Puslapio vaizdai




VOL. 104 June, 1922 No. 2


Drawings by W. T. BENDA

LTIMATELY everything reaches Stretching along both sides of the its destination. Everything goes to its own kind, whether to-day or to-morrow, in a thousand or a hundred thousand years, within eternity, drifting, soaring, and changing forms innumerable times, until it reaches that place where it belongs. Even the straw that goes into a baked brick does not remain there permanently. The years will wedge it out. So, no matter how, and no matter when, we always make our goal.

Thus man goes about with one ruling passion surging in his veins. And it is by that ruling passion that one recognizes the son and the son of his son. Whether the form of the body, the lines of the face, the color of the eye, or the tone of voice, be alike or not, even when there is not one single outward trace of common blood to call one kin, the ruling passion is incrusted upon the soul of kin.

For ultimately everything reaches its destination. So that even the straw baked in brick is sought out by the wind, to-morrow or in a thousand years, within eternity, and sent through space and years where it belongs.

Seret River, which splits the plains of Moldavia its whole length, is the old property of the Stanescus. The domain of pasture-land and pine-wood has been in the family for over four hundred years. It was old George Stanescu, who lived in the seventeenth century, and, freeing it of debt and incumbency, decreed that nothing more be added to the property and that not one hectare ever be parted with. Every Stanescu lived up to that tradition. The river divided the property into two parts. Following tradition, every boyar embarked every Sunday upon a large raft built especially for the purpose, and, surrounded by his favorite band of Tzigany musicians, he rode slowly down the river, the length of his property, to greet the peasants, his vassals, who came to watch the procession from both shores.

Seldom, if ever, had a Stanescu missed his Sunday visit. When a boyar Stanescu died, his body was kept over the first Sunday, so that he could have the last procession through his domain. Of the Stanescu property it was said, "The Seret passes

Copyright, 1922, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.


through it, and it takes a day on a raft boyars, and that the several married to go from end to end."

The old boyars sent their sons to study in foreign countries, to Russia, to France, or to Germany. But invariably, after a few years, the young Stanescus would come home from the foreign land and beg to remain on the property. The voluptuous life of Byzantian Moscow or the riotous life of gay Paris never succeeded in taking permånent hold of the soul of a Stanescu. And when they returned home, they would explore every nook and corner, roaming through their immense property, making maps of the lakes, hills, and dales, hunting the bear to his lair and the fox to his den with no desire to kill, but just to know where they were; becoming acquainted with every peasant, dancing with the girls at the inns, and in time dropping all the culture acquired away from their homes. Divesting themselves of the clothes they wore, they donned the simple peasant's garments, wide white trousers, a sleeveless, embroidered vest, and a shirt of homespun tied at the neck with two red ribbons. The other boyars living in the capital of the country, immersed in pleasure and politics, always referred to the Stanescus as "landed peasants and savages." The daughters of Stanescus married boyars and noblemen and lived in large cities, but the Stanescu men always married peasants' daughters.

[ocr errors]

Yet even the best blood runs thin in time. Thus it happened that when Jancu Stanescu's only son, George, died before he was twenty-two, Jancu remained the last of his race, trembling with fear that the end of the Stanescu rule had come, that the river was never to see the Sunday procession of the

daughters and their husbands were to come with lawyers and men with measuring-tapes to tear the land apart, desecrating it, parceling it out among themselves, changing the names of the villages and hamlets, and destroying that which many generations had built.

On the domain of the Stanescus lived a tribe of Gipsy musicians. Among them was one called Cornel, who played the violin so beautifully that his fame had spread beyond the land of the boyar. Cornel, like all the other Tziganies, although well treated, longed to go away and play at the curtes of the other boyars. Some man had come from the land of the Russians and assured him he could have him play at the czar's own palace. But the old boyar would not allow any of his Gipsies to depart from his domain. They were his slaves.

Cornel and his band played only at such weddings and funerals as the boyar permitted, and a custom had developed among the young men not to ask their sweethearts, "Will you marry me?" Instead, they would say, "Would you like to hear Cornel play?" For it was well known that many of the girls preferred to marry such men as could have Cornel play at their weddings. The inhabitants of the Stanescu domain divided themselves into two classes, those at whose weddings Cornel had played and those at whose weddings he had not. For at a wedding where Cornel played the boyar always put in an appearance, and the length of time he spent at a wedding measured the degree of favor and esteem in which he held the host.

At one of the weddings the boyar, Jancu Stanescu, had remarked a little

Tzigany boy of about twelve who was holding a violin beneath his coat and was watching every movement of Cornel. Between dances the boyar saw the little boy retire to a corner to repeat on his own violin that which he had just heard the master play. The rapture, the serious intent of the little Tzigany, as well as the great sorrow at his inability to do as well as he desired, contorted the dark brown face and brought tears to the large black eyes. Again and again he tried to imitate Cornel's perfect trill. Again and again he tried to obtain that perfect catch from the heel of the bow that was Cornel's forte. Failing to do it as well as he wanted to, the little boy spoke to his fingers, to his bow, to the strings, to the violin, begging them to do better than before.

