Godfrey found that there was no Sunday break in the work at Kara, but tha_nce a fortnight the whole of the occupants of the ward had baths, and upo_hese days no work was done. Upon a good many saints' days they also rested; so that, practically, they had a holiday about once in every ten days. For hi_wn part he would have been glad had the work gone on without these breaks.
When the men started for work at five in the morning, and returned to th_rison at seven at night, the great majority, after smoking a pipe or two, turned in at once, while upon the days when there was no work quarrels wer_requent; and, what was to him still more objectionable, men told stories o_heir early lives, and seemed proud rather than otherwise of the horribl_rimes they had committed. His own time did not hang at all heavy upon hi_ands.
One of the Tartar prisoners who spoke Russian was glad enough to agree, i_xchange for a sufficient amount of tobacco to enable him to smoke steadil_hile so employed, to teach him his own dialect. Godfrey found, as he ha_xpected, a sufficient similarity between the two languages to assist him ver_reatly, and with two hours' work every evening, and a long bout on eac_oliday, he made rapid progress with it, especially as he got into the habi_f going over and over again through the vocabulary of all the words he ha_earned, while he was at work in the mine. When not employed with the Tarta_e spent his time in conversation with Osip Ivanoff and the little group o_en of the same type. They spent much of their time in playing cards, whis_eing a very popular game in Russia. They often invited Godfrey to join them, but his mind was so much occupied with his own plans that he felt quite unabl_o give the requisite attention to the game.
He soon learnt the methods by which order and discipline were maintained i_he prisons. For small offences the punishment was a decrease in the rations, the prohibition of smoking—the prisoners' one enjoyment—and confinement to th_oom. The last part of the sentence was that which the prisoners mos_isliked. So far from work being hardship, the break which it afforded to th_onotony of their life rendered the privation of it the severest o_unishments, and Godfrey learned that there was the greatest difficulty i_etting men to accept the position of starosta, in spite of the privileges an_ower the position gave, because he did not go out to work. For more seriou_ffences men were punished by a flogging, more or less severe, with birc_ods. For this, however, they seemed to care very little, although sometime_ncapacitated for doing work for some days, from the effects of the beating.
Lastly, for altogether exceptional crimes, or for open outbreaks o_nsubordination, there was the _plete_ —flogging with a whip of twisted hide, fastened to a handle ten inches long and an inch thick. The lash is at firs_he same thickness as the handle, tapering for twelve inches, and then divide_nto three smaller lashes, each twenty-five inches long and about th_hickness of the little finger. This terrible weapon is in use only at thre_f the Siberian prisons, of which Kara is one. From twenty to twenty-fiv_ashes are given, and the punishment is considered equivalent to a sentence t_eath, as in many cases the culprit survives the punishment but a short time.
The prisoners were agreed that at Kara the punishment of the _plete_ wa_xtremely rare, only being given for the murder of a convict or official b_ne of the convicts. The quarrels among the prisoners, although frequent, an_ttended by great shouting and gesticulation, very rarely came to blows, th_ussians having no idea of using their fists, and the contests, when it cam_o that, being little more than a tussle, with hair pulling and random blows.
Had the prisoners had knives or other weapons ready to hand, the results woul_ave been very different.
Godfrey had not smoked until he arrived at Kara; but he found that in th_ense atmosphere of the prison room it was almost necessary, and therefor_ook to it. Besides smoking being allowed as useful to ward off fevers an_mprove the health of the prisoners, it also had the effect of adding to thei_ontentment, rendering them more easy of management, as the fear of th_moking being cut off did more to ensure ready obedience than even the fear o_he stick. Tea was not among the articles of prison diet; but a samovar wa_lways kept going by Mikail, and the tea sold to the prisoners at its cos_rice, and the small sum paid to the convicts sufficed to provide them wit_his and with tobacco.
Vodka was but seldom smuggled in, the difficulty of bringing it in bein_reat, and the punishment of those detected in doing so being severe. A_imes, however, a supply was brought in, being carried, as Godfrey found, i_kins similar to those used for sausages, filled with the spirit and woun_ound and round the body. These were generally brought in when one or other o_he prisoners had received a remittance, as most of them were allowed t_eceive a letter once every three months; and these letters, in the case o_en who had once been in a good position, generally contained money. Thi_rivilege was only allowed to men after two years' unbroken good conduct.
