What Vasile Saw part 6

Vasile crossed himself instinctively, murmuring under his breath a prayer for the dead. He stood gazing in a dazed way at those three melancholy effigies, vaguely wondering the end of whose road they marked. Were they soldiers’ graves? or the graves of women? or perhaps of little children… of little children who had died of hunger and frost? Since the war so many children had died of hunger and frost.

Then with a start Vasile realized that the crosses were made of wood .. .of heavy wood! Had he not been sent out into the night to find wood ?

As one who stares at an unexpectedly discovered treasure upon which he dare not lay hand, Vasile remained standing before the three crosses, fascinated by the wood, yet not daring to touch them and at the same time unwilling to move on.

Sleep so profoundly

A terrible temptation rose within him: why not tear up one of those crosses and carry it off to feed the dying fire he had left! After all the de

What Vasile Saw part 5

“Wood—wood! I was to find wood,” he grumbled. “Where in this damned desert is there any wood I wonder! My God, what a night!

The wind cuts like a whip and the snow it drives into my face pricks like pine-needles,—but where in the devil am I to find wood!”

Vasile stood still slapping his sides with his numbed hands. In his aimless wanderings he had not stuck to the road; he had just blindly tramped into the night. He could not see much, but here and there were darker patches in the snow where its covering was thin; shapeless mounds that might be anything, a heap of stones, a dead horse, a rotting pile of straw—in the uncanny solitude of the night they might also have a more sinister meaning—anything was possible in time of war.

Clear voice took

Vasile shuddered, and again the vision of the peaceful village rose before him: once more he saw the pyramids of orange pumpkins and from behind some hedge a girl’s clear voice took

What Vasile Saw part 4

Vasile shrugged his shoulders. “As you will,” he said, slinging his gun upon his back and without further protest set out, wading with stiff movements through the deep uneven snow, little caring which way he went, for verily where could he find fuel?… it was night… the plain was bare… there were no huts anywhere, no trees, no enclosures, nothing… not even an old wooden well… what could he find?… Stumbling and resigned, Vasile tramped into the night’s immensity.

As he trudged along in the dark Vasile had many thoughts, confused thoughts, but thoughts nevertheless, and even visions, happy visions that had nothing to do with either winter or war.

He saw a fruitful valley through which ran a long, long dusty road leading to a village half hidden amongst fruit-trees. It was the hour of sunset and a herd of oxen was returning along the road guarded by a youth who sauntered behind them, a green switch in his hand. The youth was whistling a melancholy p

What Vasile Saw part 3

A gust of wind whirled up a great wave of snow and each man turned so as to meet the onslaught with his back.

“A night for wolves,” said one.

“A night for the devil,” said another.

“A night for the dead,” said a third.

“Vasile, we shall freeze if we find no wood,” said Scurtu again.

“Where can one find wood in this desert?” answered Vasile still using his gun as a shepherd’s staff.

“Thy legs are young,” began Petre Pasca, “and, after all, the night is not so very dark. …”

“Not so very dark because of the snow,” said someone from the other side of the cinders.

“It is the devil’s night,” repeated one of the men with a groan.

“Vasile, thy legs are young…” persisted Petre Pasca, and old Scurtu who had been struggling to light a cigarette, looked up.

“Aye, aye, thy legs are young, why not search for some wood?”

“I am here to g

What Vasile Saw part 2

Their burly guardians paid little attention to them; in short sentences which the wind seemed to rend, they were talking to their only young companion who stood leaning on his gun as in summer shepherds lean upon their staffs.

Quite a boy he was, eighteen or nineteen perhaps. He was staring into the night with a dreamy expression in his large green eyes. The snowflakes whirled about him, settling in layers upon the fur of his cap, catching even on to his eyelashes that were long and extraordinarily strong; this made him pass his hand occasionally over his face.

“Vasile, the fire is going out!” growled one of the elder men. “Before this damned night is over, we shall all die of cold!”

“We ought not to have lost our way,” grumbled one of the others.

