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[Translated by Marian Fell, Russian Silhouettes: More Stories of Russian Life, copyright 1915, Charles Scribner's Sons. As reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition paperback, Anton Chekhov's Short Stories, selected and edited by Ralph E. Matlaw, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-09002-7, PZ3.C3985Cg 1979 [PG3456.A15] 891.7'3'3, 78-17052, pages 235-247.]
By Anton Chekhov
It was on the eve of Palm Sunday; vespers were being sung in the Staro-Petrovski Convent. The hour was nearly ten when the palm leaves were distributed, and the little icon-lamps were growing dim; their wicks had burnt low, and a soft haze hung in the chapel. As the worshippers surged forward in the twilight like the waves of the sea, it seemed to His Reverence Pyotr, who had been feeling ill for three days, that the people who came to him for palm leaves all looked alike, and, men or women, old or young, all had the same expression in their eyes. He could not see the doors through the haze; the endless procession rolled toward him, and seemed as if it must go on rolling for ever. A choir of women's voices was singing and a nun was reading the canon.
How hot and close the air was, and how long the prayers! His Reverence was tired. His dry, parching breath was coming quickly and painfully, his shoulders were aching, and his legs were trembling. The occasional cries of an idiot in the gallery annoyed him. And now, as a climax, His Reverence saw, as in a delirium, his own mother whom he had not seen for nine years coming toward him in the crowd. She, or an old woman exactly like her, took a palm leaf from his hands, and moved away looking at him all the while with a glad, sweet smile, until she was lost in the crowd. And for some reason the tears began to course down his cheeks. His heart was
happy and peaceful, but his eyes were fixed on a distant part of the chapel where the prayers were being read, and where no human being could be distinguished among the shadows. The tears glistened on his cheeks and beard. Then someone who was standing near him began to weep, too, and then another, and then another, until little by little the chapel was filled with a low sound of weeping. Then the convent choir began to sing, the weeping stopped, and everything went on as before.
Soon afterward the service ended. The fine, jubilant notes of the heavy chapel-bells were throbbing through the moonlit garden as the bishop stepped into his coach and drove away. The white walls, the crosses on the graves, the silvery birches, and the faraway moon hanging directly over the monastery, all seemed to be living a life of their own, incomprehensible, but very near to mankind. It was early in April, and a chilly night had succeeded a warm spring day. A light frost was falling, but the breath of spring could be felt in the soft, cool air. The road from the monastery was sandy, the horses were obliged to proceed at a walk, and, bathed in the bright, tranquil moonlight, a stream of pilgrims was crawling along on either side of the coach. All were thoughtful, no one spoke. Everything around them, the trees, the sky, and even the moon, looked so young and intimate and friendly that they were reluctant to break the spell which they hoped might last forever.
Finally the coach entered the city, and rolled down the main street. All the stores were closed but that of Erakin, the millionaire merchant. He was trying his electric lights for the first time, and the were flashing so violently that a crowd had collected in front of the store. Then came wide, dark streets in endless succession, and then the highway, and fields, and the smell of pines. Suddenly a white crenelated wall loomed before him, and beyond it rose a tall belfry flanked by five flashing golden cupolas, all bathed in moonlight. This was the Pankratievski Monastery, where His Reverence Pyotr lived. Here, too, the calm, brooding moon was floating directly above the monastery. The coach drove through the gate, its wheels crunching on the sand. Here and there the dark forms of monks started out into the moonlight and footsteps rang along the flagstone paths.
"Your mother has been here while you were away, Your Reverence," a lay brother told the bishop as he entered his room.
"My mother? When did she come?"
"Before vespers. She first found out where you were, and then drove to the convent."
"Then it was she whom I saw just now in the chapel! Oh, Father in heaven!"
And His Reverence laughed for joy.
"She told me to tell you, Your Reverence," the lay brother continued, "that she would come back tomorrow. She had a little girl with her, a grandchild, I think. She is stopping at Ovsianikov's inn.
"What time is it now?"
"It is after eleven."
"What a nuisance!"
His Reverence sat down irresolutely in his sitting-room, unwilling to believe that it was already so late. His arms and legs were racked with pain, the back of his neck was aching, and he felt uncomfortable and hot. When he had rested a few moments he went into his bedroom and there, too, he sat down, and dreamed of his mother. He heard the lay brother walking away and Father Sisoi the priest coughing in the next room. The monastery clock struck the quarter.
