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IN the village where the lame tailor lived, in the Zemliansk district
of the Voronesh province, five rich peasants hired from the landowner a
hundred and five acres of rich arable land, black as tar, and let it out
on lease to the rest of the peasants at fifteen to eighteen roubles
an acre. Not one acre was given under twelve roubles. They got a very
profitable return, and the five acres which were left to each of their
company practically cost them nothing. One of the five peasants died,
and the lame tailor received an offer to take his place.
When they began to divide the land, the tailor gave up drinking vodka,
and, being consulted as to how much land was to be divided, and to
whom it should be given, he proposed to give allotments to all on equal
terms, not taking from the tenants more than was due for each piece of
land out of the sum paid to the landowner.
"We are no heathens, I should think," he said. "It is all very well for
the masters to be unfair, but we are true Christians. We must do as God
bids. Such is the law of Christ."
"Where have you got that law from?
"It is in the Book, in the Gospels; just come to me on Sunday, I will
read you a few passages, and we will have a talk afterwards."
They did not all come to him on Sunday, but three came, and he began
reading to them.
He read five chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel, and they talked. One man
only, Ivan Chouev, accepted the lesson and carried it out completely,
following the rule of Christ in everything from that day. His family
did the same. Out of the arable land he took only what was his due, and
refused to take more.
The lame tailor and Ivan had people calling on them, and some of these
people began to grasp the meaning of the Gospels, and in consequence
gave up smoking, drinking, swearing, and using bad language and tried to
help one another. They also ceased to go to church, and took their
ikons to the village priest, saying they did not want them any more. The
priest was frightened, and reported what had occurred to the bishop.
The bishop was at a loss what to do. At last he resolved to send the
archimandrite Missael to the village, the one who had formerly been
Mitia Smokovnikov's teacher of religion.
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