Anoka’s fury grew day by day and she invented all kinds of tricks with which to tease the people in the house. She would chase the dogs into the kitchen, and would allow them to eat up the meat in the pot. She would open the faucets of the kegs in the cellar, so the wine would flow out. The bread in the oven always burned if she was to watch it. On working days, for instance, she would put on holiday attire. It became worse and worse. The women couldn’t stand it any longer. Once, when it was Anoka’s turn to be the redara (housekeeper) she left home and went to the fair. Then the sisters-in-law gathered secretly.
“I don’t know, dear sisters, what great wrong we have committed that we should have to suffer so much.”
“Neither do I know.”
“That’s a great punishment and a great misfortune.”
“God alone can help us.”
“No, it cannot go on like this any more.”
“Let us talk to grandma, and she will take it up with grandpa.” “You talk to her, Selena.”
“Didn’t she accuse you of having stolen her bracelet?”
“Didn’t she call your husband a barbarous priest?”
“Well, she accused Miryana of being the daughter of paupers.” “She called Velinka’s child a bastard.”
The women would hardly have said anything had not Radoyka been a silent witness to these painful incidents. Then too, Arsen, after seeing Anoka tear her new jacket while running through the bushes, went to complain to grandpa.
Arsen was a quiet man. From his childhood he had always obeyed. He couldn’t even go to the market with a load of wood without having received direct instructions as to how much to ask, and for how much he might sell it.
Grandpa was sittting alone in the room when Arsen entered. Being so old, and not being able to work outside, his people gave him the task of shelling beans.
Arsen removed his cap and reached for grandpa’s hand. Grandpa looked angry. He did not move, withdrew his hand and said dryly: “All right!”
“Grandpa, please I beg—your pardon… there is no use hiding it from you any longer. I am to be blamed for everything. I have brought shame into our house.”
The old man observed him severely.
“No use, grandpa, don’t be angry.”
Grandpa lifted his head, pushed the dish with the beans, and remained angry.
“I know everything. What kind of a man are you, eh? Do you think that you are going to destroy my freedom and the happiness of my house?”
Arsen, simple soul that he was, stood speechless on discovering that grandpa was informed about everything.
“Dear grandpa, I do not know what to do. Forgive me.”
Profane and Disgrace
Arsen reached again for grandpa’s hand, but the latter refused it. “Get out of here, don’t profane and disgrace this place. Are you a man?”
Arsen, hiding his face in his waistcoat, said, almost crying:
“Do with me and with her whatever you please. Kill me and drive her away. God be with you. But don’t push me like a dog—have mercy.” Grandpa’s beard trembled.
He used all effort to hide his excitement. He looked up, stretched his legs, and said with amazing self-reliance:
“My son, you have chosen her. Did I tell you to do it?”
“Far be it from me to say that. I alone am the guilty one.” Grandpa pulled his beard; he looked severe and asked seriously: “And shall I right the wrong?”
“God first and then you.”
“Yes! but I don’t know how.”
Radoyka would have noticed the childish, cunning expression around grandpa’s eyes.
“God will help you do it,” said Arsen.
“And you… why… you don’t love her?”
Died of shame
Arsen felt embarrassed. He would rather have died of shame. Grand-pa looked directly into his eyes.
“She is ungrateful.”
“I know, I know! But I am asking you, if you care for her?”
Arsen said nothing. He would have liked to escape but grandpa watched him closely.
“It must be,” said Arsen, “that Burmas has spoiled her awfully. You know she was his only child.”
Grandpa remarked impatiently:
“Hear ye, boy, what I am asking of you? I want to know if you love Anoka? Tell me!”
Arsen lowered his head, hid his face, moved his shoulders clumsily and said in a bashful way:
“I don’t know.”
“Well, you ought to know. I shall judge by your answer, and don’t come later on to complain.”
“No, I won’t.”
From the expression on grandpa’s face, one could easily see that he had made up his mind, and that he was satisfied with his plans.