never been so
well off as he was that spring; money was flowing into his chest while
he took his leisure and looked around him at all the new things.
after a heavy day,
he had thrown himself on his bed and had scarcely fallen asleep like a
stone when his wife would pull the cover off him, crying: 'Get up,
it is morning.'
'How can it
he thought; 'I've only just lain down.' All the same he had to gather
bones together, when each one individually held to the bed; willy-nilly
he had to get up. So hard was the resolution sometimes, that he even
with pleasure of the eternal sleep, when his wife would no longer stand
over him and urge: 'Get up, wash...you'll be late; they'll take it off
would dress, and
drag the equally tired horses out of the stable, so overcome with sleep
that he would pause on the threshold and mutter, 'I shall stay at
But he was afraid of his wife, and he
also knew very
he could not make both ends meet at the gospodarstwo without his wages.
that was different.
He slept as long as he liked. Sometimes his wife pulled him by the leg
from habit and said: 'Get up, Josef.' But, opening only one eye, lest
should run away from him, he would
and sleep, maybe, till the church bell rang for Mass at seven o'clock.
to get up for now. Maciek had long ago finished the spring-work in the
fields; the Jews had left the village, carrying their business farther
afield, following the new railway line now under construction, and no
sent for him from the manor--for there was no manor. He smoked,
about for days together in the yard, or looked at the abundantly
corn. His favourite pastime, however, was to watch the Germans, whose
were shooting up like mushrooms.
By the end
of May Hamer and
two or three others had finished building, and their gospodarstwos were
pleasant to look at. They resembled each other like drops of water;
one stood in the middle of its fields,
the garden was
by the roadside,
shut off by a wooden fence; the house, roughcast, consisted of four
rooms, and behind it was a good- sized square of farm-buildings.
buildings were larger
and loftier than those of the Polish peasants, and were clean and
although they looked stiff and severe; for while the roofs of the
gospodarstwos overhung on the four sides, those of the Germans did so
at the front and back.
had large windows,
divided into six squares, and the doors were made by the carpenter.
who daily ran over to the settlement reported that there were wooden
and that the kitchen was a separate room with an iron-plated stove.
sometimes dreamt that
he would build a place like that, only with a different roof. Then he
jump up, because he felt he ought to go somewhere and do work, for he
bored and ashamed of idling; at times he would long for the
over which he had guided the plough, where the settlement now stood.
a great fear would seize him that he would be powerless when the
who had felled forests, shattered rocks and driven away the squire,
start on him in earnest.
always reassured himself.
He had been neighbours with them now for two months and they had done
no harm. They worked quietly, minded their cattle so that they should
stray, and even their children were not troublesome, but went to school
at Hamer's house, where the infirm schoolmaster kept them in order.
he satisfied himself. 'I'm better off with them than with the squire.'
He was, for
they bought from
him and paid well. In less than a month he had taken a hundred roubles
from them; at the manor this had meant a whole year's toil.
think, Josef, that
the Germans will always go on buying from you?' his wife asked from
to time. 'They have their own gospodarstwos now, and better ones than
you will see, it will last through the summer at the best, and after
they won't buy a stick from us.'
see,' said the
on the advantages which he would reap from the building of the new
had not the engineer promised him this? He even laid in provisions with
this object, having to go farther afield, for the peasants in the
would no longer sell him anything.
But he soon
prices had risen; the Germans had long ago scoured the neighbourhood
bought without bargaining.
