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Peet Vallak


									Peet Vallak

A young man stopped on the street, at the window of a second-hand shop, indifferently
looking at the lumber of antiquities set up on the window. That was Peep Lõo, the new
salesman of the second-hand shop of Jakob Mesilane. Every morning, he in good time
appeared at the door of the shop, waiting for its opening. Yet he did not use the corridor
entrances on the courtyard for his relationship to the employer was still pretty unfamiliar.
And now when Lõo had walked to and fro on the street for some times, some noise was
heard from the shop. Inside, the heavy iron crowbar was lifted down from the door, the
bolts were pushed open and the key rattled into the empty keyhole. Then, two green-
coloured and sheet-ironed door-wings were pushed wide open – the stout figure of old
Mesilane stood on the stage of the staircase, he was in his shirt-sleeves, the sleeves
tucked up, his arms as big as those of an athlete.

Peep Lõo was the first to greet:

“Good morning!”

“Good… morn!”

Lõo hurried to the backroom of the shop, there he put his blue smock on and returned to
the counter. He searched out an old copper tea urn and started to repair and to clean it.

Mesilane sat at the till desk and dried with his handkerchief his sweatened his bovine
scruff and his head that was bald between the down hair around the ears. For long time,
both sat silent, from time to time, Mesilane squinted at Lõo. He was not completely
satisfied with his new salesman, for in his opinion, the last was too delicate and
sophisticated for a second-hand shop. He also was not able to bargain fluently enough
with people neither to chat smoothly enough. Mesilane decided that he was too curt to be
a shopman. For a couple of months only he worked in the shop of Mesilane as a salesman
but the master already hatched a plot to discahrge him and to employ a new salesman.
For a couple of times, Mesilane was even impudent enough to put his hand into Lõoäs
pocket after the shop was closed and Lõo was about to leave to be sure that some little
things stolen from the shop were not to be found there. But he never found anything like

Today, too, sitting at the still desk of the shop Mesilane deliberated kin his mind if he had
to discharge Lõo.

Then, he suddenly asked as a sleuth:

“From where did you got that scar on your neck?”
And he scowled over his eyeglasses, his voice a bit hoarse, as if had had incurable cold
and cough.

“In the war! In a battle!” Lõo answered, continuing burnishing the tea urn.

Mesilane straighted himself up, wondering:

“There! there! in a battle, there! there! directly under the fire, eh?”

“Under several fires!” – and Lõo tucked his sleeve up and showed a bullet scar also in the
area of the elbow.

“If to rise the shirt’s tail, you surely can find out something to be shown there, too,”
Mesilane pricked, as if he had been envious for his own body was absolutely clean and
untouched by scars.

Lõo splat on the rag and continued cleaning of the tea urn.

“You’re bragging, boy! You’re about to swagger!” Mesilane growled after a good while.
“You shall be moderate, moderate!”

As it is seen, their relationship was like that that Mesilane spoke to Lõo in s i n g u l a r
whereas Lõo spoke to Mesilane in p l u r a l. and again, Mesilane gave an assessing look
to that military veteran, aged about thirty, thin, with light hair and pale face. In
Mesilane’s opinion, something suspicious was hidden in his employee, and the man had
too long and too suspicious fingers. Somewhere in the dark, those could be very flexible
and skilful, if some bigger plunders appear on the horizon… Several times already,
Mesilane had guessed to demand a passport from Lõo and to regard it a bit more
carefully… If it is all correct… For suddenly, that man has come out from the walls of
prison, maybe even o v e r the walls…

Peep Lõo far did not feel himself lucky in the second-hand shop. That job was not
congenial to him and did not offer anything of interest. All of all, his salary was only a
small pittance.

Sometimes when Mesilane pressed his old case under his shoulder and left Lõo alone in
the shop for business, the last felt even more the disgust of the untidy shop. In that two
rooms, such a lumber had been taken along that it seemed to stink, to be lousy. From the
ceiling, directly as high as head, there hung old lamps, musical instruments, pails, suits,
dresses, coats, string and chain trusses – every kind of lumber that one could hang on
nail. Under them, the lowered room was full of junk furniture – cupboards, tables, chairs,
on them, carpets, books, furs, pictures, dishes, frippery were piled up. To make the room
even a little bit cosier and maybe to have some entertainment, Lõo sometimes switched
on the gramophone but the ugly and hoarse sound of the old and scratched records even
increased his spleen. And Lõo felt himself unhappy, having been torn off from life,
having thrown somewhere on a deserted island.
Mesilane himself was on another opinion about his shop and his goods.

