Piotr Karpenko

A friendship sprang up between us and, without noticing it, I fell in love with her. It seemed that she also was not indifferent to me. In short, a silent romance began between us.

Another friend of mine, the son of an artillery officer, also used to come there. And he, like us, was studying at home in order to enter some school, as he had not been admitted to the cadet corps, having been found a little deaf in one ear.

This was Piotr Karpenko. He too was in love with the Riaouzov girl and she obviously liked him also. She was nice to him, it seems, because he often brought her sweets and flowers, and to me because I played the guitar well and was skilful at making designs on handkerchiefs, which she loved to embroider and say afterwards that she had designed herself.
So here we were, both in love with this girl, and little by little, so to say, the jealousy of rivals began to flame in us.

Once after evening service in the cathedral, where this breaker of hearts was also present, I thought out some plausible excuse and asked the choir­master’s permission to leave a little early, as I wished to meet her as she went out and accompany her home.

At the doors of the cathedral I found myself face to face with my rival. Although hate for one another raged in both of us, we escorted our ‘lady’ home like chivalrous knights. But after we had left her I could no longer restrain myself and, picking a quarrel over something or other, I gave him a sound thrashing.

The evening after the fight I went as usual with some of my comrades to the cathedral bell-tower. At that time there was no real bell-tower in the grounds of the fortress cathedral. It was just then being built and the bells were hung in a temporary wooden structure with a high roof, rather like an octagonal sentry-box. The space between the roof and the beams on which the bells hung was our ‘club’ where we met almost every day, and, sitting astride the beams or on the narrow ledge around the walls under the roof, we smoked, told anecdotes and even prepared our lessons. Later, when the permanent stone bell-tower was completed and the bells put in, this temporary one was presented by the Russian government to the new Greek church being built at that time, and there, it seems, it continues to serve as a bell-tower.