It was the Palm Sunday Vigil at the Old Convent of St. Peter. When they started handing out the willow branches it was nearly ten o'clock, lights had dimmed, wicks needed snuffing, everything was blurred and the congregation swayed like a sea in the gloomy church. To the Right Reverend Peter, who had been unwell for the last three days, all these faces - old and young, male and female - appeared alike: coming up for their willows, they all had that same look about the eyes. He could not see the doors for haze, and the congregation kept moving - never - ending, it seemed. A women's choir sang, a nun was reading the canon.
It was so hot, so stuffy. The vigil seemed interminable, and his lordship was tired. He was breathing heavily - panting - his throat was parched, his shoulders ached with fatigue, his legs trembled. He was upset, too, by the occasional shrieks of some religious maniac in the gallery. Then, suddenly, as if dreaming or delirious, he thought he saw his mother whom he had not set eyes on for nine years - or an old lady resembling his mother - approach him in the crowd, take her willow and move away, gazing at him with a bright, radiant, kindly smile until lost in the crowd. Tears began trickling down his face, he knew not why. He felt serene and all was well, but he stared at the choir on his left where the lesson was being read and where he could no longer see who was who in the gloaming - and wept. Tears glittered on his face and beard. Then someone near him also started crying, followed by someone else a little further off and then by more and more people until the whole church was gradually filled with this quiet weeping. But about five minutes later the nuns' choir was singing, the crying had stopped, everything was back to normal.
The service ended soon afterwards. As the Bishop climbed into his carriage to go home a melodious, rich, merry clang of heavy bells flooded the moonlit convent garden. White walls, white crosses on graves, white birches, black shadows, the moon far away in the sky directly over the convent . . . all seemed to be living a life of their own - a life incomprehensible yet close to man's. It was early April with the seasonal chill which follows a warm day, there was a touch of frost and a breath of spring in the soft, cold air. The road from convent to city was sandy, and they had to keep their horses to a walk. In the moonlight, bright and serene, churchgoers were trudging through the sand on both sides of the carriage. All were silent, plunged in thought. So congenial, fresh and intimate was this ambiance - trees, sky and moon too - that one found oneself hoping it would never change.
The carriage reached town at last and rumbled down the main street. The shops were shut, except that at Yerakin's - the millionaire merchant's - the electric lighting was being tested, and flickered violently while a crowd stood around. Then came a series of wide, dark, deserted streets followed on the far side of town by a highway (built by the local authority), open fields, fragrant pines. Suddenly a white castellated wall arose before his eyes and behind it a tall bell tower bathed in moonlight with a cluster of five large, glittering onion - domes. It was the Monastery of St. Pancratios, where Bishop Peter lived. Here too, high above the monastery, rode that same calm, dreaming moon. The carriage drove in at the gate, crunching on sand. Here and there black monkish figures flitted through the moonlight, footsteps echoed on flagstones.
'Your mother called while you were out, your grace,' said the cell attendant as the Bishop was entering his quarters.
'My mommy? When did she arrive?'
'Before vigil - she asked where you were, then went to the convent.'
'So it was her I saw in church just now - good heavens!' The Bishop laughed happily.
'She asked me to tell your grace that she'll be here tomorrow, the cell attendant continued. 'She has a little girl with her - her granddaughter, I suppose. They're staying at Ovsyannikov's inn.'
'What time is it now?'
'Just after eleven.'
'Oh, what a pity.'
The Bishop sat for a while in his parlor, meditating and somehow not believing that the hour was so late. His arms and legs ached, the back of his neck hurt, he felt hot and uncomfortable. After resting he went to his bedroom, where he also sat for a while, still thinking of his mother. He heard the cell attendant going away, and a hieromonk - Father Sisoy - coughing in the next room. The monastery clock struck the quarter.
