an hour the priest's
round ponies stood at Slimak's gate. The priest walked towards the
with a lantern in one hand and a basket in the other, pushed open the
with his foot, and saw Slimakowa's body. Further away, on the litter,
the peasant, shading his eyes from the light.
that?' he asked.
'It is I,
sprang to his feet,
with deep astonishment on his face. He advanced with unsteady steps to
the threshold, and gazed at the priest with open mouth.
you come for,
come to bring you
the divine blessing. Put on your sheepskin, it is cold here. Have
to eat.' He unpacked the basket.
stared, touched the
priest's sleeve, and suddenly fell sobbing at his feet.
wretched, your Reverence...I
Deus!' Instead of making the sign of the cross, the priest put his arm
round the peasant and drew him on to the threshold.
all will be well. God does not forsake His children.'
him and wiped his
tears. With almost a howl the peasant threw himself at his feet.
don't mind if I die,
or if I go to hell for my sins! I've had this consolation that your
has taken pity on me. If I were to go to the Holy City on my knees, it
would not be enough to repay you for your kindness.'
the ground at
the priest's feet as though it were the altar. The priest had to use
persuasion before he put on his sheepskin and consented to touch food.
good pull,' he said,
pouring out the mead.
not, your Reverence.'
I will drink
to you.' He touched the glass with his lips.
took the glass
with trembling hands and drank kneeling, swallowing with difficulty.
Vodka is nothing
compared to this!' Slimak's voice sounded natural again. 'Isn't it just
full of spice!' he added, and revived rapidly.
me all about it,'
began the priest: 'I remember you as a prosperous gospodarz.'
be a long story
to tell your Reverence. One of my sons was drowned, the other is in
my wife is dead, my horses were stolen, my house burnt down. It all
with the squire's selling the village, and with the railway and the
coming here. Then Josel set everyone against me, because I had been
fowls and other things to the surveyors; even now he is doing his best
does everyone go
to Josel for advice?' interrupted the priest.
'To whom is
one to go, begging
your Reverence's pardon? We peasants are ignorant people. The Jews know
about everything, and sometimes they give good advice.'
winced. The peasant
no wages coming
in from the manor, and the Germans took the two acres I had rented from
'But let me
see,' said the
priest, 'wasn't it you to whom the squire offered those two acres at a
great deal less than they were worth?'
it was me!'
you take the
offer? I suppose you did not trust him?'
one trust them when
one does not know what they are talking among themselves; they jabber
Jews, and when they talked to me they were poking fun at me. Besides,
was some talk of free distribution of land.'
I not believe
it? A man likes to believe what is to his advantage. The Jews knew it
true, but they won't tell.'
you apply for
work at the railway?'
'I did, but
the Germans kept
couldn't you have come
to me? The chief engineer was living at my house all the time,' said
priest, getting angry.
'I beg your
I couldn't have known that, and I shouldn't have dared to apply to your
the Germans annoyed
Haven't they been pestering me to sell them my land all along, and when
the fire came I gave way....'
sold them the land?'
'God and my
dead wife saved
me from doing that. She got up from her deathbed and laid a curse upon
me if I should sell the land. I would rather die than sell it, but all
the same,' he hung his head, 'the Germans will pay me out.'
think they can do
you much harm.'
Germans leave,' continued
the peasant, 'I shall be up against old Gryb, and he will do me as much
harm as the Germans, or more.'
'I am a
good shepherd!' the
priest reflected bitterly. 'My sheep are fighting each other like
go to the Jews for advice, are persecuted by the Germans, and I am
He got up.
'Stay here, my
brother,' he said, 'I will go to the village.'
kissed his feet and
accompanied him to the sledge.
across to the village,'
he directed his coachman.
village?' The coachman's
face, which was so chubby that it looked as if it had been stung by
was comic in its astonishment:
we were going...'
where I tell you!'
leant on the fence,
as in happier days.
he have known
about me?' he reflected. 'Is a priest like God who knows everything?
would not have brought him word from the village. It must have been
old Jonah. But now they will not dare to look askance at me, because
Reverence himself has come to see me. If he could only take the sin of
my sending Maciek and the child to their death from me, I shouldn't be
afraid of anything.'
the priest returned.
he called out. 'Gryb will come to you to-morrow. Make it up with him
don't quarrel any more. I have sent to town for a coffin and am
for the funeral.'
Redeemer!' sighed Slimak.
Pawel! drive on as
fast as the horses will go,' cried the priest. He pulled out his
watch: it was a quarter to ten.
'I shall be
late,' he murmured,
'but not too late for everything; there will be time for some fun yet.'
As soon as
the sledge had
melted into the darkness, and silence again brooded over his home, an
desire for sleep seized Slimak. He dragged himself to the stable, but
hesitated. He did not wish to lie down once more by the side of his
wife, and went into the cowshed. Uneasy dreams pursued him; he dreamt
his dead wife was trying to force herself into the cowshed. He got up
looked into the stable. Slimakowa was lying there peacefully; two faint
beams of light were reflected from the eyes which had not yet been
stopped at the gate
and Gryb came into the yard; his grey head shook and his yellowish eyes
moved uneasily. He was followed by his man, who was carrying a large
'I am to
blame,' he cried,
striking his chest, 'are you still angry with me?'
you all that you
desire,' said Slimak, bowing low, 'you are coming to me in my time of
humility pleased the
old peasant; he grasped Slimak's hand and said in a more natural voice:
'I tell you, I am to blame, for his Reverence told me to say that.
