6. Pages 209-213 [Yakov’s interior monologue]
Yakov remembers the first time he saw Raisl, in Shmuel’s broken-down wagon, sitting among their few possessions and nursing her ailing mother, who soon died. Raisl set up a stall selling eggs, and he tried to buy from her as often as he could. Yakov did repairs to their shack; he and Raisl took walks in the woods. Yakov liked her but worried she would demand too much from him, that she was ambitious. In the forest one day, they make love, and Yakov agrees to marry her. After they were married, Raisl urged Yakov to take them out of Russia, but he always delayed. Raisl became depressed and complaining, and she remained childless. He began to avoid her, and soon she was hanging around the taverns. Then she ran off with a goy.
7. Pages 213-216
Yakov thinks about work, about grass and flowers, about food. Those thoughts feel good, but they are only the illusion of freedom. When he comes out of his thoughts, he is still in his cell. He does the same routine every day. He saves splinters from the wood to use to keep track of the days. Soon, he realizes, he will have been in jail a year. The lack of anything to do nearly drives him crazy. “He waited with boredom sticking its fingers down his throat. He waited for an unknown time, a time different from all the time on his head. It was unending waiting for something that might never happen. In the winter, time fell like hissing snow through the crack in the barred window, and never stopped snowing.”
Yakov goes crazy and tears off all his clothing. As punishment, the guards make him stay unclothed, and they refuse to light his stove. The warden eventually gives him a used suit of prison clothing and another worn coat. His stove is lit again. But he does not warm up for a whole week.
8. Pages 216-226
One day, Yakov is told his indictment is finally ready. He is taken by trolley to the courthouse. During the ride he hopes that at last he will be allowed an attorney and be able to defend himself. Some of the other riders figure out who Yakov is and the detective accompanying Yakov must calm them. A Jewish man exiting the trolley shouts at Yakov to cry “‘The Lord is the one!’” if he is convicted. A woman spits on Yakov.
In Grubeshov’s office Yakov becomes both anxious and suspicious. There are no papers on the man’s desk. Yakov feels a surge of hatred for him. Finally, Grubeshov takes papers out of his desk and asks if Yakov is ready to confess. He tells Yakov that the Tsar believes Yakov is guilty and has written a letter urging the justice system to go to all lengths to punish the Jewish child killer. Yakov asks how the Tsar has come to his beliefs, and Grubeshov says that of course he believes the “evidence” against Yakov. He then recites new witness testimonies from thirty people.
Insanely, Yakov wonders if he has been mistaken for someone else. He tells Grubeshov that perhaps anti-Semitic groups committed the murder to stir up suspicion against Jews. Grubeshov tells Yakov that the guards have been recording his nighttime mutterings, which are like confessions of his crime.
Grubeshov tells Yakov that if he will confess, he will see to it that he is secreted out of Russia. Yakov does not believe him. He asks, “‘Excuse me, but how will you then explain to the Tsar that you let a confessed murderer of a Christian child go?’” Grubeshov tells him to mind his own business.
Grubeshov then says that the indictment needs the signature of the Investigating Magistrate who replaced Bibikov, but he is away. He tells Yakov that Bibikov committed suicide and that his assistant was imprisoned for not removing his hat during “God Save the Tsar.” Grubeshov says that they know Yakov is part of a large Jewish plot to overthrow Russian government. He locks away the incomplete indictment papers. Yakov returns to prison.
9. Page 227
Yakov, back in his cell, sinks into a deep depression. The news that the Tsar is against him has been a blow. He imagines doing battle with the Tsar, who escapes as an angel of God. Yakov knows that no such thing will happen to him. He is Jewish and will never escape that fact, no matter where he goes. He bears the history and the guilt of his people.
That Yakov is able to muster any spirit at all while being treated as less than an animal is a testament to his fortitude. He sees that the conspiracy against him grows, that they are busily manufacturing false evidence and testimonies to assure his conviction, but he also sees that Grubeshov and the others are grabbing at straws: They know he is innocent. His innocence will not protect him, however, in a system bent on persecuting Jews. Yakov is beginning to see that he has two choices: to embrace his Jewish heritage and hope it will save him or to reject it totally and hope that Fate will save him. Either way, he has not given up hope yet.