went over to
the window. The snow was lying deep on the fields, like a shimmering
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.
the immensity of
the night cold and glittering worlds were bowing down before the
Yakób looked, and noticed something approaching from the
Along the heights and slopes there was
a long chain
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
gleams in the fields, and behind, in the distance, the glow of the
burned the vicarage,'
thought Yakób, and his heart answered: 'and here am
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.
pricked up his
ears. Something was approaching from the distance across the forest
cautiously. The snow was creaking under the advancing steps. In the
silence it sounded like the forging
of iron. Those
hoofs stamping the snow.
it was, produced in him a peculiar sensation which starts in the head
grips you in the nape of the neck, the consciousness that someone is
close to you.
quite still at
the window, not even moving his pipe from one corner of his mouth to
other. Not he himself seemed to be trembling, only his rags.
was suddenly thrown
open and a soldier appeared on the threshold. The light of a lantern
was suspended on his chest, filled the room.
blood was freezing.
Cossacks, hairy like bears, were standing in the opening of the door,
snow which covered them was shining like a white flame. In the
there were steaming horses; lanceheads were glittering like reliquaries.
understood that they
were calling him 'old man', and asking him questions. He extended his
to express that he knew nothing. Some of the Cossacks entered, and made
signs to him to make up the fire.
that they were
bringing more horses into the yard, small, shaggy ponies like wolves.
calmer, and his
fear disappeared; he only remained cautious and observant; everything
happened seemed to take hours, yet he saw it with precision.
cold...it is cold!'
He made up
the fire for these
bandits who stretched themselves on the benches; he felt they were
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
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
rumpled his hair, unable to understand.
water and made
tea; a smell of sausages spread about the room. Yakob bit his jaws
and looked at the fire. He sat in his place as though he had been glued
were tingling when
he heard the soldiers grinding their teeth on their food, tearing the
off the sausages and smacking their lips.
A large and
was gaping in his inside.
devoured their food
fast and noisily, and an odour of brandy began to fill the room, and
understood that they were
inviting him to share the meal, but he felt uneasy about that, and
his stomach seemed to have shrunk, and the sausage-skins and bones
they had thrown away lay quite
close to him,
he could not
make up his mind to move and pick them up.
beckoned to him.
The old man
felt that he
was weakening, the savoury smell took possession of him.
shan't go,' he thought.
The soldier, gnawing a bone, repeated, 'Come on!'
go,' thought Yakob,
and spat into the fire, to assure himself that he was not going. All
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.
signs to him, they
held the sausage under his nose; the tea was steaming, the brandy smelt