Here we have the full text of the
classic short story, 'Death', by
Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont.
'Father, eh, father, get up, do you hear?--Eh, get a move
oh Blessed Virgin! Aoh!' groaned the old man, who was being
violently shaken. His face peeped out from under his
sunken, battered, and
deeply-lined face, of the same colour as the
earth he had tilled for so many years; with a shock of
hair, grey as
the furrows of
ploughed fields in autumn. His eyes were closed;
breathing heavily he dropped his tongue from his half-open
with cracked lips.
'Get up! hi!' shouted his daughter.
'Grandad!' whimpered a little girl who
stood in her chemise and a
apron tied across her chest, and raised herself on tiptoe to
look at the old man's face.
'Grandad!' There were tears in her blue
eyes and sorrow in her grimy
little face. 'Grandad!' she called out once more, and plucked at the
'Shut up!' screamed her mother, took her by the nape of the
thrust her against the
with you, damned dog!' she roared, when she stumbled over the old
half-blind bitch who was sniffing the bed. 'Out you go!
carrion!' and she
kicked the animal so violently with her clog that it
tumbled over, and, whining, crept towards the closed door.
girl stood sobbing near
the stove, and rubbed her nose and eyes with
her small fists.
'Father, get up while I am still in a
The sick man was silent, his head had fallen on one side, his breathing
became more and more laboured. He had not much longer to
What's the idea? Do you think you are going to do your dying
here? Not if I know it! Go to Julina, you old dog! You've
property to Julina, let
her look after you...come now...while I'm yet
'Oh blessed Child Jesus! oh Mary....'
A sudden spasm contracted his face, wet
with anxiety and sweat. With a
jerk his daughter tore away the feather-bed, and, taking the old man
round the middle, she pulled him furiously half out of the
bed, so that
only his head and
shoulders were resting on it; he lay motionless like
a piece of wood, and, like a piece of wood, stiff and dried
His Reverence...' he murmured under his heavy breathing.
'I'll give you your priest! You shall
kick your bucket in the pigsty,
you sinner...like a dog!' She seized him under the armpits, but dropped
him again directly, and covered him entirely with the
she had noticed a
shadow flitting past the window. Some one was coming
up to the house.
She scarcely had time to push the old
man's feet back into the bed.
in the face, she furiously banged the feather-bed and pushed the
The wife of the peasant Dyziak came into the room.
'Christ be praised.'
'In Eternity...' growled the other, and
glanced suspiciously at her out
the corners of her eyes.
'How do you do? Are you well?'
'Thank God... so so...'
'How's the old man? Well?'
She was stamping the snow off her clogs
near the door.
'Eh... how should he be well? He can hardly fetch his breath any more.'
'Neighbour... you don't say so...
neighbour...' She was bending down
over the old man.
'Priest,' he sighed.
'Dear me... just fancy... dear me, he
doesn't know me! The poor man
wants the priest. He's dying, that's certain, he's all but dead
already... dear me! Well, and did you send for his
'Have I got any one to send?'
'But you don't mean to let a Christian soul die without the
can't run off and leave him alone, and perhaps...he may recover.'
'Don't you believe it... ho, ho... just
listen to his breathing. That
means that his inside is withering up. It's just as it was with my
Walek last year when he was so ill.'
'Well, dear, you'd better go for the
priest, make haste... look!'
'All right, all right. Poor thing! He looks as if he
couldn't last much
longer. I must
make haste... I'm off...' and she tied her apron more
firmly over her head.
'Go with God.'
Dyziakowa went out, while the other
woman began to put the room in
order; she scraped the dirt off the floor, swept it up, strewed
wood-ashes, scrubbed her pots and pans and put them in a
row. From time
to time she turned
a look of hatred on to the bed, spat, clenched her
fists, and held her head in helpless despair.
'Fifteen acres of land, the pigs, three
cows, furniture, clothes--half
it, I'm sure, would come to six thousand... good God!'
And as though the thought of so large a
sum was giving her fresh
she scrubbed her saucepans with a fury that made the walls
ring, and banged them down on the board.
'May you... may you!' She continued to
count up: 'Fowls, geese, calves,
all the farm implements. And all left to that trull! May misery eat you
up... may the worms devour you in the ditch for the wrong
you have done
me, and for leaving
me no better off than an orphan!'
