OUT IN THE WORLD
BY ION POPOVICI-BANATZEANU
The man tramping along the broad, dusty highway gradually drew near to a town. He carried a bundle on his back-some old, clothes, a change of underlinen and a pair of boots and at his breast, wrapped up in a handkerchief, were his certificate of baptism, his work-book and his book of military service-all his worldly goods.
For three years he had served the Emperor, and failing to find employment in the town where he was, with a stick in his hand and a few coppers in his pocket he had set out into the world, and walked with the steadiness of a man well acquainted with the road.
Some one had advised him to go to Lugosh; he had heard there were many craftsmen then driving a big trade, and he pursued his way with hope in his heart. He felt strong and eager n work. For three years he had not seen a workshop, for three years he had not followed the craft which he had learnt so lovingly; it seemed to him he would hardly know how to handle a hide now. Yet with each step forward his confidence in himself increased, and he thought, " I will work, and work so that every one wonders, and the peasant who takes in his hand the sandals I have tanned will never want to part with them." And when he said this to himself he walked faster. He would have liked to fly that he might arrive quicker. But then again he slackened his pace, and other thoughts assailed him :supposing he did not get a situation, what would he do then?
"Supposing I do not find work ?"
He was afraid to answer this or to think of what he would do if he did not get a place. Ah, just to find work with somebody. He comforted himself, and putting away from him all sad thoughts he imagined a rosy future. He saw himself in the workshop doing the work of seven, and saving penny after penny ; he saw himself buying first one skin, then two, then three, six and more, and many more, until he had a workshop of his own, and then, if he met a girl he liked, he would marry.
He was intoxicated by his own thoughts, and hardly knew where he was going. He walked slowly with his head bent. He would not rest, for he felt no fatigue ; it was as though some one urged him forward.
It was late autumn, the fields were bare and the road dreary. Buffeted by the wind, the poplars along the side of the road were shedding their leaves, and sadly swaying their pointed tops.
The country lay barren and dead, while the voiceless hills wore glowing in the light of the setting sun like a man who, on the point of death, tries to save himself by some final remedy. The outlines of solitary fountains prolonged themselves mournfully against the horizon, as though they regretted the life and gaiety of other days. A flight of crows, frightened by I know not what, rose from the dark marshes and alighted upon the tops of the poplars, beating their wings and cawing above the waste.
But Sandu saw and heard nothing ; he walked absorbed in himself and communing with his own heart.
He entered the town as the lights were being lit. He took no side turnings but kept to the main street so that the dogs should not hinder him.
"Keep straight on," he said to himself, "past the Roumanian church, then I take the turning to the right till I get to the bridge and at the bridge I must ask my way."
And at the bridge he asked his way, but they explained it in such a manner that he lost himself, and it was late before he reached the hostel. He bade good evening and asked rather diffidently whether there were anywhere he could sleep, and if there were something to eat.
The innkeeper entered into conversation with him. and learnt that Sandu came from the Dobre district, had done three years' military service, and now was looking for a situation with some tanner.
"I have come", Sandu spoke with difficulty, "to see if I can find a place here, for you see-
"Who knows, perhaps you may," the innkeeper interrupted him, and went out of the room.
"Should you say I shall find a place ? " Sandu asked the innkeeper as he brought him some lard and a piece of bread.
"Oh, you may find one if you are good at your trade and hard-working."
Sandu said nothing; the only word he could have uttered would have been to say, as he could have said, how hard he meant to work, and what kind of a man he was. But as he could not say this to the innkeeper he told himself what a lot of work he meant to do, and how well he meant to behave himself, as well as if he were a young girl.
Absorbed in thought, he ate at long intervals, and the innkeeper, seeing how silent he was, bade him put out the lamp and wished him a good night.
But the night was not restful. He crossed himself and stretched himself out on the bench by the side of the wall, his bundle he placed at his head and carefully pushed his money and his papers underneath it. Although he was tired from his tramp, sleep would not visit his eyes. He grew excited, a sort of giddiness overcame him, and he brake into a cold sweat at his own thoughts. He tossed and turned on the narrow bench, and pressed his forehead against the cold wall as he sighed heavily.
When the day broke he was exhausted, his bones seemed weak, his feet could hardly support him, and his head felt queer. Water, and the freshness of the early morning, revived him, and he made his way to the market-place where, according to the innkeeper, he would find the booths of the mastertanners.
Although it was autumn, people were in no hurry to buy sandals, and only a few of the mastertanners, who did business here on Sundays, were walking about and moving their strips of leather according to the position of the sun so as to ensure them being in the shade.
Sandu stood still by the cross in the marketplace, and it seemed as if a knife went through his heart; when he saw the empty booths he felt as though his last atom of will had been destroyed. He felt as though he must turn back, as though he could not ask. It seemed to him as though he had not the strength to bear hearing one of the tanners tell him he had no place for him ; it would be such a catastrophe that he would sink into the earth.
Not knowing what he did he moved forward ; but when he approached the first booth he lost confidence, and had not the courage to greet the master.
He passed on. He walked round the booths two or three times, but could not summon up courage to ask whether one of the tanners had a situation open or not.
"Now I will go," he said very firmly to himself, to give himself strength, but when he moved he saw a peasant go up to the booth. " I will let him make his purchase and then I will go."
But he did not stir, he was afraid, especially when the master, not being able to come to terms with the peasant, undid the box, and flung the sandals violently into it. He did nothing ; it seemed terrible to him to have to go up to the booth. He did not know why. He felt angry with himself that it should be so. And as he asked himself why he was like this, he recalled to mind various acquaintances who were so very bold and fearless. If only he could be like that! But he could not be so, his nature did not allow it.
"Now you good-for-nothing, you are wander- ing about here like a sheep in a pen;' a tanner, I small of stature, with brown eyes and a harsh voice, said roughly to him.
"I?" stammered Sandu. "I am not a good- for-nothing."
"No ? Then why do you keep coming round? Haven't I seen you ? You walk a bit, you stand still, you have been round us several times, and now you are standing still again ; it is as though you had some evil intention ! "
" Master, I am not ----"
"Go, whatever you are or are not, else you will see I will get rid of you."
Sandu could hardly stand, a sort of mist darkened his eyes, and his heart was bursting. He would have cried, but he was ashamed for a grown man to be walking across the market-place with tears in his eyes. He suffered and would gladly have told how deeply the words he had listened to had hurt him, but he had no one to whom he could open his heart.
He returned to the innkeeper with whom he was lodging. Tired and spent he threw himself on the bench.
" What is it ? " asked the innkeeper.
Sandu looked vaguely at him, then, as if afraid to hear the sound of his own voice, he said
The innkeeper felt sorry for him.
" Have you found a situation ? "
" I did not ask for one."
"Then how can you hope to get one ?"
Sandu remained silent. The innkeeper looked strangely at him, shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and went to attend to his duties.
