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Chronicals of Lake Narocz by Mieczyslaw Lisiewicz

This long out of print autobiographical work by this Polish author is reproduced here in full. I have transcribed the work and present it here for all to read. Copyright remains the property of the owners whoever and wherever they are. If anyone who is reading this has any historical facts, documents, maps or photographs about Narocz I would be very grateful if you would contact me, Alan at Landschaft I hope readers enjoy, as I have, the tales from this forgotten corner of the world.

Chapter X: Aza has a Friend


Miadziol, Uzla, Narocz, Hatowicz, Nanos, Kupa


Lisiewicz relects upon nature in a walk in the forest and introduces us to the hunting dogs that lived in the settlement, among them Nerus, the "friend" in the chapter's title, the watchdog of the hostel. Aza is an old hound bitch, and is introduced here only cursorily - her life is related later in the book. The dog's lives are characterised by the author. Nerus' encounters with a wolf and other rival dogs are painted in vivid detail and capture the exuberance and doggish curiosity of Nerus wonderfully. The chapter closes with a moment of gentle reflection by the author and his wife at twilight from the balcony of their lodge.

Further reading

Wikipaedia - in it's modern Balarussian spelling Narach: Wikipaedia on Narocz

Myadel Region guide

World Lakes Database: Lake Narocz

Chapter X: The Text

PONDERING on the Miadziol tragedy, I went into the forest. It was windy by the lake, so I found myself a glade well sheltered from the blast and baked by the sun. This glade was surrounded by august pines and small, shrivelled fir trees, from which hung festoons of drab, evil moss. Another layer of thick, green moss covered the ground. I spread out a blanket, and, reclining, gazed aimlessly at the tree tops and the clouds which rolled above them. The air was warm and heavy, filled with the incense of riotous sap and sun-warmed pine needles.

Something tickled my hand-1 broke off my musing and looked at my wrist. A little, brown ant was walking about my palm. There must be an ant-heap somewhere, and an ant-heap in one's vicinity is not too pleasant. In fact, nearby, under a tree trunk, rose the characteristic mound of pine needles and dry twigs; however, it was far enough away not to endanger my skin. Anyway, I had no inclination to move. Wrapped in blessed sloth I turned my attention to the ants. There was much lively activity in ,rhe ant-heap, thp top of which was connected with the ground by a weather beaten branch, up and down which moved columns of ants. It was a convenient way for the transport of building materials. However, at the moment the road was blocked. Some scores of ants were struggling with the long green body of a caterpillar, which was still alive, and with awkward movements of its torso was striving to free itself from its tormentors. But dozens of jaws clenched in the soft flesh, pouring searing venom into the wounds they made. The caterpillar felt the pain and threw its body right and left. This did not disturb the ants. Some of their number dug their feet into the bark with all their strength and dragged the caterpillar from the front, while others pushed with equal exertion from- the rear. One might say I could hear their grunts. They tensed all their muscles, strove valiantly with the excessive weight, and sweat (oh. Fantasy!) ran off them in streams. The caterpillar was like an obelisk. Her bulk exceeded many times the combined size of the ants working around her, so that in the end she prevailed, and fell off the branch. With her fell all the toilers.

From the spot where the caterpillar fell, suddenly rang out a loud rattling, and something red flashed in the air. The rattling was so loud that I involuntarily looked round to see if there wasn't a child with a rattle somewhere about. I could see no child, but on the spot where the insect with the red wings must have alighted sat a little grasshopper. I recognized the performer-it was he who made that strange sound, so like the noise of a child's rattle. Sitting, he did not look any different from an ordinary grasshopper, like the thousands which dance in the meadows. Only when he leapt off and spread his splendid red wings, then resounded the intriguing rattle. As if in answer to his call a similar noise sounded from the 'other side of the glade, and in the direction of my grasshopper flew another, this time with sky-blue wings. I raised myself on my elbow, to watch what would happen next. Alas! a great dragonfly pounced on my red-winged friend, grasped him in its strong saw-like legs, and carried him away.

