I was standing on the bank of the River Goltva, waiting for the ferry-boat from the other side. At ordinary times the Goltva is a humble stream of moderate size, silent and pensive, gently glimmering from behind thick reeds; but now a regular lake lay stretched out before me. The waters of spring, running riot, had overflowed both banks and flooded both sides of the river for a long distance, submerging vegetable gardens, hayfields and marshes, so that it was no unusual thing to meet poplars and bushes sticking out above the surface of the water and looking in the darkness like grim solitary crags.
The weather seemed to me magnificent. It was dark, yet I could see the trees, the water and the people. The world was lighted by the stars, which were scattered thickly all over the sky. I dont remember ever seeing so many stars. Literally one could not have put a finger in between them. There were some as big as a gooses egg, others tiny as hempseed. They had come out for the festival procession, every one of them, little and big, washed, renewed and joyful, and every one of them was softly twinkling its beams. The sky was reflected in the water, the stars were bathing in its dark depths and trembling with the quivering eddies. The air was warm and still. Here and there, far away on the further bank in the impenetrable darkness, several bright red lights were gleaming.
A couple of paces from me I saw the dark silhouette of a peasant in a high hat, with a thick knotted stick in his hand.
How long the ferry-boat is in coming! I said.
It is time it was here, the silhouette answered.
You are waiting for the ferry-boat, too?
No, I am not, yawned the peasantI am waiting for the illumination. I should have gone, but, to tell you the truth, I havent the five kopecks for the ferry.
Ill give you the five kopecks.
No; I humbly thank you. With that five kopecks put up a candle for me over there in the monastery. That will be more interesting, and I will stand here. What can it mean, no ferry-boat, as though it had sunk in the water!
The peasant went up to the waters edge, took the rope in his hands, and shouted: Ieronim! Ieronim!
As though in answer to his shout, the slow peal of a great bell floated across from the further bank. The note was deep and low, as from the thickest string of a double bass; it seemed as though the darkness itself had hoarsely uttered it. At once there was the sound of a cannon shot. It rolled away in the darkness and ended somewhere in the far distance behind me. The peasant took off his hat and crossed himself.
Christ is risen, he said.
Before the vibrations of the first peal of the bell had time to die away in the air a second sounded, after it at once a third, and the darkness was filled with an unbroken quivering clamour. Near the red lights fresh lights flashed, and all began moving together and twinkling restlessly.
Ieronim! we heard a hollow prolonged shout.
They are shouting from the other bank, said the peasant, so there is no ferry there either. Our Ieronim has gone to sleep.
The lights and the velvety chimes of the bell drew one towards them. I was already beginning to lose patience and grow anxious, but behold at last, staring into the dark distance, I saw the outline of something very much like a gibbet. It was the long-expected ferry. It moved towards us with such deliberation that
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