Godfrey's teacher in the Tartar language had been recommended to him by Osi_s being the most companionable of the Tartar prisoners. He was a young fello_f three or four and twenty, short and sturdy, like most of his race, and wit_ good-natured expression in his flat face. He was in for life, having in _it of passion killed a Russian officer who had struck him with a whip. H_ame from the neighbourhood of Kasan in the far west. Godfrey took a stron_iking to him, and was not long before he conceived the idea that when he mad_is escape he would, if possible, take Luka with him. Such companionship woul_e of immense advantage, and would greatly diminish the difficulties of th_ourney. As for Luka, he became greatly attached to his pupil. The Tartar_ere looked down upon by their fellow-prisoners, and the terms of equalit_ith which Godfrey chatted with them, and his knowledge of the world, whic_eemed to the Tartar to be prodigious, made him look up to him with unbounde_espect.
The friendship was finally cemented by an occurrence that took place thre_onths after Godfrey arrived at the prison. Among the convicts was a man name_obylin, a man of great strength. He boasted that he had committed te_urders, and was always bullying and tyrannizing the quieter and weake_risoners. One day he passed where Luka and Godfrey were sitting on the edg_f the plank bed talking together. Luka happened to get up just as he cam_long, and Kobylin gave him a violent push, saying, "Get out of the way, yo_iserable little Tartar dog."
Luka fell with his head against the edge of the bench, and lay for a time hal_tunned. Godfrey leapt to his feet, and springing forward struck the bully _ight-handed blow straight from the shoulder. The man staggered back severa_aces, and fell over the opposite bench. Then, with a shout of fury, h_ecovered his feet and rushed at Godfrey, with his arms extended to grasp him; but the lad, who had been one of the best boxers at Shrewsbury, awaited hi_nset calmly, and, making a spring forward just as Kobylin reached him, lande_ blow, given with all his strength and the impetus of his spring, under th_ussian's chin, and the man went backwards as if he had been shot.
A roar of applause broke from the convicts. Mikail rushed forward, but Godfre_aid to him:
"Let us alone, Mikail. This fellow has been a nuisance in the ward ever sinc_ came. It is just as well that he should have a lesson. I sha'n't do him an_arm. Just leave us alone for a minute or two; he won't want much more."
The Russian rose slowly to his feet, bewildered and half stupefied by the blo_nd fall. He would probably have done nothing more; but, maddened by th_aunts and jeers of the others, he gathered himself together and renewed th_ttack, but he in vain attempted to seize his active opponent. Godfrey elude_is furious rushes, and before he could recover himself, always succeeded i_etting in two or three straight blows, and at last met him, as in his firs_ush, and knocked him off his feet.
By this time Kobylin had had enough of it, and sat on the floor bewildered an_restfallen. Everything that a Russian peasant does not understand savours t_im of magic; and that he, Kobylin, should have been thus vanquished by a mer_ad seemed altogether beyond nature. He could not understand how it was tha_e had been unable to grasp his foe, or how that, like a stroke of lightning, these blows had shot into his face. Even the jeering and laughter of hi_ompanions failed to stir him. The Russian peasant is accustomed to be beaten, and is humble to those who are his masters. Kobylin rose slowly to his feet.
"You have beaten me," he said humbly. "I do not know how; forgive me; I wa_rong. I am ignorant, and did not know."
"Say no more about it," Godfrey replied. "We have had a quarrel, and there i_n end of it. There need be no malice. We are all prisoners here together, an_t is not right that one should bully others because he happens to be a littl_tronger. There are other things besides strength. You behaved badly, and yo_ave been punished. Let us smoke our pipes, and think no more about it."
The sensation caused in the ward by the contest was prodigious, and th_ictory of this lad was as incomprehensible to the others as to Kobyli_imself. The rapidity with which the blows were delivered, and the ease wit_hich Godfrey had evaded the rushes of his opponent, seemed to them, as t_im, almost magical, and from that moment they regarded Godfrey as bein_ossessed of some strange power, which placed him altogether apart fro_hemselves. Osip and the other men of the same stamp warmly congratulate_odfrey.
"What magic is this?" Osip said, taking him by the shoulders and looking wit_onder at him. "I have been thinking you but a lad, and yet that strong brut_s as a child in your hands. It is the miracle of David and Goliath ove_gain."
"It is simply skill against brute force, Osip. I may tell you, what I have no_old anyone before since I came here, that my mother was English. I did no_ay so, because, as you may guess, I feared that were it known and reported i_ight be traced who I was, and then, instead of being merely classed as _agabond, I should be sent back to the prison I escaped from, and be put amon_nother class of prisoners."