Now it was the turn of the dragonfly to be watched. Fortunately it had not flown far, so I could easily observe its graceful movements. Usually the dragonfly, to the human mind, is something most poetic, a living lyric of beauty, yet that lovely creature is a horrible monster. Compared to the dragonflv, a tiger is a harmless kid, a vegetarian. The dragonfly's greed knows no limits. If a lion had an appetite like that, it would have to eat half-a-dozen oxen daily.

My dragonfly circled the glade, seeking a suitable place for lunch. It found one; settled down comfortably on the branch of a small spruce, and without further delay started the execution. With one stroke of its jaws it bit off the grass-hopper's head, and swallowing it with relish, began to tug at the carcase and tear titbits from its sides.

Meanwhile the blue grasshopper still sent out into space its yearning calls. No answer came. At last it fell silent, and, disappointed in its hopes, flew away.

The forest's silence fell on the glade. No twig stirred, there was no whisper, no rustle. Even the birds fell silent. Only the core of silence and the sun's glare swam in the long silken skeins of light. I settled myself more comfortably, and put the pillow under my head; and my eyes closed of their own accord. I forgot about the ants, the grasshopper, the dragonfly. I fell into a doze, one of those which begin by mingling reality with fancies, the present with the past, turn into fantastic shapes, and lead us into blessed unconsciousness. However, I was wakened by a slight rustling somewhere on my right. Unwillingly I opened my eyes, for it is wise to be careful in the forest. This time it was worth the effort.

No further than an arm's length away, from behind a tree trunk, peered out a little head with enormous ears, which. quickly hid itself again. In a moment it reappeared. This time from behind the tree came a little wood mouse in all its splendour of a grey, downy fur coat, with a brown stripe down the back. It skipped to right and left, peering around it and listening cautiously. With each movement its ears gleamed in the sunlight, pink and transparent as an insect's wings. Not wanting to startle it, I tried not even to breathe. The mouse fell on a small pinecone, took it in its front paws, sat on its haunches and quickly began to nibble the tattered scales. Spitting out the less tasty morsels, it shook its head in annoyance. A new rustle attracted my attention. This time it came from my left.

The mouse dropped the pinecone, and its eyes shone. But, as if it would have said: "Oh, it's only that one," it dropped its head and sank its- teeth into the pinecone again.

Where lay some larger stones and a few dry branches, appeared a small, narrow head on a long neck, and a pair of burning red eyes. A snake! I was just about to jump up, when a second glance showed me the bluish spots and characteristic markings of the reptile. This was no adder, but a cousin of- the lizards-the grass snake-a harmless eater of rain-worms.

Knowing nothing of the fear it had awakened in my heart, the snake crawled slowly to a small sandy spot in the very middle of the glade, where the sun shone most fiercely. There it rose high on its tail, like an angry viper. This was probably some ritual dance performed before settling into a doze as, immediately after, as if with a sigh of relief, it wound itself into three coils, laid its head on them, and began to bask in the sun.

Meanwhile the ants, for the hundredth time, had dragged the caterpillar half way up their road-branch. They were working feverishly in two parties, as before. The caterpillar still writhed, though more weakly than last time. By evening it would certainly be inside the ant-heap, where it would meet an inglorious, but from the ants' pomt of view, a useful death.

