A Russian Proprietor, and Other Stories : Part 06, Chapter 03
(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "...for no social system can be durable or stable, under which the majority does not enjoy equal rights but is kept in a servile position, and is bound by exceptional laws. Only when the laboring majority have the same rights as other citizens, and are freed from shameful disabilities, is a firm order of society possible." (From : "To the Czar and His Assistants," by Leo Tolstoy, ....)
• "If, in former times, Governments were necessary to defend their people from other people's attacks, now, on the contrary, Governments artificially disturb the peace that exists between the nations, and provoke enmity among them." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "It usually happens that when an idea which has been useful and even necessary in the past becomes superfluous, that idea, after a more or less prolonged struggle, yields its place to a new idea which was till then an ideal, but which thus becomes a present idea." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
Part 06, Chapter 03
Spring had come.
Along the wet streets of the city swift streamlets ran purling between bits of ice; bright were the colors of people's dresses and the tones of their voices, as they hurried along. In the walled gardens, the buds on the trees were bourgeoning, and the fresh breeze swayed their branches with a soft gentle murmur. Everywhere transparent drops were forming and falling....
The sparrows chattered incoherently, and fluttered about on their little wings. On the sunny side, on the walls, houses, and trees, all was full of life and brilliancy. The sky, and the earth, and the heart of man overflowed with youth and joy.
In front of a great seignorial mansion, in one of the principal streets, fresh straw was laid; in the house lay that same invalid whom we saw hastening abroad.
Near the closed doors of the house stood the sick lady's husband, and a lady well along in years. On a sofa sat the confessor, with cast-down eyes, holding something wrapped up under his stole. In one corner, in a Voltaire easy-chair, reclined an old lady, the sick woman's mother, weeping violently.
Near her the maid stood holding a clean handkerchief, ready for the old lady's use when she should ask for it. Another maid was rubbing the old lady's temples, and blowing on her gray head underneath her cap.
"Well, Christ be with you, my dear," said the husband to the elderly lady who was standing with him near the door: "she has such confidence in you; you know how to talk with her; go and speak with her a little while, my darling, please go!"
He was about to open the door for her; but his cousin held him back, putting her handkerchief several times to her eyes, and shaking her head.
"There, now she will not see that I have been weeping," said she, and, opening the door herself, went to the invalid.
The husband was in the greatest excitement, and seemed quite beside himself. He started to go over to the old mother, but after taking a few steps he turned around, walked the length of the room, and approached the priest.
The priest looked at him, raised his brows toward heaven, and sighed. The thick gray beard also was lifted and fell again.
"My God! my God!" said the husband.
"What can you do?" exclaimed the confessor, sighing and again lifting up his brows and beard, and letting them drop.
"And the old mother there!" exclaimed the husband, almost in despair. "She will not be able to endure it. You see, she loved her so, she loved her so, that she.... I don't know. You might try, holy father, to calm her a little, and persuade her to go away."
The confessor arose and went over to the old lady.
"It is true, no one can appreciate a mother's heart," said he, "but God is compassionate."
The old lady's face was suddenly convulsed, and a hysterical sob shook her frame.
"God is compassionate," repeated the priest, when she had grown a little calmer. "I will tell you, in my parish there was a sick man, and much worse than Márya Dmítrievna, and he, though he was only a shopkeeper, was cured in a very short time, by means of herbs. And this very same shopkeeper is now in Moscow. I have told Vasíli Dmítrievitch about him; it might be tried, you know. At all events, it would satisfy the invalid. With God, all things are possible."
"No, she won't get well," persisted the old lady. "Why should God have taken her, and not me?"
And again the hysterical sobbing overcame her so violently that she fainted away.
The invalid's husband hid his face in his hands, and rushed from the room.
In the corridor the first person whom he met was a six-year-old boy, who was chasing his little sister with all his might and main.
"Do you bid me take the children to their mama?" inquired the nurse.