She sprang towards the bed in a towering rage and shouted:
'Get up! 'And when the old man did not
move, she threatened him with
fists and screamed into his face:
'That's what you've come here for, to do your dying here,
and I am to
pay for your funeral
and buy you a hooded cloak... that's what he
thinks. I don't think! You won't live to see me do it! If
is so sweet, you'd
better make haste and go to her. Was it I who was
supposed to look after you in your dotage? She is the pet,
and if you
She did not finish, for she heard the
tinkling of the bell, and the
priest entered with the sacrament.
Antkowa bowed down to his feet, wiping tears of rage from
her eyes, and
after she had poured
the holy water into a chipped basin and put the
asperges-brush beside it, she went out into the passage,
where a few
people who had come
with the priest were waiting already.
'Christ be praised.'
'What is it?'
'Oh nothing! Only that he's come here to
give up... with us, whom he
wronged. And now he won't give up. Oh dear me... poor me!'
She began to cry.
'That's true! He will have to rot, and
you will have to live,' they all
answered in unison and nodded their heads.
'One's own father,' she began again.
'... Have we, Antek and I, not
taken care of him, worked for him, sweated for him, just as much as
they? Not a single egg would I sell, not half a pound of
put it all down his
throat; the little drop of milk I have taken away
from the baby and given it to him, because he was an old
man and my
father... and now he
goes and gives it all to Tomek. Fifteen acres of
land, the cottage, the cows, the pigs, the calf, and the
furniture... is that nothing? Oh, pity me! There's no justice
in this world, none... Oh, oh!'
She leant against the wall, sobbing
cry, neighbour, don't cry. God is full of mercy, but not always
towards the poor. He will reward you some day.'
'Idiot, what's the good of talking like
that?' interrupted the
husband. 'What's wrong is wrong. The old man will go, and
poverty will stay.'
'It's hard to make an ox move when he
won't lift up his feet,' another
man said thoughtfully.
'Eh... You can get used to everything in time, even to
a third, and spat
from between his teeth.
The little group relapsed into silence. The wind rattled
the door and
blew snow through the
crevices on to the floor. The peasants stood
thoughtfully, with bared heads, and stamped their feet to
get warm. The
women, with their
hands under their cotton aprons, and huddled
together, looked with patient resigned faces towards the
door of the
At last the bell summoned them into the
room; they entered one by one,
pushing each other aside. The dying man was lying on his back, his head
deeply buried in the pillows; his yellow chest, covered
hair, showed under the
open shirt. The priest bent over him and laid
the wafer upon his outstretched tongue. All knelt down and,
eyes raised to the
ceiling, violently smote their chests, while they
sighed and sniffled audibly. The women bent down to the
babbled: 'Lamb of God
that takest away the sins of the world.'
The dog, worried by the frequent
tinkling of the bell, growled
ill-temperedly in the corner.
The priest had finished the last unction, and beckoned to
man's daughter. 'Where's
'Where should he be, your Reverence, if not at his daily
moment the priest stood, hesitating, looked at the assembly,
pulled his expensive fur tighter round his shoulders; but
he could not
think of anything
suitable to say; so he only nodded to them and went
out, giving them his white, aristocratic hand to kiss,
while they bent
towards his knees.
When he had gone they immediately
dispersed. The short December day was
drawing to its close. The wind had gone down, but the snow
falling in large, thick
flakes. The evening twilight crept into the
room. Antkowa was sitting in front of the fire; she broke
after twig of the dry
firewood, and carelessly threw them upon the
She seemed to be purposing something, for she glanced again
at the window, and then
at the bed. The sick man had been lying quite
still for a considerable time. She got very impatient,
jumped up from
her stool and stood
still, eagerly listening and looking about; then
she sat down again.
Night was falling fast. It was almost
quite dark in the room. The
girl was dozing, curled up near the stove. The fire was
flickering feebly with a reddish light which lighted up the
knees and a bit of the
started whining and scratched at the door. The chickens on the
ladder cackled low and long.
Now a deep silence reigned in the room.
A damp chill rose from the wet
suddenly got up to peer through the window at the village
street; it was empty. The snow was falling thickly,
everything at a few
steps' distance. Undecided, she paused in front of
the bed, but only for a moment; then she suddenly pulled
feather-bed roughly and
determinedly, and threw it on to the other
bedstead. She took the dying man under the armpits and
lifted him high
'Magda! Open the door.'
