The Two Old Men
: WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO
: Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori
Therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well:
and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to
draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his
disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the
woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest
drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no
dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If
thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee,
Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, for the Father
seeketh such to worship him. (John iv. 19-23.)
Two old men got ready to go to old Jerusalem to pray to God. One of them
was a rich peasant; his name was Efim Tarasych Shevelev. The other was
not a well-to-do man, and his name was Elisey Bodrov.
Efim was a steady man: he did not drink liquor, nor smoke tobacco, nor
take snuff, had never cursed in his life, and was a stern, firm old man.
He had served two terms as an elder, and had gone out of his office
without a deficit. He had a large family,--two sons and a married
grandson,--and all lived together. As to looks he was a sound, bearded,
erect man, and only in his seventh decade did a gray streak appear in
Elisey was neither wealthy nor poor; in former days he used to work out
as a carpenter, but in his old age he stayed at home and kept bees. One
son was away earning money, and another was living at home. Elisey was a
good-natured and merry man. He liked to drink liquor and take snuff, and
sing songs; but he was a peaceable man, and lived in friendship with his
home folk and with the neighbours. In appearance he was an undersized,
swarthy man, with a curly beard and, like his saint, Prophet Elisha, his
whole head was bald.
The old men had long ago made the vow and agreed to go together, but
Tarasych had had no time before: he had so much business on hand. The
moment one thing came to an end, another began; now he had to get his
grandson married, now he was expecting his younger son back from the
army, and now he had to build him a new hut.
On a holiday the two old men once met, and they sat down on logs.
"Well," said Elisey, "when are we going to carry out our vow?"
"We shall have to wait," he said, "for this is a hard year for me. I
have started to build a house,--I thought I could do it with one
hundred, but it is going on now in the third. And still it is not done.
We shall have to let it go till summer. In the summer, God willing, we
shall go by all means."
"According to my understanding," said Elisey, "there is no sense in
delaying. We ought to go at once. Spring is the best time."
"The time is all right, but the work is begun, so how can I drop it?"
"Have you nobody to attend to it? Your son will do it."
"Do it? My eldest is not reliable,--he drinks."
"When we die, friend, they will get along without us. Let your son learn
"That is so, but still I want to see things done under my eyes."
"Oh, dear man! You can never attend to everything. The other day the
women in my house were washing and cleaning up for the holidays. This
and that had to be done, and everything could not be looked after. My
eldest daughter-in-law, a clever woman, said: 'It is a lucky thing the
holidays come without waiting for us, for else, no matter how much we
might work, we should never get done.'"
Tarasych fell to musing.
"I have spent a great deal of money on this building," he said, "and I
can't start out on the pilgrimage with empty hands. One hundred roubles
are not a trifling matter."
"Don't sin, friend!" he said. "You have ten times as much as I, and yet
you talk about money. Only say when we shall start. I have no money, but
that will be all right."
"What a rich man you are!" he said. "Where shall you get the money
"I will scratch around in the house and will get together some there;
and if that is not enough, I will let my neighbour have ten hives. He
has been asking me for them."
"You will have a fine swarm! You will be worrying about it."
"Worrying? No, my friend! I have never worried about anything in life
but sins. There is nothing more precious than the soul."
"That is so; but still, it is not good if things do not run right at
"If things do not run right in our soul, it is worse. We have made a
vow, so let us go! Truly, let us go!"
Elisey persuaded his friend to go. Efim thought and thought about it,
and on the following morning he came to Elisey.
"Well, let us go," he said, "you have spoken rightly. God controls life
and death. We must go while we are alive and have strength."
A week later the old men started.
Tarasych had money at home. He took one hundred roubles with him and
left two hundred with his wife.
Elisey, too, got ready. He sold his neighbour ten hives and the increase
of ten other hives. For the whole he received seventy roubles. The
remaining thirty roubles he swept up from everybody in the house. His
wife gave him the last she had,--she had put it away for her funeral;
his daughter-in-law gave him what she had.
Efim Tarasych left all his affairs in the hands of his eldest son: he
told him where to mow, and how many fields to mow, and where to haul the
manure, and how to finish the hut and thatch it. He considered
everything, and gave his orders. But all the order that Elisey gave was
that his wife should set out the young brood separately from the hives
sold and give the neighbour what belonged to him without cheating him,
but about domestic affairs he did not even speak: "The needs
themselves," he thought, "will show you what to do and how to do it. You
have been farming yourselves, so you will do as seems best to you."