The Bishop changed and began saying his bedtime prayers. While carefully reading the old familiar words he thought about his mother. She had had nine children and about forty grandchildren. She had once lived with her husband, a deacon, in a poor village: lived there for most of her life, between the ages of seventeen and sixty. The Bishop remembered her from early childhood - from the age of three, almost - and how he had loved her! Dear, precious, unforgettable childhood, that time now vanished and gone beyond recall.. . why does it always seem brighter, richer, more carefree than it actually was? When he had been ill in childhood or youth . . . how tender, how solicitous his mother had been! By now his prayers were mingled with memories which blazed up like flames, ever more radiantly, and his prayers did not stop him thinking about his mother.
His prayers finished, he undressed and lay down. No sooner had darkness closed around him than he had a vision of his father - now dead - his mother, his native village of Lesopolye. Wheels creaking, sheep bleating, church bells pealing on bright summer mornings, gypsies at the window . . . how delightful to think of these things. He remembered the Lesopolye priest, Father Simeon: that meek, mild, good - natured man - short and lean, but with an enormously tall theological student son who had a thundering bass voice. Losing his temper with a cook, once, the son had called her 'thou ass of Jehudiel', hearing which Father Simeon had gone very quiet - ashamed that he could not remember where such an ass is mentioned in the Bible. His successor at Lesopolye had been Father Damian: a heavy drinker who sometimes reached the point of seeing green serpents and was even nicknamed Damian the Dragon - seer. The Lesopolye schoolmaster had been a Matthew Nikolayevich: a former seminarian - kind, rather intelligent, also a drunkard. He never beat his pupils, but for some reason always had a birch hanging on the wall with a notice under it in Latin gibberish: BETULA KINDERBALSAMICA SECUTA, "translated" as "Healing child - flogging birch". He had a shaggy black dog called Syntax.
The bishop laughed. Five miles from Lesopolye was another village, Obnino, with a miracle - working icon which was carried in procession round the neighboring villages every summer while bells rang all day - first in one village, then in another. To the Bishop ('Young Paul' at the time) the very air had seemed vibrant with rapture, and he had followed that icon - bare - headed and barefoot, blissfully happy with his innocent faith and his innocent smile. At Obnino, he now recalled, there had always been a large congregation, and Father Alexis - the local priest - in order to finish the Proskomedia in time - had his deaf nephew Hilary to recite the notices and the inscriptions attached to the prosphora: all about prayers 'for the health of' and 'for the soul of' various people. Ilarion did it, receiving the occasional five or ten copecks for these services, and only when he was gray and balding - only when life had passed him by - did he suddenly notice one day a paper with the words 'You're such a fool, Hilary,' written on it. Young Paul had been backward until the age of fifteen or more, and had done so badly at his church school that they had even thought of taking him away and placing him in a shop. When fetching letters once from Obnino post - office, he had directed a prolonged stare at the clerks, and had then asked them to 'permit me to enquire' how they received their salary: was it monthly or daily?
The Bishop crossed himself, turning over so that he could stop thinking and go to sleep.
Remembering that his mother had come to see him, he gave a laugh.
The moon shone in at the window, the floor gleamed and shadows lay across it. A cricket chirped. On the other side of the wall, in the next room, Father Sisoy was snoring. There was a forlorn, bereaved note - something of the homeless wanderer, even - in the old man's snores. Sisoy had once looked after a diocesan bishop's house, and was now known as the 'Father Ex - Housekeeper'. He was seventy years old and lived in a monastery ten miles from the city - but stayed in town too when convenient. Three days ago he had called at the Monastery of St. Pancratios, and the Bishop had put him up in his own quarters so that they could discuss business and certain local arrangements at their leisure.
The bell rang for early matins at half past one. Father Sisoy was heard to cough and mumble discontentedly, after which he got up and paced the rooms barefoot.
'Father Sisoy,' called the bishop.
Sisoy went to his own room, but appeared a little later in his boots, carrying a candle. He wore cassock over his underclothes and a faded old skufia.
'I can't sleep,' said the Bishop, sitting up. 'I must be unwell. But just what the matter is I don't know. I feel so hot.'
'You must have caught cold, my lord. You need rubbing down with candle grease.'
