the threshold, through the faint light of the early dawn, he noticed a human
are you, there?”
is me, grandpa, Anoka! I want to die. Forgive me, if you can.’ Grandpa stopped,
swayed, and almost fell.
child, it is sinful to talk like that. Look at my hair, not even the sheep’s
wool is whiter.”
grasped the hem of his cloak which hung down from his shoulders, and kissed it.
have sinned awfully. I destroyed the harmony of your home. For-give me, for
easier than to make an old man cry. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He took her
head in both his hands and kissed her.
followed him into the room.
sat on a stool, and grandpa on the edge of the bed.
some of these beans.”
She did so. Grandpa looked at her with joy. Bo
over there. Do you want to be punished by God? She said to Petriya.
moon was overhead. Everything was so quiet. Anoka’s heart was breaking and
something was slowly dying within her.
couldn`t go on like this any longer, but what was to be done? Should she return
to her father—what could she tell him?—“Grandpa has ordered everybody to obey
my will.” No, she couldn’t say anything like this. And then, this terrible
night will also have its end, and soon the dawn will break and the sun will
shine on all God’s creatures But she, disgraceful person, what shall she do?
Could she be more furious than she is? To be quiet—but how? To surrender? No!
thoughts played a wild dance in her head, crossing, mingling and intermingling.
felt very tired. Passions, love, hatred, hunger and thirst all disappeared. Her
eyelids were heavy like lead, and still they would not close. She felt so
same evening all the men were sitting around the table, for it was supper time.
Radoyka was the only woman among them. The other women had their supper in the
kitchen. Two or three women were serving at the table.
was Anoka’s turn to serve.
other women walked in and out with dishes and food. Anoka leaned against the
door and made faces.
gave her a terrific look. All were speechless. Radoyka felt all the blood
rushing to her head. Anoka did not even notice it!
supper everybody made a sign of the cross, waiting for grand-pa’s sign for
leaving the room.
Crust of bread
But the old man pushed aside a crust of bread, the spoon, the knife, and the wooden dish. He rested his head on his palm, looked around and fixed his eyes on Anoka.
was on pins and needles, dropped her arms, stretched her strong and beautiful
body, and moved to leave the room.
my daughter,” said
fury grew day by day and she invented all kinds of tricks with which to tease
the people in the house. She would chase the dogs into the kitchen, and would
allow them to eat up the meat in the pot. She would open the faucets of the
kegs in the cellar, so the wine would flow out. The bread in the oven always
burned if she was to watch it. On working days, for instance, she would put on
holiday attire. It became worse and worse. The women couldn’t stand it any
longer. Once, when it was Anoka’s turn to be the redara (housekeeper) she left
home and went to the fair. Then the sisters-in-law gathered secretly.
don’t know, dear sisters, what great wrong we have committed that we should
have to suffer so much.”
do I know.”
a great punishment and a great misfortune.”
alone can help us.”
it cannot go on like this any more.”
us talk to grandma, and she will tak
oldest son, Blagoye, Arsen’s father, is the third member of the home council.
The rest of the family listens and obeys. The three elders sometimes leave the
house intentionally, to give the children a chance to play to their heart’s
desire, the women to talk as much as they might please and the men to smoke
freely. The moment, however, one of the “big three” steps into the house, every
one becomes quiet and busy.
being an old man, would frequently behave like a child. At times he would lose
his temper for the least trifle, then he would rage, scold, and, in his
excitement, strike at the nearest one. Again, he would be gentle, generous,
play with the youngsters, give them coppers. Then again, for no reason in the
world, he would begin to cry: “I am left alone in this world like a withered
tree on a mountain.”
has its frivolity, old age its senility.
day following Arsen’s adventure, Blagoye came to Radoyka
evening Arsen came home in a melancholy mood. Contrary to his habit, he first
went into the wine cellar and took a stiff drink, the first time he had ever
done so. He returned to the yard, sat down on a block of wood where he remained
long after dark, absorbed by nocturnal sounds. In the kitchen on the hearth,
flaming tongues shot out and licked the iron cauldron suspended by chains from
the ceiling. A newly discovered fire was burning in Arsen’s heart. In the
surrounding darkness he discerned human forms, dogs crossing the yard, oxen
returning from pasture; he heard the trampling of horses in their stalls; he
recognized his brother Nenad returning from the city. A hen jumped from the
mulberry tree, looked round sleepily, and flew to another branch. Already a
mouse dared to nibble at the block on which Arsen was sitting.
felt dizzy, and became frightened at his heart beats. Suddenly he began to
laugh, stupidly, for no reason at all. As he laughed and cried interm
Laza K. Lazarevich (1851-1890)
completing his law studies at Belgrade, Lazarevich received a government
fellowship in medicine, and in 1872 began studying in Berlin. Seven years
later, having received his degree, he returned to Belgrade, where he filled
important official positions in his capacity as physician. He died in Belgrade
in 1890, probably of tuberculosis. Lazarevich is one of the most gifted and
popular of Serbian writers. His literary works were many and varied.
his many stories of the life of his native land, At the Well (first published
in 1881) is considered one of the finest. It is here published for the first
time in English. The translation is by I. Altaraz, Ph.D., to whom thanks are
due for permission to use it.
At the Well
Taense clouds of flakes, like white ghosts, are driven by the howling wind and swept in all directions until they hang like tiny white crystals on man’s whiskers and horse’s mane.—Tha