I. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) Potapenko.

A Russian priest online

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he thought, disagreements, quarrels,
and all sorts of unpleasantnesses. But
still, he could not make up his mind to
object to the bishop's decision, after all
he had done for him, and the kind
sympathy he had shown him in this
matter. He said to himself, " I must
take my chance. In any case I shall
stick to my own line. No one shall
induce me to leave the path I have
marked out for myself. And who knows t
— maybe all is for the best."

About this time he began to experience
a constant agitation. All that up to this
time had existed in his mind in theory,
would now take a practical form.
Practical life was rapidly approaching,,
and he would have to be prepared
for it. Sometimes when sitting beside
Mura, he would take her hand and say,


"All, Mura ! it's a difficult problem,
how to find sufficient strength for the

Mura had the very haziest notion of
the nature of these problems, but she
did not at all like his talking in that
strain. These doubts, however, rapidly
passed away, and he explained to him-
self that they were merely caused by a
deranged state of nerves, and that he
had no grounds for doubting his

" We are still so young, Mura !
When we get old we shall begin to
doubt our strength."

Mura agreed to this also, as she did
to almost everything he said. She
loved him for his youth, his wisdom, his
sympathy, his earnestness, but con-
sidered his ideas altogether beyond her

On Friday, Cyril came home from
church in clerical garb. When Mura
saw him in this costume she almost
fainted, but recovering herself, began to

" What's the matter with you ?" asked
Cyril, trying in vain to console her.

Cyril seemed strange to her in this
dress. She was accustomed to see him
in ordinary clothes, like other young
men, and all of a sudden, these had
vanished under a broad, long cassock —
under that costume which drove away
all ideas of love and romance. Of
course she had known that this change
would come about, but when it actually
occurred, and he stood before her — a
clergyman, without the least chance of
his ever being like any ordinary young
man again, as she had loved him, her


heart involuntarily sank within her and
she could not resist crying.

" But look here, Mura ! I am just
the same as I was before ; I have not
changed because my clothes are
different !"

" How strange and ridiculous you
look ! " exclaimed Mura, almost smiling
in spite of her tears. He looked in the
glass, and could not help laughing at
himself. Certainly he did look strange.
His short hair, cut yesterday " for the
last time"; his clean-shaven chin and
lips — also "for the last time"; his
young face and thin figure : all this gave
him the air of a man who had "got
himself up " for a joke, the clerical
garments being almost invariably ac-
companied by long hair and beard, and
a corpulent figure. But this was no joke,
and Mura knew it. Hence her tears.

His mother-in-law congratulated him,
at the same time looking at his costume
in a somewhat sarcastic way. Her
tenderest feelings were offended. The
secret ambition of all priests' wives is
to get their daughters married in the
secular world. She had counted on
her son-in-law becoming an inspector
in the seminary, after his brilliant
achievements, or else perhaps a pro-
fessor in some academy ; and then,
when he reached middle age, that
he would be ordained and get some post
as protopope straight off. But now she
had given her consent she felt she must
make the best of a bad job, and hence
her dry congratulation on this occasion
without a word more.

Father Gavriil, who had assisted at
Cyril's ordination, took things more


calmly ; he knew that the bishop
approved of Cyril's action, and secretly
hoped that this would help his career
afterwards. He would soon get tired ol
the country, his foolish notions would
pass off, and then the bishop would give
him the best place in the town at

On Sunday Cyril was ordained priest.
Various thoughts and feelings passed
through his mind during those few
minutes when the ceremony was going
on. At length came the moment, when
he formally, and publicly took upon
himself that duty, the fulfilment of
which, constituted for him the whole
aims and interests of his life. At this
moment he felt a secret self-satisfaction.
He knew many people who talked a
great deal about the responsibilities of
life, but who were lacking in resolution
to carry their words into action. And
all his life he had talked about this duty,
and had as yet, got no further. He was
now leaving words behind him, and had
marked out for himself his object, and
to-day had taken the first step on the
road leading to it. He had no wish to
judge others harshly, but in this trium-
phant moment he could not remain
indifferent to these various feelings.

