Nothing could be more Russian than either subject or treatment. One is a story of life in the mines, depicting the tragedy, the misery, and the mental immaturity of the men who live underground and are largely doomed to die there; another is the gloomy story of a woman who becomes a nun because of a misunderstanding in love, only to find that it was all a mistake after all; the third is a story of warm humanity, centering on the lonely soldier's love of home and family; and the last is the powerful tale of an escaped convict, who finds there is really a streak of kindliness in life through the agency of a waif thrown upon his mercy and upon the mercies of the Siberian wilds, because of the death of her outcast mother. The Slavic métier for tragedy even here is fulfilled, however, with the child's innocent betrayal of her protector and his consequent death.
He could no longer see above or below him and the journey appeared interminable. The light of the little lamp, which had nearly gone out, grew suddenly brighter. Around him innumerable springs were trickling, running and descending on all sides. Here and there uniting in large streams, they came down in cascades, splashing Ivan's clothes. The darkness was full of the babbling, rushing and noise of this water.
The old man knew that for sixty years it had been ceaselessly undermining this shaft. Long ago, when he first went down it, only a few drops of water used to filter through its sides. Later on these became more numerous, and collecting together, finished by channelling for themselves convenient passages and by flowing in streams. By this time the work of destruction had become more and more threatening and the earth was everywhere like a sponge. It seemed as though the springs imprisoned in the mountain had found out the existence of this shaft and had united to flow into it.
"They will cer