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Antonina Domańska

Altar of Veit Stoss, St. Mary's Church - one of the main 'characters' in the novel

Antonina Domańska

The Tale of the Little Yellow Poulaine

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Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Wojciech Łukasik
'By the Wounds of my Lord... I can't stand it! God save me! Stanko... Wawrzuś... Come here!', an angry and miserable voice exclaimed behind the curtain.
'By Christ our Lord... It’s the master! What could have happened to him?'
Wawrzuś hastily dived under the fabric and sprang to Stwosz's side. The master was standing in the middle of the sanctuary, feverishly sliding the fingers of both his hands over his greying fuzz, tousling it and pulling at the hair.
'Did you call me, master? Here I stand, what is thy command?'
'What shall I command? How should I know?... The church service starts in half an hour, the bishop is coming, courtiers, our merciful lord… All I can do is run away from this church, I presume!'
'But, father...' Stańko dared to interrupt.
'Run away, I say! Smash my head against the wall... I wish the ground would swallow me up... Or fire, consume me in my shame!'
'Say then, what is the matter?'
'Canst thou not see? Art thou blind?... Ah, no wonder, when Satan himself hath blinded me, too.' Thus saying, he stretched his hand toward the altar.
'I see nothing.'
'Dost thou not? There Saint Stanislaus stands with empty hands, as if he were a poor school student, and his staff lies there, on the floor beneath that wall.'
'What is there to do? The scaffolding is already taken apart... (…) And I won't lean a ladder against the altar.
'And why not!', cried Warzuś suddenly. 'There is a ladder in the sacristy, thou canst lean it thyself against the slat of that cabinet. (…) Small and nimble am I, I'll climb up there, just like a cat.
(…)
All three crossed themselves, the master placed the ladder in the deep crevice between two floor tiles, leaned it against the upper slat of the altar door with his heart beating rapidly, and Wawrzuś, in great semblance of a cat, or just a small kitten, sped up the ranks, barely touching them. He left his leather boots on the edge of the pedestal, leaned the bishop's staff against the statue, embraced with both his arms and legs the pillar supporting the canopy leaning over saint Stanislaus and climbed a foot higher... then one more, then another...
Stwosz closed his eyes; the tumid veins on his temples were trembling with a feverish pulse.
'Behold now, master! Gone is thy sorrow! To the saint I have paid service, and to thee I brought consolation, and myself, just in a moment... Blimey!'
'What... what... Stanko... Did Wawrzuś fall down?'
'No, father, not at all. He's still up there and he’s crying. Did something happen to thee? (…)
'One of my boots fell beneath the altar... Jesus!'
'Get down here right now! Dost thou hear me?... Here I am, suffering purgatorial torments about the rascal, and there is he, playing jests!'
Wawrzuś was already down on the ground, bare-footed, one yellow poulaine in his hand, crying his heart out.
'Quiet, thou, thou cry-baby! Hath anyone seen anything like it? Quiet, don't cry! I'll get thee four pairs to make up for that one. I'll get thee a red pair, a green, a deep blue and a yellow one.'
'God bless thee... I want none... these I got from... Oh Jesus, oh Lord... I got them from Prince Kazimierz!'
'No use crying, the boot is gone. Figure this, I won't just unhook the altar from the wall and call a hundred men in just to look for thy poulaine.'
'True it is, it shall lie there till judgment day comes.'
English translation: Wojciech Łukasik
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Antonina Domańska

(1853–1917) – a writer. The model for Legal Counsel from Stanisław Wyspiański’s Wesele (The Wedding). Née Kremer, she was a niece of Józef Kremer, a recognised art historian, and aunt of the poet Lucjan Rydel. Her début short stories were published in Wieczory Rodzinne. Gained popularity as an author of novels and short stories for children. Her best-known novel, Historia żółtej ciżemki (The Yellow Slipper), was filmed by Sylwester Chęciński in 1961. In 1896, she moved with her husband to the famous house with a tower in Rudawa. Later the villa became famous thanks to Henryk Sienkiewicz, who stayed here for many months writing. While working here, Sienkiewicz had his milk delivered by a boy of the name of Stanisław Tarkowski. Somewhat later, the main hero of W pustyni i w puszczy (In Desert and Wilderness) was named after him to honour their friendship. In the quoted passage of the novel the reader is witness to the famous scene in which the main character losts his shoe behind the Veit Stoss altar of St. Mary’s Basilica in Kraków. (ms)

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