"No, she is not able to see them. They distract her."
The lad stopped for a moment, and after looking eagerly into his father's face, he cut a dido with his leg, and with merry shouts ran on. "I'm playing she's a horse, papásha," cried the little fellow, pointing to his sister.
Meantime, in the next room, the cousin had taken her seat near the sick woman, and was skillfully bringing the conversation by degrees round so as to prepare her for the thought of death. The doctor stood by the window, mixing some draft.
The invalid in a white dressing-gown, all surrounded by cushions, was sitting up in bed, and gazed silently at her cousin.
"Ah, my dear!" she exclaimed, unexpectedly interrupting her, "don't try to prepare me; don't treat me like a little child! I am a Christian woman. I know all about it. I know that I have not long to live; I know that if my husband had heeded me sooner, I should have been in Italy, and possibly, yes probably, should have been well by this time. They all told him so. But what is to be done? it's as God saw fit. We all of us have sinned, I know that; but I hope in the mercy of God, that all will be pardoned, ought to be pardoned. I am trying to sound my own heart. I also have committed many sins, my love. But how much I have suffered in atonement! I have tried to bear my sufferings patiently"....
"Then shall I have the confessor come in, my love? It will be all the easier for you, after you have been absolved," said the cousin.
The sick woman dropped her head in token of assent. "O God! pardon me a sinner," she whispered.
The cousin went out, and beckoned to the confessor. "She is an angel," she said to the husband, with tears in her eyes. The husband wept. The priest went into the sick-room; the old lady still remained unconscious, and in the room beyond all was perfectly quiet. At the end of five minutes the confessor came out, and, taking off his stole, arranged his hair.
"Thanks be to the Lord, she is calmer now," said he. "She wishes to see you."
The cousin and the husband went to the sick-room. The invalid, gently weeping, was gazing at the images.
"I congratulate you, my love," said the husband.
"Thank you. How well I feel now! what ineffable joy I experience!" said the sick woman, and a faint smile played over her thin lips. "How merciful God is! Is it not so? He is merciful and omnipotent!" And again with an eager prayer she turned her tearful eyes towards the holy images.
Then suddenly something seemed to occur to her mind. She beckoned to her husband.
"You are never willing to do what I desire," said she in a weak and querulous voice.
The husband, stretching his neck, listened to her submissively.
"What is it, my love?"
"How many times I have told you that these doctors don't know any thing! There are uneducated women doctors: they make cures. That's what the good father said.... A shopkeeper.... send for him"....
"For whom, my love?"
"Good heavens! you can never understand me." And the dying woman frowned, and closed her eyes.
The doctor came to her, and took her hand. Her pulse was evidently growing feebler and feebler. He made a sign to the husband. The sick woman remarked this gesture, and looked around in fright. The cousin turned away to hide her tears.
"Don't weep, don't torment yourselves on my account," said the invalid. "That takes away from me my last comfort."
"You are an angel!" exclaimed the cousin, kissing her hand.
"No, kiss me here. They only kiss the hands of those who are dead. My God! my God!"
That same evening the sick woman was a corpse, and the corpse in the coffin lay in the parlor of the great mansion. In the immense room, the doors of which were closed, sat the clerk, and with a monotonous voice read the Psalms of David through his nose.
The bright glare from the wax candles in the lofty silver candelabra fell on the white brow of the dead, on the heavy waxen hands, on the stiff folds of the cerement which brought out into awful relief the knees and the feet.
The clerk, not varying his tones, continued to read on steadily, and in the silence of the chamber of death his words rang out and died away. Occasionally from distant rooms came the voice of children and their romping.
"Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
"Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth.
"The glory of the Lord shall endure forever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works."
The face of the dead was stern and majestic. But there was no motion either on the pure cold brow, or the firmly closed lips. She was all attention. But did she perhaps now understand these grand words?
From : Gutenberg.org
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