Father Sergius by Leo Tolstoy
Trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude
This etext was perpared by Judith Boss of Omaha, NE.
In Petersburg in the eighteen-forties a surprising event
occurred. An officer of the Cuirassier Life Guards, a handsome
prince who everyone predicted would become aide-de-camp to the
Emperor Nicholas I and have a brilliant career, left the service,
broke off his engagement to a beautiful maid of honour, a
favourite of the Empress's, gave his small estate to his sister,
and retired to a monastery to become a monk.
This event appeared extraordinary and inexplicable to those who
did not know his inner motives, but for Prince Stepan Kasatsky
himself it all occurred so naturally that he could not imagine
how he could have acted otherwise.
His father, a retired colonel of the Guards, had died when Stepan
was twelve, and sorry as his mother was to part from her son, she
entered him at the Military College as her deceased husband had
The widow herself, with her daughter, Varvara, moved to
Petersburg to be near her son and have him with her for the
The boy was distinguished both by his brilliant ability and by
his immense self-esteem. He was first both in his
studies--especially in mathematics, of which he was particularly
fond--and also in drill and in riding. Though of more than
average height, he was handsome and agile, and he would have been
an altogether exemplary cadet had it not been for his quick
temper. He was remarkably truthful, and was neither dissipated
nor addicted to drink. The only faults that marred his conduct
were fits of fury to which he was subject and during which he
lost control of himself and became like a wild animal. He once
nearly threw out of the window another cadet who had begun to
tease him about his collection of minerals. On another occasion
he came almost completely to grief by flinging a whole dish of
cutlets at an officer who was acting as steward, attacking him
and, it was said, striking him for having broken his word and
told a barefaced lie. He would certainly have been reduced to
the ranks had not the Director of the College hushed up the whole
matter and dismissed the steward.
By the time he was eighteen he had finished his College course
and received a commission as lieutenant in an aristocratic
regiment of the Guards.
The Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich (Nicholas I) had noticed him while
he was still at the College, and continued to take notice of him
in the regiment, and it was on this account that people predicted
for him an appointment as aide-de-camp to the Emperor. Kasatsky
himself strongly desired it, not from ambition only but chiefly
because since his cadet days he had been passionately devoted to
Nicholas Pavlovich. The Emperor had often visited the Military
College and every time Kasatsky saw that tall erect figure, with
breast expanded in its military overcoat, entering with brisk
step, saw the cropped side-whiskers, the moustache, the aquiline
nose, and heard the sonorous voice exchanging greetings with the
cadets, he was seized by the same rapture that he experienced
later on when he met the woman he loved. Indeed, his passionate
adoration of the Emperor was even stronger: he wished to
sacrifice something--everything, even himself--to prove his
complete devotion. And the Emperor Nicholas was conscious of
evoking this rapture and deliberately aroused it. He played with
the cadets, surrounded himself with them, treating them sometimes
with childish simplicity, sometimes as a friend, and then again
with majestic solemnity. After that affair with the officer,
Nicholas Pavlovich said nothing to Kasatsky, but when the latter
approached he waved him away theatrically, frowned, shook his
finger at him, and afterwards when leaving, said: 'Remember that
I know everything. There are some things I would rather not
know, but they remain here,' and he pointed to his heart.
When on leaving College the cadets were received by the Emperor,
he did not again refer to Kasatsky's offence, but told them all,
as was his custom, that they should serve him and the fatherland
loyally, that he would always be their best friend, and that when
necessary they might approach him direct. All the cadets were as
usual greatly moved, and Kasatsky even shed tears, remembering
the past, and vowed that he would serve his beloved Tsar with all
When Kasatsky took up his commission his mother moved with her
daughter first to Moscow and then to their country estate.
Kasatsky gave half his property to his sister and kept only
enough to maintain himself in the expensive regiment he had
To all appearance he was just an ordinary, brilliant young
officer of the Guards making a career for himself; but intense
and complex strivings went on within him. From early childhood
his efforts had seemed to be very varied, but essentially they
were all one and the same. He tried in everything he took up to
attain such success and perfection as would evoke praise and
surprise. Whether it was his studies or his military exercises,
he took them up and worked at them till he was praised and held
up as an example to others. Mastering one subject he took up
another, and obtained first place in his studies. For example,
while still at College he noticed in himself an awkwardness in
French conversation, and contrived to master French till he spoke
it as well as Russian, and then he took up chess and became an
Apart from his main vocation, which was the service of his Tsar
and the fatherland, he always set himself some particular aim,
and however unimportant it was, devoted himself completely to it
and lived for it until it was accomplished. And as soon as it
was attained another aim would immediately present itself,
replacing its predecessor. This passion for distinguishing
himself, or for accomplishing something in order to distinguish
himself, filled his life. On taking up his commission he set
himself to acquire the utmost perfection in knowledge of the
service, and very soon became a model officer, though still with
the same fault of ungovernable irascibility, which here in the
service again led him to commit actions inimical to his success.
Then he took to reading, having once in conversation in society
felt himself deficient in general education--and again achieved
his purpose. Then, wishing to secure a brilliant position in
high society, he learnt to dance excellently and very soon was
invited to all the balls in the best circles, and to some of
their evening gatherings. But this did not satisfy him: he was
accustomed to being first, and in this society was far from being
The highest society then consisted, and I think always consist,
of four sorts of people: rich people who are received at Court,
people not wealthy but born and brought up in Court circles, rich
people who ingratiate themselves into the Court set, and people
neither rich nor belonging to the Court but who ingratiate
themselves into the first and second sets.
Kasatsky did not belong to the first two sets, but was readily
welcomed in the others. On entering society he determined to
have relations with some society lady, and to his own surprise
quickly accomplished this purpose. He soon realized, however,
that the circles in which he moved were not the highest, and that
though he was received in the highest spheres he did not belong
to them. They were polite to him, but showed by their whole
manner that they had their own set and that he was not of it.
And Kasatsky wished to belong to that inner circle. To attain
that end it would be necessary to be an aide-de-camp to the
Emperor--which he expected to become--or to marry into that
exclusive set, which he resolved to do. And his choice fell on a
beauty belonging to the Court, who not merely belonged to the
circle into which he wished to be accepted, but whose friendship
was coveted by the very highest people and those most firmly
established in that highest circle. This was Countess Korotkova.
Kasatsky began to pay court to her, and not merely for the sake
of his career. She was extremely attractive and he soon fell in
love with her. At first she was noticeably cool towards him, but
then suddenly changed and became gracious, and her mother gave
him pressing invitations to visit them. Kasatsky proposed and
was accepted. He was surprised at the facility with which he
attained such happiness. But though he noticed something strange
and unusual in the behaviour towards him of both mother and
daughter, he was blinded by being so deeply in love, and did not
realize what almost the whole town knew--namely, that his fiancee
had been the Emperor Nicholas's mistress the previous year.
Two weeks before the day arranged for the wedding, Kasatsky was
at Tsarskoe Selo at his fiancee's country place. It was a hot
day in May. He and his betrothed had walked about the garden and
were sitting on a bench in a shady linden alley. Mary's white
muslin dress suited her particularly well, and she seemed the
personification of innocence and love as she sat, now bending her
head, now gazing up at the very tall and handsome man who was
speaking to her with particular tenderness and self-restraint, as
if he feared by word or gesture to offend or sully her angelic
Kasatsky belonged to those men of the eighteen-forties (they are
now no longer to be found) who while deliberately and without any
conscientious scruples condoning impurity in themselves, required
ideal and angelic purity in their women, regarded all unmarried
women of their circle as possessed of such purity, and treated
them accordingly. There was much that was false and harmful in
this outlook, as concerning the laxity the men permitted
themselves, but in regard to the women that old-fashioned view
(sharply differing from that held by young people to-day who see
in every girl merely a female seeking a mate) was, I think, of
value. The girls, perceiving such adoration, endeavoured with
more or less success to be goddesses.
Such was the view Kasatsky held of women, and that was how he
regarded his fiancee. He was particularly in love that day, but
did not experience any sensual desire for her. On the contrary
he regarded her with tender adoration as something unattainable.
He rose to his full height, standing before her with both hands
on his sabre.
'I have only now realized what happiness a man can experience!
And it is you, my darling, who have given me this happiness,' he
said with a timid smile.
Endearments had not yet become usual between them, and feeling
himself morally inferior he felt terrified at this stage to use
them to such an angel.
'It is thanks to you that I have come to know myself. I have
learnt that I am better than I thought.'
'I have known that for a long time. That was why I began to love
Nightingales trilled near by and the fresh leafage rustled, moved
by a passing breeze.
He took her hand and kissed it, and tears came into his eyes.
She understood that he was thanking her for having said she loved
him. He silently took a few steps up and down, and then
approached her again and sat down.
'You know . . . I have to tell you . . . I was not disinterested
when I began to make love to you. I wanted to get into society;
but later . . . how unimportant that became in comparison with
you--when I got to know you. You are not angry with me for that?'
She did not reply but merely touched his hand. He understood
that this meant: 'No, I am not angry.'
'You said . . .' He hesitated. It seemed too bold to say. 'You
said that you began to love me. I believe it--but there is
something that troubles you and checks your feeling. What is
'Yes--now or never!' thought she. 'He is bound to know of it
anyway. But now he will not forsake me. Ah, if he should, it
would be terrible!' And she threw a loving glance at his tall,
noble, powerful figure. She loved him now more than she had
loved the Tsar, and apart from the Imperial dignity would not
have preferred the Emperor to him.
'Listen! I cannot deceive you. I have to tell you. You ask
what it is? It is that I have loved before.'
She again laid her hand on his with an imploring gesture. He was
'You want to know who it was? It was--the Emperor.'
'We all love him. I can imagine you, a schoolgirl at the
Institute . . .'
'No, it was later. I was infatuated, but it passed . . . I must
tell you . . .'
'Well, what of it?'
'No, it was not simply--' She covered her face with her hands.
'What? You gave yourself to him?'
She was silent.
