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The Path of Life by Stijn Streuvels

Part 3 out of 3

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Zeen pulled up his bent back, wiped the sweat from his forehead with his
bare arm and drew a short breath.

Zalia, with her head close to the ground, went on binding her sheaves.

The sun was blazing.

After a while, Zeen took up his sickle again and went on cutting down the
corn. With short, even strokes, with a swing of his arm, the sickle rose
and, with a "d-zin-n-n" fell at the foot of the cornstalks and brought
them down in great armfuls. Then they were hooked away and dragged back
in little even heaps, ready to be bound up.

It did not last long: he stopped again, looked round over all that power
of corn which still had to be cut and beyond, over that swarming plain,
which lay scorching, so hugely far, under that merciless sun. He saw
Zalia look askant because he did not go on working and, to account for
his resting, drew his whetstone from his trouser-pocket and began slowly
to sharpen the sickle.

"Zalia, it's so hot."

"Yes, it's that," said Zalia.

He worked on again, but slowly, very slackly.

The sweat ran in great drops down his body; and sometimes he felt as if
he would tumble head foremost into the corn. Zalia heard his breath come
short and fast; she looked at him and asked what was the matter. His arms
dropped feebly to his sides; and the hook and sickle fell from his hands.

"Zalia, I don't know ... but something's catching my breath like; and my
eyes are dim...."

"It's the heat, Zeen, it'll wear off. Take a pull."

She fetched the bottle of gin from the grass edge of the field, poured a
sip down his throat and stood looking to see how it worked:


Zeen did not answer, but stood there shivering and staring, with his eyes
fixed on a bluebonnet in the cut corn.

"Come, come, Zeen, get it done! Have just another try: it'll get cooler
directly and we'll be finished before dark."

"Oh, Zalia, it's so awfully hot here and it'll be long before it's

"But, Zeen, what do you feel?"

Zeen made no movement.

"Are you ill?"

"Yes, I am, Zalia. No, not ill, but I feel so queer and I think I ought
to go home."

Zalia did not know what to do: she was frightened and did not understand
his funny talk.

"If you're ill ... if you can't go on, you'd better get home quick:
you're standing there like a booby."

Zeen left his sickle on the ground and went straight off the field. She
saw him go slowly, the poor old soul, lurching like a drunken man, and
disappear behind the trees. Then she took her straw-band and bundled up
all the little heaps of corn, one after the other, and bound them into
sheaves. She next took the sickle and the hook and just went cutting away
like a man: stubbornly, steadily, with a frenzied determination to get it
done. The more the corn fell, the quicker she made the sickle whizz.

The sweat ran down her face; now and then, she jogged back the straw hat
from over her eyes to see how much was left standing and then went on
cutting, on and on. She panted in the doing of it.... She was there
alone, on that outstretched field, in that heat which weighed upon her
like a heavy load; it was stifling. She heard no sound besides the swish
of her steel and the rustling of the falling corn.

When at last she could go on no longer, she took a sip at the bottle and
got new strength.

The sun was low in the sky when she stood there alone on the smooth
field, with all the corn lying flat at her feet. Then she started

The air grew cooler. When the last sheaf was fastened in its straw-band
and they now stood set up in heavy stooks, like black giants in straight
rows, it began to grow dark. She wiped the sweat from her face, slipped
on her blue striped jacket, put the bottle in her hat, took the sickle
and hook on her shoulder and, before going, stood for a while looking at
her work. She could now see so very far across that close-shorn plain;
she stood there so alone, so tall in that stubble-field, everything lay
so flat and, far away over there, the trees stood black and that mill and
the fellow walking there: all as though drawn with ink on the sky. It
seemed to her as if the summer was now past and that heavy sultriness was
a last cramped sigh before the coming of the short days and the cold.

She went home. Zeen was ill and it was so strange to be going back
without him. It was all so dreary, so dim and deadly, so awful. Along the
edge of the deep sunken path the grasshoppers chirped here and there, all
around her: an endless chirping on every side, all over the grass and the
field; and it went like a gentle woof of voices softly singing. This
singing at last began to chatter in her ears and it became a whining
rustle, a deafening tumult and a painful laughter. From behind the
pollard her cat jumped on to the path: it had come to the field to meet
her and, purring cosily, was now arching its back and loitering between
Zalia's legs until she stroked it; then it ran home before her with great
bounds. The goat, hearing steps approach, put its head over the
stable-door and began to bleat.

