(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

It is autumn, and the peasants of Lipka village are hurrying to finish the harvest before winter. In Matthias Boryna’s barnyard, the villagers gather to see a cow that had been chased from manor lands and is now dying of colic. Hanka, Matthias’s daughter-in-law, takes the loss most to heart when old Kuba, the stableman, says that he can do nothing for the stricken cow.

That night, Matthias, charged with having fathered a servant girl’s child, goes to visit the voyt, the headman of the village, to ask about his trial. The voyt, after assuring Matthias that he will get off easily in court, flatters Matthias and tells him he should marry again, now that his second wife is dead. Matthias pretends he is too old, but he is hopeful of marrying Yagna, the daughter of Dominikova. Yagna will some day inherit three acres of land. The next morning, the case against Matthias is dismissed. After the trial, Matthias meets Dominikova and tries to sound her out on her plans for her daughter.

On the day of the autumn sale, Matthias sells some hogs, and Hanka her geese. Old Matthias, pleased when Yagna accepts some bright ribbons, asks her hand in marriage. He does not know that his son, Antek, Hanka’s husband, is secretly in love with Yagna. When Matthias settles six acres upon Yagna in return for the three she brought with her marriage portion, Antek and his father fight, and Matthias orders his son off the farm. Antek and Hanka move with their children into the miserable cabin of Hanka’s father.

The wedding of Matthias and Yagna is a hilarious affair. In the middle of the merriment, Kuba, poaching on manor lands, is shot in the leg by a gamekeeper. Fearing the hospital, he cuts off his own leg and dies from loss of blood.

Winter comes swiftly, and wolves lurk near the peasants’ stock barns. That winter, Hanka and Antek have to sell their cow so they can get food. Antek takes work with men building a new sawmill. Matthew, the foreman, is his enemy, for Matthew also loves Yagna. One day, Antek overhears Matthew bragging that he has been with Yagna in her bedroom. In a great fury, Antek strikes Matthew so hard that the carpenter breaks several ribs when he falls over the railing and into the river.

At Christmas, there is great rejoicing in Matthias’s house, for Yagna is pregnant. At the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, Yagna and Antek see each other for a moment. Antek asks her to meet him behind the haystack. That winter, the peasants of the village come to Matthias to report that a part of the forest that the peasants use for gathering wood has been sold by the manor people. Unhappily, Matthias allows himself to be dragged into the dispute. While Matthias is away, Antek goes to his father’s farm to see Yagna. Returning, Matthias nearly catches them together.

One night at the...

(The entire section is 1170 words.)