Copyright
I. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) Potapenko.

A Russian priest online

. (page 6 of 13)
Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 6 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


went straight to the diatchdk Dementii.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 8 1

" What, has Mavra given up her soul
to God?" asked Dementii.

It was well known in the village
that Mavra was in a bad way. The
blacksmith, moreover, would not have
wasted his time with the diatchok
at such a busy season, without good
reason.

" It is as you have guessed, Dementii
Ermilitch. She has indeed given up
her soul. May hers be the kingdom of
heaven !"

"Well?"

" We must bury her."

" Very well, go and bury her, and we
will come to the cemetery on Sunday
and sing. Maybe by that time the Lord
will have taken some one else ; so that
we can do them together.' 5

'' I want the thing to be done pro-
perly, Dementii Ermilitch."

"Yes, I should like to be a bishop,
goodness only knows ! Your Mavra
was not a big bird ! You would like,
forsooth, to have her buried by the whole
staff from the cathedral for four
greevens ! " '

" But, Dementii Ermilitch, I will pay
my utmost. Perhaps some day I may
have to shoe a horse for you.' ;

" Oh no, you won't get round me that
way, Pachom ! I haven't even threshed
my corn yet."

'' In that case I must go to the
batoushka himself ! " and Pachom
started off to Cyril.

" They have already got wind of what
sort of fellow the new batoushka is.
They won't go to Father Rodion on any

1 About a shilling.



82 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

account," thought Dementii, and deter-
mined to await Cyril's decision.

Pachom explained to Cyril that his
mother had died yesterday, and said he
had come to make a petition for the
funeral.

"Have you got everything ready?"
said Cyril.

"Everything as usual."

" Very well, call the deacon and the
diatchok ..."

Pachom broke in, " The diatchok
says, ' You dig,' says he, ' the hole, and
we will come and sing on Sunday. I've
got my threshing to do,' says he, ' and
can't throw it up for four greevens.' "

Cyril said nothing, but put on his
cassock and his hat and went out.
From the door could be seen De-
mentii's threshing-floor. The diatchok
was dressed in a cotton shirt without a
coat. On the back of his head he wore
a straw hat. He was busily engaged in
threshing with a chain, and the sweat
was running down his face. Seeing
Cyril come out of his house, he re-
doubled his exertions.

Cyril stopped for a minute, and
thought, "Really, he has a big
family."

He passed his garden, entered the
wicket gate, and approached Dementii's
threshing-floor. The diatchok stopped
and respectfully took off his hat.

" God be with you," said Cyril.

" Do you wish me to go to the
funeral ?" asked Dementii.

11 No, it's not necessary ; I will per-
form the service alone. I think the
deacon is also occupied."

" He is getting water melons.''



A RUSSIAN" PRIEST. 83

"Very well, I will do it myself," said
Cyril.

At this moment the sexton brought
him a bundle containing vestments.
Cyril took the bundle and started off
after Pachom.

Dementii looked at him as he went,
and thought, " Well, you are a queer
fellow ! Either God is in your heart,
or you are a humbug ! I can't make
you out ! "'

Cyril performed the funeral service
over Mavra, and at the end of the cere-
mony when the blacksmith offered him
a pile of coppers, he refused to take
them. He had only a few minutes pre-
viously seen the wretched circumstances
under which Pachom and his numerous
family lived.

" How can I take money from a
beggar ? " thought Cyril to himself; and
said — " In the winter I shall have a
conveyance, and when the tire comes
off the wheel, I shall bring it to you to
put right ! ..."

" I would do anything for you, ba-
toushka, in return for your goodness,"
said Pachom, with great emotion. He
was indeed very much touched by the
new clergyman's kindness. Things had
been hitherto so arranged in Lugovoij
that a special funeral service for one
person had always been looked upon as
a sign of wealth. Cyril's predecessor
had said straight out — " For less than
two roubles I don't move." It was con-
sidered sufficient in the case of paupers
that they should be carried to the ceme-
tery and interred by their relations, and
in course of time, when half a dozen had
been buried in this fashion, that the one



84 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

service should be read over them all
together. This used especially to be
done during the summer-time, when the
clergy were all busy with their agricul-
tural operations. The parishioners had
grown accustomed to this plan, which
had been practised from time imme-
morial, and they did not protest. There
were, indeed, solitary instances of at-
tempts being made to induce the clergy
to make exceptions in the cases where a
respected member of a poor. family had
died, as had happened with the black-
smith Pachom. Occasionally, in a happy
moment, they had induced the clergy to
come out for a rouble by the promise to
bring them a measure of wheat when
the threshing was over. But generally
speaking, the question of payment had
hitherto been put in a very plain and
unmistakable way.

