Milush was lying on the wooden bed in the big room, watching the thin jets of water flowing down the window. A long row of sad and muddy days was passing outside. The wind was constantly twirling, and the rain quietly mumbled, turning the village into a swamp.
Milush looked at the other end of the room, where were the wooden cupboard and the blue-painted cupboards. His gaze slid across the things on the shelves: shepherd’s crook, about ten small and big sheep bells. His face had faded, his eyes sunk and lost their former strength and vitality. He had bitter taste in his mouth from the herbs he had drunk as a cure. His lungs were snoring and choking and hissing. His back was as if rotten. The pain did not give him peace of mind. He could not count which day he had lain down and which one was coming.
The beechwoods cracked in the fireplace, and the shadows were reflecting and chasing on the ceiling. Milush opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling and drifted into the past. The chest pain did not blur his consciousness, and his memories were so clean and good... In his sick mind the image of his old father rose again. Just as he remembered him: tall, always bearded, with blue, very blue eyes.
The sheep are milked and sheltered in the pen. The darkness is falling over Chernatitsa, and its peaks and ridges are lost in bluish twilight. They are sitting by the fire, warming up and talking. Stoyu Sivkov lights his pipe, sucks in the tobacco and starts talking again about the sheep. He speaks his mind. “The shepherd’s job, son, is a fine job”, he says ... “you have to lead the sheep slowly, not to rush or force them when they graze. Let them take their own way or decide when to lie down at noon. If you make a mistake, they hide their milk and you can just see that you have six litres less in the bucket.” The fire is burning out, and the face of Stoyu Sivkov disappears. He, before dying, left the sheep and the small piece of land to his only son Milush.
Shortly after the death of the old man, Milus called Tasho Kisyov, made him a partner, and both of them drove the sheep to Petlyov’s chukal. They made a summer sheep-fold, fenced a pen. On Petlyov chukal there was pasture as much as you wanted, but many wolves lived in that place. Milush had large Karakachan dogs without which he could not step out. But once in the middle of the day, a wolf took a ram away, and the dogs did not bark at all.
Something happened a long time ago and still excited Milush’s heart. It was in a March night. They closed the sheep in the pen, gathered wood and lit fire. They warmed up. Tasho, a dry, but tough and strong man, got ready to go to the village.
“I’m going,” he said, “to change my wife’s shirt in the village, and you keep the bear out of the sheep ...”
“If this is the case, go there in good health”, Milush agreed.
Milush was alone. He was watching the sheep. They were lying in a group and chewing the cud. Then he went back to the pen and exhausted fell asleep in the hay. At some time a loud noise awakened him. There was a slamming of the door and crack of boards. The dogs were barking. The sheep started moving up and bleating. Milush rose quickly, lit the lantern, grabbed the rifle and ran out. But what to see? Twenty sheep were lying. The door was broken. The thick wooden lock that closed the room was broken. ”Hold it, Percho!”, Milush shouted to the best dog. But when he turned, he saw it lying on the ground. The bear had not left it, either. The other sheep were frightened and ran away. Two days later, Tasho and he were searching for them and gathering them on the stones. They also found a sheep buried near the pen in an anthill. The same night a large, shaggy and old bear appeared in this place, but when it began to dig, Milush, who knew the cunning of this animal, waited for it and killed it.
Then he and Tasho brought it to the village and left it in the square for all the villagers to see it.
There was a great horo for holidays in this square, two or three rows of it, the end of which could not be seen. On such days, Milus used to go down to the village. He would put the big sheepskin hat on his head, he would get dressed in a new coat to his knees, and he would join the dance. His slender body, blue eyes and masculine features of the face made the girls blush as his eyes met them.
On such a holiday, Milush chose Sevda - a working and healthy village girl. Soon after, they had a wedding. Young was then, Milush, with hot blood. Nothing could keep him at home when his sheep were grazing on Petlyov chukal. One day he took his bag and headed for Nevrokop to order the sheep bells the way he wanted them. After a week he returned with a dozen. But what sheep bells they were! Nearly four kilos one of them, and their outside was painted. If you swing them, they sing like church bells...
An acute pain like a knife pierced his chest again. In front of Milush’s eyes, the sheep bells were swinging, the pines were swinging, the whole earth was swinging.
Sevda, a young woman looking older with crying black eyes and her hair in plaits reaching her waist, stepped into the room. She stepped timidly not to bother her ill husband. She put some wood in the fire and approached Milush. Sevda threw back the fleecy rug and touched with her cold fingers his forehead. The sick man stopped talking in his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked at her.
“You should eat a little, Milush,” she said quietly, barely hiding her tears.
Milush coughed drily, stretched his trembling hand to Sevda, and slowly spoke.
“Sevda, it is obvious that my days are counted… But I want to die with open eyes. Call Tasho’s son, Nikola, to load the two mules, and go to Tasho. Let him tell Tasho to tie the sheep bells to the sheep and lead the flock through Golo Bardo. I want to hear the song of the sheep bells once more...” Having said this, he dropped his head, stared at the fire, and said nothing for a long time.
In the morning, Sevda fulfilled his request, and when she came back, she saw that Milush had gotten off the bed. For a great surprise, he had changed his clothes himself as for a church. The sick man felt better and was walking in the room. He walked slowly, with heavy short steps, but his head was upright - high and proud. An invisible force seemed to help him stand on his legs. The thought of seeing the flock again made him retain hold of life.
In the afternoon the sheep crossed the ridge and descended through the green meadows of Golo Bardo. Milush was sitting by the window, his hands leaning against the window bars, looking down at the place where the flock was stretching out like a white cloud. The distance was not big - half a shot of a rifle. Milush’s eyes gleamed, his heart pounding into his sick breasts. He could see well. First, the large male goat with long fleece was running, leading the flock. The largest sheep bell was swinging on his neck. After it, the other two large goats were walking in the same direction. Their sheep bells beat like church bells - cheerful and solemn. After them, the rams were moving swiftly, swinging on their necks anxious low-sounding sheep bells. After the rams like a broad river, the flock was swinging and stretching. Here and there, white lambs were bouncing around their mothers bleating. Dogs were barking at the side. At the end Tasho was going, shaking his shephard’s crook. Thas music was overflowing fields and meadows like a wave. The whole earth was echoing. The song of the sheep bells was coming and going like waves and the echo was taking it away. There were light circles in front of Milush’s eyes, the sheep bells were swinging, the pines were swinging, the whole earth was swinging...
The same day, Milush on his own managed to go out to the yard outside. The pain seemed to have left him. After a while, Sevda found him near the garden, resting on the fence. She approached him, and cold shivers went down her spine. Sevda looked at him with a sigh, embraced him as though she wanted to keep him with her. But Milush was getting colder and colder. His eyes were half open and looked as if they were looking at Golo Bardo. Then she jumped up like crazy, lifted the apron to her eyes, wept and, with a choked voice, started calling out in the yard.