Copyright
I. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) Potapenko.

A Russian priest online

. (page 2 of 13)
Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 2 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


glance of his son.

Cyril stood at the window some
minutes, and then energetically paced
up and down the room ; at length,
stopping behind the chair on which
his father was sitting, he said, in a
trembling voice —

"Well, father, we had better pack up
our traps and be off."

The deacon started.



12 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

" What I Does this mean that all is
ended?"

" I suppose so," said Cyril, with a
bitter smile.

"And aren't you sorry, Kiroushka 1 ?"
asked the deacon, in a soft and timid
voice.

" Of course I am. My heart is broken.
They plainly refused me."

" Refused ! " hoarsely whispered the
deacon.

What disillusion and blasted hopes
were expressed in this word ! There
were two things which were the pride
of his life — the first, his son, who had
always come out first in all his examina-
tions, and even distinguished himself in
the theological academy, and received
the medal ; the second, the projected
alliance with Father Fortificantof's
family. Such a marriage was more
than he, a poor obscure village deacon,
could have ventured to dream of. How-
ever, the dream had nearly been ac-
complished ; he would have been re-
ceived as a relation in the house of a
protopope — and now !

He got up hastily, buttoned his
cassock round his neck, and said, in a
tone of despair —

'' Come along, my son."

They went out into the vestibule.
Cyril's heart was beating fast, but he
walked with a firm step ; he knew that
he could not have acted otherwise. All
the doors into the various rooms were
closed, and no sound of movement or
conversation came from them. They
had already reached the glass-covered

1 Familiar name of Cyril.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 1 3

corridor, when the deacon said in a
whisper —

"We haven't even said good-bye."

" They don't wish to," hoarsely
answered Cyril, and taking up his bag
began to descend the staircase.

The deacon hesitated ; he quietly
opened the door of the kitchen, beckoned
with his finger to the cook and whis-
pered to her —

"Anewta, if they ask after us, say we
are at the Moscofski inn."

Anewta looked at him with surprise,
and after he had descended the stair-
case closed the door again.

The deacon harnessed his mare to a
two-wheeled cart in silence, andgathered
up the hay scattered on the ground of
the cathedral yard. They got into the
cart without saying anything, and turned
out into the street. The Moscofski inn
was situated on the outskirts of the
town. Arriving there, Cyril remembered
that fifteen years ago they used to stop
there every time when his father came
to fetch him from the seminary for the
holidays. Their teliega used to stand
in the extensive yard. The numbered
rooms for the reception of guests — large,
dirty, and without any conveniences —
remained exactly as they had been then.
Cyril entered the room, flung down his
portmanteau, and began to pace about
from one corner to the other, and at
length the deacon went to his old ac-
quaintance, the innkeeper, and poured
out to him all his troubles.

"I tell you what, father deacon,''
said the innkeeper, a man of florid
complexion and downright manners.
"You won't be offended with what I



14 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

say : but there must be a screw loose in
your son's head. You may be sure of
it."

The deacon was offended.

"Excuse me ; if only your son had
such a head, you would be a lucky man,"
he said, somewhat maliciously.

" My son will be an innkeeper, and
he has the head for it ; but yours has
studied too much, and his mind has
got beyond the proper limits. Don't
be offended, father deacon ; I say it
with all sympathy for you."

The deacon was completely upset, re-
turned to his room, and asked his son —

" I suppose you will call on the bishop
to-morrow ?"

Cyril was sitting on a worn-out chair,
and cast a simple friendly glance at his
father.

"Sit down, batoushka, and let's have
a talk. I've hardly had a word with you
yet," said he, in a calm voice.

The deacon hastily sat down on the
bed, which creaked and groaned under
him.

" What's the good of my going to the
bishop now ? " continued Cyril. " To
be ordained, I must be married, and
I don't know any young lady except
Maria Gavrilovna. We have become
friends, and are accustomed to each
other. All my plans are upset now."

" They are, indeed," muttered the
deacon.

Cyril smiled.

"No, it's not as you imagine ; I know
you think I have gone out of my mind."

" God be with you ! I never thought
of such a thing ; " and then, correcting
himself, " I never thought it."



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 1 5.