This happened on a Friday. On the
same day a well-built dilijan, har-
nessed with a pair of good horses, pulled
up at the door of Dementii's hut. On
the front part of it sat a boy wearing a
white cotton shirt and a straw hat. In
the back part of the carriage, which was
hung on springs, was seated a heavily-
built peasant with a strong, dark face,
with small eyes and thick grey brows.
This man was dressed in a blue over-
coat, a red sash, and a cap of blue cloth,
and he had altogether the air of a towns-
man. When he got down from the car-
riage it was seen that he was not tall,
and walked heavily and confidently.
Dementii, who at that moment was
brushing up the grain into a pile on
his threshing-floor, when he saw him
immediately went to meet him.



A RUSSIAN PKIEST.



" Marko Andreevitch, why has God
sent you? Is all well down at your
farm? Come in. ..."

Dementii both spoke and looked
wonderfully polite. Evidently Marko
Andreevitch Shibenko, the rich farmer
parishioner, was a very welcome visitor.
The farmer's moustache slightly moved,
which meant a smile, and be stretched
out his tawny hand to Dementii.

"We live, Dementii Ermilitch, thanks
to your prayers ! " ejaculated Marko,
abruptly, and stammering slightly. "Ah !
may I come in ? . . . Mitka, bring one
of the sacks into the vestibule."

" Oh, that's very kind of you ; you
don't forget us."

Mitka began to descend lazily from
his high position, and the host and
guest went into the hut. In the vesti-
bule they met Dementii's wife. Anto-
nina Egorovna was still a fairly young
woman, and had as good a complexion
and healthy a look as her husband. She
was busy making up a fire under some
pots in which living crabs were moving.
She was surrounded by dirty children
with naked feet, dressed in long sacks
without belts. Antonina excused her-
self from shaking hands on the ground
that they were covered with soot.

" You will not be offended," added
Dementii ; " she always goes about any-
how here."

A few minutes later, Antonina had
washed her hands, tidied the room, and
had put the decanter with vodka and
some fish on the table.

" Whose week is it now for taking the
services?" asked Marko Andreevitch
first of all.



86 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

"The new one — Father Cyril," said
Dementii, waving his arm in a some-
what deprecatory manner.

" Aha ! so we shall have a chance of
seeing what sort he is. I have con-
structed a new barn, and I am going to
put the grain in to-morrow ; and as you
know yourself, it is impossible to do this
without having it blessed, I want him
to come and sprinkle it with holy water
to-day."

"With great pleasure, Marko Andreii-
vitch ; you, at any rate, do not use us
badly."

" I have prepared everything before-
hand. Allow me, Dementii Ermilitch ;
you will hand it over to the batoushka."
Marko brought out of his bosom a purse,
counted out three notes of three roubles
each, and handed them to Dementii,
who took them.

" If only all our parishioners were
as open-handed, we should soon grow
rich," said he, squeezing the notes in
his hand. "It's only thanks to you good
people, that we keep alive."

But at this moment a thought came
into his mind which darkened his face.
" If there is anything good, the new
priest is sure to spoil it," thought
he ; "he will take it and give him
change."

" But why don't you wait till Sunday,
Marko Andreevitch ? eh ? " asked he,
not without arriere-pensee . " On Sun-
day, Father Rodion's week begins. It
would be a surer thing, I think."

" I look at it this way : the grain is
ready ; to-morrow we put it into the
barn. It's impossible to wait. ..."

" Yes, yes. . . . You Antonina, enter-



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 87

tain Marko Andreevitch, and I will go
and tell the batoushka."

" We might go together, and I could
then make his acquaintance. I have
brought him two measures of grain as
an introduction."

" No, you wait a bit ; I will go first, . .
and then you. ..."

" He'll probably receive you and your
corn in an unbefitting manner, this queer
fellow of a parson," thought Dementii to
himself.

Dementii went to Cyril, and found
the latter at his writing-table. Mdria
Gavrilovna was sitting on the sofa read-
ing a book."

" Oh, sit down, please ; I will attend
to you in a moment," said Cyril, con-
tinuing to write. " Mura, this is our
diatchok, Dementii Ermilitch."

