ABOUT sixty years ago, when fortunes of millions had been made
on the Volga with fairy-tale rapidity, Ignat Gordyeeff, a young
fellow, was working as water-pumper on one of the barges of the
wealthy merchant Zayev.
Built like a giant, handsome and not at all stupid, he was one
of those people whom luck always follows everywhere—not because
they are gifted and industrious, but rather because, having an
enormous stock of energy at their command, they cannot stop to
think over the choice of means when on their way toward their aims,
and, excepting their own will, they know no law. Sometimes they
speak of their conscience with fear, sometimes they really torture
themselves struggling with it, but conscience is an unconquerable
power to the faint-hearted only; the strong master it quickly and
make it a slave to their desires, for they unconsciously feel that,
given room and freedom, conscience would fracture life. They
sacrifice days to it; and if it should happen that conscience
conquered their souls, they are never wrecked, even in defeat—they
are just as healthy and strong under its sway as when they lived
At the age of forty Ignat Gordyeeff was himself the owner of
three steamers and ten barges. On the Volga he was respected as a
rich and clever man, but was nicknamed "Frantic," because his life
did not flow along a straight channel, like that of other people of
his kind, but now and again, boiling up turbulently, ran out of its
rut, away from gain—the prime aim of his existence. It looked as
though there were three Gordyeeffs in him, or as though there were
three souls in Ignat's body. One of them, the mightiest, was only
greedy, and when Ignat lived according to its commands, he was
merely a man seized with untamable passion for work. This passion
burned in him by day and by night, he was completely absorbed by
it, and, grabbing everywhere hundreds and thousands of roubles, it
seemed as if he could never have enough of the jingle and sound of
money. He worked about up and down the Volga, building and
fastening nets in which he caught gold: he bought up grain in the
villages, floated it to Rybinsk on his barges; he plundered,
cheated, sometimes not noticing it, sometimes noticing, and,
triumphant, be openly laughed at by his victims; and in the
senselessness of his thirst for money, he rose to the heights of
poetry. But, giving up so much strength to this hunt after the
rouble, he was not greedy in the narrow sense, and sometimes he
even betrayed an inconceivable but sincere indifference to his
property. Once, when the ice was drifting down the Volga, he stood
on the shore, and, seeing that the ice was breaking his new barge,
having crushed it against the bluff shore, he ejaculated:
"That's it. Again. Crush it! Now, once more! Try!"
"Well, Ignat," asked his friend Mayakin, coming up to him, "the
ice is crushing about ten thousand out of your purse, eh?"
"That's nothing! I'll make another hundred. But look how the
Volga is working! Eh? Fine? She can split the whole world, like
curd, with a knife. Look, look! There you have my 'Boyarinya!' She
floated but once. Well, we'll have mass said for the dead."
The barge was crushed into splinters. Ignat and the godfather,
sitting in the tavern on the shore, drank vodka and looked out of
the window, watching the fragments of the "Boyarinya" drifting down
the river together with the ice.
"Are you sorry for the vessel, Ignat?" asked Mayakin.
"Why should I be sorry for it? The Volga gave it to me, and the
Volga has taken it back. It did not tear off my hand."
"What—nevertheless? It is good at least that I saw how it was
all done. It's a lesson for the future. But when my 'Volgar' was
burned—I was really sorry—I didn't see it. How beautiful it must
have looked when such a woodpile was blazing on the water in the
dark night! Eh? It was an enormous steamer."
"Weren't you sorry for that either?"
"For the steamer? It is true, I did feel sorry for the steamer.
But then it is mere foolishness to feel sorry! What's the use? I
might have cried; tears cannot extinguish fire. Let the steamers
burn. And even though everything be burned down, I'd spit upon it!
If the soul is but burning to work, everything will be erected
anew. Isn't it so?"
"Yes," said Mayakin, smiling. "These are strong words you say.
And whoever speaks that way, even though he loses all, will
nevertheless be rich."
Regarding losses of thousands of roubles so philosophically,
Ignat knew the value of every kopeika; he gave to the poor very
seldom, and only to those that were altogether unable to work. When
a more or less healthy man asked him for alms, Ignat would say,
"Get away! You can work yet. Go to my dvornik and help him to
remove the dung. I'll pay you for it."
