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 drinking ale at the Blue Lion threw open the shutters to look
into the village orchard, and saw the lad running across the snow. They
recognized him as Korneliz’ son, and shouted at him from the window: “What’s
the matter? Go to bed, you!”

But
the boy answered in a voice of terror, telling them that the Spaniards had
come, having already set fire to the farm, hanged his mother from a chestnut
bough, and bound his nine little sisters to the trunk of a large tree.

The
peasants quickly came forth from the inn, surrounded the boy and plied him with
questions. He went on to tell them that the soldiers were clad in steel armor
and mounted on horse-back, that they had seized the cattle of his uncle, Petrus
Krayer, and would soon enter the wood with the sheep and cattle.

They
all ran to the Golden Sun, where Korneliz and his brother- in-law were drinking
ale, while the innkeeper hastened out into the village to spread the news of
the approach of the Spaniards.

There was great excitement in Nazareth. Women threw open windows and peasants ran forth from their houses carrying lights which they extinguished as soon as they came to the orchard, where it was bright as midday, because of the snow and the full moon. They gathered round Korneliz and Krayer in the public square before the inn. Many had brought pitchforks and rakes. They took counsel, speaking in tones of terror, out under the trees.

As they were uncertain what to do, one of them ran to fetch the curd, who owned the farm that was worked by Korneliz. He came forth from his house with the keys of the church, in company with the sacristan, while all the others followed him to the churchyard, where he proclaimed from the top of the tower that he could see nothing, either across the fields or in the wood, but that there were red clouds in the direction of his farm. Over all the rest of the horizon the sky was blue and filled with stars.

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