Mura stretched out her hand. De-
mentii took it in his huge fist, squeezed
it, and, from nervousness, shook it with
unnecessary enthusiasm. But he could
not summon up courage to sit down,
and remained standing two steps from
the sofa. Mura asked him if he had a
large family. He answered that thank
God, it was not a small one, and added
that his eldest son had already got into
the clergy school."

" Well, what is it ? " asked Cyril, turn-
ing himself round, together with his
chair.

" Marko Shibenko has come from his
farm, and wants you to go to him and
bless his new barn."

" Very well ; let us go."

" He is a rich man, the richest of the
farmers. He has himself offered ten
roubles . . . without my asking. Do



88 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

you v.'ish rne to take them ?" explained
Dementii, with the air of a guilty man.

" He oiYcred it himself, did he ? ■ asked
Cyril, watching his physiognomy.

"I swear to you, Father Cyril, I never
even made a hint to him."

" If he is rich, and offered the money
himself, why not take it ?"

'• Certainly ; why not? Here it is."

" Put it into the common box . . . and
get ready to start."

"Yes, I see through him." thought
Dementii, returning home. " ' If he is
a rich man, and proposed to pay him-
self ! . . . And isn't it all the same to
me whether he is a rich man or not ?
Are there so many of these rich people
about ? He offered to pay himself, he
said. Well, and this Marko Andreevitch
is a farmer ; and farmers are quite an-
other race. If we were to wait for our
Lugovoe parishioners to open their
pockets of their own accord, we should
have to wait a very long time."

Passing through his vestibule, he saw
the well-filled, and carefully-tied-up
sack of corn.

'• There, you recognize the farmer at
once ! He brings it himself, no one
bothers him for it. And what a fine
sack ! It must weigh six pouds at
least" (fifteen stone). "This means, at
the rate of sixty copecks a poud, three
roubles sixty copecks in money."

Marko Andreevitch had already man-
aged to drink five glasses of vodka, and
only refused another, because he was
going to the priest.

"It wouldn't do, you know, to go
there smelling of vodka."

They went to Cyril's house, and found



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 89

him already attired. Maria Gavrilovna
was hunting about the next room trying
to find a clean handkerchief for him.
Marko Andreevitch entered the vesti-
bule, and for the sake of good manners,
notwithstanding that it was perfectly
dry outside, began wiping his feet on
the wooden floor. Noticing that on his
left-hand side were large double doors,
and on the right, a low single door, he
surmised that the right-hand door led to
the kitchen, and took the left. He
opened the door and entered. He
stopped on the threshold, crossed
himself three times, and then bowed to
the master of the house.

" I am Marko Shibenko — farmer,"
said he, blinking his eyes.

" Aha ! we are just starting off to you.
I am quite ready," answered Cyril,
thinking that Shibenko had come in
order to hurry him up.

" Oh, yes, I know ; but I have come
about another matter."

"Sit down and tell me."

" Thank you very much. But first
please give me your blessing."

Cyril suddenly remembered. He
could not manage to accustom himself
to giving every comer his blessing. He
used to put out his hand to shake hands,
forgetting that no visit could be paid
him without his giving his blessing.
Marko came to him, received the bless-
ing and kissed his hand.

" And now for business," said Marko,
with an easier air. " We greatly respect
our batoushkas, and always try to oblige
them."

" Sit down. Why do you stand? " said
Cyril.



0)0 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

" Thank you very much," said Marko,
accepting the invitation and sitting
down. '' That which God gives us in
His goodness, we divide with the clergy.
Therefore, batoushka, on the occasion
of our first making each other's ac-
quaintance, allow me to present you
with two sacks of corn."

" For me ? Why ? I have done
nothing for you."

" You pray for us. We keep sinning,
and you avert the consequences by your
prayers. That's why ! Besides that,
we wish to show our respect for the
clerical dignity. So please don't refuse
to accept the two sacks."

" But really ... I have nothing to
say against it ; only it seems strange.
. . . Very well, I accept, and thank
you very much."

Cyril was confused. He had never
foreseen such proposals. He knew, how-
ever, that nothing hurts a peasant's feel-
ings more, than to refuse a gift from him.

"And I thank you for accepting it.
The principal thing is to be sincere. It
you don't scorn us, we are always ready
to help. And will you allow me to see
the matoushka ? "

" Why, certainly. Mura! here's some
one who wants to make your acquain-
tance."

