PRINCE MILOŠ (1780- 1860) AND PRINCESS LJUBICA (1785- 1843)
Good Night, Little Madam
The master is watching everything from aside. First Petrija, then Ljubica. Is this really entertaining him? ”What can I do, Ljubica, when God hasn’t given you…” ”Like that?” Her hand moves by itself to that nail Miloš’s pistol is hanging from. End of the play, master! The curtain falls. ”Miloš’s pistol, Ljubica’s hand. Let’s see, will it lie?” She was at the funeral. She watched everything, hidden, up to her neck in mud. Eight months later, she gave birth to a son. Mihailo. Beautiful name. Meaning: God-alike. And when they buried her, Petrija had slippers on her feet. Yellow slippers

By: Milena Z. Bogavac

MilosShe dreamt about her Kum the previous night. He came into her dream, carrying his head in his hands. He said: ”Give my regards to your husband.” Her own scream woke her up, before dawn. Miloš’s side of the bed is empty. She touches the white, embroidered sheets. They are cold, the master didn’t sleep here. She gets up. She puts on her yellow slippers neatly placed by the bed. She puts her hair into a bun, washes her face with warm water from the jug. And then, she hears footsteps. Giggling of a woman, inbreath-expiration, whisper, in front of the door. She listens. She approaches the door carefully. She bumps into her husband. He stops, blocks her way, and she stays there like that, in front of him. She doesn’t move. With the corner of her eye, over his shoulder, she sees a white-blue dress. She sees a bare female foot, disappearing into the darkness.
Ljubica clenches her lips. Miloš watches her. She is silent.
”What is it?” he asks. ”Why are you silent?”
”I am not silent”, she murmurs for herself, starts to leave, but he stops her.
”Why are you silent?”
”If I speak, master, if I speak now…” she thinks. But doesn’t say a word. She leaves the thought unfinished, in her mind. And while leaving the room, in which her husband didn’t sleep, she hears his words, as a scolding:
”You just keep on being silent!”
From a bad dream, the day started even worse. She is trying to collect her scattered thoughts, she is trying to think of ordinary things, the linen in her hands, for instance, she sews and then tears, and all over again. Nothing is going well. And she’s not feeling well either. This morning, after that scene, she was sick. She is sick now too.
Girls are hanging around the house, working, talking, singing, kneading bread… One noticed her sitting absently with the linen in her hands watching the sky: it is already noon. The girl stands before her with a bow: ”Do you need help, milady?” She cannot see her face well, because she was looking at the Sun.
Therefore she asks her: ”Who are you?”
”Anka”, replies the girl. The princess watches her dress, white, with red embroideries… It’s not her. ”Anka. And where is Petrija?”
”Petrija still hasn’t come out, mistress”, the girl is not hiding her smile. And before she could order to call her, she hears a familiar voice behind her back.
”Here I am”, says Petrija. You should say: ”Here I am, mistress”, she thinks, but doesn’t say anything. She is silent, and then she asks herself how much longer she could be silent.
”Petrija, go feed the pigs!”
The girl opens wide her blue eyes: ”Me?”
Ljubica gets up: ”And why not you, Petrija?”
She smiles arrogantly. She gathers her white-blue dress, nods her head instead of a bow, and then goes to the backyard. Princess follows her with her glance… How arrogant this little one has become. They call her Little Madam. Her surprised: ”Me?” is still ringing in her ears. You, of course, who am I looking at! As if she’s better than the others, God forbid. Still, she sings beautifully… So what?! And she can also read and write. All right, one should honor her for that… Ljubica remembers speaking to Karadžić the previous month, when he came to ask for money to finish the translation of the Holy Bible.
”I don’t have any more and I cannot give you. The people don’t have anything to eat, Vuk!”
And Petrija? She moves around, serves, nobody looks at her, nobody asks her anything, but she suddenly stops at the side and says:
”Faith is food for the people’s soul. To translate the Holy Bible means to feed the hungry soul of the people…” Wise one!
And what else could Ljubica do after that? She gave him the money. Here. There, take it. While he was leaving, she saw him kiss Petrija’s hand. To kiss a servant’s hand, as if she was a bishop, God forgive! My God! And why would a woman read letters? And her husband, Prince Miloš, who admires this Petrija’s virtue so much, never learned it either. Think of something else, please think of something else…