Sisoy stood there for a moment. 'Lord, forgive me, miserable sinner.' He yawned and added that 'they had the electricity on at Yerakin's yesterday - I don't hold with it, I don't.'
Father Sisoy was old, wizened, bent, always discontented. He had angry, bulging eyes like a crab's.
'I don't hold with it, confound it, that I don't,' he repeated as he went out.
On the next day, Palm Sunday, the Bishop celebrated liturgy in the cathedral, then visited the diocesan bishop and an old lady - wife of some general - who was very ill, and finally returned home. At about half past one he was entertaining some very special guests to lunch: his old mother and his little eight - year - old niece Katya. Throughout lunch the spring sun shone through the windows which looked on the yard, sparkling merrily on the white tablecloth and in Katya's red hair. Through the double frames rooks were heard cawing in the garden, starlings chattered.
'Nine years it is since we met,' said the old lady. 'But then I saw you in the convent yesterday, and - goodness me, you haven't changed a bit except that you're thinner and your beard's longer, Blessed Virgin, Mother of God! Yesterday at the service no one could help crying, and when I looked at you I suddenly started crying myself, I don't know why. It's the Lord's will.'
Fondly though she spoke she was clearly ill at ease, apparently wondering how intimately she should address him, and whether she might laugh or not. She seemed to feel herself more the deacon's widow than the bishop's mother, while Katya stared unblinking at her right reverend uncle as if trying to guess what manner of a man this was. Her hair sprouted up like a halo from her comb and velvet ribbon, she had a turned - up nose and an artful look. She had broken a glass before lunch, and her grandmother was now moving the tumblers and wineglasses away from her as she spoke. Listening to his mother, the Bishop remembered her long, long ago taking him with his brothers and sisters to see some supposedly rich relatives. She had been busy with her children then. Now it was her grandchildren, and so she had brought this Katya.
'Your sister Barbara has four children,' she explained. 'And Katya here's the eldest. Now, her father Ivan - your brother - in - law - fell ill, Lord knows why, and died three days before Dormition. And now she's real hard up, is poor Barbara.'
The Bishop asked after Nikanor, his eldest brother.
'He's all right, thank God. He hasn't much, but it's enough to live on, praise be. The thing is, though, his son Nicholas - my grandson - decided against a church career. He's at college, studying to be a doctor. That's better, thinks he, and who knows? 'Tis the Lord's will.'
'Nicholas cuts up dead bodies,' put in Katya, spilling water on her lap.
'Sit still, child,' the grandmother remarked serenely, taking the glass from her hands. 'Say a prayer as you eat.'
'It's so long since we met,' said the Bishop, fondly stroking his mother's arm and shoulder. 'I missed you when I was abroad, Mummy, I really did.'
His mother said that she 'thanked him kindly'.
'Some evenings you'd be sitting on your own by an open window when a band would strike up - and you'd suddenly want to be back in Russia. You'd feel you'd give anything to go home and see your mother - '
His mother beamed, but at once pulled a serious face and repeated that she 'thanked him kindly'.
Then his mood changed rather abruptly. Looking at his mother, he was baffled - why this reverent and timid expression and tone of voice? What was the point? It didn't seem like her. He felt depressed and annoyed. Besides, he also had a headache like yesterday's and a gnawing pain in his legs. The fish seemed tasteless and unappetizing, he felt thirsty all the time.
After the meal two rich ladies, estate - owners, arrived and sat for an hour and a half in silence with long faces. The Archimandrite - taciturn and a trifle deaf - came on some errand. Then the bell rang for vespers, the sun sank behind the woods, and the day was done. The Bishop came back from church, hastily prayed, went to bed and covered himself up warmly.
That lunch-time fish had left a disagreeable aftertaste, the moonlight disturbed him, and then he heard voices. Father Sisoy was discussing politics in a nearby room, probably the parlour.
'The Japanese are at war now. Fighting, they are. The Japanese are like the Montenegrins, Matushka. Belong to the same tribe, they do, they were under Turkish yoke together.'