“Lumber has high value, young man,” he sometimes explained. You can earn some
thousands even by saw dust – if you only’ve got your head screwed on the right way! But
not every man has that!”

Once, a ragged and untidy man entered the shop and pulled an electric bulb out of his

“Does it burn?”

“Yes, it burns!”

“Where did you swept it from?”

“What… swept… It´s my own lamp!”

“How much do you want?”

“Actually, nothing! I paid one kroon for it, I`ll leave it for fifty.”

“Not fifty but – five!”

But Mesilane anyway threw ten cents on the table. The man growled and stared the small
coin but however put it into his pocket at last. That was for both of them made business
by that little deal – one more, another less.

“Now you saw by your own eyes, young man, that even slumber has its own value! It’s
not my business where from the crook swept that bulb! If you’ll open the doors of your
own shop once, just do the same!”

“Thanks!” growled Lõo.

The second-hand shop was a place to which all threads of poverty and misery flock
together. Mostly, that lumber was taken there in straits for money, and the consumers,
too, were the poor to whom consumption of a new thing was a great strain of resources.
Here, every cent was expensive – both for the seller and the buyer of a thing. Often, the
noblemen, hunched and old, having come to town from their former manor-houses and
having became poor there, could be met here – people of the past with big red goggling

Not a long time ago, a certain Mrs. Kivi had started to visit the shop of Mesilane, she had
recently widowed and wore black mourning dress. Her husband had left her no real
estate, no cash and no right for a pension. The death had come promptly, and on the very
same day, poverty and troubles inhabited the house of the widow. Her only treasure
seemed to be furniture, small frippery and jewellery. But obviously she had a pretty
number of them, and pretty valuable, for her husband had been a seagoing mate, he had
travelled the far seaways and had taken many things along from far places. Now, that
jewellery started to drop out to the hands of the others. Leili Kivi looked to be very
incapable, sickly and unpractical woman, and, in addition, she had no professional skills
at all. With help of Mesilane, she already had got rid of several precious items but even
now, she had some of them to be sold in his shop. Almost every day, she visited the shop
of Mesilane, impatient and nervous, feeling fear of her future. She often spoke something
about her husband and said sadly – the ever most harmful moment for her was that her
husband was slain in a pub of a harbour town, in a set-to. As she proved:

“He was not a drunkard neither a fighter. He defended his friend by his breast. He was
slain for his friend…”

Mesilane sat at his desk as quiet as a mouse and never said a word. His relationship to the
widow was pure business, not soulful. He will take a pretty good benefit for purchasing
the widow’s furniture that she had taken to the shop to be sold. And that benefit is
available only for a mate Kivi was killed in a harbour pub in Marseille, in a fight… He
offered seven only hundred kroons to the widow for the furniture but he knew a customer
that would pay one thousand and five hundred for that.

In the evening, Mesilane went out long before the shop was closed and when he came
back later he was already drunk. He explained Lõo:

“A while ago I had a lousy feeling here at the end of my stomach. So I entered the bar.
It’s going better now.”

Vodka had made him more talkative and, seemingly, even more friendly.

“Let’s close the doors of that cell and … let’s drive a bit around to see the night life. Let’s
go and have some drink! In my mind, we really too much to each other, just as some wild
beasts of prey! What for you can’t be a brother to me for your parents had no courage to
give you a brother, obviously they were very chaste and sparing people. I would badly
need a man like that… somebody that I could trust completely… that could keep his
mouth closed… the ears of which are not pricked up for every inane word!”

And he really dragged Lõo to a bar.

“How do you like Mrs. Kivi?” Mesilane soon started to question Lõo. “A fair jane, isn’t
she, eh? Shall we take a car and drive to her to check out why she wears those clothes of
mourn for a wanton shipman. She has to remove that black rag from her face at last and
let men to look at her eyes.”

