went out, while
the other woman began to put the room in order; she scraped the dirt
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
acres of land, the
pigs, three cows, furniture, clothes--half of it, I'm sure, would come
to six thousand... good God!'
though the thought
of so large a sum was giving her fresh vigour, she scrubbed her
with a fury that made the walls ring, and banged them down on the board.
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
you in the ditch for the wrong you have done me, and for leaving me no
better off than an orphan!'
towards the bed
in a towering rage and shouted:
'And when the old
man did not move, she threatened him with her fists and screamed into
what you've come
here for, to do your dying here, and I am to pay for your funeral and
you a hooded cloak... that's what he thinks. I don't think! You won't
to see me do it! If your Julina is so sweet, you'd better make haste
go to her. Was it I who was supposed to look after you in your dotage?
She is the pet, and if you think...'
She did not
finish, for she
heard the tinkling of the bell, and the priest entered with the
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,
went out into the passage, where a few people who had come with the
were waiting already.
nothing! Only that he's
come here to give up... with us, whom he has wronged. And now he won't
give up. Oh dear me... poor me!'
true! He will have
to rot, and you will have to live,' they all answered in unison and
father,' she began
again. '... Have we, Antek and I, not taken care of him, worked for
sweated for him, just as much as they? Not a single egg would I sell,
half a pound of butter, but 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
Fifteen acres of land, the cottage, the cows, the pigs, the calf, and
farm-carts and all the furniture... is that nothing? Oh, pity me!
no justice in this world, none... Oh, oh!'
against the wall,
cry. God is full of mercy, but not always towards the poor. He will
you some day.'
what's the good of
talking like that?' interrupted the speaker's husband. 'What's wrong is
wrong. The old man will go, and poverty will stay.'
to make an ox
move when he won't lift up his feet,' another man said thoughtfully.
can get used to
everything in time, even to hell,' murmured a third, and spat from
into silence. The wind rattled the door and blew snow through the
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 living-room.
At last the
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
his yellow chest, covered with white hair, showed under the open shirt.
The priest bent over him and laid the wafer upon his outstretched
All knelt down and, with their eyes raised to the ceiling, violently
their chests, while they sighed and sniffled audibly. The women bent
to the ground and babbled: 'Lamb of God that takest away the sins of
worried by the frequent
tinkling of the bell, growled ill-temperedly in the corner.
had finished the
last unction, and beckoned to the dying man's daughter. 'Where's yours,
should he be, your
Reverence, if not at his daily job?'
moment the priest stood,
hesitating, looked at the assembly, pulled his expensive fur tighter
his shoulders; but he could not think of anything suitable to say; so
only nodded to them and went out, giving them his white, aristocratic
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
gone down, but the snow was now falling in large, thick flakes. The
twilight crept into the room. Antkowa was sitting in front of the fire;
she broke off twig after twig of the dry firewood, and carelessly threw
them upon the fire.
to be purposing
something, for she glanced again and again at the window, and then at
bed. The sick man had been lying quite still for a considerable time.
got very impatient, jumped up from her stool and stood still, eagerly
and looking about; then she sat down again.