I. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) Potapenko.

A Russian priest online

. (page 9 of 13)
Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 9 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

people, not to bargain, simply meant to
give themselves into the hands of the
parishioners, and to fulfil all their de-
mands without questioning. As they
did not reply to Father Rodion's
question, their answer was clear, so that
Father Rodion took it for granted, and
said — " I shall go to thebishop to-morrow
. . . to-morrow ! He wants to ruin us
... to turn us adrift in the wide world.
. . . His little game must be stopped!"

But another difficulty arose here. In
order to go to the town, it was necessary
not merely to ask leave of the chief, but
to explain the object. Father Rodion
was in such an evil frame of mind that
he did not wish to go to Cyril, or even
to meet him. He decided to write to
him. So paper and ink were brought
out into the yard, and on the spot, in
the presence of his subordinates and
his wife, who had become red in the face
with anger, he wrote — " Most Honoured
and Reverend Father Cyril, — On ac-
count of urgent domestic affairs I have


to go to the government town. I con-
sider it my duty to inform your Reve-
rence of this. — With all respect, I remain,
the priest, Rodion Manuscriptof."

The letter was sealed up in an
envelope and addressed to Cyril with
his full titles and sent to him by the
sexton. Cyril read the missive and
considered it simply in the light of a
notice of Father Rodion's absence : the
hidden meaning of these simple words
never came into his head. He was
heartily glad of the assistance given by
Madame Kroupie"ev, and to him, per-
sonally, fifty roubles a month seemed an
ample income; and then he rejoiced at
the thought that there would be no
more commercial transactions in the
parish — and, besides that, that his
subordinates would have no further
cause for grievance. He had decided to
tell Father Rodion about this first, and
then on the next Sunday to give notice
in church of the new arrangement.

The day following Father Rodion set
out at dawn. The morning was cold
and a fresh breeze was blowing from
the north. Father Rodion was attired
in a warm cassock of beaver skin, with
his collar turned up, a worsted scarf,
a fur hat, goloshes stuffed with some
warm material — in fact, in quite a winter
get-up. He had two horses, intending
to reach town by dinner-time, so as to
rest and collect his thoughts, and to go
to the bishop the next day. From
behind the high turned-up collar were
seen his round eyes and thick frowning
eyebrows, which were steadily fixed on
the driver's back. The whole of that
niqkt Father Rodion was in a disturbed


frame of mind, for he kept thinking of
the speech which he should make to the
bishop. " I admit I am not learned,"
thought he, "but I am old, and they have
never had cause to find fault with me.
So he must listen to me."

He stopped in the town with his old
companion at the seminary, Avxent
Lutchkof, the deacon of the merchants'
church. They had both been distin-
guished by their idleness, which even-
tually procured their expulsion after
they had remained for four years in the
philosophy class. Father Rodion had,
however, managed to become an or-
dained priest, but Lutchkof lost his
wife very early, and in consequence of
this, he had to remain a deacon for life.
He was a very thin, tall man, with a red
face, with very little hair on it. To
drown his griefs, he drank a great deal,
but had the good sense to confine his
excesses to the fortnight in the month
when he was off duty.

Father Rodion chanced to arrive
during his slack time ; and although he
tried to explain his grievances to his
friend, the latter could not understand
anything, and kept repeating every five
minutes, stretching out his hand for the
vodka bottle — "What, Rodia, do you
mean to say you are going to the
bishop?" and then he added — "Why
are you going ? I have been a deacon
ever so long, and have never been to
him. . . . Why ? Because no one notices
me now, and once I go there I shall
make myself conspicuous, and they will
say, ' Ah, you red face ! you had better
retire.' My opinion is, that it is best never
to brins oneself under notice . . ."


