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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Sewing-Party at Altinovo
By Ivan Vazov (1850–1921)
 
From ‘Under the Yoke’

OGNIANOFF now turned back towards Altinovo, a village which lay in the western corner of the valley. It was a two-hours’ journey; but his horse was exhausted and the road was bad, so that he only just reached the village before dark, pursued right up to the outskirts by the famished howls of the wolves.  1
  He entered by the Bulgarian quarter (the village was a mixed one, containing both Turks and Bulgarians), and soon stopped before old Tsanko’s door.  2
  Tsanko was a native of Klissoura, but had long ago taken up his abode in the village. He was a simple, kindly peasant, and a warm patriot. The apostles often slept at his house. He received Ognianoff with open arms.  3
  “It is a piece of luck, your coming to me. We’ve got a sewing-party on to-night—you can have a good look at our girls. You won’t find the time heavy on your hands, I’ll be bound,” said Tsanko with a smile, as he showed the way in.  4
  Ognianoff hastened to tell him that he was being pursued, and for what reason.  5
  “Yes, yes, I know all about it,” said Tsanko: “you don’t suppose just because our village is a bit out of the way, that we know nothing of what goes on outside?”  6
  “But shan’t I be putting you out?”  7
  “Don’t you mind, I tell you. You must look out among the girls to-night for one to carry the flag,” laughed Tsanko; “there—you can see them all from this window, like a king.”  8
  Ognianoff was in a small dark closet, the window of which, covered with wooden trellis-work, looked on to the large common room: here the sewing-party was already assembling. It was a meeting of the principal girls of the village; the object being to assist in making the trousseau for Tsanko’s daughter Donka. The fire burned brightly and lighted up the walls, which boasted no ornament save a print of St. Ivan of Rilo, and the bright glazed dishes on the shelves. The furniture—as in most well-to-do villagers’ houses—consisted of a water-butt, a wardrobe, a shelf, and the great cupboard which contained all Tsanko’s household goods. All the guests, both male and female, were seated on the floor, which was covered with skins and carpets. Besides the light of the fire there were also two petroleum lamps burning—a special luxury in honor of the occasion.  9
  It was long since Ognianoff had been present at a gathering of this kind,—a curious custom sanctioned by antiquity. From his dark recess he watched with interest the simple scenes of the still primitive village life. The door opened, and Tsanko’s wife came to him: she was a buxom and talkative dame, also from Klissoura. She sat down by Ognianoff’s side, and began to point out to him the most remarkable girls present, with the necessary details.  10
  “Do you see that fat rosy-cheeked girl there? That’s Staïka Chonina. See what a sad, sad look Ivan Kill-the-Bear gives her now and again. He barks for her like a sheep-dog when he wants to make her laugh. She’s very industrious, quick-witted, and cleanly. Only she ought to marry at once, poor girl,—she’s getting so fat: she’ll be thinner after marriage. It’s just the opposite of your town girls. The girl to the left of her is Tsvéta Prodanova: she is in love with the lad over there with his mustache sticking out like a skewer. She’s a lively one for you—see her eyes in every corner of the room at once; but she’s a good girl. That’s Draganoff’s Tsvéta by her side; and next to her Raïka, the Pope’s daughter. I’d rather have those two than twenty of your fine ladies from Philippopolis. Do you see their white throats, just like ducks? Why, I once caught my Tsanko saying he’d give his vineyard at Mal Tepe, just to be allowed to kiss one of them on the chin! Didn’t I just box his ears for him, the vagabond! Do you see that girl to the right of fat Staïka? That’s Kara Velio’s daughter: she’s a great swell; five young fellows have already been after her, but her father wouldn’t have anything to say to them. He’s keeping her for somebody, the old weasel—you know he looks just like a weasel. Ivan Nedelioff’ll have her, or I’ll bite my tongue out. There’s Rada Milkina: she sings like the nightingale on our plum-tree—but she’s a lazybones, between ourselves. I’d rather have Dimka Todorova, standing over there by the shelf: there’s a blooming rose for you! If I was a bachelor I’d propose to her at once. Why don’t you take her yourself? That’s the Péëffs’ girl standing by our Donka. She’s a pretty girl, and industrious into the bargain—so they say she’s as good as our Donka. She’s got a sweet voice, like Rada Milkina, and laughs like a swallow twittering: you listen to her.”  11
