The Bishop and Other Stories
The evening service was being celebrated at Progonnaya Station. Before the great ikon,
painted in glaring colours on a background of gold, stood the crowd of railway servants
with their wives and children, and also of the timbermen and sawyers who worked close
to the railway line. All stood in silence, fascinated by the glare of the lights and the
howling of the snow-storm which was aimlessly disporting itself outside, regardless of
the fact that it was the Eve of the Annunciation. The old priest from Vedenyapino
conducted the service; the sacristan and Matvey Terehov were singing.
Matvey's face was beaming with delight; he sang stretching out his neck as though he
wanted to soar upwards. He sang tenor and chanted the "Praises" too in a tenor voice with
honied sweetness and persuasiveness. When he sang "Archangel Voices" he waved his
arms like a conductor, and trying to second the sacristan's hollow bass with his tenor,
achieved something extremely complex, and from his face it could be seen that he was
experiencing great pleasure.
At last the service was over, and they all quietly dispersed, and it was dark and empty
again, and there followed that hush which is only known in stations that stand solitary in
the open country or in the forest when the wind howls and nothing else is heard and when
all the emptiness around, all the dreariness of life slowly ebbing away is felt.
Matvey lived not far from the station at his cousin's tavern. But he did not want to go
home. He sat down at the refreshment bar and began talking to the waiter in a low voice.
"We had our own choir in the tile factory. And I must tell you that though we were only
workmen, our singing was first-rate, splendid. We were often invited to the town, and
when the Deputy Bishop, Father Ivan, took the service at Trinity Church, the bishop's
singers sang in the right choir and we in the left. Only they complained in the town that
we kept the singing on too long: 'the factory choir drag it out,' they used to say. It is true
we began St. Andrey's prayers and the Praises between six and seven, and it was past
eleven when we finished, so that it was sometimes after midnight when we got home to
the factory. It was good," sighed Matvey. "Very good it was, indeed, Sergey Nikanoritch!
But here in my father's house it is anything but joyful. The nearest church is four miles
away; with my weak health I can't get so far; there are no singers there. And there is no
peace or quiet in our family; day in day out, there is an uproar, scolding, uncleanliness;
we all eat out of one bowl like peasants; and there are beetles in the cabbage soup. . . .
God has not given me health, else I would have gone away long ago, Sergey
Matvey Terehov was a middle-aged man about forty-five, but he had a look of ill-health;
his face was wrinkled and his lank, scanty beard was quite grey, and that made him seem
many years older. He spoke in a weak voice, circumspectly, and held his chest when he