" I only wish that there should be
some sort of sense in my life. You,bd-
toushka, although worn out by poverty,,
are a man of sense. If no one else-
understands me, you ought to. From
my earliest years I have lived in the
country in our poor village Ustimievka,
I have seen how the moujik lives and
dies in utter darkness. His ignorance,
father, is caused by poverty, and his
poverty, by ignorance. Thus one en-
genders the other. I have loved them,
from my childhood for their very
poverty, although I was thoughtless
then and my love was not roused. But
now I have learnt and read books and
conversed with learned people, and my
mind is awakened. I have understood
that to live thoughtlessly is unworthy of
the human mind. I have adopted the
maxim that if a man has received en-
lightenment, his duty is to enlighten
his neighbour. Then only, will his life
leave good results behind it. And
where is a more worthy object for my
labours than the ignorant peasant?
Light is wanted in the darkest places,
batoushka, and you know yourself how
dark it is there, and therefore I decline
the fine offers of a career which have
been made to me, and shall devote my
life to the labours of a village priest.
And now, father, tell me whether you
think me mad or not."

The deacon sat there with his head
cast down. At length had come this.
explanation so long waited for, and
every word of this small speech sank
into his soul. He did not fully grasp
his son's meaning, but felt that in these
words was something right and good.



l6 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

And glad he was that his son had such
a right judgment ; but sorry that his
dreams of future advantage were ended,
and that he had for an instant suspected
his son. of madness. All these various
thoughts passed through his mind and
he was silent.

Cyril got up and approached him.
" Well, batoushka, do you approve or
not ? "

The deacon suddenly seized him with
both hands, and said, in a trembling
voice —

" You are a good fellow, your idea is
in accordance with the gospel — in ac-
cordance with the gospel."

Cyril kissed his grey head, and his
face was lit up with a joyful smile.

" Well, batoushka, at any rate you
understand me ! It is easier to live,
feeling that some one, at least under-
stands one. I know that my mother
and all my relations will be against me.
I had already counted on your ap-
proval."

"Yes, yes; but how about Mura? . . .
If you love her, are accustomed to her,
this will be bitter for you."

Cyril began to walk silently up and
down the room, and the deacon, so as
not to interfere with his thoughts, went
out. He stood some time at the door-
way of the inn, and suddenly his face
assumed a determined expression. He
returned to the vestibule, took his hat,
and started off furtively across the yard.
Then he quickened his pace and almost
ran back to the cathedral house.



II.




RRIVING there, the dea-
con found a family council
caused by the event related
in the last chapter.

Mura, when she left the
dining-room, had retired to
her own room and nervously
awaited the result. When
her mother came in and told her that
Cyril and his father had gone and that
the affair was at an end, she burst into-
tears and declared that she would
never marry any one but Cyril.

" What folly," said her mother. "You
shall not not go and bury yourself in
the country."

" I don't care, I love him, and will
live where he does. . . .It's no use
your saying anything. I shall simply run
away with him 3 and then there will be a
scandal."

Maria Gavrilovna, although usually
of a retiring and mild disposition, on
certain occasions showed the determi-
nation of character, which she probably
inherited from her mother. On such
occasions Father Gavriil used to shut
himself up in his study, leaving it to
the ladies to settle between themselves.
And ordinary everyday matters were
arranged without his interference. But
this incident was of such an exceptional-
nature, and as Anna Nikolaevna did



A RUSSIAN PRIEST



not feel equal to the occasion, she asked
her husband to bring his influence to
bear on Mura.

" Dp you know what country life
means, and how they live there ? " said
Father Gavriil. "Without a single living
intelligent soul — nothing but moujiks.
Deadly enjiui and weariness. The
moujiks, in whose company you will
have to live, are uncivilized, ignorant,
and dirty. During the winter you will
be blocked up by snowstorms and bliz-
zards, and in the summer you will be
scorched."

" I don't care — I love him ! " obsti-
nately answered Mura.

Father Gavriil, as though convinced
of the uselessness of his efforts, was
silent for a time, trying to find a more
powerful argument.

" And there's another thing you for-
get," said Anna Nikolaevna, in her
turn. " You love him, that's right
enough ; but does he love you ? I don't
think so. Judge for yourself. When a
man really loves his fiancee he does all
in his power to make things pleasant
for her. That's my opinion."

" Quite so," rejoined Father Gavriil,
remembering that in his time he had
fulfilled his duty in this respect.

