The loss of
his horses had
almost driven Slimak crazy. Beating Maciek and kicking him out had not
exhausted his anger. He felt the room oppressive, walked out into the
and ran up and down with clenched fists and bloodshot eyes, waiting for
a chance to vent his temper.
remembered that he ought
to feed the cows and went into the stable, where he pushed the animals
about, and when one clumsily trod on his foot, he seized a fork and
her mercilessly. He kicked Burek's body behind the barn.'You damned
if you had not taken bread from strangers, I should still have my
to the room and
threw himself on the bench with such violence that he upset the block
wood-chopping. Jendrek laughed, but his father unbuckled his belt and
not stop beating him till the boy crept, bleeding, under the bench.
the belt in his hand Slimak waited for his wife to make a remark. But
remained silent, only holding on to the chimney-piece for support.
Haven't you got over yesterday's vodka?'
wrong with me,'
she answered low.
to strap on his
belt. 'What's wrong?'
see, and there's
a noise in my ears. Is any one whistling?'
drink vodka and you'll
hear no noises,' he said, spitting, and went out. It surprised him that
she had made no remark after the thrashing he had given Jendrek, and
no one to beat, he seized an axe and chopped wood until nightfall,
nothing all day. Logs and splinters fell round him, he felt as if he
revenging himself on his enemies, and when he left off, stiff and
his shirt soaked with perspiration, his anger had gone from him.
surprised to find
no one in the room and peeped into the alcove; Slimakowa was lying on
well, but it's nothing.'
has gone out.'
raising herself. She got up and lighted the fire with difficulty, her
he said presently,
'you got hot yesterday and then you would drink water out of the Jew's
pewter pot and unbutton your jacket. You have caught cold.'
nothing,' she said
ill-humouredly, pulled herself together and warmed up the supper.
crept out and took a spoon, but cried instead of eating.
night, at about
the hour when the unhappy Maciek was drawing his last breath in the
Slimakowa was seized with violent fits of shivering. Slimak covered her
with his sheepskin and it passed off. She got up in the morning, and
she complained of pains, she went about her work. Slimak was depressed.
evening a sledge
stopped at the gate and the innkeeper Josel entered with a strange
on his face. Slimak's conscience pricked him.
be praised,' said
nothing to ask?'
said the Jew.
should I have to ask?'
Slimak looked into his eyes and involuntarily grew pale.
Josel said slowly,
'to-morrow Jendrek's trial is coming on for violence to Hermann.'
nothing to him.'
he will have to
sit in jail for a bit.'
him sit, it will
cure him of fighting.'
silence fell. The Jew
shook his head; Slimak's alarm grew.
up his courage
at last and asked: 'What else?'
use of making
many words?' said the Jew, holding up his hands, 'Maciek and the child
have been frozen to death.'
sprang to his feet
and looked for something to throw at the Jew, but staggered and held on
to the wall. A hot wave rushed over him, his legs shook. Then he
why he should have been seized with fearlike this.
ravines close to
the railway line.'
quite well that
it was yesterday when you drove them out.' Slimak's anger was rising.
'As I live!
the Jew is a
liar! Frozen to death? What did he go to the ravines for? Are there no
cottages in the world?'
innkeeper shrugged his
shoulders and got up.
believe it or not,
it's all the same to me, but I myself saw them being driven to the
What harm can they
do to me, because Maciek has been frozen?'
men can't do you
harm, but, man, before God! or don't you believe in God?' the Jew asked
from the other side of the door, his burning eyes fixed on Slimak.
stood still and
listened to his heavy tread down to the gate and to the sound of his
sledge. He shook himself, turned round and met Jendrek's eyes looking
at him from the far corner.
