At the Well

At the Well – Laza K. Lazarevich (1851-1890)

After 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. 

Of 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.—That’s what I always say: If there aren’t any flies to bother you, there is frost. Feet are frozen, eyes water. Not even brandy has the power to warm one’s he-Sand you look about for a hospitable home to offer you welcome.

Well, by God, I know where I’m going! I’ll go to Mathias Jenadich, over yonder, where a jug of brandy hangs at all times on the plum tree in front of his house. Whoso passes by may drink.—So Mathias likes it. Should you happen to cross his threshold, his entire family will treat you like a lord. There is no use talking about it; one has to see it with one s own eyes. What a home! What a communal family—a whole army of people! Come some evening when they expect you, and one of the daughters-in-law will be sure to meet you on the road with a torch in her hand. The second will wait in the orchard, a third in front of the stable, a fourth will chase the dogs, a fifth will welcome you into the kitchen, and a sixth will lead you into the sitting room—just like a wedding, indeed! Everybody is jolly, modest, satisfied. Heaven help you should you start a fight with anyone in that home. There are six sons always ready like soldiers. One of them is a real soldier, serving the flag in Belgrade.

Proud of Arsen

There is no need for harvesters or any other help; they themselves can furnish plenty of hands. The plows are in constant use; and when pork dealers come to examine the hogs, Mathias may well be proud of Arsen when he was only a young fellow. He would sit in front of Burmas’ house and play on his shepherd’s flute. For Burmese naughtier. And what a .wench! People say if she looked at one with her fiery eyes one was apt to be burned. But Arsen became accustomed to her eyes. With his left arm on the gate, he said to her: “I am ashamed., speak to father, and afraid to approach grandfather.

At the Well Part 7

Onthe threshold, through the faint light of the early dawn, he noticed a humanfigure.

“Whoare you, there?”

“Itis me, grandpa, Anoka! I want to die. Forgive me, if you can.` Grandpa stopped,swayed, and almost fell.

“Mychild, it is sinful to talk like that. Look at my hair, not even the sheep`swool is whiter.”

Anokagrasped the hem of his cloak which hung down from his shoulders, and kissed it.

“Ihave sinned awfully. I destroyed the harmony of your home. For-give me, forGod`s sake!”

Nothingeasier than to make an old man cry. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He took herhead in both his hands and kissed her.

“Comein.”

Shefollowed him into the room.

“Sitdown there.”

Shesat on a stool, and grandpa on the edge of the bed. 

“Shellsome of these beans.”

Remained silent

She did so. Grandpa looked at her with joy. Bo

At the Well Part 6

Slumberover there. Do you want to be punished by God? She said to Petriya.

Themoon was overhead. Everything was so quiet. Anoka`s heart was breaking andsomething was slowly dying within her.

Shecouldn`t go on like this any longer, but what was to be done? Should she returnto her father—what could she tell him?—“Grandpa has ordered everybody to obeymy will.” No, she couldn`t say anything like this. And then, this terriblenight will also have its end, and soon the dawn will break and the sun willshine 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!

Thethoughts played a wild dance in her head, crossing, mingling and intermingling.      

Shefelt very tired. Passions, love, hatred, hunger and thirst all disappeared. Hereyelids were heavy like lead, and still they would not close. She felt so

At the Well Part 5

Thesame 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 thekitchen. Two or three women were serving at the table.

Itwas Anoka`s turn to serve.

Twoother women walked in and out with dishes and food. Anoka leaned against thedoor and made faces.

Grandpagave her a terrific look. All were speechless. Radoyka felt all the bloodrushing to her head. Anoka did not even notice it!

Aftersupper everybody made a sign of the cross, waiting for grand-pa`s sign forleaving 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.

Shewas on pins and needles, dropped her arms, stretched her strong and beautifulbody, and moved to leave the room.

“Wait,my daughter,” said

At the Well Part 4

Anoka`sfury grew day by day and she invented all kinds of tricks with which to teasethe people in the house. She would chase the dogs into the kitchen, and wouldallow them to eat up the meat in the pot. She would open the faucets of thekegs in the cellar, so the wine would flow out. The bread in the oven alwaysburned if she was to watch it. On working days, for instance, she would put onholiday attire. It became worse and worse. The women couldn`t stand it anylonger. Once, when it was Anoka`s turn to be the redara (housekeeper) she lefthome and went to the fair. Then the sisters-in-law gathered secretly.

“Idon`t know, dear sisters, what great wrong we have committed that we shouldhave to suffer so much.”

“Neitherdo I know.”

“That`sa great punishment and a great misfortune.”

“Godalone can help us.”

“No,it cannot go on like this any more.”

“Letus talk to grandma, and she will tak

At the Well Part 3

Grandfather`soldest 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 thehouse intentionally, to give the children a chance to play to their heart`sdesire, the women to talk as much as they might please and the men to smokefreely. The moment, however, one of the “big three” steps into the house, everyone becomes quiet and busy.

Grandpa,being an old man, would frequently behave like a child. At times he would losehis temper for the least trifle, then he would rage, scold, and, in hisexcitement, strike at the nearest one. Again, he would be gentle, generous,play with the youngsters, give them coppers. Then again, for no reason in theworld, he would begin to cry: “I am left alone in this world like a witheredtree on a mountain.”

Youthhas its frivolity, old age its senility.

Theday following Arsen`s adventure, Blagoye came to Radoyka

At the Well Part 2

Thatevening Arsen came home in a melancholy mood. Contrary to his habit, he firstwent into the wine cellar and took a stiff drink, the first time he had everdone so. He returned to the yard, sat down on a block of wood where he remainedlong after dark, absorbed by nocturnal sounds. In the kitchen on the hearth,flaming tongues shot out and licked the iron cauldron suspended by chains fromthe ceiling. A newly discovered fire was burning in Arsen`s heart. In thesurrounding darkness he discerned human forms, dogs crossing the yard, oxenreturning from pasture; he heard the trampling of horses in their stalls; herecognized his brother Nenad returning from the city. A hen jumped from themulberry tree, looked round sleepily, and flew to another branch. Already amouse dared to nibble at the block on which Arsen was sitting.

Hefelt dizzy, and became frightened at his heart beats. Suddenly he began tolaugh, stupidly, for no reason at all. As he laughed and cried interm

At the Well Part 1

Laza K. Lazarevich (1851-1890)

Aftercompleting his law studies at Belgrade, Lazarevich received a governmentfellowship in medicine, and in 1872 began studying in Berlin. Seven yearslater, having received his degree, he returned to Belgrade, where he filledimportant official positions in his capacity as physician. He died in Belgradein 1890, probably of tuberculosis. Lazarevich is one of the most gifted andpopular of Serbian writers. His literary works were many and varied. 

Ofhis many stories of the life of his native land, At the Well (first publishedin 1881) is considered one of the finest. It is here published for the firsttime in English. The translation is by I. Altaraz, Ph.D., to whom thanks aredue 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