But this woodland idyll, in the afternoon silence, was spoilt. Suddenly the mouse stopped eating, listened for a second, and vanished like a dream. One would think the earth had swallowed it. The snake too, disturbed, hissed, unwound its coils, and in long zigzags crawled oft to its stones. After a moment I, too, heard the reason for this anxiety. Somewhere there were dogs barking. Dogs? Yes! They were certainly barking somewhere in the forest. And, just as certainly they were no other dogs but the hounds from the hostel. The one with the undeveloped baritone could only be Bey, and the other who so musically informed the world of her discoveries must be his sister, the lovely Lotka. A third voice joined in with these two, full throated, less nervous, sounding less frequently. Thus bayed the mother of the two pups, the worthy Aza. The voices came nearer. Their echo spread far and wide about the forest, tree passed it on to tree. The dragonfly, which had eaten the whole grasshopper was just about to attack the tastiest titbit, the wings. But look! The sapling on which it sat swayed violently, and the dragonflv, leaving the remains of its lunch uneaten, rose high into the air.

Three great black dogs, marked with brown spots on their breasts and bellies, burst into the clearing and began to circle among the trees, investigating every inch of ground. The glade was filled with hellish sound. Panic took hold of every living thing. Two red squirrels dashed in long leaps to the very tip of a pine tree. A red and grey woodpecker, flirting its bobtail, flew off after a flock of titmice-even the insects began to hide themselves in holes and cracks. Just by my hand an unknown, yellow-spotted beetle turned on its back, folded its legs and played dead. Only one great green bug went quietly on its way. It knew that it was always quite safe.

The dogs did not cease to wander and bark. Perhaps a hare had spent the night here? They got very excited; I knew quite well what they were saying:

"Here! Here!" yelled Bey, and pranced on his heavy, still puppyish, paws. "Here! Here!"

"No! No! No!" bayed Aza, collecting her children and putting them on the right track. "No! No! No!"

Lotka, in the full impetus of her hunting, came near the bug with her nose. Now snorting and snuffing, "Oww! Ufff!"-she violently rubbed her muzzle on the moss. Poor Lotka! How these bugs stink!

Aza leaped into the centre of the clearing:

"Where's the trail?" she barked, "where's the trail?" and threw herself into the bushes. "Where's the trail? Here's the trail! Where's the trail? Here's the trail! " caught up the children, and ran off after her.

For a long time yet the noise of her calling sounded in the forest, spread by the echoes in the pines:

"Where's the trail? Here's the trail! Here's the trail!" which ended in the triumphant, victorious : "This is it! This is it!" which faded in the distance.

The glade became lonely. When everything was still and silent, the tits came back, and, hopping in the branches, began to twitter their commentary on the whole occurrence. Then the woodpecker fluttered back to its tree. Next the snake crawled round a fir tree, through the moss by a little trunk, and, finding its sandy spot again, immediately lay down comfortably. At last the mouse came out of some hole. It came across the clearing, ran round twice in circles, found its fir cone and began to eat.

I fell asleep.

I woke when the whole glade was already in shadow. No mouse nor snake was to be seen. Only the caterpillar, with scores of toilers, again lay on the ground.

There was nothing more for me to do there. Besides, it was time for lunch. I went off in the direction of the hostel.

Not far from it I saw the dogs. They had finished their hunting, and were lying by the lake on the sand warmed by the afternoon sun. The black skin of their backs shone like well-cleaned boots. The yellowish markings of the breasts and bellies melted into the colour of the damp sand, so that at the first glance it seemed as if someone had thrown down some unevenly cut pieces of night-black velvet. They were all fast asleep, their legs twitching nervously, as if they were reliving the recent happenings so dear to a dog's heart.

There were plenty of reasons for this. To-day for the first time the proprietor had taken both puppies into the forest, to try if they would make as good and enduring a pace as their dam, a highly prized hound. The test was successful. They returned from their outing panting, happy and glowing. Now, Just let the leaves turn yellow, and there would begin for the three a fine life of hunting adventures, a life of tracing and chasing, hunting on the fresh autumn mornings, in the forest mists, among firs, pines, birches, undergrowth, and thickets. The unending stretches of the Uzla lured them with its scents of pine needles, mould) hare's sweat, the hides of fox and deer, wolf's spittle and the excitement of a lynx's droppings. Happiness written by a wild animal's foot on the soft body of the forest. Can the heart of a mortal man know such brimming happiness?

