It had been my intention to live in the priest’s house, but a short interview with him on the following day convinced me that that part of my plan could not be carried out. The preliminary objections that I should find but poor fare in his humble household, and much more of the same kind, were at once put aside by my assurance, made partly by pantomime, that, as an old traveller, I was well accustomed to simple fare, and could always accommodate myself to the habits of people among whom my lot happened to be cast. But there was a more serious difficulty. The priest’s family had, as is generally the case with priests’ families, been rapidly increasing during the last few years, and his house had not been growing with equal rapidity. The natural consequence of this was that he had not a room or a bed to spare. The little room which he had formerly kept for occasional visitors was now occupied by his eldest daughter, who had returned from a “school for the daughters of the clergy,” where she had been for the last two years. Under these circumstances, I was constrained to accept the kind proposal made to me by the representative of my absent friend, that I should take up my quarters in one of the numerous unoccupied rooms in the manor-house. This arrangement, I was reminded, would not at all interfere with my proposed studies, for the priest lived close at hand, and I might spend with him as much time as I liked.
And now let me introduce the reader to my reverend teacher and one or two other personages whose acquaintance I made during my voluntary exile.
Ivanofka—History of the Place—The Steward of the Estate—Slav and Teutonic Natures—A German’s View of the Emancipation—Justices of the Peace—New School of Morals—The Russian Language—Linguistic Talent of the Russians—My Teacher—A Big Dose of Current History.
This village, Ivanofka by name, in which I proposed to spend some months, was rather more picturesque than villages in these northern forests commonly are. The peasants’ huts, built on both sides of a straight road, were colourless enough, and the big church, with its five pear-shaped cupolas rising out of the bright green roof and its ugly belfry in the Renaissance style, was not by any means beautiful in itself; but when seen from a little distance, especially in the soft evening twilight, the whole might have been made the subject of a very pleasing picture. From the point that a landscape-painter would naturally have chosen, the foreground was formed by a meadow, through which flowed sluggishly a meandering stream. On a bit of rising ground to the right, and half concealed by an intervening cluster of old rich-coloured pines, stood the manor-house—a big, box-shaped, whitewashed building, with a verandah in front, overlooking a small plot that might some day become a flower-garden.