Whenever he had been carried away by his work he regarded people
morosely and piteously, nor did he give himself rest while hunting
for roubles. And suddenly—it usually happened in spring, when
everything on earth became so bewitchingly beautiful and something
reproachfully wild was breathed down into the soul from the clear
sky—Ignat Gordyeeff would feel that he was not the master of his
business, but its low slave. He would lose himself in thought and,
inquisitively looking about himself from under his thick, knitted
eyebrows, walk about for days, angry and morose, as though silently
asking something, which he feared to ask aloud. They awakened his
other soul, the turbulent and lustful soul of a hungry beast.
Insolent and cynical, he drank, led a depraved life, and made
drunkards of other people. He went into ecstasy, and something like
a volcano of filth boiled within him. It looked as though he was
madly tearing the chains which he himself had forged and carried,
and was not strong enough to tear them. Excited and very dirty, his
face swollen from drunkenness and sleeplessness, his eyes wandering
madly, and roaring in a hoarse voice, he tramped about the town
from one tavern to another, threw away money without counting it,
cried and danced to the sad tunes of the folk songs, or fought, but
found no rest anywhere—in anything.
It happened one day that a degraded priest, a short, stout
little bald-headed man in a torn cassock, chanced on Ignat, and
stuck to him, just as a piece of mud will stick to a shoe. An
impersonal, deformed and nasty creature, he played the part of a
buffoon: they smeared his bald head with mustard, made him go upon
all-fours, drink mixtures of different brandies and dance comical
dances; he did all this in silence, an idiotic smile on his
wrinkled face, and having done what he was told to do, he
invariably said, outstretching his hand with his palm upward:
"Give me a rouble."
They laughed at him and sometimes gave him twenty kopeiks,
sometimes gave him nothing, but it sometimes happened that they
threw him a ten-rouble bill and even more.
"You abominable fellow," cried Ignat to him one day. "Say, who
The priest was frightened by the call, and bowing low to Ignat,
"Who? Speak!" roared Ignat.
"I am a man—to be abused," answered the priest, and the company
burst out laughing at his words.
"Are you a rascal?" asked Ignat, sternly.
"A rascal? Because of need and the weakness of my soul?"
"Come here!" Ignat called him. "Come and sit down by my
Trembling with fear, the priest walked up to the intoxicated
merchant with timid steps and remained standing opposite him.
"Sit down beside me!" said Ignat, taking the frightened priest
by the hand and seating him next to himself. "You are a very near
man to me. I am also a rascal! You, because of need; I, because of
wantonness. I am a rascal because of grief! Understand?"
"I understand," said the priest, softly. All the company were
"Do you know now what I am?"
"Well, say, 'You are a rascal, Ignat!'"
The priest could not do it. He looked with terror at the huge
figure of Ignat and shook his head negatively. The company's
laughter was now like the rattling of thunder. Ignat could not make
the priest abuse him. Then he asked him:
"Shall I give you money?"
"Yes," quickly answered the priest.
"And what do you need it for?"
He did not care to answer. Then Ignat seized him by the collar,
and shook out of his dirty lips the following speech, which he
spoke almost in a whisper, trembling with fear:
"I have a daughter sixteen years old in the seminary. I save for
her, because when she comes out there won't be anything with which
to cover her nakedness."
"Ah," said Ignat, and let go the priest's collar. Then he sat
for a long time gloomy and lost in thought, and now and again
stared at the priest. Suddenly his eyes began to laugh, and he
"Aren't you a liar, drunkard?"
The priest silently made the sign of the cross and lowered his
head on his breast.
"It is the truth!" said one of the company, confirming the
"True? Very well!" shouted Ignat, and, striking the table with
his fist, he addressed himself to the priest:
"Eh, you! Sell me your daughter! How much will you take?"
The priest shook his head and shrank back.
The company giggled, seeing that the priest was shrinking as
though cold water was being poured on him.
"Two!" roared Ignat, with flashing eyes.
"What's the matter with you? How is it?" muttered the priest,
stretching out both hands to Ignat.
"Ignat Matveyich!" cried the priest, in a thin, ringing voice.
"For God's sake! For Christ's sake! Enough! I'll sell her! For her
own sake I'll sell her!"
In his sickly, sharp voice was heard a threat to someone, and
his eyes, unnoticed by anybody before, flashed like coals. But the
intoxicated crowd only laughed at him foolishly.
"Silence!" cried Ignat, sternly, straightening himself to his
full length and flashing his eyes.
"Don't you understand, devils, what's going on here? It's enough
to make one cry, while you giggle."