With his elbows on the table, and his head resting in his hands, Sandu gazed in front of him, and who knows where his thoughts would have led him if the innkeeper had not said to him
"Listen, Dino Talpoane seat to ask whether ;here was any workman in need of work. Go with, the apprentice and he may perhaps engage you. He is a respectable man and does a big trade."
Without a word Sandu got up. It seemed to him he must be dreaming. But when he saw the apprentice with an apron stained yellow and with big boots covered with stale sap, his eyes shone, and he could have kissed the innkeeper's hands for very joy.
Outside he began to talk to the apprentice, who told him that the master was a splendid man, but his wife was harsh and heaven defend you from her tongue ; that the workshop was large and the work considerable, especially in the autumn ; and that the master sometimes engaged workmen by the day in order to get a set of hides ready more quickly; and many other things he told him. But Sandu was no longer listening.
When the apprentice saw that he asked no further questions, he hesitated to say more, and they walked along together in silence.
Sandu knew where he had to go, but he did not know what to say, or what terms to make-by the year, the month, the week ; he could not think what would be best to do. What he knew of the workshop of the master-tanner with whom he had learnt his trade, and all he had heard from the hands working there with him, seemed to be buzzing in his brain until he grew so bewildered that he could not have told how many days there are in a week, or how much money he would earn if he worked for a whole month.
"Here we are;" said the apprentice, stopping in front of a doorway with gates.
Sandu felt a cold shiver go through him. For a second he stood still. Three years as apprentice and four years as workman he had worked for one master only, and he would have remained there all his life if he had not been taken to be a soldier, and if the master had not died he would have gone back to him the day he left the army. He felt quite nervous, and if the apprentice had not opened the gate he would not have gone in.
"They are eating," said the apprentice, seeing the big yard was empty, and he crossed to the bottom of it where a small house stood built against the old workshop.
They were close to the window when they heard people talking in the house, and the clatter of knives.
" Look here," said Sandu, "you go on and say I have come but that I am waiting till they have finished dinner."
The apprentice went in and told the master that a workman was outside, but would not came in till the master had got up from the table.
"Tell him to come into the house."
But his wife interrupted him with
"Leave him out there. Who knows what sort of a creature he is if he does not venture to show his face inside ! Let me have my dinner in peace."
The husband, a well-built man, with a round, red face and kind blue eyes, felt if he said any more his wife would snap his head off, so he let the apprentice go.
The apprentice, who knew that one word from the mistress was worth a hundred orders from the master, withdrew to the hearth in the outer room, and waited till he should be called to dinner.
"But what's the matter, Ghitza, you are not eating?" he heard his mistress saying. "Or are you waiting to he invited ? Dear, dear, perhaps I ought to beg the gentleman to come to table I "
The apprentice, accustomed to the mistress's ways, took a chair. But he had not swallowed three mouthfuls before the mistress bade him call in "that ne'er-do-well out there."
Sandu shyly wished them good day, but of all those sitting round the table he only saw the master, and by his side the mistress, whose eyes seemed to scorch him and make him lose his presence of mind.
" What is your name ? " the master asked him.
"I am called Sandu Boldurean."
And in a low voice he told where he was born, with whom he had learnt the trade, and how long he had worked, but during the questioning he scarcely raised his eyelids. He grew confused at once when the mistress screamed at him
" But you'll ruin your hat turning it round like that in your hands. Put it down somewhere and speak up so that a man can understand what you are saying."
Sandu felt the blood go to his head, and hardly knowing what he was doing he hung his hat on a bolt on the door.
"And you worked only with one master ? "
"Only one. See, here is my work-book," and with some haste he drew out the handkerchief, unknotted it, and held out his "work-book" to the master.
"Let me see too," said the mistress, snatching the book from her husband's hand. "After all, it's no wonder this idiot stayed in the same place ; and who knows what kind of a master it was?" she whispered to her husband.
He would have replied that it was a very good thing for a workman to have stayed so long with one master, for most tanners worked in the same way, and only here and there were the hides dressed differently ; but he was ashamed to say so before the workman, and so he busied himself by looking through the book.
Sandu broke into a sweat ; when he held out the book he felt his soul was full of joy at having got so far, but little by little, especially when the mistress took the book and whispered to her husband, his heart seemed turned to ice.
What would he say to him ? Supposing he found something bad ? Supposing he did not give him work ? These were the questions which passed through his mind and which he could not answer, although he knew his book only spoke well of him, and that the master required a workman because it was autumn when business is in full swing.
A great burden seemed lifted from him at the master's words
"Good, I will engage you. How much did you get from your late master?"
"I worked for him for four years and had a salary."
"What a lot of talk ! We will give you one and a half florins per week without washing, and you can stay, though probably in the army you have forgotten all you knew about work," the mistress broke into the conversation, as she rose from the table.
It was the signal for the two workmen and the apprentice to return to their work.
Sandu stood transfixed. Only the master and a child of six or seven years of age remained in the house, as the girl and the mistress went into the passage to see to the dinner things.
"Well, do you agree? Will you stay or not?" scolded the mistress as she appeared in the doorway.
" I will stay," replied Sandu, scarcely knowing what he said.
The master looked at her, and turned to Sandu.
" Have you had your dinner ? "
"Did he come for you to feed him," his wife interrupted him.
The mistress threw him a look full of meaning, and disappeared into the yard,
" You can start work to-morrow."
Sandu turned and went out after the master; they walked side by side. When they reached the yard gate they stopped. The master would have liked to say something about the pay, One and a half florins a week seemed so very little to him, Gut Sandu was simple and glad to get work, and he did not ask for much.
" Master, I will go now, Good luck to you ! "
" Good luck to you ! " replied the master, and he seemed as though he would like to call him back and say another word to him.
In rather over a month Sandu had had time to get back into his old ways, and to work hopefully at his trade, but during this time he had, little by little, come to see that in his masters house the cock by no means ruled the roost. Sharp-tongued and ill-tempered, Mistress Vent was often dissatisfied with the work, Now it was because the skins had not come out of the vat yellow enough, and had not enough creases ; now it was because a range of skins needed mending as the workmen had not been sufficiently careful; and so on and so on, always hard words for the workmen who worked eagerly and with all their might that the skins might be well tanned, and the mistress have no chance to grumble.
At first Sandu found these abusive words hard to bear, and all day long the thought worried him that the mistress only spoke so to him, and that it was with him only that she was dissatisfied. At one time even he was seized with the desire to go away so that he might hear her no longer, and the other men might not be worried on his account, for he said to himself that only since he entered the workshop had the work gone so badly, and the mistress's tongue chided so unceasingly.
But, all unperceived by himself, he grew somewhat accustomed to the ways of the house, and when a workman told him that the mistress had always been just the same, and that no matter how well the hides were dressed she always found some fault, he took heart and dismissed the idea of quitting the workshop of Talpoane, the mastertanner.
He was up almost before daylight, and never let his work out of his hand till it was dinner-time. He washed his hands clean, and took his usual place at his employers' table-for from olden times it had been the custom for the masters not to keep aloof from the workmen or to dine apart.
