The priest stood with his Gospels open, waiting. In the ensuing silence the harmonious singing of a male voice choir could be clearly heard: they were singing somewhere beyond the garden, by the river, no doubt. And it was so delightful when the bells in the neighbouring monastery suddenly pealed and their soft, melodious chimes blended with the singing. Yanshin’s heart seemed to miss a beat in sweet anticipation of something fine and he almost forgot that he was supposed to be helping an invalid. The sounds from outside that floated into the room somehow reminded him how little freedom and enjoyment there was in his present life and how trivial, insignificant and boring were the tasks with which he so furiously grappled every day, from dawn to dusk. When he had led the sick man out, while the servants made way and looked on with that morbid curiosity with which village people usually survey corpses, he suddenly felt hatred, a deep, intense hatred for the invalid’s puffy, clean-shaven face, for his waxen hands, for his plush dressing-gown, for his heavy breathing, for the tapping of his black cane. This feeling, which he was experiencing for the first time in his life and which had taken possession of him so suddenly, made his head and legs go cold and his heart pound. He passionately wanted Mikhail Ilich to drop dead that very minute, to utter a last cry and slump onto the floor, but in a flash he pictured that death for himself and recoiled in horror. When they left the room no longer did he want the sick man to die, but craved life for himself. If only he could tear his hand from that warm armpit and run away, to run and run without looking back.
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