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THE SECOND CONFESSION
Suddenly the sound of the priest's footsteps roused me from this
"Good morning to you," he said as he smoothed his grey hair with
his hand. "What can I do for you?"
I besought him to give me his blessing, and then kissed his
small, wizened hand with great fervour. After I had explained to
him my errand he said nothing, but moved away towards the ikons,
and began to read the exhortation: whereupon I overcame my shame,
and told him all that was in my heart. Finally he laid his hands
upon my head, and pronounced in his even, resonant voice the
words: "My son, may the blessing of Our Heavenly Father be upon
thee, and may He always preserve thee in faithfulness, loving-
kindness, and meekness. Amen."
I was entirely happy. Tears of joy coursed down my face as I
kissed the hem of his cassock and then raised my head again. The
face of the priest expressed perfect tranquillity. So keenly did
I feel the joy of reconciliation that, fearing in any way to
dispel it, I took hasty leave of him, and, without looking to one
side of me or the other (in order that my attention might not be
distracted), left the grounds and re-entered the rickety,
battered drozhki. Yet the joltings of the vehicle and the variety
of objects which flitted past my eyes soon dissipated that
feeling, and I became filled with nothing but the idea that the
priest must have thought me the finest-spirited young man he had
ever met, or ever would meet, in the whole of his life. Indeed, I
reflected, there could not be many such as myself--of that I felt
sure, and the conviction produced in me the kind of complacency
which craves for self-communication to another. I had a great
desire to unbosom myself to some one, and as there was no one
else to speak to, I addressed myself to the cabman.
"Was I very long gone? " I asked him.
" No, not very long," he replied. He seemed to have grown more
cheerful under the influence of the sunshine. "Yet now it is a
good while past my horse's feeding-time. You see, I am a night
"Well, I only seemed to myself to be about a minute," I went on.
"Do you know what I went there for?" I added, changing my seat to
the well of the drozhki, so as to be nearer the driver.
"What business is it of mine? I drive a fare where he tells me to
go," he replied.
"Yes, but, all the same, what do you think I went there for?" I
"I expect some one you know is going to be buried there, so you
went to see about a plot for the grave."
"No, no, my friend. Still, DO you know what I went there for?"
"No, of course I cannot tell, barin," he repeated.
His voice seemed to me so kind that I decided to edify him by
relating the cause of my expedition, and even telling him of the
feeling which I had experienced.
"Shall I tell you?" I said. "Well, you see,"--and I told him all,
as well as inflicted upon him a description of my fine
sentiments. To this day I blush at the recollection.
"Well, well!" said the cabman non-committally, and for a long
while afterwards he remained silent and motionless, except that
at intervals he adjusted the skirt of his coat each time that it
was jerked from beneath his leg by the joltings of his huge boot
on the drozhki's step. I felt sure that he must be thinking of me
even as the priest had done. That is to say, that he must be
thinking that no such fine-spirited young man existed in the
world as I. Suddenly he shot at me:
"I tell you what, barin. You ought to keep God's affairs to
"What?" I said.
"Those affairs of yours--they are God's business," he repeated,
mumbling the words with his toothless lips.
"No, he has not understood me," I thought to myself, and said no
more to him till we reached home.
Although it was not my original sense of reconciliation and
reverence, but only a sort of complacency at having experienced
such a sense, that lasted in me during the drive home (and that,
too, despite the distraction of the crowds of people who now
thronged the sunlit streets in every direction), I had no sooner
reached home than even my spurious complacency was shattered, for
I found that I had not the forty copecks wherewith to pay the
cabman! To the butler, Gabriel, I already owed a small debt, and
he refused to lend me any more. Seeing me twice run across the
courtyard in quest of the money, the cabman must have divined the
reason, for, leaping from his drozhki, he--notwithstanding that
he had seemed so kind--began to bawl aloud (with an evident
desire to punch my head) that people who do not pay for their
cab-rides are swindlers.
None of my family were yet out of bed, so that, except for the
servants, there was no one from whom to borrow the forty copecks.
At length, on my most sacred, sacred word of honour to repay (a
word to which, as I could see from his face, he did not
altogether trust), Basil so far yielded to his fondness for me
and his remembrance of the many services I had done him as to pay
the cabman. Thus all my beautiful feelings ended in smoke. When I
went upstairs to dress for church and go to Communion with the
rest I found that my new clothes had not yet come home, and so I
could not wear them. Then I sinned headlong. Donning my other
suit, I went to Communion in a sad state of mental perturbation,
and filled with complete distrust of all my finer impulses.
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