WAR, PROGRESS, AND THE END OF HISTORY, INCLUDING A SHORT STORY OF THE ANTI-CHRIST: THREE DISCUSSIONS
WAR, PROGRESS, AND THE END OF HISTORY
IN the garden of one of the villas that nestle together under the foothills of the Alps, and gaze into the azure depths of the Mediterranean, there happened to meet together this spring five Russians.
The first was an old GENERAL, a man of war from his youth. The second was a statesman, enjoying a hard-earned rest from the whirl and turmoil of politics -- him I shall henceforth call the POLITICIAN. The third was a young PRINCE, whose strong democratic views and thirst for reform had led him to publish a large number of more or less valuable pamphlets on moral and social progress. The fourth was a middle-aged LADY, very inquisitive and greatly interested in humanity at large. And the last, another gentleman, of somewhat uncertain age and social position -- whom we will call MR. Z.
At the frequent discussions which took place among them I myself was a silent listener. Certain of these discussions appeared to me to be particularly interesting; I therefore took care to write them down while they were still fresh in my mind. The first discussion was started in my absence and was provoked by some newspaper article or pamphlet on the literary campaign against war and military service, a campaign originated by Count Tolstoy and now being carried on by Baroness Zutner and Mr. Stead. The POLITICIAN, questioned by the LADY as to his opinion of this movement, characterised it as being well-intentioned and useful. This statement immediately called forth angry remarks from the GENERAL, who began to sneer at the leaders of this anti-war crusade, calling them ironically the true pillars of statesmanlike wisdom, the guiding stars on the political horizon, and dubbing them the three "whales" of the Russian land.  To this latter remark the POLITICIAN rejoined: "Well, there may be other fishes besides." This, for some reason, greatly delighted MR. Z., who, as he subsequently stated, made both opponents agree in regarding the whale as a fish. He even made them give a definition of what a fish is, viz., an animal, belonging partly to the Admiralty and partly to the Department of Waterways. I think, however, that this is a pure invention of MR. Z. Be this as it may, I am unable to reconstruct the beginning of the discussion in the proper manner, and as I do not venture to evolve it out of my inner consciousness, after the manner of Plato and his imitators, I commence my chronicle with the words uttered by the GENERAL, just as I joined the company.
THE FIRST DISCUSSION.
"Audiatur et prima pars."
GENERAL (excited; speaks, incessantly getting up and sitting down, with many quick gesticulations). Oh, no! How is that? Oh, no! no! Answer me this one question: Does such a thing as a Christ-loving and glorious Russian Army truly exist at this moment? Yes or no?
POLITICIAN (lounging comfortably in an easy-chair, and speaking in a tone suggestive of a compound of Epicurus, a Prussian colonel, and Voltaire). Does a Russian Army exist? Obviously it does. Why, you surely haven't heard that it had been abolished?
GENERAL. How mightily ingenuous you are to be sure! You understand perfectly well that that is not what I mean. I ask you this: Am I right in regarding our present Army as a glorious band of Christ-loving warriors, or am I to suppose that one ought to call it something else?
POLITICIAN. I see! That is what bothers you, is it? Well, you have brought your question to the wrong shop. You should inquire at the Department of Heraldry -- they are the recognised experts in titles, I believe.
MR. Z. (speaking as if he had an idea at the back of his mind). And the Department of Heraldry will probably tell the General that the law places no restriction on the use of old titles. Did not the last Prince Lusignan hold the title of King of Cyprus, although he not only had no jurisdiction in Cyprus, but could not even drink Cyprian wine owing to his weak stomach and empty purse? Why, then, shouldn't the modern army be entitled a Christ-loving band of warriors?
GENERAL. Entitled! Then we may call black and white titles? So are sweet and bitter, and so are hero and scoundrel.
MR. Z. But I am not stating my own opinion. I merely put forward that which appears to be held by people who should know!
LADY (to the Politician). Why do you argue about mere forms of expression? I am sure the General has more to say about his Christ-loving band of warriors."
GENERAL. I thank you, madam. What I wished, and what I still wish to say is this: From the earliest times until but yesterday every warrior, be he private or field-marshal, knew and felt that he served in a good and holy cause. He believed not only that he fulfilled duties every bit as necessary as sanitation or washing, for instance, but that he was part of a service which was good, honourable, and noble in the highest sense of the word, and to which the greatest and best men that have ever lived -- heroes and leaders of nations -- have given their lives. This cause of ours has always been sanctified and exalted by the Church, and glorified by the praise of the nation. Yet behold! one fine morning we are told that we must forget all this and that we must hold ourselves and our place in the world to be the very opposite. The cause which we have served, and always have been proud of serving, is suddenly declared to be a thing of evil and a menace to the country. Warfare, it appears, is against God's express commandments, is entirely opposed to human sentiments, and inevitably brings about most dreadful evil and dire misfortune. All nations, we are told, must combine against it and make its final destruction only a question of time.
PRINCE. Do you mean to tell us that you have never before heard opinions which utterly condemn war and military service as relics of ancient barbarism?
GENERAL. Who has not? Of course I have heard them, and have read them, too, in more languages than one! But all such puny voices -- you must pardon my frankness -- seem to me by no means the thunderclaps that you consider them. But to-day matters are different; one cannot but hear these opinions, expressed as they are on all sides. What on earth are we to do? Am I -- and for that matter, every other soldier -- to regard myself an honourable man, or an inhuman monster? Am I to respect myself as a willing servant in a noble cause, or am I to view my occupation with abhorrence, to repent of my misdeeds in sackcloth and ashes, and to ask pardon on my knees of every civilian for the sins of my profession?
POLITICIAN. What a fantastic way of stating the question! As if anybody were asking you anything extraordinary. The new demands are addressed, not to you, but to diplomatists and other "civilians" who care precious little whether soldiers are vicious or whether they are Christ-loving. As far as you yourself are concerned, there is only one thing to be done; and that is that you should carry out unquestioningly the orders of the authorities.
GENERAL. Well, well! As you take no interest in military matters it is only natural that your idea of them should be "fantastic," to use your own expression. You are obviously unaware that in certain cases the order of the authorities has no other meaning than that you must not wait or ask for their orders.
POLITICIAN. For instance?
