Leo Wiener.

Anthology of Russian literature from the earliest period to the ..., Volume 2 online

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timidly surveying all around him.

" Have no fear, no fear! The Lord be with you, come in,
make yourself at home! **

The pilgrim slowly and with indecision takes off his
wallet, and seats himself on the bench with a heavy
sigh.

'' Well, Aleksdndr, have you not yet found rest for your
soul ? *' asks grandfather.

But the pilgrim sits in silence, and lowers his head.

Then a deep sigh is heard again issuing from his breast.
Then he begins to speak clearly, without hurrying, lowering
his eyes all the time, as if ashamed to look at us.

" I have crossed all the borders— have been everywhere

—have visited all the holy places I have been in the

countries of the midday sun and of midnight— on sultry

Athon and in the cold Solov6t8k cells Everywhere,

father I have continually looked for the eternal dty,

and there is no refuge for the despised slave! Father, I

have suffered hunger and cold In summer and in

winter I, as a thief, hide from the light, and wander at

night-time I come into cities, and they drive me out,

I knock at the cells, and they do not receive the outcast



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Nikoliy Nikoliievich Zlatovritski 43'

I aee neither my kin, nor my relations, neither wife, nor

children, who abide in servitude Be accursed, despised

slave, for having thought of liberty, abandoning your roof,
and departing from your kin! If I should wish to re-
turn to the house of my master, my children and my kin
wotdd deny me, for the fear of the Jews, and my master

would turn me over to mockery and to outrage I am

afraid to return to slavery, and I shall wander about, as a
thief, and my refuge shall be the lair of beasts '*

And suddenly the pilgrim falls upon his knees with a dull
sotmd, and begins to pray. For a long time are heard,
amidst a complete silence, the deep sighs of the pilgrim and
now and then a moan of my grandfather.

My mother, and sister, and I look with fixed attention at
that lean, bony face, which is as swarthy as if cast of
bronze, and on which lie the clear traces of his endless
wanderings and immeasurable sorrow.

The pilgrim rises, straightens himself up, and still keeps
his eyes on the holy image. Large tears course down his
cheeks, while his black eyes sparkle at the same time evil
despair and stem faith.

'' Father! " he suddenly speaks, raising his hand to the

image. "There — ^there let us seek the eternal city!

Only there There they will not cast you oflF "

** But do not despair, AleksAndr! God will uplift you,"
says grandfather. "There is not a tear, Aleksdndr, that
floweth in vain, and is not heard at the throne of the

Almighty! Not a hair of your head shall perish Seek,

and you shall always find! Knock, and the gates of truth

shall be opened unto you ! Sit down, Aleksdndr, and

strengthen yourself with what God hath sent."

The pilgrim is, it seems, quieted down, and he seats him-
self on the bench again; but now his head is raised, and his
gleaming eyes look somewhere into the distance, as if they
pierced the walb of our cabin, and a strange struggle shines
in them, as if they did not yet know on what to rest their
choice: on heaven or on earth.

" Well, Aleks&ndr, tell us something about God's world.



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432 The Nineteenth Century

Many things are revealed to you pilgrims. Come, sit down
here!''

The pilgrim seats himself at the table, and I see my
mother, her eyes burning with some mysterious curiosity,
moving up towards him, placing her arms on the table,
leaning her head upon them, and fixing her dreamy eyes
upon the pilgrim's face.

And the pilgrim begins to speak. But my childish im-
agination is only impressed by his stern, misty form, and has
preserved nothing else, and I recall his speeches only as the
din of a turbid torrent that runs across the endless steppes.
And over these steppes rapidly marches, driven by the wind,
the tall, stern figure that is in vain seeking a place where
the son of man may lay down his head.

And the pilgrim has not yet ended his stories, which, it
seems, are so long that they last a whole night, and a day,
and again a night, when there appears in the door of our cabin
a new strange being that strikes our childish imagination.