“No, I don’t want to go there,” Lõo answered.

“Why? If not there, then to some other place. But we’ll leave this place anyway!”
Mesilane called the car and they drove to a side street, before a big, barrack-like wooden
house. In the dimly lighted vestibule they were reading the list of the accommodates from
the board.

“Aha, flat number nine, second floor!” Mesilane shouted.

“But that’s … Leili Kivi!” Lõo was scared.

“Yes, namely, Leili Kivi!” Mesilane bragged. “Lets push in, courage, my boy! What for
she is mourning that sea wanderer and walks around like a drowned cat, dressed in black

“No, I´ll not come, Mr. Mesilane!”

“What for I’m Mr. Mesilane?” Mesilane cried. “Didn’t I tell you a while ago that my
name is Jakob and not mister Mesilane! You shall learn that name correctly by heart!
Let’s go, now!”

“I will not come!”

“Then, don´t come! You´re a rag!” – and Mesilane poked Lõo in the ribs. He begin to go
upstairs, half-running, the wooden staircase rumbled and creaked.

After some time, he was heard to knock, in fact, hammering the glass door on the second
floor. It took quite a long time before the lace curtain was drawn aside from the glass
door. Was his sight correct? Leili Kivi that stood on the other side of the glass door was
more ghost than a human being: wrinkled and cowering as somebody aged hundred
years, her eyes had sunk in the skull, her hair grey as foggage. More ghost then a human!
And after a long time only he recognised, railing his mind, bemused by vodka, that the
figure behind the glass door was not Leili Kivi but her mother.

“What a horrible piece of a human,” Mesilane thought, sputtering. And said: “Well, open
the door at last, I’m not any man killer to be stared such a frightened face! Let me in, I’ve
the business with the young lady.”

Behind the door, mother’s trembling voice answered that her daughter was not at home.

“But why then does she loiter around so late at night?” Mesilane began to read a lecture.
“An honest man, particularly an honest woman is sitting home in that time. She is about
to return any minute. Let me come in and wait. I’m her old acquaintance and friend, and,
if that’s not enough, even – her benefactor.”

But even now, he was not let in and when he became boring at last by rumbling, the
doors of the neighbouring flats were opened and dumpy figures of men appeared. Now,
Mesilane had nothing else to do than apologise before the old lady, to rise his hat and to
waddle downstairs again. But Lo and the car had already disappeared from downstairs.

Full of evil choler and thoughts of revenge, Mesilane reeled to a dim by-street and there
he started to annoy the ladies walking alone.

Though Mesilane had plied his first name to Lõo the day before, life in the shop turned
back to its old rails next day. Mesilane was Mr. Mesilane again and behalf Lõo their
relationship was modest-official as before. Mesilane also did not tell much about the
drinking bout the day before; he mentioned that he almost does not remember where to
they went from the bar.

Lõo continued looking for a new job with former eagerness for the life here day to day
became more disgusting to him. All that second-hand shop of Mesilane was like a public
nest of thefts and swindle. Lõo did not even hesitate that now Leili Kivi, a person so
unskilled and inexperienced in reality will suffer under and be deceived by a skilled and
ill-conscienced Mesilane.

One day, Leili Kivi came to the shop in particularly great misery and tears. She needed
money badly to cure her mother who was seriously ill and about to die.

“So, your dear mother is dying?” Mesilane sighed and a face, in his opinion, an ugly mug
already that he had seen one night behind the glass door came to his mind. The better it is
if such an old crane will die! He thought in his mind. What a trash, to be taken to a doctor
and to mourn!

But he said:

“What a pity that she’ll die… But if you leave the price for the furniture to seven
hundred, I’ll slip the sum in your hand tomorrow! Then, I´ll get not a penny of benefit but
let it be – the main thing that the room will be cleaned out of lumber.”

Only few days passed when Leili Kivi returned to tell that she will sell her furniture for
seven hundred kroons. When she announced that, old Mesilane himself was not in the

“I don’t know what to do,” she wailed. “My mother is to be taken to the doctor but I’ve
not a cent in my pocket. If I’ll not take her to the hospital, she will die without any doubt.
Then, I’ll be all alone in the world.”