GENERAL. For instance, just imagine that by the will of the powers that be I am placed in command of a whole military district. From this very fact it follows that I am commanded to govern and control in every way the troops placed in my charge. I am to develop and strengthen in them a definite point of view -- to act in some definite way on their will -- to influence their feelings; in a word, to educate them, so to speak, up to the purpose of their being. Very well then. For this purpose I am empowered, amongst other things, to issue to the troops of my district general orders in my name and on my entire personal responsibility. Well, should I apply to my superior officers, asking them to dictate to me my orders, or merely to instruct in what form they should be drawn up, don't you think I should, in return, be dubbed "an old fool"? And that if it happened again, I should be summarily dismissed? This means that I must adopt towards my troops a consistent policy, some definite spirit which, it is supposed, has been previously and once and for all approved and confirmed by the higher command. So that even to inquire about it would be to show either stupidity or impertinence. At present, however, this "definite spirit," which, as a matter of fact, has been one and the same from the times of Sargon and Assurbanipal to those of William II. -- this very spirit suddenly proves to be under suspicion. Until yesterday I knew that I had to develop and strengthen in my troops not a new, but this same old fighting spirit -- the willingness of each individual soldier to conquer the enemy or to go to his death. And for this it is absolutely necessary to possess an unshaken faith in war as a holy cause. But now this faith is being deprived of its spiritual basis, the military work is losing what the learned call "its moral and religious sanction."
POLITICIAN. How frightfully exaggerated all this is! There is no such radical change of views in reality. On the one hand, everybody has always recognised that war is evil and that the less there is of it the better. On the other hand, all serious people to-day realise that it is the kind of evil which it is impossible to eradicate completely at present. Consequently the question is not whether war can be abolished, but whether it can be gradually, even if very slowly, reduced to the narrowest limits. As to the attitude to war as a principle, this remains as it has ever been: it is an unavoidable evil, a misfortune, tolerable only in extreme cases.
GENERAL. And nothing else?
POLITICIAN. Nothing else.
GENERAL (springing up from his seat). Have you ever had occasion to refer to the Book of Saints?
POLITICIAN. You mean in the calendar? Oh, yes, I have sometimes to run through a long list of names of saints in order to find the dates of certain birth-days.
GENERAL. Did you notice what saints are mentioned there?
POLITICIAN. There are different kinds of saints.
GENERAL. But what are their callings?
POLITICIAN. Their callings are as different as their names, I believe.
GENERAL. That is just where you are wrong. Their callings are not different.
POLITICIAN. What? Surely all the saints are not military men?
GENERAL. Not all, but half of them.
POLITICIAN. Exaggeration again!
GENERAL. We are not taking a census for statistical purposes here. What I maintain is that all the saints of our Russian church belong only to two classes: they are either monks of various orders, or princes -- men who, from what we know of past history, must have been military men. And we have no other saints -- I mean those of the male sex. Monk or warrior -- that is all.
LADY. You forget the "innocents," don't you?
GENERAL. Not at all! But "innocents" are a kind of irregular monks, aren't they? What Cossacks are to the Army, "innocents " are to the "monkhood." This being so, if you now find me amongst the Russian saints a single clergyman, or tradesman, or deacon, or clerk, or commoner, or peasant -- in a word, a man of any profession except monks and soldiers -- then you may take the whole of my winnings which I may bring home from Monte Carlo next Sunday.
POLITICIAN. Thanks very much. Keep your treasures and your half of the book of saints -- the whole of it, if you like. But do please explain what it is that you are trying to prove by this discovery of yours. Is it only that nobody but a monk or a soldier can set us a true example of moral life?
GENERAL. That is hardly the point. I myself have known many highly virtuous persons amongst the clergy, the bankers, the official classes, and the peasants, but the most virtuous person I can recollect was the old nurse of one of my friends. But it is not about this that we are talking. I mentioned the saints only to point out that it could hardly have been possible for so many soldiers to become saints, side by side with monks and in preference to members of every other peaceful and civic profession, were military occupations always regarded as a necessary evil -- something like the liquor traffic or things even worse. It is evident that the Christian nations, at whose instance the books of saints were actually compiled (and not only with the Russians was it so, but very much the same with other nations), not only respected the military calling, but they particularly respected it, and of all the lay professions only the military one was held fit to contribute members to the saintship. It is this view which seems to be incompatible with the modern campaign against war.
POLITICIAN. But I did not say that there is no change whatever. Some desirable change is undoubtedly taking place. It is true that the halo which crowned warriors and their wars in the eyes of the masses is fast disappearing. But matters have been tending this way for some long time. Besides, whose interests does this actually affect? Only that of the clergy, I should say, as the manufacture of halos belongs exclusively to its department. It will, of course, be necessary to clear up some difficulties there. And what it will be impossible to suppress will be interpreted symbolically, whilst the rest will wisely be kept quiet or relegated to oblivion.
PRINCE. These modifications are already being made. In connection with my publications I have to watch our ecclesiastical literature, and in two papers I had the pleasure of reading that Christianity absolutely condemns war.
GENERAL. Is that really so?
PRINCE. I could scarcely believe my own eyes myself. But I can show it.
POLITICIAN (to the General). You see! Why, though, should you be worried about it? Aren't you warriors men of deeds and not of windy words? Is all this merely professional selfishness and ambition on your part? If it is, it is indeed bad of you. But I repeat again: in practice everything remains for you as before. Let it be true that the system of militarism, which now for thirty years has been an insupportable burden to everybody, is now bound to disappear. However, an army of some size must still remain. And in so far as it will be admitted that it is necessary, just so far the same fighting qualities as before will be demanded of it.
GENERAL. That's it. You are all great masters to ask for milk from a dead bull! But who is to give you the required fighting qualities, when the first fighting quality, without which all others are of little use, is a cheerful and confident spirit, itself the outcome of faith in the sacredness of the cause to which one has devoted oneself? How then is this to happen, when it is recognised that war is crime and villainy, and that it is tolerated only in certain extreme cases as an unfortunate necessity?
POLITICIAN. Nobody expects this to be believed by military men. If they chose to regard themselves first men in the world, nobody would care a button about it. It was explained to you before, was it not, that Prince Lusignan is allowed to style himself the King of Cyprus, provided he does not ask us to give him money for Cyprian wine. So if you do not raid our pockets more than is necessary you may regard yourselves the salt of the earth and the flower of mankind -- nobody will stop you.
GENERAL. You say, regard yourselves! But, surely, we are not talking on the moon. Are you going to keep soldiers in a sort of vacuum, so that no foreign influences could reach them? And this in the days of universal military service, short period of training, and cheap Press! No, the matter is only too clear. When once military service is compulsory for all and everybody, and when once in the whole of society, from such representatives of the State as yourself, for example, to the lowest, the new adverse criticism of the military profession becomes universally accepted, this view must needs be assimilated by the military men themselves. If all, from the higher command downwards, begin to regard military service as an evil, inevitable for the present then, in the first place, nobody will ever of his own accord choose the military calling for his life's work, with the exception perhaps of the dregs of society, which can find no other career open to it; and, secondly, all those who will be compelled to bear temporarily the military levy will do so with feelings similar to those with which criminals, chained to wheelbarrows, carry their fetters. Talk of fighting qualities and fighting spirit under such conditions! What drivel!
MR. Z. I have always believed that after the introduction of universal military service, the abolition of armies, and eventually of individual States, is only a question of time, and that not far removed from the present moment, considering the rapid progress of events.