At first we see only an immense old rough sheepskin coat
that is held together by a belt, and large old felt boots, but
it is quite impossible to define the sex, the age, or the occu-
pation of the person that is hidden in the recesses of that
huge coat, above which is barely seen the head so tightly
wrapped in a frosted shawl that even the eyes cannot be
discerned. The strange coat nervously and rapidly makes
three deep inclinations before the holy image, and then to
the comers of the room, and just as rapidly begins to un-
ravel the shawl, and by degrees appears, at first, a thin,
grey beard, then a thin, long nose, small, mouse-like, grey
eyes, and finally an immense bald head is freed from a sheep-
ski n cap, here and there feathered with dishevelled tufts of
greyish red hair. And when the coat suddenly and unex-
pectedly falls off in the comer, — ^there stands before us one
of the commonest, the most '' insignificant '* of the '' worth-
less lot ' ' who, in the opinion of my grandmother, live in this
world: it is an old serf, in a patched and tom gabardine.
No sooner does the peasant feel himself freed from the
weight of the huge sheepskin that has oppressed him, than



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Nikoliy Nikol&evich Zlatovriitski 433

he becomes nervously alive, sweetly smiles upon us all, bows
again and again into both comers, and, rapidly twitching
his feet before grandfather, cries out in an entreating voice:
''Most worshipful onel Father! Give me a lodging!
Refresh me ! Give me hope ! * *

''Ah, Filim6n, Filim6n! Is it you again?" says my
" little grandfather" in evident agitation, trying to find his
snuff-box.

"Yes, I, worshipful man. Do not misjudge me," says
the peasant so softly that you would think he was afraid of
his own voice.

"Ah, Filim6n! " says grandfather, for some reason shak-
ing his head in anguish and trying to console himself with
a pinch of snuff. " When will you come to rest ? Friend,
is there a living spot in you ? "

It appears to us, indeed, that there is not a living spot in
the peasant: neither muscles, nor flesh, nor blood, — nothing
but strong, indestructible bones enclosed in a dark-brown
skin.

The peasant, after grandfather's words, smiles even more
entreatingly; his grey, little eyes apparently become even
smaller, — and he suddenly grows once more enlivened and
agitated; all his bony members are in motion, and, as if
seized by some unusual care, he begins to rummage in the
breast of his torn outer garment.

He finally brings to light something that is wrapped in
a dark kerchief. He cautiously opens it with his trembling
fingers and, timidly turning to both sides, with a careworn
glance places before grandfather some old, stained papers,
and again makes a low bow before him.

" Worshipful one! I have a request to make."

" Ah, Filim6n! Ah, Filim6n! " sighs grandfather, again
shaking his head in anguish: " Why do you tempt God our
Lord ? If you do not care for yourself, think of your kin.
Pacify your spirit I It is enough ! Enough, Pilim6n I You
have chastised yourself enough, my friend! The Lord
seeth, the Lord hath weighed and measured. He demand-
eth not complete exhaustion. Do not tempt fate! "



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434 The Nineteenth Century

'' Most worshipful man 1 I am going ! I have to care for
peoplel I must go! "

' ' Whither are you going, senseless man ? Take a breath.
At least heal your old wounds. Take your ease! "

'' Father, they are healed! Do not misjudge me! I am
going — to the higher realms! "

And the peasant once more looks entreatingly into grand-
&ther's face, and it seems to us that grandfather is unable
to withstand that entreating glance.

And grandfather rises, his glance becomes stem and seri-
ous, and he says with severity:

' ' Filim6n ! Have pity on me I God wiU punish me, your
councillor and abettor, for you! "

** Father, do not deny me! I will knock once more:

knock, knock, knock! Maybe the Lord will grant me

Just this way, lightly, father: knock, knock, knock ! ' Who
is there?' they will ask. ' 'T is I,' says I, as before.
"Tisl."'

** How many times have you gone to knock ? "

** *T is the eighth time, father. 'T is the eighth for the
higher realms. I was driven off six times. Six times they
flayed me *'

"Dear Filim6n, how much will there be left of you?
Take pity on yourself. Pity me, I pray, pity my soul.
Why should I aid in your suffering and destruction ? "

The peasant once more smiles entreatingly into grand-
father's face, and suddenly falls down before his feet

'' Most worshipful one! Do not begrudge me! "

And rising to his feet just as swiftly, he nervously and
excitedly flourishes his dry, bony hands, lets his mouse-like
eyes roam timidly in the comers, and begins to speak, with-
out cessation, as if everything is to come down in a rain,
everything he has been carrying hither with the greatest care

for days and miles It is one endless, intent murmur, like

the distant din of the mill water, interrupted by some sudden
exclamations that make our childish hearts tremble with
fear.