  As she stood there by Boïcho in the dark, she reminded him of the scene in the ‘Divina Commedia’ where Beatrice, at the gate of hell, points out to Dante one by one the condemned, and tells him their history.  12
  Ognianoff listened more or less attentively: he was entirely absorbed by the picture, and cared little for the explanations. The bolder among the girls jested with the lads, flirted with them archly, and laughed merrily the while. They were answered by the deep guffaws of the youths, who looked shyly across at the weaker sex. Jests, taunts, and chaff followed in one continual flow: loud laughter was called forth by jokes with a double meaning, which sometimes brought the hot blush to the girls’ cheeks. Tsanko alone took no part in the merry-making. His wife was busy with the stew-pan, where the supper was preparing. As for Donka, she couldn’t stay still for a moment.  13
  “Come, you’ve chaffed each other enough now: suppose you give us a song,” cried the housewife, as she left Boïcho and returned to her saucepans on the fire. “Now then, Rada, Stanka, sing something and put the young men to shame. Young men are not worth a brass button nowadays: they can’t sing.”  14
  Rada and Stanka did not wait to be asked twice. They at once began a song, which was taken up by all those girls who could sing; these at once formed into two choruses: the first sang one verse, and then waited while the second repeated it. The better singers were in the first choir, the others repeating the verse in a lower key.  15
  The following are the words of the song they sang:—
  “Well-a-day! the youthful couple; well-a-day! they fell in love;
Well-a-day! in love they’d fallen; well-a-day! from earliest youth.
Well-a-day! they met each other; well-a-day! last night they met.
Well-a-day! all in the darkness; well-a-day! just down the street.
Well-a-day! the silver moonlight; well-a-day! shone down on them.
Well-a-day! the stars were twinkling; well-a-day! within the sky.
Yet, well-a-day! the youthful couple; well-a-day! they’re sitting still.
Well-a-day! yes, still they’re sitting; well-a-day! in loving talk.
Well-a-day! her jug of water; well-a-day! it’s frozen hard.
Well-a-day! his oaken cudgel; well-a-day! how long it’s grown.
But, well-a-day! the youthful couple; well-a-day! they’re sitting yet!”
  16
  When the song came to an end, the youths were loud in applause: it appealed to every one of them; its pleasing refrain brought up memories of past experience. As for Ivan Kill-the-Bear, he was devouring Staïka Chonina with his eyes: he was deeply in love with her.  17
  “That’s the kind of song to sing over again—ay, and to act all day long!” he cried in his deep bass voice.  18
  All the girls laughed, and many an arch look was cast at Kill-the-Bear.  19
  He was a perfect mountain of a man, of gigantic stature and herculean strength, with a big, bony face, but not over bright. However, he was great at singing; that is to say, his voice corresponded with his size. He now became cross, and withdrew silently behind the girls, where he suddenly barked like an old sheep-dog. The girls started in terror at first, and then laughed at him, and the bolder ones among them began to tease him: one of them sang, mockingly:—
  “Ivan, you bright-hued turtle-dove,
Ivan, you slender poplar.”
  20
  Staïka added:—
  “Ivan, you shaggy old she-bear,
Ivan, you lanky clothes-prop!”
  21
  More giggling and laughter followed. Ivan became furious. He stared in dumb bewilderment at the rosy-cheeked Staïka Chonina, who mocked so unkindly her fervent adorer; he opened a mouth like a boa-constrictor’s, and roared out:—
  “Said Peïka’s aunt one day to her,—
‘Why, Peïka girl, why, Peïka girl,
The people freely talk of you!
The people, all the neighbors, say
That you’ve become so fat and full,
That you’re so plump and fleshy now,
All through your uncle’s shepherd lad.’—
‘O aunty dear, O darling aunt,
Let people freely talk of me!
Let people, all the neighbors, say
That if I’m fat and fleshy now,
If I’ve become so plump and full,
It’s from my father’s wheaten bread,
My father’s white and wheaten bread;
For while I knead it in the trough,
A basket-full of grapes I pluck,
And drink a jar of red, red wine.’”