Maria Gavrilovna was in the church.
Her heart beat faster than usual when
the ceremony was being performed
over Cyril. It seemed to her in an
indirect sort of way that the ceremony
was being performed over her too, and
when Cyril appeared arrayed in priestly
vestments, she thought to herself,
4< Here I am, a 'matoushka popadyi ' ! "
But during these three days she had in


some degree reconciled herself to the
situation and to Cyril's costume.

After mass Cyril said to her, in a
somewhat solemn and significant tone —
" Now, Mura, our real life has begun.
Up to this time we have only been pre-
paring for it."

For the rest of the day he was in
an excellent frame of mind ; his eyes
sparkled with an inspired brilliancy,
as though the ceremony in church had
actually transformed him. Mura was
frightened at this change, which ap-
peared in a certain degree to further
estrange him from her. At times, he
seemed to her strange, with the stern
look of a priest, and the tone of a
preacher. Could this be the same
Cyril whom she so loved ? At such
moments she became melancholy : the
future seemed to her uncertain and
cold. These passing thoughts kept re-
appearing and disappearing again from
her mind.

The week of probation began. Cyril
performed the service every day in
the bishop's church. Coming home
afterwards, he was usually in a dis-
turbed frame of mind, and expressed
his impatience. " How I long to be off
to my post ! " he kept repeating several
times a day ; " and how long these pre-
parations seem to last ! "

" I cannot understand why you are in
such a hurry," said his mother-in-law ;
"you will soon be bored to death in the

" I long to plunge into my work, and
to give my whole mind and body and
soul to it!" said Cyril, without address-
ing any one in particular.



Mura's mother shut her eyes, shrugged
her shoulders, and went out of the room.
" I made a mistake when I consented to
his marrying Mura. I can't see any
good in him. He talks nonsense. . . .
There must be a screw loose in his
head," thought she ; but she did not tell
Mura her opinion.

As soon as the week of probation was
over, Cyril began to make preparations
for the departure. Mura was ready.
He had been urging her all the week
to be ready to start at once, and she
had packed up her trousseau in a big
trunk. On this day, Cyril's father
arrived from Ustimievka. He arranged
to hire a conveyance and take their
baggage to Lugovoe ; Cyril and Mura
were to follow the next day in the
post carriage, so that they would find
everything ready for them. Early on
Monday morning, the deacon having
earnestly prayed, started off, and Cyril
went to the bishop for the usual blessing.

He found the bishop arrayed in a dark
green silk cassock, preparing to go out.
Cyril was somewhat surprised at the
stern way in which he greeted him.
He did not smile or joke, and generally
behaved more like a "chief" than
before. Cyril attributed this to his
being now ordained, and subject to the
bishop's direct orders. He had re-
marked before, that the bishop behaved
more freely and simply to laymen ; on
this occasion he did not invite him to
take a seat, as he had done before, and
himself stood.

" Are you starting off to your work ? "
said the bishop, running his fingers
over his rosary.


" Yes, I intend to start to-morrow,"
replied Cyril.

" Which means that you have not
thought better of it, and changed your
mind ? "

" No, my intentions are unchanged.''

" Because, if you like, I will give you a
good place in the merchants' church."

" Thank you very much, but I prefer
the country."

The bishop knitted his brows, and
steadily looked him straight in the eyes.

" Are you quite sure of this ? " he
asked, meaningly.

Cyril was surprised at this, and at
the change in his tone.

" Quite sure, your Reverence."

" Remember this, however," said the
bishop, with the stern tone of a chief,
" that in your newly-acquired dignity
of priesthood there must be no ' ideas.'
You must be pastor of your flock and
nothing more."

" I will do my best, your Reverence,
to be a good one."

" I am sure of that ; but don't
imagine that all other pastors are not
good ones too : it will not do to enter
upon service with such proud notions."

All this seemed very strange to Cyril,
and each of the bishop's words aston-
ished him more and more. Whence
was all this ? Who had instilled these
suspicions into his mind?

" Look here, my son," added the
bishop, in a kinder tone, "you are a
riddle to me altogether. There are
only two solutions : either you are a
good and simple soul, or else you are
possessed by the demon of unrest."