She did not answer.
He sprang up and stood before her with trembling jaws, pale as
death. He now remembered how the Emperor, meeting him on the
Nevsky, had amiably congratulated him.
'O God, what have I done! Stiva!'
'Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Oh, how it pains!'
He turned away and went to the house. There he met her mother.
'What is the matter, Prince? I . . .' She became silent on
seeing his face. The blood had suddenly rushed to his head.
'You knew it, and used me to shield them! If you weren't a woman
. . . !' he cried, lifting his enormous fist, and turning aside
he ran away.
Had his fiancee's lover been a private person he would have
killed him, but it was his beloved Tsar.
Next day he applied both for furlough and his discharge, and
professing to be ill, so as to see no one, he went away to the
He spent the summer at his village arranging his affairs. When
summer was over he did not return to Petersburg, but entered a
monastery and there became a monk.
His mother wrote to try to dissuade him from this decisive step,
but he replied that he felt God's call which transcended all
other considerations. Only his sister, who was as proud and
ambitious as he, understood him.
She understood that he had become a monk in order to be above
those who considered themselves his superiors. And she understood
him correctly. By becoming a monk he showed contempt for all
that seemed most important to others and had seemed so to him
while he was in the service, and he now ascended a height from
which he could look down on those he had formerly envied. . . .
But it was not this alone, as his sister Varvara supposed, that
influenced him. There was also in him something else--a sincere
religious feeling which Varvara did not know, which intertwined
itself with the feeling of pride and the desire for pre-eminence,
and guided him. His disillusionment with Mary, whom he had
thought of angelic purity, and his sense of injury, were so
strong that they brought him to despair, and the despair led
him--to what? To God, to his childhood's faith which had never
been destroyed in him.
Kasatsky entered the monastery on the feast of the Intercession
of the Blessed Virgin. The Abbot of that monastery was a
gentleman by birth, a learned writer and a starets, that is, he
belonged to that succession of monks originating in Walachia who
each choose a director and teacher whom they implicitly obey.
This Superior had been a disciple of the starets Ambrose, who was
a disciple of Makarius, who was a disciple of the starets Leonid,
who was a disciple of Paussy Velichkovsky.
To this Abbot Kasatsky submitted himself as to his chosen
director. Here in the monastery, besides the feeling of
ascendency over others that such a life gave him, he felt much as
he had done in the world: he found satisfaction in attaining the
greatest possible perfection outwardly as well as inwardly. As
in the regiment he had been not merely an irreproachable officer
but had even exceeded his duties and widened the borders of
perfection, so also as a monk he tried to be perfect, and was
always industrious, abstemious, submissive, and meek, as well as
pure both in deed and in thought, and obedient. This last
quality in particular made life far easier for him. If many of
the demands of life in the monastery, which was near the capital
and much frequented, did not please him and were temptations to
him, they were all nullified by obedience: 'It is not for me to
reason; my business is to do the task set me, whether it be
standing beside the relics, singing in the choir, or making up
accounts in the monastery guest-house.' All possibility of doubt
about anything was silenced by obedience to the starets. Had it
not been for this, he would have been oppressed by the length and
monotony of the church services, the bustle of the many visitors,
and the bad qualities of the other monks. As it was, he not only
bore it all joyfully but found in it solace and support. 'I
don't know why it is necessary to hear the same prayers several
times a day, but I know that it is necessary; and knowing this I
find joy in them.' His director told him that as material food
is necessary for the maintenance of the life of the body, so
spiritual food--the church prayers--is necessary for the
maintenance of the spiritual life. He believed this, and though
the church services, for which he had to get up early in the
morning, were a difficulty, they certainly calmed him and gave
him joy. This was the result of his consciousness of humility,
and the certainty that whatever he had to do, being fixed by the
starets, was right.
The interest of his life consisted not only in an ever greater
and greater subjugation of his will, but in the attainment of all
the Christian virtues, which at first seemed to him easily
attainable. He had given his whole estate to his sister and did
not regret it, he had no personal claims, humility towards his
inferiors was not merely easy for him but afforded him pleasure.
Even victory over the sins of the flesh, greed and lust, was
easily attained. His director had specially warned him against
the latter sin, but Kasatsky felt free from it and was glad.
One thing only tormented him--the remembrance of his fiancee; and
not merely the remembrance but the vivid image of what might have
been. Involuntarily he recalled a lady he knew who had been a
favourite of the Emperor's, but had afterwards married and become
an admirable wife and mother. The husband had a high position,
influence and honour, and a good and penitent wife.
In his better hours Kasatsky was not disturbed by such thoughts,
and when he recalled them at such times he was merely glad to
feel that the temptation was past. But there were moments when
all that made up his present life suddenly grew dim before him,
moments when, if he did not cease to believe in the aims he had
set himself, he ceased to see them and could evoke no confidence
in them but was seized by a remembrance of, and--terrible to
say--a regret for, the change of life he had made.
The only thing that saved him in that state of mind was obedience
and work, and the fact that the whole day was occupied by prayer.
He went through the usual forms of prayer, he bowed in prayer, he
even prayed more than usual, but it was lip-service only and his
soul was not in it. This condition would continue for a day, or
sometimes for two days, and would then pass of itself. But those
days were dreadful. Kasatsky felt that he was neither in his own
hands nor in God's, but was subject to something else. All he
could do then was to obey the starets, to restrain himself, to
undertake nothing, and simply to wait. In general all this time
he lived not by his own will but by that of the starets, and in
this obedience he found a special tranquillity.
So he lived in his first monastery for seven years. At the end
of the third year he received the tonsure and was ordained to the
priesthood by the name of Sergius. The profession was an
important event in his inner life. He had previously experienced
a great consolation and spiritual exaltation when receiving
communion, and now when he himself officiated, the performance of
the preparation filled him with ecstatic and deep emotion. But
subsequently that feeling became more and more deadened, and once
when he was officiating in a depressed state of mind he felt that
the influence produced on him by the service would not endure.
And it did in fact weaken till only the habit remained.
In general in the seventh year of his life in the monastery
Sergius grew weary. He had learnt all there was to learn and had
attained all there was to attain, there was nothing more to do
and his spiritual drowsiness increased. During this time he
heard of his mother's death and his sister Varvara's marriage,
but both events were matters of indifference to him. His whole
attention and his whole interest were concentrated on his inner
In the fourth year of his priesthood, during which the Bishop had
been particularly kind to him, the starets told him that he ought
not to decline it if he were offered an appointment to higher
duties. Then monastic ambition, the very thing he had found so
repulsive in other monks, arose within him. He was assigned to a
monastery near the metropolis. He wished to refuse but the
starets ordered him to accept the appointment. He did so, and
took leave of the starets and moved to the other monastery.
The exchange into the metropolitan monastery was an important
event in Sergius's life. There he encountered many temptations,
and his whole will-power was concentrated on meeting them.
In the first monastery, women had not been a temptation to him,
but here that temptation arose with terrible strength and even
took definite shape. There was a lady known for her frivolous
behaviour who began to seek his favour. She talked to him and
asked him to visit her. Sergius sternly declined, but was
horrified by the definiteness of his desire. He was so alarmed
that he wrote about it to the starets. And in addition, to keep
himself in hand, he spoke to a young novice and, conquering his
sense of shame, confessed his weakness to him, asking him to keep
watch on him and not let him go anywhere except to service and to
fulfil his duties.
Besides this, a great pitfall for Sergius lay in the fact of his
extreme antipathy to his new Abbot, a cunning worldly man who was
making a career for himself in the Church. Struggle with himself
as he might, he could not master that feeling. He was submissive
to the Abbot, but in the depths of his soul he never ceased to
condemn him. And in the second year of his residence at the new
monastery that ill-feeling broke out.
The Vigil service was being performed in the large church on the
eve of the feast of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin, and
there were many visitors. The Abbot himself was conducting the
service. Father Sergius was standing in his usual place and
praying: that is, he was in that condition of struggle which
always occupied him during the service, especially in the large
church when he was not himself conducting the service. This
conflict was occasioned by his irritation at the presence of fine
folk, especially ladies. He tried not to see them or to notice
all that went on: how a soldier conducted them, pushing the
common people aside, how the ladies pointed out the monks to one
another--especially himself and a monk noted for his good looks.
He tried as it were to keep his mind in blinkers, to see nothing
but the light of the candles on the altar-screen, the icons, and
those conducting the service. He tried to hear nothing but the
prayers that were being chanted or read, to feel nothing but
self-oblivion in consciousness of the fulfilment of duty--a
feeling he always experienced when hearing or reciting in advance
the prayers he had so often heard.
So he stood, crossing and prostrating himself when necessary, and
struggled with himself, now giving way to cold condemnation and
now to a consciously evoked obliteration of thought and feeling.
Then the sacristan, Father Nicodemus--also a great
stumbling-block to Sergius who involuntarily reproached him for
flattering and fawning on the Abbot--approached him and, bowing
low, requested his presence behind the holy gates. Father
Sergius straightened his mantle, put on his biretta, and went
circumspectly through the crowd.
'Lise, regarde a droite, c'est lui!' he heard a woman's voice
'Ou, ou? Il n'est pas tellement beau.'
He knew that they were speaking of him. He heard them and, as
always at moments of temptation, he repeated the words, 'Lead us
not into temptation,' and bowing his head and lowering his eyes
went past the ambo and in by the north door, avoiding the canons
in their cassocks who were just then passing the altar-screen. On
entering the sanctuary he bowed, crossing himself as usual and
bending double before the icons. Then, raising his head but
without turning, he glanced out of the corner of his eye at the
Abbot, whom he saw standing beside another glittering figure.
