Copyright
I. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) Potapenko.

A Russian priest online

. (page 5 of 13)
Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 5 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


you, Father Rodion. I am called Cyril
Obnovliensky."

" I ought by rights to have called on
you, Father Cyril, as you are the chief."

" In the country it is not necessary
to talk about chiefs," said Cyril, in a
simple and sincere tone; "let us con-
sider ourselves simply as colleagues, and
nothing more."

" That's certainly as it ought to be."

"As it shall be! "added Cyril. "How
am I to act as chief, when I am sa yet
entirely without experience ? "

Father Rodion was reserved, and
spoke hesitatingly, weighing every word.
Who knows what sort of bird he is? He
talks very well, but when it comes to
actions, it is impossible to foresee what
he will do.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST.



As a precautionary measure, he had
put on his old threadbare cassock, al-
though he had a new and a good one.
Don't let him imagine that he is going
to make money here !

For a quarter of an hour they talked
about general subjects. Father Rodion
asked if it was true, that Cyril had
passed the examination at the academy,
at the head of the list? Cyril answered
it was so.

"And may I ask what induced you
to come to the country ? "

" Health," answered Cyril : " my
health is bad, and the town is bad for
it." " I shall not explain to him,
he won't understand," thought Cyril,
looking at Father Rodion's puffy face
and stupid expression.

''Aha! that's true— the country air
soon puts a man right !" said Father
Rodion, and thought to himself, "He
doesn't look very bad."

After a short conversation, Father
Rodion's scepticism in this companion-
ship, of which Cyril had spoken, was
softened. " He is a strange fellow, but
he seemsgood-natured, and doesn't carry
his head too high."

But he had one question, which he
considered would be a touchstone of
the new clergyman's qualities. When
Cyril got up, to go to the church, he
said to him —

"Look here, Father Cyril, I had
better explain to you at once about
money matters, so that there shall be
no misunderstanding."

" Well, what is it, Father Rodion ? *

" About business affairs. This is how
we have always arranged things : two



64 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

copecks go to the priests out of the
receipts, and the third to the deacon
and clerk."

" Well, if that is the custom, I shall
not change it."

" That's all right ! And about these
two copecks for the priests — how will
they be divided ? "

" Equally between us, of course."

" Oh, then, he really is a decent sort
of fellow ! " thought Father Rodion ;
"Father Manuil always used to take the
lion's share. He really is a good sort."

From this moment, Father Rodion's
expression lit up, and he became more
confiding.

"You must excuse me, Father Cyril,
for not introducing you now to my
family ; they are not ready to receive
any one at the present moment," said
he ; and after that they started off to
the church.

The Lugovoe parish church was an
old building. Its low arches were
blackened by the combined action of
incense smoke and damp, the paintings
of the various sacred images had. become
so worn out, that only the oldest parish-
ioners could distinguishthevariousfaces
represented on them. Everything in
the building required complete restora-
tion — the floor, which had not been
repaired for twenty years, the chande-
lier, with the candlesticks green with
verdigris, and even the building itself.
The church was very small, and could
not hold more than three hundred
people.

" And it's getting emptier," said
Father Rodion, with a distressed air.

On the right-hand side, near the door,



A RUSSIAN FF-I EST.



stood thechurchwarden, leaning against
a pillar, a short, thick-set peasant, with
a short greyish beard and with hair
carefully combed and greased with olive
oil. He was dressed in an ornamented
coloured waistcoat, a cotton shirt, baggy
trousers, and he had no coat on.

" Karpo Micha'ilovitch Kulik, our
churchwarden ! ; ' said Father Rodion,
introducing him to Cyril. " One of our
most honoured parishioners. He's a
man of property. He has three hundred
sheep, Sec."

Kulik bowed and put out the palm of
his hand to receive the blessing. Cyril
silently blessed him.

" Trr — yetie trr . . . " began Kulik,
but could not get to the end of his
phrase.

"Which means he has served as
churchwarden for three terms of three
years each," explained Father Rodion.
" He stammers." Kulik pulled away the
cloth covering from a box by which he
was standing, and displayed to Cyril a
systematically arranged pile of wax
candles of various sizes, from the very
thinnest, two copeck ones, to the half-
rouble ones used at weddings. Kulik
evidently had not served his three terms
of service as churchwarden in vain, or,
at any rate, he had learnt how to keep
the candle-box in proper order.

