When all the children were slain, the tired soldiers wiped their swords on the grass, and supped under the pear trees. Then they mounted one behind the other, and rode out of Nazareth across the stone bridge, by which they had come.
The setting of the sun behind the forest made the woods aflame, and dyed the village blood-red. Exhausted with running and entreating, the cure had thrown himself upon the snow, in front of the church, and his servant stood near him. They stared upon the street and the orchard, both thronged with the peasants in their best clothes. Before many thresholds, parents with dead children on their knees bewailed with ever fresh amaze their bitter grief. Others still lamented over the children where they had died, near a barrel, under a barrow, or at the edge of a pool. Others carried away the dead in silence. There were some who began to wash the benches, the stools, the tables, the blood-stained shifts, and to pick up the cradles which had been thrown into the street. Mother by mother moaned under the trees over the dead bodies which lay upon the grass, little mutilated bodies which they recognized by their woollen frocks. Those who were childless moved aimlessly through the square, stopping at times in front of the bereaved, who wailed and sobbed in their sorrow. The men, who no longer wept, sullenly pursued their strayed animals, around which the barking dogs coursed; or, in silence, repaired so far their broken windows and rifled roofs. As the moon solemnly rose through the quietudes of the sky, deep silence as of sleep descended upon the village, where now not the shadow of a living thing stirred.
SAINT NICHOLAS EVE
From “The Massacre of the Innocents and other
Tales by Belgian Writers.”
Translated by Edith Wingate Rinder. Published by Stone & Kimball.
Copyright, 1895, by Stone & Kimball.
“This is the finest day of the year, Nelle,” exclaimed a big stalwart man of about sixty, with a bright smile, to a fresh clean-looking woman, who at that moment came down the ladder of the boat with shavings in her hand.
“Yes, Tobias,” replied the woman, “it is indeed the day of days for boatmen.”
“Do you remember the first feast of St. Nicholas, which we kept together, after we were married?”
“Yes, Tobias, it will soon be forty years ago.”
“Hendrik Shippe, our master, came on to the boat and said to me: ’Tobias, my lad, you must keep the festival of our blessed saint in a proper way, now that you have brought a wife to your boat.’ With that, he put a five-franc piece into my hand. ‘Mynheer Shippe,’ I replied, ’I am more pleased with your five-franc piece than if I had been crowned.’ I went out without saying anything to my dear Nelle, crossed the plank, and ran into the village to buy cream, eggs, flour, apples, and coffee. Who was glad when I came back with all the good things and laid them side by side on the table, while the fire burned brightly in the stove? Who was glad? Tell me, my Nelle.”