The struggle between youth and authority — the clash between love and parental desire—is fought over a fresh battlefield in this vividly human story of life among the new Canadians of the prairies.
ANNA KURYLA BYCHINSKY
"NU, OLD man, already are you asleep?" called Paraska to her husband as she untied a gorgeously rose-bordered cashmere shawl knotted under the hollow of her sagging chin, removed it from her smoothly combed gray head, and caressingly placed it with her festive attire in the dresser drawer.
It was Sunday, and nearly midnight, and perhaps a little too early to be home from a wedding, but to Semeon and Paraska Krawchyn the ceaseless babble of many voices, dancing feet, scraping fiddles, and clanging cymbals, were no longer things of hilarious joy. After patiently enduring it all day and half of the night, they were at length able to take their depar ture with becoming dignity, without giving offence to their kindly host and hostess.
No sooner had they reached home than Semeon sought his bed. Even now he was tuning up for a whole night of snoring, but Paraska, after the manner of all wives, interrupted him.
“Nu, Semeon, do you hear?”
Semeon caught a puff before it escaped his thickened lips, blinked, and asked wearily: “What is it ‘stara’ (old woman)? Maybe you to me were talking?”
“And to whom then?” said Paraska, wiping the dust and looking ruefully at a scratch some careless dancer had left on her best pair of shoes. “Surely it is to you I am talking.”
“Well, then, what is it you want?” drawled Semeon, drawing his bushy eyebrows together above wrinklewreathed eyes that could hardly keep open.
“Ach!” protested his wife, with difficulty unfastening two rows of coral beads. “How am I to talk when right away you sleep before my eyes . .
“But how am I asleep when all the time I hear you?” snarled Semeon.
“There, you have him! ... I did not yet start and already he is raging!” resented Paraska, pulling on her crocheted cap far too much over one ear.
“Oi, what is with you, stara?” exclaimed Semeon stretching out his short legs under the blue counterpane. “Where am I angry? . . . Speak what you must and do not wait all night to begin!”
“Our Teodor . . .” began Paraska, a slight catch in her voice. “Our Teodor ... all night was dancing with Elena, Widow Jarema’s daughter . . .”
“Such news she tells me!” cried Semeon. “And for that you must trouble a man at midnight! . . . Would it have choked you to wait till morning? . . . Well, and what do you make of it, what?”
“What do I make of it?” Paraska’s shrunken chin trembled with vexation. “Other people’s children are getting married, but it is not of you to worry about anything! ... It was I who found a wife for our older son, and . . .”
“Bah! Such a wife!” sneered Semeon. “Found him a wife! But what did he get with her, what? If I had not given him one of my quarters they would not have had a handful of earth to start on . . .”
Without heeding her sputtering spouse, Paraska
went on. Calmly, almost stoically, she spoke:.
“Yes,.it was I who found him a wife, and now he has three children and a good farmer he makes, too. While Teodor, what does he do? Buys a fifty or a sixty dollar suit every summer, wears out the automobile tires running to town Heaven knows what for, spends enough money on gasoline to keep a wife the whole year round, and you say what do I make of it! Would it be a shame if I were to have a young daughter-in-law to do the chores and keep house for me? Do you still think that I am the strong woman that I was years ago? . . . No, you never think of anything but farms, and farms, and your threshing machine! and all the time your son is getting to be an old bachelor and here you are maybe not even minding how many years he has!”
“Ach, look at her!” said Semeon tauntingly. “Thinks I do not remember that Teodor has . . . Teodor must . . . have . . .” And hopelessly he scratched the bald path on his round head with his stubby fingers . . .
“Now that is a father for you!” broke in Paraska. “And what did I say? ... I remember as though it'were but yesterday that Teodor was born exactly four days before Easter, the first year we came to Canada, two weeks after you had the log-cabin put up on our homestead!”
Semeon puckered his furrowed brow while he tried to do some mental arithmetic. After finishing, he exclaimed: “Then Teodor has twenty-eight years! Nu! Nu! Nu!”
