The Bishop and Other Stories HTML version

A Nightmare
Kunin, a young man of thirty, who was a permanent member of the Rural Board, on
returning from Petersburg to his district, Borisovo, immediately sent a mounted
messenger to Sinkino, for the priest there, Father Yakov Smirnov.
Five hours later Father Yakov appeared.
"Very glad to make your acquaintance," said Kunin, meeting him in the entry. "I've been
living and serving here for a year; it seems as though we ought to have been acquainted
before. You are very welcome! But . . . how young you are!" Kunin added in surprise.
"What is your age?"
"Twenty-eight, . . ." said Father Yakov, faintly pressing Kunin's outstretched hand, and
for some reason turning crimson.
Kunin led his visitor into his study and began looking at him more attentively.
"What an uncouth womanish face!" he thought.
There certainly was a good deal that was womanish in Father Yakov's face: the turned-up
nose, the bright red cheeks, and the large grey-blue eyes with scanty, scarcely perceptible
eyebrows. His long reddish hair, smooth and dry, hung down in straight tails on to his
shoulders. The hair on his upper lip was only just beginning to form into a real masculine
moustache, while his little beard belonged to that class of good-for-nothing beards which
among divinity students are for some reason called "ticklers." It was scanty and
extremely transparent; it could not have been stroked or combed, it could only have been
pinched. . . . All these scanty decorations were put on unevenly in tufts, as though Father
Yakov, thinking to dress up as a priest and beginning to gum on the beard, had been
interrupted halfway through. He had on a cassock, the colour of weak coffee with chicory
in it, with big patches on both elbows.
"A queer type," thought Kunin, looking at his muddy skirts. "Comes to the house for the
first time and can't dress decently.
"Sit down, Father," he began more carelessly than cordially, as he moved an easy-chair to
the table. "Sit down, I beg you."
Father Yakov coughed into his fist, sank awkwardly on to the edge of the chair, and laid
his open hands on his knees. With his short figure, his narrow chest, his red and
perspiring face, he made from the first moment a most unpleasant impression on Kunin.
The latter could never have imagined that there were such undignified and pitiful-looking
priests in Russia; and in Father Yakov's attitude, in the way he held his hands on his
knees and sat on the very edge of his chair, he saw a lack of dignity and even a shade of