By Elin Pelin
We will get early sir. We shall be there before nightfall. The village is over there- here, after the little forest over there! Do you see it? When we pass that hill, the lower one, and we can say that we are there.
And the young waggoner, having waved the whip, called the out loudly and cheering:
– Gee- hey!…Ge-e, misters!
The four wheels of the wagon spattered more and more the slush of the village road. The loosen skeleton of the wagon clattered silently in the sad, deserted, and muddy, because of the rains, field. The villager called the horses one more time, made himself more comfortable on the chest he was sitting on, took off his head the moisture hood of his thick hooded cloak and started humming under his nose unconcerned.
-What was your name, boy? – asked the fat man, who was sitting in the wagon, dressed in thick fur-coat from wolf
The lad continued to hum.
-Hey, boy! – shouted loud and harshly the gentleman
– А? – The young man turned.
– The name, the name? What was your name?
– А-а – Andreshko … What a cunning fox are you! You have all become such creep-mouses. Roguish you have become – the village men. All you know is to lie and cheat. And how hypocrite you can be! I have seen you in court…behave like sheep, stupidly, but actually is a wolf! Play tricks to the judge.
– Simple-minded people are we , mister, , we are constantly shouted at. It seems to you that we are clever but it is not like that. Because of ignorance our peasants are trying to cheat. Because of ignorance and poverty!
– А-а-а – poverty, from poverty… What a gawky tree!* From poverty they complain, but at the same time soak as beasts.
– Do you think that this is because we feel good? No, it is not because of that. They drink really – all of them drink a lot. Not because they feel good, but to feel good… A man like you can write this down.
– А-а, it seems that you have also had a drink, my friend! You are young; you do not have moustaches yet… Your peasants write them off, they are degenerate people and that’s it!
– You can write that, mister, we do not know to write- the young man said and as he turned towards the scraggy horses he shouted at them:
– Gee, gee, misters! – And he put his mind to something.
The horses went slowly and also became thoughtful. The gentleman picked up the giant collar of his wolf-fur coat, sort of sank into it and also pondered over something. On the lonely tree near the road alighted a bristled up crow, she swung on the dry branch, croaked cheerless and also became thoughtful. And the sad winter weather was thoughtful as well. There were thick, tattered, wet and dark clouds creeping and tearing off in the sky. Above them pieces of the same cold and thoughtful blue sky were visible. The land was buried in mud and moisture. Deadly and deeply grieved darkened the scattered landscapes of villages, rivers, far away forests and mountains. Big puddles were shining in the field, muddy, cold and glassy as deadly eyes. The little wagon was staggering slowly through the deep slosh, got stuck in the mud from time to time, then got out, staggered through. A ripped off plank was constantly, monotonously, tunelessly and rashly hammered and it was hitting persistently the nerves of the fat gentleman in the wolf-fur coat, it made him ruffled. He opened his collar, showed his adipose face and shouted:
– What is that terrible clapper, for god’s sake? It is not giving me peace…
– The platter of my wagon is loose, mister. Talks like an educated man- neither has he understood, nor can the others understand him.
– Cunning fox are you, Andreshko, cunning fox! You probably know how to allure girls, if you are not married yet. All of you have young and pretty wives.
The gentleman put down the collar of his coat.
– Say whatever you want, mister, but the girls are better in cheating…I know this for sure! What are you mister, what is your job in our village?
– I am an executory state officer;
Andreshko turned and gave a careful look at his tenant.
– And you are going to “execute”, a?
– Yes, I am going to carry out my duty. There is a villager of yours who is playing tricks to me but this time I am going to give him a lesson. I have been chasing him several times but he was constantly escaped…I have understood that he was playing tricks and I shall stalk on him tonight and he shall remember me! I shall confiscate his corn!. Not only I shall teach him a lesson but I shall give you an illustration so that you do not dodge anymore You are lying to the traders , lying to the citizens, selling them spoiled eggs and bad smelling .butter. But wait, you peasants, you cannot lie to the authorities easily! The long hand of the law shall reach you! You deserve a whip, a Russian whip- this is how you shall become man… You have become drunkards, failures, spoiled yourselves- you shall become incapable of paying your taxes and you shall ruin the state. I am sorry that I do not have more power! I shall make angels out of you!
The officer unbuttoned his coat and his body started to move in it as a chicken which is being hatched.
– Well, mister judge, God created the world and decided that the woman does not need beard and He did not give it to her… He decided that the donkey needs long ears and He gave them to it- answered Andreshko pretending to be naïve..
– Oh, you do not chatter, but drive , it is becoming dark…I have paid you too much, you devil! So much money for twenty kilometers! You know how to skin us. ..Go on, go on, the nags almost fell asleep!
– Gee, gee-e, misters!! – called Andreshko, and waived the
– You are calling them misters a? You’d better call them brothers- noted the judge angry
– They shall get mad, mister judge! I shall insult them if I do not call them misters… Their job is clerical – per hour. They are being waked by schedule, watered by schedule, fed by schedule. Then we put them to the cart, put them in the office so to say, and that is it. And sometimes in the manger they manage to read a paper.
– Oh, tell me where you had a drink, my friend, and do not chatter but drive as we are going to be late. Wily eyes you have, wily!
– There are no wolves mister judge, do not fear- said the wagoner with such tone so that the elder clerk looked around frightened
– I am not scared from wolves, my friend, but it is getting cold. I do not have time to catch a cold.
– Wrap up yourself with the horse-cloth mister. My horses never complain that they shall catch a cold. The cloth is keeping quite warm.
„What a prattle, ha! “ – thought the judge and turned strictly.
– Go, go you bumpkin!
And he puffed up angrily, he sank into his coat and shut up.