Magda jumped up, frightened, and opened
here...take hold of his feet.'
Magda clutched at her grandfather's feet with her small
looked up in
'Well, get on...help me to carry him! Don't stare about...carry him,
that's what you've got to do!' she commanded again,
old man was heavy, perfectly helpless, and apparently unconscious;
he did not seem to realize what was being done to him. She
tight and carried, or
rather dragged him along, for the little girl had
stumbled over the threshold and dropped his feet, which
two deep furrows in
penetrating cold had restored the dying man to consciousness, for
in the yard he began to moan and utter broken words:
'That's right, you scream...scream as
much as you like, nobody will
you, even if you shout your mouth off!'
She dragged him across the yard, opened
the door of the pigsty with her
foot, pulled him in, and dropped him close to the wall.
The sow came forward, grunting, followed
by her piglets.
malu, malu, malu!'
The pigs came out of the sty and she banged the door, but
almost immediately, tore
the shirt open on the old man's chest, tore
off his chaplet, and took it with her.
'Now die, you leper!'
She kicked his naked leg, which was
lying across the opening, with her
clog, and went out.
The pigs were running about in the yard;
she looked back at them from
malu, malu, malu!'
The pigs came running up to her, squeaking; she brought out
of potatoes and emptied
it. The mother-pig began to eat greedily, and
the piglets poked their pink noses into her and pulled at
nothing but their loud
smacking could be heard.
Antkowa lighted a small lamp above the fireplace and tore
chaplet, with her back
turned towards the window. A sudden gleam came
into her eyes, when a number of banknotes and two silver
'It wasn't just talk then, his saying
that he'd put by the money for
funeral.' She wrapped the money up in a rag and put it into the
'You Judas! May eternal blindness strike you!'
She put the pots and pans straight and
tried to cheer the fire which
'Drat it! That plague of a boy has left me without a drop of water.'
She stepped outside and called 'Ignatz!
good half-hour passed, then the snow creaked under stealthy footsteps
and a shadow stole past the window. Antkowa seized a piece
of wood and
stood by the door
which was flung wide open; a small boy of about nine
entered the room.
'You stinking idler! Running about the
village, are you? And not a drop
of water in the house!'
Clutching him with one hand she beat the screaming child
'Mummy! I won't do it again.... Mummy,
leave off.... Mumm...'
She beat him long and hard, giving vent to all her pent-up
Ow! All ye Saints! She's killing me!'
'You dog! You're loafing about, and not
a drop of water do you fetch
and there's no wood am I to feed you for nothing, and you worrying
me into the bargain?' She hit harder.
At last he tore himself away, jumped out
by the window, and shouted
her with a tear-choked voice:
'May your paws rot off to the elbows, you dog of a mother!
May you be
stricken down, you
sow!... You may wait till you're manure before I
fetch you any water!'
And he ran back to the village.
The room suddenly seemed strangely
empty. The lamp above the fireplace
trembled feebly. The little girl was sobbing to herself.
'What are you snivelling about?'
She leant, weeping, against her mother's
She took the child on her lap, and, pressing her close, she began to
clean her head. The little thing babbled incoherently, she
feverish; she rubbed her
eyes with her small fists and presently went
to sleep, still sobbing convulsively from time to time.
Soon afterwards the husband returned
home. He was a huge fellow in a
sheepskin, and wore a muffler round his cap. His face was blue with
cold; his moustache, covered with hoar-frost, looked like a
knocked the snow off his
boots, took muffler and cap off together,
dusted the snow off his fur, clapped his stiff hands
against his arms,
pushed the bench
towards the fire, and sat down heavily.
Antkowa took a saucepan full of cabbage
off the fire and put it in
of her husband, cut a piece of bread and gave it him, together
with the spoon. The peasant ate in silence, but when he had
undid his fur,
stretched his legs, and said: 'Is there any more?'
She gave him the remains of their midday
porridge; he spooned it up
he had cut himself another piece of bread; then he took out his
pouch, rolled a cigarette and lighted it, threw some sticks
on the fire
and drew closer to it.
A good while later he looked round the room.
'Where's the old man?'
'Where should he be? In the pigsty.'
He looked questioningly at her.