“Yes, and you lie there, so, and say: ‘Teodor has twenty-eight years!’ just like that! and all the time the people of our district ask me why our Teodor is not getting married ... If he were a hunchback or in any*
way misshapen, but he is as straight as a candle . . . And soon the threshing season will set in . . . Am I forever to slave? . . .” As she spoke the little woman’s eyes welled with tears. She bit her quivering lip, blew out the light, dried her eyes on her knuckles, and laid herself with a sigh on her huge, spotless pillow.
“Nu, and do what you like with the ‘baba’ (woman)!” grumbled Semeon as he settled himself 4 beside her. “Whimpering like somebody had given her a beating! Could not you have come out with it like a man? No; you start on one thing and finish on another! What you want is Teodor to marry. Well, am I against that? Let us get him married. If we cannot find him a wife in Meadow Springs we will look for one in another district. This is a foolish trifle! If it were only as hard with everything in this world as it is to find a wife! But speak, have you any girl in mind for him?”
“At the wedding Teodor seemed not to take his eyes off from Elena ...” began Paraska.
Semeon did not let her finish. “We do not want Elena! She is too much a ‘pani’
(lady)! Brought up in the town, she would not want to work on the farm. Her mother has spoiled her. Whoever heard of sending a girl, eighteen years old, to school? The foolish widow will yet be sorry, for no son of a good farmer would marry her!”
“You speak the truth; there is that drawback,” said Paraska regretfully, “but if you do not want her then there is Marynia,
Joseph’s daughter . . .” hazarded she.
“I’ll have none of Marynia!” cried Semeon, irritatedly. “Get her in and you will have the whole family here and you know what her mother is like with that long tongue of hers! . . .”
“Who, then, is left?” said Paraska, anxiously . . . “To be sure there is Tekla, Melnyk’s daughter, but I would rather. . . .”
“Ah, now you have her!” exclaimed Semeon in a highly pleased tone. “The very girl for our Teodor. Strong like a mare, and works like a man. Dmitro is rich and his farm joins ours. We will make the wedding and you shall have a daughter-in-law inside of a couple of weeks. Now that is settled. Good night, my stara!”
HALF an hour later a car whizzed past Krawchyn’s house bound for the town six miles away. Undisturbed, Semeon and Paraska slept on, scarcely dreaming that Teodor with his arm around Elena, was taking Widow Jarema’s daughter home from the wedding.
TWO days later when Semeon was completing the round of his wheat fields he came across Dmitro Melnyk at a place where their farms joined.
“God grant you a good day, neighbor!” saluted Semeon.
“God grant you the same!” responded Dmitro, a tall, anky fellow with a thin face and dark, wistful eyes. “Have you been looking at your bread?”
“Yes,” replied Semeon, giving his friend a hearty handshake. “The grain looks promising this year if only the frost does not set in . . . How is your family doing—your wife and your gins?”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, they are well enough.” As Dmitro spoke his voice trailed off, and his face took on a worried look as though a father with five daughters could not possibly remain cheerful for long at a time. Together they took a few steps, then stopped. “You have a fine daughter-—that oldest one,” commented Semeon. “Are you thinking of giving her away in marriage?”
“She is not so old yet,” said Dmitro in a protective tone. “She has not full eighteen years. . . . But why do you ask?”
“Nothing so much,” drawled Semeon, as he disposed of his beloved pipe and wiped his graying whiskers with the index finger of his closed fist, . . only my Teodor ... it is time he was settled. My idea is ... he should marry your Tekla.”
Dmitro’s anxious features suddenly became wreathed in scores of smiling wrinkles. He patted the sleeve of his denim jacket while his eyes beamed on Semeon. “If the girl is willing I will be much pleased to have it so,” he said, almost smacking his lips.
“That is good,” said Semeon with lowered eyes. “To-night I will speak with my son, to-morrow or next day we will send our ‘swaty’ to your daughter . . .” Dmitro swallowed every word. As he continued Semeon took out his pipe, deliberately filled it with tobacco from a worn pouch, thumped it down with his middle finger, struck a match upon his thigh, applied it, and looked up, his eyes full of cupidity, “. . . only . . . a-hm! . . . you will give this quarter that joins my farm to your daughter for her marriage portion.”