" Yes, and see how he acts. He gets
some foolish idea into his head, and in
order to carry it out, he is ready to bury
you alive. No, he cannot love you."

"Ah no, matoushka, 1 he does love
her — he really does ! " exclaimed a fourth
voice, with determ ination, and looking
towards the door, they saw the deacon
who had entered, like a ghost, unob-
1 Name £iven to wives of the clergy.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 1 9

served. On this occasion, he was not
as usual, timid and retiring, but in his
voice there was a tone of determination.
He placed his right hand on his heart,
and in a firm tone said —

" Father Gavriil, matoushka, for the
Lord's sake listen to me ! My son said
to me, ' Why go to the bishop now,
when they have refused me? It's all over
with me now, for I cannot marry any one
else, for I don't know and don't wish to
know any other woman on earth except
Mura.'" f

The deacon wept.

Mura, hearing such a pathetic senti-
ment from his lips, began to sob again,
and Father Gavriil and his wife cast
down their heads and were silent.

" How does he explain this extra-
ordinary course of action ?" asked Anna
Nikolaevna, after a short silence, with-
out looking at him.

" He wishes to act in accordance
with the gospel."

Anna Nikolaevna assumed a very
dissatisfied air. " I am not aware that
the gospel teaches that it is absolutely
necessary to live in the country."

Father Gavriil, without answering this
remark, said —

" This is my opinion : Maria is of
an age to act for herself. If she loves
him so much that she can decide to
marry him we will agree, and to teach
her husband sense afterwards will be
her affair ! I suppose that in time he
will become sensible, and he can always
exchange for a town living. But she
must decide for herself."

The deacon went up to him, kissed his

1 A candidate for deacon's orders must be
married.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST.



hand and forehead, and turned round to
his wife and said —

" Matoushka. will you allow me ? "

"Very well. But I am not responsible
for this," said she, holding out her hand,
which he kissed with great impetuosity.
Mura threw herself into her mother's
arms and there was a pathetic scene of
mutual embracings.

The deacon went back to the inn as
fast as his legs could carry him, in order
to bring Cyril to the Fortiftcantofs. But
before he was formally recognized as a
Mura's fiance, he underwent an exami-
nation at the hands of Father Gdvriil and
his wife. He even promised that if
experience should show him anything
better he would listen to reason. After
this he was allowed to see Mura.

" Mura," said he, " I ought to ex-
plain . . ."

" Don't explain, Cyril, I don't want
to know anything. ... I love you, and
that's enough . . ."

And she squeezed his hand so con-
fidingly that he did not attempt to make
any further explanations. In the evening
they walked together ; Cyril told her
about the magnificent palaces, bridges,
museums, aind theatres of the capital.

"It must be very nice there," remarked
Mura, timidly, fearing this might be a
reproach.

•• Yes, but there is no life there —
people don't live there, but pass time.
Life is consumed by the flame of excite-
ment and amusement ; I would not live
there even a year if I had my choice."

"And I could live there for an age,"
thought Mura to herself.

The next day Cyril got up early, as



A RUSSIAN PRIEST.



the bishop received at eight o : clock in
the morning. He dressed himself in
the clumsy suit of clothes provided by
the authorities for the students of the
academy, drank tea, and left the proto-
pope's house before any of its inmates
had got up. The deacon, however, was
already up, and went with his son to the
gates of the bishop's house, and said to
him —

" The bishop will treat you with
respect, as you have shown yourself a.
learned and distinguished man. But
be careful to treat him with great re-
spect . . . and if you can manage to put
in a word foryour brother Nazar, do so."

Cyril found at the entrance a crowd,
of people, chiefly country clergy in worn-
out cassocks and caftans. 1 Some of them
had a complacent air : as, for instance,
two fat popes who had come to get
permission for an exchange of livings ;
others, with fear and trembling, were
awaiting banishment to a monastery for
some irregularity. There were also
women, evidently the widows of clergy,
who had come to petition for pensions
or for permission to live on in the parish
as caretakers of the church, where their
husbands had served, maybe thirty or
forty years. Cyril, in his capacity of
" magistrant " of the academy, was im-
mediately admitted into the presence of
the bishop and the rest had to wait. The
bishop received him in a friendly way,
as the thanks which the seminary had
received for Cyril, had reflected more
or less credit on the bishop himself.

