his hands on the
table, then put them behind him. Black shadows were gesticulating on
walls. He felt unhappy about sharing a meal with people without knowing
what they were, never having seen or known them before. They were
thus much he knew. He had a vision of something that happened long ago,
he could not distinctly remember what it was, for it happened so very
ago; his grandfather
had come home
from the fair
that was held in the town, shivering and groaning. There had been
going to poison
me like a dog,' he thought.
was changing and
moaning under the roof. The fire flickered up and went down; the red
and the darkness were dancing together on the walls. The wan moon was
in at the window. Yakob was sitting on the bench among the soldiers
his own ghost.
surely going to
poison me,' he kept repeating to himself. He was still racking his
as to what it was that had happened so long ago to his grandfather
the fair, at the inn. God knows what it was... who could know anything?
going to poison
were heaving with
his breath, he was trying to breathe carefully, so as not to smell the
on the walls
seemed to jeer at him. The soldiers were beginning to talk thickly;
mouths, their fingers were shining with grease. They took off their
and laid their swords aside. The one next to Yakob put his arm round
neck and whispered in his ear; his red mouth was quite close; he passed
his hand over Yakob's head, and brought his arm right round his throat.
He was young and he was talking of his father.
said, and put
the sausage between his teeth.
to clench his
teeth; but he bit the sausage at the same time.
said the young soldier
again, holding out the sausage for another bite; he stroked his head,
into his eyes, and laughed. Yakob was sorry for himself. Was he to be
like a half-blind old man? Couldn't he eat by himself?
soldiers saw that
Yakob was eating, they burst into shouts of laughter, and stamped their
feet, rattling their spurs.
they were laughing
at him, and it made him easier in his mind to see that he was affording
them pleasure. He purposely made himself ridiculous with the vague idea
that he must do something for them in
what they were
giving him; they struck him on the shoulder-blades to see him gasp with
his beanlike mouth, and to see the frightened smile run over his face
a flash of lightning.
He ate as
though from bravado,
but he ate well. They started drinking again. Yakob looked at them with
eagerness, his arms folded over his stomach, his head bent forward; the
hairy hand of the captain put the
bottle to his
could laugh his own
natural laugh again, and not only from bravado, for he felt quite
His frozen body was getting warmed through.
He felt as
if a great danger
had irrevocably passed.
he became garrulous,
although they hardly understood what he was talking about: 'Yes, the
was good... to be sure!' He nodded his head and clicked his tongue; he
also approved of the huge chunks of bread, and whenever the bottle was
passed round, he put his head on one side and folded his hands, as if
were listening to a sermon. From his neighbour's encircling black
the old face peeped out with equanimity, looking like a withering poppy.
the loquacious Cossack
would say from time to time, and point in the direction of the
tears were standing in his eyes.
put his swollen
hand on his, and waited for him to say more.
held his hand,
pointed in the direction of the mountains again, and sniffled.
respects old age... they
are human, there's no denying it,' thought Yakób, and got up to
put more wood on the fire.
hold of him,
they would not allow him to do it. A young soldier jumped up: 'Sit
you are old.'
held out his
empty pipe, and the captain himself filled it.