فصل 04

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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The Wild Man

On 28 October, Greece and Italy formally declared war on each other. All the young men of Cephallonia disappeared to join the army, and Dr Iannis attempted to join too but was turned down when it was discovered that he had learned all his medical knowledge on ships and had no proper qualifications. Several Italian families on the island were attacked and their houses were burnt down, and the islanders developed a silent, sorrowful expression as they learnt to live with the thought that their sons and brothers might die. As the weeks passed, however, they were comforted by the news that their country was winning the war and that the Greeks were winning back territory that was theirs by right in Albania. The villagers went often to church and Father Arsenios surprised them by making fine, emotional speeches and by not getting drunk. Almost immediately, shortages of certain foods and other household essentials developed, and beans became the greater part of the doctor’s and Pelagia’s diet.

The war had the effect of increasing the importance of Dr Iannis, as the village community turned to him for advice and leadership. The doctor watched his daughter progress through a series of emotions, all of which seemed to him to be unhealthy and worrying. At first Pelagia had been in a state of painful anxiety, and then in storms of tears. She would sit by the wall outside as if she expected her fiance to arrive at the bend of the road where he had been shot by Velisarios. Later, she developed the habit of remaining silently in the room with her father, her hands motionless in her lap as tears followed each other silently down her cheeks. Pelagia calmed her fears by writing letter after letter to Mandras, relating island news and gossip, telling him about her terrible dreams and her fears for him, and begging him to write back to her. She began the task of making a cover for their marriage bed, but lacked the benefit of a mothers instruction in such matters. Each time it reached a certain stage, it began to look suspiciously like a dead animal, and she felt forced to undo her work and begin again.

As day followed day it became clear that not only had Mandras not written, but that he never would. After careful observation of his daughter, her father realized that she was becoming bitter and increasingly certain that her fiance could not love her. When he realized that Pelagia was seriously depressed, the doctor made her accompany him on his medical visits, sent her to bed early and let her sleep in the mornings. He made a habit of making her laugh against her will, and deliberately made her angry by such tricks as moving all the knives from one drawer to another. The doctor considered the return of her normal cheerful manner to be a sign that she had given up her passion for Mandras. On the one hand, he was glad of this, since he did not truly believe that Mandras would make a good husband, but on the other hand, Pelagia was already engaged, and the breaking of an engagement would cause great shame. The awful possibility occurred to him that Pelagia might marry a man she no longer loved out of a sense of duty.

Pelagia returned from the village with a jar of water upon her shoulder, set it down in the yard and came through the door, singing. The news had been bad for some weeks - not only had Kokolios lost two of his sons, but the Germans had attacked the Greek army so that the courageous Greek troops were at last facing defeat. Strangely, the bad news made Pelagia even more appreciative of the first signs of spring on the island. She was feeling strong and whole and was enjoying having the house to herself while her father was away visiting a friend on the other side of the island.

Pelagia’s singing was brought to a sudden stop when she entered the kitchen. There was a stranger seated at the kitchen table, a most wild and horrible stranger, whose hands trembled ceaselessly and whose head was utterly hidden beneath a mass of dirt, mud and hair. An enormous beard hid the lower half of the stranger’s face, in which Pelagia could see only two tiny bright eyes that would not look at her. Rags covered the stranger’s body and in the place of shoes there were bandages, stained with blood both old and new.

Overcome with fear and pity, not knowing what to do, Pelagia said, ‘My father’s out. He should be back tomorrow.’

‘You’re happy, anyway. Singing,’ said the man in a cracked voice, and his whole body shook.

‘You can’t stay, I’m on my own,’ said Pelagia.

‘I can’t walk,’ replied the man. ‘I walked from Epirus. No boots.’ Just then, the goat wandered through the open kitchen door, approached the stranger and made a gentle attempt at tasting the stranger’s rags. ‘Ah, at least your goat remembers me,’ the man whispered, and began to weep.

Pelagia was astonished by these words and said, ‘Mandras?’

The man turned his face towards her and said, ‘Don’t touch me, Pelagia. There are insects crawling all over me and I smell terrible.’

Pelagia felt guilt, pity, disgust. It seemed unimaginable that this pitiful ghost hid the mind and body of the man she loved. ‘You never wrote to me,’ she said, making the accusation that had destroyed her love for him and left her empty.

Mandras replied, ‘I can’t write.’ For a reason she did not understand, Pelagia was more disgusted by this confession than by Mandras’s physical condition. ‘Couldn’t someone else have written for you? I thought you were dead. I thought you… couldn’t love me.’

‘How could I let everyone know? How could I have my feelings discussed by the boys?’ He glanced up again so that at last she recognized his eyes, and said, ‘Pelagia, I got all your letters. I couldn’t read them but I got them.’ From inside his clothing he drew out a huge, dirty packet. ‘I carried you in here,’ he said, beating his chest. ‘Every day, all the time, I was thinking of you, talking to you. I was not a coward because of you, I even prayed to you. And when the Germans attacked us I got through their lines, and all I could think of was that I had to get home to you, and now…’ His body shook as he wept. ‘Now only the animals know me.’

‘I’ll fetch your mother,’ Pelagia whispered and ran out of the house, down to the small, fishy but extremely clean house by the harbour where Kyria Drosoula, Mandras’s widowed mother, lived. Kyria Drosoula was a woman so large and ugly that at their first meeting people wondered how she had ever found a husband. She was in fact a brave, kind woman, and during Mandras’s absence she and Pelagia had comforted one another.

Now the two women returned, breathless, to the doctor’s house, and found Mandras in exactly the same position that Pelagia had left him in.

Drosoula ran into the kitchen with a cry of joy and then stepped back with an astonished look that in other circumstances would have been amusing. ‘It is him,’ said Pelagia. ‘I told you he was in an awful state.’

‘My God,’ Drosoula exclaimed, then began to inspect Mandras as if he were an animal she was considering purchasing. ‘Go and put a big pot to boil,’ she said finally, ‘because I’m going to wash him from head to foot, but first I’m going to get rid of this hair, so bring me some scissors.’

Mandras sat motionless as his mother, making terrible faces as she did so, cut away the ropes and lumps of his hair and beard, revealing the horribly infected state of the skin below and the insects creeping all over it. Pelagia felt sickened where she knew that she should feel pity, and went indoors to look in her father’s medicine cupboard. She realized with a small shock that she had learned enough from her father over the years to become a doctor herself. Hurrying outside, she told Drosoula which treatments to use on Mandras’s face and head and where to use them. After a brief discussion about whether it was correct for a woman to see her fiance with nothing on, the two women decided that in these circumstances it was entirely acceptable.

They removed Mandras’s rags, and after gazing sorrowfully at the parcel of skin and bones that sat before them, again under Pelagia’s expert guidance, Drosoula began washing her son and rubbing healing oils and creams on him. Pelagia forced herself to remove the bandages from Mandras’s feet, and despite the fact that at first sight they did not look as if they could be saved, on closer examination she realized that the flesh was quite dry. She fetched a bowl of clean water, salted it heavily, and as gently as she could, she washed and treated the terrible mess.

When Dr Iannis returned the following morning, he found not only a half-dead man asleep in his daughter’s bed, but his daughter and an amazingly ugly woman asleep in his own. He listened to Pelagia’s account of everything she had done, then examined the patient carefully, paying particular attention to the feet. Pelagia nervously waited for his anger. ‘Well done, I have never been so proud,’ he declared. Drosoula smiled at Pelagia, who was so relieved that her hands were shaking, and the two women made more plans for Mandras’s recovery.

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