Now they lay in a doze full of dreams of green, luxuriant, fragrant hope, the mother beside her two children.

Nearby, half under the water of the lake near the shore, sat a fourth dog, also black, but of doubtful features. It's true he was large and slender, but on the surface he seemed an ordinary mongrel. His name was Nerus, and he was one of those dwellers on the Narocz whom difference of appear-ance, curious habits, and high virtues of character had raised to the honourable position of a separate race. Nerus was born in Hatowicze, and here fulfilled the important function of watchdog of the hostel. His life was as simple as his soul was free from guile. In his heart he held two great loves, which were the theme of his whole life: Aza the hound and Mikolay his master. Side by side with these loves dwelt two hatreds: for Rex, an Alsatian, and a Spitz, Rik, both neighbours from a nearby summer residence.

Nerus, who was what is known as a dog of character, poured into his friendship for Aza all the devotion and faithfulness, unbounded and disinterested, of which only an honest country dog is capable. He would follow the old hound bitch like a shadow, gazing at her out of his slightly bleary eyes, in which could be seen the greatest rapture and adoration. His love for the mother included the children. He allowed both Aza's puppies, Lotka and Bey, to pull his ears, steal food from his dish, take away his bones without protest, and even roll him over and worry him. He bore all his sufferings with a patience worthy of admiration, asking nothing in return save the right to live in common friendship with the whole three.

Thus now, resting in the cool water, he watched his three ideals sleeping on the shore, hung out his tongue, and was completely happy.

Slowly the sun descended from its zenith and lowered its fiery circle over the Nanos and Kupa shores. The shadows of the pines covering the hounds' resting place grew longer. The bitch opened one eye, then the other. She raised her head. shook it to get rid of the tiresome flies, and got up. Bey still slept. No doubt it seemed to the puppy that he was still hunting, for his legs never stopped twitching, and from his muzzle escaped groans like stifled sobs. Lotka, on the other hand, was awake, as a slight movement of her tail bore witness. She lay still, however, too lazy to rise. But the careful mother mudged her once or twice with her nose. Oh well! Lotka yawned, showing the world her red tongue and all her teeth, stretched her legs out stiffly, and at last got up. Putting her head on one side with one ear pricked (the other was rolled over like the lapel of a greatcoat), she looked foolishly at her mother, and then, without warning, with a growl, began to tug with all her strength at her sleeping brother's coat. The startled Bey jumped up and took flight. She caught him up and knocked him off his feet. They joined in a struggle as furious as it was harmless, and even more noisy.

Nerus barked at them from a distance, not coming out of the water. Aza on the other hand, sitting under a pine tree and scratching her side with her hind leg, watched them with a beatific expression.

"Aza! Bey! Lotka! Nerus! "came a woman's voice from the direction of the house.

The dogs stopped their game and pricked their ears.

"Come on, pups! Come here!" came the call again.

They all dashed off towards the voice. They knew it was the summons to dinner. Running, they already felt on their tongues and in their mouths the blessed savour of barley meal. After the hounds went the somewhat slower Nerus, streaming with water. He did not follow his companions straight into the yard, but went round to the other side of the building. Unhurriedly he crossed the drive, wagging his tail to the visitors standing there, then, by the tennis courts, turned and crept along the house wall, looking anxiously in every direction. The causes of this behaviour were grave. At this time Rex, the Alsatian, usually came over to the hostel, in order, if possible, to tear Nerus's dinner from under his very nose and eat it himself.

