Decide my fate! he exclaimed again.
Go and confess, I whispered to him. My voice failed me, but I whispered it firmly. I took up the New Testament from the table, the Russian translation, and showed him the Gospel of St. John, ch. xii., verse 24:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
I had just been reading that verse when he came in. He read it.
Thats true, he said, but he smiled bitterly. Its terrible the things you find in those books, he said, after a pause. Its easy enough to thrust them upon one. And who wrote them? Can they have been written by men?
The Holy Spirit wrote them, said I.
Its easy for you to prate, he smiled again, this time almost with hatred.
I took the book again, opened it in another place and showed him the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. x., verse 31. He read:
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
He read it and simply flung down the book. He was trembling all over.
An awful text, he said. Theres no denying youve picked out fitting ones. He rose from the chair. Well! he said, Good-bye, perhaps I shant come again we shall meet in heaven. So I have been for fourteen years in the hands of the living God, thats how one must think of those fourteen years. To- morrow I will beseech those hands to let me go.
I wanted to take him in my arms and kiss him, but I did not darehis face was contorted and sombre. He went away.
Good God, I thought, what has he gone to face! I fell on my knees before the ikon and wept for him before the Holy Mother of God, our swift defender and helper. I was half an hour praying in tears, and it was late, about midnight. Suddenly I saw the door open and he came in again. I was surprised.
Where have you been? I asked him.
I think, he said, Ive forgotten something my handkerchief, I think Well, even if Ive not forgotten anything, let me stay a little.
He sat down. I stood over him.
You sit down, too, said he.
I sat down. We sat still for two minutes; he looked intently at me and suddenly smiledI remembered thatthen he got up, embraced me warmly and kissed me.
Remember, he said, how I came to you a second time. Do you hear, remember it!
And he went out.
To-morrow, I thought.
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