" Unrest ! " exclaimed Cyril. " You


did not think so before, your Reve-

At this there was a shade of vexation
on the bishop's face. It seemed as
though he was somewhat ashamed of
this lecture he had given to a man
who was not guilty of anything. He
smiled, lifted his hand, and tapped
Cyril on the shoulder.

" No, I know that you are an inno-
cent soul," said he, in a friendly tone ;
" but, however, be careful, I know
that at the academy you have been in
the society of learned people. I respect
learned people, even worldly men of
science ; but worldly ideas are not
compatible with the priestly dignity.
Serve the lesser brother, ' one of these
little ones,' that's a good idea, but drive
out of your mind all preconceived
notions. And be careful that your
good intentions are not misunderstood,
for those that don't understand fre-
quently put a bad construction on good
actions. Be careful : this is my paternal
advice to you."

He blessed Cyril with much feeling,
and even embraced him, and dismissed

Cyril left him in a state of perplexity.
He had no doubt that some one had been
talking to the bishop about him. This
" some one," must be a person ac-
quainted with his life at the academy.
Who could it be?

He hired a conveyance and returned
to the cathedral house. Just as he was
starting from the bishop's, his eyes fell
on young Mejof, who ran up to him and
said — "They have confirmed my ap-
pointment, of course at first only as an


assistant, but they will soon appoint me

Cyril understood that he was talking
about the inspectorship. Mejof looked
at hirn and continued —

"And so you are ordained already ;
you haven't lost much time. I can't
make you out a bit."

" How can I help it if you don't under-
stand me ?" hastily answered Cyril.

"That is to say, I understand. . . .
The country . . . influence on the
peasants . . . etcetera. . . . Excuse
my saying so, but it is very stupid ! "

" Good-bye, I am in a hurry," an-
swered Cyril, turning his head, and
hastily disappearing through the gate.
He did not care about talking to this
young man. No matter what subject
of conversation was started, it always
seemed as though their opinions were
diametrically opposed to one another.
Their views were fundamentally and
hopelessly at discord. And besides this,
Mejof was a talkative person who
liked to air his opinions with wordy

" He has been gossiping to his uncle
the rector, who has handed on the infor-
mation to the bishop — that's the history
of it,"thought Cyril; and this explanation
seemed to him to account for everything.


BOUT two o'clock on Wed-
nesday afternoon the post
diligence, surrounded by a
thick cloud of dust, entered
the village of Lugovoe. At
the first glance it was diffi-
cult to understand why the
place had grown to its
present dimensions. Perhaps in times
past an important trade road had passed
through it, which had brought people
together at this point ; and that since
the improvement of communications,
the place had been left on one side.

The village of Lugovoe was about
two versts in length and about a verst
broad. The huts were stunted, and
thatched with old reeds blackened by
time. In the chief street stood the
church — a small and low building with a
single green cupola and without a
tower ; the bells were hung under a
wooden shed supported by a couple of
posts. Further down the street, on
either side were narrow alleys with huts
mostly constructed of mud with low
mud roofs overgrown with grass ; thus
it was plain that the present generation
lived in a state of extreme poverty.
At the entrance to the village on the


right-hand side was a garden, spacious
but much neglected, overgrown with
grass and shrubs, and containing a
quantity of high trees. In the midst of
the garden stood the manor-house, a
square, small, and evidently badly con-
structed building, with a warped,
blackened wooden roof.

The diligence drove up to the church
and stopped at a neat little stone house
with a green roof, situated in the church
enclosure. On the doorstep stood the
deacon of Ustimievka, who was satis-
fied and pleased with the quarters.

u But the people here are a regu-
lar lot of paupers ! I much doubt
whether the income will be a good one,"
added the deacon, when Mura had gone
into the house to take off her dusty
cloak. He told Cyril that he had
already been to see the other priest,
Father Rodion Manuscriptof, who had
been in the place fifteen years, and knew
all about the financial aspects of the
parish. At first he had received the
deacon coldly. "Who are you? Your
son, a beginner, is shoved in here as
chief, and I have been working away
here for fifteen years."

The deacon had explained that Cyril
had not asked for the appointment, and
that it was merely due to his having
come out of the academy so brilliantly.
" Oh ! he's a ' magistrant,' is he ? Of
course that puts him on altogether a
different footing."