Silent at his work, he was, also, silent at meals. Only when he was spoken to did Sandu reply, gently and with dignity. The other men talked and laughed, and when they realized that it pleased the mistress to make fun of Sandu they began to crack every kind of crack at his expense.
At first Sandu, opened his eyes wide. He looked at them and could not understand them, but when he took it in he, too, laughed with them, a laugh full of kindness and friendliness. He lived on good terms with the workmen ; only one of them, Iotza, embittered the days. He only had to say:
"You have made the solution too weak," for Sandu, although he knew it was not true, to be unhappy all the week, and often his heart was full of fear, that the skins would not come out yellow enough or creased enough to please the mistress.
But he felt comforted when he noticed that, when he came into the workshop, Master Dinu asked only him how many hides were being worked, and when they would be ready, for at such and such a fair he would need so many, because a customer was trying to get in touch with him.
"They'll be ready when they are wanted ; don't worry," Sandu would reply.
Arid away Master Dinu would go, quite content, and quite sure that the hides would be ready when they were wanted for the fair, or had to be despatched to some customer.
He saw that everything went very well since Sandu entered the workshop. The skins were kept in the pits just long enough for the hair to come off easily and not burn in the lime; the solution was boiled enough, not too hot and not too strong ; the poles were in their places ; the stretching-pegs were in n neat pile, and the workshop was cleaner than it had ever been before.
And Master Dion knew the value of a good workman in a place where there were many workers, and where work was plentiful.
" There is only one thing he lacks," he said to himself, " he would be a man in a thousand, but he is too diffident"
But, even in spite of his diffidence, he thought so highly of him that had he asked for four florins a week he would gladly have given it sooner than let him go away.
So he said to himself, but Sandu did not dream of asking for much more than he had. All his life he had worked for the same wage.
It is true that had he done as the others did, and drawn out money every Sunday, he might, perhaps, have felt it was hard to see Master Dinu paying out a great deal more to the others than to him, but he did not ask for his money. On one occasion only did he draw two florins from his pay, and that was because, on a certain Tuesday, his mother had sent greetings to him and had asked him if possible to send her a little help.
Sandu ran off at once to the market-place to find Master Dinu to ask for all the money he was entitled to for his work, that he might send it to his mother. Master Dian, not knowing what he wanted it for, nor how much he needed, asked whether two florins would be enough.
"Yes," he said, and with the coins in his hand he went to the man from his village. He wrapped up the money and begged him to lose no time in giving it to his mother and in telling her how much he longed for her, and that, perhaps, she might come to him, for he was working for a good master, and up to now he had not been idle for a single day.
A fortnight passed and he received no tidings of his mother. But on Tuesday, the day of the weekly fair, while he was spreading out the skins, the man came to tell him he had given the money and had brought a letter written by "Peter the Chinaman."
Sandu took the letter and would have liked to open it, but he caught the mistress's eye and involuntarily thrust it into his breast.
"Look at him," she cried, "we are longing to finish the work quickly, and he thinks only of reading lines from his sweetheart."
" I have no sweetheart," replied Sandu gently.
"Who writes to you then ? "
" My mother."
" Your mother ? She can't know how to use a pen. Did you ever hear such a lie--
" I do not lie."
" Not lie ? Hold your tongue ! As if your mother knows how to write-- And she looked rather sulkily at Sandu, who moved on to the other pile of stretching-pegs.
At this moment one of the workmen told her that the letter really was from his mother, but that it was written by a Chinaman in the village.
"Then why didn't he tell me?" she cried. "Am I supposed to know everything?" Sandu turned round. "But can you read ?"
"Yes, mistress, I can."
" It's a good thing you can."
The mistress went away and the men were busy with their work till dinner-time.
Sandu lingered over his letter. When he went indoors the mistress could not resist having one or two hits at him. But Sandu scarcely understood her ; his mother thanked him with all her heart, and he was so full of joy that even had the mistress struck him he would have felt nothing of it. He ate of the food, but he could not have told if he were satisfied or hungry when he got up from the table, and he worked like a nigger till the evening.
In bed, with his hands beneath his head, many thoughts crossed his mind. Three years had passed since last he saw his mother. He had often longed for her when he was in the army, but only from time to time had he received news of her. He had left her old and poor,
"And longing for me wilt have aged her a great deal more," he said to himself, and his heart was heavy when he thought he could not go to see her. " How good it would be if I could go and see her at Christmas ! In the meantime I must send more money to give her pleasure and console her."
And he fancied how she would cry with joy when she got the money, and how she would pray
God to lengthen his life and give him success and happiness.
And he seemed to feel himself close to her, and he seemed to hear the whisper of sweet comforting words.
Wrapped in such thoughts as these he fell asleep.
The next day God sent glorious weather, and Sandu beat the skins carefully and often that they might dry quickly.
But no matter what trouble he and the other men took, the skins would not dry, and Master Dine could not begin the cutting out till next day ; the cutting out and trimming goes quickly when one has everything close at hand, and some one elp one, and Master Dina began to cut out and to trim. But the damping, oiling, thickening and sewing of the sandals and straps was difficult and tedious.
There being great need of haste, Master Dinu told his wife to call Ana, their daughter, that she might help to damp the sandals.
The mistress, who was holding the skins to make it easier for Dinu to cut out the straps, :n ,', trim them after cutting out, put her hands on her hips and looked at her husband.
"What, my Ana damp the sandals?"
At his wife's words Master Dina stayed the knife in the middle of the skin.
"She is not a smart lady, is she, and you are not going to marry her to some grandee : There is no disgrace to her in coming to give a little help."
His wife lost her temper. Her daughter damp sandals! Her daughter associate with the men ! Her daughter, who had gone to school to the nuns for so many years ! Her daughter, who knew how to sew so beautifully ! Her daughter, who was friends with the niece of one important person, and the inseparable companion of the daughters of another! Her daughter to handle the sandals and make her fingers smell of bark!
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," she said, hoarse with anger, "even if you do not know how to behave properly, you need not insult your daughter."
"Insult ? " questioned Master Dino.
But his wife rushed from the room.
He looked long after her, then glanced at the workmen, took up the knife with a nervous movement, and began quickly to cut out the sandals.'
The workmen, who had heard the words exchanged, and seen the abrupt departure of the mistress, kept complete silence and busied themselves with their work.
Master Dian. finished cutting the skins.
"You might hurry yourselves a little when you know the work ought to be ready," he said to the men, and departed, hanging his head.
"Very unhappy is Master Dina," said Iotza, looking after him.
"Why?" one of them asked him.
" Why ? Because those are the sharpest words I have ever heard coming from his mouth."
Dinner was unusually quiet, only the little boy whined and asked for first one thing and then another. His mother gave him one or two raps over the knuckles to make him sit still and be silent, but the child began to cry, and she angrily sent him into the next room.
Master Dion said never a word and his daughter, Ana, looked round her in a frightened manner, and would like to have asked what had happened to-day to make them all so downcast.