"I understand, Ivan. Of course I have all along felt sure you were a politica_risoner; and I thought, perhaps, you might have been a student i_witzerland, which would account for you having ideas different to othe_eople."
"No, I was sent for a time to a school in England, and there I learned t_ox."
"So, that is your English boxing," Osip said. "I have heard of it, but I neve_hought it was anything like that. Why, he never once touched you."
"If he had, I should have got the worst of it," Godfrey laughed; "but ther_as nothing in it. Size and weight go for very little in boxing; and a ma_nowing nothing about it has not the smallest chance against a fair boxer wh_s active on his legs."
"But you did not seem to be exerting yourself," Osip said. "You were as coo_nd as quiet as if you had been shovelling sand. You even laughed when h_ushed at you."
"That is the great point of boxing, Osip. One learns to keep cool, and to hav_ne's wits about one; for anyone who loses his temper has but a poor chanc_ndeed against another who keeps cool. Moreover a man who can box well wil_lways keep his head in all times of danger and difficulty. It gives him nerv_nd self-confidence, and enables him at all times to protect the weak agains_he strong."
"Just as you did now," Osip said. "Well, I would not have believed it if I ha_ot seen it. I am sure we all feel obliged to you for having taken down tha_ellow Kobylin. He and a few others have been a nuisance for some time. Yo_ay be sure there will be no more trouble with them after the lesson you hav_iven."
Luka's gratitude to Godfrey was unbounded, and from that time he would hav_one anything on his behalf, while the respect with which he had befor_egarded him was redoubled. Therefore when one day Godfrey said to him, "Whe_he spring comes, Luka, I mean to try to escape, and I shall take you wit_e," the Tartar considered it to be a settled thing, and was filled with _eep sense of gratitude that his companion should deem him worthy of sharin_n his perils.
Winter set in in three weeks after Godfrey reached Kara, and the work at th_ine had to be abandoned. As much employment as possible was made for th_onvicts. Some were sent out to aid in bringing in the trees that had bee_elled during the previous winter for firewood, others sawed the wood up an_plit it into billets for the stoves, other parties went out into the fores_o fell trees for the next winter's fires. Some were set to whitewash th_ouses, a process that was done five times a year; but in spite of all thi_here was not work for half the number. The time hung very heavily on th_ands of those who were unemployed. Godfrey was not of this number, for a_oon as the work at the mine terminated he received an order to work in th_ffice as a clerk.
He warmly appreciated this act of kindness on the part of the commandant. I_emoved him from the constant companionship of the convicts, which was no_ore unpleasant than before, as during the long hours of idleness quarrel_ere frequent and the men became surly and discontented. Besides this h_eceived regular pay for his work, and this was of importance, as it wa_ecessary to start upon such an undertaking as he meditated with as large _tore of money as possible. He had, since his arrival, refused to join in an_f the proposals for obtaining luxuries from outside. The supply of food wa_mple, for in addition to the bread and soup there was, three or four times _eek, an allowance of meat, and his daily earnings in the mines wer_ufficient to pay for tobacco and tea. Even the ten roubles he had handed ove_o Mikail remained untouched.
One reason why he was particularly glad at being promoted to the office wa_hat he had observed, upon the day when he first arrived, a large map o_iberia hanging upon the wall; and although he had obtained from Alexis an_thers a fair idea of the position of the towns and various convic_ettlements, he knew nothing of the wild parts of the country through which h_ould have to pass, and the inhabited portion formed but a small part indee_f the whole. During the winter months he seized every opportunity, when for _ew minutes he happened to be alone in the office, to study the map and t_btain as accurate an idea as possible of the ranges of mountains. One day, when the colonel was out, and the other two clerks were engaged in taking a_nventory of stores, and he knew, therefore, that he had little chance o_eing interrupted, he pushed a table against the wall, and with a sheet o_racing paper took the outline of the northern coast from the mouth of th_ena to Norway, specially marking the entrances to all rivers however small.
He also took a tracing, giving the positions of the towns and rivers acros_he nearest line between the head of Lake Baikal and the nearest point of th_ngara river, one of the great affluents of the Yenesei.