I remember how that intent murmur of the bony peasant



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Nikoliy Nikolievich Zlatovritski 435

made my head feel as though compressed in a vise, how
terribly my blood beat in my temples, so that I was ready to
burst out into sobs and run away from the cabin, — far, far
away from that terrible murmur, in spite of the frost, and the
deep snowdrifts, and the night storm that howled around our
cabin. And if that dreadful murmur that racked my nerves
had lasted one minute longer, I should have come out from
under my warm fur, and should have, indeed, run away as
in a delirium. But the ** little grandfather *' stepped up to
us, and thoughtfully stroked our heads. Why did he do it ?
He, evidently, did not notice it himself. Or, maybe, he
unconsciously wanted to ask our consent for something.
And, interrupting the peasant, he said:

** Filim6n! For the last time, absolutely. I fed it, it is
for the last time. There shall be an end I It can't be other-
wise! There must be an end! The Lord is great in His
long-suffering, that is true, but also terrible in His anger 1 "

The peasant's face beams with pleasure, and he at once
breaks off his murmur.

'' What shall I write about ? " asks grandfather.

** Father, write the whole truth. Tell straight about
everything. Hide nothing, and have no mercy upon us:
crush the blood of Judas! The blood of Judas has begun to
oppress the people! The main thing, father, tell the whole
truth about everything."

And the peasant solemnly raises his hands to heaven.

*' Write! I have suffered, and I can suffer more. I am
afraid of no new prison, and of no new chains. Most wor-
shipful one, have no mercy ! Write ! "

And for a long, long time, through the speechless quiet
of a winter night and through our disturbed dreams, we see
the bony little peasant, with his entreating smile and a cer-
tain childishly naive decision and faith, that enlighten his
whole little face, and our *' little grandfather," who has sud-
denly become so serious and stem and who with the con-
sciousness of some great obligation is slowly and deliberately
drawing his legible semi-uncial letters on the paper.

'•Write, write, father! There is truth! There will be



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436 The Nineteenth Century

truthl " we again hear the voice of the bony peasant, and
the longer he watches grandfather's pen, the brighter, it
seems, his face is growing.

We are, for some reason, happy for the peasant and for
grandfather, but at the same time we are oppressed by a
mysterious feeling of terror and of fear, because it seems to
US that our stem grandmother will soon come out of the
living rooms, and will angrily cast her suspicious glance
upon all of us '* useless" and " loafing " people, and will
cry:

''Where did that worthless lot come from? Whence
does God carry them ? Evidently punishments and threats

do not take oflF all the loafing people What have

you found in each other ? And why do you stick to each
other, like flies to honey? Well, this one has been half-
witted from her birth," grandmother shakes her head at my
mother, "but you, old man? O deacon! Some evil will
befall you, some evil will I Make a note of my words. You
will get a terrible reward for all these people! "

But the '' loafing people," who at first are really grieved
and intimidated by the angry words of my stem grand-
mother, not only do not disappear, but grow more and more.

Vladimir Galakti6novich Korol6nko. (1853.-)

Korol^ko is descended on his father's side from the Cossacks;
his mother was the daughter of a Polish landed proprietor. He
graduated from a Real-Gymnasium in the Government of Zhitomir,
and then, under untold hardships, studied in the Technological
Institute of St. Petersburg and Peter's Academy in Moscow. Here
he was arrested for addressing a collective petition to the director of
the school, and was sent to the Government of Vol6gda, and thence
back to Kr6n8tadt, where his family was residing. The next year he
settled in St Petersburg where he read proof. In 1879 he was again
arretted, and his wanderings through sJl parts of European Russia
and Siberia began. His first stories were published in 1879, but the
first to attract the attention of the public was his Makdf*s Dream^
which deals with the semi-savages of the Siberian Tayga. The
artistic perfection of his style, the harmoniousness of his diction,
and the completeness of his stories are rare qualities among modem
Russian authors. The sadness of his stories is not of the heart-



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Vladimir Galakti6novich Korol^nko 437

rending, cheerless kind, and rather invites a rereading. Among his
best known books and separate sketches are Tlie Blind Musician^
The Forest Rustles, The Old Bellinger, In Bad Society.