The old men got ready. The home folk baked a lot of flat cakes for them,
and they made wallets for themselves, cut out new leg-rags, put on new
short boots, took reserve bast shoes, and started. The home folk saw
them off beyond the enclosure and bade them good-bye, and the old men
were off for their pilgrimage.
Elisey left in a happy mood, and as soon as he left his village he
forgot all his affairs. All the care he had was how to please his
companion, how to keep from saying an unseemly word to anybody, how to
reach the goal in peace and love, and how to get home again. As Elisey
walked along the road he either muttered some prayer or repeated such of
the lives of the saints as he knew. Whenever he met a person on the
road, or when he came to a hostelry, he tried to be as kind to everybody
as he could, and to say to them God-fearing words. He walked along and
was happy. There was only one thing Elisey could not do: he wanted to
stop taking snuff and had left his snuff-box at home, but he hankered
for it. On the road a man offered him some. He wrangled with himself and
stepped away from his companion so as not to lead him into sin, and took
Efim Tarasych walked firmly and well; he did no wrong and spoke no vain
words, but there was no lightness in his heart. The cares about his home
did not leave his mind. He was thinking all the time about what was
going on at home,--whether he had not forgotten to give his son some
order, and whether his son was doing things in the right way. When he
saw along the road that they were setting out potatoes or hauling
manure, he wondered whether his son was doing as he had been ordered. He
just felt like returning, and showing him what to do, and doing it
The old men walked for live weeks. They wore out their home-made bast
shoes and began to buy new ones. They reached the country of the
Little-Russians. Heretofore they had been paying for their night's
lodging and for their dinner, but when they came to the Little-Russians,
people vied with each other in inviting them to their houses. They let
them come in, and fed them, and took no money from them, but even filled
their wallets with bread, and now and then with flat cakes. Thus the old
men walked without expense some seven hundred versts. They crossed
another Government and came to a place where there had been a failure of
crops. There they let them into the houses and did not take any money
for their night's lodging, but would not feed them. And they did not
give them bread everywhere,--not even for money could the old men get
any in some places. The previous year, so the people said, nothing had
grown. Those who had been rich were ruined,--they sold everything; those
who had lived in comfort came down to nothing; and the poor people
either entirely left the country, or turned beggars, or just managed to
exist at home. In the winter they lived on chaff and orach.
One night the two old men stayed in a borough. There they bought about
fifteen pounds of bread. In the morning they left before daybreak, so
that they might walk a good distance before the heat. They marched some
ten versts and reached a brook. They sat down, filled their cups with
water, softened the bread with it and ate it, and changed their
leg-rags. They sat awhile and rested themselves. Elisey took out his
snuff-horn. Efim Tarasych shook his head at him.
"Why don't you throw away that nasty thing?" he asked.
Elisey waved his hand.
"Sin has overpowered me," he said. "What shall I do?"
They got up and marched on. They walked another ten versts. They came to
a large village, and passed through it. It was quite warm then. Elisey
was tired, and wanted to stop and get a drink, but Tarasych would not
stop. Tarasych was a better walker, and Elisey had a hard time keeping
up with him.
"I should like to get a drink," he said.
"Well, drink! I do not want any."
"Do not wait for me," he said. "I will just run into a hut and get a
drink of water. I will catch up with you at once."
"All right," he said. And Efim Tarasych proceeded by himself along the
road, while Elisey turned to go into a hut.
Elisey came up to the hut. It was a small clay cabin; the lower part was
black, the upper white, and the clay had long ago crumbled
off,--evidently it had not been plastered for a long time,--and the roof
was open at one end. The entrance was from the yard. Elisey stepped into
the yard, and there saw that a lean, beardless man with his shirt stuck
in his trousers in Little-Russian fashion was lying near the earth
mound. The man had evidently lain down in a cool spot, but now the sun
was burning down upon him. He was lying there awake. Elisey called out
to him, asking him to give him a drink, but the man made no reply. "He
is either sick, or an unkind man," thought Elisey, going up to the door.
Inside he heard a child crying. He knocked with the door-ring. "Good
people!" No answer. He struck with his staff against the door.
"Christian people!" No stir. "Servants of the Lord!" No reply. Elisey
was on the point of going away, when he heard somebody groaning within.
"I wonder whether some misfortune has happened there to the people. I
must see." And Elisey went into the hut.