He walked up to the priest, went down on his knees before him,
and said to him firmly:
"Father now you see what a rascal I am. Well, spit into my
Something ugly and ridiculous took place. The priest too, knelt
before Ignat, and like a huge turtle, crept around near his feet,
kissed his knees and muttered something, sobbing. Ignat bent over
him, lifted him from the floor and cried to him, commanding and
"Spit! Spit right into my shameless eyes!"
The company, stupefied for a moment by Ignat's stern voice,
laughed again so that the panes rattled in the tavern windows.
"I'll give you a hundred roubles. Spit!"
And the priest crept over the floor and sobbed for fear, or for
happiness, to hear that this man was begging him to do something
degrading to himself.
Finally Ignat arose from the floor, kicked the priest, and,
flinging at him a package of money, said morosely, with a
"Rabble! Can a man repent before such people? Some are afraid to
hear of repentance, others laugh at a sinner. I was about to
unburden myself completely; the heart trembled. Let me, I thought.
No, I didn't think at all. Just so! Get out of here! And see that
you never show yourself to me again. Do you hear?"
"Oh, a queer fellow!" said the crowd, somewhat moved.
Legends were composed about his drinking bouts in town;
everybody censured him strictly, but no one ever declined his
invitation to those drinking bouts. Thus he lived for weeks.
And unexpectedly he used to come home, not yet altogether freed
from the odour of the kabaks, but already crestfallen and quiet.
With humbly downcast eyes, in which shame was burning now, he
silently listened to his wife's reproaches, and, humble and meek as
a lamb, went away to his room and locked himself in. For many hours
in succession he knelt before the cross, lowering his head on his
breast; his hands hung helplessly, his back was bent, and he was
silent, as though he dared not pray. His wife used to come up to
the door on tiptoe and listen. Deep sighs were heard from behind
the door—like the breathing of a tired and sickly horse.
"God! You see," whispered Ignat in a muffled voice, firmly
pressing the palms of his hands to his broad breast.
During the days of repentance he drank nothing but water and ate
only rye bread.
In the morning his wife placed at the door of his room a big
bottle of water, about a pound and a half of bread, and salt. He
opened the door, took in these victuals and locked himself in
again. During this time he was not disturbed in any way; everybody
tried to avoid him. A few days later he again appeared on the
exchange, jested, laughed, made contracts to furnish corn as
sharp-sighted as a bird of prey, a rare expert at anything
concerning his affairs.
But in all the moods of Ignat's life there was one passionate
desire that never left him—the desire to have a son; and the older
he grew the greater was this desire. Very often such conversation
as this took place between him and his wife. In the morning, at her
tea, or at noon during dinner hour he gloomily glared at his wife,
a stout, well-fed woman, with a red face and sleepy eyes, and asked
"Well, don't you feel anything?"
She knew what he meant, but she invariably replied:
"How can I help feeling? Your fists are like dumb-bells."
"You know what I'm talking about, you fool."
"Can one become pregnant from such blows?"
"It's not on account of the blows that you don't bear any
children; it's because you eat too much. You fill your stomach with
all sorts of food—and there's no room for the child to
"As if I didn't bear you any children?"
"Those were girls," said Ignat, reproachfully. "I want a son! Do
you understand? A son, an heir! To whom shall I give my capital
after my death? Who shall pray for my sins? Shall I give it to a
cloister? I have given them enough! Or shall I leave it to you?
What a fine pilgrim you are! Even in church you think only of fish
pies. If I die, you'll marry again, and my money will be turned
over to some fool. Do you think this is what I am working for?"
And he was seized with sardonic anguish, for he felt that his
life was aimless if he should have no son to follow him.
During the nine years of their married life his wife had borne
him four daughters, all of whom had passed away. While Ignat had
awaited their birth tremblingly, he mourned their death but
little—at any rate they were unnecessary to him. He began to beat
his wife during the second year of their married life; at first he
did it while being intoxicated and without animosity, but just
according to the proverb: "Love your wife like your soul and shake
her like a pear-tree;" but after each confinement, deceived in his
expectation, his hatred for his wife grew stronger, and he began to
beat her with pleasure, in revenge for not bearing him a son.
Once while on business in the province of Samarsk, he received a
telegram from relatives at home, informing him of his wife's death.
He made the sign of the cross, thought awhile and wrote to his
"Bury her in my absence; look after my property."
