What Vasile Saw part 10

But what was it that the Son of God was bearing on his shoulders— something dark and heavy and enormously large.

His Cross! Christ too was carrying His Cross, why? oh! why..

So lightly did He come over the snow, the Cross seemed no weight for His shoulders, yet Vasile’s shoulders still remembered the weight they had borne.

The luminous Figure did not pause before the young soldier, but Vasile had a fleeting glimpse of the angelic compassion in his eyes. … Slowly the Holy One passed the spot where Vasile knelt, and going straight up to the circle of sleeping soldiers, he stepped amongst them and Vasile saw—saw with his own eyes how the Son of God cast his Cross upon the cinders and how a glorious flame shot up from them, licking the sides of the Cross till the Cross itself was as a great torch of light!

Christ had brought his own Cross, had brought it to make a fire, so that the country’s brave defenders should not die of cold!

What Vasile Saw part 9

Why war? why suffering and cold and sacrifices when life might be easy—why? why? Why a God in the Heavens… too far off? Why symbols and superstitions and prejudices that had no clear meaning, no real use? Why hatred between nations? Why death and abominations of all sorts? Why? Why? The wind raged around him.…Read More

What Vasile Saw part 8

Others rose to examine the longed-for wood Vasile had brought and exclamations of all kinds arose.

The prisoners raised their heads and stared with sullen eyes at those who were talking. But Vasile was dumb. Overcome by fatigue, he sank down into the snow.

“A cross!” cried Scurtu. “How dare he bring a cross!”

“But it is wood and we are cold,” hazarded someone.

“That may be as it may be, but we cannot burn a cross!”

“It were sacrilege!”

“God would curse us!”

“And the dead also!”

“Yet we are cold and the dead are dead. …”

“What good to the dead if we freeze?”

“We have our country to defend!”

“There are so many dead without crosses!”

“For shame! Who dares burn a cross!”

Thus did exclamations fly from all tongues at once. Only Vasile and the prisoners were silent. Shame, weariness and a dull feeling of resent-

What Vasile Saw part 7

With a rapid movement Vasile seized the first cross and tried to pull it from the frozen ground. … The cross resisted—resisted like a tree with roots deep down in the ground, resisted like a living creature defending a sacred spot. But Vasile’s blood was up—the resistance he met with awoke the instinct of strife that lies dormant in each man. The stubborn cross became an opponent he had to overcome.

The strangest of struggles then ensued upon that forsaken plain—the wind howling like furies let loose whilst the young man wrestled with the wooden cross! The inert symbol offered a resistance that was ajmost human, and the youth fought desperately as though he had an enemy to throw.

The light of battle still in his eyes, Vasile lay awhile gasping; each time he drew in his breath, it was like a sob he could not hold back. The wind howled around him, whipping up crystals of frozen snow into his face.

But he had won! The cross had been uprooted; h

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