I be to blame?'
he muttered. Suddenly an annual sermon, preached by an old priest,
through his mind; he seemed to hear the peculiar cadence of his voice
he said: 'I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat.... I was a stranger
and ye took me not in.'
the Jew is lying,'
he exclaimed. These words seemed to break the spell; he felt sure
and the child were alive, and he almost went out to call them in to
'A low Jew,
he said to his wife, while he covered her again with the sheepskin,
her shivering-fits returned. Nothing should induce him to believe that
the village Soltys
drove up with the summons for Jendrek.
does not come
on till to-morrow,' he said, 'but as I was driving that way, I thought
he might as well come with me.'
grew pale and silently
put on his new sukmana and sheepskin.
they do to him?'
his father asked peevishly.
'Eh! I dare
say he'll get
a few days, perhaps a week.'
slowly pulled a rouble
out of a little packet.
have you heard
what the accursed Jew has been saying about Maciek and the child being
frozen to death?'
shouldn't I have heard?'
said the Soltys, reluctantly; 'it's true.'
course. But,' he
added, 'every one understands that it's not your fault. He didn't look
after the horses and you discharged him. No one told him to go down
have been drunk.
The poor wretch died through his own stupidity.'
ready to start,
and embraced his parents' knees. Slimak gave him the rouble, tears came
into his eyes; his mother, however, showed no sign of interest.
Slimak said with
concern, 'Jendrek is going to his trial.'
that?' she answered
with a delirious look.
into the alcove
and Slimak remained alone. The longer he sat pondering the lower his
dropped on to his chest. Half dozing, he fancied he was sitting on a
grey plain, no bushes, no grass, not even stones were to be seen; there
was nothing in front of him; but at his side there was something he
not look at. It was Maciek with the child looking steadily at him.
would not look, he
need not look! He need see nothing of him, except a little bit of his
not even that!
of Maciek was
becoming an obsession. He got up and began to
with the dishes.
'What am I
coming to? It
doesn't do to give way!'
fed the cattle, ran to the river for water. It was so long since he had
done these things that he felt rejuvenated, and but for the thought of
Maciek he would have been almost cheerful.
returned with the
dusk. It was the silence that tormented him most. Nothing stirred but
mice behind the boards. The voice was haunting him again: 'I was a
and ye took me not in.'
the fault of those
scoundrel Swabians that everything is going wrong with me,' he
and began to count his losses on the window-pane: 'Stasiek, that's one,
the cow two, the horses four, because the thieves did that out of spite
for the hog, Burek five, Jendrek six, Maciek and the child eight, and
had to leave, and my wife is ill with worry, that makes ten. Lord
seized him and
he gripped his hair; he had never in his life felt fear like this,
he had looked death in the face more than once. He had suddenly caught
a glimpse of the power the Germans were exercising, and it scared him.
They had destroyed all his life's work, and yet you could not bring it
home to them. They had lived like others, ploughed, prayed, taught
children; you could not say they were doing any wrong, and yet they had
made his home desolate simply by being there. They had blasted what was
near them as smoke from a kiln withers all green things.
this moment had
the thought ever come to him: 'I am too close to them! The
farther off do not suffer like this. What good is the land, if the
on it die?'
aspect was so horrible
to him that he felt he must escape from it; he glanced at his wife, she
was asleep. The cadence of the priest's voice began to haunt him again.
the yard. The peasant straightened himself. Could it be Jendrek? The
creaked. No, it was a strange hand that groped along the wall in the
He drew back, and his head swam when the door opened and Zoska stood on
moment both stood silent,
then Zoska said:
rubbing her hands
over the fire.
The idea of
Maciek and the
child and Zoska had become confused in Slimak's mind; he looked at her
as if she were an apparition from the other world. 'Where do you come
His voice was choked.
me back to the
parish and told me to look out for work. They said they wouldn't keep
food in the saucepan,
she began to lick her lips like a dog.
'Pour out a
basin of soup
She did as
she was told.
want a servant?'
she asked presently.
know; my wife is
are! It's quiet
here. Where's Magda?'
last summer,' he
whispered, fearful lest Maciek's and the little girl's turn should come
But she ate
a wild animal, and asked nothing further.
know?' he thought.
finished and struck
her hand cheerfully on her knee. He took courage.