Kruna, Ljubica’s sister-in-law, Jevrem’s wife, was here yesterday to tell her that beneath Rudnik there is a Gypsy woman who knows every blade of grass. She’s strange, they say she’s a witch. She won’t speak to everyone, but… ”Whomever she healed from fever, fever stays away from him like fire from water.” She came to suggest Ljubica to send someone for that woman, to find cure for little Milan. Poor child! The moment he gets better, he falls into illness again… ”I will send someone today, Kruna.” That’s what she said. While escorting her to the gate, Kruna squeezed her arm: ”There are all kinds of stories among the people, Ljuba. Calm that girl down, for God’s sake. Your son is weak, sick, an only child, and your husband is making fun of you.” And the moment she remembers this, she feels sick again. She didn’t send anyone. She told her sister-in-law to come again tomorrow. Rudnik is not far away. ”Why wouldn’t you and I, Kruna, go ourselves? I’ll be waiting for you, when the Sun sets.” And the Sun seems as if it will never set.
She tries to think about ordinary things, anything, nothing, something, something else, anything else. The linen in her hands, for example. Something is wrong? Nothing is wrong. Her husband, Ljubica’s husband, hasn’t been faithful to her before either. She managed to handle Radojka, and Stana, and all sorts of girls he sent to her, ”to find them a job”, and ”to help her around the house until the business in court is settled”. She knows all this. But, this… This is something else. ”Little Madam”. Makes you sick.
She feels dizzy… This, this is something else. She is trying to think about what went wrong. Since the last Vuk’s visit until today, something is missing. Something, something, something… Something is wrong. She overlooked something. How wouldn’t she when she’s all… All distracted, everything, absolutely everything is fuzzy in her head. She is trying to think about ordinary things. The linen in her hands, for example… Something is missing… She pricked her finger on the needle and shrieked… This is something else. She looks at her finger. She sees blood. She remains like that and watches the drop of blood. Red stain on the white linen. Suddenly, she thinks she knows. She thinks, thinks, thinks, counts… That’s it!
She should rest. She will go to her room, lie and wait there for Kruna. Then she leaves for her room. She lies in her bed and her glance falls upon Miloš’s pistol, hanging on a nail.
When they made love the last time, he said: ”Ljubica, give birth to my son.” There was something strange in him, in those words of his: ”Give birth to my son.” There was something ghastly and she got scared, she really did. ”My son is not dead, Truncate.” That’s what she said: Truncate. Deliberately. Like that. He hasn’t touched her since… Now she’s lying as she did then. She watches his pistol hanging on the nail. She’s sick again… She feels dizzy, she gets up and runs from the house.
The yellow slippers remain neatly placed on the floor.
She throws up. She washes her face. Then throws up again. She washes her face again and then starts back to the room. She stops at the door, dumbstruck. Petrija is sitting on the edge of her bed. She is putting her foot in Ljubica’s slipper. She is looking how the slipper fits her, smiling, then puts on the other one.
”What are you doing, Petrija?”
The sentence breaks through the silence, like a shot, like thunder. From the clear sky.
”Forgive me”, says the girl. She takes off the slippers quickly, lowers her eyes, all red in the face. What an awkward situation.
”Forgive me”, she repeats with shame. ”I don’t know what got into me.”
She starts to the door, but the Princess stands in front of her.
”Wait, girl. Look into my eyes. Like that.” She is standing before her. Eye to eye. Alone. Not a witness anywhere. They have never been standing so close before, and Petrija suddenly thinks how something in Ljubica’s eyes reminds her of her mother. Stupid thought. She knows it’s stupid, so she puts it aside.
”Do they fit you, Petrija?” The girl is silent.
”Do my slippers fit you, do you hear me?” ”Yes”, she whispers.