Many of Korol^nko's stones have been well translated into Bng*
lish: The Vagrant and Other Tales (containing The Old BelU
ringer. The Forest Roughs, Easter Night, A Saghalinian, Sketches
of a Siberian Tourist), translated by Mrs. A. Delano, New York and
Boston, 1887 (3d ed. 1896) ; lite Blind Musician, translated by Mrs.
A. Delano, with an introduction by G. Kennan, Boston, 1890 ; the
same, translated by W. Westall and S. Stepniak (International
Series, No. 100), New York, 1890 (2d ed. 1893) ; the same (Seaside
Library, No. 15 15), New York, 1890; Makar's Dream, in Cosmo-
poliun, vol. vL ; A Queer Girl, in Free Russia, vol. ii., Nos. 9 and
10^ and In the Famine Year, vol. x., No. 2 ; A Saghalien Convict (in
Fseudonjrm Library) ; In Tivo Moods (and In Bad Society), trans-
lated by S. Stepniak and W. Westall (Lovell's International Series,
No. 178), New York, 1891, and (Seaside Library, No. 1943) New
York, 1892 ; The Old Bell-^nger, translated by M. P. de Schatokhin,
in The Anglo-Russian Literary Society, No. 8 ; An Involuntary
Murderer^ translated by Jessie Mackenzie, in Gentleman's Magazine,
1898.

THE OI.D BELL-RINGER

A SPRING IDYLL

It grows dark. Over the black, crenelated line of the
dense forest stands the full moon; it stands, but does not

shine A small settlement that nestles over the distant

brook, in the pine forest, is merged in that peculiar twilight,
80 common to spring nights, when the moon stands pensively
over the horizon, shrouded by a smoky veil. The mist, ris-
ing from the earth, thickens the long shadows of the woods

and covers the open places with a silvery azure glamour

All is quiet, pensive, melancholy.

The village slumbers quietly.

The humble cabins barely stand out in their dark con-
tours; here and there glimmer fires; now and then a gate
creaks, a watchful dog barks, and all is silent again. At
times there issue from the dark mass of the softly rustling
forest the figures of pedestrians, there passes by a rider,
creaks a vehicle. These are the inhabitants of lonely forest



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438 The Nineteenth Century

hamlets who are going to their church to meet the spring
holiday.

The church stands on a mound, in the centre of the vil-
lage. Its windows are bright with lights. The tall, murky,
old belfry is lost with its spire in the azure.

The steps of the staircase are creaking The old bell-
ringer Mikhy^ich is ascending the bell tower, and soon his
little lantern will be suspended in mid-air, like a shooting
star in space

It is hard for the old man to climb the steep staircase.
His old legs do not serve him well, he is worn out, and his

eyes see but dimly *T is time, it has long been time,

that the old man should take his rest, but God does not send
him death. He has buried his sons, has buried his grand-
children, has accompanied old men to their celestial dwell-
ing, has accompanied young men, but he is still alive. 'T is

hard Many is the time he has met the spring holiday,

and he has lost the count of how often he has waited for the
appointed time on that very bell tower. And there God has
again decreed

The old man walks to the opening in the tower and leans
over the banister. Below, around the church, the graves of
the village cemetery dot the darkness; the old crosses look
as though they protected them with their outstretched arms.

Here and there leafless birches bend over them From

there, below, is wafted to Mikhy^ich the aromatic odour of
young buds and reminds him of the melancholy silence of the
eternal sleep

What will become of him in a year ? Will he again climb
to this top, under the brass bell, in order to awaken light-
sleeping night by its metallic din, or will he lie — down there,
in the dark comer of the cemetery, under a cross ? God

knows He is prepared: in the meanwhile may God

grant him to meet the holiday once more. ** Glory to Thee,
Lord! " his old lips mutter the customary formula and he
looks upwards, at the starred heaven that glows with a mil-
lion lights, and he makes the sign of the cross

** Mikhy^ch, oh, Mikhy^ichl " calls out to him from be-



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Vladimir Galakti6novich Korol^nko 439

low the tremulous voice of an old man. The aged sexton
looks up at the belfry, shades his unsteady and tearful eyes
with his open hand, but he does not see Mikhy^ch.

** What do you want? Here I ami " answers the bell-
ringer, as he leans over the banister. "Can't you see
me?''

' ' No, I can't. Say, is it not time to ring ? What do you
think?"

Both look at the stars. Thousands of God's fires twinkle
down to them from on high. The fiery " Wain " has risen
way above them Mikhy^ich is making his calculation.

