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by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont
Page 3
Night was falling fast. It was almost quite dark in the room. The little girl was dozing, curled up near the stove. The fire was flickering feebly with a reddish light which lighted up the woman's knees and a bit of the floor.

The dog 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 floor.

Antkowa suddenly got up to peer through the window at the village street; it was empty. The snow was falling thickly, blotting out everything at a few steps' distance. Undecided, she paused in front of the bed, but only for a moment; then she suddenly pulled away the 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 up.

'Magda! Open the door.'

Magda jumped up, frightened, and opened the door.

'Come here...take hold of his feet.'

Magda clutched at her grandfather's feet with her small hands and looked up in expectation.

'Well, get me to carry him! Don't stare about...carry him, that's what you've got to do!' she commanded again, severely.

The old man was heavy, perfectly helpless, and apparently unconscious; he did not seem to realize what was being done to him. She held him tight and carried, or rather dragged him along, for the little girl had stumbled over the threshold and dropped his feet, which were drawing two deep furrows in the snow.

The penetrating cold had restored the dying man to consciousness, for in the yard he began to moan and utter broken words:

'Julisha...oh God...Ju...'

'That's right, you scream...scream as much as you like, nobody will hear 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.

'Malusha! malu, malu, malu!'

The pigs came out of the sty and she banged the door, but returned 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 the passage.

'Malusha! malu, malu, malu!'

The pigs came running up to her, squeaking; she brought out a bowlfull of potatoes and emptied it. The mother-pig began to eat greedily, and the piglets poked their pink noses into her and pulled at her until nothing but their loud smacking could be heard.

Antkowa lighted a small lamp above the fireplace and tore open the chaplet, with her back turned towards the window. A sudden gleam came into her eyes, when a number of banknotes and two silver roubles fell out.

'It wasn't just talk then, his saying that he'd put by the money for the funeral.' She wrapped the money up in a rag and put it into the chest.

'You Judas! May eternal blindness strike you!'

She put the pots and pans straight and tried to cheer the fire which was going out.

'Drat it! That plague of a boy has left me without a drop of water.'

She stepped outside and called 'Ignatz! Hi! Ignatz!'

A 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 with the other.

'Mummy! I won't do it again.... Mummy, leave off.... Mumm...'

She beat him long and hard, giving vent to all her pent-up rage.

'Mother! Ow! All ye Saints! She's killing me!'

'You dog! You're loafing about, and not a drop of water do you fetch me, 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 back at 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.

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