The Bells In The Lake
Here’s a fairy tale about the olden-time villages of Poland.
Between the village of Antonje and the village of Dabrowka, between the dikes which keep back the waters of the Vistula, the San, and the Strachocka, there is a broad, wide-spreading lowland. The fields here form a chessboard, divided by boundary strips, over which run three winding and twisting dirt roads.
Along the middle road is to be found a lake known from its shape, which is like a horseshoe, as the Kopytowski Dol (Horse-shoe Bottom). The road that goes past this was used only during the day, never at night. There were few indeed who would venture to go by this road alone. Feared in very truth was this lake-bottom. It was even spoken of in a whisper, and with fear. It was said that in its depths were to be found bells that had been drowned and that had the power to toll again, and when they did, to foretell disaster. It was said under the breath that if someone were about to die in one or the other of the villages, two maidens would come forth from the water. Clad in white, trailing garments, these would raise their hands toward one village or the other, and in the one to which they pointed, someone would die.
The lake itself was covered with various kinds of greenery and along the bank it was surrounded as with a crown, by reeds.
The elders in the village had this to say also: that at the bottom of the lake, lying in an unbroken chain, were swarms of black swallows asleep there all winter, waiting to come forth in spring and build nests under the thatch of houses and cottages.
Now it happened in the year 1939 that something occurred here which was ascribed to the properties of enchantment dwelling in the lake.
In the village of Dabrowka lived a man by the name of Stanislaw Dyl. He was the proprietor of a boat, in which secretly he would ferry soldiers and officers from the Polish army returning from the east following the September campaign. If one of his passengers had no money with which to pay for the secret boat ride, he had to take off his boots or give Dyl something else of value, or Dyl would turn him over to the Germans. As you can see, he was a man without scruples or heart.
One September day there appeared, in the company of a band of soldiers, a Catholic priest. He had no money, neither had he any boots. In fact he had nothing except the cassock he wore on his back, and his breviary. When the priest was about to enter the boat, Dyl asked him for his fee. The priest said he had nothing except, as Dyl could see, what he wore on his back, and of course the breviary. So he handed the latter to Dyl. Dyl took it, and in anger hurled it into the current of the VistuIa.
There were witnesses to this act, various citizens of Dabrowka, and they spread the word around of what had taken place. And that night all eyes were turned in the direction of the Kopytowski Dol. Would the sound of the bells be heard? All ears were on the alert to hear. Would the maidens be seen, by chance? All eyes were waiting.
A few days later Dyl, as he was returning with a companion, passed along the shore of the lake. The next day word went around that they, those very two, had heard the bells and beheld the maidens. Terror fell upon the village. People began to draw away from Dyl, as the herald of some future misfortune.
And misfortune began in truth. Came winter, and people began going by boat to the other side of the Vistula for the purpose of fitting themselves out with supplies. Later they would return by the route traced by the boat. Dyl’s only child, a daughter Marysia, went by this route. Everyone else made the trip without mishap, only Marysia. She was drowned. Word spread through the villages that the maidens of Kopytowski Dol had prophesied correctly. Dyl, who had made a lot of money by ferrying escapees, lost everything, for he hid all his cash in his hat, for fear the customs officials would find it one day when crossing the San, and it all fell into the water when the wind blew his hat off.
The following week, as he was going to church, Dyl lost both his horses when they were injured, right on the flat, even road, both of them breaking their legs!! After this accident, the lake was viewed with even greater fear than before. The next week Dyl’s wife feel ill and after but one day, died. So there was only Dyl left, all alone. Not a soul in the village would go to see him and no one had any feeling for him in his run of misfortunes. His house was shunned. Everyone made a wide circle around it fearing he might be drowned by the powers of the lake. Dyl died at last in filth, lying for several days alone, like a corpse. After his death, no one would live in his house, in terror lest those unknown powers which had visited justice upon him might continue to punish those near him.
And so the age-old tradition of the bells was confirmed once more by what happened to Dyl. No one can make the people of the villages in that region believe that there is not some unknown power which directs those bells and those pale white figures, causing them to warn the people of misfortunes about to come.
. . .SEE YOU SOON, GOD BE WILLING. . .