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Polish Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society
BRANTFORD POLISH HALL, 154 Pearl St. BRANTFORD, ON.
519-753-0414
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Death

by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont
Page 6
He whispered: 'We must get him across.'

'Into the house...here?'

'Where else?'

'Into the cowshed; we can lead the calf out and lay him down on the bench, let him lie in state there, if he likes...such a one as he has been!'

'Monika!'

'Eh?'

'We ought to get him out there.'

'Well, fetch him out then.'

'All right...but...'

'You're afraid, what?'

'Idiot...damned...'

'What else?'

'It's dark...'

'If you wait till it's day, people will see you.'

'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 yard.

Antkowa began to tremble violently at the sight of him; he looked terrifying in the light of the grey dawn, on the white coverlet of snow, with his anguished face, wide-open eyes, and drooping tongue on 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 is!'

The icy wind which rises just before the sun, blew into their faces, and shook the snow off the swinging twigs with a dry crackle.

Here and there a star was still visible against the leaden background of the sky. From the village came the creaking noise of the hauling of 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 door.

'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 them.

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 of the 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 and dressed the old man, laid him out, and put a consecrated candle at his head.

Antek then went to give notice to the priest and to the Soltys of his father-in-law's death and his own inability to pay for the funeral.

'Let Tomek bury him; he has got all the money.'




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