"I should not mind it a bit," he continued, when he had recovered his breath, "if only I were allowed to smoke my pipe. But I will not die without having smoked once more," he added, with a sly twinkle in his eye. "Thank God, my life has been well enough. I have known many good people ——"
"You should write to your family," I interposed.
"Why should I? As to help, they cannot help me. If I die, they will hear of it. But why do we talk of this? Much better tell me what you have seen abroad."
I began to talk, he drinking in my words the while.
Towards evening I went away, and ten days afterwards I received the following letter from Krupianikoff: —
- "I have herewith the honor of informing you that your friend the student, Avenir Sorokoumoff, lately residing in my house, died the day before yesterday at 2 p.m., and to-day was buried, at my expense, in our parish church. He begged me to send you the accompanying books and papers. He left behind him twenty-two and a half roubles, which, with the rest of his effects, will be transmitted to his family. Your friend was quite conscious when he died, and also, I may add, quite indifferent, for he showed no signs of regret, even when my entire family took leave of him. My wife, Cleopatra Alexandrevna, sends you her compliments. The death of your friend could not of course be without its effect on her nerves; with regard to myself, I am, thank God, in good health, and I have the honor to remain
"Your obedient servant,
Many other instances come into my head, but one cannot tell all one has to say. I will confine myself to one. Some years ago an old lady died in my presence. The priest was reading the prayers for the dying at her bedside, when he suddenly saw that the sick woman was actually at the point of death, so he at once held out the cross for her to kiss.
The old lady turned peevishly away. "Why in such a hurry, father?" she said; "you have time enough to ——" She lay back in bed, tried to put her hand under the pillow, and breathed her last. Under the pillow lay a silver rouble. She had wanted to pay the priest herself for her own deathbed service. . . . Yes, there's something strange in the way in which Russians meet death.
From The Daily Evening Telegraph.
THE FEAST OF THE ROOFS.
A CHRISTMAS FAIRY TALE.
FROM THE FRENCH, BY HELEN STANLEY.
Oh! how beautiful the Paris roofs looked that night! What silence, what calm, what a supernatural brightness hung over them! Below, the streets were black with mud, the river ran heavy-ladened with its ice, and the gaslights burned dimly in the frosty air. Above, as far as one could see, over the palaces and towers, the terraces and cupolas, on the slender spire of the Sainte Chapelle, and those myriad roofs crowded and leaning together, the snow glistened white, casting its cool, blue shadows, so that it seemed like a second city, an ethereal Paris suspended between the gloom of the darkness and the fantastic moonlight.
Although it was yet early in the evening, all the fires were out; not the smallest smoke-cloud floated over the roofs. Only the happy chimneys wherein wood burned and cracked every day could be quickly distinguished by a dark circle which the smoke still left about them, and by the warm air which ascended from them into the frozen night, like the breath of the sleeping house. The others, stiff and crowded together in the the thick snow, kept still their last spring's nests, and were, like them, void of warmth and life; and in this upper city, enveloped in whiteness, which the Paris streets crossed in every direction like immense precipices, the shadows of all its crooked chimneys, broken and black, like trees in winter, crossed each other on the deserted avenues, where no one save the Paris sparrows had ever trod, whose tiny footprints could be clearly defined every here and there on the crystalline snow.
At this hour even, a band of these impertinent little Bohemians were hopping about on the edge of a gutter, and their cries alone disturbed the religious silence and solemn watching of the city of the roofs, which, entirely covered with a vast carpet of ermine, seemed as though prepared for the passage of a child-king.
The Paris Swallows. By all the saints, how cold it is! There is no possible way of sleeping; one may make oneself into a ball, and spread out one's feathers all one can, but the frost will wake and bite one!
A Sparrow (further off). Halloa there! you sparrows, halloa! Come quickly here. I've found an old chimney, with a brass