I am the first to make it up with you, although I am the elder. But I
say, neighbour, you did annoy me very much. However, I will not
the wrong I have
done,' said Slimak, bending towards his shoulder, 'but to tell you the
truth, I cannot remember ever having wronged you personally.'
mince matters, Slimak.
You dealt with those railway people without consulting me.'
what I have earned
by my trading,' said Slimak, pointing to his burnt homestead.
has punished you
heavily, and that is why I say: I am to blame. But when you came to
and your wife--God rest her eternally--bought herself a silk kerchief,
you ought to have treated me to at least a pint of vodka, instead of
impertinently to me.'
I boasted too
you made friends
with the Germans and prayed with them.'
took off my cap.
Their God is the same as ours.'
his clenched fist
in his face.
their God is the same
as ours? I tell you, he must be a different God, or why should they
to him in German? But never mind,' he changed his tone, 'all that's
and gone. You deserve well of us, because you did not let the Germans
your land. Hamer has already offered me his farm for midsummer.'
it is so. The
scoundrels threatened to drive us all away, and they have smashed
against a small gospodarz of ten acres. You deserve God's blessing and
our friendship for that. God rest your dead wife eternally! Many a time
has she set you against me! I'll bear her no grudge on that account,
And here, you see, all of us in the village are sending you some
conversation was interrupted
by the arrival of Grochowski.
when he came to tell me all this,' he said, 'and you here, Gryb, too?
is the defunct?'
approached to the stable
and knelt down in the snow. Only the murmuring of their prayers and
sobs were audible for a while. Then the men
got up and
praised the dead woman's virtues.
bringing you a bird,'
then said Grochowski, turning to Gryb; 'he is slightly wounded.'
Jasiek. He attempted
to steal my horses last night, and I treated him to a little lead.'
off at a heavy trot.
Blows and cries were heard, then the old man reappeared, dragging his
by the hair. The strong young fellow was crying like a child. He looked
dishevelled and his clothes were torn; a bloodstained cloth was tied
steal the Soltys'
horses?' shouted his father.
I not have stolen
them? I did steal them!'
quite,' said Grochowski,
'but he did steal Slimak's.'
cried Gryb, and began
to lay on to his son again.
father. Leave off!'
how did this come
about?' asked the old man.
simple enough,' sneered
Grochowski, 'he found others as bad as himself, and they robbed the
neighbourhood, till I winged him.'
you propose to do
now?' asked old Gryb between his blows.
marry Orzchewski's daughter,' wailed Jasiek.
this is not quite
the moment for that,' said Grochowski, 'first you will go to prison.'
mean to charge
him?' asked his father.
prefer not to charge
him, but the whole neighbourhood is indignant about the robberies.
as he did not do me personally any harm, I am not bound to charge him.'
kopek less than a
hundred and fifty roubles.'
case, let him go
and fifty to me,
and eighty to Slimak for the horses.'
to his fists again.
you up to this?'
off!' cried Jasiek;
'it was Josel.'
did you do as he
owe him a hundred
tearing his hair.
that's nothing to
tear your hair about,' said Grochowski. 'Come; three hundred and thirty
roubles between Slimak, Josel, and me; what is that to you?'
In that case
he will go to prison. Come along.' He took the youth by the arm.
pity, I am your
The old man
at the peasants in turn.
going to ruin my
life for a paltry sum?'
seeing that the Soltys was in earnest. He took Slimak aside.
if there is to
be peace between us,' he said, 'I'll tell you what you will have to do.'
have to marry my
sister. You are a widower, she is a widow. You have ten acres, she has
fifteen. I shall take her land, because it is close to mine, and give
fifteen acres of Hamer's land. You will have a gospodarstwo of
acres all in one piece.'
reflected for a while.
he said at last,'
Gawdrina's land is better than Hamer's.'
You shall have
a bit more.'
scratched his head.
'Well, I don't know,' he said.
agreed, then,' said
Gryb, 'and now I'll tell you what you will have to do in return. You
pay a hundred and fifty roubles to Grochowski and a hundred to Josel.'
buried my wife
man's temper was
don't be a fool!
How can a gospodarz get along without a wife? Yours is dead and gone,
if she could speak, she would say:
Josef, and don't
turn up your nose at a benefactor like Gryb."'
about?' cried Grochowski.
I am offering
him my sister and fifteen acres of land, four cows and a pair of
to say nothing of the household property, and he can't make up his
said Gryb, with awry face.
that's certainly worth
while,' said Grochowski, 'and not a bad wife!'
good, hefty woman,'
quite a gentleman,
Slimak,' added Grochowski.
sighed. 'I'm sorry,'
he said, 'that Jagna did not live to see this.'
agreement was carried
out, and before Holy Week both Slimak and Gryb's son were married. By
autumn Slimak's new gospodarstwo was finished, and an addition to his
expected. His second wife not unfrequently reminded him that he had
a beggar and owed all his good fortune to her. At such times he would
out of the house, lie under the lonely pine and meditate, recalling the
strange struggle, when the Germans had lost their land and he his
everybody else had forgotten
Slimakowa, Stasiek, Maciek, and the child, he often remembered them,
also the dog Burek and the cow doomed to the butcher's knife for want
died in prison,
old Sobieska at the inn. The others with whom my story is concerned,
excepting old Jonah, are alive and well.