Once he met
Josel who, instead
of smiling maliciously at him as usual, asked him to enter into a
transaction with him.
cottage on your
land for my brother-in-law.'
to set up a shop
and deal with the railway people, else the Germans will take away all
business from under our noses.'
don't want a Jew on
my land,' he said. 'I shouldn't be the first to be eaten up by you
want to live with
a Jew, but you are not afraid to pray with the Germans,' said the Jew,
pale with anger.
made to feel the
profound unpopularity he had incurred in the village. At church on
hardly anyone answered him 'In Eternity', and when he passed a group he
would hear loud talk of heresy, and God's judgment which would follow.
therefore ordered a Mass
one Sunday, on the advice of his wife, and went to confession with her
and Jendrek; but this did not improve matters, for the villagers
over their beer in the evening what deadly sin he might have been
of to go to confession and pray so fervently.
appeared and came furtively to ask for her vodka. Once, when her tongue
was loosened, she said: 'They say you have turned into a
true,' she added, 'there is only one
Germans are a filthy thing!'
now began mysteriously
to disappear with their carts at dawn of day, carrying large quantities
of provisions with them. Slimak investigated this matter, getting up
himself. Soon he saw a tiny
in the direction
which they had taken. It grew larger towards evening, and he became
that it was the approaching railway line.
scoundrels!' he said
to his wife, 'they've been keeping this secret so as to steal a march
me, but I shall drive over.'
his wife; 'those railway people were to have been our best customers.'
to go next day,
but overslept himself, and Slimakowa barely succeeded in driving him
the day after.
on the way from the peasants. Many of them had volunteered for work,
only a few had been taken on, and those had soon returned, tired out.
work, not men's,'
they told him; 'yet it might be worth your while taking the horses, for
carters earn four roubles a day.'
roubles a day!' thought
Slimak, laying on to the horses.
He drove on
smartly and soon
came alongside the great mounds of clay on which strangers were at
huge, strong, bearded men, wheeling largebarrows. Slimak could not
enough at their strength and industry.
none of our men
would do this,' he thought.
No one paid
to him or spoke to him. At last two Jews caught sight of him and one
'What do you want, gospodarz?' The embarrassed peasant twisted his cap
in his hands.
'I came to
ask whether the
gentlemen wanted any barley or lard?'
man,' said the Jew,
'we have our regular contractors; a nice mess we should be in, if we
to buy every sack of barley from the peasants!'
be great people,'
thought Slimak, 'they won't buy from the peasants, they must be buying
from the gentry.'
So he bowed
to the ground
before the Jew, who was on the point of walking away.
the favour of
being allowed to cart for the gentlemen.'
humility pleased the
there, my dear fellow,'
he said, 'perhaps they will take you on.'
bowed again and made
his way through the crowd with difficulty. Among other carts he saw
of the settlers.
to meet him; he seemed to be in a position of some authority there.
you want?' he asked.
'I want a
job too.' The settler
get one here!'
Slimak was looking
round, he went to the inspector and spoke to him.
for carters,' the
latter at once shouted, 'no work! As it is we have too many, you are
getting in people's way. Be off!' The brutal way in which this order
given so bewildered the peasant that, in turning, he almost upset his
he drove off at full speed, feeling as if he had offended some great
which had worked enough destruction already and was now turning hills
valleys and valleys into hills.
gradually he reflected
more calmly. People from the village had been taken on, and he
seeing peasants' carts at the embankment. Why had he been driven away?
quite clear that some
one wished to shut him out.
outdoing the Jews,' he muttered and felt a horror of the Germans for
He told his
that there was no work, and betook himself to the settlement. Old Hamer
seemed to be in the middle of a heated argument with Hirschgold and two
other men. When he caught sight of the peasant he took them into the
'he knows what I've come for. I'll tell him straight to his face when
every step his courage
failed him more and more. He hesitated between his desire to turn back
and his unwillingness to lose a job; he hung about the fences, and
at the women digging in their gardens. A murmur like the hum of a
caught his ears: one of the windows in Hamer's house was open and he
into a schoolroom.
One of the
children was reciting
something in a clamorous voice, the others were talking under their
The schoolmaster was standing in the middle of the room, calling out
from time to time.
When he saw
Slimak, he beckoned
to his daughter to take his place, and the hubbub of voices increased.
Slimak watched her trying to cope with the children.
schoolmaster came up
behind him, walking heavily.
come to see how
we teach our children?' he asked, smilingly.
the kind,' said
Slimak; 'I've come to tell Hamer that he is a scoundrel.' He related
I done?' he asked.
