|'That is a
lie, a lie, a
lie!' he cried, beating his chest; his hair stood on end. The soldiers
sat down in a row on the stones. They were young, cold, tired.
they'll play the
deuce with you.'
glancing sideways at them.
old ass,' remarked
one of them.
began again, 'I
was sitting, looking at the snow....'
He had a
great longing to
talk to them, they looked as if they would understand, although they
some fire...do you come from these parts yourselves?' They did not
of his cottage,
the bread and sausage, the black horse at the cross-roads.
me,' he sobbed,
covering his face with his rags.
soldiers shrugged their
shoulders: 'Why did you let them?'
cried the old
man. But tears would no longer wash away a conviction which was taking
possession of him, searing his soul as the flames seared the pines.
did you let them? Aren't you ashamed of yourself?'
No, he was
not ashamed of
himself for that. But that he had shown them the way...the way they had
come by...what did it all mean? All his tears would not wash away this
conviction: that he had shown them the
they had come
the hills, the village was burning, the mill was burning...a black mass
of people was surrounding him. More and more wounded came in from the
covered with grey mud. The flying
the mill fell
at his feet.
detachment of soldiers
old man,' cried
his guard; 'we're off!' Yakób jumped to his feet, hitched up his
trousers, and went off perplexed, under cover of four bayonets that
to carry a piece of sky between them like a starred canopy.
grew as he approached
the village. He did not see the familiar cottages and hedges; he felt
though he were moving onwards without a goal. Moving onwards and yet
getting any farther. Moving onwards
and yet hoping
not to get
to the end of the journey.
his pipe and paid
no attention to anything; but the village was on his conscience.
which filled his
heart was nob like that which he had felt when the Cossacks arrived,
a senseless fear, depriving him of sight and hearing...as though there
were no place for him in the world.
going too fast?'
asked the guard hearing Yakób's heavy breathing.
all right,' he
answered cheerfully. The friendly words had taken his fear away.
easy,' said the
soldier. 'We will go more slowly. Here's a dry cigarette, smoke.'
turning round, he
offered Yakob a cigarette, which he put behind his ear.
entered the village.
It smelt of burning, like a gipsy camp. The road seemed to waver in the
flickering of the flames, the wind howled in the timber.
looked at the sky.
Darkness and stars melted into one.
not look at the
village. He knew there were only women and children in the cottages,
men had all gone. This thought was a relief to him, he hardly knew why.
of soldiers, instead of going to the manor-house, had turned down a
road which led to the mill. They stopped and formed fours. Every stone
here was familiar to Yakob, and yet, standing in the snow up to his
he was puzzled as to where he was. If he could only sleep off this
did not recognize the road...the night was far advanced, and the
not asleep as usual...if they would only let him go home!