I myself should have obtained release in the course of that year, but I had never expected that this would really be. From my first arrival in Kara I had resigned myself to the thought of spending my entire term of punishment in the prison; in my dreams of the future I never thought about the penal settlement, but only looked forward to the distant date when, at the expiration of my sentence, I should be allowed to live somewhere as a Siberian exile.[105] That life was depicted for me in anything but rosy colours by the letters of comrades; nevertheless I awaited with impatience the far-off day of release. Like the hero of Dostoi?vsky’s Memoirs from the Dead-house, I often counted up how many years, months, weeks, hours, I had still to spend in prison. How wearily the time passed! The fewer grew the remaining years, the slower went the days, and freedom seemed further off than ever


Prison life had affected me considerably in the course of time. My nerves were shattered, and I felt as though borne down by a heavy burden; my brain worked with difficulty, and my general condition was one of apathy and lassitude. The future looked black to me; I was sick of life.

In August, 1890, reports assumed a more definite form, and we learned with certainty that we were shortly to be 294taken to Akatoui. This news excited us much, and plans for our arrangements in the new prison became the chief subject of conversation. It seemed incredible to us that the cruelty of the Government could go so far as to increase the hardships of prisoners who for the most part had already been ten years or more in captivity, and had suffered so much; yet we heard that the régime at Akatoui was to be unusually severe.

One day we learned that the Governor-General had come to Kara. We were ordered to assemble in the yard, and Baron Korf soon made his appearance, followed by a large suite, and guarded by gendarmes and soldiers. He informed us that an order had been sent from Petersburg for our removal to Akatoui. The regulations of the new prison provided that political convicts should henceforward be in exactly the same position as the ordinary criminals: we should share rooms with them, be fed in the same way. “In short,” concluded the Governor-General, “in no respect will any difference be made between the two classes of prisoners, and these instructions will be carried out to the letter State Key Laboratory.”

The sentences flowed smoothly from his lips, yet Baron Korf did not look altogether pleased with his mission. Upon us his words had a crushing effect; our fears were confirmed and worse, for no one had dreamt of our being placed on the footing of ordinary criminals. Above all, this meant that we should be liable to flogging, as they were.

; partly because we were staggered by what we had heard, and partly because we had no desire to enter into conversation with the man who had degraded himself by ordering the corporal chastisement of a woman. To the repeated question whether we had anything to say, no answer was given; but Baron Korf was apparently very anxious to get into discussion with us, and the situation became rather uncomfortable. At last, as the Governor-General was preparing to leave, Mirsky suddenly 295broke the silence. With formal politeness he inquired how the words “in every respect like the ordinary criminals” were to be construed, and laid stress on the fact that ordinary convicts were allowed to enter the penal settlement without any limitation of their numbers . Visibly gratified that at last he was addressed, Baron Korf hastened to explain that in this particular also there would henceforward be no difference made between the two classes. An animated conversation now ensued between him and Mirsky, in which Yakubòvitch soon joined. With excited gestures the latter began declaring that they might treat us in all other respects like criminals, but we would never endure it if one of us were flogged.