'Soon I may not be able to earn anything; is one to starve because it
is,' said the
schoolmaster, 'that you are a thorn in their flesh.'
is right in the
middle of Hamer's fields and that spoils his farm, but that is not the
reason as much as your hill; he wants it for a windmill. They have
but level ground; it's the best land in the settlement, but no good for
a windmill; if they don't put it up, one of the other settlers will.'
are they so crazy
after a windmill?'
matters a great
deal to them; if Wilhelm had a windmill he could marry Miller Knap's
from Wolka and get a thousand and twenty roubles with her; the Hamers
go bankrupt without that money.
That's why you
their throats. If you sold them your land they would pay you well.'
won't sell! I will
neither help them to stay here nor do myself harm for their benefit;
a man leaves the land of his fathers...'
the schoolmaster said earnestly.
there be; I won't
die because it pleases them.'
returned home without
any further wish to see Hamer; he knew there could be no understanding
dawn one morning that a crowd had reached the river-bank by the
and Slimak, hurrying thither, found some gospodarze from the village
going to throw
up a dam and build a bridge across the Bialka,' Wisniewski replied.
are you doing here?'
been taken on to
discovered the Hamers
in the crowd.
neighbours you are!'
he said bitterly, going up to them. 'Here you are sending all the way
the village for carts, and you won't let me have a job.'
send for you when
you are living in the village,' Fritz answered, and turned his back.
standing near them, and Slimak turned to him and took off his cap.
justice, sir?' he
said. 'The Germans are getting rich on the railway, and I don't earn a
kopek. Last year two gentlemen came and promised that I should make a
of money. Well, your honours are building the railway now, but I've
yet taken my horses out of the stable. A German with thirty acres of
is having a good job, and I have only ten acres and a wife and children
to keep, as well as the farmhand and the girl. We shall have to starve,
and it's all because the Germans have a grudge against me.'
spoken rapidly and
breathlessly, and after a moment of surprise the old man turned to
you not take him
looked insolently at
'Is it you
who has to answer
for the cartage or I? Will you pay my fines when the men fail me? I
on those whom I can trust.'
The old man
bit his lip,
but did not reply.
help you, my brother,'
he said; 'you shall drive me as often as I come to this neighbourhood.
It isn't much, but every little helps. Where do you live?'
pointed to his cottage;
he was longing to speak further, but the old man turned to give some
and the peasant could only embrace
waylaid him on
the way back.
'Do you see
now how badly
you have done for yourself? You will do even worse, for Fritz is
greater than Fritz.'
roubles an acre and settle on the other side of the Bug? You will have
twice as much land.'
not go to the other
side of the Bug for double the money; you go, if you like!'
angry men were looking
back at each other, the one was standing with a stubborn face, his pipe
between his clenched teeth, the other with folded arms, smiling sadly.
Each was afraid of the other.
embankment was growing
slowly from west to east. Before long thousands of carriages would roll
along its line with the speed of birds, to enrich the powerful, shatter
the poor, spread new customs and manners, multiply crime...all this is
called 'the advancement of civilization'. But Slimak knew nothing of
and its boons, and therefore looked upon this outcome of it as ominous.
The encroaching line seemed to him like the tongue of some vast
and the mounds of earth to forebode four graves, his own and those of
wife and children.
had been watching
its progress, which he considered an entire revolution of the laws of
he said, 'to heap up so much sand on the fields near the river, and
the bed; when the Bialka swells, it will overflow.'
that the ends
of the embankment were touching the river, but as they had been
by brick walls he took no alarm. Nevertheless, it struck him that the
were hurriedly throwing up
dams on their
the lower places.
folk!' he thought,
and contemplated doing the same, and strengthening the dams with
as soon as he had cut the hay. It occurred to him that he might do it
when he had plenty of time, but, as usual, it remained a good intention.
