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.
I couldn`t do it even if I knew you never would be mine.”
Anoka was not bashful. She looked cunningly at him, leaned a little over the gate and concealing her anger, said: “Well, then, don’t do it.
I shall marry Philip Marichich.”
“Do you think I would let you marry anyone but me? Anyone daring to touch you would not be sure of his life.”
Anoka, like a spoiled child, stamped her foot, flashed her eyes at him and retorted: “Would you rather see me knitting my life away like a spinster? You don’t say!”
Arsen heard no more. Coming nearer, he snatched her wrist and drew her to him. Her determined protests grew weaker. She thrilled at the touch of a man’s arm encircling her waist. She would have been a less willful girl if old Burmas had not spoiled her. What could her father have done? Some years ago the plague had taken his other children, so that now he guarded Anoka as one would some precious drops of water.