Font -  Font +

THE MILL - Sabahattin ALİ


Have you ever looked inside a water mill my namesake?…

It is a thing worth seeing… Inclined walls, small windows close to the ceiling, and a black roof on thick rafters… And a great many wheels, huge stones, axes, dusty belts revolving by leaps… And at a corner, sacks of grain one over another, full with wheat, corn, rye, and various other grains. In the place opposite, flour filled into white sacks.

Warm and fine particles fly hither and thither in fumes beside the stones. But when you lift the small cover on the floor, cold water drops come upwards in a mist and spread out on your face…

What about those sounds my namesake, those sounds emerging from each corner in separate tones and then filling into ears all together as a great wave?… Water coming down the wooden gutters above, howls like the winter winds blowing through the poplars; the crying sounds of the stones at one time increasing and at another decreasing, is mixed with the cracking of the belts like a slap… And the wheels that revolve continuously, creak and creak…

Once upon a time I have seen such a mill my namesake, but I don't want to see once more.

Do you know what love is my namesake; did you ever fall in love?…

You say so many times! Was your beloved beautiful then? May be, she was in love with you… And I suppose you took her in your times so many times… At nights you would come together and kiss her, not so? It is a nice thing to kiss a woman, and if the man is young…

But may be your beloved was not in love with you… Then what have you done? Did you cry at nights?… You have waited in the roads she was to pass to show your pale face, wrote her long and sad letters, didn't you?…

But I suppose it was not so difficult for you to love another one. In the beginning one feels ashamed of himself, but do you know, our most important talent is to get acquitted by ourselves. Pangs of conscience, as they call it so, last one week the most. And then, even the most vulgar murderer finds out excuses for his deed.

Well, and then you loved a third, a fourth, and it goes on so.

All right, but is it love my namesake, is to kiss, to want a woman the same with love?…

Can you run in the streets of the city, naked?…

Are you able to get a knife and stick it to your flesh, to your arms or legs, and then to jump into a river and to swim?

Do you have the courage to kill all the men of this city? Can you go up to a minaret and cry out as loud as to make all hear you?

Can love have you make all these? Then only I would say that you are in love…

What can you give to your beloved? Your heart? Well, to the second? Once again your heart? And the same to the third and the fourth?… Don't talk big my namesake, how many hearts do you have?… Besides, do you know, these are empty words: your hearts stays at its place and you give it to somebody. When you split your breast and take that flesh out and put it before your beloved, then you really give your heart…

You can't love my namesake, you who live in the cities and live in the villages, you who obey and who rule, you who are scared and who scare… You can't love. Only we know loving… We, the Gypsies who wander as free as the western wind and don't believe in any god other than ourselves…

Listen my namesake, let me narrate you the love of a Gypsy…

One day, it was the season when snow begins melting, we all the tent, consisting of almost thirty women, men and children, and four horses and twice donkeys were moving to Edremit.

Following the winter, which annoys and never conforms to us, the warming sun and the greening nature had given us an odd joyfulness. The little children with only a white short shirt over them were continually running, shouting and rolling in the ditches at the side of the paved road.

Lads were walking and playing violins and clarinets, and the lasses were singing songs with their brilliant sounds.

And I was looking around so as to find a village, a farm, anywhere we could pitch our tents.

About mid-afternoon I saw light colored planes and poplars standing out among some black olive trees. It was a small mill. A creek with abundant water after passing through some small willows was entering into a narrow stone watercourse, and there it was divided into four wooden sluices.

Old planes were covering the black tiled roof of the old mill sunken into the hollow, and were shading the wide area in front of the mill.

Frothy water issuing out under the mill with a noise suppressing the rustles of the trees was passing through two rows of poplars and then disappeared in the reed-bed ahead.

It was not at all bad to pitch tents here. Owing to the peasants coming and going constantly with their loaded donkeys it was understood that the mill was much frequented. And a village with its white minaret was seen in a range of a bullet.

We have not pitched the tents yet but Sparrow-hawk took his clarinet and drew near the large door with one of its leaves open and began to play his clarinet.

The peasants inside, hearing the sound, gathered up to listen him. The miller was among them; he was smoothing his white beard and watching indifferently.

