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The Bishop and Other Stories

Uprooted - An Incident of My Travels
I WAS on my way back from evening service. The clock in the belfry of the
Svyatogorsky Monastery pealed out its soft melodious chimes by way of prelude and
then struck twelve. The great courtyard of the monastery stretched out at the foot of the
Holy Mountains on the banks of the Donets, and, enclosed by the high hostel buildings as
by a wall, seemed now in the night, when it was lighted up only by dim lanterns, lights in
the windows, and the stars, a living hotch-potch full of movement, sound, and the most
original confusion. From end to end, so far as the eye could see, it was all choked up with
carts, old-fashioned coaches and chaises, vans, tilt-carts, about which stood crowds of
horses, dark and white, and horned oxen, while people bustled about, and black long-
skirted lay brothers threaded their way in and out in all directions. Shadows and streaks
of light cast from the windows moved over the carts and the heads of men and horses,
and in the dense twilight this all assumed the most monstrous capricious shapes: here the
tilted shafts stretched upwards to the sky, here eyes of fire appeared in the face of a horse,
there a lay brother grew a pair of black wings. . . . There was the noise of talk, the
snorting and munching of horses, the creaking of carts, the whimpering of children. Fresh
crowds kept walking in at the gate and belated carts drove up.
The pines which were piled up on the overhanging mountain, one above another, and
leaned towards the roof of the hostel, gazed into the courtyard as into a deep pit, and
listened in wonder; in their dark thicket the cuckoos and nightingales never ceased
calling. . . . Looking at the confusion, listening to the uproar, one fancied that in this
living hotch-potch no one understood anyone, that everyone was looking for something
and would not find it, and that this multitude of carts, chaises and human beings could not
ever succeed in getting off.
More than ten thousand people flocked to the Holy Mountains for the festivals of St. John
the Divine and St. Nikolay the wonder-worker. Not only the hostel buildings, but even
the bakehouse, the tailoring room, the carpenter's shop, the carriage house, were filled to
overflowing. . . . Those who had arrived towards night clustered like flies in autumn, by
the walls, round the wells in the yard, or in the narrow passages of the hostel, waiting to
be shown a resting-place for the night. The lay brothers, young and old, were in an
incessant movement, with no rest or hope of being relieved. By day or late at night they
produced the same impression of men hastening somewhere and agitated by something,
yet, in spite of their extreme exhaustion, their faces remained full of courage and kindly
welcome, their voices friendly, their movements rapid. . . . For everyone who came they
had to find a place to sleep, and to provide food and drink; to those who were deaf, slow
to understand, or profuse in questions, they had to give long and wearisome explanations,
to tell them why there were no empty rooms, at what o'clock the service was to be where
holy bread was sold, and so on. They had to run, to carry, to talk incessantly, but more
than that, they had to be polite, too, to be tactful, to try to arrange that the Greeks from
Mariupol, accustomed to live more comfortably than the Little Russians, should be put
with other Greeks, that some shopkeeper from Bahmut or Lisitchansk, dressed like a
 
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