She is guilty. She is not guilty for putting them on, she is guilty because they fit her. Ljubica smiles, and then, suddenly, a question: ”What was your husband like, Petrija?”
”My husband?” She would like to tell a lie, she would so much like to lie to her, but… Something in Ljubica’s eyes, something stern, dignified, yet warm, something that reminds her of her mother, although she cannot explain it, that something, what and why… She would like to, she would so much like to lie, but, still, she tells the truth: ”He was a nothing.” And she regrets it already. She tries to soften it: ”Weak. Like a little boy.” She’s wondering why she said it. She could have said anything else, she could have remained silent, that’s right, Petrija, you just be silent! And she will. She will be silent. That’s what she decided.
”Like your son. Ill. Thin.” Shut up, Petrija! ”We were living together less than two years when he perished. Poor soul.”
”God rest his soul”, says Ljubica. ”You didn’t love him.”
That is not a question, that’s a conclusion. So, nobody is asking her anything. She doesn’t have to answer anything, and still… Petrija hasn’t noticed this in the Princess before. The tone, the way she looks, deep, serious, like an icon. She wants to lie, she wants it so much, she has no reason to justify herself to her. She wants to keep quiet, but still says: ”My folks were poor people. Nobody ever asked me. I had no choice.” Ljubica understands this.
She sympathizes with her, although her folks were not poor people and although this girl here is not her friend. ”Snake”, she thought. ”Should I be sorry for you? To forgive you for sleeping with my husband, because you had no choice?” Which woman has a choice, anyway? It doesn’t exist. She didn’t have a choice either. She has a mark on her back. Marked with the Turkish prophecy. She wasn’t even fifteen when they came to take her away. To the pasha. To the harem. To get her married, to make her a Turk. That dark thing, like a cloud, that stain on her back, according to some prophecy meant that she will once meet a great master. She couldn’t choose. It was either the harem or Truncate. Questionable choice. No choice. She wonders what Petrija would decide. What would Petrija do, if she were her?
It wasn’t her, Ljubica Vukosanović, from father Radosav and mother Mara, who married the Prince. He is her mark, the cross on her back, her fortune and misfortune. She didn’t choose him. He came to her, inevitable. Like destiny. How to explain that to this girl here? If she would really try, and pick the heaviest words, she would harm herself much more than the girl. That is why she’s silent. She watches Petrija. She imagines the hands of her husband on her shoulders and, strangely, accepts that image easily. Indifferently. Her husband wasn’t faithful to her before, but this, this is something else.
”How old are you, Petrija?” ”Twenty. One”, she says. Ljubica thinks: ”What are you doing, child? Run, now, while you still can, why do you need this?”
”You are young”, she tells her. ”Beautiful. It should be arranged for you to get married again. Don’t worry. I will speak to the Master about it.” This is really too much. Even for Petrija. Why is she playing she doesn’t know? The whole town is calling her Little Madam. She even went to church with the Prince. After all, isn’t she younger and more beautiful and smarter than this woman here, even if they were a hundred times married? And the moment she inhales to throw all this into her face, Anka enters: ”Mistress, your sister-in-law is here. She asked me to call you.”
From the porch, Petrija watches Kruna and Ljubica climb the cart. She is angry. Angry? Weak word… The moment they take the first turn, she is going straight to the master. That’s right! She is going straight to the Prince. Whatever business he has, he can postpone it, this cannot wait. She will tell him everything, everything in the face, everything, everything, from word to word, just like that. She is creating the speech in her mind, arranging it, trying, searching for the heaviest words. She will tell him everything, even if it means he will drive her away. He can make her marry someone else, he can kill her – she won’t be quiet any more. She doesn’t want to be second to him, she wants everything. EVERYTHING! She is curious, she is very curious to see the expression on his face. She will say: do whatever you like with me, but I won’t call her ”mistress”! She didn’t give birth to a healthy son! Your brother and that wife of his already see their son in your place. Your wife is doing everything against you, drive her away, today, and I swear I will take care of her children as if they were my own! She doesn’t care what will happen to her, she loves him. Loves him. Yes, that’s what she’s going to say. She’ll say: ”I love you, more than myself, I have never contradicted you, but I cannot go further like this any more! Drive her away!” She screams… ”Easy, Petrija. Slow down. That’s it. Come here. You’re so beautiful when you’re angry…”


