The Hidden Treasure

The Hidden Treasure

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The monk Herman had lived on Spruce Island, for over five years. (Spruce Island is a tiny island near Kodiak Island, just off the peninsula at the south of mainland Alaska.) He’d moved there from the town of Kodiak when the persecution from the Russian American company got too much to bear, and he felt it would be better if he were away from the men and the officials who had tried, in the past, to block the work he was doing with the Alaskan people.

The harassment, however, didn’t stop. He still paddled his boat the few miles over to Kodiak Island, to see the people he knew, send messages via the ship’s captains to the hierarchs in Irkutsk and St. Petersberg about the way the company and its employees treated the Aleut people, and to get the few supplies he couldn’t produce in his garden or by foraging in the forest. His letters were confiscated and burned, or read by officials. He was bumped, reviled, insulted, and beaten whenever he appeared on the streets of Kodiak. But it didn’t stop him, especially when the epidemic broke out in 1819, and people needed someone to care for them. Then, the company employees were happy enough to see him, and the Aleut people were grateful for the care he could give them. But it wasn’t enough – too many died, and left the children without mother or father, grandparent or auntie to look after them. So he gathered them up and took them across the water, where he and Gerasim, his friend and disciple, built homes for the children. Then Sophie had come to him, begging him to let her live nearby and work with him, and in truth, she was an enormous help to him with the children.

But now, the harassment didn’t stay on Kodiak. Someone had decided that Herman had a treasure buried somewhere around his cell, and that he was acting in ways that monks shouldn’t act and saying things monks shouldn’t say. What they were, nobody had bothered to tell him. All he knew was that someone had told the company officials and the hierarchs in Irkustk and they had been persuasive enough for a priest to come all the way from Siberia to inspect him and his island, and to find the gold and jewels and precious objects he supposedly had hidden away somewhere.

Couldn’t they tell he was poor in worldly things? He wore a deerhide tunic that was shiny and worn, all the hair had rubbed off ages ago, and it was tattered and thin. His riassa was equally worn, patched so much it looked more like a robe of patches than any woven fabric! His under tunic, which the priest had insisted on seeing, was even older and more patched than the other garments. And those were the only clothes he had, the ones he wore on his back. Surely if he were hoarding a treasure, he’d spend enough for new clothes, but they apparently didn’t think of that.

They’d laughed at his bed: a board set on stones, and two rocks for a pillow, with a second board for a blanket. He didn’t need it, Gerasim told them. Herman slept little and spent most of the night standing in front of his icons, praying. How could anyone so obviously poor be hoarding gold and treasures? Sophie demanded. And where would he keep them? There was nothing hidden, no basement to his cell, no hidden rooms or spaces in which to secrete gold or gems, even supposing he had them. And even if he did, what on earth would he spend them on?

Oh, but he could answer that! The children always needed new clothing, and they could do with some new bedding as well. The church in Kodiak could use funds for some icons and some new vestments for the priest there, and there were many in the village at the other end of Spruce Island who would benefit from some help. But he didn’t have it, and he was content with what God had given them – they had a roof over their heads, they had clothing, even if it wasn’t brand new, they ate the food God provided. The church had icons and the vestments weren’t that old. They had each other, the voices of the children when they sang at the prayer services, and this entire island and the sea beyond it, which fed and protected them. They lived in the will of God, or tried to. What more, really, could anyone ask for?

But it seemed as if the officials couldn’t believe he could be content with so little.

They’d looked all around his place, they’d searched the children’s quarters, Sophie’s room, Gerasim’s cell, they’d wandered off into the forests, to see if anything looked suspicious, or if he’d bribed the squirrels and bears to hide the treasure for him. They even poked at the vegetables in the garden, and picked over the mushrooms he had drying, just in case he’d found a way to hide treasure under a fungus, and the priest had insisted one of the men turn over the seaweed and compost piles. Which was a blessing, because they needed turning, and see how God had provided the labour! He was so good.

But even when they’d searched the entire area, the priest still wasn’t satisfied, and he tore up the floor of Herman’s hut, causing Sophie to scold even more and Gerasim to glower and mutter under his breath. The children were upset and anxious about all the fuss.

The inspecting priest of course found nothing. And when the priest demanded that Herman tell them where his treasure was, he simply turned and pointed to the icon of Christ in the corner of the hut and said not a word.

 

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Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author
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Bev Cooke

Bev. Cooke has been writing for publication since 1989. Her first love is writing for young adults, and she has three YA books on the market: Keeper of the Light, a historical fiction about St. Macrina the Elder in 2006. Royal Monastic, a biography of Mother Alexander (Princess Ileana of Romania), also published by Conciliar came out in 2008. Feral, an edgy mainstream novel was released by Orca Book Publishers in 2008. Her latest publication is a departure from her regular work - an Akathist to St. Mary of Egypt, published by Alexander Press in 2010, which was written partly as a response to the seventy missing women from downtown Vancouver's east side, and as a plea to St. Mary of Egypt to pray for those women, and the men and women who live on the streets.

Bev. and her husband live in Victoria, BC where they enjoy two seasons: wet and road construction. They have two adult children, two cats and attend All Saints of Alaska parish.

Bev's very out of date webpage is bevcooke.ca and her blog is http://bevnalabbeyscriptorium.wordpress.com/. It's a little more up to date than the webpage. Bev is planning to blog more and update her webpage very soon, so keep checking back to them and be sure to "Like" her FB page: Bev. Cooke, writer.