Life and Legend of Juro Jánošík,

How Jánošík Settled Matters With a Tavern Keeper From Terchová and How He Sold the Mountains of Lutiše.

  

There was a tavern in the middle of Terchová, where the proprietor poured drinks evening after evening.

He was nothing but a cheat and a dishonest trader.

He poured drinks for the men until their heads were swimming and then let them sign bills and debts. What could a man do who was controlled by brandy instead of his good sense? What could such a man know?

The men signed and before the ink had dried, the tavern keeper added another zero to the figure. If someone drank a liter, he let him sign for three. What would a drunk man remember?

Not three years had passed, and the tavern keeper already owned half of the houses in the village, and the same was true for the surrounding fields and mountains. Jánošík would send him messages that he should become a decent human again, but to no effect. He tried to induce him to act as an honest man should, also to no avail.

The tavern keeper even felt that half was not enough, he wanted to get everything from the people of Terchová.

One day Jánošík decided to put a stop to this outrage.

“Let’s burn him out!“ some of his companions suggested.

“Not burn him out, take what he has filched and chase him away from the village,“ the other suggested.

“What about holding a big dinner party in the tavern and let him pay the bill?“ another asked.

Jánošík only listened, and when they grew silent, he said, “I can see that you still think as you did long ago. As if you forgot that you swore allegiance to a new oath. What will those poor people from Terchová get out of what you suggest?“

* * * * * 

Then he took Hrajnoha, Ilčik, and Garaj and, disguised as rich travelers, they entered the tavern in Terchová. They ordered a mug of wine each. Then a second and a third. After the fourth, they slurred their words, and with the fifth they got the idea of playing cards.

The tavern keeper became interested when he saw them.

“It surely will not be difficult to clean out these rich drunkards,“ he said to himself and, before joining them, he filled their cups to the brim.

They started to play. But what sort of game was it? Those gentlemen seemed to see cards for the first time in their lives. They kept losing. And they kept signing the bills as if they were millionaires.

It was growing dark when the party stopped playing cards. The tavern keeper immediately started to count how much the gentlemen owed him, when the tallest of them said, “We have, dear sir, not one piece of gold with us, and it is a long way to our home in žlina.. but not far from here, near the village of Lutiše, the mountains belong to us. It’s only a journey of one hour, come and have a look at them. You’re a knowledgeable man. You can say whether they are worth as much as we have lost. If so, we will sign them over to you without delay.”

The tavern keeper’s wife tried to discourage her husband from going out so late. Well, who in the world would set off on such a journey by night? But the tavern keeper did not care, he wanted to settle the accounts before the wine went out of the gentlemen’s heads.

“Are you about to set off on such a journey alone?” his wife nagged him. “At least take the servant with you.”

“What is the servant for?” one of the gentlemen said in a loud voice and vaulted up on the carriage seat and grabbed the reins. “I will drive!”

The tavern keeper agreed, because he always wanted to do his dealing on his own, so that others could not see how he increased his property.

The villages of Podolina and Vyšné and Nižné Kamence were soon behind them. Then they plunged right across the river towards the mountains of Lutiše.

* * * * * 

Lutiše, of all places! It looked as if it was pushed to the very ends of the earth. The surrounding mountains were thick and boundless forests. One who does not know them could run his feet off and still not be able to get out. 

Right in the heart of the woods the strange procession that had set off from Terchová before evening came to a stop.

Then night set in, deep impermeable darkness that covers everything and takes every secret with it.

The well-dressed gentlemen seemed to lay a fire unusually cleverly. But then they threw off their luxurious clothes, and pistols and hatchets suddenly appeared in their hands. They were far from showing him the mountains or negotiating the price. They had also found their tongues somehow, and their speech ceased to be so kind. The tavern keeper began to see the light and soon realized who he had the honor of doing business with.

Escape was the first thing that came to his mind. “But where to? For I don’t know from which side we came here. And where is my carriage, where are my horses?”

“So, you don’t have enough yet?” the tallest one of his not very affable companions roared at him. “You still desire more and more property.”

The tavern keeper did not reply, for it was not a question but a reproach.

“Never mind, if they are robbers,” he thought. “I will make a deal with them somehow,” he hoped. “But, what if the tall one is Jánošík…”

“You don’t even mind cheating Jánošík, do you?” Jánošík laughed. He seized the tavern keeper’s arm, squeezing it hard enough to light thousands of stars in front of his eyes, and roared, “The key!”

“Wh..wha..what key?” the keeper stuttered. He knew that the party was over and that the man standing in front of him was just the one he was most afraid of.

“The key of the coffer where you hide all the bills and debts of the people of Terchová. And the place where you hide the coffer.”

The tavern keeper wanted to suggest something, to share with them fifty-fifty, thinking that maybe there could be honor among thieves. After all, they were in the same field, “Ha, ha,ha,” but the big man squeezed his arm and roared again.

“The key”

The keeper fidgeted and scratched for a while and hesitated, but finally he took a key out of the little bag he wore on his chest and described the place in a chamber.

“Really? Are you sure the coffer is really there? If we don’t find it, you won’t get back from here alive!”

“I swear!” the tavern keeper screamed. “It is there! The only thing you have to do is to throw aside the bags full of flour, force open the door which is the entrance to the cellar, and then dig in the left corner.”

“Really? It better be!” the big man shouted and gave an order. Two of his companions immediately jumped on horses and galloped into the night.

* * * * * 

Later….

A miracle had been going on in Terchová since the early morning. Outside the tavern two strangers distributed the tavern keeper’s bills and letters of debt. Every man had to collect his own unpaid bills and promise that he would never ever enter the tavern again.

Who ever are you? And who charged you with such a task? And where is the tavern keeper?“ the men asked Garaj and Ilčik.

But they did not reveal anything. They only frowned.

When they had handed over the last receipt, they jumped on their horses and galloped away, no one knew to where.

“Done?” Jánošík asked when they came back to the mountains above Lutiše.

“Done,” they nodded.

“You can go!” Jánošík made a sign to the taverner. “And remember what I have been telling you from the very beginning, ‘Work as an honest trader should.’”

When the wretched tavern keeper dragged himself back to the tavern, he did not say a word to anyone. He did not even open the tavern. He never stood behind the bar again. He sold all his property within the week and disappeared from the village forever.

Where to?

Surely to a place where the arm of Jánošík’s law would not reach.

 

A book, Jánošík, Jánošík... written by Anton Marec, translated into English by Tatiana Strnadová and John Doyle and published in 1995 by Matica Slovenská, contains 33 tales of this famous outlaw captain. The information in this book was used to create this story. Check in the future for other stories.