The Abbot was standing by the wall in his vestments. Having freed
his short plump hands from beneath his chasuble he had folded
them over his fat body and protruding stomach, and fingering the
cords of his vestments was smilingly saying something to a
military man in the uniform of a general of the Imperial suite,
with its insignia and shoulder-knots which Father Sergius's
experienced eye at once recognized. This general had been the
commander of the regiment in which Sergius had served. He now
evidently occupied an important position, and Father Sergius at
once noticed that the Abbot was aware of this and that his red
face and bald head beamed with satisfaction and pleasure. This
vexed and disgusted Father Sergius, the more so when he heard
that the Abbot had only sent for him to satisfy the general's
curiosity to see a man who had formerly served with him, as he
'Very pleased to see you in your angelic guise,' said the
general, holding out his hand. 'I hope you have not forgotten an
The whole thing--the Abbot's red, smiling face amid its fringe of
grey, the general's words, his well-cared-for face with its
self-satisfied smile and the smell of wine from his breath and of
cigars from his whiskers--revolted Father Sergius. He bowed
again to the Abbot and said:
'Your reverence deigned to send for me?'--and stopped, the whole
expression of his face and eyes asking why.
'Yes, to meet the General,' replied the Abbot.
'Your reverence, I left the world to save myself from
temptation,' said Father Sergius, turning pale and with quivering
lips. 'Why do you expose me to it during prayers and in God's
'You may go! Go!' said the Abbot, flaring up and frowning.
Next day Father Sergius asked pardon of the Abbot and of the
brethren for his pride, but at the same time, after a night spent
in prayer, he decided that he must leave this monastery, and he
wrote to the starets begging permission to return to him. He
wrote that he felt his weakness and incapacity to struggle
against temptation without his help and penitently confessed his
sin of pride. By return of post came a letter from the starets,
who wrote that Sergius's pride was the cause of all that had
happened. The old man pointed out that his fits of anger were
due to the fact that in refusing all clerical honours he
humiliated himself not for the sake of God but for the sake of
his pride. 'There now, am I not a splendid man not to want
anything?' That was why he could not tolerate the Abbot's
action. 'I have renounced everything for the glory of God, and
here I am exhibited like a wild beast!' 'Had you renounced
vanity for God's sake you would have borne it. Worldly pride is
not yet dead in you. I have thought about you, Sergius my son,
and prayed also, and this is what God has suggested to me. At
the Tambov hermitage the anchorite Hilary, a man of saintly life,
has died. He had lived there eighteen years. The Tambov Abbot
is asking whether there is not a brother who would take his
place. And here comes your letter. Go to Father Paissy of the
Tambov Monastery. I will write to him about you, and you must
ask for Hilary's cell. Not that you can replace Hilary, but you
need solitude to quell your pride. May God bless you!'
Sergius obeyed the starets, showed his letter to the Abbot, and
having obtained his permission, gave up his cell, handed all his
possessions over to the monastery, and set out for the Tambov
There the Abbot, an excellent manager of merchant origin,
received Sergius simply and quietly and placed him in Hilary's
cell, at first assigning to him a lay brother but afterwards
leaving him alone, at Sergius's own request. The cell was a dual
cave, dug into the hillside, and in it Hilary had been buried.
In the back part was Hilary's grave, while in the front was a
niche for sleeping, with a straw mattress, a small table, and a
shelf with icons and books. Outside the outer door, which
fastened with a hook, was another shelf on which, once a day, a
monk placed food from the monastery.
And so Sergius became a hermit.
At Carnival time, in the sixth year of Sergius's life at the
hermitage, a merry company of rich people, men and women from a
neighbouring town, made up a troyka-party, after a meal of
carnival-pancakes and wine. The company consisted of two
lawyers, a wealthy landowner, an officer, and four ladies. One
lady was the officer's wife, another the wife of the landowner,
the third his sister--a young girl--and the fourth a divorcee,
beautiful, rich, and eccentric, who amazed and shocked the town
by her escapades.
The weather was excellent and the snow-covered road smooth as a
floor. They drove some seven miles out of town, and then stopped
and consulted as to whether they should turn back or drive
'But where does this road lead to?' asked Makovkina, the
'To Tambov, eight miles from here,' replied one of the lawyers,
who was having a flirtation with her.
'And then where?'
'Then on to L----, past the Monastery.'
'Where that Father Sergius lives?'
'Kasatsky, the handsome hermit?'
'Mesdames et messieurs, let us drive on and see Kasatsky! We can
stop at Tambov and have something to eat.'
'But we shouldn't get home to-night!'
'Never mind, we will stay at Kasatsky's.'
'Well, there is a very good hostelry at the Monastery. I stayed
there when I was defending Makhin.'
'No, I shall spend the night at Kasatsky's!'
'Impossible! Even your omnipotence could not accomplish that!'
'Impossible? Will you bet?'
'All right! If you spend the night with him, the stake shall be
whatever you like.'
'But on your side too!'
'Yes, of course. Let us drive on.'
Vodka was handed to the drivers, and the party got out a box of
pies, wine, and sweets for themselves. The ladies wrapped up in
their white dogskins. The drivers disputed as to whose troyka
should go ahead, and the youngest, seating himself sideways with
a dashing air, swung his long knout and shouted to the horses.
The troyka-bells tinkled and the sledge-runners squeaked over the
The sledge swayed hardly at all. The shaft-horse, with his
tightly bound tail under his decorated breechband, galloped
smoothly and briskly; the smooth road seemed to run rapidly
backwards, while the driver dashingly shook the reins. One of
the lawyers and the officer sitting opposite talked nonsense to
Makovkina's neighbour, but Makovkina herself sat motionless and
in thought, tightly wrapped in her fur. 'Always the same and
always nasty! The same red shiny faces smelling of wine and
cigars! The same talk, the same thoughts, and always about the
same things! And they are all satisfied and confident that it
should be so, and will go on living like that till they die. But
I can't. It bores me. I want something that would upset it all
and turn it upside down. Suppose it happened to us as to those
people--at Saratov was it?--who kept on driving and froze to
death. . . . What would our people do? How would they behave?
Basely, for certain. Each for himself. And I too should act
badly. But I at any rate have beauty. They all know it. And
how about that monk? Is it possible that he has become
indifferent to it? No! That is the one thing they all care
for--like that cadet last autumn. What a fool he was!'
'Ivan Nikolaevich!' she said aloud.
'What are your commands?'
'How old is he?'
'Over forty, I should think.'
'And does he receive all visitors?'
'Yes, everybody, but not always.'
'Cover up my feet. Not like that--how clumsy you are! No! More,
more--like that! But you need not squeeze them!'
So they came to the forest where the cell was.
Makovkina got out of the sledge, and told them to drive on. They
tried to dissuade her, but she grew irritable and ordered them to
When the sledges had gone she went up the path in her white
dogskin coat. The lawyer got out and stopped to watch her.
It was Father Sergius's sixth year as a recluse, and he was now
forty-nine. His life in solitude was hard--not on account of the
fasts and the prayers (they were no hardship to him) but on
account of an inner conflict he had not at all anticipated. The
sources of that conflict were two: doubts, and the lust of the
flesh. And these two enemies always appeared together. It
seemed to him that they were two foes, but in reality they were
one and the same. As soon as doubt was gone so was the lustful
desire. But thinking them to be two different fiends he fought
'O my God, my God!' thought he. 'Why dost thou not grant me
faith? There is lust, of course: even the saints had to fight
that--Saint Anthony and others. But they had faith, while I have
moments, hours, and days, when it is absent. Why does the whole
world, with all its delights, exist if it is sinful and must be
renounced? Why hast Thou created this temptation? Temptation?
Is it not rather a temptation that I wish to abandon all the joys
of earth and prepare something for myself there where perhaps
there is nothing?' And he became horrified and filled with
disgust at himself. 'Vile creature! And it is you who wish to
become a saint!' he upbraided himself, and he began to pray. But
as soon as he started to pray he saw himself vividly as he had
been at the Monastery, in a majestic post in biretta and mantle,
and he shook his head. 'No, that is not right. It is deception.
I may deceive others, but not myself or God. I am not a majestic
man, but a pitiable and ridiculous one!' And he threw back the
folds of his cassock and smiled as he looked at his thin legs in
Then he dropped the folds of the cassock again and began reading
the prayers, making the sign of the cross and prostrating
himself. 'Can it be that this couch will be my bier?' he read.
And it seemed as if a devil whispered to him: 'A solitary couch
is itself a bier. Falsehood!' And in imagination he saw the
shoulders of a widow with whom he had lived. He shook himself,
and went on reading. Having read the precepts he took up the
Gospels, opened the book, and happened on a passage he often
repeated and knew by heart: 'Lord, I believe. Help thou my
unbelief!'--and he put away all the doubts that had arisen. As
one replaces an object of insecure equilibrium, so he carefully
replaced his belief on its shaky pedestal and carefully stepped
back from it so as not to shake or upset it. The blinkers were
adjusted again and he felt tranquillized, and repeating his
childhood's prayer: 'Lord, receive me, receive me!' he felt not
merely at ease, but thrilled and joyful. He crossed himself and
lay down on the bedding on his narrow bench, tucking his summer
cassock under his head. He fell asleep at once, and in his light
slumber he seemed to hear the tinkling of sledge bells. He did
not know whether he was dreaming or awake, but a knock at the
door aroused him. He sat up, distrusting his senses, but the
knock was repeated. Yes, it was a knock close at hand, at his
door, and with it the sound of a woman's voice.
'My God! Can it be true, as I have read in the Lives of the
Saints, that the devil takes on the form of a woman? Yes--it is
a woman's voice. And a tender, timid, pleasant voice. Phui!'
And he spat to exorcise the devil. 'No, it was only my
imagination,' he assured himself, and he went to the corner where
his lectern stood, falling on his knees in the regular and
habitual manner which of itself gave him consolation and
satisfaction. He sank down, his hair hanging over his face, and
pressed his head, already going bald in front, to the cold damp
strip of drugget on the draughty floor. He read the psalm old
Father Pimon had told him warded off temptation. He easily
raised his light and emaciated body on his strong sinewy legs and
tried to continue saying his prayers, but instead of doing so he
involuntarily strained his hearing. He wished to hear more. All
was quiet. From the corner of the roof regular drops continued
to fall into the tub below. Outside was a mist and fog eating
into the snow that lay on the ground. It was still, very still.