It was the
beginning of July,
when the hay had been cut and people were gradually preparing for the
Slimak had stacked his hay in the backyard, but the Germans were still
driving in stakes and throwing up
of that year was
remarkable for great heat; the bees swarmed, the corn was ripening
the Bialka was shallower than usual, and three of the workmen died of
Experienced farmers feared either prolonged rain during the harvest or
hail before long. One day the storm came.
had been hot
and sultry, the birds did not sing, the pigs refused to eat and hid in
the shade behind the farmbuildings; the wind rose and fell, it blew now
hot and dry, now cool and damp. By about ten
large part of
the sky was lined with heavy clouds, shading from ashen-grey into
and perfect black; at times this sooty mass, seeking an outlet upon the
earth, burst asunder, revealing a sinister light through the crevices.
Then again the clouds lowered themselves and drowned the tops of the
trees in mists. But a hot wind soon drove them upwards again and tore
off them, so that they hung ragged over the fields.
fiery cloud appeared
behind the village church; it seemed to be flying at full speed along
railway embankment, driven by the west wind; at the same time the north
wind sprang up and buffeted it
from the side;
up from the highroads and sandhills, and the clouds began to growl.
heard the sound,
the workmen left their tools and barrows, and filed away in two
etachments, one to the manor-house, the other to their huts. The
and settlers turned the sand out of
with all speed
and galloped home. The cattle were driven in from the fields, the women
left their gardens; every place became deserted.
announced ever-fresh legions pressing into the sky and obscuring the
It seemed as if the earth were cowering in their presence, as a
cowers before the hovering hawk. The blackthorn and juniper bushes
to caution with a low, swishing noise; the troubled dust hid in the
where the young ears whispered to each other; the distant forests
in the overcharged
clouds, an evil force, with strong desire to emulate the Creator, was
It took the limp element and formed an island, but before it had time
say, 'It is good', the wind had blown the island away. It raised a
mountain, but before the summit had crowned it, the base had been blown
from underneath. Now it created a lion, now a huge bird, but soon only
torn wings and a shapeless torso dissolved into darkness. Then, seeing
thatthe works fashioned by the eternal hands endured, and that its own
phantom creations could not resist even the feeblest wind, the evil
was seized with a great anger and determined to destroy the earth.
It sent a
flash into the
river, then thundered, 'Strike those fieldswith hail! drench the hill!'
And the obedient clouds flung themselves down. The wind whistled the
the rain beat the drum; like hounds released from the leash the clouds
bounded forward...downward, following the direction to which the
of lightning pointed. The evil spirit had put out the sun.
the exhausted storm calmed down, and now the roar of the Bialka could
distinctly heard. It had broken down the banks, flooded the highroad
fields with dirty water and formed a
of the railway embankment.
however, the storm
had gathered fresh strength, the darkness increased, lightning seemed
flash from all parts of the horizon; perpendicular torrents of rain
the earth in sheets of mist. The inmates of Slimak's cottage had
in the front room; Maciek sat yawning on a corner of the bench, Magda,
beside him, nursed the baby, singing to it in a low voice; Slimakowa
vexed that the storm was putting the fire out; Slimak was looking out
the window, thinking of his crops. Jendrek was the only cheerful one;
ran out from time to time, wetting himself to the skin, and tried to
his brother or Magda to join him in these excursions.
Stasiek,' he cried,
pulling him by the hand, 'it's such a warm rain, it will wash you and
alone,' said his
father; 'he is peevish.'
run out yourself,'
added his mother, 'you are flooding the whole room.... The Word was
Flesh,' she added under her breath, as a terrific clap of thunder shook
the house. Magda crossed herself; Jendrek laughed and cried, 'What a
there's another.... The Lord Jesus is enjoying Himself, firing off....'
you silly,' called
his mother; 'it may strike you!'
the boy boldly. 'They'll take me into the army and shoot at me, but I
mind!' He ran out again.
rascal! he isn't afraid
of anything,' Slimakowa said to her husband with pride in her voice.
shrugged his shoulders.