Elisey turned the ring,--the door was not locked. He pushed the door
open and walked through the vestibule. The door into the living-room was
open. On the left there was an oven; straight ahead was the front
corner; in the corner stood a shrine and a table; beyond the table was a
bench, and on it sat a bareheaded old woman, in nothing but a shirt; her
head was leaning on the table, and near her stood a lean little boy, his
face as yellow as wax and his belly swollen, and he was pulling the old
woman's sleeve, and crying at the top of his voice and begging for
Elisey entered the room. There was a stifling air in the house. He saw a
woman lying behind the oven, on the floor. She was lying on her face
without looking at anything, and snoring, and now stretching out a leg
and again drawing it up. And she tossed from side to side,--and from her
came that oppressive smell: evidently she was very sick, and there was
nobody to take her away. The old woman raised her head, when she saw the
"What do you want?" she said, in Little-Russian. "What do you want? We
have nothing, my dear man."
Elisey understood what she was saying: he walked over to her.
"Servant of the Lord," he said, "I have come in to get a drink of
"There is none, I say, there is none. There is nothing here for you to
Elisey asked her:
"Is there no well man here to take this woman away?"
"There is nobody here: the man is dying in the yard, and we here."
The boy grew quiet when he saw the stranger, but when the old woman
began to speak, he again took hold of her sleeve.
"Bread, granny, bread!" and he burst out weeping.
Just as Elisey was going to ask the old woman another question, the man
tumbled into the hut; he walked along the wall and wanted to sit down on
the bench, but before reaching it he fell down in the corner, near the
threshold. He did not try to get up, but began to speak. He would say
one word at a time, then draw his breath, then say something again.
"We are sick," he said, "and--hungry. The boy is starving." He indicated
the boy with his head and began to weep.
Elisey shifted his wallet on his back, freed his arms, let the wallet
down on the ground, lifted it on the bench, and untied it. When it was
open, he took out the bread and the knife, out off a slice, and gave it
to the man. The man did not take it, but pointed to the boy and the
girl, to have it given to them. Elisey gave it to the boy. When the boy
saw the bread, he made for it, grabbed the slice with both his hands,
and stuck his nose into the bread. A girl crawled out from behind the
oven and gazed at the bread. Elisey gave her, too, a piece. He cut off
another slice and gave it to the old woman. She took it and began to
chew at it.
"If you would just bring us some water," she said. "Their lips are
parched. I wanted to bring some yesterday or to-day,--I do not remember
when,--but I fell down and left the pail there, if nobody took it away."
Elisey asked where their well was. The old woman told him where. Elisey
went out. He found the pail, brought some water, and gave the people to
drink. The children ate some more bread with water, and the old woman
ate some, but the man would not eat.
"My stomach will not hold it," he said.
The woman did not get up or come to: she was just tossing on the bed
place. Elisey went to the shop, and bought millet, salt, flour, and
butter. He found an axe, chopped some wood, and made a fire in the oven.
The girl helped him. Elisey cooked a soup and porridge, and fed the
The man ate a little, and so did the old woman, and the girl and the
little boy licked the bowl clean and embraced each other and fell
The man and the old woman told Elisey how it had all happened.
"We lived heretofore poorly," they said, "but when the crop failed us,
we ate up in the fall everything we had. When we had nothing left, we
began to beg from our neighbours and from good people. At first they
gave us some, but later they refused. Some of them would have been
willing to give us to eat, but they had nothing themselves. Besides we
felt ashamed to beg: we owed everybody money and flour and bread. I
looked for work," said the man, "but could find none. People were
everywhere looking for work to get something to eat. One day I would
work, and two I would go around looking for more work. The old woman and
the girl went a distance away to beg, but the alms were poor,--nobody
had any bread. Still, we managed to get something to eat: we thought we
might squeeze through until the new crop; but in the spring they quit
giving us alms altogether, and sickness fell upon us. It grew pretty
bad: one day we would have something to eat, and two we went without it.
We began to eat grass. And from the grass, or from some other reason,
the woman grew sick. She lay down, and I had no strength, and we had
nothing with which to improve matters."
"I was the only one," the old woman said, "who worked: but I gave out
and grew weak, as I had nothing to eat. The girl, too, grew weak and
lost her courage. I sent her to the neighbours, but she did not go. She
hid herself in a corner and would not go. A neighbour came in two days
ago, but when she saw that we were hungry and sick, she turned around
and went out. Her husband has left, and she has nothing with which to
feed her young children. So we were lying here and waiting for death."
When Elisey heard what they said, he changed his mind about catching up
with his companion, and remained there overnight. In the morning Elisey
got up and began to work about the house as though he were the master.
He set bread with the old woman and made a fire in the oven. He went
with the girl to the neighbours to fetch what was necessary. Everything
he wanted to pick up was gone: there was nothing left for farming, and
the clothes were used up. Elisey got everything which was needed: some
things he made himself, and some he bought. Elisey stayed with them one
day, and a second, and a third. The little boy regained his strength,
and he began to walk on the bench and to make friends with Elisey. The
girl, too, became quite cheerful and helped him in everything. She kept
running after Elisey: "Grandfather, grandfather!"
