Ivan D. Hristov

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THE ORDEAL

THE OUTLAW

Translated by: Росица Шопска

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It’s spring. St. George’s Day. The forest came into leaf, the meadows turned green. The sky is blue. The weather is quiet and sunny. It’s a holiday in the souls of the peasants. After the ringing of the church bell it is turn of the bagpipes.

Stoil, a handsome and strong young man, does not take his eyes from the horo in the village square. His eyes are wandering on the dressed-up and beautiful youg women and are looking for Milkana’s eyes. His beloved one is better than all of them.

The time has come for Stoil to have his own family. After Easter, Milkana eloped with him. Their wedding lasted for three days. They invited the Sultan’s man who had come to the village to collect taxes. The bride greeted him, and the mother-in-law gave him a gift. The guest opened his purse, gave both the groom and the bride a gold coin and had fun with the other guests at the wedding. It lasted for a couple of days, and then he went away.

The young couple lived happily, but if something is very good it is not so good. An unruly young man named Shaban began to маке advances to the young bride. Milkana pushed him away, she warned him:

“Know that if I tell Stoil, you will suffer for that!”

He was warned, too, by the village elder, who heard about his mischiefs. Stoil warned him too, but Shaban did not want to listen. Stoil saw that he would not achieve anything with a good word and one night he waited for him at the end of the village.

”Do not bother Milkana because there is trouble in store for you!”

“Go away of my way!” Shaban replied, aiming a blow at him.

Stoil was strongerthan him, he lifted him up and threw him into the stones to the side of the road. Shaban fell on his back and did not move. Soon after, he died.

The Turks suspected Stoil of his death. They seized him and took him to the court in town. They sentenced him as a murderer and sent him to the Maloasian jails.

Grief heavier than a millstone fell to Stoil’s heart. In the Asian heat and the exhausting work in the stone-pits, under the whips of the gaolers, the thoughts of his birthplace and the beloved Milkana did not leave him. They were somewhere far, they were beyond the blue mountains.

The years are running. Summer and winter change. Stoil is dying and disappearing in the dungeon. During the day the hard work takes his strength, but his faith does not die - his mind is still running to the village. Ten years passed one after another, all the same. They go round in a circle, like the horo in the square, all in one direction to one and the same place.

One summer day, along with other Bulgarians - unfortunate like him, the jailers pushed them to Istanbul for work in a stone quarry. The sun was baking relentlessly. Hungry and thirsty, they barely dragged their legs, and dust clouds were rising around them.

Suddenly, a cab appeared on the road. As he approached the prisoners, Stoil’s eyes met the eye

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