At the usual time the jailer's whistle sounded in the corridors of the prison, the iron doors of the cells rattled, bare feet pattered, heels clattered, and the prisoners who acted as scavengers passed along the corridors, filling the air with disgusting smells. The prisoners washed, dressed, and came out for revision, then went to get boiling water for their tea.
The conversation at breakfast in all the cells was very lively. It was all about two prisoners who were to be flogged that day. One, Vasiliev, was a young man of some education, a clerk, who had killed his mistress in a fit of jealousy. His fellow-prisoners liked him because he was merry and generous and firm in his behaviour with the prison authorities. He knew the laws and insisted on their being carried out. Therefore he was disliked by the authorities. Three weeks before a jailer struck one of the scavengers who had spilt some soup over his new uniform. Vasiliev took the part of the scavenger, saying that it was not lawful to strike a prisoner.
"I'll teach you the law," said the jailer, and gave Vasiliev a scolding. Vasiliev replied in like manner, and the jailer was going to hit him, but Vasiliev seized the jailer's hands, held them fast for about three minutes, and, after giving the hands a twist, pushed the jailer out of the door. The jailer complained to the inspector, who ordered Vasiliev to be put into a solitary cell.
The solitary cells were a row of dark closets, locked from outside, and there were neither beds, nor chairs, nor tables in them, so that the inmates had to sit or lie on the dirty floor, while the rats, of which there were a great many in those cells, ran across them. The rats were so bold that they stole the bread from the prisoners, and even attacked them if they stopped moving. Vasiliev said he would not go into the solitary cell, because he had not done anything wrong; but they used force. Then he began struggling, and two other prisoners helped him to free himself from the jailers. All the jailers assembled, and among them was Petrov, who was distinguished for his strength. The prisoners got thrown down and pushed into the solitary cells.