Sandu had seen her many times, but he had never seen her well. He knew she was the master's daughter. He greeted her when she came to the table, but speak to her or look her really in the face, that, up till to-day, he had never done.
But when he saw her looking sadly, now at her father, now at her mother, and then at the others seated round the table, he wanted to say something to her to cheer her and make her laugh. But he had nothing to tell her, he could not find a word, and when their eyes met he felt as though he were being swept away by a storm, and carried he knew not whither.
Ana was so beautiful and so graceful. With her white hands and her fair face one would never have believed her to be the daughter of an artisan. Her big blue eyes, so full of kindness, were shaded by black eyelashes, and when she laughed one's heart glowed in the joyous sound, and one wished one could often hear her laughing.
Iotza--he had been workman with Dion for a long time-when the mistress was out of the house, had more than once asked her to mend something for him, and not infrequently she had brought him drink from the cellar when the frost was sharp and he had complained that be could not stand the cold. And with all his prudence lotza had let drop a word in the workshop in praise of Ana's kindness.
And so it came about that they all waited for the mistress to go out that they might speak to Ana and ask her one thing or another.
Only Sandu had never been to her. And that was why he especially wanted now to divert her thoughts and make her smile.
Her eyes troubled him and he felt happier when he found himself back in the workshop.
One day, according to the allotment of the work it was his duty to turn the skins in the vats full of birch bark solution. He was alone in the workshop, he could work in peace, but he often let the stick fall from his hand, for, unlike other days, that day the fumes made him perspire, and he did not notice whether the skins were thoroughly turned. There was one vat more to turn when the door opened gently.
"Good luck, Sandu."
Sandu raised his head as though he were in a dream, wiped away the sweat, and looked at Ana as one looks at a person one does not the least expect to see. He wanted to say something to her, but a lump rose in his throat. Ana came nearer to him.
"Sandu, I came to tell you to put the sandal< in the box after you have turned the skins."
"Good;' replied Sandu.
" Don't forget what Father said," and away she went.
Outside she met Iotza, and passed him in such a hurry that she did not hear his greeting.
"Well, Sandu, what did Ana want in the workshop ?" he asked as he threw his apron behind a vat.
"Nothing," replied Sandu, who was disappointed at not talking longer with Ana.
"Nothing? Well, well! Listen, have you turned the skins ? "
" I have."
" Have you filled the boiler with water ? "
"Yes, I have."
" How much have you put ? You have not filled it l Bring two more bucketfuls."
"How can you pour two more bucketfuls ;n when it does not hold more than one ? "
"It does not hold mare ? I tell you plainly you have been too lazy to bring more, and who knows how you have turned the skins."
Sandu grew red.
"Iotza, I learnt my work from the master and not from the workman."
"And what next? "
"The next is, that I don't need your advice."
" We shall see," cried lotza, and went off: I
Three days later the mistress came to the workshop; she walked about here and there, and after a while she looked at the vats and took out a skin.
"Who turned this vat?"
"I did;" replied Sandu.
"I thought as much! Now you-just come and look at your work! That's how you turned it ; that's what the solution is like ; that's the kind of work you get paid for!"
Sandu went up to the vat feeling as though he had been struck on the head. The solution was yellow, the skins were yellow and creased as usual, and he could not understand what fault the mistress had to find.
"I told him so;" said lotza, interfering in the conversation ; and as he opened the door to takeout a bundle of bark, he added : " But he knows everything, and doesn't need advice from anyone."
"Of course," scolded the mistress, "you did not have time to turn the skins ; you stood talking, and took no heed of your work. What was Ana looking for here the day before yesterday ?"
"Ana-Ana came to tell me to put away the sandals in the box."
"And you could not do that much without being told ? You are the kind of man one must tell everything to, otherwise there would not be much use in your work!"
For some time Sandu stayed alone in the workshop; he felt as though he could not move. His mistress's words rang continually in his ears, and he felt numbed by their harshness.
The apprentice had come to call him to dinner, but he had not gone. It seemed to him they had all heard what the mistress said, and would have stared at him.
Iotza and the other man returned from dinner and found him in the workshop, his hand resting on the vat.
" Why, when you had turned the skins, didn't you come to dinner, or have you been talking to Ana?" sneered Iotza.
Sandu heard his voice, but he did not take in what he said. He looked at him with great sad eyes, and not knowing what to do went outside.
Sandu rose at daybreak the following day, but he could not have told if he had slept, or whether his thoughts had tormented him all night. He left the workshop without having done anything, he went to the pits, and took the skins out with the pincers to try whether they were ready to dress, then he returned to the workshop and was still quite un- settled.
He went to dinner with the other men ; he followed them ; had anyone asked him whither he was going he could not have told them. They were alone, and all quite silent, and just this silence was painful to Sandu. He would have liked to hear conversation, a great deal of talking. They were about to rise from the table when the mistress arrived. Everything seemed to turn black before Sandu's eyes.
After exchanging a few words, Iotza said
"Mistress, you better let me turn the skins in those two vats--"
"Yes, you turn them, just like Sandu did."
The blood rushed to his head as Sandu dropped his knife and spilt a piece of lard upon the table
"Do you think I shall pity you because you don't eat ? You have not turned them well, and that's all. I didn't begin to keep a workshop today or yesterday."
" Oh, it's always mistress, mistress! Do your work properly, and don't let your thoughts go wandering far afield, then no one need find fault with you:'
The workmen rose. Sandu got up too ; his feet could hardly carry him, and his head was heavy.
For two whole days Sandu• did not know whether he was himself or some one else. He could not take his food, sleep only came to him at rare intervals. And during this time he often thought of going to Master Dinu and giving him notice. Several times he had left the workshop determined to tell him, but once Iotza had called him to come and help with something, and then he had thought it over and had left it to a more suitable time when he should find Dinu alone, for in front of the mistress he could have said nothing to him.
And who knows whether he would have said anything, if Master Dinu had not come through the workshop. He asked him how the skins were getting on, and then, as he never cared to prolong a conversation, he prepared to go, after telling him that one lot of work must be pressed forward, and the other done in such and such a way.
Sandu had followed him but the words died upon his lips.
"What is it, Sandu? Do you want to tell me something ? "
"Well, Master Dino, without any offence to you, I want to give up the work."
Master Dinu looked long at him. He was prepared for anything except this, and just now when the fairs were in full swing.
"You want to give me notice? But why ? "
"Because the mistress is always abusing me, and she is not satisfied with the way I work, and Iotza makes fun of me, and I can bear it no longer : it is too hard. I work with all my might, and I want to do good work, and I don't want you to keep me just out of charity as people say you do."
"Come, don't do that; you know the mistress, that is her way. As for Iotza--listen, I'll stop his mouth, And, then, where would you find another place? Take my advice and let me talk to the mistress."
Master Dino went away, and Sandu returned to the workshop. Before he had spoken with Master Dinu he had not seemed to realize whether there was work to finish, and now he did not know whether he had finished it or not.