Dmitro’s smiles froze on his face. “But, Semeon,” said he, chokingly. “What is it you are asking? That I should give this quarter of summer fallow to Tekla! Is my daughter blind or a cripple that I must give away my land with her? What would I have left were I to do that with all my daughters! Would you hang pauper’s bags upon my shoulders? Surely you must be joking! In Canada who asks for marriage portions? Think you
ROUND AND ROUND-
nothing but round and round. How he hated his work, the office, his home. Then, he escaped. Out of the tones of a violin in a master’s hands, he builded a new city.
Never before has Beatrice Redpath written a more appealingly human story than this—“The Rose Red City”—in the February Fifteenth issue.
I will start the fashion?” He looked defiantly at the short, overalled autocrat.
“As you like,” said Semeon blandly. “What you do not want to give I may find others who will be only too glad to give that much and more!” He turned on his heel and was about to walk off but Dmitro caught his hand.
“Who,” said he, stepping in front of Semeon, “who so much do you think your son is? Think you there are none above him?”
“You will have to know that there are none!” said Semeon turning back. “Is it every day that you can get a son-in-law like my Teodor? Is it every father that has sent his boy to big schools like I have, ha? And how much did your girl’s education cost you? Not one broken cent! While my Teodor, had he not enlisted, could have been a lawyer, or a doctor, or even a teacher ...”
Several times Dmitro opened his mouth to speak but each time Semeon stopped him with a gesture of his hand as he raised his voice higher. “. . . you will see that what I speak is true—your girl will marry some one who will not even know how to sign his own name! But why should I worry about that? My old woman knows plenty of girls right in our own district to whom my Teodor can send his ‘swaty’ any minute . . .!” Dmitro’s melancholy eyes were throwing out fire. His mouth agape, he twisted and turned and repeatedly tried to speak but as long as Semeon had something more to say he would not let him put in a word.
“But maybe you thought my Teodor would go on his knees to her. On his knees! . . . That would be something now, would it not?” Semeon clinched his fists and laughed a short mocking laugh.
Dmitro seized the interval. “And maybe you thought my daughter was going to run after your son? Thank God there is nothing amiss with the girl! If not your son, then somebody else will marry her. But you, Semeon, hold your nose too high! Because you are r.'ch and own a threshing machine you think you can make me dance to any tune you like to play!”
Semeon’s weakest spot was touched. “If I have a threshing machine, it is not because I stole it but because I worked hard for it. But show me what you have—-now show me!”
“Well,” said Dmitro, growing red in the face, “if I have no threshing machine to show you, I at least know where I can buy one. For this season’s threshing I will own one and right to-morrow I will go to see about it. As I see from our talk there will come nothing, so may God grant you a good day!”
They shook hands and each man went his way, but Semeon walked slowly and looked thoughtful.
“/'"''ETTING ready to go some place?’-’ queried AJ Semeon as he looked up at his tall, handsome son of the dazzling brown eyes, who was ready to leap into the car that stood in the yard.
It was evening and the chores were all done, and the supper was over and Semeon and Paraska were sitting on a wooden bench under a fine maple tree.
“Yes, I am going to the post-office and from there I will drive to town. But why do you ask?”
“Nothing so much, only it is on your way, so why not call on Dmitro’s Tekla?”
“Call on Tekla!” exclaimed Teodor. “Why should I call on her? She is nothing to me!”
“But she may be,” said Semeon evenly.
Teodor turned puzzled eyes from his father to his mother and back again. “But what does this mean?” he asked.
There followed a painful silence. Twice Paraska started to leave the bench and twice sat down again while Semeon persistently picked at a callous on the palm of his hand. Presently he said: “Dmitro says he is going to buy a threshing machine.” The calmness of his voice told to what depths his emotions were stirred.
“A threshirg machine!” cried Teodor, his eyes flaming. “But that is unthought of! What does he want to buy a threshing machine for?”
Semeon ignored the question. “There is not enough grain in our district for two threshing machines and mine was here first.” There was anguish in the old man’s heart but his manner did not show it.
“Father, what are you getting at, anyhow?” Teodor had left the car and was coming closer to the bench.
‘ Only this: You will have to marry Tekla without a marriage portion just like your older brother did.” There was genuine scorn as well as sorrow in Semeon’s voice.
When Teodor spoke his voice was menacingly low. “Maybe you spoke to Dmitro about his girl for me?” he asked, his unflinching eyes, now black as night, fixed upon his father.