Then the Bishop's mother was heard to speak. 'So, having said our prayers, like, er, and had a cup of tea, we went to see Father Yegor at Novokhatnoye er'.
From all this 'having had a cup' and 'having drunk a pot' stuff you'd have thought she'd never done anything in life but drink tea. Slowly and apathetically the Bishop recalled his theological seminary and academy. For three years he had taught Greek at that school - by then he could no longer read without glasses. Then he had become a monk and second master, then he had taken his doctor's degree. He had been made headmaster and Archimandrite at the age of thirty - two, and life had been so easy and pleasant: looked as if it would go on and on like that for ever and ever. But then he had fallen ill, he had lost a lot of weight, he had nearly gone blind - and had had to drop everything and go abroad on doctors' orders.
'Then what?' asked Sisoy in the next room.
'Then we had tea,' answered the Bishop's mother.
'Father, you have a green beard,' Katya suddenly said with a surprised laugh.
Remembering that grey - haired Father Sisoy's beard really did have a greenish tinge, the Bishop laughed.
'The girl's a thorough pest, Lord help us,' said Sisoy loudly and angrily. 'She's so spoilt! You sit still!'
The Bishop remembered the completely new white church where he had held services when living abroad, remembered the roar of that warm sea. He had had an apartment of five high, airy rooms with a new desk in the study and a library. He had read and written a great deal. He remembered being homesick for Russia, remembered the blind beggar - woman singing of love and playing a guitar under his window every day - listening to her had always reminded him of the past, somehow. Then eight years had passed, he had been recalled to Russia. Now he was a suffragan bishop, and his entire previous life had vanished into some distant mist, as if it had all been a dream.
Entering the bedroom with a candle, Father Sisoy gave a surprised exclamation. 'Asleep, already, my lord?'
'What is it?'
'Why it's still early - ten or even earlier. I've just bought a candle, I wanted to rub you over with grease.'
'I have a temperature.' The Bishop sat up. 'We really should do something, my head's bad.
Sisoy took the Bishop's shirt off and began rubbing his chest and back with candle grease.
'There, there,' he said. 'Lord bless us! There, there. I went into town today and visited that Archpriest what's - his - name - Sidonsky - had tea with him. I don't hold with him, Lord love us, that I don't.'
The diocesan bishop - old, very stout and rheumaticky or gouty - had been bedridden for the last month. Bishop Peter visited him almost daily, and saw the people who came to ask the other's help. But now that he was unwell himself he was struck by the triviality and futility of all their tearful applications. Their ignorance and timidity riled him. All this pettiness and pointlessness . . . the sheer weight of it got him down. He felt that he could now understand the diocesan bishop: author of a Dogma of Free Will in youth, but now apparently submerged in trifles, having forgotten everything and never thinking about God. Bishop Peter must have lost touch with Russian life while he was abroad. It wasn't easy for him now, what with the peasants seeming so rough and the women who sought his help so tiresomely stupid - while seminarians and their teachers were ill - educated and at times barbarous. As for the documents coming and going, they were reckoned by their tens of thousands! And what documents! The district deans of the entire diocese were accustomed to award conduct marks to their priests of whatever age - to the priests' wives and children, even - just as if they were school children, all of which had to be discussed, perused and solemnly reported in documentary form. Never, never was there a single free minute: it was nervous tension all day long for Bishop Peter, who could relax only when he was in church.
Nor could he inure himself to the terror which, through no wish of his own, he inspired in others despite his meek and modest demeanor. Everyone in the county seemed small, frightened and guilty when he looked at them. Everyone, even old archpriests - wilted in his presence, they all prostrated themselves before him. So scared had one of his recent petitioners been (an old woman, wife of a country priest) that she had gone away empty handed without uttering a single word. Meanwhile the Bishop - who could never bring himself to disparage anyone in his sermons, who felt too sorry for people to reproach them - was raging and losing his temper with his visitors, and throwing their applications on the floor. Not once since he had come to this place had anyone spoken to him sincerely and simply, as one human being to another. Even his old mother seemed to have changed, indeed she did. Why, he wondered, did she chatter away non-stop and laugh so much when she was with Sisoy, whereas with her own son she was so solemn, so tongue - tied, so embarrassed - which didn't suit her at all? The only person to behave freely and speak his mind in the Bishop's presence was old Sisoy, whose whole life had been spent attending bishops, and who had outlasted eleven of them - which was why the Bishop felt at ease with him, difficult and cantankerous though the old man assuredly was.