'Can I stop
seized him; any
other guest would have been a blessing in his solitude, but Zoska....
she did not know the truth, what ill wind had blown her here? And if
reflected. In the intense
silence suddenly the priest's voice started again: 'I was a stranger
ye took me not in.'
stop here, but
you must sleep in this room.'
'Or in the
knew what it was
that he feared; there was a vague sense of misfortune in the air which
was tormenting him.
died down. Zoska
lay down on the bench in her rags and Slimak went into the alcove. He
on the bed, determined to be on the watch. He did not know that this
state of mind is called 'nerves'. Yet a kind of relief had come in with
Zoska; she had driven away the spectre of Maciek and the child. But an
iron ring was beginning to press on his head. This was sleep, heavy
the companion of great anguish. He dreamt that he was split in two; one
part of him was
sitting by his
the other was Maciek, standing outside the window, where sunflowers
in the summer. This new Maciek was unlike the old one, he was gloomy
believe,' said the
strange guest, 'that I shall forgive you. It's not so much that I got
that might happen to anyone the worse for drink, but you drove me away
for no fault of mine after I had served you so long. And what harm had
the child done to you? Don't turn away! Pass judgment on yourself for
you have done. God will not let these wrongs be done and keep silent.'
I say?' thought
Slimak, bathed in perspiration. 'He is telling the truth, I am a
He shall fix the punishment, perhaps he will get it over quickly.'
moved and he opened
his eyes, but closed them again. A rosy brightness filled the room, the
frost glittered in flowers on the window panes. 'Daylight?' he thought.
No, it was
the rosy brightness trembled. A smell of burning was heavy in the room.
into the room;
Zoska had disappeared.
it!' he exclaimed,
and ran out into the yard.
was indeed on fire;
the roof towards the highroad was alight, but owing to the thick layers
of snow the flames spread but slowly; he could still have saved the
but he did not even think of this.
Jagna,' he cried,
running back into the alcove, 'the house is on fire!'
alone,' said the
delirious woman, covering her head with the sheepskin. He seized her
stumbling over the threshold, carried her into the shed, fetched her
and bedding, broke open the chest and took out his money; finally he
everything he could lay hands on out of the window. Here was at least
tangible to fight. The whole roof was now ablaze; smoke and flames were
coming into the room from the boarded ceiling. He was dragging the
when he happened to look at the barn; he stood petrified. Flames were
at it, and there stood Zoska shaking her clenched fist at him and
'That's my thanks to you, Slimak, for taking care of my child, now you
shall die as she did!'
out of the yard
and up the hill; he could see her by the light of the fire, dancing and
clapping her hands.
fire!' she shouted.
reeled like a wild
animal after the first shot. Then he slowly went towards the barn and
down, not thinking of seeking help. This was the beginning of the
punishment for the wrong he had done.
all die!' he murmured.
buildings were burning
like pillars of fire, and in spite of the frost Slimak felt hot in the
shed. Suddenly shouts and clattering came from the settlement; the
were coming to his assistance. Soon the yard was swarming with them,
women and children with hand-fire-engines and buckets. They formed into
groups, and at Fritz Hamer's command began to pull down the burning
and to put out the fire. Laughing and emulating each other in daring,
went into the fire as into a dance; some of the most venturesome
up the walls of the burning buildings. Zoska approached once more from
the side of the ravines.
the Germans helping
you, you will die all the same,' she cried.
that?' shouted the
settlers, 'catch her!'
was too quick for
it was she who
set fire to your house?' asked Fritz.
else but she.'
silent for a moment.
be better for you
to sell us the land.'
hung his head....
could not be saved,
but the walls of the cottage were still standing; some of the people
busy putting out the fire, others surrounded the sick woman.
you going to do?'