“And when did a father have to get permission from his son? . . .
“You seem to forget that you are not growing any younger. Your mother, tired of waiting for you, needs help. Dmitro is much respected, and Tekla will make you a good wife.”
“But what do you think—to lead me about like a calf on a rope? I have my years and my likes and dislikes! And anyway I do not care about the girl.”
“Think you I cared such a lot for your mother when I married her as I do to-day? Do not be a fool! Better you send your ‘swaty’ and claim Dmitro’s daughter for yourself.”
“That I will never do!” Teodor’s chest was heaving, his nostrils quivering.
“Then Dmitro will buy a threshing machine!”
“Let him!” White with anger, Teodor flung himself into his car and drove to town where he made a prolonged call on Elena.
“CEE, now, how you have raised your son!” shouted ^ Semeon at Paraska, whose pinched face looked sorely troubled. “He has dared to defy me! You mind my word, stara, one of these days your son will bring you some pauper for a daughter-in-law! The ungrateful one! He would see Dmitro, that fool, that miser, run a threshing machine right under my very nose rather than do what I tell him! Maybe he thinks I am looking out for my own interest when I am on the watch that he gets something with his wife. The one plain fool! 1 will disown him! I will not leave him so much as a handful of dirt from my farms! I will throw him out of my house!”
In his rage he tore across the yard, ran into the house and there thumped the table and stamped the new linoleum with his heavily shod feet. Paraska followed him in.
“But, Semeon, have you gone crazy, or what?” scolded she. “Where have you sense to get so angry? Are you without bread that you must ask for a dowry? Besides, if Teodor does not want the girl, can you force him to take her? If you were thinking of making him obey you should have found a wife for him much earlier. Maybe you think he now fears you?”
“Just the same he will have to respect my wishes!” thundered Semeon. “Who am I—a beggar or an honest farmer, sweltering in the hot sun and freezing in the winter till my limbs are ready to drop off? Is there nothing coming to me for all that? Can not I say whom my son is to marry? I abided by my father’s choice, and who is Teodor that he should not abide by mine? It will, indeed, be a fine world when children will have all the say in such matters!”
AT THE same time Dmitro and his fair, plump wife were holding a conference.
“With nothing should you worry, but do as I tell you,” Marynia, with a shrewd look in her gray eyes, was saying, “and we will yet pound the nail in for Semeon! Teodor we will not let slip through our fingers. I have long wished for this match. Neither will we give away our land, nor yet will we hang a threshing machine around our necks when there are none in our house to run it. You, to be sure, would the very first day come to my kitchen with one arm off.
“To-morrow you will go to town as you told Semeon, you will look at the machine without buying one, then you will bring home some lumber, and you will start to build not a shed for the threshing machine, for that would most foolish be, but a fine summer kitchen for me, and Semeon, the greedy one, will beiieve it is the shed, but we will keep our lips closed until the old man comes to his reason. See, this is the way it will be!” Continued on page 53
Continued from page 14
FOUR days passed. Instead of lounging around after the evening meal as was his wont, Semeon would go into the shed behind his house and lovingly finger the huge red monster that brought him much money every fall. The threshing machine was the sole object of his unlimited pride, and he openly revelled in the admiring looks his envious neighbors cast on it. He came to look upon the threshing outfit as the one and only machine of his district. He thought there never could be another. It would have been difficult to convince him that there was a better machine in the province of Manitoba, or even in all Canada. And it certainly never crossed his mind that some other farmer might buy one until Dmitro had made that statement. Had a bomb exploded under him he could not have been more amazed.
This evening he was more restive than ever. From Dmitro’s place, not a mile away, he heard the whacking sound of a hammer that puzzled him. “What could Dmitro be doing?” He strained his eyes to ascertain the cause, but a thick growth of bushes prevented him from seeing. This annoyed him to such a degree that he decided to call on Dmitro and see.
As soon as he was i*n the yard Semeon looked about him. A large amount of lumber was laid on piles and some was scattered around. At a little distance from the house a foundation of heavy planks and two by fours were laid on a levelled piece of ground, and Dmitro was working at the structure.
“Ah, God help you, but neighbor, what is it that you are building?” asked Semeon suavely.