'I should think so! What should he loll
in the bed for, and dirty the
bedclothes? If he's got to give up, he will give up all the quicker in
there.... Has he given me a single thing? What should he
come to me
for? Am I to pay for
his funeral and give him his food? If he doesn't
give up now--and I tell you, he is a tough one--then he'll
eat us out
of house and home. If
Julina is to have everything let her look after
him--that's nothing to do with me.'
'Isn't my father... and cheated us... he
has. I don't care.... The old
Antek swallowed the smoke of his cigarette and spat into the middle of
'If he hadn't cheated us we should now have... wait a
got five... and
seven and a half... makes... five and... seven...'
'Twelve and a half. I had counted that
up long ago; we could have kept
horse and three cows... bah!... the carrion!'
Again he spat furiously.
The woman got up, laid the child down on
the bed, took the little rag
bundle from the chest and put it into her husband's hand.
'Look at it.'
He opened the linen rag. An expression
of greed came into his face, he
bent forward towards the fire with his whole frame, so as to hide the
money, and counted it over twice. 'How much is it?'
She did not know the money values.
'Lord! So much?'
Her eyes shone; she stretched out her
hand and fondled the money.
'How did you come by it?'
'Ah bah... how? Don't you remember the
old man telling us last year
he had put by enough to pay for his funeral?'
'That's right, he did say that.'
'He had stitched it into his chaplet and
I took it from him; holy
shouldn't knock about in a pigsty, that would be sinful; then I
felt the silver through the linen, so I tore that off and
money. That is ours;
hasn't he wronged us enough?'
'That's God's truth. It's ours; that little bit at least is
to us. Put it by with
the other money, we can just do with it. Only
yesterday Smoletz told me he wanted to borrow a thousand
me; he will give his
five acres of ploughed fields near the forest as
'Have you got enough?'
'I think I have.'
'And will you begin to sow the fields
yourself in the spring?'
'Rather... if I shouldn't have quite enough now, I will
sell the sow;
even if I should
have to sell the little ones as well I must lend him
the money. For he won't be able to redeem it,' he added, 'I
I know. We shall go to
the lawyer and make a proper contract that the
ground will be mine unless he repays the money within five
you do that?'
'Of course I can. How did Dumin get hold of Dyziak's fields?... Put it
away; you may keep the silver, buy what you like with it.
'He's run off somewhere. Ha! no water,
it's all gone....'
The peasant got up without a word, looked after the cattle,
went in and
out, fetched water and
supper was boiling in the saucepan. Ignatz cautiously crept into
the room; no one spoke to him. They were all silent and
at ease. The old man
was not mentioned; it was as if he had never been.
Antek thought of his five acres; he
looked upon them as a certainty.
Momentarily the old man came into his mind, and then again the sow he
had meant to kill when she had finished with the
and again he
spat when his eyes fell on the empty bedstead, as if he
wanted to get rid of an unpleasant thought. He was worried,
finish his supper, and
went to bed immediately after. He turned over
from side to side; the potatoes and cabbage, groats and
bread gave him
indigestion, but he
got over it and went to sleep.
When all was silent, Antkowa gently opened the door into
the next room
where the bundles of
flax lay. From underneath these she fetched a
packet of banknotes wrapped up in a linen rag, and added
the money. She
smoothed the notes
many times over, opened them out, folded them up
again, until she had gazed her fill; then she put out the
went to bed beside her
Meanwhile the old man had died. The pigsty, a miserable lean-to run up
of planks and thatched with branches, gave no protection
and weather. No one
heard the helpless old man entreating for mercy in
a voice trembling with despair. No one saw him creep to the
and raise himself with
a superhuman effort to try and open it. He felt
death gaining upon him; from his heels it crept upwards to
holding it as in a
vice, and shaking him in terrible spasms; his jaws
closed upon each other, tighter and tighter, until he was
able to open them and
scream. His veins were hardening till they felt
like wires. He reared up feebly, till at last he broke down
threshold, with foam on his
lips, and a look of horror at being left to
die of cold, in his broken eyes; his face was distorted by
expression of anguish which was
like a frozen cry. There he lay.
The next morning before dawn Antek and his wife got up. His
thought was to see what had
happened to the old man.