Did you know my namesake; these peasants always have complaints about us saying that we steal their chickens and kids, but still they like us.

They gathered about a bushel of wheat among themselves and gave it to Sparrow-hawk. And the miller added two pots of yogurt to it.

Being encouraged with this nice welcome we have pitched our tents among the olive trees ahead.

We were doing very well. Our women did not meet with difficulties to sell the baskets made of fresh willow branches in the nearby villages. And our players were invited for the weddings even in the villages at a distance of half day.

Sparrow-hawk was called the first of course…

I'm sure you have never met anyone like Sparrow-hawk.

He was an awesome lad first of all: his swarthy skin, his black hair fallen over his face, and his dark eyes…

And then his nose… his long, pointed and aquiline nose.

That was why we called him Sparrow-hawk…

His head stood over his shoulders upright resembling an Arabian horse, and no Arabian horse was more agile than him…

In all Gypsy tents his courage, handsomeness and performance was narrated.

My namesake… he was not playing like other Gypsies: first of all he had knowledge of notes. He has attended school in town and was graduated: besides he was a sensitive lad… you would suppose that he blows into his clarinet not from his lungs but directly from his heart.

He would stay away at nights and went under a tree. And we would lie face down in front of the tents, lean our chins against the earth and listen to him.

He didn't have any beloved. Neither the ruddy cheeked beauties in the Turkmen villages that we passed by, nor the Gypsy girls with fine lips could success to capture his looks over them more than a few seconds…

However, when he was playing his clarinet we had witnessed that tears appeared in his large eyes as if to put out the sparks there, and some small drops that wanted to run down on his swarthy cheeks got dried as if met a fire.

He wouldn't talk so much, and when he talked he wouldn't let us perceive his feelings. What would he feel, what would he think? None of us knew it. Why was he playing so dolefully and gloomily, as he was in love with someone, or as he couldn't love anyone?…

He would sometimes disappear from sight for a long while, and it was rumored that he was with other Gypsy groups, or went to towns and attended the companies of the notables.
The noblemen in towns would treat him equally; however, he would steal sheep from the herds and play in the weddings with us.

Almost every evening we were gathering in front of the mill and carousing. As we did not pinch anything yet the miller was pleased. He was putting a mat at the bottom of the great plane, sitting cross-legged and listening to us with her daughter.

And the miller's daughter was a village beauty through and through.

She had a round face, plump lips, and braided long hair down to her hips.

But her face was always pale. She watched around steadily as if not interested in anything with a fixed smile at the edge of her lips.

My namesake, this girl was handicapped; when she was young, she has got her right arm caught in the wheels of the mill.

Now, an empty sleeve attached to the waist of her baggy trousers was swung in its place.

And it was separating her from the people.

Can you grasp the meaning of it; a beautiful girl lost her arm? She couldn't join in the young girls bathing naked in the upper parts of the stream. She had always hidden, and was obliged to hide her body and the handicap of it…

She couldn't join the girls who convened every night at houses for revels as well, cause she could neither play the tambourine nor play with wooden spoons between her fingers…

Obviously, her childhood has passed with an endless yearning; quite evidently, she has leaned against a wall and with her eyes full of tears watched her peers climbing to the branches of olive trees like squirrels, playing games rough and tumble, and wetting each other together with the boys in front of the mill.

She was seemed to get used to it now. She knew that she didn't have the right to do many things that other people were doing, and she did not want anything.

She would sit on the stone seat next to the door of the mill for hours; and she seemed so sad looking at the chickens scratching up the ground or the stirring leaves of the great plane that it would cause one to cry.

At nights she would come with her father, kneel down beside him and watch us…

My namesake, I will not go into unnecessary details; our proud and merciless Sparrow-hawk fell in love with this handicapped daughter of the miller.

This bird of prey that never deigned to look at peacocks and pheasants, became the prey of this woodcock with a broken wing.

Alas, I became aware of the affair too late. When I found out it, things have gotten out of control… Otherwise, I would have my men convened and move to another place.

Sparrow-hawk was not talking to anyone, was not going to weddings, but playing under the olive trees alone. However, at nights, he got thoroughly enthusiastic under the planes; fixed his eyes on the girl, and blew into his clarinet continuously.

