That evening Arsen came home in a melancholy mood. Contrary to his habit, he first went into the wine cellar and took a stiff drink, the first time he had ever done so. He returned to the yard, sat down on a block of wood where he remained long after dark, absorbed by nocturnal sounds. In the kitchen on the hearth, flaming tongues shot out and licked the iron cauldron suspended by chains from the ceiling. A newly discovered fire was burning in Arsen’s heart. In the surrounding darkness he discerned human forms, dogs crossing the yard, oxen returning from pasture; he heard the trampling of horses in their stalls; he recognized his brother Nenad returning from the city. A hen jumped from the mulberry tree, looked round sleepily, and flew to another branch. Already a mouse dared to nibble at the block on which Arsen was sitting.
He felt dizzy, and became frightened at his heart beats. Suddenly he began to laugh, stupidly, for no reason at all. As he laughed and cried intermittently, he had a hazy vision of Anoka. He leaned against a barrel, and felt as though he were dying. But it was strangely agreeable, because he pictured himself in Anoka’s embrace and riding on Ostoyich’s wild horse. A feeling that comes of being drunk for the first time.
He had slept but a short time when Velinka, looking for something with a torch, found him. She trembled on seeing him with a jug in his hand. Drawing closer, she touched” his shoulder, saying, “Darling.” Arsen opened his bloodshot eyes.
“You are drunk, my jolly fellow.”
Arsen, aware of his condition, replied jovially, “Drunk!”
“Why so, my happy fellow?”
“Why, because I want to kill Philip Marichich.” He lifted the jug, threw it on the ground, where it broke, and laughed. Velinka also began to laugh. “What did Philip do to you, my darling?”
“He wants to have Anoka.”
“Well, let him have her.”
“But I won’t have it!” He wanted to rise and leave the place, but fell back. Velinka laughed heartily and asked, “What, darling; then you want her?”
“Of course I do.” Upon that he grew confused, turned to the barrel and moaned brokenly: “Why did brother marry? I want to also— naturally!” He slapped his knee for emphasis. Velinka laughed again and exclaimed: “Woe is me, my child, you shall have her, my darling, don’t fear. I shall speak to father, he will tell grandmother, and she will manage the affair to your satisfaction with grandfather. Gome, now, let me help you in. Grandfather must not see you in your present condition. Go to sleep now. Don’t fear—we will get you a girl—even if it be Anoka!”
“By God, I care only for her!”
Velinka led her drunken brother-in law into the room, covered him with a blanket, and returned to the kitchen to announce the news to the other womenfolk. No one was overjoyed at the news.
“She is no good for our home!”
“She is a coquette!”
“Not alone that, but spoiled. God be with us!”
“She is an intriguer!”
Mathias Jenadich is a very old man. His forehead is disfigured by the scar of an old wound inflicted while he fought in Hajduk Veljko’s fort. The whole village calls him “grandpa.” His wife has been long dead. His older brother left a widow who now acts with him as the head of the house, sharing with him the duties of the Elders’ Council of the community. Her name is Radoyka, and her place at the table is at grandfather’s right. Radoyka must give her consent to a thing before grandfather approves. He would, for instance, ask, “What think you, dear sister-in-law, about buying Marichich’s meadow?” “Just as you please, my brother, you have a man’s brain.”