" I know — I know all about it. The
father rector of the academy wrote tc

1 Along coat worn by the Russian peasant.



22 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

me. They were counting on you, and
you refused them on account of illness.
H'm ! . . . There doesn't seem much
the matter with you."

The bishop was a very old man, but
was very vigorous for his age and fond
-of talking ; his perfectly grey beard was
.always wagging. He was short and
somewhat stout ; his face was simple
.and good-natured, but he liked to appear
stern, and to have it understood that
he kept the diocese in good order.
Although he had the reputation of being
•strict, very strict even, still there were
not ten men to be found in the diocese
whom he had punished. He would
talk and threaten and then send the
culprit home in peace. Cyril seated
himself in accordance with the bishop's
invitation and said —

" I am perfectly well, your Reverence.
My illness was only a formal excuse for
refusing the appointment offered to me."

" I don't quite understand ; explain,
if you please, my son."

" Well, your Reverence, this is the
cause of my visit to you. I wish to
explain my intentions to you. I wish to
find a place as a country priest."

" What do you mean ? You have
■finished at the academy, and received
the gold medal, and wish to be a country
priest ? "

It was hardly surprising that the
bishop was astonished. This was the
first time in his life, that he had ever
had such a petition made to him. As a
rule, the academicians were only satis-
fied with the very best places, and
wished to go straight to the cathedral,
•or, in any case, to one of the very best



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 23

town churches, and then in the capacity
of chief clergyman.

" I don't understand you ; please ex-
plain, " added the bishop, looking at
him with great curiosity.

" I wish to serve the lesser brethren
— those that live in darkness," thought-
fully answered Cyril.

K Oh, that's it ! " said the bishop ;
"only I don't understand why you have
thus decided."

" I don't care about town life ; a large
income has no attractions for me," con-
tinued Cyril. " My heart is in the vil-
lage, where I was bred and born."

" This is very sensible ! May God
bless you ! " added the bishop, in de-
light. " You will be an example to the
others."

He got up, went to Cyril, and kissed
him on the forehead.

" But what living shall I give you ?
I have only one or two very poor ones
to give now, all the best are occupied.
And you deserve the very best."

" No, no," added Cyril, hastily. " I
don't want a good one. Give me a liv-
ing that will support me with a family."

" God bless you ! " said the bishop
again, affected by the young man's dis-
interestedness.

He wished to do something pleasant
for him, to distinguish him in some way.

"You have a brother — the deacon
Nazar — tell him to call on me. I will
make him a priest, and give him a good
place."

Cyril bowed, and the bishop con-
tinued —

" Go ; and God be with you. Choose
a wife, and prepare yourself for the



24 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

priesthood. I will appoint you to a
living."

He blessed the young man, embraced
him, and said —

" It is a pity all the same that our
town will lose you. You would have
been a good preacher. I remember
when you were at the seminary here
you distinguished yourself in preach-
ing. Well, tell your brother to come.''

Cyril left in a happy frame of mind.
In the first place, he rejoiced that the
bishop understood him. It was pleasant
also, that his father and Nazar would
both be gratified with the bishop's kind-
ness.

The people who were waiting in the
bishop's ante-room looked at him with
respect and envy. All knew that he
was a magistrant and the gold medalist,
and thought, "Lucky fellow ; he will get
the best place in the diocese — and he is
quite a boy, too."

In the episcopal courtyard Cyril met
the rector and his nephew, Evgenii
Mejof, the latter very smartly dressed.
His black frock coat had evidently been
made to order ; it fitted well, and was
made of good cloth. His hat was new,
and he had black gloves. He carried
himself very importantly, and was, in
fact, quite a swell. The father rector
was dressed in a black cassock with the
regalia on his breast. At the gate stood
the seminary carriage. It was evident
that the rector was taking his nephew
to present him to the bishop.

" Been to pay your respects ? '' asked
Mejof, hurrying after his uncle.

" Yes," answered Cyril, shortly.

"And I have come with my uncle to



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 25

try and get the place of the inspector
whom they have removed.

" He doesn't lose time," thought
Cyril to himself, especially as Mejof
had finished the academy course with-
out any distinction, and it was not even
sure whether he would be able to count
on the degree of " magistrant."

"Yes ; my uncle is using his influence.
The salary is a very good one."

" I suppose so," said Cyril, absently.

" Quarters and even firing included.
Not bad."

«« No."

