of the old man's
death spread rapidly throughout the village. People soon began to
in little groups to look at the corpse. They murmured a prayer, shook
heads, and went off to talk it over.
It was not
till towards evening
that Tomek, the other son-in-law, under pressure of public opinion,
himself willing to pay for the funeral.
third day, shortly
before this was to take place, Tomek's wife made her appearance at
passage she almost
came nose to nose with her sister, who was just taking a pail of
out to the cowshed.
she murmured, and kept her hand on the door-handle.
at that... soul
of a Judas!' Antkowa put the pail down hard. 'She's come to spy about
Got rid of the old one somehow, didn't you? Hasn't he given everything
to you... and you dare show yourself here, you trull! Have you come for
the rest of the rags he left here, what?'
him a new sukmana
at Whitsuntide, he can keep that on, of course, but I must have the
back, because it has been bought with money I have earned in the sweat
of my brow,' Tomekowa replied calmly.
back, you mangy
dog, have it back?' screamed Antkowa. 'I'll give it you, you'll see
you will have...' and she looked round for an object that would serve
purpose. 'Take it away? You dare! You have crawled to him and
till he became the idiot he was and made everything over to you and
me, and then...'
knows that we
bought the land from him, there are witnesses...'
Look at her!
You mean to say you're not afraid to lie like that under God's living
Bought it! Cheats, that's what you are, thieves, dogs! You stole the
from him first, and then.... Didn't you make him eat out of the
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
for so much property! And
him too, you
swine, you monkey!'
snout, or I'll
shut it for you and make you remember, you sow, you trull!'
then, come on, you
destitute creature!' 'I... destitute?'
You would have
rotted in a ditch, the vermin would have eaten you up, if Tomek hadn't
destitute? Oh you carrion!'
They sprang at each other, clutching at each other's hair; they fought
in the narrow passage, screaming themselves hoarse all the time.
street-walker, you loafer...
there! that's one for you! There's one for my fifteen acres, and for
the wrong you have done me, you dirty dog!'
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?'
you to death,
I will tear you to pieces, you filth!'
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
banged away at each other. The men were hardly able to separate them.
in the face, scratched all over, and covered with filth, they looked
witches. Their fury was boundless; they sprang at each other again, and
had to be separated a second time.
Antkowa began to
sob hysterically with rage and exhaustion, tore her own hair and
'Oh Jesus! Oh little child Jesus! Oh Mary! Look at this pestiferous
those heathen...oh! oh!...' she was only able to roar, leaning against
cursing and shouting outside the house, and banging her heels against
spectators stood in little
groups, taking counsel with each other, and stamping their feet in the
snow. The women looked like red spots dabbed on to the wall; they
their knees together, for the wind was penetratingly cold. They
remarks to each other from time to time, while they watched the road
to the church, the spires of which stood out clearly behind the
of the bare trees. Every minute some one or other wanted to have
look at the corpse; it was a perpetual coming and going. The small
flames of the candles could be seen through the half-open door, flaring
in the draught, and momentarily revealing a glimpse of the dead man's
profile as he lay in the coffin. The smell of burning juniper floated
the air, together with the murmurings of prayers and the grunts of the
At last the
with the organist. The white pine coffin was carried out and put into
cart. The women began to sing the usual lamentations, while the
started down the long village street towards the cemetery. The priest
the first words of the Service for the Dead, walking at the head of the
procession with his black biretta on his head; he had thrown a thick
cloak over his surplice; the wind made the ends of his stole flutter;
words of the Latin hymn fell from his lips at intervals, dully, as
they had been frozen; he looked bored and impatient, and let his eyes
into the distance. The wind tugged at the black banner, and the
of heaven and hell on it wobbled and fluttered to and fro, as though
to display themselves to the rows of cottages on either side, where
with shawls over their heads and bare-headed men were standing huddled
the sign of the cross, and beat their breasts.
were barking furiously
from behind the hedges, some jumped on to the stone walls and broke
little children peeped
out from behind the closed windows, beside toothless used-up old
faces, furrowed as fields in autumn.