Leiba
went to the town hall, then to the sub-prefecture to denounce the threatener,
begging that he might be watched. The sub-prefect was a lively young man; he
first accepted Leiba’s humble offering, then he began to laugh at the timid
Jew, and make fun of him. Leiba tried hard to make him realize the gravity of
the situation and pointed out how isolated the house stood from the village,
and even from the high road. But the sub-prefect, with a more serious air, advised
him to be prudent; he must not mention such things, for, truly, it would arouse
the desire to do them in a village where men were rough and poor, ready to
break the law.

A
few days later an official with two riders came to see him about Gheorghe; he
was “wanted” for some crime.

If
only Leiba had been able to put up with him until the arrival of these men! In
the meanwhile, no one knew the whereabouts of Gheorghe. Although this had
happened some time ago, Gheorghe’s appearance, the movement as though he would
have drawn something from his breast, and the threatening words had all
remained deeply impressed upon the mind of the terror-stricken man. How was it
that that memory remained so clear?

It
was Easter Eve.

From
the top of the hill, from the village lying among the lakes about two miles
away, came the sound of church bells. One hears in a strange way when one is
feverish, now so loud, now so far away. The coming night was the night before
Easter, the night of the fulfilment of Gheorghe’s promise.

“But
perhaps they have caught him by now!”

Good
business

Moreover,
Zibal only means to stay at Podeni till next quarter-day. With his capital he
could open a good business in Jassy. In a town, Leiba would regain his health,
he would go near the police station— he could treat the police, the
commissionaires, the sergeants. Who pays well gets well guarded.

In
a large village, the night brings noise and light, not darkness and silence as
in the isolated valley of Podeni. There is an inn in Jassy— there in the
corner, just the place for a shop! An inn where girls sing all night long, a
Cafe Chantant. What a gay and rousing life! There, at all hours of the day and
night, officials and their girls, and other dirty Christians will need
entertainment.

What
is the use of bothering oneself here where business keeps falling off,
especially since the coming of the railway which only skirts the marshes at
some distance?

“Leiba,”
calls Sura from within, “the coach is coming, one can hear the bells.”

Wooded
hills

The
Podeni valley is a ravine enclosed on all sides by wooded hills. In a hollow
towards the south lie several deep pools caused by the springs which rise in
the hills; above them lie some stretches of ground covered with bushes and
rushes. Leiba’s hotel stands in the center of the valley, between the pools and
the more elevated ground to the north; it is an old stone building, strong as a
small fortress: although the ground is marshy, the walls and cellars are very
dry.

At
Sura’s voice Leiba raises himself painfully from his chair, stretching his
tired limbs; he takes a long look towards the east; not a sign of the
diligence.

“It
is not coming; you imagined it,” he replied to his wife, and sat down again.

Very
tired, the man crossed his arms on the table, and laid his head upon them, for
it was burning. The warmth of the spring sun began to strike the surface of the
marshes and a pleasant lassitude enveloped his nerves, and his thoughts began
to run riot as a sick man’s will, gradually taking on strange forms and colors.

Gheorghe—Easter
Eve—burglars—Jassy—the inn in the center of the town—a gay restaurant doing
well—restored health.

And
he dozed.

Sura
and the child went without a great deal up here.

Leiba
went to the door of the inn and looked out on to the road.

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