The Commissioner’s Christmas part 6

“Guess we, too, have to turn into moor-hens ’and wade out,” said Ondra thoughtfully, “or else—”

“Oh, you idiot! Just wait till we get out of this! I’ll break every bone in your body! We’ll drown here like rats! You ass!”

“No, we won’t drown, Mr. Commissioner, we won’t drown, don’t be afraid. In this darkness anyone would miss the way. Just be calm,” said Ondra, and began to examine the harness. Then he proceeded to buckle and unbuckle various straps, swearing loudly, tying, untying, cursing incessantly. Finally he resumed his place on the driver’s seat, swung his whip and shouted, “Vyee, there! Go on!”

The horses pulled and went forward. Suddenly one of them slipped loose from the shaft and staggered ahead in the mire, free of the har-ness. The other horse stood still with the coach.

“Ho, you! What’s happened now?” shrieked the commissioner.

“Stop, you! Dorcha, Dorcha!” called Ondra to th

The Commissioner’s Christmas part 5

“Whip ’em up! Hurry up! You lazybones! We’ll freeze to death!” shrieked the furious commissioner.

Ondra indifferently shouted to the horses and drowsily swung his whip over their heads, but as before they wearily, inertly dragged on the coach as if they had heard nothing at all.

Ondra was thinking of the miserable Stanoycho whose rye the com-missioner was going to confiscate early next morning.

“It was you brought me this misfortune, Ondra,” Stanoycho would say to him, and when he’d be through blaming him, he’d ask Ondra, to join his family in their meal, and then he’d weep. Yes, he would surely weep. Stanoycho’s heart was soft. Ondra knew that.

He must help the poor fellow, contrive to tell him to hide his rye overnight and sweep the granary clean, or else all the coming year he’d be stretching his lean ears in hunger. Yes, he must do something!

Nothing was distinguishable but mud—-deep, thick mud. The road l

The Commissioner’s Christmas part 4

“Stop your silly chatter and get along. It’s getting dark, and I’ve got to get back to celebrate Christmas with my family. You charge too much, you imp! Three leu for twenty kilometers! You surely know how to skin us. Hurry up, will you: drive faster or those jades of yours will go to sleep!”

“Vyee, there! Vyee, sirs!” shouted Ondra, swinging his whip in the air.

“Sirs, you call them? Sirs! Better call them ‘brothers,’ ” commented the commissioner in a rage.

“They’d resent that, Mr. Commissioner! I’d insult ’em if I didn’t call ’em sirs. Why, they’re regular gentlemen! Their service is official: they run on a regular schedule. In the morning they get up; at a certain hour we water them and give them their feed. Then we harness them up, they go, you might say, to their offices: they pull till evening. Have supper at a regular hour, drink water, ‘read the news,’ so to speak, and —sleep. Regular official life!”

The Commissioner’s Christmas part 3

The small coach slowly wallowed through the deep soft mud, wading in, wading out, twisting and turning. A loose board on the side of it constantly, monotonously, dismally and senselessly rattled and banged mercilessly on the nerves of the corpulent gentleman in the fur coat. Finally, losing all patience, he opened his collar, thrust out his fat face, and shouted: “What is that horrible rattle? Devil take it!”

“It’s only a loose clapboard, sir. It bangs away like a learned man : no sense to its rattle at all!”

“You’re clever, Ondra, very clever! You know how to fool the young girls, I’ll bet. You fellows marry young and have pretty wives.”

The gentleman thrust back the tall collar of his fur coat in his attempt at jocularity.

“Say what you will, the married women are better! I know it! And you, sir, have an errand in our village, I take it?”

“I’m the court commissioner.”

Ondra turned round and ins

The Commissioner’s Christmas part 2

The country lad shouted once more to his horses, settled himself more comfortably on the box, slapped his wet cap on his thick cape and, in a carefree voice, started up a gay tune.

“What’s your name, boy?” inquired a fat man bundled up in a wolf-skin coat, who’ sat inside the coach.

The lad continued his song.

“Ho, boy!” cried the man in a loud, harsh voice.

“What?” The boy turned around.

“Name! Your name? What’s your name?”

“Ondra.”

