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by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont
Page 8
A small crowd of boys in linen trousers and blue jackets with brass buttons, their bare feet stuck into wooden sandals, ran behind the priest, staring at the pictures of heaven and hell, and intoning the intervals of the chant with thin, shivering voices: a! o!... They kept it up as long as the organist did not change the chant.

Ignatz proudly walked in front, holding the banner with one hand and singing the loudest of all. He was flushed with exertion and cold, but he never relaxed, as though eager to show that he alone had a right to sing, because it was his grandfather who was being carried to the grave. They left the village behind. The wind threw itself upon Antek, whose huge form towered above all the others, and ruffled his hair; but he did not notice the wind, he was entirely taken up with the horses and with steadying the coffin, which was tilting dangerously at every hole in the road.

The two sisters were walking close behind the coffin, murmuring prayers and eyeing each other with furious glances.

'Tsutsu! Go home!...Go home at once, you carrion!' One of the mourners pretended to pick up a stone. The dog, who had been following the cart, whined, put her tail between her legs, and fled behind a heap of stones by the roadside; when the procession had moved on a good bit, she ran after it in a semi-circle, and anxiously kept close to the horses, lest she should be prevented again from following.

The Latin chant had come to an end. The women, with shrill voices, began to sing the old hymn: 'He who dwelleth under the protection of the Lord.'

It sounded thin. The blizzard, which was getting up, did not allow the singing to come to much. Twilight was falling.

The wind drove clouds of snow across from the endless, steppe-like plains, dotted here and there with skeleton trees, and lashed the little crowd of human beings as with a whip.

'... and loves and keeps with faithful heart His word...,' they insisted through the whistling of the tempest and the frequent shouts of Antek, who was getting breathless with cold: 'Woa! woa, my lads!'

Snowdrifts were beginning to form across the road like huge wedges, starting from behind trees and heaps of stones.

Again and again the singing was interrupted when the people looked round anxiously into the white void: it seemed to be moving when the wind struck it with dull thuds; now it towered in huge walls, now it dissolved like breakers, turned over, and furiously darted sprays of a thousand sharp needles into the faces of the mourners. Many of them returned half-way, fearing an increase of the blizzard, the others hurried on to the cemetery in the greatest haste, almost at a run. They got through the ceremony as fast as they could; the grave was ready, they quickly sang a little more, the priest sprinkled holy water on the coffin; frozen clods of earth and snow rolled down, and the people fled home.

Tomek invited everybody to his house, because 'the reverend Father had said to him, that other-wise the ceremony would doubtless end in an ungodly way at the public-house.'

Antek's answer to the invitation was a curse. The four of them, including Ignatz and the peasant Smoletz, turned into the inn.

They drank four quarts of spirits mixed with fat, ate three pounds of sausages, and talked about the money transaction.

The heat of the room and the spirits soon made Antek very drunk. He stumbled so on the way home that his wife took him firmly under the arm.

Smoletz remained at the inn to drink an extra glass in prospect of the loan, but Ignatz ran home ahead as fast as he could, for he was horribly cold.

'Look here, mother...,' said Antek, 'the five acres are mine! aha! mine, do you hear? In the autumn I shall sow wheat and barley, and in the spring we will plant potatoes... mine... they are mine!... God is my comfort, sayest thou...,' he suddenly began to sing.

The storm was raging, and howling.

'Shut up! You'll fall down, and that will be the end of it.'

'... His angel keepeth watch...,' he stopped abruptly. The darkness was impenetrable, nothing could be seen at a distance of two feet. The blizzard had reached the highest degree of fury; whistling and howling on a gigantic scale filled the air, and mountains of snow hurled themselves upon them.

From Tomek's cottage came the sound of funeral chants and loud talking when they passed by.

'These heathen! These thieves! You wait, I'll show you my five acres! Then I shall have ten. You won't lord it over me! Dogs'-breed... aha! I'll work, I'll slave, but I shall get it, eh, mother? we will get it, what?' he hammered his chest with his fist, and rolled his drunken eyes.

He went on like this for a while, but as soon as they reached their home, the woman dragged him into bed, where he fell down like a dead man. But he did not go to sleep yet, for after a time he shouted: 'Ignatz!'

The boy approached, but with caution, for fear of contact with the paternal foot.

'Ignatz, you dead dog! Ignatz, you shall be a first-class peasant, not a beggarly professional man,' he bawled, and brought his fist down on the bedstead.

'The five acres are mine, mine! Foxy Germans¹, you... da...' He went to sleep.

Footnote 1:
'The term 'German' is used for 'foreigner' generally, whom the Polish peasant despises.

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