Maria Gavrilovna entered the room
with the handkerchief in her hand
which she had found, and looked at
Marko, who was seated on a chair, in
doubt. She could not imagine why he
wanted to become acquainted with her-
When she appeared, he got up and made
a sort of awkward movement resembling
a bow.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 9 1

" And so this is the mitoushka ? And
how young she is ! Good Lord ! "

He suddenly went up to Mura, seized
her hand and kissed it, 1 before Mura
could take any precautionary measure
against such an outburst of feelings.

" I am a farmer, matoushka. Come
and pay me a visit, and you will be very
welcome. You will see how we will
receive you! . . . We have a great respect
for the clergy. . . . We will collect all
the people together, and give you five
loads of grain ; only come ! "

This was all very strange for Mura ;
she could not understand why he
invited her so warmly. Why should she
go to his farm? and why should he give
her corn ? She was silent, and looked
at him with an air of ill-concealed
amazement.

" Thanks, thanks ! " said Cyril, for
her, " it's time for us to be off."

Marko repeated his invitation once
more, and started off after Cyril. At
the door he stopped, and cried out in
the direction of Dementii's hut — " Hullo,
Mitka ! come here and bring the
bdtoushka the two sacks that are in
the cart."

Mitka got down, bridled the horses,
and a minute later, the dilijan began
creaking in all its various parts. Mitka
reached the piece of ground in front of
the house and entered the wicket-gate.
He carried the sacks into the house, and
began arranging the hay in the convey-
ance for the convenience of the passen-
gers. Dementii appeared in a long

1 An almost universal custom in Russia to
kiss the hostess's hand.



92 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

grey coat, with a bundle under his arm.
This bundle contained the vestments.
He said that the father deacon was
unwell. They took their seats and
started oft".

The holdings which formed these
farms were called after the name of
their former proprietor, Choubatof, and
this land had afterwards come into the
hands of free peasants. The greater
part of it was situated at about ten
versts from Lugovoe.

Almost all these farmers owned their
land; some had twelve dessyatines/some
two, and there were two men, Gubar and
Shibenko, who owned as much as thirty
each, and hired thirty or forty more on
rent from the Lugovoe ladyof the manor.
Notwithstanding this, their houses were
not very luxurious, and half of them
lived in mud huts. The other half had
managed to construct peasants' huts,
with slate roofs, consisting of two small
rooms — one for every day, and the other
for state occasions, with an additional
room for young fowls, calves, and pigs.
When these farmers, who were all rich
men, were asked why they did not build
themselves good houses, they used to
reply — " What's the good of it ? We are
accustomed to our mud huts. The
family is lost in the various corners of a
big house. In a small mud hut, they
are all in a pile ; it's warmer and cosier."

In front of these small huts stood
high barns, spacious yards for cattle,
and for sheep in the winter, &c. It
might almost be imagined, that these
latter were the real proprietors, and

1 Dessyatine =27 acres.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 93

that the people lived there merely in
the capacity of humble attendants on
them, making shift in ill-constructed
huts and mud erections.

Immediately after the dilijan had
ascended the hill and gained the elevated
plateau over which the high-road ran,
the farmers' huts could be seen here and
there amidst the endless fields. One
might have counted forty farmyards
with kitchen-gardens, surrounded by
hay and straw stacks. Each yard had
its well, and the long, thin poles with
buckets at the end lifted in the air,
like silent sentinels watching over and
defending the farm buildings scattered
over the steppes, from external enemies.

Half an hour later, after passing
several mud huts, they arrived at
Marko's abode. It was in no way dis-
tinguished from the rest, but the yards
and outhouses were of more imposing
dimensions, and the new barn glittered
with a bright yellow colour in the sun.
There were about twenty men and
women standing about in the yard in
their ordinary working clothes. They
had evidently come here from their
work, and had arranged to make a
holiday for the rest of the day. Directly
Cyril entered the yard, they each began
to come up to him in turn for a
blessing.

" The new bdtoushka," whispered
they, among themselves. " And isn't he
young," added the women, and for some
reason loudly sighed.

Marko then invited him into the hut.
In the shady hut, with its low ceiling
and small windows, about ten men were
seated at a long table, most of them



94 A RUSSIAN PRIEST.

advanced in years. These were the
heads of the families. They got up
from the table. Cyril crossed himself
in front of the dark image hanging in
the corner, and bowed to those
present.

" How do you do ? " said he, turning
to them all.

A sort of undefined hum was heard
in answer to this. Soon a woman
appeared from behind the stove. She
had a good figure, red cheeks, and was
dressed in a bright-coloured skirt, and
a silk handkerchief on her head. 1

u Ah ! here is my wife ! " said Marko.

Marko's wife also received the bene-
diction.

