The fury of the storm matched the fierce battle for life taking place within the old farmhouse. The screams of pain and the howling wind made a terrible duet that never seemed to end. On and on it went, hour after hour until as if on cue, silence. Dead silence.
“No one wanted the brat, anyway. Not even its mother. So, it is dead, so what? A bastard! One less mouth to feed. The woman was a good worker. Strong and quick. Who will take up the slack? Aeh? Who is going to do that? What about the other one? That sniveling girl. Them that can’t work, don’t eat. I got enough trouble here. Get her out of my sight.” The man flung himself down on a wooden bench, burying his head in his hands.
The child was pushed out of the room and left to cry alone in the hall. They wrapped the bodies of her mother and the infant in an old sheet. She watched them carry the corpses out into the yard. That was what they had done with her father after the bull had gored him. She remembered how the blood had soaked through the sheets even after he was loaded on the wagon. Her mother had told her that he was with God now. She had not wanted him to be with God. She had wanted him here. Her mother had slapped her hard across the face for saying that. She had said that there were worse things than dying. Now her mother was with God. Why did God take everyone and leave her here? Didn’t He want her? God had even taken the baby. Her mother had hated it. She had tried to get rid of it. The child had heard people talking. She did not understand the words, but she knew there was some terrible secret about her mother and the baby.
She wiped her runny nose on her dirty sleeve. Her eyes were swollen with the crying, and she was very, very hungry. She could not remember a time without hunger but knew better than to complain. Sometimes, if her mother was feeding the pigs, there were potato peelings and other good things to eat. Her mother had not been able to work for the last day or two. No one had paid any attention to the child. She had found a turnip, and scraped the porridge pot, but now it had been a long time since she had eaten anything. The tears began to flow again, but now they were for her.
It was beginning to get dark, still, no one had come for her. The ox-drawn wagon with the bodies of her mother and the baby waited there for the driver to return. He had gone into the house to have a drink with the farmer. Cold, hungry, and tired, she climbed up, crawled under the driver’s seat, covered herself with straw, and fell fast asleep. When the wagon began to move, the child slept on. The driver was paid to take two bodies to the churchyard, and so he did. He did not receive a sou for the third.