And we felt that we were shivering; we wanted to shout, speak, or throw ourselves to the ground and cry…

In his playing the clarinet, there was something resembling the shrieks and groans of the fire worshippers shouting around a fire or the waves breaking on a ship that was sinking.

Sparrow-hawk's wings were dismayed, my namesake. He was growing pale and pale. When I saw him sitting on the stone seat next to the door of the mill with the girl, and rubbing his nails on the hard rock on his both sides as if to tear down his nails, I understood that it wouldn't go on so…

One night I called him; we went to the lower end of the stream, and sat down among the poplar saplings.

Except for the sound of the water flowing among the pebbles in a hurry and a frog croaking away, nothing was heard.
Sparrow-hawk was looking towards the ground; he didn't ask why I called him, or what I was to tell him.

I put my hand on his shoulder; he looked at me.

"You're in love!…" I said.

"Right…" he replied.

"What do you plan?…"

As if to find the answer of my question, he looked upwards, to the starry sky. He looked for a long while, then suddenly:

"You are our leader," he said, "you have traveled more than I did, your experiences are greater, and your reason and comprehension is more than all Gypsies. I should confide in you…" Without lowering his eyes, as if relating to the stars, he said: "I love her, and I didn't consider about what to do. You know how my love would be… I wouldn't notice those dames owning estates, who sent their servants behind me. Even when, that notable ruling over seven villages came and implored to me saying 'my daughter is bedridden because of your love… I'll forget that you're a Gypsy and embrace you like my own son… just come, come and save our daughter!' I didn't give an answer to him but went away; and now I love this handicapped girl.

"I can't marry her; I can't elope with her… whereas she is in love with me as well. She said this to me with tears the previous day. Come now, I said, let's elope. She laughed movingly; 'Your Grace,' she said, 'I've a defect; are you giving me alms?…' I expressed my love to her. I said, 'you give me your heart in place of your arm, is a heart less precious than an arm?'

"She began to sob again. 'Certainly not! Just think, every time I stand facing you, I'll feel ashamed, my eyes will be downcast; do you want to hold me in contempt, in this way? Leave me, I wanna stay here with my father with my own devices; and you, please never come here again. You have made me forget my handicap, and I built castles in the air; I can never forget you for life, but don't try to make me hope for the impossible; if you really love me, leave here right now,' she said."

Sparrow-hawk stopped here for a breath and lowered his eyes.

"I consider, should we come together it would really torment us. We will face an incomprehensible, stifling state. What should I do if she doesn't have full trust in me, if she can't show coyness to me and embrace to me as she desires to do, and if her eyes mean to say 'why did you waste your youth in vain, isn't it a pity for you?' She would be hurt by all my words and manners. Should I get angry with her, this would upset her; should I get lost in thoughts, this would upset her; should I caress her, she would think I feel compassion for her; should I embrace her, she would feel an ache in the place of her absent arm, and it would go on thus…

"Don't ask what I plan to do or where shall things lead to me, I don't have any power left over. No reason, no thought, only love… Like the bullet of a Mauser rifle, a love that knocks to the ground… Your Sparrow-hawk has not any strength to move his wings any more!…"

He stopped talking; his last words were uttered in such a touching way that I couldn't ask any more questions or console him; nothing could be said to him, and he wouldn't hear anything said.

I took him by the arm and accompanied him to the tents.

Things had became very complicated, my namesake. Sparrow-hawk's attitudes worried me. However, there was nothing to do. I decided to let the matter take its course, and slept. All night long, I saw Sparrow-hawk impatiently waiting below the great plane with open arms, and the miller's daughter running towards him with a happiness apparent in her lips and her pale cheeks turned into pink. However, just they were to embrace each other, a strange creature with an indefinite shape was stepping between them, revolving around and around like a wheel, growing up and separating them.

Days were passing one by one like some white clouds moved by a strong wind. And we felt that a storm was to break as a result of these. All were as if afraid of an unpleasant thing to occur. All Gypsies were worried.

The old and wise Gypsy women were casting spells, and calling all good and evil spirits to come to Sparrow-hawk's rescue. As he was wandering around with his sunken cheeks and bewildered eyes, lads were looking downcast and lasses were looking behind him with their pale faces and shivering lips.