He went to look, but could not get the door of the pigsty
to open, the
corpse was barring it
from the inside like a beam. At last, after a
great effort, he was able to open it far enough to slip in,
but he came
out again at once,
terror-stricken. He could hardly get fast enough
across the yard and into the house; he was almost senseless
He could not understand
what was happening to him; his whole frame
shook as in a fever, and he stood by the door panting and
utter a word.
Antkowa was at that moment teaching
little Magda her prayer. She turned
her head towards her husband with questioning eyes.
'Thy will be done...' she babbled
'... be done...'
'... be done...' the kneeling child repeated like an echo.
'Well, is he dead?' she jerked out,
'... on earth...'
'To be sure, he's lying across the
door,' he answered under his breath.
'... as it is in Heaven...'
'... is in Heaven...' 'But we can't
leave him there; people might say
we took him there to get rid of him--we can't have that...'
'What do you want me to do with him?'
'How do I know? You must do something.'
'Perhaps we can get him across here?'
'Look at that now...let him rot! Bring him in here? Not
he will have to be buried.'
'Are we to pay for his funeral?...but deliver us from
you blinking your
silly eyes for?...go on praying.'
'I shouldn't think of paying for that,
that's Tomek's business by law
made the sign of the cross over the child, wiped its nose with her
fingers and went up to her husband.
He whispered: 'We must get him across.'
'Into the house...here?'
'Into the cowshed; we can lead the calf
out and lay him down on the
let him lie in state there, if he likes...such a one as he has
'We ought to get him out there.'
'Well, fetch him out then.'
'You're afraid, what?'
'If you wait till it's day, people will
'Let's go together.'
'You go if you are so keen.'
'Are you coming, you carrion, or are you
not?' he shouted at her; 'he's
your father, not mine.' And he flung out of the room in a rage.
The woman followed him without a word.
When they entered the pigsty, a breath
of horror struck them, like the
exhalation from a corpse. The old man was lying there, cold as ice; one
half of his body had frozen on to the floor; they had to
tear him off
forcibly before they
could drag him across the threshold and into the
Antkowa began to tremble violently at the sight of him; he
terrifying in the light of
the grey dawn, on the white coverlet of
snow, with his anguished face, wide-open eyes, and drooping
which the teeth had
closed firmly. There were blue patches on his skin,
and he was covered with filth from head to foot.
'Take hold,' whispered the man, bending
over him. 'How horribly cold he
wind which rises just before the sun, blew into their faces,
and shook the snow off the swinging twigs with a dry
and there a star was still visible against the leaden background
of the sky. From the village came the creaking noise of the
water, and the cocks
crew as if the weather were going to change.
Antkowa shut her eyes and covered her
hands with her apron, before she
took hold of the old man's feet; they could hardly lift him, he was so
heavy. They had barely put him down on a bench when she
fled back into
the house, throwing
out a linen-rag to her husband to cover the corpse.
The children were busy scraping
potatoes; she waited impatiently at the
'Have done...come in!... Lord, how long you are!'
'We must get some one to come and wash
him,' she said, laying the
breakfast, when he had come in.
'I will fetch the deaf-mute.'
'Don't go to work to-day.'
'Go...no, not I...'
They did not speak again, and ate their
breakfast without appetite,
although as a rule they finished their four quarts of soup between
When they went out into the yard they walked quickly, and
did not turn
their heads towards
the other side. They were worried, but did not know
why; they felt no remorse; it was perhaps more a vague fear
corpse, or fear of death,
that shook them and made them silent.
When it was broad day, Antek fetched the
village deaf-mute, who washed
dressed the old man, laid him out, and put a consecrated candle at
Antek then went to give notice to the priest and to the
Soltys of his
death and his own inability to pay for the funeral.
'Let Tomek bury him; he has got all the
news of the old man's death spread rapidly throughout the village.
People soon began to assemble in little groups to look at
They murmured a
prayer, shook their heads, and went off to talk it
It was not till towards evening that Tomek, the other
public opinion, declared himself willing to pay for the
On the third day, shortly before this was to take place,
made her appearance
at Antek's cottage.
In the passage she almost came nose to nose with her
sister, who was
just taking a pail
of dishwater out to the cowshed.
'Blessed be Jesus Christ,' she murmured, and kept her hand
'Now: look at that... soul of a Judas!'
Antkowa put the pail down hard.