Cyril had scarcely got to the middle
of the church, when from each side of
the choir appeared two figures, very
slightly resembling each other, but
having a common characteristic. The
one appearing on the left-hand side was
a short man in a grey cassock, with a
mass of curly black hair. The sunken



00 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

cheeks, sharp nose, the yellow com-
plexion, and the unusually thin growth
of hair on his face, all bore witness to
the internal complaint from which this
man suffered. The man who appeared
on the right-hand side, was tall and had
an athletic figure. He was dressed in a
tight black cloth coat. He walked with
a firm gait, and the floor creaked under
him. They both walked with their hands
hanging down, and the unhealthy face
of the one expressed the same humility
as the rosy, healthy, hairy face of the
other. With the same respectful air they
both bowed before the chief, and both
put out their hands to receive his
blessing.

" The deacon Simeon Strytchok,''
announced the short man in the cassock,
with a feeble alto voice.

" The diatchok " Dementii Glu-
shenko," said the other, introducing
himself, with a deep bass voice.

Having received the blessing, they
stood with their faces towards the gates 2
through which Cyril and Father Rodion
had disappeared. They examined the
altar. Cyril saw that the building was
scarcely in a safe condition, and that
the ornaments required restoration and
renewing.



1 Diatchdk = clerk, man who reads the
psalms, &c.

2 In the Russian, as in all Eastern churches,
the altar where the priest officiates is separated
from the rest of the church by a wall or screen
on which sacred pictures and images are
painted. There are double doors in front of
the altar which are opened only at certain
parts of the service, and only priests are allowed
to pass through these doors, and also the Czar.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST.



o 7



" We haven't got any money, other-
wise we should have done it long ago! "
said Father Rodion ; but, as a matter of
fact, such an idea had never entered his
head till that moment. He was of
opinion it was all the same to God,
where, and with what details, people
worshipped Him.

The inspection at length came to an
end; Cyril invited them all to his house.
Although Mura was still asleep, Feokla
had got the samovar ready, and so
Cyril entertained the whole of the staff
of the parish church at tea.





VI.




Z ^°. - f 9 *^ Father Rodion's surprise,
the church was crammed
with parishioners on Sunday.
Among the congregation
were a certain number of out-
lying farmers, but the chief
contingent of the worship-
pers consisted of regular in-
habitants of Lugovoe. But Father
Rodion's astonishment reached its fur-
thest limit when he saw, while the deacon
was reading the gospel, the lady of the
manor, Nadieshda Alecsie'evna Krou-
pieev, walk in, and take up her place
on the left-hand side behind the choir.

There was nothing very extraordinary
in this, as all the week a sort of agita-
tion had been kept up in the place
about the new priest, not only by the
clerk and the sexton, but especially by
Feokla. Every evening she had de-
scribed the new clergyman to an admir-
ing audience of old women; she had
told them also of his wife, how they
lived and what they said. She had
called Cyril, " the kindest soul," and
she had said of Mura, that " it was a
job to understand her: she was some-
what shy, and had no idea of house-



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 69

keeping." From other sources it had
become known that Cyril was a tremen-
dously learned man. The church-
warden Kulik had said that there were
only twelve such men in the whole
empire. It is probable, therefore, that
Cyril's reputation for learning, had
awakened the curiosity of the lady of the
manor. All expected that the new
incumbent would preach an intro-
ductory sermon, in which he would
display to the Lugovoe parishioners
his extraordinary learning. They also
expected that the learned chief would
organize a specially solemn service.
But from the very first step disenchant-
ment began.

"A regular lapwing!" "Disgrace-
fully thin ! " said the parishioners, in
whose opinion a priest ought to be fat,
to have a bushy beard, and a loud and
deep voice. The ministry of the new
clergyman did not please them.

" He mutters something under his
nose, it is impossible to hear anything.
Father Rodion, although he knows
nothing, serves better. One can at any
rate hear every word he says. What is
the use of this wonderful learning ? "

When mass was ended, and the new
incumbent had delivered no sermon, the
disenchantment was complete.

"A fine sort of learned fellow ! He
was evidently so incapable that they
sent him to us. There are only twelve
such in Russia, they say : I think one
could find twelve thousand — there are
too many of them."

Father Rodion stood all the time
during mass with his face to the altar.
He afterwards went up to Cyril and



A RUSSIAN PRIEST.



quietly said to him, " Father Cyril, the
lady of the manor is in church. This
is an unusual event. I think you ought
to take the pain beni to her."