But Father Rodion did not share this
opinion, and the following morning at
eight o'clock was waiting in the bishop's
ante-room with a crowd of other visitors.
He wore his grey, worn-out cassock in
order to call attention to his poverty.
His old legs trembled from nervousness,
and his heartbeat faster than usual. As
the hour approached for the interview
with the bishop, his thoughts became
more and more cloudy. At times he
seemed to lose all idea of the nature of
his business, and he thought he would
not be able to answer a single word,
when the bishop asked, " Well, father,
what do you want ? "

At length the sound of the bishop's
slippers was heard in the adjoining
room, partitioned oft" by a dark brown
silk curtain, and the bishop entered,
dressed in a light silk coat, with a small
calotte and the rosary in his hands. He
at once began his business with some
churchwarden who had come about a
testimonial. Father Rodion's turn was
third on the list. From the minute that
the bishop entered, his fears vanished,
as always happens at the most critical
moments. His previous agitation was
quite calmed, and instead of the fog that
had been in his mind, he now had a
perfectly clear idea of all that he was
going to say to the bishop. At length
his turn came. The bishop looked at
him steadily and then said in a joking
tone — " You are not familiar to me,
father. It is evident that you conduct
yourself well, and don't have occasion
to come to me often."

" I would never trouble your Reve-
rence without necessity," said Father


Rod ion, firmly ; and added, " I am
Rodion Manuscriptof, priest."

" Where do you live ?"

" At Lugovoe."

" Lugovoe . . . Lugovoe. . . . That's
familiar to me, but I forget. What
do you want, Father Rodion Manu-
scriptof? You've got a fine, sonorous

"It's the place where your Reverence
was pleased to appoint the priest,
Obnovliensky, from the academy as
incumbent,"' explained Father Rodion.

"Obnovliensky! . . . Cyril, Cyril ? "
exclaimed the bishop, and his face lit
up with a pleasant smile. " Oh, yes ;
I remember. He's a ' magistrant,' very
learned, and a good Christian too."

This observation of the bishop's dis-
appointed Father Rodion. He had no
idea that Cyril was on such good terms
with the bishop. On the contrary, he
had imagined that Cyril had been sent
to the country for some shortcoming,
as other " magistrants " always received
good places in the town. How was he
to state his grievance now? And the
bishop, as if to finally extinguish him,
added, turning round to the other
visitors — " I set up this young priest
as an example to all. Although he is a
• magistrant ' he chooses a country liv-
ing of his own accord, in order to serve
the lesser brethren."

The visitors all assumed a sympa-
thetic air, and each one hoped that
this would increase the chance of his
particular petition being successful.
But Father Rodion, who did not take
his eyes off the bishop, observed that
his face suddenly assumed a stern look ;


and the bishop asked him in an alarmed
voice — " Does your business with me
concern him ? "

" It does, your Reverence."

" Come along, come along : this inte-
rests me !"

And the bishop made a sign, ordering
Father Rodion to follow him.

Father Rodion was very pleased. In
the other room, where there would be
no one to overhear, he would not hesi-
tate to tell him everything. They
passed into the next room, and then
turned to the left and went into the
drawing-room, which was decorated
with soft, luxurious furniture and ele-
gant carved tables, and pictures on the
wall, all of which struck Father Rodion
as being of a worldly nature. Here
the bishop stopped, sat down and made
a sign to Father Rodion to take a
seat, and the latter, not daring to dis-
obey, sat down also, trying, however,
to occupy as little space as possible.

" Well, father, let me hear all about
it. This young pastor interests me
very much," said the bishop, and his
fat fingers as usual, fidgeted mechani-
cally with the rosary.

" I cannot tell your Reverence any
news of a consoling nature about him, : '
began Father Rodion, hesitatingly, as it
he regretted that he had to disenchant
the bishop. And then he gave a de-
tailed account of all that had happened,
without, however, adding or detracting

The bishop listened with profound
interest. But his face expressed neither
sympathy nor reproach. When, how-
ever, Father Rodion, in a woeful tone,


described the last incident about the
salaries, the bishop got up and thought-
fully walked about the room. Father
Rodion also stood up. At length the
bishop said —

" And tell me, conscientiously, as a
priest — tell me, does he instil anything
of a dangerous nature into the minds
of his parishioners : for example, against
the powers that be ? ''

" No, your Reverence ; no," hastily
and with warmth answered Father
Rodion, " I cannot say that he does.
In fact I can answer straight and say

The bishop's face lit up again ; he
went up to Father Rodion and put his
hand on his shoulder, and said in a
simple, almost friendly tone —

" I understand you, Father Manu-
scriptof, I understand you, for I am a
sinner myself. But you must try and
understand him. It is you and I who
have departed from the apostolic life,
and he, this young pastor, is trying to
live nearer to it. Now look at the
thing from a spiritual point of view —
is he wrong? No, he is right. The
lady of the manor has behaved nobly
too, and we must send her our thanks.
From the worldly point of view, you of
course, have a grievance — I admit it,
I admit it. Have you a large family ? "

" Six daughters, your Reverence."

