At the end of the service, during “Many, many years,” the priest gave the old man and Alexey the cross to kiss, but when Yulia went up, he put his hand over the cross, and showed he wanted to speak. Signs were made to the singers to stop.
“The prophet Samuel,” began the priest, “went to Bethlehem at the bidding of the Lord, and there the elders of the town with fear and trembling asked him: ‘Comest thou peaceably?’ And the prophet answered: ’Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord: sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ Even so, Yulia, servant of God, shall we ask of thee, Dost thou come bringing peace into this house?”
Yulia flushed with emotion. As he finished, the priest gave her the cross to kiss, and said in quite a different tone of voice:
“Now Fyodor Fyodorovitch must be married; it’s high time.”
The choir began singing once more, people began moving, and the room was noisy again. The old man, much touched, with his eyes full of tears, kissed Yulia three times, made the sign of the cross over her face, and said:
“This is your home. I’m an old man and need nothing.”
The clerks congratulated her and said something, but the choir was singing so loud that nothing else could be heard. Then they had lunch and drank champagne. She sat beside the old father, and he talked to her, saying that families ought not to be parted but live together in one house; that separation and disunion led to permanent rupture.
“I’ve made money and the children only do the spending of it,” he said. “Now, you live with me and save money. It’s time for an old man like me to rest.”
Yulia had all the time a vision of Fyodor flitting about so like her husband, but shyer and more restless; he fussed about her and often kissed her hand.
“We are plain people, little sister,” he said, and patches of red came into his face as he spoke. “We live simply in Russian style, like Christians, little sister.”
As they went home, Laptev felt greatly relieved that everything had gone off so well, and that nothing outrageous had happened as he had expected. He said to his wife:
“You’re surprised that such a stalwart, broad-shouldered father should have such stunted, narrow-chested sons as Fyodor and me. Yes; but it’s easy to explain! My father married my mother when he was forty-five, and she was only seventeen. She turned pale and trembled in his presence. Nina was born first—born of a comparatively healthy mother, and so she was finer and sturdier than we were. Fyodor and I were begotten and born after mother had been worn out by terror. I can remember my father correcting me—or, to speak plainly, beating me—before I was five years old. He used to thrash me with a birch, pull my ears, hit me on the head, and every morning when I woke up my first thought was whether he would beat me that day. Play and childish