he sat, among these
armed bandits. They were dressed in sheepskins and warm materials, had
sheepskin caps on their heads; there was he with his bare arms, in
grey trousers, his shirt
together at the
neck with a piece of wood. Sitting among them, defenceless as a
without anyone belonging to him, puffing clouds of smoke, he inwardly
this adventure, in which everything had turned out so well. The
looked at the fire, and they too said: 'This is very nice, very nice.'
would not a blazing
fire on a cold winter's night appeal?
more and more talkative
and asked: 'Where are your wife and children?' They probably too had
he said, 'has
gone down to the village, she was afraid.' They laughed and tapped
chests: 'War is a bad thing, who would not be afraid?' Yakób
all the more readily as he felt that for him the worst was over.
know the way to the
village?' suddenly asked the captain. He was almost hidden in clouds of
tobacco-smoke, but in his eyes there was a gleam, hard and sinister,
a bullet in a puff of smoke.
did not answer.
How should he not know the way?
started getting up,
buckled on their belts and swords.
jumped up to
give them the rest of the sausages and food which had been left on the
plates. But they would only take the brandy, and left the tobacco and
be for you...afterwards,'
said the young Cossack, took a red muffler off his neck and put it
keep you warm.'
at him, and submitted to having the muffler knotted tightly round his
The young soldier drew a pair of trousers from his kitbag: 'Those will
keep you warm, you are old.' He told him a long story about the
they had belonged to his brother who had been killed.
it's lucky to
wear things like that. Poor old fellow!'
and looked at
the breeches. In the fire-light they seemed to be trembling like feeble
and stricken legs. He laid his hand on them and smiled, a little
and a little touched.
have them, you may
have them,' grunted the captain, and insisted on his putting them on at
When he had
put them on in
the chimney-corner and showed himself, they were all doubled up with
He looked appalling in the black trousers which were much too large for
him, a grey hood and the red muffler. His head wobbled above the red
as if it had been fixed on a bleeding neck. The rags on his chest
the thin, hairy body, the stiff folds of the breeches produced an
as if he were not walking on the ground but floating above it.
gave the command,
the soldiers jumped up and looked once more round the cottage; the
Cossack put the sausage and meat in a heap and covered it with a piece
of bread. 'For you,' he said once
more, and they
out with them
to bid them Godspeed. A vague presentiment seized him on the threshold,
when he looked out at the frozen world, the stars, like nails fixed
the sky, and the light of the moon on
went up to their
horses, and he saw that there were others outside. The wind ruffled the
shaggy little ponies' manes and threw snow upon them. The horses,
began to bite each other, and the Cossacks, scattered on the snow like
juniper-bushes, reined them in.
open. The lucky horseshoe, nailed to the threshold, glittered in the
of the hearth, which threw blood-red streaks between the legs of the
across the door and beyond it on to the snow.
whether they will
ever return to their families?' he thought, and: 'How queer it is that
one should meet people like that.'
sorry for them.