After Tuesday liturgy the Bishop went to the diocesan house to deal with his appointments, which was all very upsetting and annoying, after which he went home. Again he felt unwell, again he wanted to go to bed. But hardly had he reached his room before he was informed that Yerakin - a young merchant and benefactor - had arrived on a most urgent errand. There was no question of not seeing him. Yerakin stayed for about an hour talking very loudly, practically shouting, so that it was hard to make out what he said.
'God grant something - or - other,' he said as he left. 'Oh, most emphatically! Depending on the circumstances, my lord. Wishing you something - or - other.'
Then came the Mother Superior of a distant convent. After she had left the bells rang for vespers, and he had to go to church.
That evening the monks' singing was tuneful and inspired. A black bearded young hieromonk was officiating. Hearing about the Bridegroom who cometh at midnight and the chamber richly adorned, the Bishop felt neither grief nor repentance for his sins but calm and serenity in his soul as his thoughts floated back to the distant past, to his childhood and youth when that same Bridegroom and chamber had also been hymned. That past now seemed vivid, wonderful and joyful. Not that it had really been anything of the sort, probably. In the next world, in the life to come, we shall perhaps recall the distant past and our present life with just such a feeling. Who knows? Tears coursed down the Bishop's face as he sat in the darkness of the sanctuary. He had achieved everything possible for a man in his position, he reflected. He had kept his faith. And yet not all was clear to him - something was missing. He didn't want to die. He still felt the lack of some crucial element which he had once vaguely imagined, and he was still disturbed at this very moment by that same hope for the future which had been his in boyhood, at the academy and abroad.
'How beautifully they sing today,' he thought, listening to the singing. 'How beautifully."
On Thursday he celebrated liturgy in the cathedral. The rite of the washing of feet was performed. After the service, as the congregation dispersed, the weather was sunny, warm and cheerful, with water gurgling in ditches and ceaseless lark - song, sweet and restful, wafting over from the fields beyond the city. Newly burgeoning trees smiled their welcome, and above them a fathomless expanse of blue sky soared off into the unknown.
Arriving home, Bishop Peter had tea, changed, went to bed and told the cell attendant to close the shutters. The bedroom grew dim. How tired he was, though, how his legs and back did ache with that dull, cold pain, and what a ringing there was in his ears! He felt as if he hadn't slept for a long time, felt himself prevented from sleeping by some trifle which glimmered in his brain as soon as his eyes were shut. Through the walls of adjoining rooms he heard voices, and the chink of glasses and tea - spoons - just like yesterday. His mother was telling Father Sisoy some jolly tale with lots of little jokes while he responded sullenly and discontentedly with a 'confound them!', a 'not likely!' or a 'come on!' Again the Bishop was annoyed, and then hurt, that the old woman could behave so normally and simply with strangers - yet remained so timid and tongue-tied with her own son, always saying the wrong thing, and even seeking a pretext all this time (or so he felt) to stand up in his presence because she was too shy to sit down. And what of his father? Had the old man still been alive he would probably have been unable to utter one word in his son's presence...
In the next room something fell on the floor and broke. Katya must have dropped a cup or saucer because Father Sisoy suddenly spat, announcing angrily that the girl was a thorough pest. 'Lord forgive me, miserable sinner, we'll soon have nothing left!'
Then all was quiet except for noises outside. When the Bishop opened his eyes he saw Katya in his room. She stood stock still, looking at him with that red hair sprouting as usual out of her comb like a halo.
'Is it you, Katya?' he asked. 'Who keeps opening and closing that door downstairs?' 'I can't hear it,' answered Katya, listening.