Then he went to the church to serve the mass for the dead, and,
having prayed for the repose of the late Aquilina's soul, he began
to think that it was necessary for him to marry as soon as
He was then forty-three years old, tall, broad-shouldered, with
a heavy bass voice, like an arch-deacon; his large eyes looked bold
and wise from under his dark eyebrows; in his sunburnt face,
overgrown with a thick, black beard, and in all his mighty figure
there was much truly Russian, crude and healthy beauty; in his easy
motions as well as in his slow, proud walk, a consciousness of
power was evident—a firm confidence in himself. He was liked by
women and did not avoid them.
Ere six months had passed after the death of his wife, he
courted the daughter of an Ural Cossack. The father of the bride,
notwithstanding that Ignat was known even in Ural as a "pranky"
man, gave him his daughter in marriage, and toward autumn Ignat
Gordyeeff came home with a young Cossack-wife. Her name was
Natalya. Tall, well-built, with large blue eyes and with a long
chestnut braid, she was a worthy match for the handsome Ignat. He
was happy and proud of his wife and loved her with the passionate
love of a healthy man, but he soon began to contemplate her
thoughtfully, with a vigilant eye.
Seldom did a smile cross the oval, demure face of his wife—she
was always thinking of something foreign to life, and in her calm
blue eyes something dark and misanthropic was flashing at times.
Whenever she was free from household duties she seated herself in
the most spacious room by the window, and sat there silently for
two or three hours. Her face was turned toward the street, but the
look of her eyes was so indifferent to everything that lived and
moved there beyond the window, and at the same time it was so
fixedly deep, as though she were looking into her very soul. And
her walk, too, was queer. Natalya moved about the spacious room
slowly and carefully, as if something invisible restrained the
freedom of her movements. Their house was filled with heavy and
coarsely boastful luxury; everything there was resplendent,
screaming of the proprietor's wealth, but the Cossack-wife walked
past the costly furniture and the silverware in a shy and somewhat
frightened manner, as though fearing lest they might seize and
choke her. Evidently, the noisy life of the big commercial town did
not interest this silent woman, and whenever she went out driving
with her husband, her eyes were fixed on the back of the driver.
When her husband took her visiting she went and behaved there just
as queerly as at home; when guests came to her house, she zealously
served them refreshments, taking no interest whatever in what was
said, and showing preference toward none. Only Mayakin, a witty,
droll man, at times called forth on her face a smile, as vague as a
shadow. He used to say of her:
"It's a tree—not a woman! But life is like an inextinguishable
wood-pile, and every one of us blazes up sometimes. She, too, will
take fire; wait, give her time. Then we shall see how she will
"Eh!" Ignat used to say to her jestingly. "What are you thinking
about? Are you homesick? Brighten up a bit!"
She would remain silent, calmly looking at him.
"You go entirely too often to the church. You should wait. You
have plenty of time to pray for your sins. Commit the sins first.
You know, if you don't sin you don't repent; if you don't repent,
you don't work out your salvation. You better sin while you are
young. Shall we go out for a drive?"
"I don't feel like going out."
He used to sit down beside her and embrace her. She was cold,
returning his caresses but sparingly. Looking straight into her
eyes, he used to say:
"Natalya! Tell me—why are you so sad? Do you feel lonesome here
"No," she replied shortly.
"What then is it? Are you longing for your people?"
"No, it's nothing."
"What are you thinking about?"
"I am not thinking."
Once he managed to get from her a more complete answer:
"There is something confused in my heart. And also in my eyes.
And it always seems to me that all this is not real."
She waved her hand around her, pointing at the walls, the
furniture and everything. Ignat did not reflect on her words, and,
laughing, said to her:
"That's to no purpose! Everything here is genuine. All these are
costly, solid things. If you don't want these, I'll burn them, I'll
sell them, I'll give them away—and I'll get new ones! Do you want
"What for?" said she calmly.
He wondered, at last, how one so young and healthy could live as
though she were sleeping all the time, caring for nothing, going
nowhere, except to the church, and shunning everybody. And he used
to console her:
"Just wait. You'll bear a son, and then an altogether different
life will commence. You are so sad because you have so little
anxiety, and he will give you trouble. You'll bear me a son, will
"If it pleases God," she answered, lowering her head.
Then her mood began to irritate him.
"Well, why do you wear such a long face? You walk as though on
glass. You look as if you had ruined somebody's soul! Eh! You are
such a succulent woman, and yet you have no taste for anything.
Coming home intoxicated one day, he began to ply her with
caresses, while she turned away from him. Then he grew angry, and
"Natalya! Don't play the fool, look out!"
