and told us that this life is but for a moment, is but a probation; yet we still cling to it and think to find happiness in it. “How is it no one has realised that?” Princess Marya wondered. “No one but these despised people of God who, with wallets over their shoulders, come to me by the back stairs, afraid of the prince catching sight of them, and not from fear of ill-usage, but from fear of tempting him to sin. To leave home and country, give up all thoughts of worldly blessings, and clinging to nothing, to wander from place to place in a home-spun smock under a different name, doing people no harm, but praying for them, praying equally for those who drive them away and those who succour them: higher than that truth and that life there is no truth and no life!”

There was one Pilgrim-woman, Fedosyushka, a quiet, little woman of about fifty, marked by smallpox, who had been wandering for over thirty years barefooted and wearing chains. Princess Marya was particularly fond of her. One day when sitting in a dark room, by the light only of the lamp before the holy picture, Fedosyushka told her about her life. Princess Marya felt all at once so strongly that Fedosyushka was the one person who had found the right way of life, that she resolved to go on a pilgrimage herself. When Fedosyushka had gone to bed Princess Marya pondered a long while over it, and at last made up her mind that—however strange it might be—she must go on a pilgrimage. She confided her intention to no one but a monk, Father Akinfy, and this priest approved of her project. On the pretence of getting presents for pilgrim women, Princess Marya had prepared for herself the complete outfit of a pilgrim—a smock, plaited shoes, a full-skirted coat, and a black kerchief. Often she went to her secret wardrobe, where she kept them, and stood in uncertainty whether the time to carry out her plan had come or not.

Often as she listened to the pilgrims’ tales, their simple phrases—that had become mechanical to them, but were to her ears full of the deepest significance—worked upon her till she was several times ready to throw up everything and run away from home. In imagination she already saw herself with Fedosyushka in a coarse smock, trudging along the dusty road with her wallet and her staff, going on her pilgrimage, free from envy, free from earthly love, free from all desires, from one saint to another; and at last thither where there is neither sorrow nor sighing, but everlasting joy and blessedness.

“I shall come to one place. I shall pray there, and before I have time to grow used to it, to love it, I shall go on further. And I shall go on till my legs give way under me and I lie down and die somewhere, and reach at last that quiet, eternal haven, where is neither sorrow nor sighing!…” thought Princess Marya.

But then at the sight of her father, and still more of little Nikolushka, she wavered in her resolution, wept in secret, and felt that she was a sinner, that she loved her father and her nephew more than God.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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