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The Sentence 

by Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
Page 6
'Come on,' hissed the captain so venomously in his ear that he marched forward without delay; they followed.

A dull fear mixed with resentment gripped him with terrible force. He now ran at the head like a sheep worried by watch-dogs.

They stopped in front of the cottage, silent, breathless, expectant.

Yakob looked at his companions with boundless astonishment. Their faces under their fur-caps had a tense, cruel look, their brows were wrinkled, their eyes glittered.

From all sides other Cossacks were advancing.

He noticed only now that there were some lying concealed behind the fence on the straw in a confused mass.

He shuddered; thick drops of perspiration stood on his forehead. The beating of his heart filled his head like the noise of a hammer, it seemed to fill everything. In spite of the feeling that he was being forced to do this thing, he again heard the voice calling: 'Yakob, Yakob!'

Up the hillock where Gregor's cottage stood, they advanced on all fours.

He clambered upwards, thinking of his wife, and of the cow he had loosed. Fear veiled his eyes, he saw black spots dancing.

Gregor's cottage was empty as a graveyard. It had been abandoned; the open doors creaked on their hinges. Under the window stood a cradle, covered with snow.

Silently the soldiers surrounded the cottage, and Yakob went with them, as though mesmerized by terror, mute and miserable.

They had hardly got round, when a red glow shot up from the other side of the village. The soldiers threw themselves down in the snow.

The thundering of guns began on all sides; blood-red lights came flying overhead. An appalling noise broke out, reinforced by the echo from the mountains, as though the whole world were going to perish. The Cossacks advanced, trembling.

Yakob advanced with them, for the captain had hit him across the head. He saw stars when he received the blow, gesticulated wildly, and staggered along the road.

He could distinguish the road running out from the forest like a silver thread. As they advanced, they came under a diabolically heavy rifle fire; bullets were raining upon them from all sides.

Here and there he heard moans already, when one of the soldiers fell bleeding on the snow. Close to him fell the young Cossack who had given him the muffler and breeches. He held out his hand, groaning. Yakob
wanted to stop, but the captain would not let him, but rapped him over the head again with his knuckles.

The soldiers lay in heaps. The rest wavered, fell back, hid in the ditch or threw themselves down. The rifle-fire came nearer, the outlines and faces of the advancing enemy could already be distinguished. Another blow on the head stretched Yakob to the ground, and he feigned death. The Cossacks retreated, the others advanced, and he understood that they belonged to his friends.

When he got up, he was immediately surrounded by them, taken by the scruff of the neck and so violently shaken, that he tumbled on his knees. Gunfire was roaring from the mountains, shadows of soldiers flitted past him, the wounded Cossacks groaned in the snow. Young, well-nourished looking men were bending over him.

Looking up into their faces, he crossed his hands over his chest and laughed joyfully.

'Ah, those Russians, those Russians...the villains!' he croaked, 'aho, aho, ho hurlai!' He rolled his tear-filled eyes.

Things were happening thick and fast. From where the chimney stood close to the water, near the manor-house, the village was burning. He could feel the heat and soot and hear the shouting of the crowd through the noise of the gunfire. Now he would see his wife and children again, the friendly soldiers surely had saved them. The young Cossack was still struggling on the ground; now he stretched himself out for his
eternal sleep. 'Ah, the villains!' Yakob repeated; the great happiness which filled his heart rushed to his lips in incoherent babblings. 'The villains, they have served me nicely!'

He felt his bleeding head, crouched on his heels and got up. The fleshy red faces were still passing close to him, breathing harder and harder. Fear rose and fell in him like the flames of the burning village; again
everything was swallowed up in indescribable noise.

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