" Well, let us go," said Cyril.
Dementii unfastened the bag and gave
him the vestments. The moujiks
looked at him with great interest and
thought to themselves, " What young
fellows they make ' popes ' nowadays."
When Cyril had arrayed himself, they
all went out into the yard, and here,
under the burning rays of the southern
sun, in front of a little table, on which
stood a pan filled with water, the con-
secration of Shibenko's new barn was
performed.

"And now let us come and eat
what God has given us," said Marko's
wife.

Cyril accepted the invitation and went
into the hut before the others. Here
everything was ready. The table was
covered with a white cloth, and on it
was spread plates and dishes with



1 Married women among the peasants always
have their heads covered.



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 95

broiled fish and pies made without
meat, as it was fast time. Two heavy,
square bottles of vodka overshadowed
the eatables.

" Please sit there, bdtoushka," said
the host, pointing to a place under the
corner where the sacred images hung,
the place of honour. Cyril sat down,
and next to him Dementii. Fifteen
men and two women sat down to table.

" You must begin with a glass of
vodka," said Marko and his wife to-
gether. The latter had not seated her-
self at the table, and she poured out a
glass for Cyril and afterwards for all
the rest. All drank off their glasses at
a gulp except Cyril, who sipped a
quarter of its contents and then put it
down.

" I say, batoushka, what does this
mean ? You must drink it off ! " said
the host, in a decided tone.

" No, it is not necessary,' 1 said Cyril ;
" it is such a fearfully big glass."

" But you will offend me ! And my
barn won't be full ! This is quite
certain ! "

"What have we just been praying
God for? Wasn't it that your barn
should be full ? " asked Cyril, seriously.

" Certainly."

The moujiks looked up from their
plates with serious expressions and
were silent, and Marko repeated " Cer-
tainly;" but his confusion soon passed
away and he said — "And, in the second
place, that God will give me grain to
fill my barn in the future." Saying this,
he began filling the glasses a second
time. Dementii stretched out his hand
with his glass, but Cyril said —



9-6 A RUSSIAN TRIEST.

" In my opinion one glass is enough
for a man."

The moujiks looked at each other in
blank astonishment. Dementii with-
drew his hand from the glass and began
to run it through his luxuriant beard.
But the host took this speech as a
joke, and said — "And now, batoushka,
drink another glass, for otherwise the
rest will not drink."

" Why should I drink when it is dis-
agreeable and harmful to me? Besides
that, to drink vodka, is not suitable for a
clergyman."

" Our batoushkas always drink in
first-rate style," interrupted one of the
guests. Some looked at the speaker in
an encouraging way, but others seemed
to feel that he had said a stupid thing
and looked confused.

" I don't consider a man a bdtoushka
at all, who will not drink with us ! "
ejaculated another guest. This was
followed by a profound silence.

" What's your name, and where is
your hut?" asked Cyril, turning to the
author of the latter sentiment.

" Sidor Tovkatch, and my hut,
batoushka, if you will do me the favour
to visit it, is the third from Marko's
hut," answered the moujik.

" Well, now I shall know, and keep
away from Sidor Tovkatch's hut. I
cannot drink vodka, which means,
according to his opinion, I am not a
batoushka."

Sidor reddened to the ears, and was
so overwhelmed that he could find
nothing to say. Cyril continued —
" But to those who are willing to con-
sider me as a batoushka, although



A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 97

I don't drink vodka, I will give my
reasons for not drinking. In the first
place I value my health, and wish to
remain long on the earth, and besides
that I wish to be always a sensible man;
and if one drinks more vodka than is
good for one, it injures the health and
shortens life. You are ordained to live
seventy years, if you drink much vodka
you will only last fifty. You may be a
sensible man, and people may respect
you, but vodka blunts your mind and
fogs it, and instead of being a man of
sense you become a fool, and all laugh
at you. Judge, therefore — what do I
gain by drinking vodka ? "

" Certainly there is not the slightest
advantage in it," remarked some one.

The confused hosts offered no one
any more vodka, having made up their
minds that the regular festivities must
be deferred until after the bdtoushka's
departure.

After they had eaten tart with cream,
Cyril got up, and all the others after
him. When he had gone out of the hut
a sort of subdued conversation began :
"What awise man — trulylearned! What
does it matter about his youth ? And so
serious ! And one may say that our
Tovkatch put his foot into it, from
ignorance ! " When Cyril was getting
into the dilijan, Sidor Tovkatch came


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 6 of 13)