Facing the sunshine, stretching to the east the village of Petlare, lies on a slope of a steep hill, cut from a deep gully. In the distance, like stiffened on their posts guards, there are cliffs that rise over beech and pine forests. On the left side of the ravine on the flattest area is the used-to-be square of the village. Opposite the pub, reminding that there is still life in this secluded area, is the old Priest Stoyo’s house. Abandoned and lonely, it calmly lives away its days.
Several old men are sitting on the bench in front of the pub, rolling the beads of rosaries and telling stories of old, troubled times. Listen to one of them.
The booming of the cherry-wood cannon guns died away. The April uprising was over. Like a bent but tough and steady tree after a storm the people got up. Rumors were heard that the Russians had crossed the Danube. Along with the distant rumble of the Russian cannons, rumors of fighting - joyous for some and terrible for others - were also heard.
Panic seized Rustem Bey, too. A Turkish troop of soldiers, retreating to the south, passed one morning near Petlare. There was no time to waste. The Bey ordered his retinue to get the most needed for travelling - food, blankets and clothes, the hidden “white money for the black days”.
The tall and red-cheeked Rustem Bey seemed to become smaller. His face became pale. The thought of the upcoming escape did not leave him alone. He will not let his yesterday’s rayah to remember him as a coward, fled with caravan-loaded mules. He will leave Petlare, but only when the rayah kneel and kiss his hand.
He ordered the village criers to gather the young and the old on the square. Zourlas were screaming and drums beating. The Bulgarians were quiet, bowing their heads. What was the trap which the Bey had prepared for them, they were perplexed.
Rustem Bey waved abruptly. The zourlas and the drums silenced at once. The guards ordered the men to stay in a row - kneeling one by one and kissing the Bey hand. Let them remember who their owner was!
The Bey ordered the priest Stoyo to stand at the head of the line. You know, after the uprising he even settled down in the priest’s house, and the priest and his family he sent to the narrow, mud-bricked house in the same courtyard. He was sure that if the priest kissed his hand, the others would follow him. As it is said, “Get hold of the troublemaker and all will be quiet”. The Bey wanted to humiliate Pop Stoyo twice –first to kneel, then to kiss his hand.
Strong and broad-shouldered is the priest Stoyo. His eyebrows, standing upright, are seen from a distance like swallow’swings. He stepped forward and rose to his full height, well-built in a shabby cassock. His greyish long beard trembled nervously. He stood in front of Rustem Bey and snapped,
„Neither I kneel, nor I kiss a hand”
„Bind this madcap priest!”, the angry Bey cried.
They threw themselves like wolves on top of him. They knocked him down and dragged him to Rustem Bey to kiss his hand. But instead of kissing his right hand, priest Stoy slowly stood up. The wind was blowing his gray hair. His cassock was torn, and the priest’s hat was wallowing in the mud. Blood was running down his face. He looked at the Bey and repeated again:
„Neither I kneel, nor I kiss a hand”
Rustem Bey was furious. Sparks were coming out from his eyes. He couldn’t let the priest humiliate him in front of the whole village!
„If you do not kneel, you will lie down on your knees all your life!“
The Bey looked at the guards, who were waiting for his orders. He cried out angrily:
„What are you waiting for? Cut the tendons on this fool’s legs!”
They cut the tendons on his knees. Priest Stoyo started turning over, pain-stricken. The villagers understood what was waiting for them, but they did not step ahead to kiss the Bey’s hand.
Rustem Bey turned red from anger. He left the bloody priest and the silent men. He jumped on the horse and warned them,
„When I get back – I won’t leave a stone over a stone!”
The Bey swished his horse. His retinue led the loaded mules after him. The Russians were already nearby, and haidouks were stalking in the forests.
The tough Priest Stoyo stayed alive, but all his life he lived on his knees. Today, only the inscription of the old priest fountain in Petlare reminds of him and of those troubled times.
A tired traveller, as he passes through the village, stops at the water fountain. After slaking his thirst, he looks involuntarily at the concave marble slab above the spout. There an unknown hand has written on the stone: „This water fountain was built by Priest Stoyo in the year of 1850, the month of July".
The priest’s fountain, built in the courtyard wall with a greenish-muddy wooden trough, id still monotonously murmuring in the same way and reminds that life is running like water and there is no way back.