"Who is that boy there?" the boyar asked his host.

The host glanced at the little Gipsy, and averting his eye in a rather embarrassed way as he met the lively query of the boyar's gaze, he answered:

"I really don't know," and hurried away. The boyar put the same question to a second and a third man. Failing to receive a definite answer, he finally asked Cornel himself.

"It is a long story, Boyar," Cornel answered, "one that saddens my heart; but the gist of it is: there is Cosinca. She is my brother's daughter. She was beautiful. Half a dozen men asked to marry her before she was sixteen. They all loved her, but she said 'Yes' to no one, neither did she say 'No.' One of them was found dead in the river, another's heart was pierced, a third one is in jail for life, a fourth committed suicide. Your son died. The man who married her swears that Tanasi is not his son."

The boyar looked at the little Gipsy who was fiddling away in a corner, and his heart leaped with joy. So, after all, there was a possibility that the blood of the Stanescus had not completely run out. What mattered it if it was half-Gipsy as long as it was still Stanescu and male? Had his son been alive, he would of course not have permitted his marriage to a Gipsy girl, for then there would have been hope for other sons. But now he ought to be happy that there was any kind of a Stanescu male, even one from the loins of a Tzigany. He looked at the boy and tried to discover in him a resemblance to the family. Though most of the other Tziganies had some resemblance to the Stanescu boyars, there was no trace of them in little Tanasi. The form of his head, the brow, the sharp nose, the mouth, the blue lips, almost forming halfcircles, the brown grain of his skin, were all thoroughly Tzigany, as though no white blood had ever been mixed with it.

Still, one could never know. The boyar remembered how some of his thoroughbred horses that had reverted to other types had retained all the fire, all the spirit, of their direct progenitors and all the speed of their sires. If there could only be a sign by which he could recognize whether or not Tanasi was a grandson of his, how gladly would he welcome that boy to the curte! How gladly would he pronounce him a grandson and make him the ruler of the domain!

But there was no sign. He approached the boy and talked to him. No resemblance in the timbre of his voice, nothing in the shape of the eyes. That peculiarly shaped lobe of the ear that had been a Stanescu

mark, stamping them for centuries, was totally absent.

"What do they call you?" he asked the boy.

"Tanasi," he answered.

"And who is your mother?"

"What do you want to be?"

"A lautar, a violinist. I want to play the violin as well as Cornel and to play at all the weddings."

"And if you had food and clothing and a nice house to live in and all the things you wanted, what would you then want to do?" the boyar asked the boy, looking into his eyes.

"Play the violin the whole day."

There was no hesitation in the boy's answer. The slightest would have given the boyar some hope that blood other than Gipsy's was in his veins. The slightest might have indicated a wedge of Stanescu blood, but little Tanasi answered promptly, affirming himself whole-heartedly a Tzigany of the truest race and type.

For a while the boyar allowed himself to be distracted by the dances that were going on. According to custom, he had the first dance with the bride in the center of the locked-arm-in-arm hora dance.

But after the new wine had been drunk and the house of the young couple blessed and the dowry of bolts and bolts of homespun cloth and silk and bundles of fur skins had been shown to everybody, after the painted wooden spoons and forks and brown earthen dishes had been blessed and praised by the popa, after the newly wedded couple had been closed up in their room, the key of which was put into the pocket of the father of the groom, the peasants and the band of Gipsy musicians went farther down

the forest to sit around a campfire and talk and listen to the music made by Cornel. The boyar saw little Tanasi again hiding behind a tree and listening enraptured to the violins.

"And what does Cosinca say?" the boyar suddenly asked Cornel. "About what, Boyar?" the Gipsy queried.

"About the boy, Cornel." "Nobody has yet heard her say 'Yes' or 'No.'"

And while the peasants sang and danced and Cornel played, the boyar stretched himself upon the green moss to dream that his race had not completely died out. Oh, if that Tanasi boy carried but the slightest resemblance to a Stanescu! If he but had the peculiarly shaped ear-lobe, it would have been enough. Yet he was a handsome little chap in his own way. The intensity about him was so very pronounced at that early age that it distinguished him from all the other boys.

The following morning the boyar sent for Tanasi.

"Let's hear you play," he ordered. "What shall I play?" the boy asked, trembling.

"Whatever you wish, son." The boyar stroked his hair.

So Tanasi played fragments from the improvisations he had heard the night before. It was far above the ordinary playing. The small tone was intense and vibrating with light and color. Tanasi could do only a few things, but he did them almost perfectly. He had limned his bowing to a velvet finish and smoothed his fingers to marvelous fluidity. Old Stanescu realized that there was great promise in those earnest eyes.

[graphic][ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »