I. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) Potapenko.

A Russian priest online

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only when there was company. In the
middle of the room stood a round table
with a white knitted cover. On it stood
a vase with artificial flowers. In a line
with the wall were several varnished
chairs with high backs, a cupboard with
glass doors, containing crockery, and a-
looking-glass. The deacon's wife de-
corously stood in front of the " eikon "
and crossed herself, then she kissed the
cross which was lying on the table, and
gave it to Cyril and his aunt.

" Now then, Cyril, sit down and tell
us all about your plans," said she, her-
self sitting on one of the chairs.

He felt very agitated. His mother
had asked him the one question which
he least cared to answer. He was

" How handsome he is — quite a pic-
ture ! " said at length the aunt ; and this
evidently calmed her, she stopped cry-
ing. Motia stood at the doorway and
looked at her brother with a coquettish
half smile. Mefodii came into the room,
sat down abruptly, and lit a cigarette.

" Well, you have finished with the
academy ? " asked the deacon's wife.

*' Yes,' ; answered Cyril.

" Well, and what next ? You will be a
professor, I suppose ? "

" No, mother, I think not."

" Well, what ? a protopope ?"

" No, I shall not be a protopope."

" You don't mean to say you are going
to be a monk ? But it would be very


nice to be a bishop. The only thing is,
it is so long to wait."

" I don't advise you to go to the
monastery, to shut yourself up from the
world," dolefully said the aunt.

" I haven'ttheleast idea of going to the
monastery. I don't want to be a bishop."

" Well, what then ? "

" I wish to live in the village, and be
a country priest."

" What are you talking about ? Every
seminarist becomes a country priest !
What was the good of your going to the
academy ? "

" In order to learn, mother."

" And what's the good of your learning
if you bury yourself in the country ?
Why Father Porphirii's son finished the
academy course last year, and they
gave him the first place in the church of
the district town."

" Yes, I know. But to tell the truth
I hardly know my own plans myself.
Well, and how are you all ? "

Cyril said this, intending to smooth
down the effects of his explanation.
But it did not produce this result.
They answered his questions in a per-
functory sort of way. His brother, the
seminarist, looked at him suspiciously,
and looked as if he would like to ask
him some quibbling question, but could
not make up his mind to do so. Motia,
with an expression of deep disappoint-
ment, went into the next room and sat
down at the window. For some time
they had all of them, including the
deacon himself, reckoned on Cyril's
being made a professor in the seminary,
and perhaps in the couise of time rector.
JN'o one could understand this sudden


-change, and they all attributed it to some
•external circumstances. Cyril began to
eat, and having drunk a wineglassful
of vodka, remarked —

" This fish is very good."

" Yes, it's from the town. It can't be
got here," answered the deacon's wife ;
and they were all silent again.

Cyril continued to eat in silence. The
joyful frame of mind in which he had
entered his native village had soon given
way to feelings of a different nature. He
did not expsct such a cold welcome. He
knew quite well that this was in conse-
quence of what he had told them. If
he had only told them that he was going
to be a professor or protopope they
would have all been perfectly happy.
He knew that his mother only restrained
herself because this was the first inter-
view, but that to-morrow there would
be an unpleasant scene, reproaches
and tears. Cyril knew it would be
utterly vain to try and explain his ideas
to her. She was a woman of no culture,
barely possessed the rudiments of edu-
cation, and she was unable to under-
stand such abstract ideas as devoting
one's services to one's neighbour from
evangelical motives.

The deacon's wife went out of the
room. Cyril continued to eat, and his
brother lit another cigarette. At length
he said, in a confused tone, looking at
the door —

" Tell me, please, Cyril, you have not
passed the examination ? "

Cyril smiled, and said —

" Oh, yes, I finished right enough,
and if you don't believe me, look here."
And he pulled out of his waistcoat


pocket a thick document and handed it
to his brother, who unfolded it, perused
it, and threw it down on the table.

" I do not understand it ! There
must be some other reason. He's come
out as ,'magistrant ' and with the gold
medal. Look here, mother, and Motia !
Why, even our inspector at the semi-
nary never got his degree. No, it beats

" I'll explain it to you afterwards," said
Cyril, attacking some rice pudding,
which he was very fond of. His mother
and Motia meanwhile looked at the

" We must frame it," said Motia.

