Page:Korolenko - Makar's Dream and Other Stories.djvu/217

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THE DAY OF ATONEMENT

A TALE OF LITTLE RUSSIA[1]


The lights are out, the moon is rising.
The were-wolf in the wood is feeding.
——Shevchenko.


I


Listen to me, man; go out of your khata on a clear night, or better still walk to the top of some little hill, and look well at the sky and the earth. Watch the bright moon climbing the heavens, and the stars winking and twinkling, and the light clouds of mist rising from the earth and wandering off somewhere one behind the other like belated travellers on a night journey. The woods will lie as if bewitched, listening to the spells that rise from them after the midnight hour, and the sleepy river will flow murmuring by you, whispering to the sycamores

  1. Ten days after the Jewish New Year, which is celebrated in the early Autumn, comes Yom Kippur, or the day of Purification, called by the peasants of Little Russia the "Day of Atonement." A superstition exists among them that on this day the Jewish Devil Khapun (the Snatcher) carries off one Jew each year out of the Synagogue. This superstition probably had its origin in the extremely impressive ceremonies which the Jews carry out at this season with extraordinary zeal under the eyes of the Christian village population.