His Reverence undressed and began his prayers. He spoke the old, familiar words with scrupulous attention, and at the same time he thought of his mother. She had nine children, and about forty grandchildren. She had lived from the age of seventeen to the age of sixty with her husband the deacon in a little village. His Reverence remembered her from the days of his earliest childhood, and, ah, how he had loved her! Oh, that dear, precious, unforgettable childhood of his! Why did those years that had vanished forever seem so much brighter and richer and gayer than they really had been? How tender and kind his mother had been when he was ill in his childhood and youth! His prayers mingled with the memories that burned ever brighter and brighter in his heart like a flame, but they did not hinder his thoughts of his mother.
When he had prayed he lay down, and as soon as he found himself in the dark there rose before his eyes the vision of his dead father, his mother, and Lyesopolye, his native village. The creaking of wagon-wheels, the bleating of sheep, the sound of church-bells on a clear summer morning, ah, how pleasant it was to think of these things! lie remembered Father Semyon, the old priest at Lyesopolye, a kind, gentle, good-natured old man. He himself had been small, and the priest's son had been a huge strapping novice with a terrible bass voice. He remembered how this young priest had scolded the cook once, and had shouted: "Ah, you she-ass of Jehovah!" And Father Semyon had said nothing, and had only been mortified because he could not for the life of him remember reading of an ass of that name in the Bible!
Father Semyon had been succeeded by Father Demyan, a hard drinker who sometimes even went so far as to see green snakes. He had actually borne the nickname of "Demian the Snake-Seer" in the village. Matvey Nikolaich had been the schoolmaster, a kind,
intelligent man, but a hard drinker, too. He never thrashed his scholars, but for some reason he kept a little bundle of birch twigs hanging on his wall, under which was a tablet bearing the absolutely unintelligible inscription: "Betula Kinderbalsamica Secuta." He had had a woolly black dog whom he called "Syntax."
The bishop laughed. Eight miles from Lyesopolye lay the village of Obnino, possessing a miraculous icon. A procession started from Obnino every summer bearing the wonder-working icon and making the round of all the neighboring villages. The church-bells would ring all day long first in one village, then in another, and to little Pavel (His Reverence was called little Pavel then) the air itself seemed tremulous with rapture. Barefoot, hatless, and infinitely happy, he followed the icon with a naive smile on his lips and naïve faith in his heart.
Until the age of fifteen little Pavel had been so slow at his lessons that his parents had even thought of taking him out of the ecclesiastical school and putting him to work in the village store.
The bishop turned over so as to break the train of his thoughts, and tried to go to sleep.
"My mother has come!" he remembered, and smiled.
The moon was shining in through the window, and the floor was lit by its rays while he lay in shadow. A cricket was chirping. Father Sisoi was snoring in the next room, and there was a forlorn, friendless, even a vagrant note in the old man's cadences.
Sisoi had once been the steward of a diocesan bishop and was known as "Father Former Steward." He was seventy years old, and lived sometimes in a monastery sixteen miles away, sometimes in the city, sometimes wherever he happened to be. Three days ago he had turned up at the Pankratievski Monastery, and the bishop had kept him here in order to discuss with him at his leisure the affairs of the monastery.
The bell for matins rang at half-past one. Father Sisoi coughed, growled something, and got up.
"Father Sisoi!" called the bishop.
Sisoi came in dressed in a white cassock, carrying a candle in his hand.
"I can't go to sleep," His Reverence said. "I must be ill. I don't know what the matter is; I have fever."
"You have caught cold, your Lordship. I must rub you with tallow."
Father Sisoi stood looking at him for a while and yawned: "Ah-h --the Lord have mercy on us!"
"Erakin has electricity in his store now--I hate it!" he continued. Father Sisoi was aged, and round-shouldered, and gaunt. He was
always displeased with something or other, and his eyes, which protruded like those of a crab, always wore an angry expression.
"I don't like it at all," he repeated--"I hate it."
Next day, on Palm Sunday, His Reverence officiated at the cathedral in the city. Then he went to the diocesan bishop's, then to see a general's wife who was very ill, and at last he drove home. At two o'clock two beloved guests were having dinner with him, his aged mother, and his little niece Katya, a child of eight. The spring sun was peeping cheerily in through the windows as they sat at their meal, and was shining merrily on the white tablecloth, and on Katya's red hair. Through the double panes they heard the rooks cawing, and the magpies chattering in the garden.
