The protagonist of Leo Tolstoy's short story "God Sees The Truth, But Waits" is a carefree young man named Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov. The fact that he is, at the beginning of the story, so carefree should serve as fair warning that he will not be this way long. We are further warned of storm clouds on the horizon of Aksionov's life when his wife -- also young, also beautiful, but more aware of life's uncertainties -- tells him she has had a bad dream about him, and asks him not to go to the Nizhny Fair, where he plans to sell his wares. He laughs at her and goes anyway. But we know, from these first seven paragraphs of Tolstoy's little tale, that things will not go well with Aksionov from that moment on.
Disaster doesn't surface immediately. Halfway to the fair, Aksionov stops at an inn for the night and winds up sharing a cup of tea with another merchant whom he knows slightly. The two merchants go to bed in adjoining rooms. In the morning Aksionov gets up, pays his bill, and gets back on the road. But twenty-five miles later he is overtaken by soldiers, who question him about his activities the previous night.
Aksionov finally asks him why they are treating him as if he's committed a crime, and he is informed that the merchant with whom he spent the previous evening has been found murdered and his goods plundered. When the soldiers search Aksionov's bags, they find a bloody knife.
Predictably, Aksionov is arrested, tried, and convicted of murder. His wife is able to see him one time before he is exiled to Siberia; after rousing herself from a dead faint at the sight of him in shackles and chains, she asks him whatever possessed him to murder the stranger on the way to the fair. His own wife doesn't believe he is innocent.
In Siberia, Aksionov is such a model prisoner that the other convicts call him "The Saint," and come to him with their problems and disputes. His life is hard but bearable until a new prisoner, Makar Semyonich, comes into the camp...
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