The old woman got up and went to her neighbour. The man began to walk by
holding on to the wall. Only the woman was lying down. On the third day
she came to and asked for something to eat.
"Well," thought Elisey, "I had not expected to lose so much time. Now I
The fourth day was the last of a fast, and Elisey said to himself:
"I will break fast with them. I will buy something for them for the
holidays, and in the evening I must leave."
Elisey went once more to the village and bought milk, white flour, and
lard. He and the old woman cooked and baked a lot of things, and in the
morning Elisey went to mass and came back and broke fast with the
people. On that day the woman got up and began to move about. The man
shaved himself, put on a clean shirt,--the old woman had washed it for
him,--and went to a rich peasant to ask a favour of him. His mowing and
field were mortgaged to the rich man, so he went to ask him to let him
have the mowing and the field until the new crop. He came back gloomy in
the evening, and burst out weeping. The rich man would not show him the
favour; he had asked him to bring the money.
Elisey fell to musing.
"How are they going to live now? People will be going out to mow, but
they cannot go, for it is all mortgaged. The rye will ripen and people
will begin to harvest it (and there is such a fine stand of it!), but
they have nothing to look forward to,--their desyatina is sold to the
rich peasant. If I go away, they will fall back into poverty."
And Elisey was in doubt, and did not go away in the evening, but put it
off until morning. He went into the yard to sleep. He said his prayers
and lay down, but could not fall asleep.
"I ought to go,--as it is I have spent much time and money; but I am
sorry for the people. You can't help everybody. I meant to bring them
some water and give each a slice of bread, but see how far I have gone.
Now I shall have to buy out his mowing and field. And if I buy out the
field, I might as well buy a cow for the children, and a horse for the
man to haul his sheaves with. Brother Elisey Kuzmich, you are in for it!
You have let yourself loose, and now you will not straighten out
Elisey got up, took the caftan from under his head, and unrolled it; he
drew out his snuff-horn and took a pinch, thinking that he would clear
his thoughts, but no,--he thought and thought and could not come to any
conclusion. He ought to get up and go, but he was sorry for the people.
He did not know what to do. He rolled the caftan up under his head and
lay down to sleep. He lay there for a long time, and the cocks crowed,
and then only did he fall asleep. Suddenly he felt as though some one
had wakened him. He saw himself all dressed, with his wallet and staff,
and he had to pass through a gate, but it was just open enough to let a
man squeeze through. He went to the gate and his wallet caught on one
side, and as he was about to free it, one of his leg-rags got caught on
the other side and came open. He tried to free the leg-rag, but it was
not caught in the wicker fence: it was the girl who was holding on to
it, and crying, "Grandfather, grandfather, bread!" He looked at his
foot, and there was the little boy holding on to it, and the old woman
and the man were looking out of the window. Elisey awoke, and he began
to speak to himself in an audible voice:
"I will buy out the field and the mowing to-morrow, and will buy a
horse, and flour to last until harvest-time, and a cow for the children.
For how would it be to go beyond the sea to seek Christ and lose him
within me? I must get the people started."
And Elisey fell asleep until morning. He awoke early. He went to the
rich merchant, bought out the rye and gave him money for the mowing. He
bought a scythe,--for that had been sold, too,--and brought it home. He
sent the man out to mow, and himself went to see the peasants: he found
a horse and a cart for sale at the innkeeper's. He bargained with him
for it, and bought it; then he bought a bag of flour, which he put in
the cart, and went out to buy a cow. As he was walking, he came across
two Little-Russian women, and they were talking to one another. Though
they were talking in their dialect, he could make out what they were
saying about him:
"You see, at first they did not recognize him; they thought that he was
just a simple kind of a man. They say, he went in to get a drink, and he
has just stopped there. What a lot of things he has bought them! I
myself saw him buy a horse and cart to-day of the innkeeper. Evidently
there are such people in the world. I must go and take a look at him."
When Elisey heard that, he understood that they were praising him, and
so he did not go to buy the cow. He returned to the innkeeper and gave
him the money for the horse. He hitched it up and drove with the flour
to the house. When he drove up to the gate, he stopped and climbed down
from the cart. When the people of the house saw the horse, they were
surprised. They thought that he had bought the horse for them, but did
not dare say so. The master came out to open the gates.
"Grandfather, where did you get that horse?"