She remembered that their incumbent,
Father Agaphon, had all his diplomas
of priesthood and the right to wear cer-
tain vestments, &c, framed and hung in
a row on the wall.

"And, notwithstanding this, nothing
more ! " said the deacon's wife, with a

The aunt now appeared and looked at
the diploma with surprise.

"Well ! Fortified yourself?" said the
deacon, coming in. He cast an inquir-
ing glance at the faces of all present
and saw that it was already out. But
he remembered that he had some plea-
sant news to impart, and said, turning to
his wife, " You know, Arisha, that Cyril
called on the bishop, who received him
very well, and said, ' You have a brother,
Nazar, who wants to be made a priest ;

tell him ' What do you think he

said?" The deacon seeing that all were
listening with great interest, stopped, so
as to tease them. " Supposing I don't
tell you what he said."


" Well, tell us— what did he say ? "

"Aha! Curiosity! I don't think I
shall tell you."

" Well, why on earth did you begin ! "
However, all knew that it would soon
come out.

" He said, 'Tell him to come to me
and I will make him a priest. 3 "

" Really ? "

The dry and stern face of the deacon's
wife lit up. It had long been the object
of her ambition that Nazar should
become a priest. In comparison with
this, even Cyril's academical career had
occupied a second place : Cyril she
regarded as a big bird who would get
some important appointment, perhaps a
thousand versts away, and they wouldonly
know him by name for the future. Nazar,
however, was a man living very near,
and with a heap of children, and always
was under her eye. The idea that her
second son, a " magistrant," was going to
be a country clergyman, very much vexed
her, but, on the other hand, it was very
good news that her eldest son would be
made a priest, although, probably, only
a country one. Mefodii joyfully rubbed
his hands ; Motia jumped about the
room ; and the aunt wept for joy.

"Is this really true?" said the
deacon's wife.

" Well, I should hardly invent such a
story ; but if you don't believe it, ask

' They were all rejoiced at this news,
and made various enraptured remarks
to one another about Nazar and his
wife Lunia : how glad they would be,
and how they would now be able to send
their eldest daughter to the diocesan


school, which to this time their limited
means had prevented them from doing.

" I tell you what, my dear ! It's time
for me to retire," said the deacon, with
emotion. " It's really time — see how old
I am getting."

" What do you mean ?" said his wife.

" I shall put myself on the retired list,
and we will go and live with my son.
Mefodii will have soon finished his time
at the seminary."

His wife assumed a stern expression,
looked straight at him, and said —

" That will never do."

"Why? Nazar is a kind-hearted

'• Every one is kind as long as you
don't ask them to put their hands in
their pockets ; but if you do, they are
like wolves."

Cyril looked at his mother's pale face
and thought what a hard life she must
have led to be so deeply embittered.
Somehow he had never remarked this

"Ah, my dear," said the deacon,
good-naturedly, "why do you take
such a bad view of people, and not
believe in any one, even in your own
flesh and blood?"

" I don't believe in them," said the
deacon's wife, in a decided tone.

" I believe in every one of God's
creatures ; it's only Christian."

"And that's why every one gets round
/ou ."

" Well, let them ; I still hold my

The conversation soon turned on the
bishop's kindness again. In the evening
they formed a plan for telling Nazar


about it. Nazar was deacon in a neigh-
bouring village, about thirty versts off.

The following day, they harnessed
the horses, and Cyril and Mefodii set
out together, along the broad road ex-
tending over the steppe. The rays of
the sun had scarcely dissipated the cold
night air. Cyril felt an unusual flow of
good spirits. He told his brother what
an excellent effect the country air had
on him, and how he would not exchange
life there, for life in any capital.

" I can't see anything pleasant in
country life : neither people nor amuse-
ment — nothing but ennui !" exclaimed
Mefodii. " I don't understand you a bit."