Cyril knew well from childhood of
this custom of talcing the bread to the
squire, and it was a custom that he did
not at all like.

" No, Father Rodion, it is unneces-
sary," said Cyril; " I know nothing as
yet about her worthiness . . . and do
you know either, Father Rodion ? "

" That's nothing to do with it. . . . But
she is the lady of the manor, and I
always take her the pain beni."

" Excuse me. Father Rodion, but I
shall not do so," quietly remarked Cyril.

The more observant parishioners
remarked that he did not carry the
pain beni to the lady of the manor.
They also noticed another incident.
When the service was ended, the
farmers harnessed their horses into
their dilijani * and set off home again.
The other various local well-to-do
people dispersed. Cyril invited no one
to drink tea or take zakouska- with him.
This circumstance gave rise to a con-
siderable difference of opinion. Some
said he was proud, and others thought
that this showed that he wished to be
impartial to all his parishioners. They
watched the expression of the lady of
the manor's face, to see if the inatten-
tion of the new clergyman had offended
her, but there was no trace of such an

1 Dilijan, a conveyance used by the farmers
in Little Russia.

3 Zakouska, a sort of impromptu meal, con-
sisting of vodka, cheese, caviare, and other cold
things —generally a prelude to a regular meal.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 7 I

expression. She came out of church,
spoke for a moment with two women —
as it appeared afterwards, to ask their
names — got into her carriage and drove
home.

It can easily be imagined that on
that day, the conversation centred
chiefly o'n the new priest, and it must
be added that criticism was, on the
whole, unfavourable.

But on this day a circumstance
occurred which completely dum-
foundered the parishioners of Lugo-
voe.

Anton Bondare"nko, whose mud hut
was situated on the outskirts of the
village suddenly wished that his
daughter should be married at once.
This was somewhat strange, seeing that
the season for marriages usually begins
at the end of September. But alto-
gether unexpected circumstances had
made this a matter of immediate neces-
sity. When this became evident,
Marko Pratzuk, a fine young fellow
put aside his business for the moment
and sent his relations to Anton, to
arrange about the marriage. As the
new clergyman's turn for taking the
services for that week had begun that
Sunday, Anton went to Cyril. This
was at seven o'clock in the evening.
Cyril, who had only just finished the
evening service, had returned home and
found Mura at the tea-table.

" Is the batoushka at home?" asked
Anton of Feokla, who now considered
herself quite established in the parson-
age kitchen.

'"' He's drinking tea. You must
wait ! "



A RUSSIAN PRIEST.



"It will be dark when I go home;
you know it is two versts off."

" I can't disturb him when he is at
table. . . . He's only this minute come
in from church."

This conversation took place in the
vestibule. Cyril heard every word of it.
He opened the door, and turned to Anton.

" What do you want?"

Anton took off his hat and bowed.
"I've a favour to ask of you, batoushka.
It's on business."

" Come into the room," said Cyril.
Anton entered and bowed to Maria
Gavrilovna.

"Well, what is it?"

" My daughter must be married ! . . .
So I've come . . ."

" Very well, we'll marry her, when-
ever you like !

" Would to-morrow do ? "

" Perfectly. To-morrow it shall be !
Come to church at ten o'clock."

Anton bowed again, and was silent.

" Well, go, and God be with you ! "
said Cyril. But Anton did not show the
least sign of moving. He did not con-
sider their business ended, he did not
even consider it begun. He had not
reached what was, in his opinion, the
chief point. He had not the least doubt
that the batoushka would be willing to
marry his daughter.

" But how much will it cost for the
wedding, batoushka ? " asked Anton, at
length.

" Oh, you just give one hundred
roubles," said Cyril, looking at him in
the most serious way straight in the eyes.
Anton smiled sarcastically, and expres-
sively shook his head.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 73



"H'm! . . . Such a sum I've never
even seen from my birth."

" Very well, I shall not take less."

Anton lifted his eyes, trying to gather
from Cyril's expression whether he was
joking or naturally stupid. " He must
be a joker," thought Anton to himself,
and said —

" No, batoushka, let me hear the real
price."

"What's your name?" asked Cyril.

"Anton Bondarenko."

"Well, look here, Anton, you ask for
the real price when you go to the market ;
you wish to buy a pig, they tell you the
price ; but you've come to me about a
church affair, a sacred affair. The
church is not a market, and there can
be no trading in it."