Rex, the Alsatian, was the tyrant of the district and regarded the forest, the hostel and every living creature in the area as his own private property. He ruled by force. In this he was aided by the Spitz, Rik, his faithful companion, who recognized the Alsatian's power and was his devoted henchman. The capital of their kingdom was the rubbish heap near the stables. To this, attracted by the smell of rotting oddments, there often came miserable mongrels from Hatowicz, half-wild animals with narrow heads and a ravenous look, mixtures of wolf and vagabond dogs from the woods. On the rubbish he could show this gang who was master. There Rex sat in ambush and waited till some village mongrel poked his head out of a bush. The mongrel, taking a look round, would approach the heap and begin to scrape. Then Rex appeared unnoticed trorn behind him in all the majesty ol his great body and glittering teeth. The surprised dog never even showed fight. But even if such a rash creature should appear, he was immediately overthrown, bitten and chased into the forest. Usually, however, the mongrels at the mere sight of Rex would turn humbly on their backs and surrender to his mercy. The victor approached his humble slave, nudged him with his nose and growled. Woe to the victim who dared to move or even wink! Seeing their submission, he walked off as if bored by so easy a victory. Justice was satisfied.

Now came the Spitz's turn. Up till now Rik had stood apart, either so as not to interfere or to be in safety. Immediately after his master's exit, while the spell of his might still lasted, Rik became tax gatherer, executor, and exciseman in one. He deprived the vanquished without ceremony of the exhumed treasures; bits of rotten meat, the heads and entrails of fish, bones or greasy paper. All that was edible he ate on the spot, and the rest he carried away to the summer house, where he buried his treasures in a certain place known only to himself, between a shed and the wood-yard.

Nerus knew of this practice from personal experience. How many times he had lain on his back with his tail between bis legs! Lain in ignominy till the tyrant went away and disappeared from view. Sometimes the tormentor would come artfully back, and give such a beating that the wounds he inflicted needed much licking before they would heal. He was especially hard on Nerus. He was not content with taking toll on the rubbish heap, but wherever he could he fell on the poor dog, and forced him into shameful vassal greetings. What was worse, because Nerus was under his eye, and in constant reach of his power, he deprived him even of what he managed to get from other sources. In a word, he tyrannized over him.

Therefore, before he ate his dinner, Nerus carefully scrutinized his surroundings. He even walked round the outhouse where there was a way from the well, one eye on the gate. Nothing suspicious. Satisfied, with nimble bounds he ran to the kitchen verandah, by which his dish always stood with dinner prepared. He ran up, looked and stiffened.

Over the puppies' dish, contrary to the dogs' unwritten laws, which command unalterable respect for ladies and children, over the puppies' dish-1 repeat-stood Rex with threatening lifted tail and raised hackles. Not far away in the bushes could be seen the meddlesome muzzle of the Spitz. The terrified puppies huddled in a corner by the steps and gazed into the red eyes of the tyrant, who looked, in comparison with them, like an elephant among foals. Aza was nowhere about. (Bah! If she had been there, Rex would never have dared!) She was probably eating,- as she often did, with her master upstairs. This was necessary, as Aza went hungry otherwise, for the puppies, gifted with healthy appetites, ate not only their own food, but their mother's too.

A shiver of fear ran over Nerus. He just could not stir. Well he knew this feeling of complete numbness. He had felt it, in his time, on a strange occasion. One day late last summer, he went with Zina, Mikolay's wife, to the woods for mushrooms. While Zina sought in the bushes for different species of mushrooms, Nerus, never going too far away, wandered about the clearing on his own. People like to inspect picture galleries, dogs, on the other hand, find a similar pleasure in sniffing the ground. A dog's ground has wonderful features! It secretly hides, in damp places, on moss and grass, in bushes and among the' rotting leaves, essences of a magic treasury of scents. Scent, smell, fragrance, stink-what stimuli to the imagination! Conjured up by the smell, one image after another appears to delight the greedy senses. A whiff and there trembles in the grass a hidden mouse, another whiff-look! A hare lopes from bush to bush. Here a curious squirrel hops over the moss, there the bloodthirsty trail of the dove-hunting marten is written in the grass, again there shows the figure of a fox, elsewhere a badger, polecat, weasel or wagtail, lizard or frog. Everything seems as solid and real as if the creatures stood before one's very nose. But though the fancy creates wonderful pictures, the mouth, nose and tongue are eternally unsatisfied. The mouth would like to hold, the teeth to tear and the tongue to taste the hot blood, the greatest delight, the aim of all hunting, the peak of life's pleasures.