And suddenly there was a rustling at the window and a voice--that
same tender, timid voice, which could only belong to an
'Let me in, for Christ's sake!'
It seemed as though his blood had all rushed to his heart and
settled there. He could hardly breathe. 'Let God arise and let
his enemies be scattered . . .'
'But I am not a devil!' It was obvious that the lips that
uttered this were smiling. 'I am not a devil, but only a sinful
woman who has lost her way, not figuratively but literally!' She
laughed. 'I am frozen and beg for shelter.'
He pressed his face to the window, but the little icon-lamp was
reflected by it and shone on the whole pane. He put his hands to
both sides of his face and peered between them. Fog, mist, a
tree, and--just opposite him--she herself. Yes, there, a few
inches from him, was the sweet, kindly frightened face of a woman
in a cap and a coat of long white fur, leaning towards him.
Their eyes met with instant recognition: not that they had ever
known one another, they had never met before, but by the look
they exchanged they--and he particularly--felt that they knew and
understood one another. After that glance to imagine her to be a
devil and not a simple, kindly, sweet, timid woman, was
'Who are you? Why have you come?' he asked.
'Do please open the door!' she replied, with capricious
authority. 'I am frozen. I tell you I have lost my way.'
'But I am a monk--a hermit.'
'Oh, do please open the door--or do you wish me to freeze under
your window while you say your prayers?'
'But how have you . . .'
'I shan't eat you. For God's sake let me in! I am quite
She really did feel afraid, and said this in an almost tearful
He stepped back from the window and looked at an icon of the
Saviour in His crown of thorns. 'Lord, help me! Lord, help me!'
he exclaimed, crossing himself and bowing low. Then he went to
the door, and opening it into the tiny porch, felt for the hook
that fastened the outer door and began to lift it. He heard
steps outside. She was coming from the window to the door.
'Ah!' she suddenly exclaimed, and he understood that she had
stepped into the puddle that the dripping from the roof had
formed at the threshold. His hands trembled, and he could not
raise the hook of the tightly closed door.
'Oh, what are you doing? Let me in! I am all wet. I am frozen!
You are thinking about saving your soul and are letting me freeze
to death . . .'
He jerked the door towards him, raised the hook, and without
considering what he was doing, pushed it open with such force
that it struck her.
'Oh--PARDON!' he suddenly exclaimed, reverting completely to his
old manner with ladies.
She smiled on hearing that PARDON. 'He is not quite so terrible,
after all,' she thought. 'It's all right. It is you who must
pardon me,' she said, stepping past him. 'I should never have
ventured, but such an extraordinary circumstance . . .'
'If you please!' he uttered, and stood aside to let her pass him.
A strong smell of fine scent, which he had long not encountered,
struck him. She went through the little porch into the cell
where he lived. He closed the outer door without fastening the
hook, and stepped in after her.
'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner! Lord,
have mercy on me a sinner!' he prayed unceasingly, not merely to
himself but involuntarily moving his lips. 'If you please!' he
said to her again. She stood in the middle of the room, moisture
dripping from her to the floor as she looked him over. Her eyes
'Forgive me for having disturbed your solitude. But you see what
a position I am in. It all came about from our starting from
town for a sledge-drive, and my making a bet that I would walk
back by myself from the Vorobevka to the town. But then I lost
my way, and if I had not happened to come upon your cell . . .'
She began lying, but his face confused her so that she could not
continue, but became silent. She had not expected him to be at
all such as he was. He was not as handsome as she had imagined,
but was nevertheless beautiful in her eyes: his greyish hair and
beard, slightly curling, his fine, regular nose, and his eyes
like glowing coal when he looked at her, made a strong impression
He saw that she was lying.
'Yes . . . so,' said he, looking at her and again lowering his
eyes. 'I will go in there, and this place is at your disposal.'
And taking down the little lamp, he lit a candle, and bowing low
to her went into the small cell beyond the partition, and she
heard him begin to move something about there. 'Probably he is
barricading himself in from me!' she thought with a smile, and
throwing off her white dogskin cloak she tried to take off her
cap, which had become entangled in her hair and in the woven
kerchief she was wearing under it. She had not got at all wet
when standing under the window, and had said so only as a pretext
to get him to let her in. But she really had stepped into the
puddle at the door, and her left foot was wet up to the ankle and
her overshoe full of water. She sat down on his bed--a bench
only covered by a bit of carpet--and began to take off her boots.
The little cell seemed to her charming. The narrow little room,
some seven feet by nine, was as clean as glass. There was
nothing in it but the bench on which she was sitting, the
book-shelf above it, and a lectern in the corner. A sheepskin
coat and a cassock hung on nails by the door. Above the lectern
was the little lamp and an icon of Christ in His crown of thorns.
The room smelt strangely of perspiration and of earth. It all
pleased her--even that smell. Her wet feet, especially one of
them, were uncomfortable, and she quickly began to take off her
boots and stockings without ceasing to smile, pleased not so much
at having achieved her object as because she perceived that she
had abashed that charming, strange, striking, and attractive man.
'He did not respond, but what of that?' she said to herself.
'Father Sergius! Father Sergius! Or how does one call you?'
'What do you want?' replied a quiet voice.
'Please forgive me for disturbing your solitude, but really I
could not help it. I should simply have fallen ill. And I don't
know that I shan't now. I am all wet and my feet are like ice.'
'Pardon me,' replied the quiet voice. 'I cannot be of any
assistance to you.'
'I would not have disturbed you if I could have helped it. I am
only here till daybreak.'
He did not reply and she heard him muttering something, probably
'You will not be coming in here?' she asked, smiling. 'For I must
undress to dry myself.'
He did not reply, but continued to read his prayers.
'Yes, that is a man!' thought she, getting her dripping boot off
with difficulty. She tugged at it, but could not get it off.
The absurdity of it struck her and she began to laugh almost
inaudibly. But knowing that he would hear her laughter and would
be moved by it just as she wished him to be, she laughed louder,
and her laughter--gay, natural, and kindly--really acted on him
just in the way she wished.
'Yes, I could love a man like that--such eyes and such a simple
noble face, and passionate too despite all the prayers he
mutters!' thought she. 'You can't deceive a woman in these
things. As soon as he put his face to the window and saw me, he
understood and knew. The glimmer of it was in his eyes and
remained there. He began to love me and desired me.
Yes--desired!' said she, getting her overshoe and her boot off at
last and starting to take off her stockings. To remove those
long stockings fastened with elastic it was necessary to raise
her skirts. She felt embarrassed and said:
'Don't come in!'
But there was no reply from the other side of the wall. The
steady muttering continued and also a sound of moving.
'He is prostrating himself to the ground, no doubt,' thought she.
'But he won't bow himself out of it. He is thinking of me just
as I am thinking of him. He is thinking of these feet of mine
with the same feeling that I have!' And she pulled off her wet
stockings and put her feet up on the bench, pressing them under
her. She sat a while like that with her arms round her knees and
looking pensively before her. 'But it is a desert, here in this
silence. No one would ever know. . . .'
She rose, took her stockings over to the stove, and hung them on
the damper. It was a queer damper, and she turned it about, and
then, stepping lightly on her bare feet, returned to the bench
and sat down there again with her feet up.
There was complete silence on the other side of the partition.
She looked at the tiny watch that hung round her neck. It was
two o'clock. 'Our party should return about three!' She had not
more than an hour before her. 'Well, am I to sit like this all
alone? What nonsense! I don't want to. I will call him at
'Father Sergius, Father Sergius! Sergey Dmitrich! Prince
Beyond the partition all was silent.
'Listen! This is cruel. I would not call you if it were not
necessary. I am ill. I don't know what is the matter with me!'
she exclaimed in a tone of suffering. 'Oh! Oh!' she groaned,
falling back on the bench. And strange to say she really felt
that her strength was failing, that she was becoming faint, that
everything in her ached, and that she was shivering with fever.
'Listen! Help me! I don't know what is the matter with me. Oh!
Oh!' She unfastened her dress, exposing her breast, and lifted
her arms, bare to the elbow. 'Oh! Oh!'
All this time he stood on the other side of the partition and
prayed. Having finished all the evening prayers, he now stood
motionless, his eyes looking at the end of his nose, and mentally
repeated with all his soul: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have
mercy upon me!'
But he had heard everything. He had heard how the silk rustled
when she took off her dress, how she stepped with bare feet on
the floor, and had heard how she rubbed her feet with her hand.
He felt his own weakness, and that he might be lost at any
moment. That was why he prayed unceasingly. He felt rather as
the hero in the fairy-tale must have felt when he had to go on
and on without looking round. So Sergius heard and felt that
danger and destruction were there, hovering above and around him,
and that he could only save himself by not looking in that
direction for an instant. But suddenly the desire to look seized
him. At the same instant she said:
'This is inhuman. I may die. . . .'
'Yes, I will go to her, but like the Saint who laid one hand on
the adulteress and thrust his other into the brazier. But there
is no brazier here.' He looked round. The lamp! He put his
finger over the flame and frowned, preparing himself to suffer.
And for a rather long time, as it seemed to him, there was no
sensation, but suddenly--he had not yet decided whether it was
painful enough--he writhed all over, jerked his hand away, and
waved it in the air. 'No, I can't stand that!'
'For God's sake come to me! I am dying! Oh!'
'Well--shall I perish? No, not so!'
'I will come to you directly,' he said, and having opened his
door, he went without looking at her through the cell into the
porch where he used to chop wood. There he felt for the block
and for an axe which leant against the wall.
'Immediately!' he said, and taking up the axe with his right hand
he laid the forefinger of his left hand on the block, swung the
axe, and struck with it below the second joint. The finger flew
off more lightly than a stick of similar thickness, and bounding
up, turned over on the edge of the block and then fell to the
He heard it fall before he felt any pain, but before he had time
to be surprised he felt a burning pain and the warmth of flowing
blood. He hastily wrapped the stump in the skirt of his cassock,
and pressing it to his hip went back into the room, and standing
in front of the woman, lowered his eyes and asked in a low voice:
'What do you want?'