that group of people
with iron nerves there was one who felt all the terror of this upheaval
of the elements. How was it that Stasiek, a peasant child, was so
birds he had felt
the coming storm, had roamed about restlessly and watched the clouds,
that they were taking council together, and he guessed that their
were evil. He felt the pain of the beaten-down grass and shivered at
thought of the earth being chilled under sheets of water. The
in the air made his flesh tingle, the lightning dazzled him, and each
of thunder was like a blow on his head. It was not that he was afraid
the storm, but he suffered under it, and his suffering spirit pondered.
whence do such
terrible things come?'
from the room
to the alcove, from the alcove to the room, as if he had lost his way,
gazed absently out of the window and lay down on the bench, feeling all
the more miserable because no one took
any notice of
to talk to Maciek,
but he was asleep; he tried Magda and found her absorbed in the baby;
was afraid of Jendrek's dragging him out of doors if he spoke to him.
last he clung to his mother, but she was cross because of the fire and
pushed him away.
thing I should
amuse you, when the dinner is being spoilt!' He roamed about again,
leant against his father's knee.
said in a low
voice, 'why is the storm so bad?'
'It must be
began to feel a little
more cheerful, but his father happened to shift his position, and the
thought he had been pushed away again. He crept under the bench where
lay, and although the dog was soaking wet, he pressed close to him and
laid his head on the faithful creature.
his mother caught
sight of him.
the matter with
the boy?' she cried. 'Just you come away from there, or the lightning
strike you! Out into the passage, Burek!'
for a piece of
wood, and the dog crept out with his tail between his legs. Stasiek was
left again to his restlessness, alone in a roomful of people. Even his
mother was now struck by his miserable face and gave him a piece of
to comfort him. He bit off a mouthful, but could not swallow it and
what's the matter? Are you frightened?'
are you so queer?'
me here,' he said,
pointing to his chest.
himself, thinking of his harvest, drew him to his knee, saying: 'Don't
worry! God may destroy our crop, but we won't starve all the same. He
the smallest, and yet he has more sense than
he said, turning
to his wife; 'he's worrying about the gospodarstwo.'
as the storm abated,
the roar of the river struck them afresh. Slimak quickly drew on his
you going?' asked
He went and
It's just as I thought.'
'Is it the
much, but the dam is broken.'
is up to our yard.
Those scoundrel Swabians have dammed up
and that has
taken some more off the hill.'
looked into the
stable?' asked Maciek.
likely I shouldn't?
There's water in the stable, water in the cowshed, look! even the
is flooded; but the rain is stopping, we must bale out.'
dry again if God
gives fine weather.'
were baling in the house and farm-buildings; the fire was burning
and the sun peeped out from behind the clouds.
other bank of the
river the Germans were at work. Barelegged, and armed with long poles,
they waded carefully through the flooded fields towards the river to
the drifting logs.
he was not tingling all over now. From time to time he still fancied he
heard the thunder, and strained his ears, but it was only the noise of
the others baling with wooden grain measures. There was much commotion
in the passage where Jendrek pushed Magda about instead of baling.
there,' cried his
mother, 'when I get hold of something hard I'll beat you black and
he could tell by a shade in her voice that she was no longer cross.
returned to Stasiek's
heart. Supposing he were to peep out into the yard... would there still
be a terrible black cloud? Why not try? He put his head out of the back
door and saw the blue sky flecked with
eastwards. The cock was flapping his wings and crowing, heavy drops
sparkling on the bushes, golden streaks of sunlight penetrated into the
passage, and bright reflections from
the surface of
beckoned to him.
He flew out
the pools of water, delighting in the rainbow-coloured sheaves that
spurting from under his feet; he stood on a plank and punted himself
with a stick, pretending that he was sailing in deep water.