" Well, if any one had said the same
thing to me when I was your age I
should not have understood them,"
answered Cyril ; " I still hankered after
town life, like you : it seemed to me then,
as if life was only to be found there —
and here, in the country, nothing but a.
vegetating existence. But now I have
changed my opinion. Life is really only
here. People here live for existence ;
but in the town, life is purely conditional.
Everything there is done in accordance
with convention, and man there, is the
slave of convention. People there live
for themselves, but here you can share
what you have with your neighbour.
For instance, town life is expensive. In
order to live properly there, all one's
attention must be turned to earning the
necessary means. Neither time nor
strength remains to be devoted to one's
neighbours. And life here costs practi-
cally nothing ; you have as much time
for work as you like. Here, and here
only, is one master of one's time, of one's


strength, of one's capabilities. Here
only, can one devote one's whole at-
tention to the service of one's fellows."

" Is this what tbey taught you at the
academy?" asked Mefodii, very much
astonished at these sentiments.


" Why, all that you've just been

" No, they don't teach these things
— each one learns them by himself."

They arrived at midday ; Nazar was
very glad to see them, and embraced
Cyril with feeling. He was sorry, how-
ever, to remark how thin he had grown.

" And you are fatter than ever," said
Cyril ; " it's really time for you to stop."

Nazar despairingly waved his arms.
This was his great misfortune. He was
incredibly fat, and even now and then
got seriously alarmed about it. Nothing
seemed to be of any use ; he had tried
violent exercise, and given up sleeping
after dinner ; he used to bathe, and he
took every one's advice. Some one had
told him that strong tea dries up the
system. He began drinking black con-
coctions of tea day and night. He tried
drinking vinegar, moderate diet, but it
was all in vain. He had a fearful
appetite, and ate enough for five ordi-
nary people, and was not unsusceptible
to the charms of vodka. He was over
forty years of age ; he had seven child-
ren, and his wife, Luke'ria Grigorie'vna,
usually called in the family Lunia, gave
every hope that in the course of time
their number would be doubled. This
small, thin, and lively little lady pre-
sented a great contrast to Nazar. In
all domestic affairs, his wife was the


absolute head. Nazar, however, fulfilled
his duties of deacon, fox the simple
reason, that in this department, his
wife could not take over the manage-
ment of affairs. But in all other matters,
owing to his corpulence, he did not
interfere, and Lunia managed the house-
hold and education of the children
excellently, and even baked theflatn Mnt
herself. She never complained about
want of strength or having too much
work to do. She was thoroughly practi-
cal. Nazar worshipped his wife, and was
simply in love with her, and thought
her beautiful, notwithstanding that there
were already wrinkles on her dark face,
and her hair was prematurely turning

Mefodii ran into the cattle-yard, where
Lunia was busy looking after a calf, and
told her the joyful news. She excitedly
ran out to tell her husband, intending,
however, to have some sport with him.

" Well, Nazar. do you know that Cyril
has seen the bishop, and the bishop told
him that he wanted to speak to his
brother Nazar, and that he would have
to put him on the retired list ?"

"Lord have mercy on us !" exclaimed
Nazar, in a fright, crossing himself.
"What does this mean?"

" He said that you were so fat you
could not serve any longer."

But seeing the look of despair which
her joke caused the credulous Nazar,
Lunia burst out laughing, and told him
the whole truth, which Cyril confirmed.
Nazar was, of course, in indescribable
ecstasy, and would have jumped with
joy, if only his weight had allowed him
to do such a thing.


He at once began to think about the
better circumstances in which they would
assuredly rind themselves after his eleva-
tion to the priesthood, about spacious
lodgings, about his daughter's education,
and, above all things, about getting leave
of absence, so as to go to Kief or Khar-
koft and be treated by a doctor there to
cure his corpulency.

All these visions would now be
realized, thanks to that one word from
thebishop. The brothers dined together,
and after dinner the young people re-
turned to Ustimievka. Motia ran out
to meet them, and got into the convey-
ance near the church, and told them
that an unpleasant scene had occurred
at home during their absence : her
mother had not slept all night ; two
feelings had disturbed her — one of joy
for Nazar's promotion, the other grief
on account of Cyril's incomprehensible,
voluntary abnegation of his brilliant
prospects. In the morning her nerves
were quite deranged. The deacon,
remarking this, said that he would have
to spend the morning on business with
the incumbent. But she would not let
him go. At first there were sighs and
reproaches of a general nature. " With
other people things went all right,"
said the deacon's wife. " Their children
grew up and attained their various
objects. So-and-so*s son passed through
the seminary and at once got a good
place in the town. There was the
diocesan subdeacon's son, who had only
come out in the third class, had at once
been appointed to the cemetery church in
the town ; " and other instances. " But
with them, somehow, things were quite