The Gypsy woman takes Ljubica’s palm, Ljubica pulls out her hand. The woman laughs out loud. A real witch. She’s beautiful. Like sin. ”We didn’t come for that”, Kruna tells her, ”but to ask you if you know how we can cure the boy. He has been having a fever for half a year. How much do you want? Just say it. We’ll give you everything!”
The Gypsy woman looks at Ljubica, then at Kruna. She asks: ”Is that your son?”
”It’s not my son”, answers Kruna. Ljubica is quiet. She hid her face with a scarf, but the Gypsy woman seems to know. ”Your son, madam”, she says, ”will be great. God-alike.” Ljubica forgets her scarf, and looks at the Gypsy woman, revealing her face: ”Will he be healed?” The gypsy woman looks at her closely, then lowers her gaze to the dust. She doesn’t say a word. ”Will he be healed?!” A moment is endlessly long. ”I cannot help you.”
The Princess is frozen. The Gypsy woman takes her hand, and she stands, helpless, motionless, without trying to defend herself. She looks at Ljubica’s palm briefly, then puts her hand on her stomach. They are looking at each other eye to eye. ”Your son”, she tells her. Her eyes are black. Like midnight. Thunder is heard.
”Wake up!” Nothing. Kruna grasps her shoulder. ”Ljuba, wake up! We’re almost there. Come on, darling. What did you dream?”
She opens her eyes. Her heart is beating so hard, that it seems the whole cart is jumping in the rhythm of her pulse. ”I won’t go to that woman!” she says. ”I won’t!” she yells.
”What is with you, Ljuba?”
She knows what’s with her. She knows what was and what will be.
”Turn the cart, we’re going back!” she orders.
”Don’t be crazy”, Kruna yells.
”I am not crazy, we’re going back. A storm is coming!”
Kruna gazes at the sky. What storm? ”God be with you, Ljubica. There isn’t a single cloud. Look!” ”I won’t. Turn the cart. Back!”
She has never seen her like this. For all these years, she has never seen her sister-in-law in this state. She’s worried about her. She’s worried about everything. The coachman is turning the cart… Ljubica is silent. Kruna is silent too. Each one in their own thoughts… They finally arrive. The Princess is running towards the house.
”What is this, Petrija?” she asks entering the room.
”I am making the bed”, says Little Madam.
”For whom are you making the bed?”
The master is watching everything from aside. As if it’s not really happening. Like in the theater of Joakim Vujić. A charged scene, with everything sputtering. Crazy women!
Petrija is not withdrawing.
”For myself and the master.”
”Where will I sleep?”
Petrija shrugged her shoulder: ”The house is big, thank God.”
The master is watching everything from aside. First Petrija, then Ljubica. Is this really entertaining him?
”What can I do, Ljubica, when God hasn’t given you…”
”Like that?” Her hand moves by itself to the nail Miloš’s pistol is hanging from. End of the play, master! The curtain falls.
Miloš’s pistol, Ljubica’s hand. Let’s see, will it lie?”
BOOM! A great boom. Then silence.
”Good night, Little Madam.” (A real title for a drama in Joakim’s theater.)
She runs through the yard, to the gate. Suddenly – it starts raining.
She was at the funeral. She watched everything, hidden, up to her neck in mud. It rained and rained, and that’s good, she thought… Rain hides tears. Pathetic? She didn’t think about it. And even if she did, she didn’t know the word.
”I know what I’ve done. I deeply regret it. However, if my master would be in need of blood, I will give it to him voluntarily. My misfortune is in the fact that I am a woman and my mind is feeble, so I insulted my master.”
Eight months later, she gave birth to a son. Mihailo. Beautiful name. Meaning: God-alike.

And when they buried her, Petrija had slippers on her feet. Yellow slippers.



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