God Sees the Truth, But Waits

by Leo Tolstoy

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What events led to Aksionov's imprisonment in "God Sees the Truth, But Waits"?

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As this short story begins, its main character, Aksionov, is heading out to the Nizhny Fair. On his way there, he meets up with a fellow merchant, and they share adjoining rooms for the night. The next morning, he continues on his way.

Later, while he has stopped at an Inn, an official of the State arrives with two soldiers and begins questioning him on the grounds that the same merchant he had earlier been seen with has been found murdered. They conduct a search through his things and find a bloody knife. Despite Aksionov's innocence, the evidence of his guilt seems overwhelming: the house had been locked from within, and moreover the murder weapon is found in his possession. Appeals to the Tsar are unsuccessful. Aksionov finds himself condemned to be flogged and then sent to Siberia.

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The short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" by Leo Tolstoy tells of a merchant named Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov who is falsely accused of murdering a fellow merchant. He is sentenced to prison in Siberia, and after spending 26 years there, he meets and forgives the man who actually committed the murder, and then he dies.

The story begins as Aksionov prepares to go to the Nizhny Fair. Because of a bad dream she has had, his wife begs him not to go, but he leaves anyway. On the way, he meets a merchant he knows, and they stay at an inn together, although in separate rooms. Aksionov wakes before dawn, pays his bill, and continues on his way. However, 25 miles down the road, a police officer accompanied by two soldiers stops and questions him. The merchant he stayed with was stabbed to death, and they are investigating the murder. After searching Aksionov's things, they find the murder weapon, a blood-stained knife.

Aksionov protests his innocence, but he is put in jail pending a trial. His wife comes to visit him, but her petition to the Czar to have her husband released is refused. He is found guilty, flogged with a knot, and then sent to the prison in Siberia.

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Ivan Aksionov is a prosperous merchant who's put behind him a life of drunkenness and debauchery to settle down as a businessman and a loving husband. One summer, he's about to head off to Nizhny Fair, where he hopes to sell all his goods. Just before he sets out on his journey, his wife urges him not to go. She tells him about a terrible dream she had the night before in which Ivan removes his cap to reveal a head of gray hair. Ivan laughs off the dream, telling his wife that it's actually a good sign as it means that he'll sell all his goods and bring her back some presents from the fair.

On the way to the fair, Ivan meets up with a fellow merchant and they spend the night at a local inn. When Ivan wakes early the next morning, he settles his bill with the landlord and continues with his journey. After traveling for another 25 miles, Ivan stops off at another inn, where he rests and drinks tea, cheerfully strumming on a guitar while his horses are being fed and watered.

The happy scene is disrupted when a law enforcement official suddenly pulls up in his troika—a kind of carriage or sled—with a couple of soldiers in tow. The official starts giving Ivan the third degree about his whereabouts the previous night. The official, the district police officer, tells Ivan that the merchant with whom he'd been staying at the inn has been brutally murdered, his throat cut with a knife. The policeman and the two soldiers carry out a search of Ivan's belongings and find a blood-stained knife in his bag. A shell-shocked Ivan doesn't know how it got there and protests his innocence of any crime. But the policeman's having none of it. He's convinced himself that Ivan is guilty as sin, and so he and the soldiers bind up the poor merchant, fling him into a cart, and take him away.

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