GENERAL. Perhaps you are right.
PRINCE. I think that you are most certainly right, though the idea has never occurred to my mind in this guise. But it is splendid! Only think: militarism creates, as its most extreme expression, the system of universal service, and then, owing to this very fact, not only modern militarism, but the very foundations of the military system as such, become utterly destroyed. Isn't it wonderful!
LADY. Look! Even the Prince's face has brightened up. This is a pleasant change. The Prince hitherto has been wearing a gloomy countenance, which ill suited his profession of "true Christian."
PRINCE. One sees so many sad things around. There is but one joy left: the thought that reason will inevitably triumph in spite of all obstacles.
MR. Z. There can be no doubt that militarism in Western Europe and Russia is feeding upon itself. But as to the joys and triumphs which are to proceed from this fact those yet remain to be seen.
PRINCE. What? You seem to doubt that war and militarism are absolute and utter evils, of which humanity must rid itself at any cost and immediately? You doubt that complete and immediate suppression of this barbarism would in any case result in a triumph for reason and good?
MR. Z. I am positively certain of quite the opposite.
PRINCE. That is, of what?
MR. Z. Of the fact that war is not an absolute evil, and that peace is not an absolute good; or, putting it in a simpler way, that it is possible to have -- and we do have sometimes -- such a thing as a good war, and that it is also possible to have -- and we do have sometimes -- an evil peace.
PRINCE. Now I see the difference between your view and that held by the General: he believes, doesn't he, that war is always a good thing, and that peace is always a bad thing?
GENERAL. By no means! I understand perfectly well that sometimes war can be a very bad thing, as, for instance, was the case when we were beaten at Narva, or Austerlitz. And peace also can be a splendid thing, as, for example, the peace concluded at Nistaadt, or Kuchuk-Kainardji.
LADY. Is this a variant of the famous saying of a Kaffir or Hottentot, who told the missionary that he understood very well the difference between what is good and what is evil: -- "Good is when I carry away somebody else's wives and cows, and evil is when mine are carried away from me"?
GENERAL. Don't you see that we, that is, I and your African, were only trying to say something witty: he was so unintentionally, I purposely. But now let us hear how clever people are going to discuss the question of war from the standpoint of morals.
POLITICIAN. I would only wish that our "clever people" would not land us in casuistry and metaphysics in discussing that perfectly clear and historically-limited problem.
PRINCE. Clear from what point of view?
POLITICIAN. My point of view is an ordinary one, a European one, which is being gradually assimilated by cultured people, even in other parts of the world.
PRINCE. And its essence is, of course, that everything is considered relatively and that no absolute difference is admitted between "must" and "must not," between good and evil. Isn't it so?
MR. Z. Pardon me. But this argument seems to me rather useless in relation to the problem we are discussing. To take myself as an instance, I fully recognise the absolute opposition between moral good and evil. At the same time, it is as perfectly clear to me that war and peace do not come within the scope of the argument; that it is quite impossible to paint war all solid black, and peace all pure white.
PRINCE. But this involves a contradiction. If the thing which is evil in itself, as, for instance, murder, can be good in certain cases, when you are pleased to call it war, what becomes then of the absolute difference between evil and good?
MR. Z. How simple it is for you! "Every kind of murder is absolute evil; war is murder; it follows then that war is absolute evil." The syllogism is first rate! The only thing you lose sight of is that both your premises, the major and the minor, have first to be proved, and that consequently your conclusion so far rests on air.
POLITICIAN. Didn't I tell you we should be landed in casuistry?
LADY. What is it they are talking about?
POLITICIAN. Oh, about some sort of major and minor premises.
MR. Z. Pardon me. We are coming to business presently. So you maintain that at any rate killing, that is taking somebody's life, is absolute evil, don't you?
MR. Z. But to be killed -- is this absolute evil or not?
PRINCE. From the Hottentot standpoint, of course it is. But we have been discussing moral evil, and this can exist only in the actions of an intelligent being, controlled by itself, and not in what happens to that being independently of its will. It follows that to be killed is the same as to die from cholera or influenza. Not only is it not absolute evil -- it is not evil at all. Socrates and the stoics have already taught us this.
MR. Z. Well, I cannot answer for people so ancient as those. As to your moral appreciation of murder, this seems to limp somewhat. According to you it follows that absolute evil consists in causing a person something which is not evil at all. Think what you like, but there is something lame here. However, we will leave this lameness alone lest we really land in casuistry. To sum up, in killing, the evil is not in the physical fact of a life being taken, but in the moral cause of this fact, namely, in the evil will of the one who kills. Do you agree?
PRINCE. It is so, of course. For without this evil will there is no murder, but only misfortune or inadvertence.
MR. Z. That is clear, when there is no will whatever to murder, as, for instance, in the case of an unsuccessful operation. It is possible, however, to imagine a position altogether different: when the will, though not setting itself as an object the taking away of a human life, yet before the fact gives its consent to a murder, regarding it as an extreme and unavoidable measure. Would such a murder also be an absolute evil in your opinion?
PRINCE. Decidedly so, when once the will has agreed to a murder.
MR. Z. You will admit, however, that there are cases in which the will, though agreeing to a murder, is at the same time not an evil will. The murder is consequently not an absolute evil in that case, even when looked at from this subjective side?
PRINCE. Oh, dear me! This is something quite unintelligible. However, I think I guess what you mean: you refer to that famous case in which a father sees in a lonely place a blackguardly ruffian trying to assault his innocent (and, to enhance the effect, it is added his "little") daughter. The father, unable to protect her in any other way, kills the offender. I have heard this argument at least a thousand times. [LC-1]
MR. Z. What is really remarkable is not that you have heard it a thousand times, but the fact that nobody has ever had from any one of those holding your view a sensible, or even only plausible, answer to this simple argument.
PRINCE. And what is there in it to answer?
MR. Z. Well, if you don't like to argue against it, will you then prove by some direct and positive method that in all cases without exception, and consequently in the case we are discussing, it is indisputably better to abstain from resisting evil by means of force, than it is to use violence, though one risk the possibility of killing a wicked and dangerous man.
PRINCE. It is funny to ask for a special proof for a single case. Once you recognise that murdering generally is evil in the moral sense, it is clear that it will be evil in every single case as well.
LADY. This sounds weak, Prince, to be sure.
MR. Z. Very weak indeed, I should say. That it is generally better not to kill anybody than to kill is a truth which is not subject to argument and is accepted by everybody. It is just the single cases that actually raise the problem. The question is: Is the general and undisputable rule, "don't kill," unreservedly absolute and, therefore, admitting of no exception whatever, in no single case and in no circumstances; or is it such as to admit of even one exception, and, therefore, is not absolute?