In Father Rodion's eyes the word
" magistrant" had a sort of charm, and
gave its proprietor a perfect right to the
best place. He himself had obtained
the rank of priest by means of frequent


petitions, for he had net even finished
the seminary course. After receiving
this explanation, he had become more
communicative with Cyril's father and
told him that the incomes here were not
bad if only the thing was properly

" The people are a beggarly lot, cer-
fainly, but there are about ten well-to-do
families, and besides that, on Sundays
some well-to-do farmers come in, and
if you ask them in and give them some
tea and vodka, they will bring you a
regular store of provisions on the follow-
ing Sunday. We get our living chiefly
out ofthefarmers,"added Father Rodion,
"but as for Lugovoe itself 'great is
Fedora, but bad.' You can't get much
out of it. The people are paupers and
uncivilized. There are three "kabaks " l
here, and they are always full of custom-
ers, and the church gets emptier every
year. There is also the lady of the
manor, a strange sort of person ; she
never comes to church, and looks with
very little favour on the clergy. . . .
But take it all round one can live here."

The deacon confided all this to Cyril,
and added — "You will get on all right
with Father Rodion ; and mind you
call on the lady of the place — perhaps on
account of your position she will look
upon you more favourably. Anyhow,
she will help you."

After this he hurried off, having drunk
some tea, to return to Ustimievka,
saying, that his chief would be vexed
with him for his prolonged absence.

1 Public-house.


Cyril, wearied after his journey, re-
solved to undertake nothing that day.
He helped Mura to arrange the furni-
ture and to unpack the luggage. It
was a hot August day. They opened
the windows looking on to a little plot
of ground in front of the house where
nasturtiums, dahlias, and pansies grew,
planted probably by their predecessor.
From the window could be seen the
peasants' huts, and narrow threshing-
floors where the people were busy,
chains glistened in the air, and the
sound of them, striking against the
floors, was heard. The women raked
up the straw and swept the grain
into a heap. Mura watched all this
with childish curiosity. It was the
first time she had ever seen this opera-
tion. It did not occur to her that she
was mistress here, among unknown
people and in a strange place. It
seemed to her as though she was only
a visitor, and that all this was nothing
more than a travelling episode.

Evening came on. They were sitting
at the open window in the bedroom,
resting after their journey, when they
heard the front door creak and some
one come in. Maria Gavrilovna looked
up at the door.

" Good evening, matoushka ! " said a
woman, coming in and making a low
bow. She was short, stout, and had a
red face as though she had been
standing all day in front of a hot fire,
her features were coarse and solid.
Her bushy black brows met and formed
one long line. She had a thick, turn-up
nose with wide nostrils, coarse dark lips,
a prominent square chin, and a short


neck. She wore a handkerchief on her
head, which was fastened round her
neck, notwithstanding the hot weather.

" And what do you want ? " asked
Maria Gavrilovna, in perplexity. It
seemed strange to her, that any one
should walk into another person's house
in such an unceremonious manner. She
knew that beggars and other suspicious
persons do this.

"Welcome to Lugovoe," said the
woman, and again bowed row. Her
voice was like a man's. She added,
" Can I help you in any way?"

Mura looked at her suspiciously, and
did not answer. Cyril came in.

" Well, who are you ? " asked he.

The woman bowed to him.

" Good evening, batoushka. 1 I am a
woman of this place, and my name is
Feokla. I am a. widow. I have always
been in the service of the clergy here.
I served the deceased Father Parfentii,
and also Father Manuil, who was here
before you. I will serve you, too, if
this is agreeable to you."

"What do you think?" said Cyril,
turning round to Mura. " We had
better take her on ; we have got no one
to help us."

Mura called him into the bedroom,
and said, in an undertone, " Do you
think it's quite safe? — she may have
some designs."

Cyril laughed.

" What designs can she have? Look
at her. It is evident from her face
that she is an honest person."

1 The people in Russia address the clergy
*' batoushka " father.


"Very well, Feokla; serve us well
and we shall treat you well.''

