by Boris Pasternak
The Five O'clock Express
They walked and walked and sang "Memory Eternal," and whenever they stopped, the singing seemed to be carried on by their feet, the horses, the gusts of wind.
|Passersby made way for the cortege, counted the wreaths, crossed themselves. The curious joined the procession, asked: "Who's being buried?" "Zhivago," came the answer. "So that's it. Now I see." "Not him. Her." "It's all the same. God rest her soul. A rich funeral.".
|The last minutes flashed by, numbered, irrevocable. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and those who dwell therein." The priest, tracing a cross, threw a handful of earth onto Marya Nikolaevna. They sang "With the souls of the righteous.".
|A terrible bustle began. The coffin was closed, nailed shut, lowered in. A rain of clods drummed down as four shovels hastily filled the grave. Over it a small mound rose. A ten-year-old boy climbed onto it.
Only in the state of torpor and insensibility that usually comes at the end of a big funeral could it have seemed that the boy wanted to speak over his mother's grave.
|He raised his head and looked around from that height at the autumn wastes and the domes of the monastery with an absent gaze. His snub-nosed face became distorted. His neck stretched out. If a wolf cub had raised his head with such a movement, it would have been clear that he was about to howl. Covering his face with his hands, the boy burst into sobs.
|A cloud flying towards him began to lash his hands and face with the wet whips of a cold downpour. A man in black, with narrow, tight-fitting, gathered sleeves, approached the grave. This was the deceased woman's brother and the weeping boy's uncle, Nikolai Nikolaevich Vedenyapin, a priest defrocked at his own request. He went up to the boy and led him out of the cemetery.
They spent the night in one of the monastery guest rooms, allotted to the uncle as an old acquaintance. It was the eve of the Protection. The next day he and his uncle were to go far to the south, to one of the provincial capitals on the Volga, where Father Nikolai worked for a publisher who brought out a local progressive newspaper.
|The train tickets had been bought, the luggage was tied up and standing in the cell. From the nearby station the wind carried the plaintive whistling of engines maneuvering in the distance.
Towards evening it turned very cold.
|The two ground-level windows gave onto the corner of an unsightly kitchen garden surrounded by yellow acacia bushes, onto the frozen puddles of the road going past, and onto the end of the cemetery where Marya Nikolaevna had been buried that afternoon. The kitchen garden was empty, except for a few moire patches of cabbage, blue from the cold.
|When the wind gusted, the leafless acacia bushes thrashed about as if possessed and flattened themselves to the road.
During the night Yura was awakened by a tapping at the window. The dark cell was supernaturally lit up by a fluttering white light. In just his nightshirt, Yura ran to the window and pressed his face to the cold glass.