She looked at his pale face and his quivering left cheek, and
suddenly felt ashamed. She jumped up, seized her fur cloak, and
throwing it round her shoulders, wrapped herself up in it.
'I was in pain . . . I have caught cold . . . I . . . Father
Sergius . . . I . . .'
He let his eyes, shining with a quiet light of joy, rest upon
her, and said:
'Dear sister, why did you wish to ruin your immortal soul?
Temptations must come into the world, but woe to him by whom
temptation comes. Pray that God may forgive us!'
She listened and looked at him. Suddenly she heard the sound of
something dripping. She looked down and saw that blood was
flowing from his hand and down his cassock.
'What have you done to your hand?' She remembered the sound she
had heard, and seizing the little lamp ran out into the porch.
There on the floor she saw the bloody finger. She returned with
her face paler than his and was about to speak to him, but he
silently passed into the back cell and fastened the door.
'Forgive me!' she said. 'How can I atone for my sin?'
'Let me tie up your hand.'
'Go away from here.'
She dressed hurriedly and silently, and when ready sat waiting in
her furs. The sledge-bells were heard outside.
'Father Sergius, forgive me!'
'Go away. God will forgive.'
'Father Sergius! I will change my life. Do not forsake me!'
'Forgive me--and give me your blessing!'
'In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost!'--she heard his voice from behind the partition. 'Go!'
She burst into sobs and left the cell. The lawyer came forward
to meet her.
'Well, I see I have lost the bet. It can't be helped. Where will
'It is all the same to me.'
She took a seat in the sledge, and did not utter a word all the
A year later she entered a convent as a novice, and lived a
strict life under the direction of the hermit Arseny, who wrote
letters to her at long intervals.
Father Sergius lived as a recluse for another seven years.
At first he accepted much of what people brought him--tea, sugar,
white bread, milk, clothing, and fire-wood. But as time went on
he led a more and more austere life, refusing everything
superfluous, and finally he accepted nothing but rye-bread once a
week. Everything else that was brought to him he gave to the
poor who came to him. He spent his entire time in his cell, in
prayer or in conversation with callers, who became more and more
numerous as time went on. Only three times a year did he go out
to church, and when necessary he went out to fetch water and
The episode with Makovkina had occurred after five years of his
hermit life. That occurrence soon became generally known--her
nocturnal visit, the change she underwent, and her entry into a
convent. From that time Father Sergius's fame increased. More
and more visitors came to see him, other monks settled down near
his cell, and a church was erected there and also a hostelry.
His fame, as usual exaggerating his feats, spread ever more and
more widely. People began to come to him from a distance, and
began bringing invalids to him whom they declared he cured.
His first cure occurred in the eighth year of his life as a
hermit. It was the healing of a fourteen-year-old boy, whose
mother brought him to Father Sergius insisting that he should lay
his hand on the child's head. It had never occurred to Father
Sergius that he could cure the sick. He would have regarded such
a thought as a great sin of pride; but the mother who brought the
boy implored him insistently, falling at his feet and saying:
'Why do you, who heal others, refuse to help my son?' She
besought him in Christ's name. When Father Sergius assured her
that only God could heal the sick, she replied that she only
wanted him to lay his hands on the boy and pray for him. Father
Sergius refused and returned to his cell. But next day (it was
in autumn and the nights were already cold) on going out for
water he saw the same mother with her son, a pale boy of
fourteen, and was met by the same petition.
He remembered the parable of the unjust judge, and though he had
previously felt sure that he ought to refuse, he now began to
hesitate and, having hesitated, took to prayer and prayed until a
decision formed itself in his soul. This decision was, that he
ought to accede to the woman's request and that her faith might
save her son. As for himself, he would in this case be but an
insignificant instrument chosen by God.
And going out to the mother he did what she asked--laid his hand
on the boy's head and prayed.
The mother left with her son, and a month later the boy
recovered, and the fame of the holy healing power of the starets
Sergius (as they now called him) spread throughout the whole
district. After that, not a week passed without sick people
coming, riding or on foot, to Father Sergius; and having acceded
to one petition he could not refuse others, and he laid his hands
on many and prayed. Many recovered, and his fame spread more and
So seven years passed in the Monastery and thirteen in his
hermit's cell. He now had the appearance of an old man: his
beard was long and grey, but his hair, though thin, was still
black and curly.
For some weeks Father Sergius had been living with one persistent
thought: whether he was right in accepting the position in which
he had not so much placed himself as been placed by the
Archimandrite and the Abbot. That position had begun after the
recovery of the fourteen-year-old boy. From that time, with each
month, week, and day that passed, Sergius felt his own inner life
wasting away and being replaced by external life. It was as if
he had been turned inside out.
Sergius saw that he was a means of attracting visitors and
contributions to the monastery, and that therefore the
authorities arranged matters in such a way as to make as much use
of him as possible. For instance, they rendered it impossible
for him to do any manual work. He was supplied with everything
he could want, and they only demanded of him that he should not
refuse his blessing to those who came to seek it. For his
convenience they appointed days when he would receive. They
arranged a reception-room for men, and a place was railed in so
that he should not be pushed over by the crowds of women
visitors, and so that he could conveniently bless those who came.
They told him that people needed him, and that fulfilling
Christ's law of love he could not refuse their demand to see him,
and that to avoid them would be cruel. He could not but agree
with this, but the more he gave himself up to such a life the
more he felt that what was internal became external, and that the
fount of living water within him dried up, and that what he did
now was done more and more for men and less and less for God.
Whether he admonished people, or simply blessed them, or prayed
for the sick, or advised people about their lives, or listened to
expressions of gratitude from those he had helped by precepts, or
alms, or healing (as they assured him)--he could not help being
pleased at it, and could not be indifferent to the results of his
activity and to the influence he exerted. He thought himself a
shining light, and the more he felt this the more was he
conscious of a weakening, a dying down of the divine light of
truth that shone within him.
'In how far is what I do for God and in how far is it for men?'
That was the question that insistently tormented him and to which
he was not so much unable to give himself an answer as unable to
face the answer.
In the depth of his soul he felt that the devil had substituted
an activity for men in place of his former activity for God. He
felt this because, just as it had formerly been hard for him to
be torn from his solitude so now that solitude itself was hard
for him. He was oppressed and wearied by visitors, but at the
bottom of his heart he was glad of their presence and glad of the
praise they heaped upon him.
There was a time when he decided to go away and hide. He even
planned all that was necessary for that purpose. He prepared for
himself a peasant's shirt, trousers, coat, and cap. He explained
that he wanted these to give to those who asked. And he kept
these clothes in his cell, planning how he would put them on, cut
his hair short, and go away. First he would go some three
hundred versts by train, then he would leave the train and walk
from village to village. He asked an old man who had been a
soldier how he tramped: what people gave him, and what shelter
they allowed him. The soldier told him where people were most
charitable, and where they would take a wanderer in for the
night, and Father Sergius intended to avail himself of this
information. He even put on those clothes one night in his
desire to go, but he could not decide what was best--to remain or
to escape. At first he was in doubt, but afterwards this
indecision passed. He submitted to custom and yielded to the
devil, and only the peasant garb reminded him of the thought and
feeling he had had.
Every day more and more people flocked to him and less and less
time was left him for prayer and for renewing his spiritual
strength. Sometimes in lucid moments he thought he was like a
place where there had once been a spring. 'There used to be a
feeble spring of living water which flowed quietly from me and
through me. That was true life, the time when she tempted me!'
(He always thought with ecstasy of that night and of her who was
now Mother Agnes.) She had tasted of that pure water, but since
then there had not been time for it to collect before thirsty
people came crowding in and pushing one another aside. And they
had trampled everything down and nothing was left but mud.
So he thought in rare moments of lucidity, but his usual state of
mind was one of weariness and a tender pity for himself because
of that weariness.
It was in spring, on the eve of the mid-Pentecostal feast.
Father Sergius was officiating at the Vigil Service in his
hermitage church, where the congregation was as large as the
little church could hold--about twenty people. They were all
well-to-do proprietors or merchants. Father Sergius admitted
anyone, but a selection was made by the monk in attendance and by
an assistant who was sent to the hermitage every day from the
monastery. A crowd of some eighty people--pilgrims and peasants,
and especially peasant-women--stood outside waiting for Father
Sergius to come out and bless them. Meanwhile he conducted the
service, but at the point at which he went out to the tomb of his
predecessor, he staggered and would have fallen had he not been
caught by a merchant standing behind him and by the monk acting
'What is the matter, Father Sergius? Dear man! O Lord!'
exclaimed the women. 'He is as white as a sheet!'
But Father Sergius recovered immediately, and though very pale,
he waved the merchant and the deacon aside and continued to chant
Father Seraphim, the deacon, the acolytes, and Sofya Ivanovna, a
lady who always lived near the hermitage and tended Father
Sergius, begged him to bring the service to an end.
'No, there's nothing the matter,' said Father Sergius, slightly
smiling from beneath his moustache and continuing the service.
'Yes, that is the way the Saints behave!' thought he.
'A holy man--an angel of God!' he heard just then the voice of
Sofya Ivanovna behind him, and also of the merchant who had
supported him. He did not heed their entreaties, but went on
with the service. Again crowding together they all made their
way by the narrow passages back into the little church, and
there, though abbreviating it slightly, Father Sergius completed
Immediately after the service Father Sergius, having pronounced
the benediction on those present, went over to the bench under
the elm tree at the entrance to the cave. He wished to rest and
breathe the fresh air--he felt in need of it. But as soon as he
left the church the crowd of people rushed to him soliciting his
blessing, his advice, and his help. There were pilgrims who
constantly tramped from one holy place to another and from one
starets to another, and were always entranced by every shrine and
every starets. Father Sergius knew this common, cold,
conventional, and most irreligious type. There were pilgrims,
for the most part discharged soldiers, unaccustomed to a settled
life, poverty-stricken, and many of them drunken old men, who
tramped from monastery to monastery merely to be fed. And there
were rough peasants and peasant-women who had come with their
selfish requirements, seeking cures or to have doubts about quite
practical affairs solved for them: about marrying off a daughter,
or hiring a shop, or buying a bit of land, or how to atone for
having overlaid a child or having an illegitimate one.