“Ah, ah, Ondra. Clever lady, you are! All of you have become clever. Sly, you country bumpkins. You only know how to lie and deceive. And how you do put on! I watch ’em at court. Sheep—little lambkins—of innocence—but really regular wolves! They play with the judges!”

“We`re just simple folk, sir, and they only slander us. You just think so, but we’re really not bad like that. Our peasant people deceive only out of ignorance. Ign

The Commissioner’s Christmas part 1

Bulgaria

Introduction

Bulgarian literature is still in its infancy. The first Bulgarian grammar was published in 1835. This was the work of the monk Neophyt Rilski (1793—1881) who was responsible for the opening of some of the first schools in Bulgaria. Among the writers of this earlier period were George Rakowski (1818—1867), whose patriotic works stimulated the national zeal, Christo Boteff (1847—1876) and Petko Slaveikoff (died 1895), whose poems molded the modern poetical language and exercised a great influence over the people.

One of the most distinguished men of letters is Ivan Vazoff (born 1850), whose poetry and prose are distinguished for their literary finish. Dimitr Ivanov (born 1878) is one of the younger writers who has displayed rare qualities in several volumes of short stories. Under the penname of Elin-Pelin he is well known to all readers of the Bulgarian language. It is to Ivanov that especial credit is due for describing t

The Vampire part 4

Finally after several hours, when the distance was becoming over-spread with a darker violet, so magically beautiful in the south, the mother reminded us it was time to depart. We arose and walked down towards the hotel with the easy, elastic steps that characterize carefree children. We sat down in the hotel under the handsome veranda.

Hardly had we been seated when we heard below the sounds of quarreling and oaths. Our Greek was wrangling with the hotel- keeper, and for the entertainment of it we listened.

The amusement did not last long. “If I didn’t have other guests,” growled the hotel-keeper and ascended the steps towards us.

“I beg you to tell me, sir,” asked the young Pole of the approaching hotel-keeper, “who is that gentleman? What’s his name?”

“Eh—who knows what the fellow’s name is?” grumbled the hotel- keeper, and he gazed venomously downwards. “We call him the Vam-pire.”

“An artist?”

The Vampire part 3

The Sea of Marmora was but slightly ruffled and played in all colors like a sparkling opal. In the distance the sea was as white as milk, then rosy, between the two islands a glowing orange and below us it was beautifully greenish blue, like a transparent sapphire. It was resplend-ent in its own beauty. Nowhere were there any large ships—only two small craft flying the English flag sped along the shore.

One was a steamboat as big as a watchman’s booth, the second had about twelve oarsmen, and when their oars rose simultaneously molten silver dripped from them. Trustful dolphins darted in and out among them and drove with long, arching flights above the surface of the water. Through the blue heavens now and then calm eagles winged their way, measuring the space between two continents.

The entire slope below us was covered with blossoming roses whose fragrance filled the air. From the coffee-house near the sea music was carried up to us through the clear air,

The Vampire part 2

All the more agreeable was the Polish family. The father and mother were good-natured, fine people, the lover a handsome young fellow, of direct and refined manners. They had come to Prinkipo to spend the summer months for the sake of the daughter, who was slightly ailing. The beautiful pale girl was either just recovering from a severe illness or else a serious disease was just fastening its hold upon her.

She leaned upon her lover when she walked and very often sat down to rest, while a frequent dry little cough interrupted her whispers. Whenever she coughed, her escort would considerately pause in their walk. He al-ways cast upon her a glance of sympathetic suffering and she would look back at him as if she would say: “It is nothing. I am happy!” They believed in health and happiness.

On the recommendation of the Greek, who departed from us im-mediately at the pier, the family secured quarters in the hotel on the hill. The hotel-keeper was a Frenchman and

The Vampire part 1

Czechoslovakia

Introduction

Czech literature is usually considered as beginning with the writings of the great reformer, John Huss, who was born in the 1360’s. He was a man of wide interests. For a time he was rector of the University of Prague, and in 1415 was burned at the stake in Constance for his heretical preachings.

There are few other great names in early Czech literature, for men like Comenius are pre-eminent not so much for literary writings as for ideas. In the 16th century Bohemia fell under Austrian influence, and the use of the Czech language was either forbidden or discouraged; but with the beginning of the Nineteenth Century there came a period of great literary activity. It was during the second half of the century that writers of fiction came to the fore. Cech, Neruda, Vrchlicky, Jirasek and a dozen others were serious literary artists.