The winter passed slowly and uneventfully. The cold was severe, but he did no_eel it, the office being well warmed, and the heat in the crowded prison fa_reater than was agreeable to him. At Christmas there were three days o_estivity. The people of Kara, and the peasants round, all sent in gifts fo_he prisoners. Every one laid by a little money to buy special food for th_ccasion, and vodka had been smuggled in. The convicts of the differen_risons were allowed to visit each other freely, and although there was muc_runkenness on Christmas Day there were no serious quarrels. All were on thei_est behaviour, but Godfrey was glad when all was over and they returned t_heir ordinary occupations again, for the thought of the last Christmas he ha_pent in England brought the change in his circumstances home to him mor_trongly than ever, and for once his buoyant spirits left him, and he wa_rofoundly depressed, while all around him were cheerful and gay.
Nothing surprised Godfrey more than the brutal indifference with which most o_he prisoners talked of the crimes they had committed, except perhaps th_ndifference with which these stories were listened to. It seemed to hi_ndeed that some of the convicts had almost a pride in their crimes, and tha_hey even went so far as to invent atrocities for the purpose of givin_hemselves a supremacy in ferocity over their fellows. He noticed that thos_ho were in for minor offences, such as robbery with violence, forgery, embezzlement, and military insubordination, were comparatively reticent as t_heir offences, and that it was those condemned for murder who were the mos_iven to boasting about their exploits.
"One could almost wish," he said one day to his friend Osip, "that one had th_trength of Samson, to bring the building down and destroy the whole of them."
"I am very glad you have not, if you have really a fancy of that sort. I hav_ot the least desire to be finished off in that sudden way."
"But it is dreadful to listen to them," Godfrey said. "I cannot understan_hat the motive of government can be in sending thousands of such wretches ou_ere instead of hanging them. I can understand transporting people who hav_een convicted of minor offences, as, when their term is up, they may do wel_nd help to colonize the country. But what can be hoped from such horribl_uffians as these? They have the trouble of keeping them for years, and eve_hen they are let out no one can hope that they will turn out useful member_f the community. They probably take to their old trade and turn brigands."
"I don't think they do that. Some of those who escape soon after coming ou_ight do so, but not when they have been released. They would not care then t_un the risk of either being flogged to death by the _plete_ or kept in priso_or the rest of their lives. Running away is nothing. I have heard of a man, who had run away repeatedly, being chained to a barrow which he had to tak_ith him wherever he went, indoors and out. That is the worst I ever heard of, for as for flogging with rods these fellows think very little of it. They wil_ften walk back in the autumn to the same prison they went from, take thei_logging, and go to work as if nothing had happened. They are never flogge_ith the _plete_ for that sort of thing; that is kept for murder or heading _utiny in which some of the officials have been killed. No; the brigands ar_hiefly composed of long-sentence men who have got away early, and who perhap_ave killed a Cossack or a policeman who tried to arrest them, or some peasan_ho will not supply them with food. After that they dare not return, and s_oin some band of brigands in order to be able to keep to the woods throug_he winter. I think that very few of the men who have once served their tim_nd been released ever come back again."
During the winter the food, although still ample, was less than the allowanc_hey had received while working. The allowance of bread was reduced by a poun_ day, and upon Wednesdays and Fridays, which were fast days, no meat wa_ssued except to those engaged in chopping up firewood or bringing in timbe_rom the forest. Leather gloves were served out to all men working in the ope_ir, but in spite of this their hands were frequently frost-bitten. Th_venings would have been long indeed to Godfrey had it not been for his Tarta_nstructor; the two would sit on the bench in the angle of the room and woul_alk together in Tartar eked out by Russian. The young fellow's face was muc_ore intelligent than those of the majority of his countrymen, and there was _erry and good-tempered expression in his eyes. They chatted about his hom_nd his life there. His mother had been an Ostjak, and he had spent some year_mong her tribe on the banks both of the Obi and Yenesei, but had never bee_ar north on either river. He took his captivity easily. His father and mothe_oth died when he had been a child, and when he was not with the Ostjaks h_ad lived with his father's brother, who had, he said, "droves of cattle an_orses."
"If they would put me to work on a river," he said, "I should not mind. Her_ne has plenty to eat, and the work is not hard, and there is a warm room t_leep in, but I should like to be employed in cutting timber and taking it i_afts down the river to the sea. I love the river, and I can shoot. All th_stjaks can shoot, though shooting has brought me bad luck. If I had not ha_y bow in my hand when that Russian struck me I should not be here now. It wa_ll done in a moment. You see I was on the road when his sledge came along.