PRINCE. I cannot agree to such a formal way of approaching the problem. I don't see the use of it. Suppose I admit that in your exceptional case, purposely invented for argument's sake ...
LADY (reprovingly). Prince! Prince! What is this I hear? ...
GENERAL (ironically). Ho-ho-ho, Prince!
PRINCE (taking no notice). Let us admit that in your imaginary case to kill is better than not to kill (in point of fact, of course, I refuse to admit it), but let us take it for the moment that you are right. We may even take it that your case is not imaginary, but quite real, though, as you will agree, it is extremely rare, exceptional.... But then we are dealing with war -- with something that is general, universal. You will not say yourselves that Napoleon, or Moltke, on Skobelev were in the position in any way resembling that of a father compelled to defend his innocent little daughter from the assaults of a monster.
LADY. That's better! Bravo, mon prince!
MR. Z. A clever way, indeed, to avoid a difficult question. You will allow, me, however, to establish the connection, logical as well as historical, that exists between these two facts -- the single murder and the war. For this let us take again your example, only we will strip it of the details which seem to increase, though actually they only diminish, its importance. We need not trouble ourselves about a father, or a little daughter, for with them the problem at once loses its pure ethical meaning, being transferred from the sphere of intellectual and moral consciousness into that of natural moral feelings: parental love will obviously make the father kill the villain on the spot, without any further consideration as to whether he must, or has the right to do so in the light of the higher moral ideal. So let us take not a father, but a childless moralist, before whose eyes some feeble being, strange and unfamiliar to him, is being fiercely assaulted by a cowardly villain. Would you suggest that the moralist should fold his arms and preach the glory of virtue while the fiendish beast is torturing his victim? [LC-2] Do you think the moralist will not feel a moral impulse to stop that beast by force, however great the possibility, or even the probability, of killing him may appear? And should he instead permit the dastardly deed to take place to the accompaniment of his high-sounding phrases, don't you think that he would find no rest from his conscience, and would feel ashamed of himself to the verge of repulsion?
PRINCE. Perhaps all that you are saying will be felt by a moralist who does not believe in the reality of the moral order, or who may have forgotten that God is not in might, but in right.
LADY. Very well said, Prince. Now, Mr. Z., what will you answer to this?
MR. Z. I will answer, that I wish it was even better said -- I mean more frankly, more simply, and more closely to the actual facts. You wanted to say, did you not, that a moralist who really believes in the justice of God must, without forcibly interfering with the villain, raise his prayers to God that He should prevent the evil deed being carried out: either by a moral miracle, by suddenly turning the villain to the path of truth; or by a physical miracle, by an instantaneous paralysis, say, or --
LADY. No special need for a paralysis; the miscreant can be frightened by something, or in some other way prevented from carrying on his nefarious work.
MR. Z. Oh, well, that makes no difference. The miracle lies, you understand, not so much in the fact itself as in the connection of that fact -- be it a bodily paralysis or some mental excitement -- with the prayer and its moral object. At any rate, the method suggested by the Prince is nothing else but a prayer for a miracle.
PRINCE. But ... really ... why a prayer ... and a miracle?
MR. Z. What else is it then?
PRINCE. Well, if I believe that the world is governed by a beneficent and intelligent living Power, I cannot but also believe that whatever takes place in the world is in accord with that Power, that is, with the will of God.
MR. Z. Pardon me. How old are you?
PRINCE. Whatever do you mean by this question?
MR. Z. Nothing offensive, I can assure you. I presume you are not less than thirty, are you?
PRINCE. Guess higher!
MR. Z. So you must have assuredly had some occasion to see, or if not to see then to hear, or if not to hear then at least to read in the papers, that malicious and immoral things do happen in this world.
MR. Z. How is it then? Does it not prove that "the moral order," or the will of God, obviously does not manifest itself in the world by its own power?
POLITICIAN. Now we are at last getting to business. If evil exists, the gods, it follows, either cannot or will not suppress it, and in both cases the gods, as omnipotent and beneficent powers, do not exist at all. Tis old but true!
LADY. Oh, what awful things you are saying!
GENERAL. Talking does lead one to great discoveries. Only begin philosophising, and your feeble brain reels.
PRINCE. A poor philosophy this! As if the will of God were bound up with our ideas of what is good and evil.
MR. Z. With some of our ideas it is not, but with the true notion of good it is bound up most firmly. Otherwise, if God is generally indifferent to good and evil, you then utterly refute your own argument.
PRINCE. How is that, I should like to know?
MR. Z. Well, if you hold that God is not concerned when a powerful blackguard, swayed by his brute passions, crushes a poor feeble creature, then God is even more likely to have no objection if any one of us, actuated by human sympathy, crushes the blackguard. You will surely not attempt to defend the absurdity that only killing a weak and inoffensive being is not evil before the eyes of God, whereas killing a strong and wicked beast is evil.
PRINCE. It appears to you as an absurdity only because you look at it from the wrong point of view. From the moral standpoint the real importance attaches not to one who is killed, but to one who kills. Just now you yourself called the blackguard a beast, that is, a being lacking in intelligence and conscience. If so, what evil can there be in his actions?
LADY. But don't you see that it is not a beast in the literal sense of the word as used here? As if I were to say to my daughter: "What nonsense you are talking, my angel," and you were to get up and begin shouting at me: "How ridiculous a thing to say! How can angels talk nonsense?" Well, of all the arguments! ...
PRINCE. I crave your forgiveness. I understand perfectly well that the villain is called a beast only in a metaphorical sense, and that this beast has neither tail nor hoofs. But it is evident that the lack of intelligence and conscience is referred to here in its literal meaning; for it would be impossible for a man with intelligence and conscience to commit such acts.
MR. Z. Yet another play on words! Naturally, a man acting as a beast loses his intelligence and conscience in the sense that he is no longer moved by them. But that intelligence and conscience do not speak within him at all you still have to prove. In the meanwhile, I continue to think that a bestial man differs from me and you not by the absence of intelligence and conscience, but only by his willingness to act against them, and in accord with the impulse of the beast within him. Within every one of us lurks the beast, but we usually keep him tightly chained; whilst the other man loosens the chain, only to be dragged along at the tail of the beast. He has the chain, but fails to make proper use of it.
GENERAL. Precisely. And if the Prince still disagrees with you he is hoist with his own petard! "The villain," the Prince says, "is only a beast without intelligence and conscience." Then killing him is the same as killing a wolf, or a tiger springing at a man. Why, this sort of thing is permitted even by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals!
PRINCE. But you forget again that whatever the state of mind of that man may be, whether it be completely devoid of intelligence and conscience, or whether it be consciously and wilfully immoral, if such is possible, it is not he who really matters, but you; your intelligence and conscience are not destroyed and you do not want consciously to go against their demands -- well then, you would not kill that man, whatever he might have been.