"It is nine years since I saw you last," said the old mother, "and yet when I caught sight of you in the convent chapel yesterday I thought to myself: God bless me, he has not changed a bit! Only perhaps you are a little thinner than you were, and your beard has grown longer. Oh, holy Mother, Queen of Heaven! Everybody was crying yesterday. As soon as I saw you, I began to cry myself, I don't know why. His holy will be done!"
In spite of the tenderness with which she said this, it was clear that she was not at her ease. It was as if she did not know whether to address the bishop by the familiar "thee" or the formal "you," and whether she ought to laugh or not. She seemed to feel herself more of a poor deacon's wife than a mother in his presence. Meanwhile Katya was sitting with her eyes glued to the face of her uncle the bishop as if she were trying to make out what manner of man this was. Her hair had escaped from her comb and her bow of velvet ribbon, and was standing straight up around her head like a halo. Her eyes were foxy and bright. She had broken a glass before sitting down, and now, as she talked, her grandmother kept moving first a glass, and then a wineglass, out of her reach. As the bishop sat listening to his mother, he remembered how, many, many years ago, she had sometimes taken him and his brothers and sisters to visit relatives whom they considered rich. She had been busy with her own children in those days, and now she was busy with her grandchildren, and had come to visit him with Katya here.
"Your sister Varenka has four children"--she was telling him--"Katya is the oldest. God knows why, her father fell ill and died three days before Assumption. So my Varenka has been thrown out into the cold world."
"And how is my brother Nikanor?" the bishop asked.
"He is well, thank the Lord. He is pretty well, praise be to God. But his son Nikolasha wouldn't go into the church, and is at college
instead learning to be a doctor. He thinks it is best, but who knows? However, God's will be done!"
"Nikolasha cuts up dead people!" said Katya, spilling some water into her lap.
"Sit still, child!" her grandmother said, quietly taking the glass out of her hands.
"How long it is since we have seen one another!" exclaimed His Reverence, tenderly stroking his mother's shoulder and hand, "I missed you when I was abroad, I missed you dreadfully."
"Thank you very much!"
"I used to sit by my window in the evening listening to the band playing, and feeling lonely and forlorn. Sometimes I would suddenly grow so homesick that I used to think I would gladly give everything I had in the world for a glimpse of you and home."
His mother smiled and beamed, and then immediately drew a long face and said stiffly:
"Thank you very much!"
The bishop's mood changed. He looked at his mother, and could not understand where she had acquired that deferential, humble expression of face and voice, and what the meaning of it might be. He hardly recognized her, and felt sorrowful and vexed. Besides, his head was still aching, and his legs were racked with pain. The fish he was eating tasted insipid and he was very thirsty.
After dinner two wealthy lady landowners visited him, and sat for an hour and a half with faces a mile long, never uttering a word Then an archimandrite, a gloomy, taciturn man, came on business. Then the bells rang for vespers, the sun set behind the woods, and the day was done. As soon as he got back from church the bishop said his prayers, and went to bed, drawing the covers up closely about his ears. The moonlight troubled him, and soon the sound of voices came to his ears. Father Sisoi was talking politics with his mother in the next room.
"There is a war in Japan now," he was saying. "The Japanese belong to the same race as the Montenegrins. They fell under the Turkish yoke at the same time."
And then the bishop heard his mother's voice say:
"And so, you see, when we had said our prayers, and had our tea, we went to Father Yegor----"
She kept saying over and over again that they "had tea," as if all she knew of life was tea-drinking.
The memory of his seminary and college life slowly and mistily took shape in the bishop's mind. He had been a teacher of Greek for three years, until he could no longer read without glasses, and then he had taken the vows, and had been made an inspector. When he was thirty-two he had been made the rector of a seminary, and then an archimandrite. At that time his life had been so easy and
pleasant, and had seemed to stretch so far, far into the future that he could see absolutely no end to it. But his health had failed, and he had nearly lost his eyesight. His doctors had advised him to give up his work and go abroad.
"And what did you do next?" asked Father Sisoi in the adjoining room.
"And then we had tea," answered his mother.
"Why, Father, your beard is green!" exclaimed Katya suddenly. And she burst out laughing.
The bishop remembered that the color of Father Sisoi's beard really did verge on green, and he, too, laughed.
"My goodness! What a plague that child is!" cried Father Sisoi in a loud voice, for he was growing angry. "You're a spoiled baby, you are! Sit still!"
The bishop recalled the new white church in which he had officiated when he was abroad, and the sound of a warm sea. Eight years had slipped by while he was there; then he had been recalled to Russia, and now he was already a bishop, and the past had faded away into mist as if it had been but a dream.