" Six daughters ! " exclaimed the
bishop in amazement, and with a shade
of horror. " God has blessed you !
there's nothing for it ! "

And he again walked about the room.

" Yes, yes ! " said he, as though to
himself, "the antagonism between flesh


and spirit has begun ! He ought to
have gone into the monastery ! But
then there is his love for activity, his
wish to live among people. He would
make a splendid missionary. Well,
well ! and. what do you want, exactly?
Eh ?" asked he, at length, suddenly re-
membering Father Rodions presence.

" I place myself in your Reverence's
hands," answered Father Rodion.

" Ah ! you cunning fellow, what can
I do for you ? I cannot write to him
and tell him to give up his good works,
and do evil ! Because this is an evil, a
real evil, that the clergy traffic in sacred
things ; but I have to pretend not
to notice it, because our means are
small, and, besides that, the flesh is

"Your Reverence! He, that is Father
Cyril, said, if it suited you, he would
be ready to go to another parish."

" No, I cannot do that. It would
look like punishing him, and I have no
cause for punishing him. I tell you
what : I will transfer you."

At this proposal, Father Rodion's
face fell, and he answered in a de-
jected voice — " I do not dare to make
any suggestions to your Reverence."

The bishop then looked at his watch
and said — " I have been gossipping
too much."

Father Rodion went out, having re-
ceived an order to return home and
await his transfer. He wanted to put
in a word for Father Simeon and
Dementii, but thought it better not to
mix himself up in their affairs.

Father Rodion Manuscriptof returned
that day to Lugovoe in low spirits. He


had set out for the town in the hopa
of regaining his former prosperous con-
dition, and now God only knew what
would come of the affair. For fifteen
years he had flourished peacefully at
Lugovoe,he had started agricultural pur-
suits, and built himself a private house,
now he would have to throw it all up
and go to some new and unknown place,
and instal himself afresh in his old age.
And all this because of a mad "magis-
trant," who had somehow managed
to get into the bishop's good books into
the bargain. He did not understand,
and did not approve of the favourable
view taken by the bishop of Cyril. He
had lived many years in the world with-
out hearing of these novelties, without
which, all would be well. At home he
found his subordinates awaiting him.

"All I have gained is that I am to
be transferred to a new and unknown
place ! " explained he, shortly and
sorrowfully to them.

"And what's to happen to us?" asked

"You? oh, nothing, I suppose."

The deacon and diatchdk went out.
As they walked along they came to the
conclusion that their interests were the
most important of all.


'HE winter at Lugovoe was
long and wearisome. At the
end of November snow fell
and covered the whole
country with a white shroud.
The low peasants' huts were
buried nearly to the roofs
with snow. But in December
it suddenly became warm again; the snow
melted, and gave place to a layer of mud
on the roads and fields, in which people,
animals, and conveyances struggled.
Towards Christmas a sharp and dry
frost set in, and the regular southern
Russian winter began — snowless and
windy, not so severe in itself, but ap-
pearing so to the southerners accus-
tomed to a long, hot summer. The
frost, with short intervals, lasted till
February, and then warmer weather set
in and the green grass peeped out from
the earth.

The church-house was warm. The
building was solidly constructed, and
the reeds which they used for fuel were
cheap ; besides which Feokla brought
bundle after bundle into the room, and
the stove swallowed them up very
rapidly. Maria Gavrilovna tried her
best to kill time, but was terribly bored.
She had made Madame Kroupieev's