Just then Nerus was following the trail of some smallish bird, with a scent reminiscent of a fowl. Perhaps it was a blackcock. He licked his chops. It is true he saw in his imagination not so much the blackcock as a clucking cackle, and with all his heart longed to catch the fleeing quarry by its soft rump. He even felt how the feathers flew about his muzzle and pleasantly tickled his palate. But suddenly this dog's delight changed into a feeling of terror. The change came from outside, as quick as a stone thrown unobserved, hitting him. He raised his head and saw it.

Before him stood something which was dog and no dog. A dark-grey form baring white teeth. It did not bark nor growl, only stood there and gritted its teeth. It did not wag its tail, which hung down between its legs. From out of the woolly locks of its flat head two eyes shone with a greenish fire. Its look burnt a way to Nerus' very heart, destroying every instinct of fight or escape. Nerus was helpless. Of all his feelings there remained only fear. A fear biting like a frost, the cold frost which hurts one's very bones, like the most merciless frost-for cold and merciless is the fear of death.

The creature, seeing that Nerus was unable to move, began to circle him in silence, drawing the circles ever narrower, closer. Nerus shivered. He well knew that this was the end.

Not in the fiery eyes did he read the certainty of his fate, nor in the wolf-like step, quiet, rather cat-like, on soft paws, the step of a creature creeping up on its prey. The sentence was delivered in the scent of destruction and hate, with which the wolf's body surrounded him. It was like a prison wall, impenetrable, a wall at the foot of which the scaffold stood ready.

He did not defend himself, did not even try to escape. Rescue came, however, as sudden as it was unhoped for, in the person of Zina. Zina came into the glade and in one movement threw herself at the wolf, raising her only weapon -the basket of mushrooms. Wolves are cowardly creatures, and this singleton withdrew into the bushes, grinding its teeth in farewell.

Nerus still stood dazed, stiff, motionless, with 'his bristles raised, still in the same attitude as when he caught sight of the wolf. Zina had to take him home by force, more carrying than dragging. At the hostel Nerus immediately hid himself in his hole under the steps, and did not come out for three days. From this time he never went out of range of the hostel, unless-but that's another story.

With Rex before him, a strong enemy, powerful and merciless tyrant, he sensed the same atmosphere as during his experience in the woods, so reacted in the same way-went numb. Perhaps if the Alsatian had attacked him he would politely have turned over on his back and waited on his lord and master's grace, but Rex took no notice of Nerus. He still stood over the dishes, showing his teeth and growling. He probably thought that the puppies were grown up enough to be taught manners and recognize themselves as the humble servants of his, Rex's, power.

Bey's long-drawn whine aroused Nerus. The numbness passed and a hot wave of anger flowed over him. If he had at that moment seen himself in a mirror he would have put his tail between his legs and fled from his own image. Anger changed him into a wild animal with bristling neck, eyes suffused with blood, an animal grinding its teeth like that wolf in the clearing. His doggy tail vanished, and his brush hung down heavy and bushy. To be sure, his ancestor also was a wolf. Not for nothing did he lead Nerus' mother out into the woods in the spring, on a moonlit night. So that in his anger he was more like a wolf than Rex, the "wolf dog." Fury made him blind, deaf, and unthinking. He did not even know that he rose into the air in a long arch and fell with all four feet on Rex's back. He did not feel how he sank his teeth in his neck and, tearing at the skin, instinctively sought the artery pulsing with blood. He neither knew nor felt that he was fighting, worrying, throwing off his feet a far stronger opponent, who, surprised, did not even try to defend himself, but, lowering his tail with a whine, fled for his life. Nerus, having defeated Rex, turned to the Spitz, who, howling with terror, cried desperately tor help. Seeing no wav out, he threw himself at the fence, tore through and vanished into the bushes. Nerus came back, and again set off on the track of the Alsatian. He wanted to chase him, so ran to the gate, with lowered head and foaming at the mouth.