  22
  Staïka blushed at this bitter innuendo: her red cheeks became as fiery as if she had dyed them in cochineal. The spiteful giggles of the other girls pierced her to the heart. Some with assumed simplicity asked:—  23
  “Why, how ever can one pick grapes and drink wine at the same time? The song must be all wrong.”  24
  “Why, of course, either the song’s wrong or else the girl’s wrong,” answered another.  25
  This cutting criticism still further enraged Staïka. She threw a crushing look at the triumphant Ivan, and sang in a voice that quivered with rage:—
  “‘O Peïka, brighter than the poppy,
Is all your needlework so fine,
And all my many, many visits,
Are all of these to be in vain?
Come, Peïka, won’t you have me, dear?’—
‘Why, Yonko, why, you filthy drudge,
Could Peïka ever fall in love
With such a swineherd as yourself?
A swineherd and a cattle drover—
Some wealthy farmer’s filthy drudge?
She’d put you down before the door,
The little door behind the house;
That when she passes in and out
To fetch the calves and heifers in,
If she should chance to soil her shoes,
She’d wipe them clean upon your back.’”
  26
  It was a crushing repartee to a savage attack.  27
  Staïka now looked proudly round her. Her shaft had struck home. Ivan Kill-the-Bear stood motionless, as if transfixed, with staring eyes. A loud peal of laughter greeted his discomfiture. The whole party was gazing curiously at him. Tears started to his eyes from very shame and wounded vanity. The spectators laughed still louder. The mistress of the house became angry.  28
  “What’s the meaning of all this, girls? Is this the way to behave with the lads, instead of being kind and pleasant to one another, as you ought to? Staïka—Ivan—you ought to be cooing together like a pair of turtle-doves.”  29
  “It’s only lovers who quarrel,” said Tsanko in a conciliatory tone.  30
  Ivan Kill-the-Bear rose and went out angrily, as if to protest against these words.  31
  “Like loves like,” averred Neda Liagovitcha.  32
  “Well, Neda, God loves a good laugher,” said Kono Goran, Kill-the-Bear’s cousin.  33
  “Now, boys, sing us some old haïdoud song, to put a little life into us,” said Tsanko. The lads sang in chorus:—
  “Alas for poor Stoyan, alas!
Two ambushes they laid for him,
But in the third they captured him.
The cruel ropes they’ve fastened round him—
They’ve bound his strong and manly arms.
Alas! they’ve carried poor Stoyan
To Erin’s house, the village pope,
And Rouja, a stepdaughter, too;
But Rouja sat and milked the cow
Beside the little garden gate,
While they were sweeping in the yard,
And gayly cried the sisters twain—
‘Ha! ha! Stoyan,’ they cried to him:
‘To-morrow morn they’ll hang you up
Before the palace of the king,—
You’ll dangle for the queen to see,
And all the princes and princesses.’
But Stoyan softly said to Rouja:—
‘Dear Rouja, you the pope’s stepdaughter,
It’s not my life I care about,
It’s not for the bright world I mourn,—
A brave man never weeps or mourns:
But yet, I beg you, Rouja dear,
Oh! let them put a clean shirt on me,
And let them brush and deck my hair;
That’s all I ask for, Rouja dear.
For when a man’s led out to die,
His shirt should spotless be, and white,
His hair should be arrayed and trim.’”
