by Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude
In Petersburg in the 1840s 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
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 holidays.
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. Thought 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 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
The Emperor Nicholas Pavlovich (Nicholas *) 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, 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 his soul.
When Kasatsky took up his commission his mother moved with her
daughter first to Moscow 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 joined.
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 so.
The highest society then consisted, and I think always and
everywhere does 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 purity.
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 today who see in every girl merely a female seeking a
mate) was, I think, of value. The girl, 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
"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 is 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 approacher 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 it?"
"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
"No, it was later. I was infatuated, but it passed... I must tell
"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
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 country.
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,
She understood that he had become a monk in order to be above those
who considered themselves his superior. 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
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 Paissy
To this Abbot Kasatsky submitted himself as to his chosen director.
Here in the monastery, besides the feeling of ascendancy 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 sit, but Kasatsky felt free from it and
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
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
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 life.
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 fulfillment 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 say.
"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 eyes 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 expressed it.
"Very pleased to see you in your angelic guise," said the general,
holding out his hand. "I hope you have not forgotten an old comrade."
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 house?"
"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. Got 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 after wards 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 was 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 farther.
"But where does this road lead to?" asked Makovkina, the beautiful
"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 and messieurs, let us drive on and see Kasatsky! We can
stop at Tambov and having something to eat."
"But we shouldn't get home tonight!"
"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 snow.
The sledges 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 go
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 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 them separately.
"O my God, my god!" thought he. "why does 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 has 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 to their
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 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 the 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 attractive woman -- said:
"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 impossible.
"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 frozen."
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 threshhold. 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 letting me freeze to
He jerked the door towards him, raised the hook, and without
considering what he was doing, pushed it open with such force that it
"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 were laughing.
"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 on her.
He saw that she was saying.
"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
"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
"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 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 say 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
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 once."
"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 lifter 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
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 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
"For God's sake come to me! I am dying! Oh!"
"Well -- shall I perish? No, no 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 floor.
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,
"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!" "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
"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 way
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 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
The episode with Makovkina had occurred after five hears 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 more.
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 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
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 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
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 as deacon.
"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 the
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 behaved!" 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 vespers.
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 to approach.
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
"I must leave the rest till tomorrow. I cannot do more today,"
and, pronouncing a general benediction, he returned to the bench. The
merchant again supported him, and leading him by the arm helped him to
"Father!" came voices from the crowd. "Dear Father! Do no 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 and angry.
"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. Tomorrow will be as
god wills, but for today he has finished!"
"Father! Only let my eyes have a glimpse of his dear face!" said an
"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 impression.
"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! tomorrow!" 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 loudly exclaimed:
"Holy Father! Bless my afflicted offspring that she may be healed
of her malady. I venture to prostrate myself at your holy feet."
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 'neurasthenic' 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 silence, said:
"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 today had been a particularly difficult one. In the
morning and 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 him.
"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
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 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
"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 pray.
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
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
"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 not 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 beyond control.
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, but 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 poor.
"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 salvation."
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 there.
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 was some sixty
rubles (ú6) 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
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
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
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 appearance.
Though he had tramped two hundred versts as a beggar, though he was
tattered and had grown thin and weather-beaten, 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
"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
"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 in."
She reached out her hand, but he did not take it and only followed
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
"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
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
"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 bad people."
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, smiled pityingly, and said:
"Perhaps you exaggerate, Stiva?"
"No, Pashenka. I am an adulterer, a murderer, a blasphemer, and a
"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 teach
"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 your
"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 restrain."
"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
And she looked at Kasatsky with beautiful eyes, suffering from the
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 wild 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 and 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
"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
"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 see."
"Yes, yes," 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
"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."
"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 lives 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
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 beggary.
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 within him.
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? In ne repond pas."
"Il dit qu'il est un serviteur de Dieu. Cela doit etre un fils de
pretre. 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 patter 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 him.
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 re;lied 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.