The snow was fresh and soft, and I did not hear it coming. The horses swerved, nearly upsetting the sledge, and knocking me down in the snow. Then I got u_nd swore at the driver, and then the Russian, who was angry because th_ledge had nearly been upset, jumped out, caught the whip from the driver an_truck me across the face. It hurt me badly, for my face was cold. I had bee_n the wood shooting squirrels, and I hardly know how it was, but I fitted a_rrow to the string and shot. It was all over in a moment, and there he lay o_he snow with the arrow through his throat. I was so frightened that I did no_ven try to run away, and was stupid enough to let the driver hold me til_ome people came up and carried me off to prison; so you see my shooting di_e harm. But it was hard to be sent here for life for a thing like that. H_as a bad man that Russian. He was an officer in one of the regiments there, and a soldier who was in prison with me afterwards told me that there wa_reat joy among the soldiers when he was killed."
"But it was very wrong, Luka, to kill a man like that."
"Yes; but then you see I hadn't time to think. I was almost mad with pain, an_t was all done in a minute. I think it is very hard that I should be punishe_s much as I am when there are many here who have killed five or six people, or more, and some of them women, and they have no worse punishment than _ave. Look at Kobylin; he was a bandit first of all, as I have heard him sa_ver and over again. He beat his wife to death, because she scolded him fo_eing drunk, then he took to the woods. The first he killed was a Jew pedlar, then he burnt down the house of the head-man of a village because he had pu_he police on his track. He killed him as he rushed out from the door, and hi_ife and children were burnt alive. He killed four or five others on the road, and when he was betrayed, as he was asleep in the hut, he cut down with an ax_wo of the policemen who came to arrest him. He is in for life, but he is _reat deal worse than I am, is he not?
"Then there is that little Koshkin, the man who is always walking abou_miling to himself. He was a clerk to a notary, and he murdered his master an_istress and two servant women, and got away with the money and lived on i_or a year; then he went into another family and did the same, but this tim_he police got on his track and caught him. Nine lives he took altogether, no_n a passion or because they were cruel to him. I heard him say that he wa_uite a favourite, and how he used to sing to them and was trusted in ever_ay. No, I say it isn't fair that I, who did nothing but just pay a man for _low, should get as much as those two."
"It does seem rather hard on you, but you see there cannot be a great variet_f punishments. You killed a man, and so you had sentence for life. They can'_ive more than that, and if they were to give less there would be more murder_han there are, for every one would think that they could kill at least on_erson without being punished very heavily for it."
"I don't call mine murder at all," Luka said. "I would not kill a man for hi_oney; but this was just a fight. Whiz went his whip across my face, and the_hiz went my arrow."
"Oh, it is not so bad, Luka, I grant. If you had killed a man in cold blood _ould have had nothing to do with you. I could not be friends with a man wh_as a cold-blooded murderer. I could never give him my hand, or travel wit_im, or sleep by his side. I don't feel that with you. In the eye of the la_ou committed a murder, and the law does not ask why it was done, or care i_hat way it was done. The law only says you killed the man, and the punishmen_or that is imprisonment for life. But I, as a man, can see that there is _reat difference in the moral guilt, and that, acting as you did in a fit o_assion, suddenly and without premeditation, and smarting under an assault, i_as what we should in England call manslaughter. Before I asked you to teac_e, when Osip first said that he should recommend me to try you, I saw by th_adge on your coat that you were in for murder, and if it had not been that h_new how it came about, I would not have had anything to do with you, even i_ had been obliged to give up altogether my idea of learning your language."
The starosta continued a steady friend to Godfrey. The lad acted as a sort o_eputy to him, and helped him to keep the accounts of the money he spent fo_he convicts, and the balance due to them, and once did him real service. A_ikail's office was due to the vote of the prisoners, his authority over the_as but slight, and although he was supported by a considerable majority o_hem there were some who constantly opposed him, and at times openly defie_is authority. Had Mikail reported their conduct they would have been severel_unished; but they knew he was very averse to getting any one into trouble, and that he preferred to settle things for himself. He was undoubtedly th_ost powerful man in the ward, and even the roughest characters feared t_rovoke him singly.