Father Sisoi came into his room with a candle in his hand.
"Well, well!" he exclaimed, surprised. "Asleep already, Your Reverence?"
"It's early yet, only ten o'clock! I bought a candle this evening and wanted to rub you with tallow."
"I have a fever," the bishop said, sitting up. "I suppose something ought to be done. My head feels so queer."
Sisoi began to rub the bishop's chest and back with tallow.
"There--there--" he said. "Oh, Lord God Almighty! There! I went to town to-day, and saw that--what do you call him?--that archpresbyter Sidonski. I had tea with him. I hate him! Oh, Lord God Almighty! There! I hate him!"
The diocesan bishop was very old and very fat, and had been ill in bed with gout for a month. So His Reverence Pyotr had been visiting him almost every day, and had received his suppliants for him. And now that he was ill he was appalled to think of the futilities and trifles they asked for and wept over. He felt annoyed at their ignorance and cowardice. The very number of all those useless trivialities oppressed him, and he felt as if he could understand the diocesan bishop who had written "Lessons in Free Will" when he was young, and now seemed so absorbed in details that the memory of everything else, even of God, had forsaken him. Pyotr must have grown out of touch with Russian life while he was
abroad, for it was hard for him to grow used to it now. The people seemed rough, the women stupid and tiresome, the novices and their teachers uneducated and often disorderly. And then the documents that passed through his hands by the hundreds of thousands! The provosts gave all the priests in the diocese, young and old, and their wives and children marks for good behavior, and he was obliged to talk about all this, and read about it, and write serious articles on it. His Reverence never had a moment which he could call his own; all day his nerves were on edge, and he grew calm only when he found himself in church.
He could not grow accustomed to the terror which he involuntarily inspired in every breast in spite of his quiet and modest ways. Everyone in the district seemed to shrivel and quake and apologize as soon as he looked at them. Everyone trembled in his presence; even the old archpresbyters fell down at his feet, and not long ago one suppliant, the old wife of a village priest, had been prevented by terror from uttering a word, and had gone away without asking for anything. And he, who had never been able to say a harsh word in his sermons, and who never blamed people because he pitied them so, would grow exasperated with these suppliants, and hurl their petitions to the ground. Not a soul had spoken sincerely and naturally to him since he had been here; even his old mother had changed, yes, she had changed very much! Why did she talk so freely to Sisoi when all the while she was so serious and ill at ease with him, her own son? It was not like her at all! The only person who behaved naturally in his presence, and who said whatever came into his head, was old man Sisoi, who had lived with bishops all his life, and had outlasted eleven of them. And therefore His Reverence felt at ease with Sisoi, even though he was, without a doubt, a rough and quarrelsome person.
After morning prayers on Tuesday the bishop received his suppliants, and lost his temper with them. He felt ill, as usual, and longed to go to bed, but he had hardly entered his room before he was told that the young merchant Erakin, a benefactor of the monastery, had called on very important business. The bishop was obliged to receive him. Erakin stayed about an hour talking in a very loud voice, and it was hard to understand what he was trying to say.
After he had gone there came an abbess from a distant convent, and by the time she had gone the bells were tolling for vespers; it was time for the bishop to go to church.
The monks sang melodiously and rapturously that evening; a young, black-bearded priest officiated. His Reverence listened as they sang of the Bridegroom and of the chamber swept and
garnished, and felt neither repentance nor sorrow, but only a deep peace of mind. He sat by the altar where the shadows were deepest, and was swept in imagination back into the days of his childhood and youth, when he had first heard these words sung. The tears trickled down his cheeks, and he meditated on how he had attained everything in life that it was possible for a man in his position to attain; his faith was unsullied, and yet all was not clear to him; something was lacking, and he did not want to die. It still seemed to him that he was leaving unfound the most important thing of all. Something of which he had dimly dreamed in the past, hopes that had thrilled his heart as a child, a schoolboy, and a traveler in foreign lands, troubled him still.
"How beautifully they are singing today!" he thought. "Oh, how beautifully!"
On Thursday he held a service in the cathedral. It was the festival of the Washing of Feet. When the service was over, and the people had gone to their several homes, the sun was shining brightly and cheerily, and the air was warm. The gutters were streaming with bubbling water, and the tender songs of larks came floating in from the fields beyond the city, bringing peace to his heart. The trees were already awake, and over them brooded the blue, unfathomable sky.
His Reverence went to bed as soon as he reached home, and told the lay brother to close his shutters. The room grew dark. Oh, how tired he was!