  34
  Ognianoff listened with secret excitement to the close of the song.  35
  “This Stoyan,” he thought, “is the very type of the legendary Bulgarian haïdoud, with his calm courage in facing death. Not a word of sorrow, of despair, or even of hope. He only wants to die looking his best. Ah! if this heroical fatalism has only passed into the Bulgarian of to-day, I shall be quite easy in mind as to the end of our struggle. That’s the struggle I seek for—that’s the strength I want: to know how to die—that’s half the battle.”  36
  Just then the kavala, or shepherd’s reed-pipes, struck up. Their sound, at first low and melancholy, swelled gradually and rose higher and higher; the eyes of the pipers flashed, their faces flushed with excitement, the clear notes rang out and filled the night with their weird mountain melody. They summoned up the spirit of the Balkan peaks and gorges, they recalled the darkness of the mountain glades, the rustling of the leaves at noon while the sheep are resting, the scent of the corn-flower, the echoes of the rocks, and the cool, sweet air of the valleys. The reed-pipe is the harp of the Bulgarian mountains and plains.  37
  All were now listening enchanted as they drank in the familiar and friendly sounds of the poetic music. Tsanko and his wife, standing with clasped hands by the fire, listened as if entranced. But the most affected of all was Ognianoff, who could scarcely keep from applauding.  38
  The brisk conversation and merry laughter soon broke out again. But Ognianoff began to listen to what was being said, for he heard his name mentioned. Petr Ovcharoff, Raïchin, Spirdonoff, Ivan Ostenoff, and a few others were talking of the coming insurrection.  39
  “I’m ready for the fun now; I’m only waiting for my revolver from Philippopolis. I’ve sent the money, 170 piastres. That’s the price of three rams,” said Petr Ovcharoff, the president of the local committee.  40
  “Yes, but we don’t know when the flag’s to be raised. Some say we shall blood our knives at the Annunciation, others at St. Gregory’s Day, and Uncle Bojil says not till the end of May,” said Spirdonoff, a handsome, well-built lad.  41
  “It’ll be somewhere about the coming of the cuckoo, when the woods are getting green; but I’m ready now,—they’ve only to give the word.”  42
  “Well, well: our Stara Planina has sheltered many a brave fellow before now; it’ll shelter us too,” said Ivan Ostenoff.  43
  “Petr, didn’t you say the teacher [Ognianoff] had killed two of them? There’s a plucky one for you.”  44
  “When’s he going to pay us a visit? I want to kiss the hand that polished them off,” asked Raïchin.  45
  “He’s got a start of us, has the teacher, but we must try and catch him up. I know something of the game myself,” answered Ivan Ostenoff.  46
  Ivan Ostenoff was a bold youth, and a good shot as well. Popular rumor ascribed the death of Deli Ahmed last year to him; and the Turks had long tried to get hold of him, but so far ineffectually.  47
  At supper Ognianoff’s health was drunk.  48
  “God grant that we may soon see him here safe and sound. Take an example from him, boys,” said Tsanko, as he swallowed his wine.  49
  “I’ll bet any one whatever he likes,” said Tsanko’s wife impatiently, “that teacher’ll be here the first thing to-morrow, like a hawk.”  50
  “What are you talking of, Boulka Tsankovitsa? Why, I’m off to K—— to-morrow,” said Raïchin regretfully. “If he comes you must keep him for Christmas, and we’ll enjoy ourselves together.”  51
  “What’s all that noise outside?” cried Tsanko, leaving his wine.  52
  In truth, men’s and women’s voices were heard making an uproar outside. Tsanko and his wife ran out. The guests rose to follow. Just then the mistress of the house rushed in, in great excitement, and cried:—  53
  “Well, that business is finished. God prosper it.”  54
  “What? What?”  55
  “Kill-the-Bear’s carried off Staïka!”  56
  Every one started with surprise at the news.  57
  “Carried her off, he has, the lad, on his shoulder, as you would a lamb on St. Gregory’s Day; now they’re at his house.”  58
  Her hearers began to laugh.  59
  “Well, what of it? That’s why he went away so early with his cousin Goran.”  60
  “He laid in wait for her by the door,” continued Boulka Tsankovitsa, “and carried her off. I’m sorry for them both. Who’d have thought it of Kill-the-Bear?”  61
  “Well, well, they’re a pretty pair,” said some one.  62
  “She’s just like a fat little Servian pig, and he’s a Hungarian bull,” laughed another.  63
  “God bless ’em both; we’ll drink cherry brandy with them to-morrow,” said Tsanko.  64
  “Yes, and I shall claim my perquisite,” said his wife. “I must have my embroidered sleeves, because the match was arranged at my house.”  65
  Soon after, all the guests left in high glee.  66
  Tsanko hastened to Ognianoff in the dark closet.  67