Anton looked at him with an uneasy
glance. "Well, 1 shall not hurry,"
thought Anton to himself. " Is he
avaricious ? the Lord only knows him."

" Well, go, with God ! " added Cyril.
But Anton did not move.

" How is it to be, batoushka ? " asked
Anton.

Cyril returned to the table, sat down
and took up a glass full of tea.

" Have you much land?" asked he.

"Land? — four and a half dessyatines"
(twelve acres), "and besides that half a
dessyatine where reeds grow."

" And what sort of crop have you
had ? "

"Well, what shall I say? It was
neither one thing nor the other. From
two dessyatines of rye I got about
ninety-two bushels. 1 Haifa dessyatine

* This is about seventeen bushels an acre.

5



74 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

of barley gave me twenty-eight bushels.*
Half a dessyatine of water melons —
nothing very special, they hardly repaid
the labour spent upon them. And the
dessyatine of wheat which I sowed
never even appeared above the ground.
But the hay in our parts nearly always
turns out well. Tall and thick. . . .
God grant that there may be such hay
in all the world ! I assure you, batoushka,
it is not hay ; what should one call it ? —
silk."

" So you are quite a rich man, Anton.
Why should I not take one hundred
roubles from you ? "

Anton opened his eyes wide. He
could not detect the fine tone of banter
with which Cyril said these words.
Seeing his doubts, Cyril said straight
out — " Well, now go, Anton. Give me
what you can for the wedding. And
even if you can't give anything, I will
do it all the same. And tell all your
friends not to bargain with me."

Anton thanked him and went out in
a very disturbed frame of mind. He
could not make up his mind whether to
speak to the others about his conversa-
tion with the new priest, or not. But as
he went along, he reckoned that he
could, without hurting himself, give a
silver rouble for the wedding, exclusive
of candles, which he would buy sepa-
rately. He could not have done it for
less than five roubles with Father
Rodion, and with candles it would have
run to seven. This thought was so
pleasant to him that he became afraid
that something might stop it, or that

1 Nearly twenty-one bushels per acre.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 75

the clergyman might change his mind.
Evidently the new man was simply
ignorant of the ordinary methods of
procedure in such cases. And if the
affair reached Father Rodion's ears, the
latter would probably explain to the
new priest, and the affair would then
end less favourably for him, Anton.
He therefore decided to keep the thing
secret, at any rate, till after the wedding.
And when he was asked what the new
batoushka had taken for the wedding,
he said, without the least hesitation,
" He screwed out six silver roubles."

" Aha ! evidently he knows his affair."

" And why not ?" said Anton, finally
stifling his conscience. "You must pay
for his reputation of being learned, very
learned."

As soon as Anton had gone out and
shut the door behind him, Cyril got up
and paced about the room in an agitated
manner.

" It is simply disgusting how deeply
rooted this malady is in their souls ! "
said he, turning to Mura. " He comes
straight to me as he would to a shop-
keeper : your merchandize, my money !
And I am certain that he is discontented
and even agitated. . . . No, look here :
I am a clergyman, I have to solemnize
the bond between his daughter and her
fiance j he comes to me about this ; he
says to me, ' Sell me God's blessing for
five roubles ! ' I ought to say to him,
' No, I can't, it costs ten,' and at length,
after a lot of bargaining, we should agree
for seven roubles, fifty copecks. . . .
"What sort of opinion must he have of
me? "

"But still, Cyril, the clergyman has



76 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

got to live somehow," replied Maria
Gavrilovna.

" Certainly, Mura, certainly ! But it
must be arranged somehow differently.
Such an arrangement is insulting to me
— insulting ! "

Mura replied nothing to this, but
still Cyril had not in the least degree
succeeded in convincing her. From her
earliest years she had seen how the
clergy quietly bargain over the various
demands made on them, and had accus-
tomed herself to look on this as in the
natural order of things, and that it could
not be otherwise.

The next day the marriage of Garpina
with Marko Pratzuk took place. There
were very few people there, partly on
account of the heat of the weather, and
partly because the real truth about
Garpina was generally known. The
young people were in a hurry, as they
wished to get to work on the threshing-
floor, and intended to assemble again in
the evening for a feast. After the
wedding Anton went up to Cyril, and,
with a very confused look, said — "As
you settled it, batoushka, here ... I
can pay one rouble."