“This,” said Dmitro, casting an embarrassed look at his wife, who that moment appeared on the scene. “This is to be ... .” Semeon was watching Dmitro’s expression as a cat does a mouse.
Marynia came to the rescue. “Good evening, Semeon. My husband is building for me a kitchen. It . . . will be rather . . . nice, ha?” and the woman gave her husband a look so crafty that it immediatey brought about the calculated effect.
“It is not the truth they are telling,” thought Semeon as he coughed, gulped, and nodded silently.
After that the conversation turned to the differences in the price of lumber at the local dealers and, from that, to every day occurrences—horses, competent help —but in spite of everything their talk lagged until it died a natural death.
When Marynia left them Semeon broke the silence. “Listen to me, Dmitro,” said he, “we have been friends and neighbors ever since you came to Canada. Give up this idea and to-morrow . . .” ■“To-morrow,” chuckled Dmitro, “tomorrow to my Tekla will come other ‘swaty’ who are not likely to ask for land. And who knows, maybe I will get a son-in-law who understands how to run a threshing machine. Maybe you figured that if your son did not take my Tekla she would be left single until her head was gray.”
“Dmitro is laughing at me now that he is expecting another suitor,” thought Semeon, shaking with repressed anger. “Just as you like, Dmitro,” said he, starting to go. “For a thing like this there can be no forcing. Lots of other girls for my son to choose from. God grant you a good night.”
“God grant you good health, Semeon.” All the way home Semeon’s mind dwelt on one thing: Should Tekla accept the other suitor there was nothing to stop Dmitro from buying the threshing machine. That would not do at all. Teodor must be forced to send his “swaty” before the other suitor showed up.
He reached his home and told the news to his wife. They called Teodor and together they labored with him until midnight but all to no avail. Teodor stubbornly refused to be what he called "their pawn.”
“But, Teodor, my son,” pleaded his mother, “think what you are doing.”
“I am sorry, mother, but well I know what I am doing.”
“But, Teodor,” thundered his father, “Dmitro already is putting up the shed; next thing he will have that machine in.” “Then let him, but I will not go back on what I have said from the beginning!” "The boy is bewitched!” wailed his mother.
“Get out of my house!” shouted his father.
“I have made my living away from the farm before, I can do it again,” said Teodor, and he started to throw his clothes into a suitcase that had been in France, but his mother clung to him and instead of going out he went up into his room looking very determined about something, his boyish features set in hard, manly lines.
THINGS were not any better next day at Dmitro’s house. The suitor, accompanied by two other men, the “swaty,” had arrived. While they sat in the best chairs in the living room with her father and mother Tekla had managed to peek through a crack in the door and just that one peep seemed to convince her that the suitor would not suit. When a little later her mother came to bring her in, nothing short of physical force would have made the girl leave her room. To Dmitro’s great humiliation, he had to apologize for his daughter and send the disappointed company away. Scarcely were they gone when Dmitro began scolding. He finished with a curse that included girls, suitors, and everything pertaining to them, then left the room.
And there was his wife all ready for him. Marynia, her best yellow shawl draped into a neat turban about her thick, brownish hair, her gray eyes flashing angrily, gave her husband no time to prepare himself for the attack.
“And what for did you send the ‘swaty’ away so quick?” she scolded.
Dmitro opened his mouth as if to say something in self defense, but Marynia stopped him.
“Better you not talk so much but go this evening and hear what Semeon will have to say. It would be a shame and a disgrace for us should he now drop our girl and take elsewhere a wife for his son. Go you now and I will come little later.” Dmitro went. “Well, neighbor, scorching days we are having,” he announced himself to Semeon who appeared from the shack where he had been oiling his machine.
Again they talked of other things and again their conversation dragged, and all the time Dmitro eyed his neighbor mournfully. “About that little affair,” he began, scratching the back of his neck, “My wife . . . that is I . . .1 mean my daughter, would not speakto thesuitor;the little ‘bestia’ would not even look at him. Now did ever you hear of such a thing? And my wife scolds and scolds / . . Do I know? . . . maybe Tekla has set her heart on Teodor. She acted queerly; dressed and to town she went ; God knows for what.”
Semeon smothered a chuckle with the palm of his hand as he reflected.