So Feokla entered upon her new
service, and busied herself with the
kitchen utensils, washed the floor, and
by her zeal, won Mura's gratitude.
After this she went away to pass the
night in her hut, and Mura gave her
fifty copecks * which caused Feokla
indescribable delight. She seized both
Mura's hands and kissed them so
impetuously that she quite frightened
her. Feokla then thought that she
would go and impart the latest informa-
tion about the new arrivals to hei
friends. She therefore started off to
the sexton's house, as there she would
probably find the largest audience.

Soon after her departure, the door
again opened, and the creaking or
heavy boots was heard. This, it ap-
peared, was the sexton, who was
anxious to present himself to the new
clergyman, and said that his name
was Cyril.

" And you, sir, what is your name?"

" Cyril," answered he.

" Oh, that's easy for me to remember !
One does not forget one's own name,"
philosophically remarked the sexton,
adding — " You need have no doubts
about your safety ; I always sleep at
night near the church railings, and in
case I wake, I begin to ring the big
bell ; but if you wish it, I will not do
so, as it might disturb the young

Cyril told him to continue to do what
had always been done before. Night

1 About a shilling:.


crime on. Mura, worn out by her
journey, fatigue, and new impressions,
fell asleep as soon as she was in bed.
But Cyril could not sleep. To-day he
was as yet a private individual, bound
by no actual ties with the new life lying
before him ; and to-morrow his service
commenced. As yet, he was ignorant
what this life would bring him. He had
no experience to guide him on this
point. The examples of clerical life
that he had known, had been of a
different nature.

So far as he was acquainted with the
clergy, the life consisted in one long
struggle with the parishioners for in-
come. The parishioners' interest is to
give as little as possible, and the clergy,
scarcely secure from actual want, to
get as much as possible out of them.
To earn more, to live better, to provide
for the family : these are the inevitable

These thoughts disturbed Cyril. How
should he manage to conduct himself?
Would he succeed in winning the esteem
of his parishioners ? Would they think
him ridiculous ? Tradition is the pro-
duct of ages. People get accustomed
to the bad, just as they do to the good.
Tradition has been established by the
united efforts of many generations, who
have acted at different times, but all
unanimously, and in one direction. And
he alone was going to draw the sword
against this numberless host, against
the opinion of ages.

The pale rays of the moon shone into
the room through the open window ;
the distant barking of dogs was heard ;
the sexton woke up and rang the big


bell. Mura woke up for a minute and
asked Cyril why he did not go to bed.

M The night is too beautiful, I cannot
sleep," answered he ; and his thoughts
turned to Mura. There she sleeps, with
the carelessness of youth, full of life and
health. And she loved him sincerely,
and her heart was good. And how
could he say he was alone, with such
a creature with him ? Would she help
him ? Would she encourage him ?
He could not answer these questions
which presented themselves so clearly
to him for the first time. God only
knew what she expected, and what
would happen.

" Go to bed, Cyril ! " muttered Maria
Gavriiovna, half opening her eyes ; and
this seemed to Cyril like an answer to
his doubts. No, there was nothing to
fear from that quarter. She loved him.
All her joy was concentrated in him.
And she would go with him, hand in
hand, whatever happened.

At nine o'clock the following morning
the churchwarden informed him that the
deacon and the clerk were waiting for
him in the church.

•' Yes, and the churchwarden has
arrived. Only Father Rodion is not
there. Perhaps you wish to see them."

Cyril considered it his duty to call on
Father Rodion personally. So he
dressed himself in his cassock, and
ordered the churchwarden to conduct
him to the priest's house.

Father Rodion lived in a private
house which he had built himself, as he
explained, in order that after his death,
his wife and numerous daughters should
have somewhere to lay their heads.


" And in the church-house, you know,
a new man comes, and turns them out
into the street."

So he had magnanimously sur-
rendered his half of the church-house
to his colleague. His house stood near
the stream, separated from the peasants'
huts, and distinguished by its slate roof
and yellow blinds.

Father Rodion was in an embarrassed
state of mind. According to custom,
he ought first to call on his chief. But
considering Cyril's youth, and that he,
Father Rodion, had served the Lord
fifteen years in the capacity of priest,
and as many more in the lower ranks,
his pride would not allow him to do this.
But he knew that if the new priest sent
for him, he would have to go.

Cyril's arrival helped him out of the

" I have come to present myself to

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Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 4 of 13)