Master Dino went into the house. He told his wife that Sandu had wished to leave, and bade her leave him in peace from now on, seeing that he was an industrious workman and an honest man.
"Thank you," replied his wife; "Let me tell you that I take as much interest in the workshop as you do, and if I am not to be allowed to speak to the workmen, or give them orders about the work--
"I do not say you are not to give them orders, but you are not to make fun of them. After all, they are human beings."
"So I am in the wrong I If I tell them how they are to do something I am making fun of the men; impertinent man, to accuse me of joking. And why didn't you send him away?"
"Send him away? Why? just now when we are greatly in need of men ? I rack my brains to try- and ,get another hand for the work, and don't know where to find one, while you are longing get rid of Sandu, and in the long run, for no .on. You must not be like this,"
They were still talking when Nitza Burencea came to ask if he was going to the fair at Devi.
That evening, after supper, the mistress stopped Sandu as she wanted to send him somewhere.
"Sandu, why did you want to leave your work you not satisfied with our food?"
"Or don't we give you enough whisky in the evening?"
"I don't drink whisky,"
"Don't drink it? But, you silly man, why didn't you tell me? And those other two said nothing about it-you don't think it rains whisky with us, do you ? They have drawn your share all these days. But I'll wipe their mouths for them. Why did you not tell me long ago ? "
"You never asked me."
"Well, go where I tell you; and, listen, if I send you it is because I have not got so much confidence in the others ; do just what I have told you. I will do so, mistress," replied Sandu, with a much lighter heart.
When he reached the street he told himself the tress was not so bad after all.
An hour later, when he returned, only Ana was upstairs.
After saying good evening, seeing that Ana was by herself, he prepared to go out again.
Ana, who saw he was about to open the door, asked him
"What do you want, Sandu? Whom are you looking for ?"
"For the mistress,"
"Then wait for her, she will soon come. Sit down."
Sandu seated himself on the edge of a chair.
Ana was sewing ; he watched her hands with their rapid movements, and his eyes were absorbed in looking at something more beautiful than he had ever seen before. Ana felt she was being watched. This idea seemed to hurry her, and she grasped her needle and began to sew quickly. The more intently he watched her, the more embarrassed did Ana become, and a rosy flush mantled her cheeks. A sort of fever came over her, and in her innermost soul she was picturing Sandu, to herself, how he was sitting on the chair with his black eyes fixed upon her, and his eyes were so beautiful and so eloquent, and Sandu was good-looking. She could beat it no longer, his look seemed to burn her.
"Sandu, why do you look at me like that?"
"I-I-was not looking."
A long silence followed. Their souls seemed to draw near each other in the silent room ; they spoke no word, but it was as though they told each other many things and understood each other very well. He was very conscious of her, so near to him, her light breath was almost inaudible, but it made his heart beat fast ; she was very conscious of him, and something intangible but sweet seemed to invade their hearts.
She felt as though she could not sew, and he found it hard to look at her. He was afraid of offending her and he was shy, and he felt he should be ashamed for her to find his glance resting upon her hands.
He kept his head down. But Ana would ham liked to look at him, she would have liked to bask in the light of his eyes, for she felt happy enveloped in their warm glow.
Sandu did not lift his head. She dropped he ball of thread. Roused by the noise, Sandu jump,,! as though he had been burnt. He searched under the table and saw it.
She forgot to thank him, and he could not say .. word, but their eyes met and they both blushed.
The time passed on.
"The mistress does not come," said Sandu a little later, "and I wanted to tell her that I had to stay some time where she sent me."
"She will soon come," replied Ana. "Sandu, you told Mother that I had been in the workshop?" she suddenly questioned, looking straight at him.
"I did not tell her."
"Then, who could have told her?"
"It was not I, and I do not know who it was."
"How Mother scolded me I And she said I had stayed a long while talking to you. Was I a lung time? "
"Certainly not ; you just came to tell me to put the sandals in the boxes, and then you went away."
" Why doesn't Mother like my talking to you when Father says you are so good ?"
He said nothing; she stopped; and a few moments later the mistress came in.
" It is a good thing you ace back, I was waiting for you," she said hurriedly, " I neatly sent some one after you ; you are very slow. Now, come and tell me what you have done."
In the ante-room he told her what he had arranged with her aunt, and then went off to bed.
The next day was Sunday. The men had little work to do, and by ten o'clock they were free. As usual on feast daps there was wine on the table, and Master Dino, having bought some thirty skins much mote easily than he had expected to, was more cheerful than usual.
Sandu was more forthcoming than was his wont, and had washed and brushed himself extra well to-day. Ana, too, was smart, smart as always, but she had no time to sit as she had constantly to jump up to help her mother. Every now and then she threw a glance at Sandu, and a strange feeling of joy possessed her that he could see her, that he looked at her.
Only the mistress was as usual, and when the child complained constantly that his head ached she ranted the meal to finish quickly. She laid a wet handkerchief on his forehead and put him to bed. The child became quieter, and Master Dino, after drinking the wine that was left over, rose from the able-a signal that the meal was finished. Then, according to his usual habit, he took up his hat, squired if anyone wanted any money, gave Iotza what he asked, and went off into the town.
"Sandu," said the mistress, when the workmen had gone, "if you are not
going anywhere, come back in an hour when we have finished with the
inner things and sit with Gheorghitza, for to-day is Sunday and
perhaps visitors will come to the house," Ana looked at him ; Sandu
hardly understood the mistress's words, and could not answer her.
"Speak, are you coming or not ?"
" I will come." And he went out as though he had been pushed. At three o'clock came the mistress's mother, a woman of about sixty years of age, rosy in the face and well made. She was wearing a dark coloured skirt, and on her head a handkerchief of black silk which cached nearly to her knees, and in her hand, like all old women, she carried a yellow handkerchief.
She rarely came to see her daughter, partly because she knew her time for going out in society was past, but especially because Mistress Veta was not glad to see her on feast days; she would not have come to-day, but she had not been for a long time and she was desirous of seeing her grandchildren.
Inside the front room she rejoiced over the beauty and good manners of her grand-daughter, who, with her mother, was removing the last speck of dust, or putting back in its right place anything that had been left about.
Ana sat down by her grandmother, and her grandmother stroked her head and looked tenderly into her face. She never grew tired of saying: " Such grandchildren, such dear grandchildren." But just when she was feeling happy the door opened.
" Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Naraschievici ! " said Mistress Veta, jumping up to receive them as though some royal party had arrived.
"Pray sit down."
Mr. and Mrs. Naraschievici accepted the invitation, while their daughter, a pale, plain girl of over twenty years of age, did not forget to kiss the mistress's hand.
"I kiss your hand, aunt," said Ana, too, while Mrs. Naraschievici in her turn embraced her on the forehead, and could not help expressing her wonder at how tall Ana had grown and how pretty she was.
Ana blushed and joined Miss Naraschievici, while the mistress's eyes shone with pleasure.