Fritz began again.
live in the stable.'
they had better be taken to the settlement, but the men shook their
saying the woman might be infectious. Fritz inclined to this opinion
ordered her to be well wrapped up and taken into the stable.
send you what you
need,' he said.
you,' said Slimak,
embracing his knees.
speed to Wolka,'
he said, 'and fetch miller Knap; we may be able to settle this affair
time we did,'
replied the other, audibly, 'we shan't hold out till the spring unless
he took leave
benevolently. Bending over the sick woman he said: 'She is quite
But in a
voice she ejaculated: 'Ah! unconscious!'
back in confusion.
'She is delirious,' he said.
the Germans brought
the promised help, but Slimak paced backwards and forwards among the
of his homestead, from which the smell of smouldering embers rose
He looked at his household goods, tumbled into the yard. How many times
had he sat on that bench and cut notches and crosses into it when a
That heap of smouldering ruins represented his storehouse and the
crop. How small the cottage looked now that it was reduced to walls,
how large the chimney! He took out his money, hid it under a heap of
manure in the stable and strolled about again. Up the hill he went,
a feeling that they were talking about him in the village and would
to his help. But there was no one to be seen on the boundless covering
of snow; here and there smoke rose from the cottages.
imagination, keener than
usual, conjured up old pictures. He fancied he was harrowing on the
with the two chestnuts who were whisking their tails under his nose;
sparrows were twittering, Stasiek gazing into the river; by the bridge
his wife was beating the linen, he could hear the resounding smacks,
the squire's brother-in-law was wildly galloping up and down the
Jendrek and Magda were answering each other in snatches of songs....
from his dreams by the stench of his burnt cottage; he looked up, and
he saw became abominable to him. The frozen river, into which his child
would never gaze again; the empty, hideous homestead; he longed to
from it all and go far away and forget Stasiek and Maciek and the whole
accursed gospodarstwo. He could buy land more cheaply elsewhere with
money he would get from the Germans. What was the good of the land if
was ruining the
people on it?
into the stable and
lay down near his wife, who was moaning deliriously, and soon fell
At noon old
accompanied by a German woman who carried two bowls of hot soup. He
over Slimak and poked him with his stick.
roused himself and
looked about heavily; seeing the hot food he ate greedily. Hamer sat
in the doorway, smoking his pipe and watching Slimak; he nodded
down to the village
to ask Gryb and the other gospodarze to come and help you, for that is
a Christian duty....'
for the peasant's
thanks, but Slimak went on eating and did not look at him.
them they ought to
take you in; but they said, God was punishing you for the death of the
labourer and the child and they didn't wish to interfere. They are no
but he remained silent.
are you going
wiped his mouth and
said: 'I shall sell.' Hamer poked his pipe with deliberation.
with his pipe.
I am willing
to buy, as you have fallen upon bad times. But I can only give you
giving a hundred
not long ago.'
you take it?'
true, why didn't
I take it? Everyone profits as he can.'
never tried to
you take it?'
shouldn't I take it?'
settle the matter
at my house to-night.'
since it is so,' Hamer
added after a while, 'I will give you seventy-five roubles, and you
be left to die here. You and your wife can come to the school; you can
spend the winter with us and I will give you the same pay as my own
winced at the word
'farm-labourer', but he said nothing.
Hamer, 'are brutes. They will do nothing for you.'
sunset a sledge conveyed
the unconscious woman to the settlement. Slimak remained, recovered his
money from under the manure, collected a few possessions and milked the
animals looked reproachfully
at him and seemed to ask: 'Are you sure you have done the best you
'What am I
to do?' he returned,
'the place is unlucky, it is bewitched. Perhaps the Germans can take
spell away, I can't.'
He felt as
if his feet were
being held to the ground, but he spat at it. 'Much I have to be
to you for! Barren land, far from everybody so that thieves may
He would not look back.
