Stanja Vesilic was the betrothed of Mirko Milic. The parents had arranged the marriage, as was the custom. It was a marriage of convenience, the exchange of money for position in the community. It was the custom also for the bride-to-be to stay in the groom’s home for a month, in order that she might learn the ways of her prospective mother-in-law. Neither Stanja nor Mirko took much interest in the arrangements. It was to be and that was all.
Unknown except to a very few was the existence of another son born to Stevan Milic and his wife. This boy, now grown, was a human monster, hidden from the world and his brother in a little cottage. He crawled on all fours like a goat and at times let out terrible screams which had to be explained away to passers-by. The mother had never seen the child since his birth, he having been suckled by a servant girl, but her heart yearned for him even while she knew she could never see him lest the secret of his existence be revealed.
A physician called and urged them to place the monster in a home for such beings, but when Stevan learned that his name must be registered, he would not allow the plan to be carried through. No one must learn the secret. At last Stevan decided to kill his son so that the creature would be free of his troubles and Stevan and his wife free of worry about him. But when Stevan took his gun and went to the hut, he found that the physician, who had visited the monster in the name of science, had left the door open and the monster had escaped. Now he was really free.
The farmers of the area had been plagued by vagabonds and gipsies seeking to settle near the village. Most of these wanderers had once lived on land nearby and wanted a little of it again. When their leaders went to the council with their petition, the wealthy farmers would not listen to their pleas. Stevan presided at the council on the night the monster disappeared, his mind so filled with his own fear that he did not really hear the pleas of the gipsies. He ordered them away, telling them that they were the lucky ones, smiled on by fortune. His actions and words convinced everyone present, even the other elders of the council, that he was a madman.
The intellectual leader of the vagabonds was Juvan, a student. He stirred up his followers to kill and plunder the farmers who would not give them land. Stanja and Mirko talked with him. Each hated Juvan, but Stanja was drawn to him in spite of her hate. Feeling compassion for Juvan’s homeless people, she wanted Mirko to join him in getting land. But Juvan insulted Stanja, and so the two men prepared to fight. Before they drew blood, the gipsies found the monster and ran to Juvan with the news. The ignorant gipsies...
(The entire section is 1116 words.)