"You must not tell her so ; you must not turn her head," she said, just for something to say, while her mother was asking herself the question as to why on earth her grand-daughter had said that " Aunt."
It is true that neither Ana nor Mistress Veta was, related to the Naraschievici family; however, Mr. Naraschievici said it was "aristocratic;' and all he said was right in Mistress Veta's eyes.
" Is Master Dinu at home?"
"No. You know what he is-he cannot bear to stay at home."
As she said this, Mistress Veta approached her mother, who looked as if she could have taken the whole Naraschievici family and put them outside the door, so angry was she because they had spoilt the happy hour she had hoped to pass with her grand- daughter.
" Mother" she whispered in her ear, "it would be kind if you would go downstairs to Gheorghitza, who ought to be up now."
The old lady was at the door before she had finished speaking ; with her hand on the latch she looked furiously at her daughter and at Mr. and Mrs. Naraschievici, choked back some words and went out.
She was going away, saying to herself that she would never again set foot inside the house, when she remembered Gheorghitza. When the old lady went in Sandu was telling him tales.
" Here is kind Granny, here is kind Granny;' cried Gheorghitza gaily.
He got up quickly, put his arms round her neck and kissed her over and over again.
The old woman forgot her distress as she held Gheorghitza in her arms. He began to untie the handkerchief and feel in the pocket of her gown.
"Look what Granny has brought for Gheorghitza," she said.
It was her habit to bring some toy for him.
Now that he had a plaything, Gheorghitza was no longer ill. His kind Granny made him forget it. The old lady watched him for some time, and then she looked at Sandu.
" How is the work getting on ! "
"And business is profitable?"
As Sandu said this Mistress Veta came into the ante-room, took a plateful of cakes out of a cupboard and went quickly away again.
During the noise she made the old lady looked intently towards the window.
"She takes them upstairs, but she did not invite me;" and her eyes filled with tears. "That is how she esteems me;" said the old lady, steeped in bitterness. "It's a sad world. I have reached an old age when my own daughter is ashamed of me. She sends me out of the house as if I were a nobody, May God not punish her, for she has children.
But it hurts me to see her pay no attention to me just because of some bankrupts, some wretches who have fled from Temishoara to avoid their creditors. But I did not come to get something out of her. I did not come like those bankrupts to get something to eat. Thank God I have all I need at home, but that she should belittle me in such a way as to make me ridiculous in their eyes-Lord, Lord, did I rear her for this ? Is it for this I watched over her?"
"Sandu;" said the old lady, sighing heavily, "give her my thanks, tell her how I appreciate the honour she has done me, and that all my life I shall never forget that she received me as she should receive her mother. But listen to me; tell her, too, she may wait a long time before I cross her threshold again, and she need not send to me when she wants anything. Let her go to the gentleman, to the bankrupt Naraschievici."
And away went Mistress Vets 's mother, so that she could not see where she was walking, while Sandu sat with drooping head.
In about half an hour Ana came. She was disappointed to hear her grandmother had gone, and wanted to know why.
Sandu did not like to tell her, and because his, heart would not let him lie he said to her in a low voice
" Well, she went because she could not stay."
Ana, sat on the edge of the bed, and sympathizing with her brother, she asked him whether his head ached.
Gheorghitza had no time to answer ; he shook his head and weal on playing.
"Sandu, can you stay with him? You see, I must go up again. Gheorghitza dear, be good and play nicely."
Then she kissed him and went slowly away as though she were loth to go.
And with her went Sandu's heart and the joy which filled his soul when he saw her standing by her brother and kissing him so tenderly.
Mistress Veta was beside herself with pleasure that evening. She did not even ask when or why her mother had gone so suddenly. She told Sandu that he was not to dare to tell her what the old lady had said, but to go and get wood to make a fire to warm the supper. And once again she went over in her mind all that Mr. and Mrs. Naraschievici had said. She felt very flattered, and said she did not remember when she had spent such a pleasant day.
There was a heavy frost and the Timish was frozen. The tanners were obliged to have openings made in the ice to enable the rinsing of the skins to take place.
Sandu, shod in big working boots, made his way through the thick mist and came down to the Timish to rinse a set of skins. Behind him came the apprentice with a harrow containing the block of
I wood with its stand, the rinser and two hatchets for breaking the ice. They made the opening in the ace and Sandu remained alone. He fixed one end of the block on to a stake and arranged the stand firmly under the other, opened out two skins, placed them one over the other, on the block, and began to work.
Sandu was hardened and accustomed to the cold, but however fast he worked his breath froze and his hands grew stiff. Seldom at first, but then more and more frequently did he stamp his feet. He put the rinser on the block, breathed into the palms of his hands, and swinging his arms he beat under his left arm with his right hand, and then under the right arm with his left hand, to make his blood circulate, the while his eyes watered with the cold.
Round him was a frosty calm ; the gurgling of the water as he turned the skins made him realize all the more the severity of the winter. He worked away at his task, but slowly, and with little result. It was getting towards noon, and he had rinsed five skins when he heard a crunching of the snow on the bank, and raised his head.
The rinser dropped from his hand. On the bank was Ana with a jug in her hand, wishing him "Good luck."
Sandu did not know how to answer her.
" Come, see what I have brought you, a drop of warm wine, for Mother is out, and you must be cold."
Sandu came up the bank ; he could hardly hold the dug.
" Thank you," he said with his mouth, but his heart spoke from his eyes.
Ana looked down.
"Drink quickly," she said, so softly she could scarcely be heard, "for I must not stay long."
Sandu drank the wine.
"Ana, Miss Ana!"
Ana drew back her hand, and looking at him in a way I cannot describe, she said " Are you warmer now ? "
Sandu's eyes were too eloquent, the peaceful n isolation was so tempting, the stillness of the atmosphere was too intense, their hearts were too attuned for them not to understand each other.
She went up to him with an eager movement, and he put his arm about her waist and clasped her to his heart.
They neither of them said a word, but to them both it seemed that no words were needed.
" Sandu, I must go, I must really go, for Mother might come," and gently she disengaged herself from his arms took a few slow steps, turned round, and then fled like a little kid towards the house.
While Sandu was watching her, Costa came along ; he too, was a master-tanner.
"Ha, ha ! Talpoane's hands live well. What a moment for me to arrive," murmured Costa in his beard, smiling as he thought of the story he would be able to tell. "Sandu," he shouted, "I was going to see you, but as you are at the rinsing I have come down to ask you whether the hides which I have been waiting for these three days have come from Pests."
"No, they have not come."
"Not ? Why the devil haven't they sent them ? Have you much work ?"
"A great deal."
" How many hides ? " "'
Sandu looked at him.
" We have a lot."
"A lot. Yes, I know you have a lot, but how many?"
"I have not counted them:"
"Have you got business at Hunedoar fair ?"
"I believe so ; the drying is difficult, though:'
"You have got some heavy skins, haven't you ? "
"Some heavy, some light ; you know how it is with the work."
