Translated from the Serbian by
Dubravka Popadic Grebenarevic
I remember everything, especially our first meeting. Everything seemed so strange then - the day itself, him and the Dead Whirlpool. I went there many times, both before and after, but the water never appeared as clear and warm to me as it did that day. The sky already looked morose even in the early morning and it looked like it would rain in the afternoon. I remember that because for a long while I could not decide whether to go to the Morava or to hide somewhere in the shade and take a nap until the sweltering heat abated. I went, eventually, since the damned flies were unbearable - they buzzed around my nose as if around a dead cat.
I came upon Dorotheus while he was bathing. The first thing I saw was his worn-out hackney dozing, tied to an alder tree. Next to the hack, three to four steps away, there was a packsaddle with a robe thrown over it. The whirlpool was calm and smooth; the sun was glistening on the lazy water. I squinted as sunrays pierced my eyeballs; it took me a while to adjust to the glare. I longed to return to semi-darkness of the woods wherefrom I came out to the hot sandy bank. Then I saw Dorotheus.
He emerged from the water. His long, blond hair covered his eyes, so he had to remove it from his eyes to be able to see me. He was naked, sun-tanned. For a while he was silent, breathing deeply, wiping his beard and straightening his moustache. Then he asked about the monastery of Vratimlje. When I replied that I came from there, at first he was glad and then, embarrassed. It seemed he was ashamed to be found in such an inappropriate situation. He said he was heading there at the command of the Moravian bishop Evsavius. He also wanted to know about our abbot Macarius. I replied that the abbot was gravely ill.
Only I know that Dorotheus has come here to cure me. The others believe that the Bishop has sent him to increase the number of literate monks in this region. I hide the truth from them. I fear Prohorus' wrath. He will say "the old man is scared to die; he cares for his life too much."
When the two of them, Dorotheus and Demetrius, came through the monastery gate, it was already dusk. Against the last twinkle of the western light I could discern nothing more than their shadows. One was tall and broad-shouldered. The shadow of the other, twisted, bowlegged and hunched - that, I knew only too well. That strong, healthy body does not suit a monk. It suits a soldier or a ploughman, but certainly not a monk.
I helped him unload the luggage from the horse. I lit the oil lamp in the cell prepared for him, and then we started to take out whatever he had brought with him from the saddle-bags. Inside there were all sorts of things: small pumpkins with some dried roots, dry stems and flowers, various vesselso f wood, clay and copper. He also carried some writings on the bleached sheep skin, which he had tied carefully with leather strings. He said his accommodation contented him. Later I went to fetch him dinner: boiled broad-beans, baked fish, wheat bread and brandy. He would not have the brandy. He said brandy did not agree with him. He did not care for its taste.
It seems that Dorotheus is a herbal healer from the monastery of Arilje and that he has come here to cure the Prior. So, the abbot secretly dispatched a message to the Bishop Evsavius asking him to send a skilful herbal healer who would save him from impending death. The old man has got scared. I have noticed such oddities in his behaviour before. Occasionally he has stared blankly, ignoring what I was telling him.
There is one thing I do not understand. I have known herbalistsc ommonly as elderly men, mostly very old ones. This one is no more than twenty years old.
I started taking potions prepared by our new fellow monk Dorotheus two days ago. I already feel a little better.
The pain in my bowels has subsided somewhat. If it continues to, I will summon enough strength to rise from bed and perhaps even escape from this mould which sufi focates me. I wish I could stroll again on the meadows along the Morava, the steeps of Dilj and the clearings of Gradina. Do I seek too much of you, Lord?