acquaintance, but somehow had not got
on with her. She seemed to Nadieshda
Alecsieevna too simple. After two or
three evenings passed together, all they
had to say to one another had been
said. Nadieshda Alecsie'evna from the
first, had treated her with formal kind-
ness, which dashed Mura's hopes cf
becoming intimate with a " living edu-
cated being " to the ground. The
cathedral dignitary's naive daughter
divided people into two classes, the
cultivated and the ignorant, and was
persuaded that it was sufficient for two
people to belong to the former class, in
order to get on well together. But the
culture of these two women was so
utterly different in nature, that they
scarcely understood each other. Mura
had finished the course at school, and
had read some dozen books which
people had told her were good books
and ought to be read. All her life she
had been under the care of her parents,
and marriage had been her first inde-
pendent step. Nadieshda Alecsieevna
had lived an original sort of life, full of
various impressions, had learned much,
not only out of books, but from life,
and, besides this, had formed definite
opinions of life and of people. Thus
it was that she could only behave to
Mura with cold courtesy, and Mura
looked on her with a certain amount of
astonishment and even shyness.

However, once a week — generally on
Saturdays — Nadieshda Alecsie'evna and
her boy drove up to the church-house.
With a smiling face, and without getting
out of the carriage, she called Mura to
her, who took her place in the carriage,


and they returned together to the manor-
house. They dined together, and after
evening service * Cyril came in, and they
generally talked till midnight. Mura
took but little part in these conversa-
tions, and sat silently listening and very
much bored.

In January Mana Gavrilovna began
to prepare clothes for their expected
child. This filled up her days. Her
mother sent her a sewing-machine, at
which she worked indefatigably.

Cyril was well occupied. In the first
place, he was glad that he was alone in
the parish. Father Rodion had been
transferred to another place a month
after his visit to the bishop, who evi-
dently was not in a hurry to appoint
any one else to his place. Cyril managed
to get through the mass of work he had
to do successfully, and fulfilled all the
parishioners' demands. Each of these
afforded him an opportunity of becom-
ing more closely acquainted with the
moujik's existence. He never refused
an invitation to stop for dinner after a
funeral, or to take something to eat in
the peasants' houses, &c. He looked
upon these as valuable opportunities for
explaining his views on various subjects
to them. The peasants got accustomed
to this, and listened to him, without that
air of formal attentiveness which means
that it will all be forgotten at once. He
did not preach in church : he con-
sidered this kind of converse with the
people as fruitless. A sermon is heard

1 The principal evening service in Russia is
on Saturday evening, and not on Sunday
evening', as with us.


under exceptional conditions. The con-
gregation are apt to look upon the
sermon, not as a simple conversation
with their pastor, but as a regular part
of the mass, which must be listened to
in a more or less formal manner. He
aimed at having conversations with the
people in their homes, amidst their
everyday surroundings.

It seemed to Cyril as though his
labours were bringing forth fruit. The
fact that bargaining for various services
from the clergy, had been abolished,
was a great consolation to him. The
parishioners simply informed him that
there was a death, or a birth, or a
marriage in their houses, and without
any further ado the ceremonies of the
church were performed. Cyril also
remarked that when the peasants enter-
tained him, the host never offered the
company more than two glasses oivodka,
and that the guests drank the second
with a certain air of compunction.

Of course he was well aware that in
his absence their libations were on the
former scale, and that the public-houses
in Liigovoe did a splendid business.
But this moderation in his presence was
a promising sign, and he counted on the
force of habit helping by degrees to
lessen the evil.

Besides his regular work with the
church services, Cyril devoted a deal
of attention to the school. He visited
it nearly every day, and was very indig-
nant with the schoolmaster for not being
sufficiently enthusiastic about his busi-

"Why did you ever become a school-
master if you don't care for the work —


if you have no mission for it ? " asued
Cyril, when the latter had for the hun-
dredth time expressed his dissatisfaction
with his position.

"The mission of each man,batoushka,
is to earn his bread ! "

Cyril strongly argued against such a
view. He excitedly explained that it
was impossible to live thus, that such
an opinion might do very well for a
shoemaker perhaps, but not for one
who made it his business to instruct the
ignorant. He even considered it dis-
honourable to take such a view of so
vital a matter.

" Ah, batoushka ! " answered the
teacher, " these are the very words I
myself used eight years ago, but now
I have lived and seen that it is all
nonsense. Life alone, is wearisome.
There is only one remedy — to marry,
take a couple of hundred dessyatines of
land, and to farm."

