The story that the student tells his audience about the Apostle Peter at first seems to be a story of despair that perfectly captures his mood as he returns home and is full of sadness at the poverty that his family face and that his people, and indeed, all humanity have faced over the past thousand years. However, what changes the protagonist's mood is the recognition that this story, far from being a tale trapped in history, has the ability to provoke an emotional reaction in the present, which means there is some inherent truth or beauty in it that transcends the difficulties of mankind's existence and which can be clung on to for hope. Note the realisation that the student makes:
The student thought again that if Vasilisa had shed tears, and her daughter had been troubled, it was evident that what he had just been telling them about, which had happened nineteen centuries ago, had a relation to the present--to both women, to the desolate village, to himself, to all people.
The student, in the final paragraph, realises that the story of the Apostle Peter is evidence of some form of eternal truth and beauty that can sustain humanity through its brief and miserable life and is testament to some form of divinity that can be trusted and that humans can have faith in. This is the link to the present that the story of the Apostle Peter creates with the past.