And there was his rich enemy, kneeling and praying to be forgiven for the many tears he had caused orphans to shed. He crossed himself ardently and struck his forehead against the ground.
Mikheyich’s heart boiled within him, and the dusky faces of the ikons frowned down upon human sorrow and human wickedness.
All that was past, behind him. For him the whole world was now bounded by this bell-tower, where the wind moaned in the darkness and stirred the ropes. … “God be your judge!” muttered the old man, drooping his gray head, while tears rolled gently down his cheeks.
“Mikheyich, ay, Mikheyich! Have you fallen asleep up there?” shouted someone from below.
“What?” the old man answered, rising to his feet. “God! Have I really been sleeping? Such a thing never happened before!”
With quick, experienced hands he grasped the ropes. Below him, the easant mob moved about like an ant-hill; banners, sparkling with gilt rocade, fluttered in the air. … The procession made the circuit of the church, and soon the joyous call reached Mikheyich, “Christ is risen from the dead!”
The old man’s heart responded fervently to this call.
It seemed to him that the tapers were burning more brightly, and the crowd was more agitated; the banners seemed to be animated, and the wakened wind gathered the billows of sound on its wings, floated them up and blended then with the loud festal pealing of the bells.
Never before had old Mikheyich rung like this!
It seemed as if the old man’s heart had passed into the lifeless brass, and the tones of the bells sang and laughed and wept, and, welding in a sublime stream of harmony, rose high and higher into a heaven resplendent with myriad stars, and, trembling, flowed down to earth.
A powerful bass bell proclaimed, “Christ is risen!” And two tenors, trembling with the alternate beats of their iron tongues, repeated joyfully, “Christ is risen!”
And two small sopranos, seemingly hastening so as not to be left behind, crowded in among the more powerful voices and, like little children, sang hurriedly, cheerfully, “Christ is risen!”
The old belfry seemed to tremble and shake, and the wind, flapping its wings in the old bell-ringer’s face, repeated, “Christ is risen!”
The old heart forgot its life, full of cares and grief. The old bellringer forgot that his life was confined to the narrow limits of the dreary bcl fry, that he was alone in the world, like an old storm-broken stump.
He heard those singing and weeping sounds that rose to heaven and fell again to the sorrowing earth, and it seemed to him that he was surrounded by his sons and grandsons, that he heard their joyful voices; the voices of young and old blend into a chorus and sing to him of happiness and joy which he had never tasted in his life. … He pulled the ropes, while tears rolled down his cheeks, and his heart beat violently with the illusion of happiness.
Below, people listened and said to each other that never before had old Mikheyich rung so well.
Suddenly the large bell uttered an uncertain sound, and grew dumb. The smaller ones rang out an unfinished tone, and then stopped, as if abashed, to listen to the lugubrious echo of the prolonged and palpitating note gradually dying away upon the air. … The old bell ringer, utterly exhausted, fell back on the bench, and the last two tears trickled slowly down his pallid cheeks.
“Hi, there! Send up a substitute; the old bell-ringer has rung his final stroke.”