Costa bit his lips and would like to have given Sandu a cuff or two, so angry was he that he would not tell him what he was longing to know.
"But, it's cold!"
" It's cold."
"Come, you ought not to feel it much when Talpoane s daughter brings you drink."
The blood rushed to Sandu's face, and he did not know why he did not strike Costa to the ground as he smiled at him.
"But what of it, haven't we all done the same kind of thing? Only look out that nobody sees you and nobody hears you. That's all right, I won't keep you from your work ! "
Sandu could not see, everything was black before his eyes, he was hot all over and a fire seemed to burn within him. He gnashed his teeth and stretched the skin as though he would tear it, and rinsed as though he had some rival to surpass.
At midday the apprentice came to call him to dinner. On the way he remembered what had happened and would have liked to turn back. In the ante-room he saw Ana, and his heart beat as though it were on fire. Ana, too, was radiant, her eyes laughed with joy, and the dimples in her cheeks were more tantalizing than ever. Sandu's heart was full of delight; he forgot what Costa had said; he was only conscious of Ana's voice.
After dinner the cold was not quite so cruel, the calm was not so intense, and he did not feel alone ; there seemed to be plenty of life around him, but whenever he turned his head he could only see Ana and longings awoke in his heart, and many pleasant thoughts passed through his mind, and they all gathered round Ana's form. His thoughts carried him far, and he pictured himself with a workshop and a house of his own, and Ana beside him making life sweat. They were so tempting and so full of charm that Sandu smiled to himself as he strung together tender, caressing words to say to Ana, for he felt she belonged to him, and no one could disturb the peace of these happy days.
Night closed sadly in and Sandu had long ago finished his work, but he did not want to move. He was loath to leave the pleasant, quiet spot where he had pictured to himself the path in life that was awaiting him. He gave a sigh of regret as he stepped along the bank and walked towards the house of Mistress Veta.
The nearer it drew to the Christmas festival the busier became the fairs, and the tanners raised the price of their goods because the weather was moist, and the peasants were obliged to buy sandals whether they wanted to or not.
Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday, and, accordingly, the weekly fair had never been better.
Although Mistress Veta had such a lot to do that she had hardly time to turn round, she remained at the booth till ten o'clock, when she returned home.
The little white, crown-shaped rolls were baked and divided up, some for the house, some for the poor, and some for the guests who would expect hospitality the day after Christmas Day. When everything was finished and put ready, and Master Dinu arrived, they all went into the front room, There they lit a fire that must not be allowed to die out, that Christ, who was born on this night, might not feel the cold, and there they quietly waited till their house was visited by carol-singers and lads carrying " Stars " or " Magi." To make the joy next day more complete, they lit the Christmas Tree, and out of a cupboard Master Dinu took a little riding-horse for Gheorghitza, and for Ana a work-frame and other things suitable for a big girl. The parents were happy at the gratitude written on their children s faces.
Gradually the world seemed to wake up, the quiet in the town was dispelled. As the stars rose in the sky, there appeared in every street, girls carrying " Christmas Trees;' boys with " Stars " or " Magi " or "the Manger," and young men with "carols," and amidst this busy movement, amidst this pleasant noise, amidst slow, sad songs or beautiful carols, the whole town seemed enveloped in an atmosphere of reverence ; each one, forgetting the troubles of life, felt himself drawing nearer to the glory of God.
While Master Dinu was listening to the carolsingers from his windows, and taking the symbol of the Magi into his house, Sandu sat alone in the workshop over the way. He had lit an end of candle, and was sitting on a chair in front of the opening in the stove below the boiler.
At intervals a drop of liquid fell from the vats, and the sound of its fall echoed long in the quiet workshop.
The noise from outside broke dully against the window and took Sandu's thoughts back to other days. And all at once he began to carol to himself .
"And as you journey thither There comes wafted many a mile, From where the Holy Infant lies, The scent of fair Flowers, The glow of bright torches, The smoke of the incense, The song of the angels."
He sang softly, and the dead past of the years he had spent since he left the home where he was bar n seemed to unroll itself before him. And as he saw himself alone, and deprived of every kind of pleasure, a tear crept into his eye, and with his head resting upon his hand, he sat gazing into the fire. All the nine years that he had spent Christmas among strangers, he had envied the joy of others, and never once had he felt in his heart the peace of the season as he used to in the days when he was at home. And who would think of him, or who would give him any happiness at this holy festival ?
The workshop door opened hastily, and the appearance of Ana scattered his thoughts to the wind.
"Sandu, I have brought you something for Christmas." Sandu did not hold out his hand for it.
How you look at me, Sandu! Why do you not want what I bring you ?"
So saying, ulna came quite close to him, and put what she had brought into his hand. "Ana," said Sandu, in a stilled voice, "may God look upon you as I look at you:"
His voice seemed to come from the depths of his soul, and Ana's look grew troubled. The kindness and sorrow with which he spoke touched her strangely, and resting her head upon his breast she murmured as in a dream
" Sandu, dear Sandu."
But she had to go, for she had stolen from the house when some boys, carrying Magi, had arrived, and her mother would be looking for her,
Sandu remained behind to tell himself that never had God given him a happier Christmas.
The day after Christmas, in the afternoon, his various god-children came to Master Dinu's house : hospitality demands hospitality. They brought with them rolls and other things. Mistress Veta spread food upon the table, and whoever came took in exchange a roll from the god-parents.
By the evening, Lena, Tziru's widow, alone remained.
Master Dinu was in a hurry to get away, and Ana was downstairs with some friends.
The women remained by themselves, enjoying the wine and conversing. And when two women sit gossiping, who escapes unscathed by their tongues ? One person is so and so, another person dresses so absurdly that every one laughs at her, and so the idle talk runs on.
"Doesn't it make you laugh "Mistress Veta takes up the word-" when you see Costa's wife as pink as a girl ? How can a woman of her age paint herself?"
"Never mind her, my dear, there are others--"
" I don't seem to have heard of them."
Then a little later on
" I don't know how it is but Costa is an illnatured man and a regular chatterbox."
" You say truly, it's the talk of the town."
"But he has become a little more careful, he's not as he was a while ago. He has begun to shrug his shoulders only and keep his tongue quiet."
"He pretends to, my dear, but you have not heard him-it's better for me not to tell you, not to make you unhappy, especially on a feast day,"
"Of course, you must tell me," Mistress Veta raised her voice and her eyes flashed.
"I would sooner you heard it from other lips."
"Now, Lena, either you tell me, or--"
Lena knew Mistress Vera too well not to tell her that Costa was saying how he had seen Ana going down to the Timish with warm wine for Sandu, and how she had stood in the cold for two hours talking to him, and a great deal more besides.
Red was the wine, but Mistress Veto's face was redder still. She might have had an apoplectic stroke.
"Ah! He said those words ? "
Lena did not know how to calm her.
