cottage is by the roadside,
the front door opening on to the road, the back door into the yard; the
cowhouse and pigsty are under one roof, the barn, stable, and cart-shed
forming the other three sides of the square courtyard.
peasants chaff Slimak
for living in exile like a Sibiriak.
It is true, they say, that he lives nearer to the church, but on the
hand he has no one to open his mouth to.
his solitude is
not complete. On a warm autumn day, when the white-coated gospodarz is
ploughing on the hill with a pair of horses, you can see his wife and a
girl, both in red petticoats, digging up potatoes.
hills the thirteen-year-old
Jendrek minds the cows and performs
strange antics meanwhile to amuse himself. If you look more closely you
will also find the eight-year-old Stasiek
with hair as white as flax, who roams through the ravines or sits under
the lonely pine on the hill and looks thoughtfully into the valley.
in the sea of human interest--was a small world in itself which had
through various phases and had a history of its own.
instance, there was the
time when Josef Slimak had scarcely seven acres of land and only his
in the cottage. Then there came two surprises, his wife bore him a
as the result of the servituty his
was increased by three acres.
created a great change in the gospodarz's life; he bought another cow
pig and occasionally hired a labourer.
later his second
son, Stasiek, was born. Then Slimakowa
hired a woman by way of an experiment for half a year to help her with
stayed for nine
months, then one night she escaped to the village, her longing for the
public-house having become too strong. Her place was taken by 'Silly
for another six months. Slimakowa was always hoping that the work would
grow less, and she would be able to dispense with a servant. However,
Zoska' stayed for six years, and when she went into service at the
the work at the cottage had not grown less. So the gospodyni engaged a
fifteen-year-old orphan, Magda, who preferred to go into service,
she had a cow, a bit of land, and half a cottage of her own. She said
her uncle beat her too much, and that her other relations only offered
her the cold comfort that the more he applied the stick the better it
be for her.
then Slimak had chiefly
done his own farm work and rarely hired a labourer. This still left him
time to go to work at the manor with his horses, or to carry goods from
the town for the Jews.
however, he was summoned
more and more often to the manor, he found that the day-labourer was
sufficient, and began to look out for a permanent farm-hand.
day, after his
wife had been rating him severely for not yet having found a farmhand,
it chanced that Maciek Owczarz,
foot had been crushed under a cart, came out of the hospital. The lame
man's road led him past Slimak's cottage; tired and miserable he sat
on a stone by the gate and looked longingly into the entrance. The
was boiling potatoes for the pigs, and the smell was so good, as the
puffs of steam spread along the highroad, that it went into the very
of Maciek's stomach. He sat there in fascination, unable to move.
you, Owczarz?' Slimakowa
asked, hardly recognizing the poor wretch in his rags.
is I,' the man
in the village
that you had been killed.'
been worse off than
that; I have been in the hospital. I wish I had been left under the
I shouldn't be so hungry now.'
gospodyni became thoughtful.
one could be sure
that you wouldn't die, you could stay here as our farm-hand.'
fellow jumped up
from his seat and walked to the door, dragging his foot.
I die?' he cried,
'I am quite well, and when I have a bit to eat I can do the work of
Give me barszcz and I will chop up a
cartload of wood for you. Try me for a week, and I will plough all
fields. I will serve you for old clothes and patched boots, so long as
I have a shelter for the winter.'
at himself for having said so much, for he was silent by nature.
looked him up and
down, gave him a bowl of barszcz and another of potatoes, and told him
to wash in the river. When her husband came home in the evening Maciek
was introduced to him as the farm-hand who had already chopped wood and
fed the cattle.
listened in silence.
As he was tenderhearted he said, after a pause:
with us, good
man. It will be better for us and better for you. And if ever--God
that may not happen--there should be no bread in the cottage at all,
you will be no worse off than you are to-day. Rest, and you will set
your work all right.'
came about that this
new inmate was received into the cottage. He was quiet as a mouse,
as a dog, and industrious as a pair of horses, in spite of his lameness.
with the exception
of the yellow dog Burek, no additions were made to Slimak's household,
neither children nor servants nor property. Life at the gospodarstwo
with perfect regularity. All the labour, anxiety, and hopes of these
beings centred in the one aim: daily bread. For this the girl carried
the firewood, or, singing and jumping, ran to the pit for potatoes. For
this the gospodyni milked the cows at daybreak, baked bread, and moved
her saucepans on and off the fire. For this Maciek, perspiring, dragged
his lame leg after the plough and harrow, and Slimak, murmuring his
dawn to the manor-barn or drove into the town to deliver the corn which
he had sold to the Jews.
same reason they
worried when there was not enough snow on the rye in winter, or when
could not get enough fodder for the cattle; or prayed for rain in May
for fine weather at the end of June. On this account they would
after the harvest how much corn they would get out of a korzec,
and what prices it would fetch. Like bees
round a hive
swarmed round the question of daily bread. They never moved far from
subject, and to leave it aside altogether was impossible. They even
with pride that, as gentlemen were in the world to enjoy themselves and
to order people about, so peasants existed for the purpose of feeding