MR. Z. Naturally, I would not kill him, should my intelligence and conscience absolutely forbid my doing so. Imagine, however, that intelligence and conscience tell me something entirely different -- something which seems to be more sensible and morally correct.
PRINCE. This sounds interesting! Let us hear it.
MR. Z. We may assume first of all that intelligence and conscience know how to count, at least, up to three ...
GENERAL. Go on, go on!
MR. Z. Therefore intelligence and conscience, if they do not wish to lie to me, will not keep on telling me " two " when the actual number is "three" ...
GENERAL (impatiently). Well?
PRINCE. I can't see what he is driving at!
MR. Z. Well, don't you assert that intelligence and conscience speak to me only about myself and the villain? The whole matter, according to your argument, is that I should not lay a finger on him. But in point of fact there is present also a third person -- who is actually the most important of all -- the victim of the wicked assault, who requires my help. You wilfully neglect her, but conscience speaks of her too, and of her even in preference to the others. And if the will of God is involved here at all, it is only in the sense that I should save the victim, sparing the villain as much as possible. But help her I must at any cost and in any case -- by persuasion, if it be possible; if not by force. And should my hands be tied, then and only then can I call to my aid that supreme resource which was suggested by you too prematurely and then too lightly cast aside -- the supreme resource of Prayer, that is, by an appeal to the Divine Intelligence, which, I am sure, can really perform miracles when they are necessary. Which of these means of help should be used depends entirely on the internal and external conditions of the incident. The only absolute thing here is, that I must help those who are wronged. This is what my conscience says.
GENERAL. The enemy's centre is broken through! Hurrah!
PRINCE. My conscience has progressed beyond this elementary stage. My conscience tells me in a case like this something more definite and concise: "Don't kill!" it says, and that is all. However, I can't see even now that we have moved any farther in our argument. Suppose I agree with your proposition that everybody, even a morally cultured and truly conscientious man, could permit himself to commit a murder, acting under the influence of sympathy and having no time to consider the moral character of his action -- even admitting all this, I am still utterly unable to see what could follow from this admission that would enlighten us with regard to our principal problem. Let me ask you again: "Did Tamerlane, or Alexander the Great, or Lord Kitchener kill and make others kill people in order to protect weak, defenceless beings from the villainous assaults that were threatening them?"
MR. Z. The juxtaposition of Tamerlane and Alexander the Great augurs ill for our historical accuracy, but as this is the second time that you have appealed to historical facts, allow me to quote from history an illustration which will really help us to compare the question of the defence of a person with that of the defence of a State. The affair happened in the twelfth century, at Kiev. The feudatory princes, who as early as that seemed to hold your ideas on war and believed that one may quarrel and fight only "chez soi," would not agree to take the field against the Polovtziens, saying that they were reluctant to subject their people to the horrors of war. To this the great Prince Vladimir Monomach answered in the following words: "You pity the serf, but you forget that when spring comes the serf will go out to the field." ...
LADY. Please don't use bad words!
MR. Z. But this is from a chronicle.
LADY. That makes no difference. I am sure you don't remember the chronicle by heart, so may just as well put it in your own words. It sounds so absurd. One hears "Spring will come" and expects "the flowers will blossom and the nightingales will sing," but instead all of a sudden comes "serf." 
MR. Z. As you please, madam. "The spring will come, the peasant will go out into the field with his horse to till the land. The Polovtzien will come, will kill the peasant, will take away his horse. Then a formidable band of Polovtziens will make an inroad, will slaughter all the men, capture their wives and children, drive away their cattle, and burn out their homes. Can't you find it in your heart to pity the peasants for this? I do pity them, and for that reason I call upon you to take up arms against the Polovtziens." The princes, ashamed of themselves, listened to his words, and the country enjoyed peace throughout the reign of Vladimir Monomach. Afterwards, however, they turned back to their "peaceful professions," which urged them to evade war with foreign enemies in order that they could carry on in comfort their miserable quarrels in their own homes. The end of it all for Russia was the Mongolian yoke, and for the descendants of these princes that rich feast of experience which history provided them in the person of Ivan the Terrible.
PRINCE. Your argument is absolutely beyond me! At one moment you describe an incident which has never happened to any one of us, and will certainly never occur in the future. At another moment you remind us of some Vladimir Monomach, who perhaps never existed, and who, at any rate, has absolutely nothing to do with us....
LADY. Parlez pour vous, monsieur!
MR. Z. Tell me, Prince, are you a descendant of Rurik?
PRINCE. People say so. But do you suggest that I should for this reason take special interest in Rurik, Sineus, and Truvor? 
LADY. I think when one does not know one's ancestors one is little better than the little boys and girls who believe that they were found in the garden under a cabbage-leaf.
PRINCE. And what are those poor devils to do who have no ancestors?
MR. Z. Everybody has at least two great ancestors, who have bequeathed to posterity their circumstantial and highly instructive records: the history of one's country and that of the world.
PRINCE. But these records cannot decide for us how we should live now, and what we should now do. Let it be granted that Vladimir Monomach actually existed, that he was not merely the creation of the imagination of the monk Laurentius, or the monk Hypathius. He may even have been an exceptionally good man, and may have sincerely pitied the "serf." In such case he was right in righting the Polovtziens, because in those barbaric times the moral consciousness had not yet risen above the crude Byzantine notion of Christianity, and actually approved of man-killing when it was for a good purpose, real or imaginary. But how can we do so, when we have once understood that murder is an evil thing, opposed to the will of God and forbidden since the days of Moses by God's commandment? Under no guise and under no name can killing ever become permissible for us. Still less can it cease to be evil when, instead of one man, thousands of people are slaughtered under the name of war. The whole thing is, in the first instance, a question of personal conscience.
GENERAL. Now that you reduce it all to personal conscience, allow me to tell you this much. I am a man who is in the moral sense (as in the other, of course) of the average type: neither black nor white, but grey. I have never been guilty either of any extraordinary virtue or of any extraordinary villainy. Even when one performs good acts there is always ground for self-suspicion. One can never say with certainty and with candour what one's real motive is. There may be a real good or only a weakness of the soul, perhaps a habit of life, or sometimes even a personal vanity. Besides, this is all so petty. In all my life there was only one incident which I could not call "petty" to begin with, but, what is more important, in which I am certain I was not guided by any doubtful motive but solely by the impulse of good that overcame me. Only once in my life did I experience a complete moral satisfaction and even some kind of ecstasy, so that my actions were entirely free from considerations or hesitations. And this good act of mine has been to me till now, and will, of course, remain so for ever, my very best and purest memory. Well, this single good act of mine was a murder, and not a little insignificant murder at that, for in some quarter of an hour I killed over a thousand men!
LADY. Quelles blagues! And I thought you were quite serious for once!
GENERAL. And so I am. I can produce witnesses if you like. It was not with my own sinful hands that I killed, but with six pure, chaste steel guns, which poured forth a most virtuous and beneficent rain of shells.