  “Well, Boïcho, how did you like our party?”  68
  “Oh, it was wonderful, delightful, Tsanko.”  69
  “Did you take down the words of the songs?”  70
  “How could I? There’s no light to write by.”  71
  In came Tsanko’s wife with a candle in her hand.  72
  “There’s some one knocking at the door,” said she.  73
  “That’ll be some one from Staïka, most likely. Perhaps she wants our Donka to go to her: you must send her.”  74
  But Donka came in and said that there were two zaptiés outside, brought by old Deïko, the village mayor.  75
  “The Devil take them—zaptiés, old Deïko, and all! Where am I to put the swine? They’ve not come after you,” he said to Ognianoff reassuringly, “but you’d better hide. Wife, just show the teacher where to go.”  76
  And Tsanko went out. Soon he brought in the two zaptiés, muffled up in their cloaks and drenched with snow. They were furious.  77
  “What do you mean by keeping us an hour at the door, you cuckold?” cried the first, a one-eyed zaptié as he shook the snow from his cloak.  78
  “You left us freezing outside while you were making up your mind to open,” grumbled the other, a short, stout man.  79
  Tsanko muttered some excuse.  80
  “What are you muttering about? Go and kill a chicken for us, and get some eggs fried in butter at once!”  81
  Tsanko tried to say something. The one-eyed zaptié burst out:—  82
  “None of your talk, ghiaour: go and tell your wife to get supper ready at once. Do you suppose we’re going to finish up your d—d tart-crumbs and nutshells for you?” he said with a contemptuous look at the remains of the little feast, not yet cleared up.  83
  Tsanko moved helplessly toward the door to carry out his orders. The short one called after him:—  84
  “Stop a minute: what have you done with the girls?”  85
  “They went home long ago: it’s late,” answered Tsanko, trembling all over.  86
  “Just you go and fetch them back to have supper with us and pour out our raki. What do you mean by sending them home?”  87
  Tsanko gazed at him in terror.  88
  “Where’s your daughter?”  89
  “She’s gone to bed, Aga.”  90
  “Make her get up to wait on us,” said the one-eyed zaptié, taking off his boots to dry them at the fire, while the water dripped from them, and a cloud of steam rose.  91
  The mayor just then came in and stood humbly by the door.  92
  “You infernal pig! you’ve led us round twenty houses, knocking at door after door, like beggars;—where have you hidden your—”  93
  And he called the girls by a foul epithet.  94
  The Bulgarians remained silent. They were used to this. Centuries of slavery had taught them the proverb, so degrading for humanity: “The sword does not strike the bowed head.” Tsanko only prayed Heaven that they might not molest his daughter.  95
  “Look here,” asked the one-eyed zaptié: “are you preparing for a rebellion?”  96
  Tsanko boldly denied the charge.  97
  “Well, what’s this doing here, then?” asked the short one, taking up Petr Ovcharoff’s long knife, which had been forgotten on the floor.  98
  “Oh! you’re not preparing for a rebellion, aren’t you?” asked the first, with a diabolical smile.  99
  “No, Aga, we’re peaceful subjects of his Majesty,” answered Tsanko, trying to keep calm: “the knife must have been left behind by one of the guests.”  100
  “Whose is it?”  101
  “I don’t know.”  102
  The zaptiés began examining the blade, which was engraved with letters inlaid with gold, surrounded by a fancy pattern.  103
  “What do these letters mean?” they asked Tsanko.  104
  He looked at the knife: on one side there was a wreath of flowers engraved, towards the blunt edge, containing the words “Liberty or Death”; the other side bore the owner’s name.  105
  “It’s only an ornament,” said Tsanko.  106
  The one-eyed zaptié struck him in the face with his muddy boot.  107
  “Ghiaour! Do you suppose I’m blind because I’ve got only one eye?”  108
  Tsanko’s reply had aroused their suspicions.  109
  “Mayor, just come here.”  110
  The mayor came in with a cake of bread on a brass platter, which he was bringing to be baked in Tsanko’s oven. He trembled when he saw the naked dagger in the zaptié’s hand.  111
  “Read this!”  112
  The mayor looked at it, and drew himself up in dismay.  113
  “I can’t make it out properly, Aga!”  114
  The short one took his Circassian whip. The lash hissed in the air and curled twice round the mayor’s neck. A stream of blood flowed from his cheek.  115
  “You’re all a set of traitors.”  116
  The mayor wiped away the blood silently.  117
  “Read it out, or I’ll stick the knife into your throat!” cried the zaptié The bewildered mayor saw there was no help for it: he must bow before them.  118
  “Petr Ovcharoff,” he read with assumed hesitation.  119
  “Do you know him?”  120
  “He belongs to our village.”  121
