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The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories

In Passion Week
"Go along, they are ringing already; and mind, don't be naughty in church or God will
punish you."
My mother thrusts a few copper coins upon me, and, instantly forgetting about me, runs
into the kitchen with an iron that needs reheating. I know well that after confession I shall
not be allowed to eat or drink, and so, before leaving the house, I force myself to eat a
crust of white bread, and to drink two glasses of water. It is quite spring in the street. The
roads are all covered with brownish slush, in which future paths are already beginning to
show; the roofs and side-walks are dry; the fresh young green is piercing through the
rotting grass of last year, under the fences. In the gutters there is the merry gurgling and
foaming of dirty water, in which the sunbeams do not disdain to bathe. Chips, straws, the
husks of sunflower seeds are carried rapidly along in the water, whirling round and
sticking in the dirty foam. Where, where are those chips swimming to? It may well be
that from the gutter they may pass into the river, from the river into the sea, and from the
sea into the ocean. I try to imagine to myself that long terrible journey, but my fancy
stops short before reaching the sea.
A cabman drives by. He clicks to his horse, tugs at the reins, and does not see that two
street urchins are hanging on the back of his cab. I should like to join them, but think of
confession, and the street urchins begin to seem to me great sinners.
"They will be asked on the day of judgment: 'Why did you play pranks and deceive the
poor cabman?'" I think. "They will begin to defend themselves, but evil spirits will seize
them, and drag them to fire everlasting. But if they obey their parents, and give the
beggars a kopeck each, or a roll, God will have pity on them, and will let them into
Paradise."
The church porch is dry and bathed in sunshine. There is not a soul in it. I open the door
irresolutely and go into the church. Here, in the twilight which seems to me thick and
gloomy as at no other time, I am overcome by the sense of sinfulness and insignificance.
What strikes the eye first of all is a huge crucifix, and on one side of it the Mother of
God, and on the other, St. John the Divine. The candelabra and the candlestands are
draped in black mourning covers, the lamps glimmer dimly and faintly, and the sun
seems intentionally to pass by the church windows. The Mother of God and the beloved
disciple of Jesus Christ, depicted in profile, gaze in silence at the insufferable agony and
do not observe my presence; I feel that to them I am alien, superfluous, unnoticed, that I
can be no help to them by word or deed, that I am a loathsome, dishonest boy, only
capable of mischief, rudeness, and tale-bearing. I think of all the people I know, and they
all seem to me petty, stupid, and wicked, and incapable of bringing one drop of relief to
that intolerable sorrow which I now behold.
 
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