LADY. Where was the good in that, I should like to know?
GENERAL. Though I am not only a soldier, but in modern parlance a "militarist" it is needless to say that I would not call the mere annihilation of a thousand ordinary men a good act, were they Germans, or Hungarians, or Englishmen, or Turks. Here it was quite an exceptional case. Even now I cannot speak calmly about it, so painfully it stirred my soul.
LADY. Please do not keep us on tenterhooks. Tell us all about it.
GENERAL. I mentioned guns. You will then have guessed that the affair happened in the last Russo-Turkish war. I was with the Caucasian army. After October 3rd ...
LADY. What about October 3rd?
GENERAL. That was the day of the great battle in the Aladja mountains, when for the first time we crushed all the ribs of the "invincible" Hasi-Moukhtar Pasha. So after October 3rd we at once advanced into Asiatic country. I was on the left front at the head of the advance guard engaged in scouting. I had under me the Nijny-Novgorod dragoons, three "hundreds" of Kuban Cossacks, and a battery of horse artillery. The country was not particularly inspiring: in the mountains it was fairly decent, sometimes even beautiful. But down in the valleys nothing but deserted, burnt-out villages and downtrodden fields were to be seen. One morning -- October the 28th, it was -- we were descending a valley, where according to the map there was a big Armenian village. As a matter of fact there was no village to be seen, though there had really been one there not long before, and of a decent size, too: its smoke could be seen miles away. I had my detachment well together in close formation, for reports had been received that we might run into a strong cavalry force. I was riding with the dragoons; the Cossacks were in advance. There was a sharp bend in the road as we neared the village. Suddenly the Cossacks reined in their horses and stood as if they were rooted to the spot. I galloped forward. Before I could see anything I guessed by the smell of roasting flesh that the bashi-bazouks had left their "kitchen" behind. A huge caravan of Armenian refugees had not been able to escape in time. The crowd had been caught by the Turks, who had "made a good job of it" in their own inimitable fashion. They had bound the poor Armenians, some by the head, some by the feet, some by the waist, to the high cart axles, had lit fires underneath, and had slowly grilled them. Dead women lay here and there -- some with breasts cut off, others with abdomens ripped open. I need not go into further particulars. But one scene will remain for ever vivid in my memory. A poor woman lay there on the ground, her head and shoulders securely bound to the cart's axle, so that she could not move her head. She bore no burns, no wounds. But on her distorted face was stamped a ghastly terror -- she had evidently died of sheer horror. And before her dead, staring eyes was a high pole, firmly fixed in the ground, and to it was tied the poor little naked body of a baby -- her son, most likely -- a blackened, scorched little corpse, with eyes that protruded. Near by also was a grating in which lay the dead ashes of a fire.... I was completely overcome with the ghastliness of the thing. In face of such revolting evidence I could not reason -- my actions became mechanical. Grimly I bade my men put their horses to the gallop. We entered the burned village; it was razed to the ground; not a house remained. Presently we saw a poor wretch crawling out of a dry well. He was covered with mud; his clothes were in rags. He fell on his knees, and began wailing something in Armenian. We helped him to his feet, and plied him with eager questions. He proved to be an Armenian from a distant village, a fairly intelligent fellow. He had come to the place on business just as the inhabitants had decided to flee. They had hardly started off when the bashi-bazouks fell upon them -- an immense number, he said -- at least forty thousand. He managed to hide himself in the well. He heard the cries of the tortured people; he knew full well what was happening. Later, he heard the bashi-bazouks come back and go off again by a different route. "They were going to my own village," he groaned, "and then they will do the same terrible things to all our folk." The poor wretch moaned pitifully, wringing his hands in despair. At that moment an inspiration seemed suddenly to come to me. My agony of soul seemed suddenly comforted. This world of ours as suddenly became once more a happy place to dwell in. I quietly asked the Armenian how long it was since those devils had left the place. He reckoned it about three hours.
"And how long would it take for a horse to get to your village?"
"Over five hours."
No, it was impossible to overtake them in two hours. What a damnable business!
"Do you know of another and shorter way to your place?" I asked.
"I do, sir, I do." And he became at once excited. "There is a way across the defile. It is very short. And only very few people know it."
"Is it passable on horseback?"
"It is, sir."
"And for artillery?"
"It would be rather difficult, but it could be done, sir."
I ordered my men to supply the Armenian with a horse, and with all my detachment followed him into the defile. How we all seemed to crawl there among the mountains; yet I hardly seemed to notice anything by the way. Once more my actions had become merely mechanical. But in the depths of my soul I felt utter and complete confidence. I knew what I had to do, and I knew that it would be done. My heart was light; I trod on air; I exulted in the certain fulfillment of my plans.
We were already filing out from the last defile, after which we should come to the high road, when I saw our Armenian galloping back and waving his hands frantically, as if to say, "Here they are!" I caught up with the advance guard, and levelling my telescope I could see that he was right. I saw an apparently endless column of horses -- not forty thousand, of course, but three or four thousand at least, if not even five. These sons of devils at once spotted the Cossacks and turned to meet them. We were coming out of the defile against their left front. A hail of bullets greeted the Cossacks. These Asiatic monsters could fire their European guns as if they were really human beings. Here and there a Cossack was picked off by a shot. A Cossack officer rode up to me and shouted: "Order the attack, sir. Why should these beasts be allowed to shoot us like quails, while we are mounting our artillery? We can put them to flight ourselves."
"Patience, my dear fellow, for just one little moment," I told him. "I have no doubt that you would be able to put them to flight; but what would be the pleasure of that? God bids me wipe them out and not drive them away." Here I ordered two "hundreds" of Cossacks advancing in open order to let fly at the devils, and later, when well in the thick of it, to retreat on the battery. One hundred Cossacks I left to mask the guns, while the Nijny-Novgorod men were placed in phalanx to the left of the battery. I trembled with impatience. The murdered child with its staring, anguished eyes came vividly before me. The Cossacks were falling, shot! God! what an agony of suspense....
LADY. And the end?
GENERAL. The end came just as I knew it must. The Cossacks engaging the enemy presently began their retreat, yelling wildly in their usual fashion. Those sons of devils came pell-mell after them, too excited even to fire, and galloping en masse on our position. Within four hundred yards of our line the Cossacks suddenly scattered, each man seeking over where he could. "At last," I felt, "God's hour has struck!" I turned to the squad of Cossacks covering the guns. "Cossacks! wheel!" I shouted. The covering squad divided, right and left, leaving the battery unmasked. One fierce prayer to God, and then I gave the word "Fire!"
And God heard me. He blessed fully and completely every one of my six charges. Never in my life have I heard such a devilish yell. The swine did not come to their senses even when the second volley of shells smote them, cutting red lanes through and through.