All this was an old story and not in the least interesting to
him. He knew he would hear nothing new from these folk, that
they would arouse no religious emotion in him; but he liked to
see the crowd to which his blessing and advice was necessary and
precious, so while that crowd oppressed him it also pleased him.
Father Seraphim began to drive them away, saying that Father
Sergius was tired.
But Father Sergius, remembering the words of the Gospel: 'Forbid
them' (children) 'not to come unto me,' and feeling tenderly
towards himself at this recollection, said they should be allowed
He rose, went to the railing beyond which the crowd had gathered,
and began blessing them and answering their questions, but in a
voice so weak that he was touched with pity for himself. Yet
despite his wish to receive them all he could not do it. Things
again grew dark before his eyes, and he staggered and grasped the
railings. He felt a rush of blood to his head and first went
pale and then suddenly flushed.
'I must leave the rest till to-morrow. I cannot do more to-day,'
and, pronouncing a general benediction, he returned to the bench.
The merchant again supported him, and leading him by the arm
helped him to be seated.
'Father!' came voices from the crowd. 'Dear Father! Do not
forsake us. Without you we are lost!'
The merchant, having seated Father Sergius on the bench under the
elm, took on himself police duties and drove the people off very
resolutely. It is true that he spoke in a low voice so that
Father Sergius might not hear him, but his words were incisive
'Be off, be off! He has blessed you, and what more do you want?
Get along with you, or I'll wring your necks! Move on there! Get
along, you old woman with your dirty leg-bands! Go, go! Where
are you shoving to? You've been told that it is finished.
To-morrow will be as God wills, but for to-day he has finished!'
'Father! Only let my eyes have a glimpse of his dear face!' said
an old woman.
'I'll glimpse you! Where are you shoving to?'
Father Sergius noticed that the merchant seemed to be acting
roughly, and in a feeble voice told the attendant that the people
should not be driven away. He knew that they would be driven
away all the same, and he much desired to be left alone and to
rest, but he sent the attendant with that message to produce an
'All right, all right! I am not driving them away. I am only
remonstrating with them,' replied the merchant. 'You know they
wouldn't hesitate to drive a man to death. They have no pity,
they only consider themselves. . . . You've been told you cannot
see him. Go away! To-morrow!' And he got rid of them all.
He took all these pains because he liked order and liked to
domineer and drive the people away, but chiefly because he wanted
to have Father Sergius to himself. He was a widower with an only
daughter who was an invalid and unmarried, and whom he had
brought fourteen hundred versts to Father Sergius to be healed.
For two years past he had been taking her to different places to
be cured: first to the university clinic in the chief town of the
province, but that did no good; then to a peasant in the province
of Samara, where she got a little better; then to a doctor in
Moscow to whom he paid much money, but this did no good at all.
Now he had been told that Father Sergius wrought cures, and had
brought her to him. So when all the people had been driven away
he approached Father Sergius, and suddenly falling on his knees
'Holy Father! Bless my afflicted offspring that she may be
healed of her malady. I venture to prostrate myself at your holy
And he placed one hand on the other, cup-wise. He said and did
all this as if he were doing something clearly and firmly
appointed by law and usage--as if one must and should ask for a
daughter to be cured in just this way and no other. He did it
with such conviction that it seemed even to Father Sergius that
it should be said and done in just that way, but nevertheless he
bade him rise and tell him what the trouble was. The merchant
said that his daughter, a girl of twenty-two, had fallen ill two
years ago, after her mother's sudden death. She had moaned (as
he expressed it) and since then had not been herself. And now he
had brought her fourteen hundred versts and she was waiting in
the hostelry till Father Sergius should give orders to bring her.
She did not go out during the day, being afraid of the light, and
could only come after sunset.
'Is she very weak?' asked Father Sergius.
'No, she has no particular weakness. She is quite plump, and is
only "nerastenic" the doctors say. If you will only let me bring
her this evening, Father Sergius, I'll fly like a spirit to fetch
her. Holy Father! Revive a parent's heart, restore his line,
save his afflicted daughter by your prayers!' And the merchant
again threw himself on his knees and bending sideways, with his
head resting on his clenched fists, remained stock still. Father
Sergius again told him to get up, and thinking how heavy his
activities were and how he went through with them patiently
notwithstanding, he sighed heavily and after a few seconds of
'Well, bring her this evening. I will pray for her, but now I am
tired . . .' and he closed his eyes. 'I will send for you.'
The merchant went away, stepping on tiptoe, which only made his
boots creak the louder, and Father Sergius remained alone.
His whole life was filled by Church services and by people who
came to see him, but to-day had been a particularly difficult
one. In the morning an important official had arrived and had
had a long conversation with him; after that a lady had come with
her son. This son was a sceptical young professor whom the
mother, an ardent believer and devoted to Father Sergius, had
brought that he might talk to him. The conversation had been
very trying. The young man, evidently not wishing to have a
controversy with a monk, had agreed with him in everything as
with someone who was mentally inferior. Father Sergius saw that
the young man did not believe but yet was satisfied, tranquil,
and at ease, and the memory of that conversation now disquieted
'Have something to eat, Father,' said the attendant.
'All right, bring me something.'
The attendant went to a hut that had been arranged some ten paces
from the cave, and Father Sergius remained alone.
The time was long past when he had lived alone doing everything
for himself and eating only rye-bread, or rolls prepared for the
Church. He had been advised long since that he had no right to
neglect his health, and he was given wholesome, though Lenten,
food. He ate sparingly, though much more than he had done, and
often he ate with much pleasure, and not as formerly with
aversion and a sense of guilt. So it was now. He had some
gruel, drank a cup of tea, and ate half a white roll.
The attendant went away, and Father Sergius remained alone under
the elm tree.
It was a wonderful May evening, when the birches, aspens, elms,
wild cherries, and oaks, had just burst into foliage.
The bush of wild cherries behind the elm tree was in full bloom
and had not yet begun to shed its blossoms, and the
nightingales--one quite near at hand and two or three others in
the bushes down by the river--burst into full song after some
preliminary twitters. From the river came the far-off songs of
peasants returning, no doubt, from their work. The sun was
setting behind the forest, its last rays glowing through the
leaves. All that side was brilliant green, the other side with
the elm tree was dark. The cockchafers flew clumsily about,
falling to the ground when they collided with anything.
After supper Father Sergius began to repeat a silent prayer: 'O
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon us!' and then he
read a psalm, and suddenly in the middle of the psalm a sparrow
flew out from the bush, alighted on the ground, and hopped
towards him chirping as it came, but then it took fright at
something and flew away. He said a prayer which referred to his
abandonment of the world, and hastened to finish it in order to
send for the merchant with the sick daughter. She interested him
in that she presented a distraction, and because both she and her
father considered him a saint whose prayers were efficacious.
Outwardly he disavowed that idea, but in the depths of his soul
he considered it to be true.
He was often amazed that this had happened, that he, Stepan
Kasatsky, had come to be such an extraordinary saint and even a
worker of miracles, but of the fact that he was such there could
not be the least doubt. He could not fail to believe in the
miracles he himself witnessed, beginning with the sick boy and
ending with the old woman who had recovered her sight when he had
prayed for her.
Strange as it might be, it was so. Accordingly the merchant's
daughter interested him as a new individual who had faith in him,
and also as a fresh opportunity to confirm his healing powers and
enhance his fame. 'They bring people a thousand versts and write
about it in the papers. The Emperor knows of it, and they know of
it in Europe, in unbelieving Europe'--thought he. And suddenly
he felt ashamed of his vanity and again began to pray. 'Lord,
King of Heaven, Comforter, Soul of Truth! Come and enter into me
and cleanse me from all sin and save and bless my soul. Cleanse
me from the sin of worldly vanity that troubles me!' he repeated,
and he remembered how often he had prayed about this and how vain
till now his prayers had been in that respect. His prayers
worked miracles for others, but in his own case God had not
granted him liberation from this petty passion.
He remembered his prayers at the commencement of his life at the
hermitage, when he prayed for purity, humility, and love, and how
it seemed to him then that God heard his prayers. He had
retained his purity and had chopped off his finger. And he
lifted the shrivelled stump of that finger to his lips and kissed
it. It seemed to him now that he had been humble then when he
had always seemed loathsome to himself on account of his
sinfulness; and when he remembered the tender feelings with which
he had then met an old man who was bringing a drunken soldier to
him to ask alms; and how he had received HER, it seemed to him
that he had then possessed love also. But now? And he asked
himself whether he loved anyone, whether he loved Sofya Ivanovna,
or Father Seraphim, whether he had any feeling of love for all
who had come to him that day--for that learned young man with
whom he had had that instructive discussion in which he was
concerned only to show off his own intelligence and that he had
not lagged behind the times in knowledge. He wanted and needed
their love, but felt none towards them. He now had neither love
nor humility nor purity.
He was pleased to know that the merchant's daughter was
twenty-two, and he wondered whether she was good-looking. When
he inquired whether she was weak, he really wanted to know if she
had feminine charm.
'Can I have fallen so low?' he thought. 'Lord, help me! Restore
me, my Lord and God!' And he clasped his hands and began to
The nightingales burst into song, a cockchafer knocked against
him and crept up the back of his neck. He brushed it off. 'But
does He exist? What if I am knocking at a door fastened from
outside? The bar is on the door for all to see. Nature--the
nightingales and the cockchafers--is that bar. Perhaps the young
man was right.' And he began to pray aloud. He prayed for a
long time till these thoughts vanished and he again felt calm and
confident. He rang the bell and told the attendant to say that
the merchant might bring his daughter to him now.