Jendrek!' he called.
and go on baling,'
called out Slimakowa.
were still busy
landing wood; whenever they got hold of a specially large piece they
'Hurrah!' Suddenly some big logs came floating down, and this raised
enthusiasm to such a pitch
the 'Wacht am Rhein'. For the first time in his life Stasiek, who was
sensitive to music, heard a men's chorus sung in parts. It seemed to
into one with the bright sun; both intoxicated him; he forgot where he
was and what he was doing, he stood petrified. Waves seemed to be
towards him from the river, embracing and caressing him with invisible
arms, drawing him irresistibly. He wanted to turn towards the house or
call Jendrek, but he could only move forward, slowly, as in a dream,
and disappeared down the hill.
were singing the
third verse of the 'Wacht am Rhein', when they suddenly stopped and
Maciek had stopped
in their work to listen to the singing; the sudden cries surprised
but it was the labourer who was seized with apprehension.
gospodarz,' he said;
something they have
taken into their heads!'
cry rose again.
mind, run, gospodarz,'
the man urged; 'I can't keep up with you, and something....'
towards the river,
and Maciek painfully dragged himself after him. Jendrek overtook him.
Where is Stasiek?'
stopped and heard
a powerful voice calling out:
way you look
after your children, Polish beasts!'
appeared on the
hill, holding Stasiek in his arms. The boy's head was resting on his
his right arm hung limply. Dirty water was flowing from them both.
lips were livid, his eyes wide open. Jendrek ran towards him, slipped
the boggy hillside, scrambled up and shouted in terror:
mad,' cried the
boy; 'he's sitting on your arm!'
Stasiek by the
shirt, and the boy's head fell over his father's shoulder.
'But he was
in the backyard
a minute ago.'
not answer, he
supported Stasiek's head and stumbled forward.
was standing in
the passage, shading her eyes and waiting.
has he been up
to now?... What's this? Has it fallen on Stasiek again? Curse those
and their singing!'
She went up
to the boy and,
taking his hand, said in a trembling voice:
mind, Stasiek, don't
roll your eyes like that, never mind! Come to your senses, I won't
you. Magda, fetch some water.'
'He has had
more than enough
water,' murmured Slimak.
matter with him?
Why is he so wet?'
taken him out of
the pool by the river.'
was only up to
my waist, but it did for him.'
don't you turn
him upside down? Maciek, take him by the feet...oh, you clumsy fellows!'
labourer did not stir.
She seized the boy herself by the legs.
struck the ground
heavily with his hands; a little blood ran from his nose.
the child from
her and carried him into the cottage, where he laid him down on the
They all followed him except Magda, who ran aimlessly round the yard
then, with outstretched arms, on to
if you believe in God!' She returned to the cottage, but dared not go
crouched on the threshold with her head on her knees, groaning:
you believe in God.'
dashed into the alcove,
put on his sukmana and ran out, he did not know whither; he felt he
seemed to cry to
him: 'Father...father...if you had put up a fence, your child would not
have been drowned!'
And the man
is not my fault; the Germans bewitched him with their singing.'
A cart was
on the highroad and stopped in front of the cottage. The schoolmaster
out, bareheaded and with his rod in his hand. 'How is the boy?' he
out, but did not wait for an answer
into the cottage.
lying on the
bench, his mother was supporting his head on her knees and whispering
herself: 'He's coming to, he's a little warmer.'
schoolmaster nudged Maciek:
'How is he?'
'What do I
know? She says
he's better, but the boy doesn't move, no, he doesn't move.'
schoolmaster went up
to the boy and told his mother to make room. She got up obediently and
watched the old man breathlessly, with open mouth, sobbing now and
Slimak peeped through the open window from time to time, but he was
to bear the sight of his child's pale face. The schoolmaster stripped
wet clothes off the little body and slowly raised and lowered his arms.
There was silence while the others
unable to contain herself any longer, pulled her hair down and then
her head against the wall.
were you ever born?'
she moaned, 'a child of gold! He recovered from all his illnesses and
he is drowned.... Merciful God! why dost Thou punish me so? Drowned
a puppy in a muddy pool, and no one to help!'
down on her knees,
while the schoolmaster persevered for half an hour, listening for the
of the child's heart from time to time, but no sign of life appeared
seeing that he could do no more, he covered the child's body with a
silently said a prayer and went out. Maciek followed him.