On one occasion, however, after he had knocked down a man who had refused t_bey his orders, six or seven of his fellow convicts sprung on him. Godfrey, Osip, and three or four of the better class of convicts rushed to hi_ssistance, and for a few minutes there was a fierce fight, the rest of th_risoners looking on at the struggle but taking no active part one way or th_ther. The assailants were eventually overpowered, and nothing might have bee_aid about the matter had it not been that one of Mikail's party was seriousl_njured, having an arm broken and being severely kicked. Mikail was therefor_bliged to report the matter, and the whole of the men concerned in the attac_pon him received a severe flogging.
"I should look out for those fellows, Mikail," Godfrey said, "or they ma_njure you if they have a chance."
Mikail, however, scoffed at the idea of danger.
"They have got it pretty severely now," he said, "and the colonel told the_hat if there was any more insubordination he would give them the _plete_ ; and they have a good deal too much regard for their lives to risk that. Yo_on't hear any more of it. They know well enough that I would not hav_eported them if I had not been obliged to do so, owing to Boulkin's arm bein_roken; therefore it isn't fair having any grudge against me. They have bee_logged before most of them, and by the time the soreness has passed off the_ill have forgotten it."
Godfrey did not feel so sure of that, and determined to keep his eye upon th_en. He did not think they would openly assault the starosta, but at night on_f them might do him an injury, relying upon the difficulty of proving unde_uch circumstances who had been the assailant.
The solitary candle that burned in the ward at night was placed well out o_each and protected by a wire frame. It could not, therefore, be extinguished, but the light it gave was so faint that, except when passing just under th_eam from which it hung, it would be impossible to identify any one even a_rm's-length. Two of those concerned in the attack on Mikail were the men o_hom Luka had been speaking. Kobylin the bandit muttered and scowled wheneve_he starosta came near him, and there could be little doubt that had he me_im outside the prison walls he would have shown him no mercy. Koshkin on th_ther hand appeared to cherish no enmity.
"I have done wrong, Mikail," he said half an hour after he had had hi_logging, "and I have been punished for it. It was not your fault; it wa_ine. These things will happen, you know, and there is no need for malice;"
and he went about the ward smiling and rubbing his hands as usual an_ccasionally singing softly to himself. As Godfrey knew how submissive th_ussians are under punishment he would have thought this perfectly natural ha_e not heard from Luka the man's history. That was how, he thought to himself, the scoundrel smiled upon the master and mistress he had resolved to murder.
"Of the two I think there is more to be feared from him than from that villai_obylin, who has certainly been civil enough to me since I gave him tha_hrashing. I will keep my eye on the little fellow."
Of necessity the ward became quiet very soon after night set in. The me_alked and smoked for a short time, but in an hour after the candle was li_he ward was generally perfectly quiet. Godfrey, working as he did indoors, was far less inclined for sleep than either the men who had been working i_he forest or those who had been listlessly passing the day in enforce_dleness, and he generally lay awake for a long time, either thinking of hom_nd school-days, or in meditating over his plans for escape as soon as sprin_rrived, and he now determined to keep awake still longer. "They are almos_ll asleep by seven o'clock," he said to himself. "If any of those fellow_ntend to do any harm to Mikail they will probably do it by ten or eleven, there will be no motive in putting it off longer; and indeed the ward i_uieter then than it is later, for some of them when they wake light a pip_nd have a smoke, and many do so early in the morning so as to have thei_moke before going to work."
Five evenings passed without anything happening, and Godfrey began to thin_hat he had been needlessly anxious, and that Mikail must understand the way_f his own people better than he did. The sixth evening had also passed of_uietly, and when Godfrey thought that it must be nearly twelve o'clock he wa_bout to pull his blanket up over his ear and settle himself for sleep when h_uddenly caught sight of a stooping figure coming along. It was passing unde_he candle when he caught sight of it. He did not feel quite sure that hi_yes had not deceived him, for it was but a momentary glance he caught of _ark object an inch or two above the level of the feet of the sleepers.
Godfrey noiselessly pushed down his blanket, gathered his feet up in readines_or a spring, and grasped one of his shoes, which as usual he had place_ehind the clothes-bag that served as his pillow. Several of the sleepers wer_noring loudly, and intently as he listened he heard no footfall. In a fe_econds, however, a dark figure arose against the wall at the foot of th_ench; it stood there immovable for half a minute and then leaned over Mikail, placing one hand on the wall as if to enable him to stretch as far over a_ossible without touching the sleeper. Godfrey waited no longer but brough_he shoe down with all his force on the man's head, and then threw himsel_pon him pinning him down for a moment upon the top of Mikail. The latter wok_ith a shout of surprise followed by a sharp cry of pain. Godfrey clung to th_an, who, as with a great effort he rose, dragged him from the bed, and th_wo rolled on the ground together. Mikail's shout had awakened the whole war_nd a sudden din arose. Mikail leapt from the bench and as he did so fell ove_he struggling figures on the ground.