The merchant came, leading his daughter by the arm. He led her
into the cell and immediately left her.
She was a very fair girl, plump and very short, with a pale,
frightened, childish face and a much developed feminine figure.
Father Sergius remained seated on the bench at the entrance and
when she was passing and stopped beside him for his blessing he
was aghast at himself for the way he looked at her figure. As
she passed by him he was acutely conscious of her femininity,
though he saw by her face that she was sensual and feeble-minded.
He rose and went into the cell. She was sitting on a stool
waiting for him, and when he entered she rose.
'I want to go back to Papa,' she said.
'Don't be afraid,' he replied. 'What are you suffering from?'
'I am in pain all over,' she said, and suddenly her face lit up
with a smile.
'You will be well,' said he. 'Pray!'
'What is the use of praying? I have prayed and it does no
good'--and she continued to smile. 'I want you to pray for me
and lay your hands on me. I saw you in a dream.'
'How did you see me?'
'I saw you put your hands on my breast like that.' She took his
hand and pressed it to her breast. 'Just here.'
He yielded his right hand to her.
'What is your name?' he asked, trembling all over and feeling
that he was overcome and that his desire had already passed
She took his hand and kissed it, and then put her arm round his
waist and pressed him to herself.
'What are you doing?' he said. 'Marie, you are a devil!'
'Oh, perhaps. What does it matter?'
And embracing him she sat down with him on the bed.
At dawn he went out into the porch.
'Can this all have happened? Her father will come and she will
tell him everything. She is a devil! What am I to do? Here is
the axe with which I chopped off my finger.' He snatched up the
axe and moved back towards the cell.
The attendant came up.
'Do you want some wood chopped? Let me have the axe.'
Sergius yielded up the axe and entered the cell. She was lying
there asleep. He looked at her with horror, and passed on beyond
the partition, where he took down the peasant clothes and put
them on. Then he seized a pair of scissors, cut off his long
hair, and went out along the path down the hill to the river,
where he had not been for more than three years.
A road ran beside the river and he went along it and walked till
noon. Then he went into a field of rye and lay down there.
Towards evening he approached a village, but without entering it
went towards the cliff that overhung the river. There he again
lay down to rest.
It was early morning, half an hour before sunrise. All was damp
and gloomy and a cold early wind was blowing from the west.
'Yes, I must end it all. There is no God. But how am I to end
it? Throw myself into the river? I can swim and should not
drown. Hang myself? Yes, just throw this sash over a branch.'
This seemed so feasible and so easy that he felt horrified. As
usual at moments of despair he felt the need of prayer. But
there was no one to pray to. There was no God. He lay down
resting on his arm, and suddenly such a longing for sleep
overcame him that he could no longer support his head on his
hand, but stretched out his arm, laid his head upon it, and fell
asleep. But that sleep lasted only for a moment. He woke up
immediately and began not to dream but to remember.
He saw himself as a child in his mother's home in the country. A
carriage drives up, and out of it steps Uncle Nicholas
Sergeevich, with his long, spade-shaped, black beard, and with
him Pashenka, a thin little girl with large mild eyes and a timid
pathetic face. And into their company of boys Pashenka is
brought and they have to play with her, but it is dull. She is
silly, and it ends by their making fun of her and forcing her to
show how she can swim. She lies down on the floor and shows
them, and they all laugh and make a fool of her. She sees this
and blushes red in patches and becomes more pitiable than before,
so pitiable that he feels ashamed and can never forget that
crooked, kindly, submissive smile. And Sergius remembered having
seen her since then. Long after, just before he became a monk,
she had married a landowner who squandered all her fortune and
was in the habit of beating her. She had had two children, a son
and a daughter, but the son had died while still young. And
Sergius remembered having seen her very wretched. Then again he
had seen her in the monastery when she was a widow. She had been
still the same, not exactly stupid, but insipid, insignificant,
and pitiable. She had come with her daughter and her daughter's
fiance. They were already poor at that time and later on he had
heard that she was living in a small provincial town and was very
'Why am I thinking about her?' he asked himself, but he could not
cease doing so. 'Where is she? How is she getting on? Is she
still as unhappy as she was then when she had to show us how to
swim on the floor? But why should I think about her? What am I
doing? I must put an end to myself.'
And again he felt afraid, and again, to escape from that thought,
he went on thinking about Pashenka.
So he lay for a long time, thinking now of his unavoidable end
and now of Pashenka. She presented herself to him as a means of
salvation. At last he fell asleep, and in his sleep he saw an
angel who came to him and said: 'Go to Pashenka and learn from
her what you have to do, what your sin is, and wherein lies your
He awoke, and having decided that this was a vision sent by God,
he felt glad, and resolved to do what had been told him in the
vision. He knew the town where she lived. It was some three
hundred versts (two hundred miles) away, and he set out to walk
Pashenka had already long ceased to be Pashenka and had become
old, withered, wrinkled Praskovya Mikhaylovna, mother-in-law of
that failure, the drunken official Mavrikyev. She was living in
the country town where he had had his last appointment, and there
she was supporting the family: her daughter, her ailing
neurasthenic son-in-law, and her five grandchildren. She did
this by giving music lessons to tradesmen's daughters, giving
four and sometimes five lessons a day of an hour each, and
earning in this way some sixty rubles (6 pounds) a month. So
they lived for the present, in expectation of another
appointment. She had sent letters to all her relations and
acquaintances asking them to obtain a post for her son-in-law,
and among the rest she had written to Sergius, but that letter
had not reached him.
It was a Saturday, and Praskovya Mikhaylovna was herself mixing
dough for currant bread such as the serf-cook on her father's
estate used to make so well. She wished to give her
grandchildren a treat on the Sunday.
Masha, her daughter, was nursing her youngest child, the eldest
boy and girl were at school, and her son-in-law was asleep, not
having slept during the night. Praskovya Mikhaylovna had
remained awake too for a great part of the night, trying to
soften her daughter's anger against her husband.
She saw that it was impossible for her son-in-law, a weak
creature, to be other than he was, and realized that his wife's
reproaches could do no good--so she used all her efforts to
soften those reproaches and to avoid recrimination and anger.
Unkindly relations between people caused her actual physical
suffering. It was so clear to her that bitter feelings do not
make anything better, but only make everything worse. She did
not in fact think about this: she simply suffered at the sight of
anger as she would from a bad smell, a harsh noise, or from blows
on her body.
She had--with a feeling of self-satisfaction--just taught Lukerya
how to mix the dough, when her six-year-old grandson Misha,
wearing an apron and with darned stockings on his crooked little
legs, ran into the kitchen with a frightened face.
'Grandma, a dreadful old man wants to see you.'
Lukerya looked out at the door.
'There is a pilgrim of some kind, a man . . .'
Praskovya Mikhaylovna rubbed her thin elbows against one another,
wiped her hands on her apron and went upstairs to get a
five-kopek piece [about a penny] out of her purse for him, but
remembering that she had nothing less than a ten-kopek piece she
decided to give him some bread instead. She returned to the
cupboard, but suddenly blushed at the thought of having grudged
the ten-kopek piece, and telling Lukerya to cut a slice of bread,
went upstairs again to fetch it. 'It serves you right,' she said
to herself. 'You must now give twice over.'
She gave both the bread and the money to the pilgrim, and when
doing so--far from being proud of her generosity--she excused
herself for giving so little. The man had such an imposing
Though he had tramped two hundred versts as a beggar, though he
was tattered and had grown thin and weatherbeaten, though he had
cropped his long hair and was wearing a peasant's cap and boots,
and though he bowed very humbly, Sergius still had the impressive
appearance that made him so attractive. But Praskovya
Mikhaylovna did not recognize him. She could hardly do so, not
having seen him for almost twenty years.
'Don't think ill of me, Father. Perhaps you want something to
He took the bread and the money, and Praskovya Mikhaylovna was
surprised that he did not go, but stood looking at her.
'Pashenka, I have come to you! Take me in . . .'
His beautiful black eyes, shining with the tears that started in
them, were fixed on her with imploring insistence. And under his
greyish moustache his lips quivered piteously.
Praskovya Mikhaylovna pressed her hands to her withered breast,
opened her mouth, and stood petrified, staring at the pilgrim
with dilated eyes.
'It can't be! Stepa! Sergey! Father Sergius!'
'Yes, it is I,' said Sergius in a low voice. 'Only not Sergius,
or Father Sergius, but a great sinner, Stepan Kasatsky--a great
and lost sinner. Take me in and help me!'
'It's impossible! How have you so humbled yourself? But come
She reached out her hand, but he did not take it and only
followed her in.
But where was she to take him? The lodging was a small one.
Formerly she had had a tiny room, almost a closet, for herself,
but later she had given it up to her daughter, and Masha was now
sitting there rocking the baby.
'Sit here for the present,' she said to Sergius, pointing to a
bench in the kitchen.
He sat down at once, and with an evidently accustomed movement
slipped the straps of his wallet first off one shoulder and then
off the other.
'My God, my God! How you have humbled yourself, Father! Such
great fame, and now like this . . .'
Sergius did not reply, but only smiled meekly, placing his wallet
under the bench on which he sat.
'Masha, do you know who this is?'--And in a whisper Praskovya
Mikhaylovna told her daughter who he was, and together they then
carried the bed and the cradle out of the tiny room and cleared
it for Sergius.
Praskovya Mikhaylovna led him into it.
'Here you can rest. Don't take offence . . . but I must go out.'
'I have to go to a lesson. I am ashamed to tell you, but I teach
'Music? But that is good. Only just one thing, Praskovya
Mikhaylovna, I have come to you with a definite object. When can
I have a talk with you?'
'I shall be very glad. Will this evening do?'
'Yes. But one thing more. Don't speak about me, or say who I
am. I have revealed myself only to you. No one knows where I
have gone to. It must be so.'
'Oh, but I have told my daughter.'
'Well, ask her not to mention it.'
And Sergius took off his boots, lay down, and at once fell asleep
after a sleepless night and a walk of nearly thirty miles.
