The Way of the Cross/XIII
WE are by no means a cruel people. But dreadfully cruel things happen in our country.
We can make penal servitude into hell, and life into penal servitude.
All thanks to our inability to take measures in time.
The tendency to delay.
To delay fatally.
Always, and in everything.
It had been decided in the face of the astonishing invasion of the enemy to leave for him a desert.
That is the business of the war-chiefs.
Our business, the business of the rear, was to organize the reception of these millions of people who have been deprived of everything in order that the enemy may be beaten.
Obviously the movement of the fugitives from their villages did not begin yesterday. It is the ninth, the tenth week:
—That they have been on the road.
It is the fourth month since they started,—and only now in the province of Mogilef:
—Are they building barracks.
This elemental movement
Was more than human strength could manage.
To save all from disease was impossible.
But we could have discounted this movement.
Could have reckoned:
—When and where the fugitives would be.
The distance such and such. A horse in a day can do so much.
This is a "train problem," the sort that pupils in the first class in school work out and solve.
Four months ago we could have reckoned that in the month of October the fugitives would be in the province of Mogilef.
Petrograd is too much occupied with politics.
It blames society in general for this.
—Profiting by a difficult moment in affairs, Society has thrown itself into politics.
In a difficult moment our society has shown itself in the place where Russian society has always shown itself in moments difficult for the State and for the people.
Public organizations have set themselves to work for the fugitives, as in the past they have set themselves to work in time of famine or of epidemics.
Each at his post.
Wherever there is suffering.
North-west, South-west, a whole wall of our house has fallen in, and public organizations have come in and softened the blow.
But Petrograd has occupied itself with politics.
—Is there not too much Liberalism in the programme of the "Progressive Blok." Won't the Liberals take the lead?
And whilst Petrograd was resolving these great questions, the sea of fugitives flooded and still flooded Russia.
At the moment when they began to take measures the sea had already flooded everywhere.
And they began to build barracks when the road was starred with white crosses.
The movement of the fugitives along the great "Way of the Cross" is one of affliction and cahn.
It is calmer than one could ever have expected.
But there are three reasons why this great calamity is passing without tumult.
The first is:
—The work of our public organizations.
Though it may be only half, yet they have fed the fugitives.
—The gentle autumn.
After all, it is not so cold as it might be.
And what is more—there has been no muddy season.
How would these poor worn-out horses ever have pulled themselves out of the mud if the heavens had poured forth?
And the third reason:
Great and holy sobriety.
That which saves Russia in a year of unprecedented trial.
A measure inspired by the very God Himself of the Russian land.
No one can give drink to these unhappy people. How they would have drunk, if only to get rid of their grief, to get rid of the remembrance of what they had lost; farms, wives, children.
That's how it would have been.
But thanks to sobriety this great unhappy people, afflictedly, calmly, with the calm of martyrs, makes its grievous:
—Way of the Cross.
The following equivalents of Russian terms may be helpful:
A copeck: the Russian farthing.
A rouble: before the war worth two shillings and a penny, now worth about one shilling and seven pence.
A pood: thirty-six English pounds.
A verst: about two thirds of a mile.
An arshin: 28 inches. Izba: a peasant's cottage.