different. Their son had astonished
every one by his success, come out first
in the academy, and was now going to
bury himself as a country priest. Every
one would point at them with scorn, and
say that all the academy and fine learn-
ing was of no use. And Cyril's father,
instead of showing him his folly and
putting him in the right path, had
actually encouraged him. Evidently
God was punishing them for their sins,"
&c. Then her tears began to come. The
aunt, of course, also wept in a quiet sort
of way, and had hidden herself in the
lumber room, and finally the deacon's
wife had taken to her bed.

" See what my children have brought
me to ! *' and then more tears.

Cyril sat on the bed and took her
hand in his, and said, in his kind voice —

" You are not well, mother. If you
would only listen to me quietly I would
explain this to you."

" How can you explain ? " she cried,

'" I will tell you about my determina-
tions, mother. You are vexed with me
for having refused a good place, and
because I had decided to be a country
priest. Judge for yourself, mother. We
have always been poor together. You
have worked hard ail your life, and hard
work has worn you out. Poverty and
labour, mother, these are our inherit-
ance, and these have made us dear to
one another. I wish to be of service to
those near and dear to me. I don't care
to serve the rich, but the poor. I wish
to live thus, as you have lived. I feel
the greatest respect to you for your
hard-working life, and wish to live in a


similar way. I have learned this from
you. You planted the seed of this idea
in my breast, and I have cultivated it."

It is hard to say how these words
affected the deacon's wife. These argu-
ments scarcely had any effect on her
discontented mind. But the kind voice
of her son, his loving glance, had a
soothing effect on her. The hard ex-
pression of discontent and bad humour
left her face, and she quietly drew Cyril
to her and kissed him.

"Ah! Cyril," said she, in a quiet
voice, "how I had counted on you — how
I had hoped ! I had hoped for the
elevation of our family in the world."

" Oh, that will be ! Only wait. Let
me first satisfy the longings of my

Cyril remained with her for half an
hour. The deacon, hearing this con-
versation from the next room, wondered
at his son's art in so quickly calming
the storm — an art which, after many
years of fruitless effort, he had never
achieved, notwithstanding his extreme
submission to his wife. Cyril's mother
soon got up again and went about the
ordinary affairs of life. And the subject
was not broached again.

Nazar, on his way to the town, stopped
with his relations, and received the
solemn benediction of his parents. His
mother gave him a lecture as if he was
a child, to which the good-natured Nazar
listened with all humility and serious-
ness. In fact, he was nothing more
than a child, and, starting on such a
•serious business without Lunia, felt the
ground under his feet somewhat in-
secure. The affair stood thus — that if


the bishop had not changed his mind,
he would have to live alone in the town
at some inn for not less than a week, and
this appeared to him quite an exploit.

In the deacon's house the days follow-
ing Nazar's departure, all were in a state
of anxiety as to his fate. Cyril alone
was perfectly calm, because he knew
the bishop had promised this seriously,
and would keep his word. The deacon
could not believe in such good fortune
until it was an accomplished fact. His
wife took a pessimist view, and was
persuaded the thing would hang fire
somehow ; but after two days they began
to think, that if it had turned out badly,
Nazar would have already returned, and
as he was still in the town it must mean
that he was preparing for the priest-

" But maybe that he is doing
penance," said the deacon's wife, al-
though she was more inclined now to
take the general and favourable view of
the case.

Sunday arrived. The deacon arrayed
himself in his best cassock, oiled and
smoothed his hair, and wore a happy
and contented expression.

"It's a certainty now that the bishop
will lay his hands on him to-day," said
he, with a triumphant smile, and during
mass, he read the liturgy with especial
emphasis and pronounced the words in
an intoning voice. Every hour his
agitation increased. After church, he
could not eat anything at dinner. As
one wha had always been, and would
always be, a deacon, he looked upon the
priesthood, as an almost unattainable
dignity, and suddenly Nazar, who seemed


just such another as himself, one destined
to lifelong service as a deacon, had to-
day taken this important step up the
ladder of life. His wife, too, was much
agitated, but she tried to hide her feel-
ings, and kept asserting, that she still
did not believe in Nazar's preferment.