On the way
he met two German
farm-labourers, who had come to spend the night in the stable; as he
them, they laughed.
spending the winter
with you scoundrels! I'm off directly the wife is well and the boy out
shadow detached itself
from the gate when he reached the settlement, 'Is that you,
you have consented
after all to sell your land?'
it's the best thing
you can do. If you can't make much of it yourself, at least you can
others.' He looked round and lowered his voice. 'But mind you bargain
for you are doing them a good turn. Miller Knap will pay cash down as
as the contract has been signed and give his daughter to Wilhelm.
Hirschgold will turn the Hamers out at midsummer and sell the land to
They have a heavy contract with the Jew.'
would buy the
would. He is anxious
to settle his son too, and Josel has been sniffing round for a month
So there's your chance, bargain well.'
it,' said Slimak,
'I would rather have a hundred Germans than that old Judas.'
creaked and the schoolmaster
changed the conversation. 'Come this way, your wife is in the
Slimak?' Fritz called
'It is I.'
long with your
wife, she is being looked after, and we want you at daybreak; you must
sleep in the kitchen.'
of loud conversation
and clinking of glasses came from the back of the house, but the large
schoolroom was empty, and only lighted by a small lamp. His wife was
on a plank bed; a pungent smell of vinegar pervaded the room. That
took the heart out of Slimak; surely his wife must be very ill! He
over her; her eye-lashes twitched and she looked steadily at him.
'Is it you,
should it be?'
moved about restlessly
on the sheepskin; she said distinctly: 'What are you doing, Josef, what
are you doing?'
'You see I
am standing here.'
you are standing
there...but what are you doing? I know everything, never fear!'
cried the old woman, pushing him towards the door, 'she is getting
it isn't good for her.'
'come back! Josef, I must speak to you!' The peasant hesitated.
doing no good,'
whispered the schoolmaster, 'she is rambling, she may go to sleep when
you are out of sight.'
Slimak into the passage,
and Fritz Hamer at once took him to the further room.
and old Hamer
were sitting at a brightly lighted table behind their beer mugs,
clouds of smoke from their pipes. The miller had the appearance of a
sack of flour as he sat there in his shirtsleeves, holding a full pot
beer in his hand and wiping the perspiration off his forehead. Gold
glittered in his shirt.
are going to let
us have your land at last?' he shouted.
know,' said the
peasant in a low voice, 'maybe I shall sell it.' The miller roared with
he bellowed, as
if Wilhelm, who was officiating at the beer-barrel on the bench, were
a mile off, 'pour out some beer for this man. Drink to my health and
drink to yours, although you never used to bring me your corn to grind.
But why didn't you sell us your land before?'
know,' said the
peasant, taking a long pull.
his glass,' shouted
the miller, 'I will tell you why; it's because you don't know your own
mind. Determination is what you want. I've said to myself: I will have
a mill at Wolka, and a mill at Wolka I have, although the Jews twice
fire to it. I said: My son shall be a doctor, and a doctor he will be.
And now I've said: Hamer, your son must have a windmill, so he must
a windmill. Pour out another glass, Wilhelm, good beer...eh? my
brews it. What? no more beer? Then we'll go to bed.'
pushed Slimak into
the kitchen, where one of the farm-hands was asleep already. He felt
whether it was with the beer or with Knap's noisy conversation, he
not tell. He sat down on his plank bed and felt cheerful. The noise of
conversation in German reached him from the adjoining room; then the
left the house. Miller Knap stamped about the room for a while;
his thick voice repeated the Lord's prayer while he was pulling off his
boots and throwing them into a corner: 'Amen amen,' he concluded, and
himself heavily upon the bed; a few moments later noises as if he were
being throttled and murdered proclaimed that he was asleep.
was throwing a feeble
light through the small squares of the window.
waking and sleeping
Slimak continued to meditate: 'Why shouldn't I sell? It's better to buy
fifteen acres of land elsewhere, than to stay and have Jasiek Gryb as a
neighbour. The sooner I sell, the better.' He got up as if he wished to
settle the matter at once, laughed quietly to himself and felt more and
Then he saw
a human shadow
outlined against the window pane; someone was trying to look into the
The peasant approached the window and became sober. He ran into the
and pulled the door open with trembling hands. Frosty air fanned his
His wife was standing outside, still trying to look through the window.
