And who will replace him as a comrade? I can see now the kindly, shaven face turned to us with a gentle smile, I can hear now his soft friendly voice. Peace to thine ashes, Prokofy Osipitch! Rest, honest, noble toiler!" Zapoikin continued while his listeners began whispering together. His speech pleased everyone and drew some tears, but a good many things in it seemed strange.
"Dmitri Osipitch, was wollen Sie?" he heard the voice of the German governess at his door a moment later. "Ah, it's you, Rosalia Karlovna!" Vaxin cried, delighted. "Why do you trouble? Gavrila might just . . ." "Yourself Gavrila to the town sent. And Glafira is somewhere all the evening gone. . . . There's nobody in the house. . . . Was wollen Sie doch?"
Yes, before our eyes Prokofy Osipitch would divide his small salary between his poorer colleagues, and you have just heard yourselves the lamentations of the widows and orphans who lived upon his alms. Devoted to good works and his official duty, he gave up the joys of this life and even renounced the happiness of domestic existence; as you are aware, to the end of his days he was a bachelor.
The old man frets." The women looked at Nikolay's feet, shod in felt boots, and at his pale face, and said mournfully: "You are not one to get on, Nikolay Osipitch; you are not one to get on! No, indeed!" And they all made much of Sasha. She was ten years old, but she was little and very thin, and might have been taken for no more than seven.
In the first place they could not make out why the orator called the deceased Prokofy Osipitch when his name was Kirill Ivanovitch.
Prokofy Osipitch was our secretary before, that's true, but two years ago he was transferred to the second division as head clerk." "How the devil is one to tell?" "Why are you stopping? Go on, it's awkward." Zapoikin turned to the grave, and with the same eloquence continued his interrupted speech. Prokofy Osipitch, an old clerk with a clean-shaven face, was in fact standing by a tombstone.
All at once he ceased speaking, and gaping with astonishment, turned to Poplavsky. "I say! he's alive," he said, staring with horror. "Who's alive?" "Why, Prokofy Osipitch, there he stands, by that tombstone!" "He never died! It's Kirill Ivanovitch who's dead." "But you told me yourself your secretary was dead." "Kirill Ivanovitch was our secretary. You've muddled it, you queer fish.
He looked at the orator and frowned angrily. "Well, you have put your foot into it, haven't you!" laughed his fellow-clerks as they returned from the funeral with Zapoikin. "Burying a man alive!" "It's unpleasant, young man," grumbled Prokofy Osipitch. "Your speech may be all right for a dead man, but in reference to a living one it is nothing but sarcasm! Upon my soul what have you been saying?
"Prokofy Osipitch," continued the orator, looking with an air of inspiration into the grave, "your face was plain, even hideous, you were morose and austere, but we all know that under that outer husk there beat an honest, friendly heart!" Soon the listeners began to observe something strange in the orator himself. He gazed at one point, shifted about uneasily and began to shrug his shoulders too.
Inexorable death has laid his bony hand upon him at the time when, in spite of his bowed age, he was still full of the bloom of strength and radiant hopes. An irremediable loss! Who will fill his place for us? Good government servants we have many, but Prokofy Osipitch was unique.