She turned her face to him and asked calmly:
Ignat became enraged at these words and at her fearless
"What?" he roared, coming up close to her.
"Do you wish to kill me?" asked she, not moving from her place,
nor winking an eye.
Ignat was accustomed to seeing people tremble before his wrath,
and it was strange and offensive to him to see her calm.
"There," he cried, lifting his hand to strike her. Slowly, but
in time, she eluded the blow; then she seized his hand, pushed it
away from her, and said in the same tone:
"Don't you dare to touch me. I will not allow you to come near
Her eyes became smaller and their sharp, metallic glitter
sobered Ignat. He understood by her face that she, too, was a
strong beast, and if she chose to she wouldn't admit him to her,
even though she were to lose her life.
"Oh," he growled, and went away.
But having retreated once, he would not do it again: he could
not bear that a woman, and his wife at that, should not bow before
him—this would have degraded him. He then began to realise that
henceforth his wife would never yield to him in any matter, and
that an obstinate strife for predominance must start between
"Very well! We'll see who will conquer," he thought the next
day, watching his wife with stern curiosity; and in his soul a
strong desire was already raging to start the strife, that he might
enjoy his victory the sooner.
But about four days later, Natalya Fominichna announced to her
husband that she was pregnant.
Ignat trembled for joy, embraced her firmly, and said in a dull
"You're a fine fellow, Natalya! Natasha, if it should be a son!
If you bear me a son I'll enrich you! I tell you plainly, I'll be
your slave! By God! I'll lie down at your feet, and you may trample
upon me, if you like!"
"This is not within our power; it's the will of the Lord," said
she in a low voice.
"Yes, the Lord's!" exclaimed Ignat with bitterness and drooped
his head sadly.
From that moment he began to look after his wife as though she
were a little child.
"Why do you sit near the window? Look out. You'll catch cold in
your side; you may take sick," he used to say to her, both sternly
and mildly. "Why do you skip on the staircase? You may hurt
yourself. And you had better eat more, eat for two, that he may
And the pregnancy made Natalya more morose and silent, as though
she were looking still deeper into herself, absorbed in the
throbbing of new life within her. But the smile on her lips became
clearer, and in her eyes flashed at times something new, weak and
timid, like the first ray of the dawn.
When, at last, the time of confinement came, it was early on an
autumn morning. At the first cry of pain she uttered, Ignat turned
pale and started to say something, but only waved his hand and left
the bedroom, where his wife was shrinking convulsively, and went
down to the little room which had served his late mother as a
chapel. He ordered vodka, seated himself by the table and began to
drink sternly, listening to the alarm in the house and to the moans
of his wife that came from above. In the corner of the room, the
images of the ikons, indifferent and dark, stood out confusedly,
dimly illumined by the glimmering light of the image lamp. There
was a stamping and scraping of feet over his head, something heavy
was moved from one side of the floor to the other, there was a
clattering of dishes, people were bustling hurriedly, up and down
the staircase. Everything was being done in haste, yet time was
creeping slowly. Ignat could hear a muffled voice from above,
"As it seems, she cannot be delivered that way. We had better
send to the church to open the gates of the Lord."
Vassushka, one of the hangers-on in his house, entered the room
next to Ignat's and began to pray in a loud whisper:
"God, our Lord, descend from the skies in Thy benevolence, born
of the Holy Virgin. Thou dost divine the helplessness of human
creatures. Forgive Thy servant."
And suddenly drowning all other sounds, a superhuman,
soul-rending cry rang out, and a continuous moan floated softly
over the room and died out in the corners, which were filled now
with the twilight. Ignat cast stern glances at the ikons, heaved a
deep sigh and thought:
"Is it possible that it's again a daughter?"
At times he arose, stupidly stood in the middle of the room, and
crossed himself in silence, bowing before the ikons; then he went
back to the table, drank the vodka, which had not made him dizzy
during these hours, dozed off, and thus passed the whole night and
following morning until noon.
And then, at last, the midwife came down hastily, crying to him
in a thin, joyous voice.
"I congratulate you with a son, Ignat Matveyich!"
"You lie!" said he in a dull voice. "What's the matter with you,
batushka!" Heaving a sigh with all the strength of his massive
chest, Ignat went down on his knees, and clasping his hands firmly
to his breast, muttered in a trembling voice:
"Thank God! Evidently Thou didst not want that my stem should be
checked! My sins before Thee shall not remain without repentance. I
thank Thee, Oh Lord. Oh!" and, rising to his feet, he immediately
began to command noisily:
"Eh! Let someone go to St. Nicholas for a priest. Tell him that
Ignat Matveyich asked him to come! Let him come to make a prayer
for the woman."