For a few minutes both men were silent. Semeon, confident that Dmitro was such easy game now, puffed absent-mindedly at his empty pipe, as he pictured himself the owner of nine quarters ' instead of eight. He had no doubt that Teodor, in time, could be persuaded to marry where he could better himself. Puffing eagerly, he fixed expectant eyes on his neighbor.
“Is Teodor not at home?” queried Dmitro, loudly cracking all the knuckles of his left hand against his right one.
“Ach, where would you find him home on a Saturday afternoon?” replied Semone. “About four o’clock he washed himself, put on his new suit, and went to town.” Pulling out his tobacco pouch, he added: “Said something about having important business down there, but that he would be back by seven; it is nearly eight and he is not home yet. Maybe he had a blowout. But why do you ask?”
Dmitro started as though for a second he saw something more than a coincidence in Tekla’s and Teodor’s going to town, but he said:
“Semeon, I would like this thing finished. You wanted a whole quarter. I will give you half, if for that you will let Teodor help me out with my farm work, for I am much in need of another man about the place ...”
Semeon jerked his pipe out of his mouth, but next moment he had himself under control. “That you need a man around your place is nothing to me,” he said, without raising his voice. “It is my old woman who needs help about the
house. And for what did you think I was getting my Teodor married—to be somebody’s servant? Well, he will not be yours! As for that half quarter, better you keep that for yourself. Maybe, if you are in need of more land, I will yet give you one of my quarters.”
“You will give me half a quarter!” he repeated, with exasperating mockery. “Better you should sell it and have some money to make a payment on your threshing machine, and I ... I will tell my old woman to look about some other place for her daughter-in-law. If my Teodor is not one quarter worth ...”
“Do you take me for a round fool not to see that you are laughing at me!” cried' Dmitro, jumping to his feet. “Wait, you, Semeon, I will sing for you something that will make your face wry. Such a machine will I buy like this district never saw! Then on your old one not even a dog will want to bark! Oh, I will this time show you . . .” and he rushed out of the room swearing that‘should he have to sell his farm, he would buy a threshing machine.
Alarmed lest he had said too much, Semeon hurried after him, caught him by his suspenders and tried to detain him.
Their wrangling brought Paraska and Marynia from behind the chicken coop where they had been feeding a late brood of fluffy, yellow chicks with the cottage cheese Marynia had brought when she had come, a few minutes earlier.
“Nu, look, and did you ever see the likes! Our old men will yet start their hair to pull,” observed Paraska to Marynia as she hastened to intercede. “God be with you! Semeon! Dmitro! Have you gone clean out of your heads? Do yourselves quiet down! Is it this way husbandmen behave? Tfu! Tfu!”
“I would not a word say,” began Dmitro, looking apologetically at Paraska, “but was I the first to speak of the match? Maybe he did not come to me and say he would like to see our children married? And now he ...”
“T OOK you all!” suddenly exclaimed L-j Paraska. “Semeon, what woman is riding in the car with our Teodor?”
Instantly the contention ceased and all attention was turned on the occupants of the car that was fast approaching the gate.
“Maybe . . . maybe it is our Tekla,” said Dmitro under his breath as he strained his eyes hopefully in the direction of the couple.
“It looks like . . .” Marynia conjectured, drawing together her thick eyebrows as she looked out on the road. “It looks like . . . But it is Elena, the widow’s daughter who is with Teodor. As I stand alive it is she!” exploded Marynia, as she turned her eyes, two interrogative points on Semeon and Paraska, who, without taking their eyes off the car, instinctively came close together as they always had done whenever some difficulty confronted one or the other.
They waited. Semeon, immovable, pressed his pipe firmly between the two rows of his solid, brown teeth, his feet planted securely under his stocky body; Paraska folding her hands in and out of her faded gingham apron.
The car drew up close to the house and stopped. Deliberately Teodor opened the door and sprang from his seat, extended his hand to his companion whose graceful form for a second rested on his strong arm, when together they came toward the little group.
Four pairs of eyes, each registering a different emotion, were silently rivetted on the approaching couple. Dmitro’s features assumed a disconsolate aspect, Semeon’s, a hopeless bewilderment, as he saw Teodor gravely leading Elena, demure, and blushing deliciously, up to him.
