The Bishop and Other Stories HTML version

The Steppe - The Story of a Journey
EARLY one morning in July a shabby covered chaise, one of those antediluvian chaises
without springs in which no one travels in Russia nowadays, except merchant's clerks,
dealers and the less well-to-do among priests, drove out of N., the principal town of the
province of Z., and rumbled noisily along the posting-track. It rattled and creaked at
every movement; the pail, hanging on behind, chimed in gruffly, and from these sounds
alone and from the wretched rags of leather hanging loose about its peeling body one
could judge of its decrepit age and readiness to drop to pieces.
Two of the inhabitants of N. were sitting in the chaise; they were a merchant of N. called
Ivan Ivanitch Kuzmitchov, a man with a shaven face wearing glasses and a straw hat,
more like a government clerk than a merchant, and Father Christopher Sireysky, the
priest of the Church of St. Nikolay at N., a little old man with long hair, in a grey canvas
cassock, a wide-brimmed top-hat and a coloured embroidered girdle. The former was
absorbed in thought, and kept tossing his head to shake off drowsiness; in his
countenance an habitual business-like reserve was struggling with the genial expression
of a man who has just said good-bye to his relatives and has had a good drink at parting.
The latter gazed with moist eyes wonderingly at God's world, and his smile was so broad
that it seemed to embrace even the brim of his hat; his face was red and looked frozen.
Both of them, Father Christopher as well as Kuzmitchov, were going to sell wool. At
parting with their families they had just eaten heartily of pastry puffs and cream, and
although it was so early in the morning had had a glass or two. . . . Both were in the best
of humours.
Apart from the two persons described above and the coachman Deniska, who lashed the
pair of frisky bay horses, there was another figure in the chaise--a boy of nine with a
sunburnt face, wet with tears. This was Yegorushka, Kuzmitchov's nephew. With the
sanction of his uncle and the blessing of Father Christopher, he was now on his way to go
to school. His mother, Olga Ivanovna, the widow of a collegiate secretary, and
Kuzmitchov's sister, who was fond of educated people and refined society, had entreated
her brother to take Yegorushka with him when he went to sell wool and to put him to
school; and now the boy was sitting on the box beside the coachman Deniska, holding on
to his elbow to keep from falling off, and dancing up and down like a kettle on the hob,
with no notion where he was going or what he was going for. The rapid motion through
the air blew out his red shirt like a balloon on his back and made his new hat with a
peacock's feather in it, like a coachman's, keep slipping on to the back of his head. He felt
himself an intensely unfortunate person, and had an inclination to cry.
When the chaise drove past the prison, Yegorushka glanced at the sentinels pacing slowly
by the high white walls, at the little barred windows, at the cross shining on the roof, and
remembered how the week before, on the day of the Holy Mother of Kazan, he had been
with his mother to the prison church for the Dedication Feast, and how before that, at