Although Aksionov is prone to drinking , he is not violent, and he is responsible and well liked by people that know him. One day he decides to go to a fair as a business venture, but his wife pleads for him not to go because of a nightmare she had the previous night in which he had greyed hair. Aksionov meets another merchant on his way, and the two decide to travel together. They check into an inn and have a good time drinking. Then they retire separately. Aksionov wakes early in the next morning to get to the fair and leaves without the other merchant.
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Makovsky, The Prisoner, V. He had two shops and a house of his own. Aksionov was a handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing. When quite a young man he had been given to drink, and was riotous when he had had too much; but after he married he gave up drinking, except now and then.
One summer Aksionov was going to the Nizhny Fair, and as he bade good-bye to his family, his wife said to him, "Ivan Dmitrich, do not start to-day; I have had a bad dream about you. I dreamt you returned from the town, and when you took off your cap I saw that your hair was quite grey.
When he had travelled half-way, he met a merchant whom he knew, and they put up at the same inn for the night. They had some tea together, and then went to bed in adjoining rooms. Then he made his way across to the landlord of the inn who lived in a cottage at the back , paid his bill, and continued his journey. When he had gone about twenty-five miles, he stopped for the horses to be fed. Aksionov rested awhile in the passage of the inn, then he stepped out into the porch, and, ordering a samovar to be heated, got out his guitar and began to play.
Suddenly a troika drove up with tinkling bells and an official alighted, followed by two soldiers. He came to Aksionov and began to question him, asking him who he was and whence he came. Were you alone, or with a fellow-merchant?
Did you see the other merchant this morning? Why did you leave the inn before dawn? I am travelling on business of my own, and there is no need to question me. We must search your things. Suddenly the officer drew a knife out of a bag, crying, "Whose knife is this?
You are the only person who could have done it. The house was locked from inside, and no one else was there. Here is this blood-stained knife in your bag and your face and manner betray you! Tell me how you killed him, and how much money you stole? But his voice was broken, his face pale, and he trembled with fear as though he went guilty.
The police-officer ordered the soldiers to bind Aksionov and to put him in the cart. As they tied his feet together and flung him into the cart, Aksionov crossed himself and wept. His money and goods were taken from him, and he was sent to the nearest town and imprisoned there. Enquiries as to his character were made in Vladimir. The merchants and other inhabitants of that town said that in former days he used to drink and waste his time, but that he was a good man.
Then the trial came on: he was charged with murdering a merchant from Ryazan, and robbing him of twenty thousand rubles. His wife was in despair, and did not know what to believe. Her children were all quite small; one was a baby at her breast. Taking them all with her, she went to the town where her husband was in jail. At first she was not allowed to see him; but after much begging, she obtained permission from the officials, and was taken to him.
When she saw her husband in prison-dress and in chains, shut up with thieves and criminals, she fell down, and did not come to her senses for a long time.
Then she drew her children to her, and sat down near him. She told him of things at home, and asked about what had happened to him. He told her all, and she asked, "What can we do now? Aksionov did not reply, but only looked downcast. Then his wife said, "It was not for nothing I dreamt your hair had turned grey. You remember? You should not have started that day. Then a soldier came to say that the wife and children must go away; and Aksionov said good-bye to his family for the last time.
When they were gone, Aksionov recalled what had been said, and when he remembered that his wife also had suspected him, he said to himself, "It seems that only God can know the truth; it is to Him alone we must appeal, and from Him alone expect mercy. Aksionov was condemned to be flogged and sent to the mines. So he was flogged with a knot, and when the wounds made by the knot were healed, he was driven to Siberia with other convicts.
For twenty-six years Aksionov lived as a convict in Siberia. His hair turned white as snow, and his beard grew long, thin, and grey. All his mirth went; he stooped; he walked slowly, spoke little, and never laughed, but he often prayed. In prison Aksionov learnt to make boots, and earned a little money, with which he bought The Lives of the Saints.
He read this book when there was light enough in the prison; and on Sundays in the prison-church he read the lessons and sang in the choir; for his voice was still good. The prison authorities liked Aksionov for his meekness, and his fellow-prisoners respected him: they called him "Grandfather," and "The Saint. No news reached Aksionov from his home, and he did not even know if his wife and children were still alive.
One day a fresh gang of convicts came to the prison. In the evening the old prisoners collected round the new ones and asked them what towns or villages they came from, and what they were sentenced for.
