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The Sentence 

by Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
Page 2
Yakób went over to the window. The snow was lying deep on the fields, like a shimmering coat of varnish; the world was bathed in the light of a pale, wan moon. The forest-trees stood out here and there in blue points, like teeth. Large and brilliant the stars looked down, and above the milky way, veiled in vapours, hung the sickle of the moon.

While in the immensity of the night cold and glittering worlds were bowing down before the eternal, Yakób looked, and noticed something approaching from the mountains. Along the heights and slopes there was
a long chain of lights; it was opening out from the centre into two lines on either side, which looked as though they were lost in the forest. Below them there were confused gleams in the fields, and behind, in the distance, the glow of the burning homesteads.

'They have burned the vicarage,' thought Yakób, and his heart answered: 'and here am I...watching.'

He pressed against the window-frame, glued his grey face to the panes and, trembling with cold, sent out an obstinate and hostile glance into space, as though determined to obtain permission to keep his own heritage.

Suddenly he pricked up his ears. Something was approaching from the distance across the forest very cautiously. The snow was creaking under the advancing steps. In the great silence it sounded like the forging
of iron. Those were horses' hoofs stamping the snow.

This sound, suppressed as it was, produced in him a peculiar sensation which starts in the head and grips you in the nape of the neck, the consciousness that someone is hiding close to you.

Yakob stood quite still at the window, not even moving his pipe from one corner of his mouth to the other. Not he himself seemed to be trembling, only his rags.

The door was suddenly thrown open and a soldier appeared on the threshold. The light of a lantern which was suspended on his chest, filled the room.

Yakob's blood was freezing. Cossacks, hairy like bears, were standing in the opening of the door, the snow which covered them was shining like a white flame. In the courtyard there were steaming horses; lanceheads were glittering like reliquaries.

Yakob understood that they were calling him 'old man', and asking him questions. He extended his hands to express that he knew nothing. Some of the Cossacks entered, and made signs to him to make up the fire.

He noticed that they were bringing more horses into the yard, small, shaggy ponies like wolves.

He became calmer, and his fear disappeared; he only remained cautious and observant; everything that happened seemed to take hours, yet he saw it with precision.

'It is cold...it is cold!'

He made up the fire for these bandits who stretched themselves on the benches; he felt they were talking and laughing about him, and he turned to them and nodded; he thought it would please them if he showed that he approved of them. They asked him about God knows what, where they were, and where they were not. As though he knew!

Then they started all over again, while they swung their booted legs under the seats. One of them came up to the hearth, and clapped the crouching Yakob on his back for fun, but it hurt. It was a resounding smack. Yakob scratched himself and rumpled his hair, unable to understand.

They boiled water and made tea; a smell of sausages spread about the room. Yakob bit his jaws together and looked at the fire. He sat in his place as though he had been glued to it.

His ears were tingling when he heard the soldiers grinding their teeth on their food, tearing the skin off the sausages and smacking their lips.

A large and painful void was gaping in his inside.

They devoured their food fast and noisily, and an odour of brandy began to fill the room, and contracted Yakob's throat.

He understood that they were inviting him to share the meal, but he felt uneasy about that, and though his stomach seemed to have shrunk, and the sausage-skins and bones which they had thrown away lay quite
close to him, he could not make up his mind to move and pick them up.

'Come on!'

The soldier beckoned to him. 'Come here!'

The old man felt that he was weakening, the savoury smell took possession of him.

But 'I shan't go,' he thought. The soldier, gnawing a bone, repeated, 'Come on!'

'I shan't go,' thought Yakob, and spat into the fire, to assure himself that he was not going. All the same...the terribly tempting smell made him more and more feeble.

At last two of them got up, took him under the arms, and sat him down between them.

They made signs to him, they held the sausage under his nose; the tea was steaming, the brandy smelt delicious.

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