At length, in the evening, Nazar him-
self arrived. He entered the room with
an expression of radiant solemnity, and
stopping at the doorway attentively and
reverently made the sign of the cross,
and bowed towards the sacred image,
and then turning to the family, who were
sitting drinking tea, he silently blessed
them. All understood that his conse-
cration to the priesthood had taken
place, got up from their seats and also
silently crossed themselves. Although
their joy was great, they were silent at
first. Each in turn received the bene-
diction of the new priest. Then they
began to ask Nazar all about it. He
told his whole story to the minutest
details, and when he came to his first
interview with the bishop, turning to
Cyril, he said —

" He spoke of you in the most grati-
fying terms : he said you were an ex-
ample for the whole diocese, and that it
was really on account of your Christian
humility that he consented to make me
a priest ; he also told me to say that he
had got a place for you, and that you
are to marry quickly, and come to him."

The whole family except the deacon
looked with intense perplexity at Cyril.

Nazar passed the night at Usti-
mie'vka, and Cyril went to the town on
the following day.


/gb^ HE two weeks which Cyril
passed in the town were un-
bearable to him. He asked
Father Gavriil and Mura's
mother, that the wedding
should be as quiet as pos-
sible ; but this, they would
not hear of.
" We have already given in to you
too much. But about this matter, we
are going to have our own way ! " said
Mura's mother ; and, at the recollection
of these concessions, she heaved a deep
sigh. Mura also expressed a wish that
on the evening of the wedding, there
should be a reception in her father's
house. She openly admitted to Cyril,
that this had long been her dream ; and
Father Gavriil said that his position in
the town made this a matter of neces-
sity, so that further objections were
perfectly useless.

And so, on the appointed evening, the
second floor of the cathedral house was
brilliantly illuminated, and in the cathe-
dral the large chandelier was lit, the
episcopal choir sang, and the arch-
deacon of the cathedral himself read
the Epistle. The whole of the clerical
society of the town was present, all the
marriageable ladies, also on the lookout
for eligible husbands — academicians if


possible — with their fat mammas, semi-
nary professors, some of the pupils in
the upper classes, all helped to make
a substantial congregation in church
during the ceremony, and afterwards
adjourned to the cathedral house and
made merry there till morning. Mura
was happy and lively, and looked very
pretty in her snow-white attire with a
mass of flowers on her head. Cyril felt
uncomfortable in his dress-clothes, but
they suited him, in his character of
academician — a character which pre-
supposes a deal of learning and serious-

Mefodii and Motia were the only
ones of his relations present. The old
people were afraid of the brilliancy, and
said, ' ; We should be out of place there."
Lunia could not leave her children, and
Nazar excused himself on account of
his fatness ; and besides, at this time
he was making a move to the place
where he had been appointed incum-

Two days after the wedding, Cyril
called on the bishop. " Ah ! " said the
bishop, greeting him in a friendly way,
" I know all about it ; Father Gavriil
has told me. You have got a nice girl
for a wife. Well, I have got an appoint-
ment for you. It will not be far from
your parents : Lugovoe. Do you know

" Lugovoe?"

" Well, aren't you satisfied? "
" There are two other clergymen
there, your Reverence."

'• Well, and you will be their chief."
" I am afraid of this. How shall we
get on together ?"


" What nonsense ; and with your good-
nature, too ! No, don't make any objec-
tions to this ; I have decided it, and it
shall be. It's not a bad village — it's got
a bazaar, a school, and a post office.
It's not like being completely buried.
So prepare yourself. Friday is a fete
day, and I will ordain you deacon, and
on Sunday — a priest. Go, and God be
with you."

Cyril raised no more objections. But
still, the appointment did not at all
satisfy him. This village Lugovoe
extended over a very large space and
contained a large number of parish-
ioners. He was not afraid of that.
But he would not be alone. His
colleagues would be sure to oppose his
ideas. He did not even reckon on the
possibility of finding in them, sym-
pathizers or helpers. There would be f

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Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 3 of 13)