'She's come to spy about here. Got rid of the old one somehow, didn't
you? Hasn't he given everything to you... and you dare show
here, you trull! Have you
come for the rest of the rags he left here,
'I bought him a new sukmana at Whitsuntide, he can keep
that on, of
course, but I must
have the sheepskin back, because it has been bought
with money I have earned in the sweat of my brow,' Tomekowa
'Have it back, you mangy dog, have it
back?' screamed Antkowa. 'I'll
give it you, you'll see what you will have...' and she looked round for
an object that would serve her purpose. 'Take it away? You
have crawled to him and
lickspittled till he became the idiot he was
and made everything over to you and wronged me, and
'Everybody knows that we bought the land from him, there are
'Bought it? Look at her! You mean to say you're not afraid
to lie like
that under God's
living eyes? Bought it! Cheats, that's what you are,
thieves, dogs! You stole the money from him first, and
you make him eat
out of the pig-pail? Adam is a witness that he had to
pick the potatoes out of the pig-pail, ha! You've let him
sleep in the
cowshed, because, you
said, he stank so that you couldn't eat. Fifteen
acres of land and a dower-life like that... for so much
you've beaten him
too, you swine, you monkey!'
'Hold your snout, or I'll shut it for you and make you
sow, you trull!'
'Come on then, come on, you destitute
creature!' 'I... destitute?'
'Yes, you! You would have rotted in a ditch, the vermin
eaten you up, if Tomek
hadn't married you.'
'I, destitute? Oh you carrion!' They sprang at each other,
each other's hair;
they fought in the narrow passage, screaming
themselves hoarse all the time.
'You street-walker, you loafer... there!
that's one for you! There's
for my fifteen acres, and for all the wrong you have done me, you
'For the love of God, you women, leave off, leave off! It's
a sin and a
shame!' cried the
'Let me go, you leper, will you let go?'
'I'll beat you to death, I will tear you
to pieces, you filth!'
They fell down, hitting each other indiscriminately,
knocked over the
pail, and rolled
about in the pigwash. At last, speechless with rage
and only breathing hard, they still banged away at each
other. The men
were hardly able to
separate them. Purple in the face, scratched all
over, and covered with filth, they looked like witches.
Their fury was
sprang at each other again, and had to be separated a
At last Antkowa began to sob hysterically with rage and
tore her own hair and
wailed: 'Oh Jesus! Oh little child Jesus! Oh
Mary! Look at this pestiferous woman...curse those
oh!...' she was only
able to roar, leaning against the wall.
Tomekowa, meanwhile, was cursing and
shouting outside the house, and
banging her heels against the door.
The spectators stood in little groups, taking counsel with
and stamping their
feet in the snow. The women looked like red spots
dabbed on to the wall; they pressed their knees together,
for the wind
cold. They murmured remarks to each other from time
to time, while they watched the road leading to the church,
of which stood out
clearly behind the branches of the bare trees. Every
minute some one or other wanted to have another look at the
was a perpetual coming
and going. The small yellow flames of the
candles could be seen through the half-open door, flaring
draught, and momentarily
revealing a glimpse of the dead man's sharp
profile as he lay in the coffin. The smell of burning
through the air,
together with the murmurings of prayers and the grunts
of the deaf-mute.
At last the priest arrived with the
organist. The white pine coffin was
carried out and put into the cart. The women began to sing
lamentations, while the
procession started down the long village street
towards the cemetery. The priest intoned the first words of
Service for the Dead, walking
at the head of the procession with his
black biretta on his head; he had thrown a thick fur cloak
surplice; the wind made
the ends of his stole flutter; the words of the
Latin hymn fell from his lips at intervals, dully, as
though they had
been frozen; he
looked bored and impatient, and let his eyes wander
into the distance. The wind tugged at the black banner, and
pictures of heaven and hell on
it wobbled and fluttered to and fro, as
though anxious to display themselves to the rows of
cottages on either
women with shawls over their heads and bare-headed men were
standing huddled together.
They bowed reverently, made the sign of
the cross, and beat their
The dogs were barking furiously from
behind the hedges, some jumped on
to the stone walls and broke into long-drawn howls.
Eager little children peeped out from
behind the closed windows, beside
toothless used-up old people's faces, furrowed as fields in autumn.
A small crowd of boys in linen trousers
and blue jackets with brass
buttons, their bare feet stuck into wooden sandals, ran behind the
priest, staring at the pictures of heaven and hell, and
intervals of the
chant with thin, shivering voices: a! o!... They kept
it up as long as the organist did not change the chant.
