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The Sentence 

by Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
Page 5
The captain touched his arm and asked the way.

'Straight on.'

'Far?'

'No, not far, not at all far.'

'Where is it?'

The little group stood in front of him by the side of their wolf-like ponies. He drew back into the cottage.

The thought confusedly crossed his mind: 'After all, we did sit
together and ate together, two and two, like friends.'

He began hurriedly, 'Turn to the left at the crossroads, then across the fields as far as Gregor's cottage...'

The captain made a sign that he did not understand.

He thought: 'Perhaps they will lose their way and make a fuss; then they will come back to the cottage and eat the meat. I will go with them as far as the cross-roads.'

They crept down the road, passed the clump of pine-trees which came out in a point beside the brook, and went along the valley on the slippery stones. A large block of ice lay across the brook, shaped like a silver
plough; the waves surrounded it as with golden crescents. The snow creaked under the soldiers' feet. Yakób walked beside them on his sandals, like a silent ghost.

'Now keep straight on as far as the cross,' he said, pointing to a dark object with a long shadow. 'I can't see anything,' said the captain. He accompanied them as far as the cross, by the side of which stood a little shrine; the wan saint was wearing a crown of icicles.

From that point the village could be seen across the fields. Yakób discovered that the chain of lights which he had observed earlier in the evening, had come down from the mountains, for it now seemed to be close to the village.

Silence reigned in the sleeping world, every step could be heard.

This silence filled Yakób's heart with a wild fear; he turned round with a feeling of helplessness and looked back at his cottage. Probably the fire was now going out; a red glow appeared and disappeared on the
windows.

Beyond the cross the road lay through low-lying ground, and was crossed by another road which led abruptly downwards into fields. Yakob hesitated.

'Come on, old man, come on,' they called to him, and walked on without waiting for his answer. The Cossacks dug their heels into the rugged ice of the road, and tumbled about in all directions. They had left
their horses at the cross-roads. Each one kept a close hold on his gun, so that there should be no noise. They were whispering to each other; it sounded as if a congregation were murmuring their prayers. Yakób led
them, and mentally he held fast to every bush, every lump of ice, saying to himself at every step that now he was going to leave them, they could not miss the road now. But he was afraid.

They no longer whispered, they had become taciturn as they pushed onwards, stumbling, breathing hard.

'As far as Gregor's cottage, and then no more!'

The effect of the drink was passing off. He rubbed his eyes, drew his rags across his chest. 'What was he doing, leading these people about on this night?'

He suddenly stopped where the field-road crossed theirs; the soldiers in front and behind threw themselves down. It was as if the ground had swallowed them.

A black horse was standing in the middle of the road, with extended nostrils. Its black mane, covered with hoar-frost, was tossed about its head; the saddle-bags, which were fur-lined, swung in the breeze; large
dark drops were falling from its leg to the ground.

'Damn it!' cursed the captain.

The horse looked meekly at them, and stretched its head forward submissively. Yakób was sorry for the creature; perhaps one could do something for it. He stood still beside it, and again pointed out the road.

'I have done enough, I shan't go any further!' He scratched his head and smiled, thinking that this was a good opportunity for escape.

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