是,除了这种羞愧和负疚感之分,还会产生克制不住的嫌恶和恐惧。他知道,就他们的处境来说也是无可奈何的,但他还是无法清除对他们的嫌恶。

“他们过得可舒服了,这些寄生虫!”聂赫留朵夫向政治犯牢门走去,听见背后有人说,“这些鬼东西有什么好苦恼的,反正不会肚子疼,”一个沙哑的声音说,还夹着不堪入耳的骂人话。

人群中响起一阵不友善的嘲弄的哄笑。



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