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The Comedienne   By: (1867-1925)

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E text prepared by Andrew Leader of




Translated from the Polish by Edmund Obecny

Frontispiece by Frederick Dorr Steele

G. P. Putnam's Sons New York and London

The Knickerbocker press 1920

Copyright, 1920 by G. P. Putnam's Sons


The provincial actors of Poland are sometimes colloquially called "comedians," as distinguished from their more pretentious brethren of the metropolitan stage in Warsaw. The word, however, does not characterize a player of comedy parts. Indeed, the provincials, usually performing in open air theatres, play every conceivable role, and as in the case of Janina, the heroine of this story, the life of the Comedienne often embraces far more tragedy than comedy.

Wladyslaw Reymont is the most widely known of living Polish writers. The Academy of Science of Cracow nominated him for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is the author of numerous novels dealing with various phases of everyday life in Poland, many of them translated into French, German, and Swedish. The Comedienne is the first of his works to appear in English.

Reymont himself was a peasant, rising from the bottom until to day the light of his recognized genius shines in the very forefront of the Slavic intellectuals.

It is interesting to note that for several years the author was himself a "Comedian," traveling about what was then Russian Poland with a company of provincial players.

The Comedienne


Bukowiec, a station on the Dombrowa railroad, lies in a beautiful spot. A winding line was cut among the beech and pine covered hills, and at the most level point, between a mighty hill towering above the woods with its bald and rocky summit, and a long narrow valley, glistening with pools and marshes, was placed the station. This two story building of rough brick containing the quarters of the station master and his assistant, a small wooden house at the side for the telegrapher and the minor employees, another similar one near the last switches for the watchman, three switch houses at various points, and a freight house were the only signs of human habitation.

Surrounding the station on all sides were the murmuring woods, while above, a strip of blue sky, slashed with gray clouds, extended like a wide spreading roof.

The sun was veering toward the south and glowing ever brighter and warmer; the reddish slopes of the rocky hill, with its ragged summit gashed by spring freshets, were bathed in a flood of golden sunlight.

The calm of a spring afternoon diffused itself over all. The trees stood motionless without a murmur in their boughs. The sharp emerald leaves of the beeches drooped drowsily, as though lulled to sleep by the light, the warmth, and the silence. The twitter of birds sounded at rare intervals from the thickets, and only the cry of the water fowls on the marshes and the somnolent hum of insects filled the air. Above the blue line of rails stretching in an endless chain of curves and zigzags, the warm air glowed with shifting hues of violet light.

Out of the office of the station master came a short, squarely built man with light, almost flaxen hair. He was dressed, or rather squeezed into a stylish surtout and held his hat in his hand while a workman helped him on with his overcoat.

The station master stood before him, stroking his grayish beard with an automatic gesture and smiling in a friendly manner. He also was stocky, strongly knit, and broad shouldered, and in his blue eyes, flashing jovially from beneath heavy eyebrows and a square forehead, there also gleamed determination and an unbending will. His straight nose, full lips, a certain contraction of the brows, and the sharp direct glance of his eyes, that seemed like a dagger stroke all these typified a violent nature.

"Good bye, until to morrow!" . . . said the blonde man merrily, extending his big hand in farewell.

"Good bye! . . . Oh come, let me hug you. To morrow we'll celebrate the big event with a good drink... Continue reading book >>

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