Page:Chertkov - Christian Martyrdom.djvu/65

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54
MILITARY PRISONERS

was much touched, and exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, 'I thought you had forgotten all about us, and that we had forfeited your affection by our want of fortitude.' "


Previous to this, in November 1896, Leo Tolstoy wrote a letter to the colonel of the penal battalion, and near the same time V. Tchertkoff also wrote to him.[1] These letters appear to have somewhat softened the heart of the colonel, to judge by the following account from a friend in Tiflis:—


"Tiflis, December 1896.

"An old Spirit-Wrestler, Tcheveldayeff, has just returned to Tiflis from the Ekaterinograd penal battalion. He had gone to visit his son for the second time. The first time he had been there in the spring of 1895. The commander of the battalion had a little time before received letters from some friends of ours which acquainted him with the real nature of the Spirit-Wrestlers' teaching, with the reason why they were punished, and which asked him to treat them as kindly as possible. This is what Tcheveldayeff related to me about his interview with the commander:—

"Upon receiving me the commander said, 'Ah, old man! you came in spring, and now here you are again!'

" 'Yes,' said I, 'I have come again; I feel for my children.'

" 'Why do you say your children? You have only one son here, have you not?'

" 'Yes, but I regard them all as my children.'

"When I was there in spring he was hard-hearted, but this time he was much kinder. I used to go and see him every day, and when I did not come he sent a soldier for me. We used to sit down on a bench outside his house and chat.

 
  1. Both these letters are given in the Appendix.—(Ed.)