Cyril quietly took the rouble note
from him, and at once gave it to the
deacon, Father Simeon. The latter
looked at the note, and, quite uncon-
sciously, made such an ugly face that
the diatchok Dementii who was at that
moment carrying the crowns 1 to the altar,
immediately understood that something
had happened which was not usual.

1 In the Orthodox Church crowns are worn by
the bride and bridegroom during a wedding.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 77

Half a minute later they were whisper-
ing together about something in the
choir ; the sequence of which was that
Dementii crossed the church with rapid
steps, caught up Anton at the door as
he was going out and seized him by the
arm.

" You ox-headed fellow, have you lost
your wits ? " asked he, in a low, contained
tone.

"What about?" asked Anton, who
knew what he meant perfectly well.

" Come ! don't pretend you don't
know what it is about : you've paid a
rouble for the wedding, have you ?"

" I swear to you, Dementii Ermilitch,
it's all I've got."

" I don't ask you how much you've
got, but I want to know what sum the
new bdxoushka asked."

" The batoushka? . . . the bcitoushka
said, ' Give what you can,' . . . and so
. . . I . . ."

The diatchdk was completely taken
aback by this. Anton in the meanwhile
slipped off. Dementii returned to the
choir with more sedate steps, and told
the deacon about his interview with
Anton. At this moment Cyril, who
had taken off his vestments, came out
from the altar, and directed his steps
towards the entrance. They were silent,
but on their faces was plainly written
discontent and surprise, although they
tried to conceal these feelings. Cyril
remarked this, but, looking as if he did
not, went out of the church.

" Now, what does this mean, Father
Simeon, I only ask you?" cried the
diatchok Dementii with all his powerful
voice. " We shall die of hunger ! If we



78 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

don't get money for weddings, where
are we to get it ? "

" This is the new order of things,
Dementii Ermilitch," answered the
deacon, in a weak little tenor voice, and
added — " Take away the ladle with the
wine, Dementii Ermilitch."

The diatchdk darted towards a little
square table standing in the centre ot
the church, caught hold of the ladle,
and started off to the altar with it, not
disguising his feelings of disgust.

The deacon stood quietly with his
head bent down, like a man who is
accustomed to humble himself before
all the possible misfortunes of life.

" I tell you what it is," said the
diatchok, turning round from the altar ;
" let's go to Father Rodion, and tell
him."

" Yes, we really must," answered the
deacon, and they both went out and
started off to Father Rodion.






VII.




ATHER RODION received
them without ceremony.
He was dressed in wide
nankeen breeches, low
boots, and a short jacket.
When they entered the
room which he called his
parlour, Father Rodion was
standing by a cage near the window
and carefully changing his canary bird's
water.

" Ah ! welcome our forces ! " said he,
continuing his occupation. " Well,
how are affairs?"

" Bad, Father Rodion ! " complained
the diatchok Dementii, in whose breast
there was still great vexation.
"Well, what is it?"
" We have this minute married Anton
Bondarenko's daughter, and we got a
rouble for the wedding ! "
"How did that happen ?"
Father Rodion still kept calm, and
continued his idyllic operation.

" Very simply. We finished the wed-
ding. Anton comes up to Father
Cyril ..."

The diatchdk began to relate how
the affair stood, and told every detail.
When he arrived at Anton's explana-



8o A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

tion and repeated his answer: "'The
batoushka,' says he, ' said, Give what you
can,' says he," Father Rodion suddenly
left the cage, which began to swing from
side to side.

"Ah, that's it, is it? Well, that is
bad," said he.

" Very bad," mournfully repeated the
deacon.

" It is only necessary for such a thing
to happen once, and every one knows
about it. This will please 'them' very
much."

By "them," Father Rodion meant the
parishioners. He asked his visitors to
sit down, and a council of war was
held.

" I confess I noticed something . . •
something . . . suspicious about him
from the veryfirst," said Father Rodion.
"If he continues in this way we shall
have to complain to him about it."

The council lasted an hour, and it was
eventually decided to do nothing in a
hurry, but to watch the progress of
events and see what turned up. Ii
might be nothing but want of expe;t-
ence — simply a man who did not know
business matters.

Many and various applications were
made to Cyril during his first week for
taking the services. Pachom, the
blacksmith, who shod the whole
country around, lost his mother, a very
old woman. The blacksmith was not
especially distressed about this, as she
had been ill for a long time, and
had given him no help, and had merely
been another mouth to feed in addition
to the seven of his own family. He


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 5 of 13)