"I bought it," he said. "I got it cheap. Mow some grass and put it in
the cart, so that the horse may have some for the night. And take off
The master unhitched the horse, carried the bag to the granary, mowed a
lot of grass, and put it into the cart. They lay down to sleep. Elisey
slept in the street, and thither he had carried his wallet in the
evening. All the people fell asleep. Elisey got up, tied his wallet, put
on his shoes and his caftan, and started down the road to catch up with
Elisey had walked about five versts, when day began to break. He sat
down under a tree, untied his wallet, and began to count his money. He
found that he had seventeen roubles twenty kopeks left.
"Well," he thought, "with this sum I cannot travel beyond the sea, but
if I beg in Christ's name, I shall only increase my sin. Friend Efim
will reach the place by himself, and will put up a candle for me. But I
shall evidently never fulfil my vow. The master is merciful, and he will
Elisey got up, slung his wallet over his shoulders, and turned back. He
made a circle around the village so that people might not see him. And
soon he reached home. On his way out he had found it hard: it was hard
keeping up with Efim; but on his way home God made it easy for him, for
he did not know what weariness was. Walking was just play to him, and he
swayed his staff, and made as much as seventy versts a day.
Elisey came back home. The harvest was all in. The home folk were glad
to see the old man. They asked all about him, why he had left his
companion and why he had not gone to Jerusalem, but had returned home.
Elisey did not tell them anything.
"God did not grant me that I should," he said. "I spent my money on the
way, and got separated from my companion. And so I did not go. Forgive
me for Christ's sake."
He gave the old woman what money he had left. He asked all about the
home matters: everything was right; everything had been attended to and
nothing missed, and all were living in peace and agreement.
Efim's people heard that very day that Elisey had come back, and so they
came to inquire about their old man. And Elisey told them the same
"You see," he said, "the old man started to walk briskly, and three days
before St. Peter's day we lost each other. I wanted to catch up with
him, but it happened that I spent all my money and could not go on, so I
The people marvelled how it was that such a clever man had acted so
foolishly as to start and not reach the place and merely spend his
money. They wondered awhile, and forgot about it. Elisey, too, forgot
about it. He began to work about the house: he got the wood ready for
the winter with his son, threshed the grain with the women, thatched the
sheds, gathered in the bees, and gave ten hives with the young brood to
his neighbour. When he got all the work done, he sent his son out to
earn money, and himself sat down in the winter to plait bast shoes and
hollow out blocks for the hives.
All that day that Elisey passed with the sick people, Efim waited for
his companion. He walked but a short distance and sat down. He waited
and waited, and fell asleep; when he awoke, he sat awhile,--but his
companion did not turn up. He kept a sharp lookout for him, but the sun
was going down behind a tree, and still Elisey was not there.
"I wonder whether he has not passed by me," he thought. "Maybe somebody
drove him past, and he did not see me while I was asleep. But how could
he help seeing me? In the steppe you can see a long distance off. If I
go back, he may be marching on, and we shall only get farther separated
from each other. I will walk on,--we shall meet at the resting-place for
When he came to a village, he asked the village officer to look out for
an old man and bring him to the house where he stayed. Elisey did not
come there for the night. Efim marched on, and asked everybody whether
they had seen a bald-headed old man. No one had seen him. Efim was
surprised and walked on.
"We shall meet somewhere in Odessa," he thought, "or on the boat," and
then he stopped thinking about it.
On the road he fell in with a pilgrim. The pilgrim, in calotte, cassock,
and long hair, had been to Mount Athos, and was now going for the second
time to Jerusalem. They met at a hostelry, and they had a chat and
started off together.
They reached Odessa without any accident. They waited for three days for
a ship. There were many pilgrims there, and they had come together from
all directions. Again Efim asked about Elisey, but nobody had seen him.
Efim provided himself with a passport,--that cost five roubles. He had
forty roubles left for his round trip, and he bought bread and herring
for the voyage. The ship was loaded, then the pilgrims were admitted,
and Tarasych sat down beside the pilgrim he had met. The anchors were
weighed, they pushed off from the shore, and the ship sailed across the
During the day they had good sailing; in the evening a wind arose, rain
fell, and the ship began to rock and to be washed by the waves. The
people grew excited; the women began to shriek, and such men as were
weak ran up and down the ship, trying to find a safe place. Efim, too,
was frightened, but he did not show it: where he had sat down on the
floor on boarding the ship by the side of Tambov peasants, he sat
through the night and the following day; all of them held on to their
wallets and did not speak. On the third day it grew calmer. On the fifth
day they landed at Constantinople.
Some of the pilgrims went ashore there, to visit the Cathedral of St.