'There - someone just went through.'
'But it was your stomach rumbling, Uncle.'
He laughed and stroked her hair.
'So Cousin Nicholas cuts up dead bodies, does he?' he asked after a pause.
'Yes. He's a medical student.'
'Is he nice?'
'Yes, he's all right. But he doesn't half drink vodka!'
'What did your father die of?'
'Daddy was weak and ever so thin, and then suddenly he had a throat. I fell ill too, and so did my brother Theo - we all had throats. Then Daddy died, but we got better, Uncle.'
Her chin quivered. Tears filled her eyes and crawled down cheeks.
'Your grace,' said she in a thin little voice, now weeping bitterly. 'Mummy and I are so miserable, dear Uncle. Do give us a bit of money - be so kind, Uncle dear.'
He wept as well. For some time he was too upset to say a word. Then he stroked her head, touched her shoulder and said, 'All right, all right, little girl. Soon it will be the Bright Resurrection of the Lord and we'll have a talk. I will help you, certainly.'
His mother came in quietly and timidly, faced the icons and said a prayer. Noticing that he was still awake, she asked if he would 'like a drop of soup'.
'No thank you,' he answered. 'I'm not hungry.'
'You seem unwell now I look at you. I'm not surprised, though. On the go all day long - goodness me, a sorry sight you are! Well, Pascha isn't far off and then you can have a rest, God willing, and we'll talk. I won't bother you with my chatter now. Come on, Katya, let the his lordship sleep.'
He remembered her addressing a district dean just like this - long, long ago during his boyhood - with that same mixture of jocularity and respect. The unusually kind look in her eyes and the nervous, anxious glance which she flashed as she left the room. . . these were the only indications that this was his mother. He closed his eyes and seemed to be sleeping, but twice heard the striking of the hours, heard Father Sisoy coughing behind the wall. His mother came in again and watched him timidly for a minute. He heard some coach or carriage drive up to the porch. Suddenly there was a knock, the door banged, and the cell attendant came into the bedroom shouting 'your lordship'.
'What is it?'
'Your carriage is waiting. Time for the Lord's Passion!'
'What time is it then?'
'A quarter past seven.'
He dressed and drove to the cathedral where he had to stand motionless in the center during all twelve lessons from the gospels. The first of these - the longest and most beautiful - he read himself. A buoyant, vigorous mood came over him. That first reading ('Now is the Son of Man glorified') he knew by heart. Reciting it, he occasionally raised his eyes, he saw a sea of lights around him and he heard the sputter of candles, but the congregation remained invisible as before. It was, he felt, that selfsame congregation which he had seen as a boy and youth, and it would remain unchanged year after year - for how long God alone knew.
His father had been a deacon, his grandfather a priest, his great - grandfather a deacon. His entire family had quite possibly belonged to the clergy since Christianity had first come to Russia. His love of church services, of the priesthood, of ringing bells was innate, deep, ineradicable. In church - especially when he himself was officiating - he always felt active, cheerful and happy, which was just how he felt now. But after the reading of the eighth lesson he felt that his voice was failing, he could not even hear himself cough, a splitting headache came on. He began to worry - feared he might be about to fall down. Yes, his legs had grown completely numb, gradually losing all sensation. How he stayed upright and kept his feet - why he didn't just fall down - he could not tell...
The service finished at a quarter to twelve. Arriving home, the Bishop undressed and went to bed at once without even saying his prayers. He could not speak, he felt that he had lost the use of his legs. As he was pulling the blanket over him he suddenly felt an urge - an absolute craving - to go abroad. He was ready to sacrifice life itself just to be spared the sight of those wretched cheap shutters and low ceilings, to escape this oppressive monastery smell. If only there was one single person that he could talk to, open his heart to!
For some time he heard footsteps in the next room, but whose they might be he simply could not recall. Then the door opened at last, and in came Sisoy with a candle and tea cup.