The chambermaid appeared and said to him with alarm:
"Ignat Matveyich, Natalya Fominichna is calling you. She is
"Why bad? It'll pass!" he roared, his eyes flashing cheerfully.
"Tell her I'll be there immediately! Tell her she's a fine fellow!
I'll just get a present for her and I'll come! Hold on! Prepare
something to eat for the priest. Send somebody after Mayakin!"
His enormous figure looked as though it had grown bigger, and
intoxicated with joy, he stupidly tossed about the room; he was
smiling, rubbing his hands and casting fervent glances at the
images; he crossed himself swinging his hand wide. At last he went
up to his wife.
His eyes first of all caught a glimpse of the little red body,
which the midwife was bathing in a tub. Noticing him, Ignat stood
up on tiptoes, and, folding his hands behind his back, walked up to
him, stepping carefully and comically putting forth his lips. The
little one was whimpering and sprawling in the water, naked,
impotent and pitiful.
"Look out there! Handle him more carefully! He hasn't got any
bones yet," said Ignat to the midwife, softly.
She began to laugh, opening her toothless mouth, and cleverly
throwing the child over from one hand to the other.
"You better go to your wife."
He obediently moved toward the bed and asked on his way:
"Well, how is it, Natalya?"
Then, on reaching her, he drew back the bed curtain, which had
thrown a shadow over the bed.
"I'll not survive this," said she in a low, hoarse voice.
Ignat was silent, fixedly staring at his wife's face, sunk in
the white pillow, over which her dark locks were spread out like
dead snakes. Yellow, lifeless, with black circles around her large,
wide-open eyes—her face was strange to him. And the glance of those
terrible eyes, motionlessly fixed somewhere in the distance through
the wall—that, too, was unfamiliar to Ignat. His heart, compressed
by a painful foreboding, slackened its joyous throbbing.
"That's nothing. That's nothing. It's always like this," said he
softly, bending over his wife to give her a kiss. But she moaned
right into his face:
"I'll not survive this."
Her lips were gray and cold, and when he touched them with his
own he understood that death was already within her.
"Oh, Lord!" he uttered, in an alarmed whisper, feeling that
fright was choking his throat and suppressing his breath.
"Natasha? What will become of him? He must be nursed! What is
the matter with you?"
He almost began to cry at his wife. The midwife was bustling
about him; shaking the crying child in the air. She spoke to him
reassuringly, but he heard nothing—he could not turn his eyes away
from the frightful face of his wife. Her lips were moving, and he
heard words spoken in a low voice, but could not understand them.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, he spoke in a dull and timid voice:
"Just think of it! He cannot do without you; he's an infant! Gather
strength! Drive this thought away from you! Drive it away."
He talked, yet he understood he was speaking useless words.
Tears welled up within him, and in his breast there came a feeling
heavy as stone and cold as ice.
"Forgive me. Goodbye! Take care. Look out. Don't drink,"
whispered Natalya, soundlessly.
The priest came, and, covering her face with something, and
sighing, began to read gentle, beseeching words:
"Oh God, Almighty Lord, who cureth every disease, cure also Thy
servant Natalya, who has just given birth to a child; and restore
her from the bed on which she now lies, for in the words of David,
'We indulge in lawlessness and are wicked in Thine eyes."'
The old man's voice was interrupted now and then, his thin face
was stern and from his clothes came the odour of rock-rose.
"Guard the infant born of her, guard him from all possible
temptation, from all possible cruelty, from all possible storms,
from evil spirits, night and day."
Ignat listened to the prayer, and wept silently. His big, hot
tears fell on the bare hand of his wife. But the hand, evidently,
did not feel that the tears were dropping upon it: it remained
motionless, and the skin did not tremble from the fall of the
tears. After the prayer Natalya became unconscious and a day later
she died, without saying another word—she died just as quietly as
she had lived. Having arranged a pompous funeral, Ignat christened
his son, named him Foma, and unwillingly gave his boy into the
family of the godfather, his old friend Mayakin, whose wife, too,
had given birth to a child not long before. The death of his wife
had sown many gray hairs in Ignat's dark beard, but in the stern
glitter of his eyes appeared a new expression, gentle, clear and