The house-door was open; as she went in, Zalia saw not a thing before her
eyes, but she heard something creaking on the floor. It was Zeen, trying
to scramble to his feet when he heard her come in.

"Zeen!" she cried.

"Yes," moaned Zeen.

"How are you? No better yet? Where are you?... Why are you lying flat on
the floor like this?"

"Zalia, I'm so ill ... my stomach and...."

"You've never been ill yet, Zeen! It won't be anything this time."

"I'm ill now, Zalia."

"Wait, I'll get a light. Why aren't you in bed?"

"In bed, in bed ... then it'll be for good, Zalia; I'm afraid of my bed."

She felt along the ceiling for the lamp, then in the corner of the hearth
for the tinder-box; she struck fire and lit up.

Zeen looked pale, yellow, deathlike. Zalia was startled by it, but, to
comfort him:

"It'll be nothing, Zeen," she said. "I'll give you a little Haarlem oil."

She pulled him on to a chair, fetched the little bottle, put a few drops
into a bowl of milk and poured it down his throat.

"Is it doing you good?"

And Zeen, to say something, said:

"Yes, it is, Zalia, but I'd like to go to sleep, I'm feeling cold now and
I've got needles sticking into my side ... here, see?"

And he pressed both his hands on the place.

"Yes, you're better in bed; it'll be gone in the morning and we'll fetch
in the corn."

"Is it cut?"

"All done and stooked; if it keeps fine to-morrow, we'll get it all into
the barn."

Zalia lifted him under his armpits and they crawled on like that into the
other room, where the loom stood with the bed behind it. She helped him
take off his jacket and trousers and put him to bed, tucked him nicely
under the blanket and put his night-cap on his head.

Then she went and lit the fire in the hearth, hung up the pot with the
goat's food, washed the potatoes and sat down to peel them for supper.

She had not peeled three, when she heard Zeen bringing up.

"That's the oil, it'll do him good," she thought and, fetching a can of
water from outside, gave him a bowl to drink.

Then she went back to her peeling. A bit later, she sat thinking of other
remedies--limeflowers, sunflower-seeds, pearl barley, flowers of
sulphur--when suddenly she saw Mite Kornelje go by. She ran out and


"What is it, Zalia?"

"Mite, Zeen is ill."

"What, ill? All at once?"

"Yes, all of a sudden, cutting the corn in the field."

"Is he bad?"

"I don't know, I've given him some Haarlem oil, he's been sick; he's
complaining of pains in his side and in his stomach; he's very pale: you
wouldn't know him."

They went indoors. Zalia took the lamp and both passed in, between the
loom and the wall by Zeen's bed.

He lay staring at the ceiling and catching his breath. Mite stood looking
at him.

"You must give him some English salt,[11] Zalia."

[11] Epsom salts.

"Why, Mite, I never thought of that; yes, he must have some English

And she climbed on to a chair and took from the plank above the bed a
dusty calabash full of little paper bags and packets.

She opened them one by one and found canary-seed, blacklead,
washing-blue, powdered cloves, cinnamon, sugar-candy, burnt-ash ... but
no English salt.

"I'll run home and fetch some, Zalia."

"Yes, Mite, do."

And Mite went off.

"Well, Zeen, no better yet?"

Zeen did not answer. She took a pail of water and a cloth, cleaned away
the mess from beside the bed and then went back to peel her potatoes.

Mite came back with the English salt. Treze Wizeur and Stanse Zegers, who
had heard the news, also came to see how Zeen was getting on. Mite
stirred a handful of the salt in a bowl of water and they all four went
to the sick man's bed. Zeen swallowed the draught without blinking. Mite
knew of other remedies, Stanse knew of some too and Treze of many more:
they asked Zeen questions and babbled to him, made him put out his tongue
and felt his pulse, cried out at his gasping for breath and his pale
colour and his dilated pupils and his burning fever. Zeen did not stir
and lay looking at the ceiling. When he was tired of the noise, he said:

"Leave me alone."

And he turned his face to the wall.

Then they all went back to the kitchen. The goat's food was done. Zalia
hung the kettle with water on the hook and made coffee; and the four
women sat round the table telling one another stories of illness. In the
other room there was no sound.

A bit later, Mite's little girl came to see where mother was all this
time. She was given a lump of sugar and sat down by her mother.

"Zalia, have you only one lamp?" asked Treze.

"That's all, Treze, but I have the candle."

"What candle?"

"The blessed candle."