'Already in bed, your grace?' he asked. 'It's me - come to rub you down with vodka and vinegar. Very good for you it is if you rub it in well, Lord love us. There, there. I've just been in our monastery, but I don't hold with it, like. I'm leaving tomorrow, my lord. I want no more of it, Lord love us! There, there.'
Sisoy could never stay long in one place, and he felt as if he'd already spent a whole year at the Monastery of St. Pancratios. It was hard, indeed, to figure him out from the way he talked. Where was his home? Did he love anyone or anything? Did he believe in God? He had no idea himself why he was a monk, he gave it no thought - and as for the time when he had taken his vows, his mind was a blank. It was as if he had simply been born a monk.
'I'm going tomorrow, confound it all!' said Sisoy.
'I'd like to talk to you, but I never seem to manage it.' The Bishop spoke softly, with great effort. 'I don't know anyone or anything here, you see.'
'I'll stay till the Resurrection if you like. So be it. I want no more of it, confound them!'
'Why am I a bishop?' the Bishop went on quietly. 'I should have been a village priest, a sexton or an ordinary monk. It all seems to - to crush me.
'Eh? Lord love us! There, there! Now, you have a good sleep, your grace. Goodness gracious, whatever next? Good night to you.'
The Bishop did not sleep all that night and in the morning, at about eight o'clock, he had an intestinal hemorrhage. The cell attendant was terrified. He rushed off: first to the Archimandrite, and then to the monastery doctor, Ivan Andreyevich, who lived in town. The doctor - a stout old man with a long white beard - examined the Bishop at length, shaking his head and frowning.
'You know what, your grace? What you've got is typhus.'
Within about an hour the effect of the hemorrhage had been to make the Bishop thin, pale and hunched. His face was wizened, his eyes enormous. He seemed aged and shrunk. He felt thinner, feebler and more insignificant, now, than everyone else - felt that all his past had escaped him to some infinitely remote place beyond all chance of repetition or continuation.
'All is good,' he thought. 'All is good.'
His old mother arrived. Seeing his wizened face and big eyes she took fright, fell on her knees beside the bed and began kissing his face, shoulders and hands. She too rather felt that he was thinner, feebler and more insignificant than everyone else. Now she forgot that he was a bishop and she kissed him like a dearly loved child.
'Paul darling,' she said. 'My darling little son. What's happened to you? Answer me, Paul.'
Katya stood near by - pale, stern, not understanding. What was the matter with Uncle? Why did Grandmother look so unhappy, why was she saying such moving, sad words? But the Bishop was past speech, he could take nothing in. He just felt as if he was an ordinary simple man walking quickly and cheerfully through a field and thumping his walking - stick under a broad, sun - drenched sky. Now he was free as a bird, now he could go where he liked.
'Paul, answer me, son,' said the old woman. 'What's the matter, darling?'
'Don't bother his lordship.' Sisoy went angrily through the room. 'Let him sleep. There's nothing to be done, no point.'
Three doctors arrived, consulted, went away. The day seemed to go on and on and on, and was followed by a night no less interminable. Just before dawn on Saturday the cell attendant went to the old woman as she lay on a sofa in the parlor, and invited her to step into the bedroom because his grace had gone to his fathers.
The next day was Pascha. There were forty - two churches in the city, and six monasteries. The clangorous, joyful, ceaseless, pealing of bells haunted and stirred the spring air above the buildings from morn to eve. Birds sang. The sun was bright. The large market square was all a - bustle. Swings swung, hurdy gurdies played, an accordion squealed, drunken shouts echoed. In the afternoon there was buggy riding up and down the main street. It was all great fun, in other words, everything was all right - just as it had been all right last year and would probably go on being all right in years to come.
A month later a new suffragan bishop was appointed. No one remembered the Right Reverend Peter any more. They forgot him altogether except for the old lady - the deceased's mother - who went to live with her deacon son in law in a remote provincial town. Going out of an evening to fetch her cow from the meadow, and meeting other women there, she would talk about her children and grandchildren, and about her son who had been a bishop. She spoke timidly, afraid of being disbelieved.
Nor did everyone believe her, actually.
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