The Czech short story has been considerably influenced by the literature of the Rus

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 6

Just then Henk came in. “Well, where is it?” he asked, with the self- importance of one who had thought of the idea in the first place, and had already paid his share.

“We’ll have to whistle for it,” answered Jet. “That nasty photographer won’t deliver it without his pay.”

“Well—?”

“Well, nothing!” snapped Dirk. “I didn’t have the twenty-seven fifty, so the messenger took it back.”

“Good Lord,” said Henk, “I thought you knew the fellow. You made the arrangements.”

“Can I make the fellow deliver it?” said Dirk. “I went to see him, but he wasn’t in; won’t be back till the afternoon. If you’d paid your share, I wouldn’t have looked such a fool.”

“You can’t tell me,” said Henk, “that if you’d tried—”

“Are you so flush yourself?” replied Dirk heatedly. “Now, if we’d only bought the chair, we wouldn’t have had to take something we hadn’t s

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 5

In order that the old man should not suspect what they were doing, they walked about in their stocking feet; and in order not to wake him they pinned the decorations with hairpins rather than hammer and nails. Jet and Mary had to go home with their hair down, for they had used up all their hairpins.

Two slices of bread

On the morning of the great festivity, the sun shone bright on the tulle curtains, and so gilded the flowers in the windows that it was impossible not to enter into a holiday mood. On this lovely morning the whole room, gay with bunting and spruce, was indeed overwhelmingly grand. At nine grandfather was given a large cup of tea in bed, with two slices of bread and butter. They had to keep him upstairs until the photograph should arrive at ten. The photographer had promised to deliver it to Dirk’s by that time, and of course he would keep his word.

They were all dressed in their finest. Jet’s Jan was rehearsing to himself the poem

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 4

“Well, I don’t think I can guess,” smiled the old man contentedly. Hoping that the two cents which he invariably received from the old man on Sundays might be increased to three, the youngster let slip a hint. “All of us—father, mother, Mary, Aunt Truns, Uncle Dirk, Uncle Piet, Uncle Henk all dressed up in his uniform, ’n all of us, had to sit still for it over half an hour.”

“So,” nodded grandfather, “and will it go in a frame?”

“I’m not allowed to tell that.”

An hour later Henk came in for a glass of something to drink.

Mary a winter overcoat

“Well, father,” he said, “you’ll be Surprised next Wednesday. There’ll be something you’ve never had the like of before. Jet wanted to give you a new Bible, Dirk preferred an armchair, and Mary a winter overcoat. But I put my foot down; I knew you wouldn’t care for things like that. So I said—but you’ll see. It’s no fun if you know beforehand.

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 3

They were fourteen in all—one more than the unlucky number. The photographer said that he had seldom had the pleasure of seeing a liner group in his studio. It was not easy, however, for the photographer to pose them: Piet’s Willy kept up a continual howl, he was so afraid of the long-haired fellow who kept poking his head under that black cloth, and when the photographer shook his doll above the camera to attract the attention of the other youngsters, Willy set up such a scream that Truns had to get up from her chair to calm him.

This continued fully a quarter of an hour, and when at last they could all get up, everyone was so on edge that they burst out laughing when anyone sighed or spoke. The first two exposures were unsuccessful: the first time Santje sneezed-—on purpose, it seemed; and just as the photographer had counted three, Henk bawled out. The second time Mary’s Charley stood up too soon, because he thought it was all over, Jet’s Jan having pinched h

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 2

Mary was the second daughter. She had been separated from her husband (at the expense of the state!), and was now expecting her fourth child, before the decree was finally pronounced. She did not like the idea of the armchair. It was like Dirk to propose a thing of that sort! No one forced grandfather to sit on the springs of the old chair, and besides, was it not grandmother who had worn away its seat by constant use! Grandfather had said so a dozen times. If the whole family were going to give him a present, it should be something useful, and not stupid. Now, a winter coat, a warm muffler, a pair of gloves or some good stout slippers—these would be practical, and not nearly so expensive.

The greatest fuss of all

Piet and Frans, neither of whom had contributed anything to the family exchequer during the past year and had paid many visits to the pawnshop, had had to be helped out by grandfather. They made the greatest fuss of all, and were irrevocably set ag