“We did not do so on purpose,” said the first again, a certain Andrei Scurtu, leader of the small detachment in charge of the prisoners. His temper was as short as his name and the ot

What Vasile Saw part 1

Marie, Queen of Roumania (1875-1935)

JUST as one never thinks of Conrad as anything but an English writer, so one considers Queen Marie as Roumanian. She became, at the age of fifteen, the wife of the future King Ferdinand. Her work shows that she soon learnt the secrets of her adopted country, and that she won the hearts of the Roumanian peasantry. Her stories constitute the autobiography of a rich mind developed by contact with a country still by no means exploited for literary purposes.

This story was written in English, and was originally reprinted by permission of the author.

What Vasile Saw

It was night.

A gusty wind swept over the plain; the cold was intense. Very far above, the stars shone quite small as though they had withdrawn as far as possible from the cold upon earth, but the thick snow that covered the fields so white that it radiated a faint light over the ground. Frofn time to time the wind stirred the sleeping s

The Father part 2

Eight years more rolled by, and then one day a noise was heard outside of the priest’s study, for many men were approaching, and at their head was Thord, who entered first.

The priest looked up and recognized him.

“You come well attended this evening, Thord,” said he.

“I am here to request that the banns may be published for my son; he is about to marry Karen Storliden, daughter of Gudmund, who stands here beside me.”

“Why, that is the richest girl in the parish.”

“ So they say,” replied the peasant, stroking back his hair with one hand.

The priest sat a while as if in deep thought, then entered the names in his book, without making any comments, and the men wrote their signatures underneath. Thord laid three dollars on the table.

“One is all I am to have,” said the priest.

“I know that very well; but he is my only child, I want to do it handsomely.”

The priest took th

The Father part 1

Bjornstjerne Bjornson (1832-1910)

Bjornson was one of the founders of modern Norwegian literature and as dramatist, poet, novelist, moralist and politician he was a leader of his people. His novel, Synnove Solbakken, one of his earliest works, appeared in 1857. Among his numerous and varied later writings his short tales are not the least interesting. The Father is a masterpiece in brief.

The present version was translated by R. B. Anderson and published in the volume The Bridal March, Boston, 1881.

The Father

The man whose story is here to be told was the wealthiest and most influential person in his parish; his name was Thord Overaas. He appeared in the priest’s study one day, tall and earnest.

“I have gotten a son,” said he, “and I wish to present him for baptism.”

“What shall his name be?”

“Finn—after my father.”

“And the sponsors?”

They were mentioned, and prove

The Smith who could not get into Hell part 5

“Oh, ouch, oh!” shrieked the devil. “Oh, please let me out, and I’ll promise faithfully never to come back again.”

“Well, now, I guess the joints are pretty well soldered,” said the smith, “so I’ll let you out.”

So the smith opened the purse, and the devil jumped out and rushed off in such a hurry, he did not even dare to look back.

As the smith thought over the whole matter, he thought he had made a mistake in falling out with the devil. “For if I don’t get into heaven,” he said to himself, “I might be without lodgings, since I’m on bad terms with the fellow who rules in hell.”

He decided he might as well try now as later to see whether he could get into either heaven or hell; then he would know what was in store for him. So he shouldered his hammer and started off.

When he had gone quite a bit, he came to the crossroads where they branched off to heaven and hell, and there he met a tailor’s apprent

The Smith who could not get into Hell part 4

“Thanks,” said the devil, sitting down in the armchair. But no sooner was he seated than the smith told him that, as he looked his work over, he was afraid it would take him at least four years to sharpen the nail and that the devil would have to sit there while he worked.

Fault of the iron

At first the devil begged him politely to let him out of the chair, but then he got angry and began to threaten him. The smith kept making all kinds of excuses, saying it was the fault of the iron which was hard as the deuce, and he tried to console the devil by telling him how comfortable he was in the armchair and that he would certainly let him out in four years on the stroke of the clock.

At last the devil saw there was nothing for it but to promise that he would not come for the smith till the four years were over.

“Well, then, you can get up,” said the smith, and the devil hustled off as fast as ever he could.

In four years he cam