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Kalinin
by [?]

Whistling from off the sea, the wind was charged with moist, salt spray, and dashing foaming billows ashore with their white manes full of snakelike, gleaming black ribands of seaweed, and causing the rocks to rumble angrily in response, and the trees to rustle with a dry, agitated sound as their tops swayed to and fro, and their trunks bent earthwards as though they would fain reeve up their roots, and betake them whither the mountains stood veiled in a toga of heavy, dark mist.

Over the sea the clouds were hurrying towards the land as ever and anon they rent themselves into strips, and revealed fathomless abysses of blue wherein the autumn sun burned uneasily, and sent cloud-shadows gliding over the puckered waste of waters, until, the shore reached, the wind further harried the masses of vapour towards the sharp flanks of the mountains, and, after drawing them up and down the slopes, relegated them to clefts, and left them steaming there.

There was about the whole scene a louring appearance, an appearance as though everything were contending with everything, as now all things turned sullenly dark, and now all things emitted a dull sheen which almost blinded the eyes. Along the narrow road, a road protected from the sea by a line of wave- washed dykes, some withered leaves of oak and wild cherry were scudding in mutual chase of one another; with the general result that the combined sounds of splashing and rustling and howling came to merge themselves into a single din which issued as a song with a rhythm marked by the measured blows of the waves as they struck the rocks.

“Zmiulan, the King of the Ocean, is abroad!” shouted my fellow traveller in my ear. He was a tall, round-shouldered man of childishly chubby features and boyishly bright, transparent eyes.

“WHO do you say is abroad?” I queried.

“King Zmiulan.”

Never having heard of the monarch, I made no reply.

The extent to which the wind buffeted us might have led one to suppose that its primary objective was to deflect our steps, and turn them in the direction of the mountains. Indeed, at times its pressure was so strong that we had no choice but to halt, to turn our backs to the sea, and, with feet planted apart, to prise ourselves against our sticks, and so remain, poised on three legs, until we were past any risk of being overwhelmed with the soft incubus of the tempest, and having our coats torn from our shoulders.

At intervals such gasps would come from my companion that he might well have been standing on the drying-board of a bath. Nor, as they did so, was his appearance aught but comical, seeing that his ears, appendages large and shaggy like a dog’s, and indifferently shielded with a shabby old cap, kept being pushed forward by the wind until his small head bore an absurd resemblance to a china bowl. And that, to complete the resemblance, his long and massive nose, a feature grossly disproportionate to the rest of his diminutive face, might equally well have passed for the spout of the receptacle indicated.

Yet a face out of the common it was, like the whole of his personality. And this was the fact which had captivated me from the moment when I had beheld him participating in a vigil service held in the neighbouring church of the monastery of New Athos. There, spare, but with his withered form erect, and his head slightly tilted, he had been gazing at the Crucifix with a radiant smile, and moving his thin lips in a sort of whispered, confidential, friendly conversation with the Saviour. Indeed, so much had the man’s smooth, round features (features as beardless as those of a Skopetz [A member of the Skoptzi, a non-Orthodox sect the members of which “do make of themselves eunuchs for the Lord’s sake.”], save for two bright tufts at the corners of the mouth) been instinct with intimacy, with a consciousness of actually being in the presence of the Son of God, that the spectacle, transcending anything of the kind that my eyes had before beheld, had led me, with its total absence of the customary laboured, servile, pusillanimous attitude towards the Almighty which I had generally found to be the rule, to accord the man my whole interest, and, as long as the service had lasted, to keep an eye upon one who could thus converse with God without rendering Him constant obeisance, or again and again making the sign of the cross, or invariably making it to the accompaniment of groans and tears which had always hitherto obtruded itself upon my notice.