"We've not come to that yet: it's only that Zeen has to lie in the dark
like this and we have to go to and fro with the lamp to look at him."

"Zeen would rather lie in the dark."

"I'll tell you what: Fietje shall run home and fetch something, won't
you, Fietje? And say that mother is going to stay here because Zeen is

Fietje went off. The coffee was ready and when they had gulped down their
first bowl, they went to have another look in the room where the sick man

Zeen was worse.

"We must sit up with him," said Stanse.

"For sure," said Treze. "I'll go and tell my man: I'll be back at once."

"Tell Free as you're passing that I'm staying here too," said Stanse.

"We must eat, for all that," said Zalia; and she hung the potatoes over
the fire.

Then she went to milk the goat and take it its food. It was bright as day
outside and quiet, so very quiet, with still some of the heat of the sun
lingering in the air, which weighed sultrily. She crept into the dark
goat-house, put down the pot with the food and started milking.

"Betje, Betje, Zeen is so ill; Zeen may be dying, Betje!"

She always clacked to her goat like that. Two streams of milk came
clattering in turns into the little pail.

People came: Treze and Mite's little girl, with a lantern, and Barbara
Dekkers, who had also come to have a look.

"I'm here," said Zalia, "I've done, I'm coming at once."

They stood talking a bit outside in the moonlight and then went in.

"Perhaps my man'll come on," said Treze. "A man is better than three
women in illness; and Virginie's coming too: I've been to tell her."

"Well, well," said Barbara, "who'd ever have thought it of Zeen!"

"Yes, friends, and never been ill in his life; and he turned seventy."

Stanse mashed the potatoes; Zalia poured a drain of milk over them and
hung them over the fire again.

"Have you all had your suppers?" she asked.

"Yes," said Treze and Barbara and Mite.

"I haven't," said Stanse.

Zalia turned the steaming potato-mash into an earthen porringer and she
and Stanse sat down to it. The others drank a fresh bowl of coffee.

They were silent.

The door opened and from behind the screen came a great big fellow with a
black beard:

"What's up here? A whole gathering of people: is it harvest-treat to-day,
Zalia? Why, here's Barbara and Mite and...."

"Warten, Zeen is ill."

"Zeen?... Ill?"

"Yes, ill, man, and we're sitting up."

Warten opened wide eyes, flung the box which he carried over his shoulder
by a leather strap to the ground and sat down on it:

"Ha! So Zeen's ill... he's not one of the youngest either."


They were silent. The womenfolk drank their coffee. Warten fished out a
pipe and tobacco from under his blue smock and sat looking at the rings
of smoke that wound up to the ceiling.

"Well, perhaps I've come at the right time, if that's so."

"You can help sit up."

"Have you had your supper, Warten?"

"Yes, Zalia, at the farm."

"And how's trade?" asked Stanse.

"Quietly, old girl."

They heard a moaning in the other room. Barbara lit the lantern and all
went to look. Warten stayed behind, smoking.

Zeen lay there, on a poverty-stricken little bed, low down near the
ground, behind the loom, huddled deep on his bolster under a dirty
blanket: a thin little black chap, leaning against a pillow in the
dancing twilight of the lantern. His eyes were closed and his bony face
half-hidden in the blue night-cap. His breath rustled; and each puff from
his hoarse throat, blowing out the thin flesh of his cheeks, escaped
through a little opening on one side of his sunken lips, which each time
opened and shut.

"Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!" cried Barbara.

"That's bad, that's bad," said Stanse and shook her head.

"His eyes are shut and yet he's not asleep!"

"Zeen! Zeen!" cried Mite and she pushed him back by his forehead to make
him look up. "Zeen! Zeen! It's I: don't you know Mite?"

"Oof!" sighed Zeen; and his head dropped down again without his eyes

"He's got the fever," said Barbara. "Just feel how his forehead's burning
and he's as hot as fire."

"Haven't you poulticed him?" asked Stanse. "He wants poultices on his
feet: mustard."

"We haven't any mustard and it's far to the village."

"Then he must have a bran bath, Zalia. Stanse, put on the kettle."

"Have you any bran, Zalia?"

"No, not ready; but there's maize."

"And a sieve?"

"Yes, there's a sieve."

"Hi, Warten, come and sift!"

Warten came in:

"Zeen, how are you, my boy? Oh, how thin he is! And his breath ... it's
spluttering, that's bad. He'll go off quickly, Barbara, it seems to me."

"Not to-night," said Treze.