God's sake, what
are you doing here? Who dressed you?'
myself, but I
couldn't manage my boots, they are quite crooked. Come home,' she said,
drawing him by the hand.
home? Are you so
ill that you don't know our home is burnt down? Where will you go on a
bitter night like this?'
mastiffs were beginning
to growl. Slimakowa hung on her husband's arm. 'Come home, come home,'
she urged stubbornly, 'I will not die in a strange house, I am a
I will not stay here with the Swabians. The priests would not even
holy water on my coffin.'
him and he went;
the dogs went after them for a while snapping at their clothes; they
straight for the frozen river, so as to reach their own nest the
On the riverbank they stopped for a moment, the tired woman was out of
let yourself be
tempted by the Germans to sell them your land! You think I don't know.
Perhaps you will say it is not true?' she cried, looking wildly into
eyes. He hung his head.
traitor, you son of
a dog!' she burst out. 'Sell your land! You would sell the Lord Jesus
the Jews! Tired of being a gospodarz, are you? What is Jendrek to do?
is a gospodyni to die in a stranger's house?'
him into the middle
of the frozen river. 'Stand here, Judas,' she cried, seizing him by the
hands. 'Will you sell your land? Listen! Sell it, and God will curse
and the boy. This ice shall break if you don't give up that devil's
I won't give you peace after death, you shall never sleep! When you
your eyes I will come and open them again...listen!' she cried in a
of rage, 'if you sell the land, you shall not swallow the holy
it shall turn to blood in your mouth.'
whispered the man.
you tread, the
grass shall be blasted! You shall throw a spell on everyone you look
and misfortune shall befall them.'
tearing himself from her and stopping his ears.
sell the land?'
she cried, with her face close to his. He shook his head. 'Not if you
to draw your last breath lying on filthy litter?'
I had to draw...so
help me God!'
her husband carried her to the other bank and reached the stable, where
the two farm labourers were installed.
door!' He hammered
until one of them appeared.
I am going to
put my wife in here.'
demurred and he kicked
them both out. They went off, cursing and threatening him.
his wife down
on the warm litter and strolled about the yard, thinking that he must
fetch help for her and a doctor. Now and then he looked into the
she seemed to be sleeping quietly. Her great peacefulness began to
him, his head was swimming, he heard noises in his ears; he knelt down
and pulled her by the hand; she was dead, even cold.
don't care if I go
to the devil,' he said, raked some straw into a corner and was asleep
a few minutes.
afternoon when he
was at last awakened by old Sobieska.
Slimak! your wife
is dead! God's faith! dead as a stone.'
'How can I
help it?' said
the peasant, turning over and drawing his sheepskin over his head.
must buy a coffin
and notify the parish.'
who cares do
do it? In the village
they say it's God's punishment on you. And won't the Germans take it
of you! That fat man has quarrelled with them. Josel says you are now
the benefit of selling your fowls: he threatened me if I came here to
you. Get up now!'
'Let me be
or I'll kick you!'
godless man, is your
wife to lie there without Christian burial?' He advanced his boot so
that the old woman ran screaming out along the highroad.
pushed to the door
and lay down again. A hard peasant-stubbornness had seized him. He was
certain that he was past salvation. He
himself nor regretted anything; he only wanted to be left to sleep
Divine pity could have saved him, but he no longer believed in divine
and no human hand would do so much as give him a cup of water.