Had the whole world depended on Teodor’s words it could not have been quieter. The very leaves on the trees overhead, that up to the present moment had rustled in the breeze, seemed lulled and hung motionless with suspense.
“Father,” said Teodor, simply, "we beg for your blessing, and for yours, too, mother; Elena and I are married.”
“Married!” exclaimed Paraska, Marynia, and Dmitro, staring incredibly at Teodor and then at each other. Semeon alone felt the walls of the earth suddenly fall away from around him, leaving him stunned, his tongue shrunken thick behind his set teeth, his eyes mournfully proclaiming a bruised heart and cherished hopes crushed by his son’s irretrievable step.
“Married! When? By whom? Where?” clamored the three.
“At six o’clock this afternoon at the parsonage in town,” Teodor informed them.
A great sigh escaped Semeon. Paraska looked beseechingly from her husband to her son and at the Melnyks who were whispering together.
“But what kind of a marriagewasthis?” objected Marynia, half anxiously, half maliciously. “On Elena’s head there is no veil—where is her bridesmaid? Where are the people? Such a marriage! Not even will it be lawful, for who would ...” Teodor was about to speak but his mother, flushed with resentment, interfered: “No need for you Marynia to worry about the marriage, for our Teodor already knows good what is right and what is wrong! Not for nothing did he spend two years overseas and months and months in the trenches! He needs not you or anybody else to tell him what is a lawful marriage and what is not.. Think you he would bring disgrace upon somebody’s child? Fie!. . . Come, my daughter,” and taking the embarrassed bride from Teodor she folded her in her arms to the great amazement of the Melnyks.
“But we were not married the way you seem to think,” Teodor explained. “Your Tekla was Elena’s bridesmaid ...” “Our Tekla!” bellowed Dmitro.
“Our Tekla!” shrieked Marynia.
They looked helplessly from one to another. Such things as were happening about them now were unheard of in their backwoods district where every marriage, every birth, every funeral was conducted along the time-honored lines. Speechless they stood to all appearance not knowing whether to fume and curse, or to yield with as much grace as they could.
“Nu,” cried Paraska, impatiently, “and who else if not Tekla should have been the bridesmaid? Am not I her godmother? Is not she Elena’s friend? And you all stand there staring like so many calves at the full moon! Ahi! Why—there is the wedding feast to think of now!”
“Old man,” said she, turning to Semeon, “Go you and kill a pig and a dozen chickens right away; Dmitro will help you. Teodor, you must the fiddlers look up, and the guests invite, for to-morrow. we will dine all our friends and our relations. It must not be said of old Krawchyn that refreshments were stinted or good will lacking at his son’s wedding feast.
“Elena, my daughter, all night we will cook and bake; I the meats and such things, you the pies and cakes for that you would know how to njake better. And you, my good Marynia, maybe you would have time to make me two or three kettlefuls of ‘holubtzi?’ Yes, you will, nu, that is good! When your Tekla will be getting married I will come and help you. Come now in, Elena; come, Marynia. Right away will I have the coffee ready then you men we will call.”
Semeon looked from his wife to Teodor and Elena, who were smiling into each other’s eyes.
“Old woman,” said he, turning to his wife, “about the pig and the chickens I will do as you say. As to the children may they live in health ...”
He could not finish. The last ten minutes had left its devastating record on Semeon’s face as well as on his spirits. Slowly he turned and with heavy steps followed Dmitro until they came to the sty. Supporting himself wearily against the fence post, his hands limp on each side of him, Semeon raised his dimmed eyes to those of his faithful friend and began dolefully accenting his words with many sorrowful nods.
“See, Dmitro, how it goes to-day in the world. Youth takes the upper hand over wisdom. The time is here when we must sit behind and in silence look on from afar. No longer do our children respect and obey our. wishes . . . While we were preparing for a wedding in our own way, our children planned and carried it out in their way—the Canadian way! A-ya! A-ya! . . . Instead of a good strong woman, my son brings me home a wife like a wisp of straw . . .”
With a profound sigh Semeon became silent while in the gathering twilight his misty eyes looked reminiscently far out over the Eastern horizon ...
Suddenly he shook himself and turning to the sty, said: “Look, Dmitro, which pig, think you,,we should take?”