Suddenly the horde wheeled. A third volley followed them up! What a bloody mess it made! Have you seen an ants' nest, on which burning matches have been thrown? the ants all rushing about, crushing each other? ... In a moment our Cossacks and Dragoons had charged them on the left flank, cutting, hacking, and slicing them like cabbage. Few of them managed to get away: those who escaped the rain of shells were cut down by the sabres. Some threw their guns away, jumped off their horses, and whined for mercy. But I was past giving orders. My men understood well enough that it was not a time for mercy. So the Cossacks and the men of Nijny-Novgorod sabred them to a man.
It is a sure thing, however, that if these brainless Satans, after the first two volleys were fired point-blank into their midst at a range of about 40 to 60 yards, instead of rushing back had galloped on the battery, there would have been an end to all of us -- no third volley would have been fired.... Well, God was with us. The whole thing was over. And in my soul I felt the joy and peace of an Easter Sunday! We gathered our slain -- thirty-seven good men they were -- laid them together on the level ground in rows, and closed their eyes. I had an old sergeant in the third hundred, Odarchenko by name, an earnest student of the Bible and singularly gifted. In England he would have become a Prime Minister, I am sure. Now he is in Siberia, banished there for resisting the authorities when they were shutting up some "old-believers'" monastery and destroying the tomb of one of their sainted elders. I called him. "Well, Odarchenko," I said, "now that we are in the field there is no time for arguing about the 'hallelujahs' so you be our priest and perform the funeral service over our dead." For him this was, of course, a Heaven-sent opportunity. "I shall be only too glad to do it, sir," he replied, and the face of the little beast fairly beamed with joy. There was also a rough-and-ready choir. The service was performed with all ceremony. Only the absolution was lacking, but this was not necessary either: their sins were already remitted by the words of Christ himself about those who "lay down their lives for their friends." Even now I can see the ceremony vividly before my eyes. The day had been cloudy, as it usually is in the autumn season, but at that moment the sky was clearing before the setting sun, and above the dark loom of the gloomy defile rose and amber-tinted clouds were gathering like God's own regiments. My soul was still in ecstasy with the glory of our fight. Wondrous peace rested upon me; I felt that all worldly stains were washed away, and that all the burden of earthly trouble had fallen from my shoulders. I was in Paradise -- I was feeling God, and there was the end of it. And when Odarchenko started calling out the names of the departed warriors who on the battlefield had laid down their lives for their faith, their Tsar, and their country, I truly felt that verily there was such a thing as a Christ-loving band of warriors, and that it was no mere official expression, no mere empty title, as you were pleased to call it. I felt that war, as it was then, is now, and ever will be till the ending of the world, was something great, honourable, and holy....
PRINCE (after a short interval of silence). Well, when you buried your men in your happy frame of mind, tell me, didn't you think at all of the enemies whom you had killed in such great numbers?
GENERAL. Thank God, we were able to move further before that carrion had time to remind us of itself.
LADY. Ah, now you have spoiled the whole impression. What a shame!
GENERAL (addressing the Prince). And what would you have me do? That I should give Christian burial to those jackals, who were neither Christians nor Moslems, but the Devil knows what? Imagine for a moment that I went out of my senses and ordered the service to be performed over them, together with the Cossacks. Would not you in that case charge me with intolerance? To think of it! These poor dear fellows, when alive, worshipped the Devil and prayed to the fire, and now after their death they are suddenly to be subjected to superstitious and crude pseudo-Christian rites! No, I had something else then to worry about. I called all the officers and ordered them to tell the men that not one of them should dare to come within ten yards of the damned carrion. I could well see that my Cossacks' fingers itched to search the pockets of the killed, as was their habit. And who knows what plague they might have spread as a result? Let the Devil take the lot of it.
PRINCE. Do I understand you correctly? You were afraid lest the Cossacks should begin robbing the dead bashi-bazouks and should carry from them some infectious disease to your force?
GENERAL. That is exactly what I feared. I think the point is clear enough.
PRINCE. What a Christ-loving band of warriors!
GENERAL. Who, the Cossacks? They are veritable brigands! They were always like this.
PRINCE. But, really, what is all this? Are we talking in dreams?
GENERAL. It seems to me that there must be something wrong. I can't make out what it is that you really want to know.
POLITICIAN. The Prince is probably surprised that your ideal and all but canonised Cossacks all of a sudden prove, in your own words, to be utter brigands!
PRINCE. That's it. And I ask you, how can war be "something great, honourable, and holy," when you admit yourself that it is a struggle between one group of brigands and another?
GENERAL. Now I see your point. "A struggle of one group of brigands with another." But don't you see that the others are of quite a different sort? Or do you really believe that to rob when occasion offers itself is the same as to roast little babies before the eyes of their mothers? Well, I'll tell you this much. So clear is my conscience in this matter that even now I sometimes regret with all my soul that I did not die after I had given the order to fire the last volley. I have not the slightest doubt that should I have died then, I should have gone before the Throne of God with all my thirty-seven slain Cossacks, and we would have taken our places in Paradise by the side of the Penitent Thief. It was not for nothing that the Bible placed him there, was it?
PRINCE. That is true. But you will certainly not find it written in the Bible that only people of our own country or of our own religion can be likened to the Penitent Thief, and not people of all nationalities and creeds.
GENERAL. Upon my word, you could not place more misstatements to my credit if I were already dead! When have I made distinctions among nations and creeds? Are Armenians my countrymen and co-religionists? Or have I referred to the faith and nationality of that Devil's spawn which I annihilated by shells?
PRINCE. But you fail to remember the fact that the aforesaid Devil's spawn are, after all, human beings, that in every man you can find both good and evil, and that every brigand, be he a Cossack or a bashi-bazouk, might prove to be a "penitent thief."
GENERAL. How am I to take you? At one moment you say that an evil man is like an irresponsible beast, at another moment you state that a bashi-bazouk roasting babies might well prove to be a penitent thief. And all because you fear to touch evil even with one finger! To me the important point, however, is not that every man has within him the seeds of both good and evil, but as to which of the two -- good or evil -- has taken firmer root in him. It matters little that wine and vinegar are both made from the juice of the grape. What is of real importance is whether a certain bottle has wine or vinegar in it. Because, should it be vinegar and I begin drinking it glass after glass, and treat others to it simply because it happens to be made from the same material as wine, I am pretty certain that this exhibition of my cleverness will do nobody any good at all. On the contrary, it may ruin good digestions! Now, all men are brothers. Very good. I am glad to hear it. But how far will this take us? There are different kinds of brothers, you know. Why should I then not be inquisitive enough to find out which of my brothers is Cain and which is Abel? And suppose I happen to see my brother Cain flaying my brother Abel, and because all men are brothers I deal out such a blow to my brother Cain as will teach him to give up for ever his bad habits, then you come out and blame me for forgetting that all three of us are brothers. Of course, I don't forget it. Why, it is only because I remember this brotherhood that I interfere at all. Otherwise I could pass by and take no notice.
