"Heavens!"/Chapter 21

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

XXI.

We were driving along the high-road.

“ What do you call this village with a castle not far from it?”

“Labutín.”

“And this other one with the church?

“Rades̓ín.”

“A large church!”“

And a very fine one, too. But the bird is better than the cage.”

“Ah, you mean the priest?”

“Yes—Heavens. Did you never hear about Heavens? ’Tis a long, long story. He was instituted here quite lately. He was at Záluz̓í formerly—a very poor living; but when the old priest at Rades̓ín had finished his last meal, the baron transferred him here to the fattest benefice on the estate, and at the last visitation the bishop himself, at dinner, appointed him dean ad personam.”

“So he is in good favour both with his patron and the bishop?”

“I tell you he is loved by everybody. He is educating his Pepíc̓ek for the baron; the boy is, in fact, the baron’s own son. It is a long story. The baron didn’t marry for a long time after. Then at last he tried it, but had reason to be sorry soon enough for taking the step, and thanked God when, after about two years and a half, he was mercifully delivered from his precious better half. Then, as he did not wish to be the last male branch of the ancient and renowned family, he made Pepíc̓ek his heir and successor; and Heavens has the charge of bringing him up and making a good honest fellow of him. And there is no doubt of his success; the boy is wide awake, and, what is more, he is educated in a natural and sensible manner.”

“And what about Miss Naninka?”

“Oh,that’s a long story too, I tell you. She makes no more nudles nor plum-dumplings now; she only prays piously, and lives in the fear of God, looking after Baron Pepi in all his ways and doings, and taking snuff on common days from a silver box, on holidays from a gold one. Both snuff-boxes are presents from the baron. If she has nothing else to do, she sits at the window and looks at a corner in the churchyard, where she has found and marked out a little spot for herself.”

“Why, this is almost like poetry!”

“Heavens turns everything into poetry.”

“Were you ever staying with him?”

“Last year about midsummer I was there. We talked far past midnight about all sorts of things and subjects. It is marvellous to see him! He is quite an old man, and yet he is never sleepy—never plagued with gout or such things. Smiles never leave his eyes. He does not smoke or take snuff, and never touches cards, though they say he understands most games better than the most proficient at them. In the morning I heard him calling from the window to somebody in the farmyard. You must know they have an arrant thief at Rades̓ín—a man of the name of Jiskra—quite an old chap; but not even a shingle on the roof is safe from him. It was about five o’clock in the morning. Jiskra was prowling about to provide fuel for himself for the winter. He crept into the priest’s yard, where there was very good dry wood piled up, and began throwing the heavy logs over the high wall. Heavens looked at him for a while from the window, and then shouted down to him—because Jiskra is rather deaf now—‘Jiskra, I say–Jiskra! wait a minute; I’ll come down and open the gate for you. You’ll hurt yourself, throwing the heavy logs in that manner.’ Jiskra looked round, jumped upon the pile of wood, from that upon the wall, and vanished.

“After breakfast we went for a walk to the fields, and came a little way beyond Rades̓ín to a potato-field. There we saw a woman kneeling with her back to us, pulling the potatoes out of the ground and putting them into her lap.

“‘Oh, you wicked woman!’ thundered Cvok at her; you are stealing potatoes! Whose field is this?’

“‘I beg your pardon humbly, very reverend father. It is your field.’

“‘Oh, that’s all right. Take up your potatoes and go away with yourself. Just think if it had been somebody else’s field!’

“In the middle of the potato-field there was a patch of poppies growing luxuriantly, the blossoms clustering thickly one upon another, so that it made one’s heart glad to look at them.

“‘Now, just look there,’ said Heavens, pointing to them with a smile. ‘What those poppies are among the potatoes, brightening up the whole field, just such are children in human life.’”

“That is poetry!”

“Didn’t I tell you that Heavens was made of poetry?”