"Warten, go to the loft, take the lamp and sift out a handful of maize;
Zeen must have a bran bath at once."

Warten went up the stair. After a while, they heard above their heads the
regular, jogging drag of the sieve over the boarded ceiling and the fine
meal-dust snowed down through the cracks, whirling round the lamp, and
fell on Zeen's bed and on the women standing round.

Zeen nodded his head. They held a bowl of milk to his mouth; two little
white streaks ran down from the corners of his mouth into his

The sieve went on dragging. The women looked at Zeen, then at one another
and then at the lantern. In the kitchen, the kettle sang drearily....

Warten came down from the loft with half a pailful of bran. Barbara
poured the steaming water on it and flung in a handful of salt.

They took the clothes off the bed and pulled his feet into the
bran-water. Zeen groaned; he opened his eyes wide and looked round wildly
at all those people.

He hung there for a very long time, with his lean black legs out of the
bed and the bony knees and shrunk thighs in the insipid, sickly-smelling
steam of the bran-water. Then they lifted him out and stuck his wet feet
under the bedclothes again. Zeen did not stir, but just lay with the
rattle in his throat.

"What a sad sick man," said Stanse, softly.

Mite wanted to give him some food, eggs: it might be faintness.

Treze wanted to bring him round with gin: her husband had once....

"Is there any, for the night?..." asked Stanse.

"There's a whole bottle over there, in the cupboard."

Zeen opened his eyes--two green, glazed eyes, which no longer saw
things--and wriggled his arms from under the clothes:

"Why don't you make the goat stop bleating?" he stammered.

They looked at one another.

"Zalia, why won't you speak to me?... And what are all these people doing
here?... I don't want any one to help me die!... I and Zalia.... I and
Zalia.... Look, how beautiful! Zalia, the procession's going up the wall
there.... Why don't you look?... It's so beautiful!... And I, I'm the
only ugly one in it...."

"He's wandering," whispered Treze.

"And what's that chap doing here, Zalia?"

"It's I, Zeen, I: Warten the spectacle-man."

His eyes fell to again and his cheeks again blew the breath through the
little slit of his mouth. It rattled; and the fever rose.

"It'll be to-night," said Treze.

"Where can Virginie be? She'll come too late."

"Virginie is better than three doctors or a priest either," thought Mite.

"Zalia, I think I'd get out the candle."

Zalia went to the chest and got out the candle.

"Mother, I'm frightened," whined Fietje.

"You mustn't be frightened of dead people, child; you must get used to

"Have you any holy water, Zalia?"

"Oh, yes, Barbara: it's in the little pot over the bed!"

"And blessed palm?"

"Behind the crucifix."

There was a creaking in the kitchen and Virginie appeared past the loom:
a little old woman huddled in her hooded cloak; in one hand she carried a
little lantern and in the other a big prayer-book. She came quietly up to
the bed, looked at Zeen for some time, felt his pulse and then, looking
up, said, very quietly:

"Zeen's going.... Has the priest been?"

"The priest?... It's so far and so late and the poor soul's so old...."

"What have you given him?"

"Haarlem oil, English salt...."

"And we put his feet in bran water."

Virginie stood thinking.

"Have you any linseed-meal?" she asked.


"Then ... but it's too late now, any way...."

And she looked into the sick man's eyes again.

"He's very far gone," thought Mite.

"Got worse quickly," said Barbara.

Zalia said nothing; she stood at the foot of the bed, looking at her
husband and then at the women who were saying what they thought of him.

"Get the blessed candle; we must pray, good people," said Virginie; and
she put on her spectacles and went and stood with her book under the

The women knelt on low chairs or on the floor. Warten stood with his
elbows leaning on the rail of the bed, at Zeen's head. Treze took the
blessed candle out of its paper covering and lit it at the lamp.

Zeen's chest rose and fell and his throat rattled painfully; his eyes
stood gazing dimly at the rafters of the ceiling; his thin lips were pale
and his face turned blue with the pain; he no longer looked like a living

Virginie read very slowly, with a dismal, drawling voice, through her
nose, while Treze held Zeen's weak fingers closed round the candle. It
was still as death.

"May the Light of the World, Christ Jesus, Who is symbolized by this
candle, brightly light thy eyes that thou mayest not depart this life in
death everlasting. Our Father...."