Lõo shrugged himself behind the desk, feeling awkward. He looked down and he felt as
if he was a great culprit before the woman. In a couple of words, he could commit her
great benefaction but it could cost him his job here, in that lumber shop.

He looked compassionately at the woman who tired and ruined sat on the sofa.
“I could tell you something… only if you’ll never say a word about it to anybody…” Lõo
suddenly said.

He blushed, he almost panted.

The woman looked at him, wondering.

“What?” she asked then and lifted the border of her mourn veil a little up.

“It’s concerning your furniture,” Lõo said. “It’s disgusting how Mesilane frauds you. I
know, he already has the purchaser who would immediately pay one thousand and five
hundred for your furniture!”

“Thousand and five hundred!”

The woman almost screamed those words. She quickly rose up and hurried to the desk,
bowing a little over the edge of the desk, closer to Lõo. Then, they continued talking half-
whispering, almost unheard, as if their secret talk could cost the life for some of their

“You said that somebody would pay thousand and five hundred kroons for my
furniture… But – why then Mesilane speaks about seven hundred only?”

“To put pure eight hundred in his pocket!”

“Is it true?”

Leili Kivi took the alarm and started to stammer.

She was not able to think neither to act any more.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you!”

Gratitude – that was nothing. Better she had to ask what to do now. Maybe Mesilane is
plundering outside at the moment; he will return and throw seven hundred kroons on the
table before the woman. He will say: … That’s for you for the furniture. I didn’t gat more
for it and it was no more worth. But I will not dance to the tune of every nervous woman,
- the purchasing contract is signed already, I can’t go back any more! Just put those
scraps of paper into your pocket! And thank me politely for that great trouble!

“Advise me, Mr. Lõo, what I have to do now,” the woman asked despaired.

And Lõo said:

“Come here today, no later, with expresses, and if Mesilane happens to be in the shop,
then tell him: … Mr. Mesilane, you claimed several times that my furniture only takes
space in your shop, disturbing you, so I take it away now… then go to that customer and
tell him: I have heard that you would like to buy some furniture. I’ve got the furniture
you were fond of. One thousand and five hundred kroons and the furniture is yours.”

The woman indeed came to get her furniture back and only after several hours of hard
quarrelling with Mesilane, after scolds and threats, it was possible to carry the furniture
on the lorry and take it away.

It was the gloomiest day in that lumber shop. Mesilane walked around as blizzard
typhoon, he threw the thing by hand and by foot, he scolded Leili Kivi by the most
obscene words. Lõo kept silence and did not partake not the heartache of his master.

Second time, the thunder stroke in the second-hand shop when Mesilane heard that the
furniture was sold to the same man who had to purchase it from his shop – by paying the
shop a big benefit.

“Who was the man who led him to that devil woman!” he swore. “Such a foolish bitch of
a boat-steersman! I don’t want to see the face of that person any more! I’ll throw her out
to street as a rag!”

Again, Lõo was quiet and chaste and took part neither of sorrow nor of anger of his

But when Mesilane from day to day analysed that hard backstroke in business, he began
to suspect Lõo as an accomplice. And when he once met Leili Kivi on the street, he took
the woman under cross-questioning.

“So, you have happily sold the furniture, haven’t you?”

“Yes, it is sold,” Leili Kivi answered.

“That is, you’ve a pretty sum of money in your pocket?”


“But how much did you pay to your adviser?”

“What adviser?”

“What adviser! To Lõo, of course. Don’t shrug your shoulders! It’s clear to me for a long
time already! Lõo confessed himself, from all his heart. And there’s nothing to be hidden,
I understood myself who was your adviser and helper. He received some two hundred
kroons anyway?”

“No, he didn’t,” Leili Kivi answered, a little hesitating. “He received not a cent.”
“He helped and taught you just for nothing?”

“Just for nothing, he didn’t want a penny, although I offered him.”

Mesilane angrily bate his lips. So – the secret was clear as daylight. That simple-minded
woman had betrayed her adviser!

When Mesilane returned to his shop, the clock just stroke five times. He closed the front
door, locked it, lifted the bar inside. Then he went to the dark backward room where the
writing desk together with account books was placed and switched the light on. He gave a
telephone call, pretty quiet, as if into his palm only.