The women and men, the young and old, none of us could decide what to do; we were just waiting. A vagabond wind was as if sweeping away all thoughts from our minds, and leaving us bewildered and despondent.

One day Sparrow-hawk drew near to me.

"This evening I will play at the mill, I talked with the old man," he said.

It was drizzling. A summer downpour was rather possible to occur tonight. I said this to him as well.

"I'll play in the mill," he said.

"The mill works night and day; will you play in that noise?"

He laughed curiously.

"Don't worry!" he said, "I'll have you hear my clarinet in that noise as well. My breath did not get so weak yet."
The rain really became heavier towards evening. One after another thunderbolts were striking in the Valonia oak woods at the opposite hill, raindrops were falling on the black leaves of the olive trees with weird patters.

We all crowded into the mill. Two kerosene lamps swinging at the ceiling were partially illuminating the mill, and the wheels, stones and dusty belts were revolving continuously.

The wild noise made by all of them was mixed with the intermittent sobbing of the rain on the low ceiling, and the claps of thunder one right after the other were complementing this terrible melody.

The miller and his daughter were sitting on the couch next to the wall. The swinging lamps were casting curious shadows on her face.

Suddenly, a high-pitched sound dominating all the noise was heard. Sparrow-hawk has begun playing his clarinet at a dark corner of the mill.

My namesake, I can't forget those that I listened that night even after my death.

The storm turned to be more violent outdoors, and the wind was beating with its wet whip on the adobe walls. Water was rising and overflowing from the wooden gutters and falling to the ground with roars.

Inside the mill, the stones grumbled with an endless enthusiasm; the belts revolving wildly resounded cracks; and the cogs of the wooden wheels fitting into each other were creaking as if weeping. And a crazy sound dominating all other noise was at one time imploring, and at another enraging; and following a short silence it was heard again.

Sparrow-hawk's black and bright eyes were fixed on the young girl in the twilight; fixed on her suffering eyes wide open…

My namesake, he was playing such melodies that no words could be enough to express them…

Sometimes he was the morning sun, caressing and warming… But right after he turned to be a desert storm tearing our faces and blinding our eyes, and burning all around like the red-hot sands scattered with the wind; or turned to be a dagger stabbed into our hearts.

After a final and sharp scream I saw Sparrow-hawk standing on his feet. He moved two-three steps and threw his clarinet away.

Everyone was excited. They were looking at him pityingly.
He threw back his black hair fallen over his face. Looked around with his sunken eyes and then fixed them on the miller's daughter, he looked at her for a long while…

I can't forget that moment for life, my namesake; the storm outdoors turned to be more violent, the walls were shaken, and tiles were flying away. Ant the mill, resembling a wild breast, was growling and revolving. And he, under the dim light of the lamb, appeared greater, like a shadow. His eyes were fixed on the young girl. His face was odd-looking due to an unbearable pain. One moment his eyes became bloodshot by the red-hot blood circulating below his dark skin, and the next moment even his lips, compressed between his teeth, were pure white. Those lips, moved as if to say something, and puckered ready to cry.

This lasted for only a moment. And then his eyelids closed slowly, and he swayed as though falling to the ground. But immediately maintained his control. Once again looked around. He seemed expecting somebody's help. A help to rescue him from this terrible, destroying pains… Finally, he moaned as if hit on his head. He turned back and threw himself to the other side of the mill, to the corner where wheels and belts were wildly revolving.

We stayed still for a moment of breath and then run after him crying like crazy…

Alas, my namesake, it was too late. Sparrow-hawk was coming towards us with eyes bugged out, as though saying, "it's too late."

His right arm was not at its place, and blood was flowing out there in streams. After a few steps he staggered and fell down before us…

Here, my namesake, the story of a Gypsy in love…

In the season when flowers bloom, it is nice to sit at the side of a stream with a girl leaned against you, who smells like flowers, and to kiss her until get tired…

It is also nice to pace up and down till morning at the door or under the light of a beautiful woman, who turns her face heartlessly when she sees you, and to complain about it in tears to your close friends.

But could not endure carrying a part missing in a beloved body and to cut it off, here my namesake, only this is love.

Sabahattin ALİ