Ignatz proudly walked in front, holding
the banner with one hand and
singing the loudest of all. He was flushed with exertion and cold, but
he never relaxed, as though eager to show that he alone had
a right to
sing, because it was
his grandfather who was being carried to the
grave. They left the village behind. The wind threw itself
whose huge form
towered above all the others, and ruffled his hair; but
he did not notice the wind, he was entirely taken up with
and with steadying the
coffin, which was tilting dangerously at every
hole in the road.
The two sisters were walking close
behind the coffin, murmuring prayers
and eyeing each other with furious glances.
'Tsutsu! Go home!...Go home at once, you
carrion!' One of the mourners
pretended to pick up a stone. The dog, who had been following the cart,
whined, put her tail between her legs, and fled behind a
heap of stones
by the roadside;
when the procession had moved on a good bit, she ran
after it in a semi-circle, and anxiously kept close to the
she should be
prevented again from following.
The Latin chant had come to an end. The women, with shrill
began to sing the old
hymn: 'He who dwelleth under the protection of
It sounded thin. The blizzard, which was getting up, did
not allow the
singing to come to
much. Twilight was falling.
The wind drove clouds of snow across from the endless,
plains, dotted here
and there with skeleton trees, and lashed the
little crowd of human beings as with a whip.
'... and loves and keeps with faithful
heart His word...,' they
through the whistling of the tempest and the frequent shouts
of Antek, who was getting breathless with cold: 'Woa! woa,
Snowdrifts were beginning to form across the road like huge wedges,
starting from behind trees and heaps of stones.
Again and again the singing was
interrupted when the people looked
round anxiously into the white void: it seemed to be moving
wind struck it with dull
thuds; now it towered in huge walls, now it
dissolved like breakers, turned over, and furiously darted
sprays of a
thousand sharp needles
into the faces of the mourners. Many of them
returned half-way, fearing an increase of the blizzard, the
hurried on to the cemetery
in the greatest haste, almost at a run. They
got through the ceremony as fast as they could; the grave
they quickly sang a
little more, the priest sprinkled holy water on the
coffin; frozen clods of earth and snow rolled down, and the
Tomek invited everybody to his house,
because 'the reverend Father had
said to him, that other-wise the ceremony would doubtless end in an
ungodly way at the public-house.'
Antek's answer to the invitation was a
curse. The four of them,
Ignatz and the peasant Smoletz, turned into the inn.
They drank four quarts of spirits mixed
with fat, ate three pounds of
sausages, and talked about the money transaction.
The heat of the room and the spirits
soon made Antek very drunk. He
stumbled so on the way home that his wife took him firmly under the
Smoletz remained at the inn to drink an extra glass in
prospect of the
loan, but Ignatz
ran home ahead as fast as he could, for he was
'Look here, mother...,' said Antek, 'the five acres are
mine, do you hear? In
the autumn I shall sow wheat and barley, and in
the spring we will plant potatoes... mine... they are
mine!... God is
my comfort, sayest
thou...,' he suddenly began to sing.
The storm was raging, and howling.
'Shut up! You'll fall down, and that
will be the end of it.'
'... His angel keepeth watch...,' he stopped abruptly. The
could be seen at a distance of two feet. The
blizzard had reached the highest degree of fury; whistling
on a gigantic scale
filled the air, and mountains of snow hurled
themselves upon them.
From Tomek's cottage came the sound of
funeral chants and loud talking
when they passed by.
'These heathen! These thieves! You wait, I'll show you my
Then I shall have ten.
You won't lord it over me! Dogs'-breed... aha!
I'll work, I'll slave, but I shall get it, eh, mother? we
will get it,
what?' he hammered
his chest with his fist, and rolled his drunken
He went on like this for a while, but as soon as they
home, the woman
dragged him into bed, where he fell down like a dead
man. But he did not go to sleep yet, for after a time he
The boy approached, but with caution,
for fear of contact with the
you dead dog! Ignatz, you shall be a first-class peasant, not
a beggarly professional man,' he bawled, and brought his
fist down on
'The five acres are mine, mine! Foxy
Germans, you... da...' He went
[Footnote 1: 'The term 'German' is used for 'foreigner' generally, whom
the Polish peasant despises.]