A hard bump brought him to his senses. In his blind chase his nose collided with a stake in the fence so hard that he recoiled backward. For a second he lay, then rubbed his muzzle with his forepaws, and, limping a little, went back to the puppies on the porch. There he licked both their faces, and turned to his own dish. It still stood full of food. The wonderful scent of meal, bits of meat and boiled potatoes over-came him completely. He immediately forgot all about Rex, Rik and 'even the puppies. He ate. When he had finished he licked the dish, then his lips, looked around, and seeing that the puppies were not there, raced down to the water after them.

He did not find them on the lake, they had probably gone into the woods for a walk. Nerus could not follow them, for he had a thousand and one things to do. First of all he went down to the landing-stage and counted the canoes to see if they were all there. Alas, there were only a few. Then he greeted all the guests at the hostel in turn, politely showing his teeth and twisting his face in a smile. Finally he went on to the jetty to see if the fish were still swimming about the piers.

On the way back he found some hens in the flower-beds, and soon chased them into the yard. The cock, to punish him for neglect of his harem, he chased on to the byre roof, having done which, he spent some time barking at him from below, watching with pleasure how that knight of doubtful courage clucked helplessly on the roof. Then-remembering the most important duty-went off to the garbage can. There he held a short inspection of the potato peelings, fish heads and bones, chose the tastiest and dragged it with difficulty to the shed where Aza and the puppies lived. The bitch already lay on her bedding. Nerus laid the bone beside her and began to leap joyfully round her.

Evening was falling and grey shadows slid across the lake. The sunset was tading in the sky behind the Kupa hills. The water murmured pleasantly on the sandy shore. All the canoes were home. They had been hauled up the shore and settled in their places by diligent Mikolay. It was quiet near the hostel, for all the guests were at dinner.

Nerus, after circling several times round the shed, came slowly back to Aza's resting-place. Without entering, he put his head into the shed and for an instant listened to the snores and sighs of the sleeping family of hounds. Then he retreated and humbly rolled himself into a ball on the threshold. But he did not sleep-he listened.

Great bats flew round in crowds, setting up little whirlpools in the air, which caressed his hot nostrils. From time to time a cockchafer buzzed or a gnat whined shrilly. From the forest came a warm scent of sap, spreading over the earth. The trees lapped up the damp dews, the silence, appeasement, sleep, and blessedness.

Then suddenly out of that twilight strange shapes began to creep towards Nerus: half human, half animal, in forms fantastic or monstrous) some as huge as the forest, others as tiny as ants, some as clear as the moon rising in the sky, others as pale as the nothingness from which they were formed. Some he recognized-for instance, his master appeared- Mikolay with the head of Aza; and again he saw Aza with three human heads with the features of Bey, Lotka, and the Cock. Rex and Rik, joined in the body of one great snake, crept around him in a thick mist, growling threateningly. All this crawled over the whole surface of the clearing, joined. and separated and disappeared, whirling at last in a dance so swift that all that there was to be seen was a series of great, wheels and circles of coloured light. Above this procession, water began to flow, transparent and delicate as a morning mist, covered with golden sparkles of sunlight, like the water by the jetty in the midday light. It covered everything and melted everything, and when it reached Nerus and covered his head, it seemed to him that he had fallen into the very middle of the deep peaceful silence of sleepy dark-ness. And indeed-Nerus fell asleep.

Standing on the balcony with my wife, I looked out into the yard. I could see in the gloom a grey, indistinct shadow under the coach-house. It was Nerus rolled into a ball. I knew that he would lie there till morning.