The old man
his name to himself, or rather he was inwardly listening to the sound
it which he had been accustomed to hear for so many years. He had heard
it in the stable, in the fields,
and on the
on the steps of the manor-house and at the Jew's, but never like this.
It seemed to issue from unknown depths, summoning sounds never heard
sights never yet seen, producing a confusion which he had never
He saw it, felt it everywhere; it was itself the cause of a hopeless
despair crept silently
into Yakob's fatalistic and submissive soul. He felt it under his hand,
as though he were holding another hand. He was as conscious of it as of
his hairy chest, his cold and starved body. This despair, moreover, was
blended with a kind of patient expectancy which was expressed by the
of his pale, trembling lips, the tepid sweat under his armpits, the
running into his throat and making his tongue feel rigid like a piece
what happened: he
tried to remember how it had all happened.
come swarming in
from everywhere; they had taken the men away; it was firearms
everywhere firearms, noise and hubbub. The whole world was pushing,
sweating or freezing. They arrived from this side or from that; they
questions, they hunted people down, they followed up a trail, they
Of course, one must not betray one's brothers, but then...who are one's
watches in the
mountains, in the forests, on the fields; they even drove people into
mountain-passes and told them to hold out at any cost.
had been sitting
in the chimney-corner in the straw and dust, covered with his frozen
The wind swept over the mountains and penetrated into the cottage,
with it a white covering of hoar-frost; it was sighing eerily in the
the fields themselves seemed to flee from it, and to be alive, running
away into the
earth in white
convulsions besieged the sky, and the sky got entangled in the
at the snow which was falling thickly, and tried to penetrate the veil
with his eyes. Stronger and faster raged the blizzard. Yakób's
became vacant under the rumbling of the storm and the driving of the
one could not have told whether he was looking with eyes or with lumps
were flitting across
the snowdrifts. They were the outlines of objects lit up by the fire;
trembled on the window-frames; the fire flickered, and the shadows
caressed the images of saints on the walls. The beam played on the
threw a red light on the short posts of the railing, and disappeared in
pursuit of the wind in the fields.
And he had
really had nothing
to do with it! It had all gone against him continuously,
and to no purpose. It had attached itself to him, clung to the dry
that flew about in atoms in the tin where the bit of cheese also was
It had bewitched the creaking of the windows on their hinges; it had
from the empty seats along the walls.
But he kept
on beating his
breast. His forehead was wrinkled in dried-up folds, his brows bristled
fantastically into shaggy, dirty tufts. His heavy, blunt nose, powdered
with hairs at the tip, stood out obstinately between two deep folds on
either side. These folds overhung the corners of his mouth, and were
below the chin by a network of pallid veins. A noise, light as a
wing, came in puffs from the half-open lips; they were swollen and
like an overgrown bean.
had been sitting
in Turkish fashion, his hands crossed over his chest, breathing forth
misery so quietly that it covered him, together with the hoar-frost,
his ears and made the tufts of hair on his chest glitter. He was
his sorrow to himself, abandoning the last remnant of hope, and longing
for deliverance. Behind the wrinkles of his forehead there swarmed a
not so much of pictures as of ghosts of the past, yet vividly present.
At last he
got up and sat
down on the bench in the chimney-corner, drew a pipe from his
and put it between his teeth, forgetting to light it. He laid his heavy
hands round the stem. Beyond the blizzard and the shadow-play of the
there appeared to him the scene of his wife and daughters' flight. He
given up everything he possessed, had taken off his sheepskin, had
loosened the cow from the post. For a short moment he had caught sight
of his wife and daughters again in the distance, tramping through the
as they passed the cross-roads, then they had been swallowed up in a
of people, horses, guns, carts, shouts and curses. Since then he had
fancied that he was being called, yet he knew that there was no one to
call him. His thoughts were entirely absorbed in what he had seen then.
With his wife all his possessions had gone. Now there was nothing but
surrounding him with a sharp breath of pain and death.
By day and
by night Yakob
had listened to the shots that struck his cottage and his pear-trees.
chewed a bit of cheese from time to time, and gulped down with it the
fear that his cottage might be set on fire.
and there, like
large red poppies on the snow, the glare of burning homesteads leapt up
into the sky.
said to himself, when he looked at these blood-red graves. He smiled at
the sticks of firewood on his hearth, which was the dearest thing on
to him. The walls of his cottage were one with his inmost being, and
moment when he saw them standing, seemed to him like precious savings
he was putting away. So he watched for several days; the vermin were
the place, and he was becoming desperate. Since mid-day the silence had
deepened; the day declined, and there was nothing in the world but