In the yard
he came upon
Slimak; he looked like a drunken man.
you come here
for, schoolmaster?' he choked. 'Haven't you done us enough harm? You've
killed my child with your singing...do you want to destroy his soul too
as it is leaving him, or do you mean to bring a curse on the rest of
that you are saying?'
said the schoolmaster in amazement.
arms and gasped for breath.
me, sir,' he said,
'I know you are a good man.... God reward you,' he kissed his hand;
my Stasiek died through your fault all the same: you bewitched him.'
cried the schoolmaster,
'are we not Christians like you? Do we not put away Satan and his deeds
as you do?'
was it he got drowned?'
'How do I
know? He may have
water was so shallow
he might have scrambled out, only your singing...that was the second
it bewitched him so that something fell on him...isn't it true, Maciek?'
boy have fits?'
asked the schoolmaster.
'And has he
never been ill?'
shook his head. 'He's
been ill since the winter.'
speaking the truth;
Stasiek has been ill ever since he took a cold; he couldn't run without
getting out of breath; once I saw it fall upon him while I was
I had to go and bring him round.'
you never say anything
'I did tell
but she told me to mind my own business and not to talk like a barber.'
see,' said the
schoolmaster, the boy was suffering from a weak heart and that killed
he would have died young in any case.'
and his consciousness seemed to return.
be that?' he murmured.
'Did the boy die a natural death?'
at the window and
the woman came out, rubbing her swollen eyes.
you tell me that
Stasiek had been ill since the winter, and couldn't run without feeling
he wasn't well,'
she said; 'but what good could you have done?'
have done anything,
for if he was to die, he was to die.'
if he was to die he was to die; he must have felt it coming to-day
the storm, when he went about clinging to everyone...if only it had
my head not to let him out of my sight... if I had only locked him
hour had come, he
would have died in the cottage,' said the schoolmaster, departing.
resignation was entering
into the hearts of those who mourned for Stasiek. They comforted each
saying that no hair falls from our heads without God's will.
the wild beasts
die unless it is God's will,' said Slimak: 'a hare may be shot at and
and then die in the open field, so that you can catch it with your
case,' said Maciek:
'the cart crushed me and they took me to the hospital, and here I am
but when my hour has struck I shall die, even if I were to hide under
altar. So it was with Stasiek.'
one, my comfort!'
sobbed the mother.
wouldn't have been
much comfort,' said Slimak; 'he couldn't have done heavy farm work.'
no!' put in Maciek.
never have made
a peasant; he was such a peculiar child, he didn't care for farm work;
all he cared for was roaming about and gazing into the river.'
he would talk to
the grass and the birds, I have heard it myself,' said Maciek, 'and
times have I thought: "Poor thing! what will you do when you grow up?
be a queer fish even among gentlefolk, but what will it be like for you
among the peasants?"'
evening Slimak carried
Stasiek on to the bed in the alcove; his mother laid two copper coins
his eyes and lit the candle in front of the Madonna.
down straw in the
room, but neither of them could sleep; Burek howled all night, Magda
feverish; Jendrek continually raised himself from the straw, for he
his brother had moved. But Stasiek did not move.
morning Slimak made
a little coffin; carpentering came so easily to him that he could not
smiling contentedly at his own work now and then. But when he
what he was doing, he was seized with
passionate grief that
he threw down his tools and ran out, he knew not whither.
third day Maciek harnessed
the horses to the cart, and they drove to the village church, Jendrek
close to the coffin and steadying it, so that it should not rock. He
tapped, and listened if his brother were not calling.
was silent. He
was silent when they drove to the church, silent when the priest
holy water on him, silent when they took him to his grave and his
helped the gravedigger to lower him, and when they threw clods of earth
upon him and left him alone for the first time.
burst into tears.
Slimak hid his face in his sukmana like a Roman senator and would not
his grief be looked upon.
And a voice
in his heart
whispered: 'Father! father! if you had made a fence, your child would
have been drowned!'
answered: 'I am not
guilty; he died because his hour had come.'