" My dear, really I did not know how much it would upset you or I should never have told you. Why do you get so angry ? Every one knows he is a liar and a mischief-maker without his equal in the empire, and who pays attention to all his tales, and all the world knows how you have brought up Ana. What tanner's daughter can touch her ? Your Ana-came, leave it."
"I wilt not leave it;' cried Mistress Vets, somewhat calmer. " I'll show him. To whom did he say these words ? "
" I don't know to whom he said them ; I heard of it in Trifu's house."
"In Trifu's house! Trifu is his cousin. Don't listen, Lena ; do you believe his lies ? "
"How could I believe him, my dear, how could I believe him ? Neither did Trifu believe him. He said he would blush to invent such lies,"
"Lies, Lena, lies. But let him see me! My daughter--
" Say no more about it, Vets. May God keep Ana well, and you see her happy. Costa-but who's Costa? Everybody laughs when he opens his mouth," ,
"You heard it in Trifu's house ! Who knows in how many places he has spit out his libels, for that man spits, Lena, he spits worse than any cat;but I am not I if I don't pay him out." Lena agreed with her, and sympathized with her and urged her not to be so angry, for the whole town knew what Ana's behaviour always was, and people stood still and looked after her when she passed by, sweet and modest as a rosebud.
" Why let yourself be unhappy, my dear? " she said, getting up to go, "when every one's heart swells when they see Ana, as if she were not the pride of us all when we see her going about with gentlemen's daughters. Ana is just herself, and there is no one like her, so why give yourself bad moments because of the tittle-tattle of a man like Costa ?"
Mistress Veta accompanied Lena to the door, and came back asking herself what was to be done.
Master Dinu came back just at the right moment.
Without much hesitation his wife told him everything with various additions and improvements.
"Eh! And what of it?" he said. "Don't the people know us and our daughter, and don't they know what Costa's words are worth ? Only Costa says it."
Mistress Vent looked furiously at him,
" What! The town is talking about your daughter, and you don't mind?"
"It isn't that I don't mind I Of course I mind, but what would you have me do ? Go and kill him ? Don't be like this."
"Not be like this ? I'd better be like you and not care when they insult my daughter! "
"Come now, what am I to do?"
" What are you to do ? Woe betide the house where the man is not a real man! Find out, discover to whom he has said it, collect witnesses, and see he never opens his mouth again."
" I will see about it."
"Don't see about it, find him."
Master Dian knew that his wife must always have the last word, so he said nothing; he would have been glad not to he at home, but he could not go now. A few minutes later he said
"Listen, Veta, all right, I will find witnesses, but supposing it's true ? "
"True?" screamed his wife, and looked as though she could have thrown herself upon him and struck him. "True? Why doesn't God strangle the word in your throat? " she snarled, and hurriedly left the room.
A few seconds later she returned with Ana.
"Ana, hear your father say that it is true you took warm wine to Sandu."
The haste with which her mother had called her, and her father's expression so overcame her, that she stood with drooping head, and raising a corner of her apron began to cry.
" So this is where we have got to-get out of my sight that I may never see you again."
Mistress Veta sank exhausted on to a chair, while Ana sobbed as if her heart would break.
" Why all this to-do even if she did take wine to the poor man ? What is the great harm in that?
She took him wine because he was cold, and because I told her to go;' said Master Dinu, going up to Ana. "Don't cry any more;" and he stroked her forehead.
Ana continued to sob, and clung more and more tightly to her father. Master Dinu felt as if his heart would break.
"Go and kiss your mother's hand, it's nothing. Vera-- --"
" No, let her get out of my sight, let her go. Ana has done this to me, my prudent daughter, my good daughter, my much-praised daughter, her mother's joy-she has done this," and Mistress Vets shook her head while everything seemed to turn black before her eyes.
Master Dinu did not know what to do. To put an end to it, he drew Ana gently outside, and tried to quiet her sobs.
A little later he returned to the house. His wife was exhausted and depressed, and sat gazing at the floor.
Suddenly she rose.
"Dims, you must give Sandu notice to-day, do you hear ? If you don't go now and tell him never to show himself here again, you'll never have any peace from me."
"How can I dismiss the man in the middle of the night ? You must see we cannot-and then, what harm has he done ? "
Mistress Veta could have killed him with a look.
" You will give him notice, do you understand ? Or I will turn him out:"
"All right, Vets, we will give him notice, but what stories will be told about us outside I How we dismiss workmen on feast days, and turn them out of the house in the dead of night. You must be patient. To-morrow I will give him all the money due to him, and tell him to go in God's name."
" It's your business to deal with him ; never let me see him again ; if they make any fuss I'll scratch his eyes out. He has got us talked about, no other than be, do you hear ? Let him get out of my workshop, or there will be trouble."
Early next day, Master Dinu went to the workshop and called to Sandu.
He found it difficult, and he much regretted having to part with him, but there was nothing else to be done. He asked him how long he had been in his workshop, what money he had drawn, and made the calculation as to how much he had still to receive.
Sandu felt as if the house were falling about his oars-he could not keep him any longer? The blow vas a heavy one.
"You have twenty-seven florins to come to you," sail Master Dino, and he did not seem to have the courage to look Sandu in the face. "Here are thirty, so that you do not lose your daily pay up to the beginning of next week. May God give you good fortune, you are an good man, and an honest, but I-I can no longer keep you. I am sorry, but I cannot help it. God be with you."
And so saying, Master Dina went away.
Lost in thought Sandu stood gazing in front of him, seeing nothing. After a while he sighed heavily, picked up his money, and with a heart that seemed turned to ice he went off to collect all he had, poor man, in the way of clothes and linen, before he took the road.
He collected all his possessions, but he could not make up his mind to take leave of the men with whom he had worked so long. Even Iotza was sorry, for Sandu had been kind, and never spoken a rude word to him.
"I am sorry to leave you; said Sandu, and he felt as if his heart was breaking.
"God be with you," replied they, and holding out their hands they accompanied him outside.
Iotza went a little way with him.
"Sandu, listen; I cannot bear not to tell you, but I know the mistress and you, and I know you want to go and say good-bye to her. Don't go, listen to me : it was not the master, it was she who said you were to be dismissed. Don't go, it is better not to go."
Sandu made no reply.
They went a few steps farther together and parted. The nearer he drew to Master Dinu's house, the more he longed to enter. He felt as though some one were urging him to go in. When he was quite near the door Master Dinu came out into the street. When he saw Sandu he stopped.
" You are going ? "
" I am going, master, but I wanted to take leave of the mistress."
"As the mistress is not at home let me tell her."
Sandu bent his head.
" Good luck to you, master,
" May God be with you! "
With slow and heavy step Sandu took the road to the market-place. At the corner he stopped. He turned his head and looked back along the street towards Master Dinu's house.
He had crossed the square and was on the bridge when he met Nitza Burencea.
" What's up, Sandu, have you left ? Where are you going ? "
Sandu, like a person awakened out of a trance, with his eyes fastened dreamily upon the distant horizon, answered in a troubled voice
"I go out into the world ! "
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