As on the day before, the sound of voices and the tinkling of glasses came to him from the next room. His mother was gaily recounting some tale to Father Sisoi, with many a quaint word and saying, and the old man was listening gloomily, and answering in a gruff voice:
"Well, I never! Did they indeed? What do you think of that!"
And once more the bishop felt annoyed, and then hurt that the old lady should be so natural and simple with strangers, and so silent and awkward with her own son. It even seemed to him that she always tried to find some pretext for standing in his presence, as if she felt uneasy sitting down. And his father? If he had been alive, he would probably not have been able to utter a word when the bishop was there.
Something in the next room fell to the floor with a crash. Katya had evidently broken a cup or a saucer, for Father Sisoi suddenly snorted, and cried angrily:
"What a terrible plague this child is! Merciful heavens! No one could keep her supplied with china!"
Then silence fell. When he opened his eyes again, the bishop saw Katya standing by his bedside staring at him, her red hair standing up around her head like a halo, as usual.
"Is that you, Katya?" he asked. "Who is that opening and shutting doors down there?"
"I don't hear anything," Katya answered and tried to listen.
"There, someone just went by."
"That's in your belly, uncle!"
He smiled and stroked her head.
"So your cousin Nikolasha cuts up dead people, does he?" he asked, after a pause.
"Yes, he is learning to."
"Is he nice?"
"Yes, very, only he drinks a lot."
"What did your father die of?"
"Papa grew weaker and weaker, and thinner and thinner, and then came his sore throat. And I was ill, too, and so was my brother Fedia. We all had sore throats. Papa died, Uncle, but we got well."
Her chin quivered, her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, Your Reverence!" she cried in a shrill voice, beginning to weep bitterly. "Dear Uncle, Mother and all of us are so unhappy! Do give us a little money! Help us, Uncle darling!"
He also shed tears, and for a moment could not speak for emotion. He stroked her hair, and touched her shoulder, and said:
"All right, all right, little child. Wait until Easter comes, then we will talk about it. I'll help you."
His mother came quietly and timidly into the room, and said a prayer before the icon. When she saw that he was awake, she asked:
"Would you like a little soup?"
"No, thanks," he answered. "I'm not hungry."
"I don't believe you are well--I can see that you are not well. You really mustn't fall ill! You have to be on your feet all day long. My goodness, it makes one tired to see you! Never mind, Easter is no longer over the hills and far away. When Easter comes you will rest. God will give us time for a little talk then, but now I'm not going to worry you any more with my silly chatter. Come, Katya, let His Lordship have another forty winks----"
And the bishop remembered that, when he was a boy, she had used exactly the same half-playful, half-respectful tone to all high dignitaries of the church. Only by her strangely tender eyes, and by the anxious look which she gave him as she left the room could anyone have guessed that she was his mother. He shut his eyes, and seemed to be asleep, but he heard the clock strike twice, and Father Sisoi coughing next door. His mother came in again, and looked shyly at him. Suddenly there came a bang, and a door slammed; a vehicle of some kind drove up to the front steps. The lay brother
came into the bishop's room, and called:
"What is it?"
"Here is the coach! It is time to go to our Lord's Passion----"
"What time is it?"
"Quarter to eight."
The bishop dressed, and drove to the cathedral. He had to stand motionless in the center of the church while the twelve Gospels were being read, and the first and longest and most beautiful of them all he read himself. A strong, valiant mood took hold of him. He knew this gospel, beginning "The Son of Man is risen today----," by heart, and as he repeated it, he raised his eyes, and saw a sea of little lights about him. He heard the sputtering of candles, but the people had disappeared. He felt surrounded by those whom he had known in his youth; he felt that they would always be here until--God knows when!
His father had been a deacon, his grandfather had been a priest, and his great-grandfather a deacon. He sprang from a race that had belonged to the church since Christianity first came to Russia, and his love for the ritual of the church, the clergy, and the sound of church-bells was inborn in him, deeply, inirradicably implanted in his heart. When he was in church, especially when he was taking part in the service himself, he felt active and valorous and happy. And so it was with him now. Only, after the eighth Gospel had been read, he felt that his voice was becoming so feeble that even his cough was inaudible; his head was aching, and he began to fear that he might collapse. His legs were growing numb; in a little while he ceased to have any sensation in them at all, and could not imagine what he was standing on, and why he did not fall down.