Among the rest Aksionov sat down near the newcomers, and listened with downcast air to what was said. One of the new convicts, a tall, strong man of sixty, with a closely-cropped grey beard, was telling the others what be had been arrested for. I said I had only taken it to get home quicker, and had then let it go; besides, the driver was a personal friend of mine. I once really did something wrong, and ought by rights to have come here long ago, but that time I was not found out. Now I have been sent here for nothing at all My family are of that town.
My name is Makar, and they also call me Semyonich. Are they still alive? Of course I do. The Aksionovs are rich, though their father is in Siberia: a sinner like ourselves, it seems! He only sighed, and said, "For my sins I have been in prison these twenty-six years.
But Aksionov only said, "Well, well--I must have deserved it! When Makar Semyonich heard this, he looked at Aksionov, slapped his own knee, and exclaimed, "Well, this is wonderful!
Really wonderful! Makar Semyonich laughed, and replied: "It must have been him in whose bag the knife was found! How could any one put a knife into your bag while it was under your head? It would surely have woke you up. He rose and went away. All that night Aksionov lay awake. He felt terribly unhappy, and all sorts of images rose in his mind.
There was the image of his wife as she was when he parted from her to go to the fair. He saw her as if she were present; her face and her eyes rose before him; he heard her speak and laugh. And then he remembered himself as he used to be-young and merry. He remembered how he sat playing the guitar in the porch of the inn where he was arrested, and how free from care he had been. He saw, in his mind, the place where he was flogged, the executioner, and the people standing around; the chains, the convicts, all the twenty-six years of his prison life, and his premature old age.
The thought of it all made him so wretched that he was ready to kill himself. And his anger was so great against Makar Semyonich that he longed for vengeance, even if he himself should perish for it. He kept repeating prayers all night, but could get no peace. During the day he did not go near Makar Semyonich, nor even look at him.
A fortnight passed in this way. Aksionov could not sleep at night, and was so miserable that he did not know what to do. One night as he was walking about the prison he noticed some earth that came rolling out from under one of the shelves on which the prisoners slept.
He stopped to see what it was. Suddenly Makar Semyonich crept out from under the shelf, and looked up at Aksionov with frightened face. Aksionov tried to pass without looking at him, but Makar seized his hand and told him that he had dug a hole under the wall, getting rid of the earth by putting it into his high-boots, and emptying it out every day on the road when the prisoners were driven to their work.
He drew his hand away, saying, "I have no wish to escape, and you have no need to kill me; you killed me long ago! As to telling of you--I may do so or not, as God shall direct. The prison was searched and the tunnel found. The Governor came and questioned all the prisoners to find out who had dug the hole. They all denied any knowledge of it.
Those who knew would not betray Makar Semyonich, knowing he would be flogged almost to death. At last the Governor turned to Aksionov whom he knew to be a just man, and said: "You are a truthful old man; tell me, before God, who dug the hole?
He thought, "Why should I screen him who ruined my life? Let him pay for what I have suffered.
God Sees the Truth, but Waits
He had two shops and a house of his own. Aksionov was a handsome, fair-haired, curly-headed fellow, full of fun, and very fond of singing. When quite a young man he had been given to drink, and was riotous when he had had too much; but after he married he gave up drinking, except now and then. One summer Aksionov was going to the Nizhny Fair, and as he bade good-bye to his family, his wife said to him, "Ivan Dmitrich, do not start to-day; I have had a bad dream about you. I dreamt you returned from the town, and when you took off your cap I saw that your hair was quite grey. When he had travelled half-way, he met a merchant whom he knew, and they put up at the same inn for the night. They had some tea together, and then went to bed in adjoining rooms.
God Sees the Truth, But Waits by Leo Tolstoy
Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Tolstoy may be exploring the theme of forgiveness. This may be important as Tolstoy may be suggesting that should a person have faith in God no matter how difficult things may be for them they will still be able to forgive another human being for any action taken against them. Aksyonof knows that Semyonitch killed the merchant yet he never reports him to the authorities. Though Aksyonof might be afraid of what Semyonitch might do to him it is more likely that Aksyonof accepts the position that he finds himself in. He knows that after twenty-six years in prison he has nothing to live for. His family have forgotten him as too has society.
God Sees the Truth, But Waits