  “Is that the fellow they call Petr the shepherd?” asked the one-eyed one, who evidently knew a little Bulgarian.  122
  “Yes, Aga,” said the mayor, handing him the knife, with a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity that the terrible words on the other side had been passed over. But he went too fast.  123
  “Now see what it says on the other side,” said the zaptié.  124
  The mayor bent in abject terror over the other side. He hesitated for some time. But when he saw that the short zaptié was getting his whip ready again, he cried:—  125
  “It says ‘Liberty or Death,’ Aga.”  126
  The one-eyed zaptié started. “What! liberty, eh?” he said, smiling ominously.  127
  “Who is it who makes these knives? Where’s Petr the shepherd?”  128
  “Where should he be, Aga? At home, of course.”  129
  “Go and fetch him.”  130
  The mayor moved off.  131
  “Wait: I’ll come with you, you fool!”  132
  And the short zaptié took up his cloak and went out with him.  133
  “That’s right, Youssouf Aga: this shepherd seems a thorough brigand,” said the other.  134
  Meanwhile Tsanko passed into the kitchen, where his wife was preparing the supper, cursing the Turks as she did so: “May God destroy them—may he cut them off root and branch—may the pestilence fall on them and rot their bones—may they die of poison. To think that I should be cooking meat and butter for them just before Christmas! What brought the accursed heathen here, to terrify and destroy us?”  135
  “Donka, dear,” said Tsanko to his daughter, who stood, pale and terrified, at the door, “you’d better slip out by the back way, and go and sleep at your uncle’s.”  136
  “And what does Deïko mean by bringing them here again? It was only last week he brought us two,” murmured his wife.  137
  “What’s he to do, poor fellow?” said Tsanko. “He took them everywhere. They wanted to come here—they’d heard the songs. As it is he’s had five or six cuts of the whip.”  138
  Tsanko went back to the one-eyed zaptié.  139
  “Chorbaji, where have you been to? Just bring a little salad and some raki.”  140
  “The shepherd’s not there,” cried the short zaptié at that moment, as he returned with the mayor.  141
  “Well, we must find the rascally Komita, if we have to turn the whole village upside down,” said the one-eyed man, drinking.  142
  “What do you say to giving the old boy another taste of the stick?” asked the short one in a low voice, adding something in a whisper. His comrade winked with his only eye in assent.  143
  “Mayor, go and fetch the father here: we want to ask him something—and fill this at the same time,” said Youssouf Aga, handing him the empty raki bottle.  144
  “It’s too late for that, Aga: the shop’s shut.”  145
  The only reply was a blow in the face from the one-eyed zaptié He was naturally a little more humane than the other; but drink, or the desire for it, maddened him in a moment.  146
  A quarter of an hour afterwards old Stoïko appeared. He was about fifty years of age, with a sharp and intelligent countenance, expressive of determination and obstinacy.  147
  “Stoïko, tell me where your son is,—you know where you’ve hidden him,—or it will be the worse for you.”  148
  As the one-eyed zaptié said this, he poured out and gulped down a glass of raki. His eye flashed as he did so. Then he handed the glass to his comrade.  149
  “I don’t know where he is, Aga,” replied the old man.  150
  “You do, ghiaour; you know quite well,” cried the zaptié, enraged.  151
  The old man again repeated his denial.  152
  “You know, and you’ll tell us, or we’ll pull out your eye-teeth for you; and if you won’t say then, I’ll tie you behind my horse, and you’ll come with us to-morrow,” roared the infuriated zaptié.  153
  “You can do what you like to me—I’ve only got one life,” answered the old man firmly.  154
  “Go over there and think it over a little; then well talk to you again,” the one-eyed zaptié said with pretended gentleness. Their object was to extract a bribe from old Stoïko, to be suggested to him by the mayor. It was brigandage of the worst description, but they wished to give it the appearance of a voluntary gift: it was the system usually followed in such cases.  155
  But old Stoïko did not move.  156
  They looked at each other, astonished at his firmness, and cast ferocious glances at the old man.  157
  “Did you hear what I said, you old fool?” cried the one-eyed zaptié.  158
  “I’ve nothing to think about—let me go home,” he answered hoarsely.  159
  The zaptiés could not contain themselves.  160
  “Mayor, throw the old fool down,” cried the one-eyed ruffian, seizing his kourbash or Circassian whip.  161
  The mayor and Tsanko begged for mercy for the old man.  162
  The only reply was a kick which felled Stoïko to the ground. Then blows followed fast on his body. Old Stoïko groaned heavily for some time, then became silent: he had fainted; his forehead was drenched with a cold sweat,—he was worn out by his day’s work.  163