This schoolmaster, Andrei Feodoro-
witch Kalujnev, was about thirty years
old. He came of a middle-class town
family, and his father had occupied
some small official position ; he had
been educated at the gymnasium, 1 but
had failed to pass the examination from
the sixth to the seventh class, and had
thrown it up. Three years he kept
preparing himself, first for military ser-
vice, then for the univsrsity, and finally
entered a factory as a workman. At
length he became a country school-
master, as that appeared to him the
simplest and easiest occupation. About
country life he had no knowledge, but he

1 School.


assumed his new duties not without
certain ideal opinions. He had heard
a certain amount about the peasants,
about disinterested service, about the
enlightenment of the masses, and these
ideas came into his head when he was
still very young. But the actuality ap-
peared to him wearisome. His ideas
were like straw blown about by the
wind, and Kalujnev in course of time
became a mere worker for bread and
butter, not understanding his business,
bored with his occupation, and longing
for a change.

Cyril often visited Madame Krou-
pieev. She always received him gra-
ciously, and even with pleasure. All
her life she had sought after original
people, and this country priest was so
cultivated that she could carry on
theoretical arguments with him. A
clergyman waging war against those
very vices which had always made her
turn with repugnance from the clergy,
a man trying to incorporate into real
life, ideas which had always been sym-
pathetic to her, was for her a regular
find. At first she merely looked on him
with curiosity as an interesting specimen
of humanity, and was always expecting
that he would ask her for keep for the
winter for his cows, or hay from a
dessyatine of grass land, or else for
some other favour which Father Rodion
and his colleagues used to beg for. But
Cyril asked for nothing. She once
inquired if he did not want any-
thing in the way of help in his farming

" I don't carry on any farming opera-
tions," answered Cyril ; " and if I


wanted anything, I certainly should not
ask vou for it. . . ."

"Oh, really! Why?"

" Why, you see, thank God, the rela-
tions between us are excellent, but
directly I take any material assistance
from you, I become dependent on you,
and you would respect me less."

Nadie'shda Alecsieevna was quite de-
lighted with this original priest. On
those evenings which they passed to-
gether, when Mura was merely a listener
to their conversations, she drew him out
and made him explain all his opinions
about life, and by degrees acquainted
him with her whole history.

" I tell you what," said Cyri!,
openly, after hearing all her adventures
in Moscow and abroad ; " you have
not lived yet — you have only played at

He then explained his theory. Life
is only possible in the country, where
nature is real, where people are real,
and where wants are real. To live
without being of use to others is
thoughtless and stupid. Each man has
some little corner in his nature which
he can turn to the profit of others. It
is unnecessary to strive after some
grand work ; do something useful, and
then, in the sum of human affairs, your
existence will stand on the plus side.

" Tell me, Father Cyril, how it is that
I sometimes think that you are the first
really sincere man I have met with in
my life ? " asked Nadie'shda Alecsieevna

" Pardon me, please. There are sin-
cere people in the world ; I have myself
met not a few ! " eagerly answered


Cyril. '•' You simply have not noticed
them because you look down upon them.
Maybe I am the first man you have
done the honour to look at in the proper

Spring began. In April Mura ceased
to visit Madame Kroupie'ev. They wrote
to the town for her mother ; she arrived,
bringing with her a nurse. As soon as
she crossed the threshold, her face
became darker than night. Her expe-
rienced eyes at once detected that the
material position of the young couple
had in no way improved. Signs of
poverty were evident everywhere. Ac-
customed as she was to notice trifles,
she at once remarked a large hole in
the knitted tablecloth, covering the
table. Nothing was changed in their
furniture, but nothing had been added.
There were only objects of absolute
necessity — tables, a sofa, beds, a chest
of drawers, a few chairs, a looking-glass
on the chest of drawers, a clock, and an
eikon in the corner, and the general ap-
pearance of the room reminded one
of a provincial inn. Anna Nikolaevna
went into the yard, looked at the
store-room, at the two outhouses — they
were all empty. A few bundles of reeds
lay in the kitchen-garden, which had
remained over from their winter supply
of fuel ; there was no sign of a con-
veyance in the sheds, not even an ill-
constructed britchka ; and in the other
shed, intended for a stable, there were
no horses. The lumber-room was
also empty. She looked into the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13

Online LibraryI. N. (Ignatii Nikolaevich) PotapenkoA Russian priest → online text (page 9 of 13)