They softly muttered this Our Father and it remained solemnly still, with
only Warten's rough grunting and Zeen's painful breathing and the goat
which kept ramming its head against the wall. And then, slower by

"Depart, O Christian soul, from this sorrowful world; go to meet thy dear
Bridegroom, Christ Jesus, and carry a lighted candle in thy hands: He

Then Barbara, interrupting her, whispered:

"Look, Virginie, he's getting worse; the rattle's getting fainter: turn
over, you'll be too late."

Treze was tired of holding Zeen's hand round the candle: she spilt a few
drops of wax on the rail of the bed and stuck the candle on it.

Zeen jerked himself up, put his hands under the clothes and fumbled with
them; then he lay still.

"He's packing up," whispered Barbara.

"He's going," one of the others thought.

Virginie dipped the palm-branch into the holy water and sprinkled the bed
and the bystanders; then she read on:

"Go forth, O Christian soul, out of this world, in the name of God the
Father Almighty, Who created thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son
of the living God, Who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Ghost,
Who sanctified thee."

"Hurry, hurry, Virginie: he's almost stopped breathing!"

The cat jumped between Zalia and Treze on to the bed and went making
dough with its front paws on the clothes; it looked surprised at all
those people and purred softly. Warten drove it away with his cap.

"Receive, O Lord, Thy servant Zeen into the place of salvation which he
hopes to obtain through Thy mercy."

"Amen," they all answered.

"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant from all danger of hell and
from all pain and tribulation."


"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant Zeen, as Thou deliveredst Enoch
and Elias from the common death of the world."


"Deliver, O Lord, the soul of Thy servant Zeen, as Thou deliveredst...."

"I'm on fire! I'm on fire!" howled Warten. "My smock! My smock!"

And he jumped over all the chairs and rushed outside, with the others
after him.

"Caught fire at the candle!" he cried, quite out of breath.

They put out the flames, pulled the smock over his head and poured water
on his back, where his underclothes were smouldering.

"My smock, my smock!" he went on moaning. "Brand-new! Cost me forty-six

And he stood with his smock in his hands, looking at the huge holes and

They made a great noise, all together, and their sharp voices rang far
and wide into the still night.

Virginie alone had remained by the bedside. She picked up the candle, lit
it again, put it back on the rail of the bed and then went on reading the
prayers. When she saw that Zeen lay very calmly and no longer breathed,
she sprinkled him with holy water for the last time and then went

"People ... he's with the Lord."

It was as if their fright had made them forget what was happening
indoors: they rushed in, eager to know ... and Zeen was dead.

"Stone-dead," said Barbara.

"Hopped the twig!" said Warten.

"Quick! Hurry! The tobacco-seed will be tainted!" screamed Mite; and she
snatched down two or three linen bags which hung from the rafters and
carried them outside.

First they moaned; then they tried to comfort one another, especially
Zalia, who had dropped into a chair and turned very pale.

Then they set to work: Treze filled the little glasses; Barbara hung the
water over the fire; and Warten, in his shirt-sleeves, stropped his razor
to shave Zeen's beard.

"And the children! The children who are not here!" moaned Zalia. "He
ought to have seen the children!"

"First say the prayers," ordered Virginie.

All knelt down and, while Warten shaved the dead man, it went:

"Come to his assistance, all ye saints of God; meet him, all ye angels of
God: receiving his soul, offering it in the sight of the Most High....

"To Thee, O Lord, we commend the soul of Thy servant, that being dead to
this world, he may live to Thee; and whatever sins he has committed in
this life, through human frailty, do Thou, in Thy most merciful goodness,

"Amen," they answered.

Virginie shut her book, once more sprinkled holy water on the corpse and
went home, praying as she went.

Zalia made the sign of the Cross and closed her husband's eyes; then she
laid a white towel on a little table by the bed and put the candle on it
and the crucifix and the holy water.

Warten and Barbara took Zeen out of the bed and put him on a chair,
washed him all over with luke-warm water, put a clean shirt on him and
his Sunday clothes over him; then they laid him on the bed again.

"He'll soon begin to must," said Barbara.

"The weather's warm."

"He's very bent: how'll they get him into the coffin?"

"Crack his back."

Treze looked round for a prayer-book to lay under Zeen's chin and a
crucifix and rosary for his hands.

Mite took a red handkerchief and bound it round his head to keep his
mouth closed. Fietje was still kneeling and saying Our Fathers.

"It's done now," said Barbara, with a deep sigh. "We'll have just one
more glass and then go to bed."

"Oh, dear people, stay a little longer!" whined Zalia. "Don't leave me
here alone."