„A-a, you are just in the right hands, my friend “- thought Andreshko. And he turned asking with a serious tone:
– So you are going to fulfil a task? So this soul you are going to burn, who it belongs to?
The judge became silent for a long time and then angrily answered:
– There is one villager – his name is Stanoycho – a short one … with fat neck…
– I know him. So his wheat you are going to confiscate, a? He is a poor man, mister judge, leave him alone.
– Poor man – real devil!
The judge became silent again. It was already getting dark. The horses were crawling up the hill with greatest difficulty. The village was supposed to be behind the hill. Andreshko was no longer shouting at them, neither waved the whip above their heads. He stopped talking and humbling and began to think.
When they passed on the other side of the hill and were down in the field, the night was fallen and the village still was out of sight. Faint and cold wind whiffled over the moisture land. The clouds, torn apart, were going back to the mountains. .The blue vault of the cold and freezing sky was getting clear, wide and rising high. Soon stars appeared – icy bright stars. The air became awfully cold and the horses were walking slowly. The judge was constantly mad.
– Drive, hey, shop! We are going to freeze!
Andreshko called the horses indifferently and waived the whip above their heads lazy. They were dragging the wagon negligently and sadly as if they were deaf.. Andreshko was thinking about the poor Stanoya, whose wheat shall be confiscated the next day by the judge he was driving at the moment.
„You have got me into this trouble, Andreshko”- Stanoya will say to him, when he learns , and shall curse him. Then he shall become sad, shall give him a treat, shall get drunk and shall cry.
„The man needs help, the man needs help “… – thinks Andreshko. – Somebody should tell him to hide his wheat during the night and to clean the garner; otherwise he shall hardly keep his body and soul together from hunger. He should receive some help, there is no other way! “
It was dark and there was nothing else on the ground besides mud, deep thick mud. The road was losing somewhere in the dirt and seemed like it is leading to nowhere but in the mud itself.
At one point Andreshko pulled the reins and stopped the horses:
– Wait a minute; it seems that I have gone the wrong way.
And the lad started staring in the darkness. The judge was looking at his severe face, where there was no sign of joke as it was before and talked to him:
– Boy, watch it out, I am not answering for this… You will get a hiding!!
Andreshko pulled the reins, waived the whip and called:
– Hold yourselves tightly mister judge!
Far, far away in the darkness the village was lightened up. The barking of the dogs showed that it is near. Several steps far a large space of immovable water was shining like a pearl. The wagon turned directly to it.
– What is that? – The judge asked.
– A lurch, mister judge…The road is going through it. It is shallow, do not fear. There are .wholes here and there…. I have passed it so many times, by wagon, by feet, by…Gee, gee, misters! Hold on tightly mister judge!
The horses entered into the cold water, where the sky was reflecting, and cautiously splashed ahead starting to sink deeper and deeper. The deadly, shining as a green pearl water of the lurch moved as it was alive.
– Stop you bumpkin!- Called the judge and stood up in his fur-coat- you are going to drown me shop! Don’t you see that the wagon is full of water? Stop! Stop! The judge started to curse angrily.
Andreshko stopped the horses. The wagon sank up to the floor, stood in the middle of the lurch, the end of which was hidden away in the darkness.
– Gee… Go! – called Andreshko to the horses. His mighty and robust voice echoed strongly in to the night and disappeared into the impenetrable desert. Wild ducks flied out nearly and then flied away noisily.
– We should also become ducks in order to get – said Andreshko lost in thoughts, – otherwise…
– Ah, you bumpkin! If we go out once – I shall beat you to death! We are going to get drown! Fool!
– We will not, will not mister judge, do not fear … In this darkness anyone could go the wrong way, stay calm– said Andreshko and started working with the straps. Tied, untied, cursed and then sat on the chest again and called:
– Ge-e!… Go!
The horses made an effort and went ahead! One of them unhooked from the shaft and splashed free in the lurch. The other one was alone with wagon.
– Gosh! What happened? – The judge shouted.
– Stop! Dorcho… Dorcho… Dorcho – called Andreshko, went after the horse and started to cheat him. But the horse scared from the water, turned back and slowly lost in the darkness of the shore, without hearing the calls of his master.
The judge was staying in the wagon trembling and scared.
During that time, Andreshko got over the other horse and went chasing Dorcho as shouted constantly and lively:
– Dorcho, Dorcho, Dorcho!
– Where are you going…hey! What are you doing you dork? Fool! Hey you nitty peasant, I shall teach you a lesson!
A spiteful laughter answered him from the darkness.
– Hey you silly, you are leaving me here!… To die! To be torn by the beasts! Boy do not do this, please! – the judged started to beg with sad voice, almost crying.
– Do not be afraid, mister judge! – called Andreshko’s voice. – The beasts shall not enter the lurch. Wrap yourself with hood in order not to catch cold…I shall come tomorrow early in the morning… There is hey in the wagon, litter it down. I shall not take a rent from you!
– Boy, do not make joke – begged the judge. – Do not leave me!… Come! Take me out of here!
– It is dark mister judge, nothing can be seen!… And the horse ran away!How am I supposed to help you? I cannot.
The judge was hearing this malicious voice, coming from the darkness and was horrified. What? To stay here! In the middle of the lurch! In the middle of this cold, green lurch endless water!
– Come, hey! Andreshko! I shall give you as much money as you want! Save me!… I am going to die, hey!… I have kids!… Young man, don’t you have a heart – called he desperately, but no one answered anymore.
Then the judge desperately began howling towards the village:
– Hey, kid… bumpkin… cannibal … bullock… thickhead! Come! Save me!… Have some mercy! Animal… yokel… shopp! Аh-аh!… Help, help!
And he sat in the wagon, sank into his fur-coat and cried like a child. But the darkness did not answer.
* An old times Bulgarian curse