THE DEVIL (1889-90)/ Ending Variation


THE DEVIL (D'yavol) by Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.




"To kill, yes. there are only two ways out: to kill my wife, or to kill her. For it is impossible to live like this," said he to himself, and going up to the table he took from it a revolver and, having examined it -- one cartridge was wanting -- he put it in his trouser pocket.

"My God! What am I doing?" he suddenly exclaimed, and folding his hands he began to pray.

"O God, help me and deliver me! Thou knowest that I do not desire evil, but by myself am powerless. Help me," said he, making the sign of the cross on his breast before the icon.

"Yes, I can control myself. I will go out, walk about and think things over."

He went to the entrance-hall, put on his overcoat and went out onto the porch. Unconsciously his steps took him past the garden along the field path to the outlying farmstead. There the thrashing machine was still droning and the cries of the driver lads were heard. He entered the barn. She was there. He saw her at once. She was raking up the corn, and on seeing him she ran briskly and merrily about, with laughing eyes, raking up the scattered corn with agility. eugene could not help watching her though he did not wish to do so. He only recollected himself when she was no longer in sight. The clerk informed him that they were now finishing thrashing the corn that had been beaten down -- that was why it was going slower and the output was less. Eugene went up to the drum, which occasionally gave a knock as sheaves not evenly fed in passed under it, and he asked the clerk if there were many such sheaves of beaten-down corn.

"There will be five cartloads of it."

"Then look here..." began Eugene, but he did not finish the sentence. She had gone close up to the drum and was raking the corn from under it, and she scorched him with her laughing eyes. That look spoke of a merry, careless love between them, of the fact that she knew he wanted her and had come to her shed, and that she as always was ready to live and be merry with him regardless of all conditions or consequences. Eugene felt himself to be in her power but did not wish to yield.

He remembered his prayer and tried to repeat it. He began saying it to himself, but at once felt that it was useless. A single thought now engrossed him entirely: how to arrange a meeting with her so that the others should not notice it.

"If we finish this lot today, are we to start on a fresh stack or leave it till tomorrow?" asked the clerk.

"Yes, yes," replied Eugene, involuntarily following her to the heap to which with the other women she was raking the corn.

"But can I really not master myself?" said he to himself. "Have I really perished? O God! But there is not God. There is only a devil. And it is she. She has possessed me. But I won't, I won't! A devil, yes, a devil."

Again he went up to her, drew the revolver from his pocket and shot her, once, twice, thrice, in the back. She ran a few steps and fell on the heap of corn.

"My God, my God! What is that?" cried the women.

"No, it was not an accident. I killed her on purpose," cried Eugene. "Send for the police-officer."

He went home and went to his study and locked himself in, without speaking to his wife.

"Do not come to me," he cried to her through the door. "You will know all about it."

An hour later he rang, and bade the man-servant who answered the bell: "Go and find out whether Stepanida is alive."

The servant already knew all about it, and told him she had died an hour ago.

"Well, all right. Now leave me alone. When the police officer or the magistrate comes, let me know."

The police officer and magistrate arrived next morning, and Eugene, having bidden his wife and baby farewell, was taken to prison.

He was tried. It was during the early days of trial by jury, and the verdict was one of temporary insanity, and he was sentenced only to perform church penance.

He had been kept in prison for nine months and was then confined in a monastery for one month.

He had begun to drink while still in prison, continued to do so in the monastery, and returned home an enfeebled, irresponsible drunkard.

Varvara Alexeevna assured them that she had always predicted this. it was, she said, evident from the way he disputed. Neither Liza nor Mary Pavlovna could understand how the affair had happened, but for all that, they did not believe what the doctors said, namely, that he was mentally deranged -- a psychopath. They could not accept that, for the knew that he was saner than hundreds of their acquaintances.

And indeed, if Eugene Iretnev was mentally deranged when he committed this crime, then everyone is similarly insane. The most mentally deranged people are certainly those who see in others indications of insanity they do not notice in themselves.

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