Lõo, in raincoat, appeared to the door to get to the street via the courtyard. Mesilane
talked yet but gave him a signal by hand to wait for him.

Lõo leaned on the door jamb, lighted a cigarette. He kept waiting. When the telephone
call was over, Mesilane creeped out from the narrow slit between the table and the wall
and stood in front of Lõo. He grabbed Lõo by shirt-front, strongly crumpled the flaps of
the coat in his hand, angrily stared to his face.

“Bastard!” he suddenly roared and pressed Lõo against the wall. Then, he pulled the
cigarette out of his mouth and threw it on the floor.

“You bloody loafer, pudding head, I’ll make you still as worm!”

“You’ve got mad!” Lõo cried. “What has come to your mind!”

He tried to get rid of Mesilane´s hands but Mesilane held him almost in the air.

“Scoundrel, hound!” he roared. “Only pick such a cad up from the street, give him job
and bread, but he’ll about to act a loafer, to damage the business, to blab out the secrets
of business!”

“First – speak clearer, second – let go of me!” Lõo demanded.

But as Mesilane pressed him even more tightly against the wall, Lõo gave him a hard
blow by his knee. Mesilane cried “O”, let Lõo go and drew back.

“Get out!” he cried then, his face blood-black, his eyes red, goggling. “You, pimper of
that old widow! But you got nice thanks for your stupid help: she blabbed me everything
out, and she even grinned! She splits you to face for your help and advice, - all women
are like that! And now, before I count to three, you’ve disappeared from my eyes from
here and – forever! If you’ll take your bones over my threshold again, I’ll call the police,
I’ll let you be beaten by truncheon so that you’ll not remember how old you are! One…
“I am not afraid your police,” Lõo said. “That’s right; the police is to be called – for you!
Do you think I’m blind and don’t note what a dark business you’re dealing here, nothing
said about cheating of the poor and the unhappy. Do you think that I don’t know what
was taken to your barn the day before yesterday, - two loads of any kind on goods! I
know all!”

Mesilane turned all blue in face.

“Now, out from my shop!”

“Not out, but now I’ll call the police, now I will call the police,” Lõo threatened. “You
are a great impostor, a rude man who wants to earn an immense benefit even at the cost
of an unhappy widow! A scoundrel like you let my parents to be oustered into a road
ditch ten years ago. People are too patient with men like you! You have to be sent to free
board for some years! I know that those two loads of things that were taken to your barn
the day before yesterday were swept away from the store of the equipment office where
one of your relatives works as a store holder. You’ll get your bunks beside each other to
have more fun there!”

“Out! You, madman! You’ll get your bunk beside some other scoundrel like yourself but
don’t touch me!”

“Let’s check out which of us is a scoundrel!” Lõo answered and creeped to the telephone
via the writing desk and the wall.

“Leave up the telephone!” Mesilane warned.

Lõo only reached the telephone, paying no attention to the warning when he was blown
by head by fist backwards. And meanwhile Mesilane grabbed the drawer and seized a
revolver from there.

“Hands up, assassin!” he roared. “Yes, I’m a scoundrel and a crook and those loads were
taken from the store of the equipment office! That’s right! They were taken from that
place! Loads have been taken from there long ago already! And the storekeeper is not any
of my “relatives” but - my own son! None of us will go to jail bread! You’ll get a couple
of tin bullets to your scruff from here, and your mouth ´ll be filled with mould tomorrow!
Hands up!”

Lõo’s hands really rose but one of them rose with a revolver from the pocket. His thought
worked rapidly. He did not hesitate that Mesilane could kill him to save himself and his
son. Can the real face of that crime be revealed at all if Mesilane alone remains alive?
The murderer Mesilane may remain an honest and a righteous citizen in all people’s eyes,
so he’ll be able to continue his dirty business.

