AMONG the forests of Kerjentz many lonely graves are scattered, in which lie mouldering the bones of men who held the ancient faith.* About one of these men — Antipe — many tales are still told in the villages of Kerjentz.
* Thus the raskolniki (dissenters) term their belief to distinguish it from the orthodox faith, it being founded on the corrected translation of the Scriptures made by Patriarch Nicon in 1666.
Antipe Luneff had been a rich, grasping peasant, who, after devoting himself for fifty years to worldly pleasures, fell to meditating deeply, became more and more melancholy, and at last deserting his family, retired into the forest. There, on the edge of a deep ravine, he built himself a hut in which he lived for eight years, summer and winter, allowing no one, not even friends nor relations, to come and see him. Sometimes people who had lost their way in the forest would stumble upon his hut and find Antipe kneeling on the threshold in prayer. He grew terrible to behold: withered and worn by fasting and prayer, and covered with hair like an animal. When he saw anyone, he would get up from his knees and silently bow down before him to the ground. If he were asked the way out of the forest, he would silently indicate the direction with his hand, bow again to the ground, and then, entering his hut, shut the door behind him. During these eight years many people saw him, but no one heard his voice. His wife and children used to come to him, bringing him food and clothing. Even to them he only bowed silently to the ground, not once during the whole time of his penance ever saying one word to them.
He died in the year when the order was given for the destruction of all the hermitages, and it happened in the following way:—
When the ispravnik arrived with his men at the hut, they found Antipe kneeling in the middle of it, praying silently.
" Hullo, you!" called out the captain. " Clear out! We are going to break up your den!" But Antipe paid no attention to him. The captain shouted again and again, but never a word did the old man answer. Then the captain ordered his men to pull Antipe out of the hut by the hair of his head; but the men, seeing that the old man continued to pray earnestly, taking no notice of them, were awed by the strength of his faith and would not obey their chief. The ispravnik ordered them to pull down the hut, and they silently began to take off the roof, but carefully, so as not to hurt the old man.
The axes struck above Antipe's head, the boards cracked and fell to the ground, the sound of the blows echoing through the forest frightened the birds who flew round the hut, and the leaves trembled on the trees. But the old man continued to pray as if he neither saw nor heard anything. They began to pull the beams asunder, but the hermit still knelt on, motionless. Only when the last beams were thrown aside, and the captain came up and caught him by the hair, did Antipe, lifting up his eyes to the sky, murmur unto God,—
" All merciful Lord, forgive them," and fell backwards dead.
When this happened, Antipe's eldest son, Jacob, was twenty-three years old, and his youngest, Terence, was eighteen. Jacob, who was handsome and of great bodily strength, when only a lad had been nicknamed Jacob the reckless by the whole village, and at the time of his father's death was the biggest rake and squabbler in the whole district. Everyone complained of him—his mother, the starosta,* his neighbours; he was arrested, locked up, and flogged with birches, but nothing could alter Jacob's wild nature, and it became more and more difficult for him to live in the village amongst the dissenters, who are quiet as moles, keep stubbornly to the ancient laws of their religion, and resent any innovations. Jacob smoked tobacco, drank vodka, wore clothes of German cut, never attended prayers and gatherings, and when sedate people used to admonish him he would answer with a sneer,—
"Wait a little, you venerable old people, everything must have its fill. When I have sinned enough I'll repent also. But now—it's too early. You need not talk to me about my father—he sinned fifty years and repented only eight. My sins are like down on a newly-hatched bird, but when they cover me like the feathers on a crow, then will be the time to repent."
* Starosta—head of the village.
" Heretic!" they used to call Jacob Luneff in the village, and as such he was hated and feared. About two years after his father's death Jacob married. He had spent in loose living all the money his father had scraped together by thirty years' hard labour, and had bequeathed to him, and nobody in his own village would give him his daughter in marriage. In a distant village he found a wife, a handsome orphan, and sold his father's...