The Massacre of the Innocents part 2

After
deliberating a long while in the churchyard, they decided to hide in the wood
which the Spaniards were to come through, attack them if they were not too
numerous, and recover Petrus Krayer’s cattle and any booty they might have
taken at the farm.

The
men armed themselves with forks and spades while the women remained with the
cur£ by the church. Looking for a favorable place for an ambuscade, the men
reached a hilly spot near a mill at the edge of the wood, where they could see
the fire glowing against the stars of night. They took up their position under
some enormous oaks by the side of an ice-covered pond.

A
shepherd, who was called the Red Dwarf, mounted to the top of the hill in order
to warn the miller, who had already stopped his mill when he saw flames on the
horizon. But he allowed the peasant to enter, and the two went to a window to
look out over the countryside.

Dwarf went down

The
moon shone down brigh

The Massacre of the Innocents part 1

Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949)

Maurice
Maeterlinck was born at Ghent in 1862. He studied for the law, but left for
Paris after a short career as a lawyer. In Paris he became acquainted with
several writers who exercised considerable influence over him. Maeterlinck’s
chief contributions to contemporary literature are his plays and his essays.

The
Massacre of the Innocents was the earliest published work of this writer. It
appeared in 1886 in a small magazine. It is a skilfully constructed tale, in
which the background and details are strikingly similar to the early paintings
of the Flemish school.

The
translation, by Barrett H. Clark, was made especially for this collection.
Originally reprinted by permission of the author.

The Massacre of the Innocents

On
Friday the 26th of December about supper time, a little shepherd came into
Nazareth crying terribly.

Some
peasants who were drinki

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 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