When Praskovya Mikhaylovna returned, Sergius was sitting in the
little room waiting for her. He did not come out for dinner, but
had some soup and gruel which Lukerya brought him.
'How is it that you have come back earlier than you said?' asked
Sergius. 'Can I speak to you now?'
'How is it that I have the happiness to receive such a guest? I
have missed one of my lessons. That can wait . . . I had always
been planning to go to see you. I wrote to you, and now this
good fortune has come.'
'Pashenka, please listen to what I am going to tell you as to a
confession made to God at my last hour. Pashenka, I am not a
holy man, I am not even as good as a simple ordinary man; I am a
loathsome, vile, and proud sinner who has gone astray, and who,
if not worse than everyone else, is at least worse than most very
Pashenka looked at him at first with staring eyes. But she
believed what he said, and when she had quite grasped it she
touched his hand, smiling pityingly, and said:
'Perhaps you exaggerate, Stiva?'
'No, Pashenka. I am an adulterer, a murderer, a blasphemer, and
'My God! How is that?' exclaimed Praskovya Mikhaylovna.
'But I must go on living. And I, who thought I knew everything,
who taught others how to live--I know nothing and ask you to
'What are you saying, Stiva? You are laughing at me. Why do you
always make fun of me?'
'Well, if you think I am jesting you must have it as you please.
But tell me all the same how you live, and how you have lived
'I? I have lived a very nasty, horrible life, and now God is
punishing me as I deserve. I live so wretchedly, so wretchedly .
'How was it with your marriage? How did you live with your
'It was all bad. I married because I fell in love in the
nastiest way. Papa did not approve. But I would not listen to
anything and just got married. Then instead of helping my
husband I tormented him by my jealousy, which I could not
'I heard that he drank . . .'
'Yes, but I did not give him any peace. I always reproached him,
though you know it is a disease! He could not refrain from it.
I now remember how I tried to prevent his having it, and the
frightful scenes we had!'
And she looked at Kasatsky with beautiful eyes, suffering from
Kasatsky remembered how he had been told that Pashenka's husband
used to beat her, and now, looking at her thin withered neck with
prominent veins behind her ears, and her scanty coil of hair,
half grey half auburn, he seemed to see just how it had occurred.
'Then I was left with two children and no means at all.'
'But you had an estate!'
'Oh, we sold that while Vasya was still alive, and the money was
all spent. We had to live, and like all our young ladies I did
not know how to earn anything. I was particularly useless and
helpless. So we spent all we had. I taught the children and
improved my own education a little. And then Mitya fell ill when
he was already in the fourth form, and God took him. Masha fell
in love with Vanya, my son-in-law. And--well, he is well-meaning
but unfortunate. He is ill.'
'Mamma!'--her daughter's voice interrupted her--'Take Mitya! I
can't be in two places at once.'
Praskovya Mikhaylovna shuddered, but rose and went out of the
room, stepping quickly in her patched shoes. She soon came back
with a boy of two in her arms, who threw himself backwards and
grabbed at her shawl with his little hands.
'Where was I? Oh yes, he had a good appointment here, and his
chief was a kind man too. But Vanya could not go on, and had to
give up his position.'
'What is the matter with him?'
'Neurasthenia--it is a dreadful complaint. We consulted a
doctor, who told us he ought to go away, but we had no means. . .
. I always hope it will pass of itself. He has no particular
pain, but . . .'
'Lukerya!' cried an angry and feeble voice. 'She is always sent
away when I want her. Mamma . . .'
'I'm coming!' Praskovya Mikhaylovna again interrupted herself.
'He has not had his dinner yet. He can't eat with us.'
She went out and arranged something, and came back wiping her
thin dark hands.
'So that is how I live. I always complain and am always
dissatisfied, but thank God the grandchildren are all nice and
healthy, and we can still live. But why talk about me?'
'But what do you live on?'
'Well, I earn a little. How I used to dislike music, but how
useful it is to me now!' Her small hand lay on the chest of
drawers beside which she was sitting, and she drummed an exercise
with her thin fingers.
'How much do you get for a lesson?'
'Sometimes a ruble, sometimes fifty kopeks, or sometimes thirty.
They are all so kind to me.'
'And do your pupils get on well?' asked Kasatsky with a slight
Praskovya Mikhaylovna did not at first believe that he was asking
seriously, and looked inquiringly into his eyes.
'Some of them do. One of them is a splendid girl--the butcher's
daughter--such a good kind girl! If I were a clever woman I
ought, of course, with the connexions Papa had, to be able to get
an appointment for my son-in-law. But as it is I have not been
able to do anything, and have brought them all to this--as you
'Yes, yes,' said Kasatsky, lowering his head. 'And how is it,
Pashenka--do you take part in Church life?'
'Oh, don't speak of it. I am so bad that way, and have neglected
it so! I keep the fasts with the children and sometimes go to
church, and then again sometimes I don't go for months. I only
send the children.'
'But why don't you go yourself?'
'To tell the truth' (she blushed) 'I am ashamed, for my
daughter's sake and the children's, to go there in tattered
clothes, and I haven't anything else. Besides, I am just lazy.'
'And do you pray at home?'
'I do. But what sort of prayer is it? Only mechanical. I know
it should not be like that, but I lack real religious feeling.
The only thing is that I know how bad I am . . .'
'Yes, yes, that's right!' said Kasatsky, as if approvingly.
'I'm coming! I'm coming!' she replied to a call from her
son-in-law, and tidying her scanty plait she left the room.
But this time it was long before she returned. When she came
back, Kasatsky was sitting in the same position, his elbows
resting on his knees and his head bowed. But his wallet was
strapped on his back.
When she came in, carrying a small tin lamp without a shade, he
raised his fine weary eyes and sighed very deeply.
'I did not tell them who you are,' she began timidly. 'I only
said that you are a pilgrim, a nobleman, and that I used to know
you. Come into the dining-room for tea.'
'No . . .'
'Well then, I'll bring some to you here.'
'No, I don't want anything. God bless you, Pashenka! I am going
now. If you pity me, don't tell anyone that you have seen me.
For the love of God don't tell anyone. Thank you. I would bow to
your feet but I know it would make you feel awkward. Thank you,
and forgive me for Christ's sake!'
'Give me your blessing.'
'God bless you! Forgive me for Christ's sake!'
He rose, but she would not let him go until she had given him
bread and butter and rusks. He took it all and went away.
It was dark, and before he had passed the second house he was
lost to sight. She only knew he was there because the dog at the
priest's house was barking.
'So that is what my dream meant! Pashenka is what I ought to
have been but failed to be. I lived for men on the pretext of
living for God, while she lived for God imagining that she lives
for men. Yes, one good deed--a cup of water given without
thought of reward--is worth more than any benefit I imagined I
was bestowing on people. But after all was there not some share
of sincere desire to serve God?' he asked himself, and the answer
was: 'Yes, there was, but it was all soiled and overgrown by
desire for human praise. Yes, there is no God for the man who
lives, as I did, for human praise. I will now seek Him!'
And he walked from village to village as he had done on his way
to Pashenka, meeting and parting from other pilgrims, men and
women, and asking for bread and a night's rest in Christ's name.
Occasionally some angry housewife scolded him, or a drunken
peasant reviled him, but for the most part he was given food and
drink and even something to take with him. His noble bearing
disposed some people in his favour, while others on the contrary
seemed pleased at the sight of a gentleman who had come to
But his gentleness prevailed with everyone.
Often, finding a copy of the Gospels in a hut he would read it
aloud, and when they heard him the people were always touched and
surprised, as at something new yet familiar.
When he succeeded in helping people, either by advice, or by his
knowledge of reading and writing, or by settling some quarrel, he
did not wait to see their gratitude but went away directly
afterwards. And little by little God began to reveal Himself
Once he was walking along with two old women and a soldier. They
were stopped by a party consisting of a lady and gentleman in a
gig and another lady and gentleman on horseback. The husband was
on horseback with his daughter, while in the gig his wife was
driving with a Frenchman, evidently a traveller.
The party stopped to let the Frenchman see the pilgrims who, in
accord with a popular Russian superstition, tramped about from
place to place instead of working.
They spoke French, thinking that the others would not understand
'Demandez-leur,' said the Frenchman, 's'ils sont bien sur de ce
que leur pelerinage est agreable a Dieu.'
The question was asked, and one old woman replied:
'As God takes it. Our feet have reached the holy places, but our
hearts may not have done so.'
They asked the soldier. He said that he was alone in the world
and had nowhere else to go.
They asked Kasatsky who he was.
'A servant of God.'
'Qu'est-ce qu'il dit? Il ne repond pas.'
'Il dit qu'il est un serviteur de Dieu. Cela doit etre un fils
de preetre. Il a de la race. Avez-vous de la petite monnaie?'
The Frenchman found some small change and gave twenty kopeks to
each of the pilgrims.
'Mais dites-leur que ce n'est pas pour les cierges que je leur
donne, mais pour qu'ils se regalent de the. Chay, chay pour
vous, mon vieux!' he said with a smile. And he patted Kasatsky
on the shoulder with his gloved hand.
'May Christ bless you,' replied Kasatsky without replacing his
cap and bowing his bald head.
He rejoiced particularly at this meeting, because he had
disregarded the opinion of men and had done the simplest, easiest
thing--humbly accepted twenty kopeks and given them to his
comrade, a blind beggar. The less importance he attached to the
opinion of men the more did he feel the presence of God within
For eight months Kasatsky tramped on in this manner, and in the
ninth month he was arrested for not having a passport. This
happened at a night-refuge in a provincial town where he had
passed the night with some pilgrims. He was taken to the
police-station, and when asked who he was and where was his
passport, he replied that he had no passport and that he was a
servant of God. He was classed as a tramp, sentenced, and sent
to live in Siberia.
In Siberia he has settled down as the hired man of a well-to-do
peasant, in which capacity he works in the kitchen-garden,
teaches children, and attends to the sick.
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