At this moment the father rector
came up.

" Well, Obnovlienski, what are your
plans for the future ? "

Cyril did not feel inclined to tell hinv
He had never taken a fancy to the
father rector, and detected in his
character an uncandid, and even false
note.

" Oh, I really don't know yet. I
shall go and talk it over with my
family."

"Ah, that's right. . . . Come along,
Evgenii."

Cyril bowed and parted company
with them.

" How easily a man succeeds who is
only keen about his own interests,"
thought he, remembering the very
limited capacities of young Mejof.





pGNATII OBNOVLIEN-
TClCm SKI started off with his
son Cyril in their springless
conveyance, the wheels of
which gave out a peculiar
squeaking sound, which
could be heard for a
couple of versts around.
They had already been on the road
five hours, and the travellers were
grey with dust. The deacon was
half asleep, and was every now and
then aroused by an unusual jolt. Cyril
was looking around him and reflections
were crowding into his mind. On both
sides of the wide and tortuous high road,
extended fields of ripe barley. Near
by, was a farmhouse surrounded by an
■extensive kitchen-garden. All around
was silent. Every living being had
sought refuge from the scorching rays
of the sun.

Cyril thought to himself how all this
scene was just as he had left it three
years before — just as though he had only
left his native home yesterday. All was
grey, monotonous — no change, no move-
ment either backward or forward.

" We are almost there now," said
Cyril, glancing on the left-hand side
whither the road turned.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 27

The village came in view suddenly,
with its white church, with the neglected
and moss-grown garden of the squire,
the pothouse, a stone building with
a tile roof at the entrance to the
village. On one side stood the
squire's house in a half-ruined condi-
tion, although there were people who
could remember the time when the
inmates lived in every possible comfort.

The impression produced by the vil-
lage of Ustimievka was one of poverty,
monotony, and utter ennui, and the
traveller felt an instinctive desire to pass
by it without stopping.

" Here we are at last," said the
deacon, shaking himself, and urging on
his beasts with the ends of the reins.

These animals, seeing how near they
were to home were going faster of their
own accord. They passed the public-
house and reached the church. The
deacon took off his hat and crossed him-
self.

" We have arrived, thank God ! " said
he, expressively. " There is our house.
You will find everything as you left it."

Passing down the village street, the
moujiks seeing, or rather hearing, Father
Ignatii's conveyance, took off their hats,
and looked to see who the stranger was
sitting with the deacon, and recognizing
Cyril, nodded to him. One old woman
could not restrain herself, and pointing
at Cyril, cried out, "Why, here's our
Kiroushka arrived." Cyril took off his
hat and bowed to her. He was glafd
that they called him by the same name
that they called him fifteen years ago.
At length they arrived at the deacon's
house. This was nothing more than a



28 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

common moujik's hut built of clay, the
only difference being, that it was a little
larger than the rest and better kept.
They entered the half-closed gates lead-
ing to the plot of ground in front of the
house. The green shutters were closed.

The door into the hut opened with a
noise, and Cyril's relations appeared.
He kissed a thin, wrinkled, and regular-
featured woman, with a face almost as
pale as his own. Her expression was
stern and even repelling. This was his
mother. His sister Motia, a girl of
fifteen years old, looked at him with an
air of curiosity, but seemed somewhat
shy and confused. His young brother
Mefddii, still a pupil at the seminary,
tried to look grave and self-contained.
It seemed to Cyril as though he was
scarcely friendly with him. His old
aunt, Anna Evgraphdna, from some un-
known cause, wept. His relations all
seemed to greet him in a more or less
formal manner. Mefddii occupied him-
self in unharnessing the horses, and re-
marked that one of them had a sore
back.

" Let's come into the dining-room,"
said the deacon's wife ; " we shall get a
sunstroke if we stand here. Will you
be ready soon, father?"

" No, no, don't wait for me. I will
come soon."

The deacon had a secret hope that
the cross-examination would take place
in his absence, and that he would not
have to witness the first effects of the
disappointment. Cyril followed his
mother into the room. Motia and her
aunt followed them, and quickly dis-
appeared into another room. In the



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 29

corner hung a gilt " eikon " representing
the Virgin, before which a hanging lamp
was burning. A long sofa with a grey
canvas covering, was the chief adorn-
ment of this reception-room, used chiefly


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 2 of 13)