The Bishop and Other Stories
I was standing on the bank of the River Goltva, waiting for the ferry-boat from the other
side. At ordinary times the Goltva is a humble stream of moderate size, silent and
pensive, gently glimmering from behind thick reeds; but now a regular lake lay stretched
out before me. The waters of spring, running riot, had overflowed both banks and flooded
both sides of the river for a long distance, submerging vegetable gardens, hayfields and
marshes, so that it was no unusual thing to meet poplars and bushes sticking out above
the surface of the water and looking in the darkness like grim solitary crags.
The weather seemed to me magnificent. It was dark, yet I could see the trees, the water
and the people. . . . The world was lighted by the stars, which were scattered thickly all
over the sky. I don't remember ever seeing so many stars. Literally one could not have
put a finger in between them. There were some as big as a goose's egg, others tiny as
hempseed. . . . They had come out for the festival procession, every one of them, little
and big, washed, renewed and joyful, and everyone of them was softly twinkling its
beams. The sky was reflected in the water; the stars were bathing in its dark depths and
trembling with the quivering eddies. The air was warm and still. . . . Here and there, far
away on the further bank in the impenetrable darkness, several bright red lights were
gleaming. . . .
A couple of paces from me I saw the dark silhouette of a peasant in a high hat, with a
thick knotted stick in his hand.
"How long the ferry-boat is in coming!" I said.
"It is time it was here," the silhouette answered.
"You are waiting for the ferry-boat, too?"
"No I am not," yawned the peasant--"I am waiting for the illumination. I should have
gone, but to tell you the truth, I haven't the five kopecks for the ferry."
"I'll give you the five kopecks."
"No; I humbly thank you. . . . With that five kopecks put up a candle for me over there in
the monastery. . . . That will be more interesting, and I will stand here. What can it mean,
no ferry-boat, as though it had sunk in the water!"
The peasant went up to the water's edge, took the rope in his hands, and shouted;
As though in answer to his shout, the slow peal of a great bell floated across from the
further bank. The note was deep and low, as from the thickest string of a double bass; it
seemed as though the darkness itself had hoarsely uttered it. At once there was the sound