PRINCE. But why those alternatives -- either passing by or dealing a blow?
GENERAL. No third issue can generally be found in such cases. You have been suggesting praying to God that He should personally interfere and by the might of His own right hand bring every Devil's son to his senses. But you yourself cast this idea aside, didn't you? I admit willingly that prayer is good in all circumstances, but it cannot be substituted for action on one's own part. Pious people, for instance, say prayers even before they have their meals, but they have to do their chewing themselves, and with their own jaws. Nor did I give orders to my horse artillery without saying my prayers!
PRINCE. Such prayers are blasphemy, of course. It is not praying to God that is necessary, but acting according to God's will.
GENERAL. For example?
PRINCE. A man who is imbued with the true Christian spirit will, in the hour of need, find within himself the power to influence a poor ignorant brother who is about to commit a murder or some other evil. By means of words and gestures, and even by his very looks, he will be able to make such a startling impression upon the mind of the wrongdoer that he will instantly see his error and will forsake the ways of evil.
GENERAL. Holy saints! Is it before the bashi-bazouks, who roasted babies, that you think I should have performed all those touching gestures and said these moving words?
MR. Z. Words, perhaps, would not have been quite opportune owing to the distance intervening and to the fact that neither of you understood the other's language. And as to gestures making a startling impression -- say what you will, nothing could have been more fitting in the circumstances than the rounds of shells fired.
LADY. Really, in what language and with the help of what instruments could the General make himself understood by the bashi-bazouks?
PRINCE. I have never said that the General could have impressed the bashi-bazouks in the Christian way. What I did say was that a man full of the true Christian spirit would have found some means, in this case as in every other, to awaken in those dark souls the good which lies hidden in every human being.
MR. Z. Do you really believe in this?
PRINCE. I have not the slightest doubt about it.
MR. Z. Well, do you think, then, that Christ was sufficiently imbued with this spirit?
PRINCE. What a strange question to ask!
MR. Z. I ask it only to learn from you why it was that Christ could not use the power of His spirit to such effect as to awaken the good hidden in the souls of Judas, Herod, the priests of the Sanhedrim, and, lastly, of that impenitent thief, who usually remains entirely forgotten when his penitent comrade is mentioned. There is no insuperable difficulty here for positive Christian thought. But you are obliged to sacrifice one of the two things: either your habit of quoting Christ and the Bible as the highest authority, or your moral optimism. Because, the third resource, which has been rather too much hackneyed -- that of denying the very facts of the New Testament as a later invention or a mere priestly commentary -- in the present case is entirely taken from you. However much you mutilate and sub-edit the text of the four Gospels to suit your object, what is the principal thing with us in our argument will remain in it indisputably, namely, that Christ suffered cruel persecutions and the tortures of crucifixion at the hands of malicious enemies. That personally He remained morally above all this spite, that He did not want to resist his enemies but forgave them -- all this is equally easy to understand, both from my point of view and from yours. But why is it, then, that, forgiving His enemies, He -- to use your own words -- "did not save their souls" from the cloud of ignorance in which they were enwrapped? Why didn't He conquer their spite by the power of His benignity? Why didn't He awaken the good that lay dormant in them, and give enlightenment and new life to their souls? In short, why didn't He impress Judas, Herod, and the Sanhedrim in the same way in which He impressed the single penitent thief? It follows that: either He could not, or did not wish to do so. In both cases, however, according to your argument, Christ must have been insufficiently imbued with the true Christian spirit! On which conclusion I beg you to accept my hearty congratulations.
PRINCE. Oh! I refuse to fence with you in a duel of words, just as I refused to engage in combat with the General, using for weapons his " Christ-loving" swords....
(Here the Prince stood up, evidently on the point
of saying something strong enough to flatten his
opponent at a blow, and without fencing at all; but
the bells of a neighbouring church struck the hour of seven.)
POLITICIAN. To the continuation of this discussion? I am only too glad it has come to an end! Don't you think the argument has acquired much of the unpleasant quality of religious controversy? That is, I must say, altogether beyond justification. Besides, my life is the most precious thing to me.
LADY. It is no good pretending. You must, you must take part in the rest of the discussion. You ought to be ashamed of yourself -- a Mephistopheles in secret, sprawling luxuriously on a sofa!
POLITICIAN. Very well, then. I have no objection to resuming the discussion to-morrow, but only on condition that religion is kept out of it as much as possible. I do not demand that it should be banished altogether -- that seems to be impossible. But, for God's sake, let us have as little of it as we can.
LADY. Your "for God's sake" is very sweet in this connection.
MR. Z. (to the Politician). I think the best way to have as little religion as possible would be for you to monopolise the conversation!
POLITICIAN. I will, I promise you, although it is always more pleasant to listen than to speak, particularly in this "salubrious air." But to save our little company from the contentious struggle which may perniciously reflect upon the whist too, I am willing to sacrifice myself for two hours.
LADY. How delightful of you! And on the day after to-morrow we will have the rest of our discussion on the Bible. The Prince will by that time prepare some absolutely irrefutable argument. But you must be ready too. After all, one should learn at least a little of matters ecclesiastical!
POLITICIAN. The day after to-morrow too? Oh, no! my self-sacrifice does not go so far as that! Besides, I have to go to Nice on that day.
LADY. To Nice? What a transparent pretext! It is useless, I assure you, for we saw through you long ago. Everybody knows that when a man says, "I have an appointment in Nice," he really proposes a bit of fun at Monte Carlo. Well, let it be so. After to-morrow we must manage somehow to do without you. Plunge yourself to the neck into pleasure -- that is, if you are not afraid of becoming soon a ghost yourself. Go to Monte Carlo. And may Providence reward you according to your deserts.
POLITICIAN. My deserts do not concern Providence, but only the provision of certain necessary measures I have carried out for the benefit of society. But I admit the influence of luck and the value of a little calculation in roulette as well as in everything else.
LADY. To-morrow, however, we all must meet here without fail.
1. According to the Russian folklore the Earth rests on three whales. (Translator.)
2. The equivalent Russian word "smerd" (serf, slave, &c.) suggests something stinking. (Translator.)
3. The legendary founders of the Russian State. (Translator.)
[LC-1] You don't need to kill the "evil" man in order to protect the innocent, just disable him, jail him, and bring him to trial to be judged by The People. Saving an innocent is not the other side of murder. Saving Life/Murder is a false dichotomy. Weapons don't have to be lethal. We could invent weapons that don't hurt, but merely disable, that deliver drugs that incapacitate for a limited time and do no other harm. Then we can have our "no killing" rule, and protect the innocent. The idea that we have to murder people for any reason at all IS barbaric.
[LC-2] Another false dichotomy.