rescue just described had further consequences. The evening after, one of the riders who had stopped the prison-van was arrested at Khàrkov station; this was Alexei Medvèdiev, also called Fomin. He managed subsequently to escape from Khàrkov gaol with a number of ordinary criminals, by burrowing under a wall. As, however, outside help failed them, there was nothing for it but to hide in a wood near by, where they were soon recaptured. The comrades then resolved to try and rescue Medvèdiev, and arranged the following plan. 262Two young men, Berezniàk and Rashko, disguised themselves as gendarmes, and brought to the prison a forged order that Medvèdiev should be handed over to them and taken for examination to the office of the gendarmerie.
But either in consequence (as the two asserted) of treachery, or else because the prison staff saw something suspicious about the supposed gendarmes, they were arrested on the spot. Yatzevitch was arrested at the same time, he being on the watch outside, ready to assist the flight of the others; and soon afterwards Yefremov and some others involved in the affair were also captured. In the subsequent trial Yefremov was condemned to death, but the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life, and Berezniàk had a like penalty; these two and Yatzevitch were sent at once to Kara. Medvèdiev was treated differently: he was condemned to death and the sentence modified to lifelong penal servitude; but as attempts to rescue him were dreaded he was kept closely guarded in first one, then another West Siberian prison, was then taken to the Alexei-Ravelin in Petersburg, and was only brought to Kara in 1884.
He was a man of consummate bravery, who literally despised danger, and was always ready to embark on the most perilous adventure. He had been a postillion, and had only received a scanty education at an elementary school; but by his own exertions while in prison he had gained quite a respectable amount of knowledge. He was particularly clever with his fingers, and performed some really astonishing feats. While imprisoned in Petersburg he secretly modelled a statuette in bread, which, when it was eventually discovered by the gendarmes, evoked great admiration from the commandant of the fortress and other officials, so marvellously was it executed. Thanks partly to this achievement, he was afterwards granted a special order modifying his sentence of lifelong “katorga” to a term of twenty years, upon which he was sent to Kara. There he became an adept in various handicrafts; he was 263an excellent tailor, shoemaker, engraver, and sculptor; and afterwards, when he was living “free” in exile, he became a watchmaker and goldsmith. Unfortunately soon after he left the prison he fell a victim to alcoholism, to which he had an inherited predisposition; all attempts at reclaiming him were vain, and in a few years he was beyond hope.
Just about the time of the attempted rescue at Khàrkov the revolutionists in Petersburg were put into a state of frightful excitement by other events. A number of those condemned in the “Case of the 193” were awaiting, in the Peter and Paul fortress, their transportation to Siberia; and in consequence of the vexatious and cruel treatment to which they were subjected, they had recourse to a hunger-strike, which, as most of them had already suffered years of imprisonment while still on remand, might easily have proved fatal to their enfeebled constitutions.