sound of the evening-bells
floated through the air, and the women in the cottages whispered the
a bent figure approached the gospodarstwo, a sack on his back, a stick
in his hand; the glory of the setting sun surrounded him. Such as these
are the 'angels' which the Lord sends to people in the extremity of
Jonah Niedoperz, the
oldest and poorest Jew in the neighbourhood; he traded in everything
never had any money to keep his large family, with whom he lived in a
cottage with broken windowpanes. Jonah was on his way to the village
was meditating deeply. Would he get a job there? would he live to have
a dinner of pike on the Sabbath? would his little grandchildren ever
two shirts to their backs?
he muttered, 'and
they even took the three roubles from me!' He had never forgotten that
robbery in the autumn, for it was the largest sum he had ever possessed.
fell on the burnt
homestead. Good God! if such a thing should ever befall the cottage
his wife and daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren lived! His
grew when he heard the cows lowing miserably. He approached the stable.
good lady gospodyni!'
he cried, tapping at the door. He was afraid to open it lest he should
be suspected of prying into other people's business.
that?' asked Slimak.
I, old Jonah,'
he said, and peeped in, 'but what's wrong with your honours?' he asked
'My wife is
how dead? what do you mean by such a joke? Ajwaj! really-dead?' He
attentively at her.
a misfortune, God defend us! And you are lying there and don't see
as well be two,'
murmured the peasant.
are you ill?'
shook his head and
spat. 'It can't be like this; if you won't move I will go and give
tell me what to do.'
not answer. The
cows began to low again.
the matter with
the cows?' the Jew asked interestedly.
they want water.'
don't you water
came. The Jew looked
at Slimak and waited, then he tapped his forehead. 'Where is the pail,
did not give in.
He found the pail, ran to the ice-hole and watered the cows; he had
for cows, because he dreamt of possessing one himself one day, or at
a goat. Then he put the pail close to Slimak. He was exhausted with
unusually hard work.
gospodarz, what is
to happen now?'
but failed to rouse him. He raised his head. 'If you should see
tell him not to sell the land before Jendrek is of age.'
am I to do now,
when I get to the village?'
rested his chin in
his hand and pondered for a while; at last he took his bundle and stick
and went off. The miserable old man's pity was so strong that he forgot
his own needs and only thought of saving the other. Indeed, he was
to distinguish between himself and his fellow-creature, and he felt as
if he himself were lying on the straw beside his
dead wife and
must rouse himself at all costs.
He went as
fast as his old
legs would carry him straight to Grochowski; by the time he arrived it
was dark. He knocked, but received no answer, waited for a quarter of
hour and then walked round the house. Despairing at last of making
heard, he was just going to depart, when Grochowski suddenly confronted
him, as if the ground had produced him.
you want, Jew?'
asked the huge man, concealing some long object behind his back.
'What do I
the frightened Jew, 'I have come straight from Slimak's. Do you know
his house is burnt down, his wife is dead, and he is lying beside her,
out of his wits? He talks as if he had a filthy idea in his head, and
hasn't even watered the cows.'
Jew,' said Grochowski
fiercely, 'who told you to come here and lie to me? Is it those
come straight from Slimak....'
won't draw me
away from here, whatever you do.'
The Jew now
it was a gun which Grochowski was hiding behind his back, and the sight
so unnerved him that he nearly fell down. He fled at full speed along
highroad. Even now, however, he did not forget Slimak, but walked on
the village to find the priest.
had been in the
parish for several years. He was middle-aged and extremely
and possessed the education and manners of a nobleman. He read more
any of his neighbours, hunted, was sociable, and kept bees. Everybody
well of him, the nobility because he was clever and fond of society,
Jews because he would not allow them to be oppressed, the settlers
he entertained their Pastors, the peasants because he renovated the
conducted the services with much pomp, preached beautiful sermons, and
gave to the poor. But in spite of this there was no intimate touch
him and his simple parishioners. When they thought of him, they felt
God was a great nobleman, benevolent and merciful, but not friends with
the first comer. The priest felt this and regretted it. No peasant had
him to a wedding
or christening. At first he had tried to break through their shyness,
had entered into conversations with them; but these ended in
on both sides and he left it off. 'I cannot act the democrat,' he
when he had been
left to himself for several days owing to bad roads, he had pricks of
'I am a
Pharisee,' he thought;
'I did not become a priest only to associate with the nobility, but to
serve the humble.'
then lock himself
in, pray for the apostolic spirit, vow to give away his spaniel and
his cellar of wine.