Sophia, which now the Turks hold; Tarasych did not go, but remained on
board the ship. All he did was to buy some white bread. They remained
there a day, and then again sailed through the sea. They stopped at
Smyrna town, and at another city by the name of Alexandria, and safely
reached the city of Jaffa. In Jaffa all pilgrims go ashore: from there
it is seventy versts on foot to Jerusalem. At the landing the people had
quite a scare: the ship was high, and the people were let down into
boats below; but the boats were rocking all the time, and two people
were let down past the boat and got a ducking, but otherwise all went
When all were ashore, they went on afoot; on the third day they reached
Jerusalem at dinner-time. They stopped in a suburb, in a Russian
hostelry; there they had their passports stamped and ate their dinner,
and then they followed a pilgrim to the holy places. It was too early
yet to be admitted to the Sepulchre of the Lord, so they went to the
Monastery of the Patriarch. There all the worshippers were gathered, and
the female sex was put apart from the male. They were all ordered to
take off their shoes and sit in a circle. A monk came out with a towel,
and began to wash everybody's feet. He would wash, and rub them clean,
and kiss them, and thus he went around the whole circle. He washed
Efim's feet and kissed them. They celebrated vigils and matins, and
placed a candle, and served a mass for the parents. There they were fed,
and received wine to drink.
On the following morning they went to the cell of Mary of Egypt, where
she took refuge. There they placed candles, and a mass was celebrated.
From there they went to Abraham's Monastery. They saw the Sebak garden,
the place where Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son to God. Then they
went to the place where Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, and to the
Church of Jacob, the brother of the Lord. The pilgrim showed them all
the places, and in every place he told how much money they ought to
give. At dinner they returned to the hostelry. They ate, and were just
getting ready to lie down to sleep, when the pilgrim, who was rummaging
through his clothes, began to sigh.
"They have pulled out my pocketbook with money in it," he said. "I had
twenty-three roubles,--two ten-rouble bills, and three in change."
The pilgrim felt badly about it, but nothing could be done, and all went
As Efim went to sleep, a temptation came over him.
"They have not taken the pilgrim's money," he thought, "he did not have
any. Nowhere did he offer anything. He told me to give, but he himself
did not offer any. He took a rouble from me."
As Efim was thinking so, he began to rebuke himself:
"How dare I judge the man, and commit a sin. I will not sin." The moment
he forgot himself, he again thought that the pilgrim had a sharp eye on
money, and that it was unlikely that they had taken the money from him.
"He never had any money," he thought. "It's only an excuse."
They got up before evening and went to an early mass at the Church of
the Resurrection,--to the Sepulchre of the Lord. The pilgrim did not
leave Efim's side, but walked with him all the time.
They came to the church. There was there collected a large crowd of
worshippers, Greeks, and Armenians, and Turks, and Syrians. Efim came
with the people to the Holy Gate. A monk led them. He took them past the
Turkish guard to the place where the Saviour was taken from the cross
and anointed, and where candles were burning in nine large candlesticks.
He showed and explained everything to them. Efim placed a candle there.
Then the monks led Efim to the right over steps to Golgotha, where the
cross stood; there Efim prayed; then Efim was shown the cleft where the
earth was rent to the lowermost regions; then he was shown the place
where Christ's hands and feet had been nailed to the cross, and then he
was shown Adam's grave, where Christ's blood dropped on his bones. Then
they came to the rock on which Christ sat when they put the wreath of
thorns on his head; then to the post to which Christ was tied when he
was beaten. Then Efim saw the stone with the two holes, for Christ's
feet. They wanted to show him other things, but the people hastened
away: all hurried to the grotto of the Lord's Sepulchre. Some foreign
mass was just ended, and the Russian began. Efim followed the people to
He wanted to get away from the pilgrim, for in thought he still sinned
against him, but the pilgrim stuck to him, and went with him to mass at
the Sepulchre of the Lord. They wanted to stand close to it, but were
too late. There was such a crowd there that it was not possible to move
forward or back. Efim stood there and looked straight ahead and prayed,
but every once in awhile he felt his purse, to see whether it was in his
pocket. His thoughts were divided; now he thought that the pilgrim had
deceived him; and then he thought, if he had not deceived him, and the
pocketbook had really been stolen, the same might happen to him.
Efim stood there and prayed and looked ahead into the chapel where the
Sepulchre itself was, and where over the Sepulchre thirty-six lamps were
burning. Efim looked over the heads to see the marvellous thing: under
the very lamps, where the blessed fire was burning, in front of all, he
saw an old man in a coarse caftan, with a bald spot shining on his whole
head, and he looked very much like Elisey Bodrov.