Lõo shot. He managed to shoot first. He shot to hit and to paralyse the hand of Mesilane
that threatening kept the weapon. Instead of one shoot, two blew up, almost in the same
time and against each other… Lõo faltered, his weapon fell on the floor and he sank on
his knees, from his knees he fell down on the floor. He stretched his hand out for the
revolver that was still smoking on the floor but then his power expired, his fingers
remained unmoving on the weapon…

In that evening, Jakob Mesilane lay wounded in the surgery clinic, he was taken from the
operating table where a bullet that had stopped in his humerus was taken out. In the
morgue of the same hospital, lying on his back on the bedstead, one hand stretched out,
laid the corps of Peep Lõo, taken to autopsy. But outside on the street, newspapers were
sold where already expatiated on a mean attempt of robbery, committed by a salesman of
a second-hand shop against Jakob Mesilane at whom the criminal knew to be a larger
sum of money. But the wounded tradesman managed to save himself from the blasé
criminal by slaying him in skirmish. The newspapers also presented the photographs of
both criminal and victim of the attack.

Mesilane laid on the bedstead in the hospital, his eyes half-closed, his shoulder aching
wildly. Now he was the only one who kept thinking about that sanguinary crime as a
participant, for another participant was not able to do this any more. Now, the main
thought of Mesilane was how to act on the court investigation. Until that, all
circumstances had been on his side but surely the investigation also can be turned against
him, accusing himself in a crime.

Was he a criminal? The shots sounded almost in the same time… Both were armed and
both were afraid of each other, they tried to outstrip each other. But… one of them
targeted the arm, another the heart… and that one who grabbed the weapon first, namely
had risen it to hide his dirty deals from public, to save himself and his son from the prison

On the third day, another shooter was about to go on his last way on the earthly life.
Downstairs in the morgue cellar, his body was lifted in a simple coffin, then a carrier
arrived on his rattling wagon, a hay bag under his seat, a whip in his hand. The coffin was
put on the lorry, an old faded carpet was spread over it and one more workman came to
accompany the carrier. They jumped on both sides of the coffin and started to move, their
legs hanging over the edge of the lorry.

On the street behind the gate, only some lonely wonderers were waiting bringing out of
the corps.

“What ahs happened here?” some of the passers-by asked, stopping. “What for you’re
standing here?”

“What for we are standing here! The criminal will be brought out… fro funeral.”

“Lõo! Don’t you read the newspapers!”
“Ah… Lõo!” and the inquirer stood along others to wait to see the last way of a declined

“Make way!”

And the funeral carriage passed the gate of the hospital already. The crowd ran in two
sides to make way to the carriage. Among the waiting people, no kinsfolk occurred, no
relative, no acquaintance who could send the passenger to eternity to his real place of
resting. His relatives lived far away, mother and father were dead long ago but his friends
kept the distance today…

The street slowly descended from the slope and the horse started a quiet trotting. High, on
the narrow and deep street grey autumn sky bowed, cold and windy. Nobody paid any
attention to passers-by. Those who saw the coffin thought it empty – for the senders were
missing, as well the wreaths. However, a woman in black stood at the corner of the
church, flowers in her hand, she wanted to join the senders and to put some flowers
behalf her on the grave of the departed man. But she had her own troubles and thoughts
and she couldn’t guess that the mortal remains of Peep Lõo passed her right now; she
only noticed the carrier with a simple coffin – obviously it was taken to somebody just
departed. For that coffin was covered with a ragged carpet, and the horse made a pretty
fast trot downhill.

The look of Leili Kivi was still directed towards the hospital, waiting for a funeral
procession with many senders, with pastor, flowers, wreaths. So she remained standing
there on the corner, for a long time, flowers in her hand.

The way of Peep Lõo continued. Vehicles crossed on the street. People came and left.
How many of them carried the load of an unrevealed crime on the heart?

The workers put the deceased into the grave. The men were hired by the city government
for a couple of hours, each of them received fifty cents per hour. The city gave out seven
kroons and twenty-five cents for digging the grave.

The grave hill became big and sandy, beside the have-nots and the city poor. When three
of the workers had already raised their spades up to their backs, one of them knelt down
at the grave, a man who recently had taken his two sons to the sandy bedstead of the

One more grave-hill had been added to the cemetery, a hill that will fall of into holes, will
be covered by grass and the cross of which will sink askew soon. People passed that hill
coldly and scornfully for they never became aware that the real criminal was cured in the
hospital and went back to freedom whereas the righteous and the innocent one was slain
fighting against injury.

From “Bread of Charity”, 1936

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