But as a
rule, just as the
spirit of humility and renunciation was beginning to be awakened, Satan
would send him a visitor.
mercy! fate is
against me,' he would mutter, get up from his knees, give orders for
kitchen and cellar, and sing jolly songs and drink like an Uhlan a
of an hour afterwards.
at the time when
Jonah was drawing near to the Parsonage, he was getting ready for a
at a neighbouring landowner's to meet an engineer from Warsaw who would
have the latest news and be entertained exceptionally well, for he was
courting the landowner's daughter. The priest was longing feverishly
the moment of departure, for lie had been left to
several days. He could hardly bear the look of his snow-covered
any more, having no diversion except watching a man chop wood, and
the cawing of rooks. He paced to and fro, thinking that another quarter
of an hour must have gone, and was surprised to find it was only a few
minutes since he had last looked at his watch. He ordered the samovar
lit his pipe. Then there was a knock at the door. Jonah came in, bowing
to the ground.
'I am glad
to see you,' said
the priest, 'there are several things in my wardrobe that want mending.'
praised for that,
I haven't had work for a week past. And your honour's lady housekeeper
tells me that the clock is broken as well.'
mend clocks too?'
I've even got the
tools to do it with. I'm also an umbrella-mender and harness-maker, and
I can glaze stewing-pans.'
'If that is
so you might
spend the winter here. When can you begin?'
down now and work
through the night.'
like. Ask them to
give you some tea in the kitchen.'
pardon, may I ask that the sugar might be served separately?'
like your tea
contrary, I like
it very sweet. But I save the sugar for my grandchildren.'
laughed at the
Jew's astuteness. 'All right! have your tea with sugar and some for
grandchildren as well. Walenty!' he called out, 'bring me my fur coat.'
began bowing afresh.
'With an entreaty for your Reverence's pardon, I come from Slimak's.'
whose house was
he asked me to
come, your Reverence, he would not presume to do such a thing, but his
wife is dead, they are both lying in the stable, and I am sure he has a
bad thought in his head, for no one does so much as give him a cup of
The priest started.
'No one has
pardon,' bowed the Jew, 'but they say in the village, God's anger has
on him, so he must die without help.' He looked into the priest's eyes
as if Slimak's salvation depended on him. His Reverence knocked his
on the floor till it broke.
go into the kitchen,'
said the Jew, and took up his bundle. The sledge-bells tinkled at the
the valet stood ready with the fur coat.
'I shall be
wanted for the
betrothal,' reflected the priest, 'that man will last till to-morrow,
I can't bring the dead woman back to life. It's eight o'clock, if I go
to the man first there will be nothing to go for afterwards. Give me my
fur coat, Walenty.' He went into his bedroom: 'Are the horses ready? Is
it a bright night?' 'Quite bright, your Reverence.'
be the slave of
all the people who are burnt down and all the women who die,' he
resumed his thoughts, 'it will be time enough to-morrow, and anyhow the
man can't be worth much if no one will help him.'...His eyes fell on
crucifix. 'Divine wounds! Here I am hesitating between my amusement and
comforting the stricken, and I am a priest and a citizen!
basket,' he said in
a changed voice to the astonished servant, 'put the rest of the dinner
into it. I had better take the sacrament too,' he thought, after the
man had left the room, 'perhaps he is dying. God is giving me another
of grace instead of condemning me eternally.'
his breast and
forgot that God does not count the number of amusements preferred and
emptied, but the greatness of the struggle in each human heart.