"He resembles Elisey," he thought. "But how can it be he? He could not
have got here before me. The previous ship started a week ahead of us.
He could not have been on that ship. On our ship he was not, for I saw
all the pilgrims."
Just as Efim was thinking this, the old man began to pray, and made
three bows: once in front of him, to God, and twice to either side, to
all the Orthodox people. And as the old man turned his head to the
right, Efim recognized him. Sure enough, it was Bodrov: it was his
blackish, curly beard, and the gray streak on his cheeks, and his brows,
his eyes, his nose, and full face,--all his. Certainly it was he, Elisey
Efim was glad that he had found his companion, and he marvelled how
Elisey could have got there ahead of him.
"How in the world did Bodrov get to that place in front?" he thought.
"No doubt he met a man who knew how to get him there. When all go out, I
will hunt him up, and I will drop the pilgrim in the colette, and will
walk with him. Maybe he will take me to the front place."
Efim kept an eye on Elisey, so as not to lose him. When the masses were
over, the people began to stir. As they went up to kiss the Sepulchre,
they crowded and pushed Efim to one side. He was frightened lest his
purse should be stolen. He put his hand to his purse and tried to make
his way out into the open. When he got out, he walked and walked, trying
to find Elisey, both on the outside and in the church. In the church he
saw many people in the cells: some ate, and drank wine, and slept there,
and read their prayers. But Elisey was not to be found. Efim returned to
the hostelry, but he did not find his companion there either. On that
evening the pilgrim, too, did not come back. He was gone, and had not
returned the rouble to Efim. So Efim was left alone.
On the following day Efim went again to the Sepulchre of the Lord with a
Tambov peasant, with whom he had journeyed on the ship. He wanted to
make his way to the front, but he was again pushed back, and so he stood
at a column and prayed. He looked ahead of him, and there in front,
under the lamps, at the very Sepulchre of the Lord, stood Elisey. He had
extended his hands, like a priest at the altar, and his bald spot shone
over his whole head.
"Now," thought Efim, "I will not miss him."
He made his way to the front, but Elisey was not there. Evidently he had
left. On the third day he again went to the Sepulchre of the Lord, and
there he saw Elisey standing in the holiest place, in sight of
everybody, and his hands were stretched out, and he looked up, as though
he saw something above him. And his bald spot shone over his whole head.
"Now," thought Efim, "I will certainly not miss him; I will go and stand
at the entrance, and then he cannot escape me."
Efim went out and stood there for a long time. He stood until after
noon: all the people had passed out, but Elisey was not among them.
Efim passed six weeks in Jerusalem, and visited all the places,
Bethlehem, and Bethany, and the Jordan, and had a stamp put on a new
shirt at the Lord's Sepulchre, to be buried in it, and filled a bottle
of Jordan water, and got some earth, and candles with blessed fire, and
in eight places inscribed names for the mass of the dead. He spent all
his money and had just enough left to get home on, and so he started for
home. He reached Jaffa, boarded a ship, landed at Odessa, and walked
toward his home.
Efim walked by himself the same way he had come out. As he was getting
close to his village, he began to worry again about how things were
going at his house without him. In a year, he thought, much water runs
by. It takes a lifetime to get together a home, but it does not take
long to ruin it. He wondered how his son had done without him, how the
spring had opened, how the cattle had wintered, and whether the hut was
well built. Efim reached the spot where the year before he had parted
from Elisey. It was not possible to recognize the people. Where the year
before they had suffered want, now there was plenty. Everything grew
well in the field. The people picked up again and forgot their former
misery. In the evening Efim reached the very village where the year
before Elisey had fallen behind. He had just entered the village, when a
little girl in a white shirt came running out of a hut.
"Grandfather, grandfather! Come to our house!"
Efim wanted to go on, but the girl would not let him. She took hold of
his coat and laughed and pulled him to the hut. A woman with a boy came
out on the porch, and she, too, beckoned to him:
"Come in, grandfather, and eat supper with us and stay overnight!"
Efim stepped in.
"I can, at least, ask about Elisey," he thought. "This is the very hut
into which he went to get a drink."
Efim went inside. The woman took off his wallet, gave him water to wash
himself, and seated him at the table. She fetched milk, cheese, cakes,
and porridge, and placed it all on the table. Tarasych thanked her and
praised the people for being hospitable to pilgrims. The woman shook her
"We cannot help receiving pilgrims," she said. "We received life from a
pilgrim. We lived forgetting God, and God punished us in such a way that
all of us were waiting for death. Last summer we came to such a point
that we were all lying down sick and starved. We should certainly have
died, but God sent us an old man like you. He stepped in during the
daytime to get a drink; when he saw us, he took pity on us and remained
at our house. He gave us to eat and to drink, and put us on our feet
again. He cleared our land from debt, and bought a horse and cart and
left it with us."