It was quarter to twelve when the service ended. The bishop went to bed as soon as he reached home, without even saying his prayers. As lie pulled his blanket up over him, he suddenly wished that he were abroad; he passionately wished it. He would give his life, he thought, to cease from seeing these cheap, wooden walls and that low ceiling, to cease from smelling the stale scent of the monastery.
If there were only someone with whom he could talk, someone to whom he could unburden his heart!
He heard steps in the adjoining room, and tried to recall who it might be. At last the door opened, and Father Sisoi came in with a candle in one hand, and a teacup in the other.
"In bed already, Your Reverence?" he asked. "I have come to rub your chest with vinegar and vodka. It is a fine thing, if rubbed in good and hard. Oh, Lord God Almighty! There-there--I have just come from our monastery. I hate it. I am going away from here tomorrow, my Lord. Oh, Lord, God Almighty--there----"
Sisoi never could stay long in one place, and he now felt as if he had been in this monastery for a year. It was hard to tell from what
he said where his home was, whether there was anyone or anything in the world that he loved, and whether he believed in God or not. He himself never could make out why he had become a monk, but then, he never gave it any thought, and the time when he had taken the vows had long since faded from his memory. He thought he must have been born a monk.
"Yes, I am going away tomorrow. Bother this place!"
"I want to have a talk with you--I never seem to have the time--" whispered the bishop, making a great effort to speak. "You see, I don't know anyone--or anything-here----"
"Very well then, I shall stay until Sunday, but no longer! Bother this place!"
"What sort of a bishop am I?" His Reverence went on, in a faint voice. "I ought to have been a village priest, or a deacon, or a plain monk. All this is choking me--it is choking me----"
"What's that? Oh, Lord God Almighty! There--go to sleep now, Your Reverence. What do you mean? What's all this you are saying? Good-night!"
All night long the bishop lay awake, and in the morning be grew very ill. The lay brother took fright and ran first to the archimandrite, and then for the monastery doctor who lived in the city. The doctor, a stout, elderly man, with a long, gray beard, looked intently at His Reverence, shook his head, knit his brows, and finally said:
"I'll tell you what, Your Reverence; you have typhoid."
The bishop grew very thin and pale in the next hour, his eyes grew larger, his face became covered with wrinkles, and he looked quite small and old. He felt as if he were the thinnest, weakest, puniest man in the whole world, and as if everything that had occurred before this had been left far, far behind, and would never happen again.
"How glad I am of that!" he thought. "Oh, how glad!"
His aged mother came into the room. When she saw his wrinkled face and his great eves, she was seized with fear, and, falling down on her knees by his bedside, she began kissing his face, his shoulders, and his hands. He seemed to her to be the thinnest, weakest, puniest man in the world, and she forgot that he was a bishop, and kissed him as if he had been a little child whom she dearly, dearly loved.
"Little Pavel, my dearie!" she cried. "My little son, why do you look like this? Little Pavel, oh, answer me!"
Katya, pale and severe, stood near them, and could not understand what was the matter with her uncle, and why Granny wore such a look of suffering on her face, and spoke such heart-rending words. And he, he was speechless, and knew nothing of what was going on around him. He was dreaming that he was an ordinary man once more, striding swiftly and merrily through the open
country, a staff in his hand, bathed in sunshine, with the wide sky above him, as free as a bird to go wherever his fancy led him.
"My little son! My little Pavel! Answer me!" begged his mother.
"Don't bother His Lordship," said Sisoi angrily, crossing the room. "Let him sleep. Nothing to do there... what for!. . . ."
Three doctors came, consulted together, and drove away. The day seemed long, incredibly long, and then came the long, long night. Just before dawn on Saturday morning the lay brother went to the old mother who was lying on a sofa in the sitting-room, and asked her to come into the bedroom; His Reverence had gone to eternal peace.
Next day was Easter. There were forty-two churches in the city, and two monasteries, and the deep, joyous notes of their bells pealed out over the town from morning until night. The birds were caroling, the bright sun was shining. The big marketplace was full of noise; barrel organs were droning, concertinas were squealing, and drunken voices were ringing through the air. Trotting-races were held in the main street that afternoon; in a word, all was merry and gay, as had been the year before and as, doubtless, it would be the year to come.
A month later a new bishop was appointed, and everyone forgot his Reverence Pyotr. Only the dead man's mother, who is living now in a little country town with her son the deacon, when she goes out at sunset to meet her cow, and joins the other women on the way, tells them about her children and grandchildren, and her boy who became a bishop.
And when she mentions him she looks at them shyly, for she is afraid they will not believe her.
And, as a matter of fact, not all of them do.