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This story depicts the fates of five leftist revolutionaries foiled in their attack and two common peasants who have received death sentences. These condemned men are awaiting their executions by hanging. In prison, each of the prisoners deals with his fate in his own way.
Yanson, "miserable in mind and heart", an Estonian servant at a Russian estate who kills his master and tries to rape the master's wife;
Tziganok, a Russian bandit and thief from Orel, to be executed for murder.
The five revolutionist 'terrorists' are:
Werner, a social yet internally bitter man who loathes humanity—but learns to love it before the end;
Musya, young and in love with Werner;
Sergey Golovin, son of a retired colonel, himself an ex-officer;
Vassily Kashirin, twenty-three years old, and
Tanya Kovalchuk, young and selfless, "but she seemed as a mother to all of them".
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