112 STAN BOLOVAN
' Well, if you must know,' said the wife at last, ' I will tell you. There is no luck in this house — no luck at all!'
' Is not your cow the best milker in all the village? Are not your trees as full of fruit as your hives are full of bees? Has anyone cornfields like ours? Really you talk nonsense when you say things like that! '
' Yes, all that you say is true, but we have no children.'
Then Stan understood, and when a man once understands and has his eyes opened it is no longer well with him. From that day the little house in the outskirts contained an unhappy man as well as an unhappy woman. And at the sight of her husband's misery the woman became more wretched than ever.
And so matters went on for some time.
Some weeks had passed, and Stan thought he would consult a wise man who lived a day's journey from his own house. The wise man was sitting before his door when he came up, and Stan fell on his knees before him. ' Give me children, my lord, give me children.'
' Take care what you are asking,' replied the wise man. ' Will not children be a burden to you ? Are you rich enough to feed and clothe them ?'
' Only give them to me, my lord, and I will manage somehow!' and at a sign from the wise man Stan went his way.
He reached home that evening tired and dusty, but with hope in his heart. As he drew near his house a sound of voices struck upon his ear, and he looked up to see the whole place full of children. Children in the garden, children in the yard, children looking out of every window — it seemed to the man as if all the children in the world must be gathered there. And none was bigger than the other, but each was smaller than the other, and every one was more noisy and more impudent and more daring than the rest, and Stan gazed and grew