  They undressed him to bring him to his senses.  164
  “When he comes to himself, let me know;—I’ll make him speak.”  165
  “For God’s sake, Hajji Aga, I entreat you, have pity on the poor old man! He can’t stand any more pain,—he’ll die,” said Tsanko entreatingly.  166
  “Long live the Sultan, you rebel!” cried the short zaptié in a passion. “You deserve to be hanged yourself for harboring rebels in your house; you’re very likely hiding the shepherd here somewhere. Let’s search the house!”  167
  Tsanko’s face fell involuntarily. Although frenzied with drink, the one-eyed zaptié saw his confusion. He turned at once to the short one:—  168
  “Youssouf Aga, there’s something wrong here—let’s search the ghiaour’s house.” And he arose.  169
  “At your service,” said Tsanko hoarsely, showing the way with a lantern.  170
  He led them all over the house, leaving the closet to the last. Finally he lighted them there too. In the blackened ceiling there was a trap-door which led to the rafters, and so outside on to the roof. When it was closed it could not be noticed. Tsanko knew that Ognianoff had climbed up through it to the rafters and replaced the cover. So he led the Turks in with the utmost confidence.  171
  His first glance was towards the ceiling. What was his surprise to find the trap-door open!  172
  Tsanko remained petrified where he stood. The Turks searched the closet.  173
  “Where does that opening lead to?”  174
  “To the rafters,” muttered Tsanko. His legs trembled under him, and he had to cling to the wall for support.  175
  The short zaptié noticed his terror.  176
  “Just give a light here while I get up, will you?” he said; but a sudden thought crossed his mind, and he called to his comrade:—  177
  “Hassan Aga, you’re taller than I am: get on the mayor’s back.”  178
  Hassan Aga knew no fear when he had got his skinful; drink made a hero of him. He at once climbed up over the mayor’s shoulders.  179
  “Now then, bring the light, confound you!”  180
  Tsanko, white as a sheet, handed him the light mechanically.  181
  The zaptié first held the lantern in front of him, then put his head within the opening. From the motion of his body one could see he was searching with the light on every side.  182
  At last he reappeared, jumped down, and said:—  183
  “Who is it you’ve been hiding there?”  184
  Tsanko looked blankly at him. He did not know what answer to give. He had suffered so much that evening that he had almost lost his senses; his thoughts became confused. The question was repeated: he stammered out some meaningless reply.  185
  “The rebel will give a proper answer at Klissoura. There’s a better prison there; he can stop here for the night.”  186
  And the zaptiés locked him up in the dark and chilly closet.  187
  Tsanko was so overwhelmed with terror and confusion that it was some minutes before he could collect his thoughts. He clasped his head with both hands, as if to retain his presence of mind. He was lacking in determination, and suffering had at once crushed him. He sobbed and groaned in despair.  188
  There was a knock at the door, and Deïko’s voice was heard:—  189
  “What are you going to do now, Tsanko?”  190
  “I don’t know, Deïko. Tell me what’s best.”  191
  “Come, you know the Turks’ weakness. You must give them something; it’s the only way to get out of it: else they’ll drag you from one court-house to another till you’re utterly ruined. Poor old Stoïko could have spared himself this with a trifle. Give, Tsanko! give ’em your white silver to keep off black sorrow.”  192
  His wife came too, weeping bitterly:—  193
  “Let’s give them what we can! Never mind, Tsanko: it’s the only way to get out of the murderers’ hands. They’ve killed poor old Stoïko. Dear, dear! to think I should live to see it.”  194
  “But what are we to give, wife? You know we haven’t any money.”  195
  “Let’s give the necklace!”  196
  “What! Donka’s necklace, with the coins?”  197
  “Yes, yes! it’s all we have,—it’s the only way to get rid of them. Why, they’re asking for Donka now—the cursed brutes!”  198
  “Do what God thinks best, wife. I’m all in a muddle,” muttered Tsanko from his prison.  199
  His wife and Deïko went away.  200
  Soon after, a light shone through the chinks in the boards of the closet, and the door was unlocked.  201
  “Come out, Tsanko: you’re free,” said Deïko. “The Agas were good fellows after all. They’ve given you back the knife as well; so there’s no cause for fear. You’ve got off cheap.”  202
  And bending to his ear, he whispered low:—  203
  “It can’t last much longer: either they’ll finish us off, or we must them. This life can’t go on like this.”  204
 
 
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