** No, not yet, wait a bit I know when "

He does know. He needs no watch: God's stars will tell
him when the time has come. Heaven and earth, and the
white cloud that gently swims in the azure, and the murky
forest that indistinctly whispers below, and the plash of the
brook lost in the darkness, — all that is familiar to him, all

that is his own Not in vain has he passed his whole

life here

The distant past arises before him He recollects how

he for the first time climbed this bell tower with his father.
Lord, how long ago that is — and yet how recent! He
sees himself a blonde boy; his eyes are aflame; the wind —
not the wind that raises the dust in the streets, but some
special kind of wind that flaps its noiseless wings way above

the earth — dishevels his hair Below, way, way down,

walk tiny people, and the huts of the village are tiny too,
and the forest has receded, and the round clearing in which
the village is situated looks so enormous, so endless

** Oh, there it is, all of it there! " the grey-haired old man
smiles as he looks down at the small clearing.

That is the way with life. In your youth you can't see
the end of it, and there it is, all of it, as if in the palm of
your hand, from the beginning to that very little grave that
he has taken a fancy to for himself in the comer of the
cemetery. Well, glory to Thee, Lord! 't is time for rest.
The hard road has been passed honourably, and the damp
earth is his mother Soon, yes, very soon!



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440 The Nineteenth Century

But, it must be time! He looks once more at the stars,
rises, takes off his cap, makes the sign of the cross, grasps

the bell ropes A minute later the night air reverberates

from the hollow stroke — another, a third, a fourth — one after
the other, filling the light-sleeping night of the holiday's
eve, there flow the mighty, drawn-out sonorous singing
sounds

The ringing stops. In the church begins the service.
In fcumer years Mikhy^ch used to go down the staircase
and stand in the comer, at the door, in order to pray and
hear the singing. But this time he stays in his belfry. It
is hard for him to climb the stairs, and besides, he feels
rather tired. He seats himself on the bench and, hearing
the dying din of the rocking brass, falls into deep musing.
About what? He is hardly able to answer that himself.
The tower is dimly illumined by the lantern. The dull-
sounding bells are merged in darkness; below, from the
church, the singing reaches him from time to time as a weak
murmur, and the night wind agitates the ropes that are
attached to the iron hearts of the bells.

The old man bends on his breast his grey head that is
disturbed by disconnected pictures. *' They are singing the
troparion!" he thinks to himself, and sees himself in the
church. In the chancel dozens of children's voices flow
together; the aged priest, Father Natim of blessed memory,
reads the litany with a quivering voice; hundreds of peas-
ants' heads bow down and rise again, like the ripe ears when
the wind blows through them. The peasants make the sign
of the cross. They are all familiar faces, and all of them
now dead. There is the stern face of his &ther; there his
elder brother is with fervour making the sign of the cross,
and sighing, as he is standing by the side of his father.
There he is himself, abloom with health and strength,
full of unconscious hope of future happiness and joys of
life Where is that happiness? The old man's mem-
ory flashes like a dying flame and a bright beam, glid-
ing through his consciousness, for a moment illumines all
the nooks of his past life. He sees work above endurance,



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Vladimir Galakti6novich Korol^nko 441

sorrow, care. Where is that happiness? A hard lot will
make furrows on his young brow, will bend his powerful
spine, will teach him to sigh, like his elder brother.

There, at the left, among the village women, stands his
young wife, modestly bending her head. She has been a
good woman, may she come to the kingdom of heaven!
She has suffered so much, the dear woman. Want and
work, and a woman's inevitable sorrow will dry up her
beauty; her eyes will grow dim, and an expression of an
eternal, dull fear of sudden calamities will take the place of
serenity in her face. Yes, where is her happiness? One
son is left to them, their hope and joy, and human injustice
has overpowered him.

There is also that rich fiend; he makes low obeisances,
asking forgiveness for the bloody tears of orphans. He fer-
vently crosses himself and falls upon his knees, and strikes
his brow against the floor. And Mikhy^ich's heart boils
furiously, and the dusky faces of the images look down from
the walls upon human misery and human injustice.

All that is past, all that is behind him. Now his whole
world is here in the dark tower, where the wind moans in
the night and swings the bell-ropes. " God be your judge,
God be your judge!" mutters the old man and bends his
grey head, and tears gently roll down the old cheeks of the
bell-ringer.

**^Mikhy6ich, oh, MikhyfichI Oh there, have you fidlen
asleep ? ** they shout below.

" What ? " the old man cries out and jumps to his feet.
'* Lord I Have I really fallen asleep ? Never before have I
so disgraced myself! **

Mikhy^ich hastens to lay his hands on the ropes. Below
him the peasant crowd moves about like an ant-hill ; banners
wave in the air and glimmer with their gilt brocade. The
procession of the cross has made the round of the church,
and the joyous call reaches Mikhy^ich's ears:

" Christ is risen from the dead! "

And this call stirs a wave in the old man's heart. It
seems to him that the flames of the wax tapers have burnt



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