"Get hold of his hands, Mikail," Godfrey shouted, "he has got a knife and _an't hold him."
But in the dark it was some time before the starosta could make out th_igures on the floor. Suddenly Godfrey felt Mikail's hand on his throat.
"That's me," he gasped. The hand was removed and a moment later he felt th_truggles of his adversary cease, and there was a choking sound.
"That is right, Mikail, but don't kill him," he said.
At this moment the door at the end of the ward opened and two of the guard ra_n with lanterns. They shouted orders to the convicts to keep their places o_he benches.
"This way," Mikail called, "there has been attempted murder, I believe."
The guards came up with the lanterns.
"What has happened to him?" one of them said, bending over the man who wa_ying insensible on the ground.
"He is short of wind," Mikail said, "that is all that ails him; I had to chok_im off."
"But what is it all about?"
"I don't know myself," Mikail said. "I was asleep when I felt a thump as if _ow had fallen on me, then I felt a sharp stab on the hip, two of them on_fter the other, then the weight was lifted suddenly off and I jumped up. As _ut my feet on the ground I tumbled over Ivan here and—who is it? Hold th_antern close to his face—ah, Koshkin. What is it, Ivan, are you hurt?"
"He ran his knife pretty deep into my leg once or twice," Godfrey said. "I go_is arms pinned down, but I could not keep him from moving his hands. If w_ad lain quiet he would have hurt me seriously, I expect; but we were bot_truggling, so he only got a chance to give me a dig now and then."
"But what is it all about, Ivan, for I don't quite understand yet?" Mikai_sked.
"I told you, Mikail, that fellow would do you a mischief. You laughed at me, but I was quite sure that that smiling manner of his was all put on. I hav_ain awake for the last five nights to watch, and to-night I just caught sigh_f something crawling along at the edge of the bench. He stood up at your fee_nd leant over, as I thought then, and I know now, to stab you, but I flun_yself on him, and you know the rest of it."
"Well, you have saved my life, there is no mistake about that," and Mikai_ifted and laid him on the bench. "Now," he said to the guards, "you ha_etter take that fellow out and put him in the guard cell, the cold air wil_ring him round as soon as you get him out of this room. You had better hol_im tight when he does, for he is a slippery customer. When you have locke_im up will one of you go round to the doctor's? This young fellow is bleedin_ast, and I fancy I have lost a good deal of blood myself."
As soon as the soldiers had left the ward carrying Koshkin between them Mikai_alled Osip and Luka. "Here," he said, "get the lad's things down from unde_is iron belt and try and stop the bleeding till the doctor comes. I feel _it faint myself or I would ask no one else to do it."
In ten minutes the doctor arrived. Godfrey had three cuts about half-wa_etween the hip and the knee.
"They are of no consequence except for the bleeding," the doctor said. "Ha_nyone got a piece of cord?"
"There is a piece in my bag," Mikail replied. The doctor took it and made _ough tourniquet above the wounds, then drew the edges together, put in tw_titches in each, and then strapped them up. Then he attended to Mikail. "Yo_ave had a narrow escape," he said; "the knife has struck on your hip bone an_ade a nasty gash, and there is another just below it. If the first wound ha_een two inches higher there would have been nothing to do but to bury you."
"Well, this is a nice business," Mikail said, when the doctor had left. "T_hink of that little villain being so treacherous! You were right and I wa_rong, Ivan, though how you guessed he was up to mischief is more than I ca_magine."
"Well, you know the fellow's history, Mikail, and that he had murdered nin_eople he had lived among and who trusted him. What could one expect from _illain like that?"
"Oh, I know he is a bad one," Mikail said, "but I did not think he dare tak_he risk."
"I don't suppose he thought there was much risk, Mikail. If I had been aslee_e would have stabbed you to the heart, and when we found you dead in th_orning who was to know what prisoner had done it?"
"Well, it was a lucky thought my putting you next to me, young fellow; I mean_t for your good not for my own, and now you see it has saved my life."
"A kind action always gets its reward, Mikail—always, sooner or later; in you_ase it has been sooner, you see. Now I shall go off to sleep, for I feel a_rowsy as if I had been up for the last three nights."