‘What,’ they say, ‘are you suffering for, grandfather?’ ‘I am suffering, dear brethren,’ says he, ‘for my own sins, and for other men’s sins. I have not taken a life, nor taken other men’s goods, save what I have bestowed on poorer brethren. I was a merchant, dear brethren, and I had great wealth.’ And he tells them this and that, and how the whole thing had happened. ‘For myself,’ says he, ‘I do not grieve. God has chastened me. The only thing,’ says he, ‘I am sorry for my old wife and my children.’ And so the old man fell a-weeping. And it so happened that in that company there was the very man, you know, who had killed the merchant. ‘Where did it happen, grandfather?’ says he. ‘When and in what month?’ and so he asked him all about it. His heart began to ache. He goes up to the old man like this—and falls down at his feet. ‘You are suffering for me, old man,’ says he. ‘It’s the holy truth; this man is tormented innocently, for nothing, lads,’ says he. ‘I did that deed,’ says he, ‘and put the knife under his head when he was asleep. Forgive me, grandfather, for Christ’s sake!’ says he.”

Karataev paused, smiling blissfully, and gazing at the fire, as he rearranged the logs.

“The old man, he says, ‘God forgive you,’ says he, ‘but we are all sinners before God,’ says he. ‘I am suffering for my own sins.’ And he wept with bitter tears. What do you think, darling?” said Karataev, his ecstatic smile growing more and more radiant, as though the great charm and whole point of his story lay in what he was going to tell now, “what do you think, darling, that murderer confessed of himself to the police. ‘I have killed six men,’ says he (for he was a great criminal), ‘but what I am most sorry for is this old man. Let him not weep through my fault.’ He confessed. It was written down, and a paper sent off to the right place. The place was far away. Then came a trial. Then all the reports were written in due course, by the authorities, I mean. It was brought to the Tsar. Then a decree comes from the Tsar to let the merchant go free; to give him the recompense they had awarded him. The paper comes; they fall to looking for the old man. Where was that old man who had suffered innocently? The paper had come from the Tsar, and they fell to looking for him.” Karataev’s lower jaw quivered. “But God had pardoned him already—he was dead! So it happened, darling!” Karataev concluded, and he gazed a long while straight before him, smiling silently.

Not the story itself, but its mysterious import, the ecstatic gladness that beamed in Karataev’s face as he told it, the mysterious significance of that gladness vaguely filled and rejoiced Pierre’s soul now.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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