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by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont

'Father, eh, father, get up, do you hear? --Eh, get a move on!'

'Oh God, oh Blessed Virgin! Aoh!' groaned the old man, who was being violently shaken. His face peeped out from under his sheepskin, a 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 bluish mouth with cracked lips.

'Get up! hi!' shouted his daughter.

'Grandad!' whimpered a little girl who stood in her chemise and a cotton 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 pillow.

'Shut up!' screamed her mother, took her by the nape of the neck and thrust her against the stove.

'Out with you, damned dog!' she roared, when she stumbled over the old half-blind bitch who was sniffing the bed. 'Out you go! will carrion!' and she kicked the animal so violently with her clog that it tumbled over, and, whining, crept towards the closed door. The little 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 good humour!'

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 live.

'Get up. 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 given the property to Julina, let her look after you...come now...while I'm yet asking you!'

'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 up.

'Priest.... His Reverence...' he murmured under his heavy breathing.

'I'll give you your priest! You shall kick your bucket in the pigsty, you a dog!' She seized him under the armpits, but dropped him again directly, and covered him entirely with the feather-bed, for 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. Blue in the face, she furiously banged the feather-bed and pushed the bedding about.

The wife of the peasant Dyziak came into the room.

'Christ be praised.'

'In Eternity...' growled the other, and glanced suspiciously at her out of 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 Reverence?'

'Have I got any one to send?'

'But you don't mean to let a Christian soul die without the sacrament?'

'I can't run off and leave him alone, and perhaps...he may recover.'

'Don't you believe it... hoho... 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.

'Good-bye, Antkowa.'

'Go with God.'


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