The old woman entered the room, and interrupted her speech:
"We do not know," she said, "whether he was a man or an angel of the
Lord. He was good to us all, and pitied us, and then went away without
giving his name, so that we do not know for whom to pray to God. I see
it as though it happened just now: I was lying down and waiting for
death to come; I looked up and saw a man come in,--just a simple,
bald-headed man,--and ask for a drink. I, sinful woman, thought that he
was a tramp, but see what he did! When he saw us he put down his wallet,
right in this spot, and opened it."
The girl broke in.
"No, granny," she said, "first he put his wallet in the middle of the
room, and only later did he put it on the bench."
And they began to dispute and to recall his words and deeds: where he
had sat down, and where he had slept, and what he had done, and what he
had said to each.
Toward evening the master of the house came home on a horse, and he,
too, began to tell about Elisey, and how he had stayed at their house.
"If he had not come to us," he said, "we should all of us have died in
sin. We were dying in despair, and we murmured against God and men. But
he put us on our feet, and through him we found out God, and began to
believe in good people. May Christ save him! Before that we lived like
beasts, and he has made men of us."
They gave Efim to eat and to drink, and gave him a place to sleep, and
themselves went to bed.
As Efim lay down, he could not sleep, and Elisey did not leave his mind,
but he thought of how he had seen him three times in Jerusalem in the
"So this is the way he got ahead of me," he thought. "My work may be
accepted or not, but his the Lord has accepted."
In the morning Efim bade the people good-bye: they filled his wallet
with cakes and went to work, while Efim started out on the road.
Efim was away precisely a year. In the spring he returned home.
He reached his house in the evening. His son was not at home,--he was in
the dram-shop. He returned intoxicated, and Efim began to ask him about
the house. He saw by everything that the lad had got into bad ways
without him. He had spent all the money, and the business he had
neglected. His father scolded him, and he answered his father with rude
"You ought to have come back yourself," he said. "Instead, you went away
and took all the money with you, and now you make me responsible."
The old man became angry and beat his son.
The next morning Efim Tarasych went to the elder to talk to him about
his son. As he passed Elisey's farm, Elisey's wife was standing on the
porch and greeting him:
"Welcome, friend!" she said. "Did you, dear man, have a successful
Efim Tarasych stopped.
"Thank God," he said, "I have been at Jerusalem, but I lost your husband
on the way. I hear that he is back."
And the old woman started to talk to him, for she was fond of babbling.
"He is back, my dear; he has been back for quite awhile. He returned
soon after Assumption day. We were so glad to see him back. It was
lonely without him. Not that we mean his work,--for he is getting old.
But he is the head, and it is jollier for us. How happy our lad was!
Without him, he said, it was as without light for the eyes. It was
lonely without him, my dear. We love him so much!"
"Well, is he at home now?"
"At home he is, neighbour, in the apiary, brushing in the swarms. He
says it was a fine swarming season. The old man does not remember when
there has been such a lot of bees. God gives us not according to our
sins, he says. Come in, dear one! He will be so glad to see you."
Efim walked through the vestibule and through the yard to the apiary, to
see Elisey. When he came inside the apiary, he saw Elisey standing
without a net, without gloves, in a gray caftan, under a birch-tree,
extending his arms and looking up, and his bald spot shone over his
whole head, just as he had stood in Jerusalem at the Lord's Sepulchre,
and above him, through the birch-tree, the sun glowed, and above his
head the golden bees circled in the form of a wreath, and did not sting
him. Efim stopped.
Elisey's wife called out to her husband:
"Your friend is here."
Elisey looked around. He was happy, and walked over toward his friend,
softly brushing the bees out of his beard.
"Welcome, friend, welcome, dear man! Did you have a successful journey?"
"My feet took me there, and I have brought you some water from the river
Jordan. Come and get it! But whether the Lord has received my work--"
"Thank God! Christ save you!"
Efim was silent.
"I was there with my feet, but in spirit you were there, or somebody
"It is God's work, my friend, God's work."
"On my way home I stopped at the hut where I lost you."
Elisey was frightened, and he hastened to say:
"It is God's work, my friend, God's work. Well, won't you step in? I
will bring some honey."
And Elisey changed the subject, and began to speak of home matters.
Efim heaved a sigh. He did not mention the people of the hut to Elisey,
nor what he had seen in Jerusalem. And he understood that God has
enjoined that each man shall before his death carry out his vow--with
love and good deeds.