"It's only," said Mite, "that it'll be light early to-morrow and we've
had no sleep yet."

"Come, come," said Barbara, to comfort her, "you mustn't take on now.
Zeen has lived his span and has died happily in his bed."

"Question is, shall we do as well?" said Mite.

"And Siska and Romenie and Kordula and the boys, who are not here! They
ought to have seen their father die!... The poor children, they'll cry

"They'll know it in good time," said Warten.

"And where are they living now?" asked Mite.

"In France, the two oldest ... and there's Miel, the soldier ... it's in
their letters, behind the glass."

"Give 'em to me," said Treze. "I'll make my boy write to-morrow, before
he goes to school."

They were going off.

"And I, who, with this all, don't know where I'm to sleep," said Warten.
"My old roost, over the goat-house: you'll be wanting that to-night,

Zalia wavered.

"Zalia could come with me," said Barbara.

"And leave the house alone? And who's to go to the priest to-morrow? And
to the carpenter? And my harvest, my harvest! Yes, yes, Warten, do you
get into the goat-house and help me a bit to-morrow. I shall sleep: why

"_Alla_[12], come, Fietje; mother's going home."

[12] A corruption of the French _allez!_

They went; and Zalia came a bit of the way with them. Their wooden shoes
clattered softly in the powdery sand of the white road; when they had
gone very far, their voices still rang loud and their figures looked like
wandering pollards.

In the east, a thin golden-red streak hung between two dark clouds. It
was very cool.

"Fine weather to-morrow," said Warten; and he trudged off to his
goat-house. "Good-night, Zalia."

"Good-night, Warten."

"Sleep well."

"Sleep well too and say another Our Father for Zeen."


She went in and bolted the door. Inside it all smelt of candle and the
musty odour of the corpse. She put out the fire in the hearth, dipped her
fingers once more in the holy water and made a cross over Zeen. While her
lips muttered the evening prayers, she took off her kerchief, her jacket
and her cap and let fall her skirt. Then she straddled across Zeen and
lay right against the wall. She twisted her feet in her shift and crept
carefully under the bed-clothes. She shuddered. Her thoughts turned like
the wind: her daughters were in service in France and were now sleeping
quietly and knew of nothing; her eldest, who was married, and her husband
and the children came only once a year to see their father; and even
then.... And now they would find him dead.

Her harvest ... and she was alone now, to get it in. Warten would go to
the priest early in the morning and to the carpenter: the priest ought to
have been here, 'twas a comfort after all; but Zeen had always been good
and ... now to go dying all at once like this, without the sacraments....

Why couldn't she sleep now? She was so tired, so worn out with that
reaping; and it was so warm here, so stifling and it smelt queer: what a
being could come to, when he was dead!

Had she slept at all? She had been lying there so long ... and there was
that smell! She wished she had sent Warten away and gone herself to lie
in the goat-house; here, beside that corpse ... but, after all, it was

The flame of the candle flickered and everything flickered with it--the
loom, the black rafters and the crucifix--in dark shadow-stripes upon the
wall. 'Twas that kept her awake. She sat up and blew from where she was,
but the flame danced more than ever and kept on burning. Then she
carefully stepped across Zeen and nipped out the candle with her fingers.
It was dark now.... She strode back into bed, stepping on Zeen's leg; and
the corpse shook and the stomach rumbled. She held herself tucked against
the wall, twisted and turned, pinched her eyes to, but did not sleep. The
smell got into her nose and throat and it became very irksome,
unbearable. And she got out of bed again, to open the window. A fresh
breeze blew into the room; far away beyond, the sky began to brighten;
and behind the cornfield she heard the singing beat of a sickle and the
whistling of a sad, drawling street-ditty:

"They're at work already."

Now she lay listening to the whizzing beat and the rustle of the falling
corn and that drawling, never-changing tune....

The funeral would be the day after to-morrow: already she saw all the
troop passing along the road and then in the church and then ... all
alone, home again. Zeen was dead now and she remained ... and all those
children, her children, who still had so long to live, would also grow
old, in their turn, and die ... ever on ... and all that misery and
slaving and then to go ... and Zeen, her Zeen, the Zeen of yesterday, who
was still alive then and not ill. Her Zeen; and she saw him as a young
man over forty years ago: a handsome chap he was. She had lived so long
with Zeen and had known him so well, better than her own self; and that
he should now be lying there beside her ... cold ... and never again ...
that he should now be dead.

Then she broke down and wept.

* * * * *


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