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The Sentence 

by Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
Page 9
The mill was burning out. Cinders were flying across from the granaries; the smoke bit into the eyes of the people who were standing about looking upwards, with their arms crossed.

Everything showed up brilliantly in the glare; the water was dripping from rung to rung of the silent wheel, and mixed its sound with that of the fire.

The adjoining buildings were fenced round with a small running fire; smoke whirled round the tumbling roof like a shock of hair shot through with flames. The faces of the bystanders assumed a metallic glow.

The wails of the miller and his family could be heard through the noise of battle, of water, and of fire.

It was as if the crumbling walls, the melting joints, the smoke, the cries were dripping down the wheel, transformed into blood, and were carried down by the black waves and swallowed up in the infinite abyss
of the night.

'They beat me....' Yakob justified himself to himself, when the tears rose to his eyes again. No tears could wash away the conviction that it was he who had shown them the way by which they had come.

The first detachment was waiting for the arrival of the second. It arrived, bringing in prisoners, Cossacks. A large number of them were being marched along; they did not walk in order but irregularly, like tired peasants. They were laughing, smoking cigarettes, and pushing against each other. Among them were those who had come to his cottage; he recognized the captain and others.

When they saw Yakob they waved their hands cordially and called out to him, 'Old man, old man!'

Yakob did not reply; he shrunk into himself. Shame filled his soul. He looked at them vacantly. His forehead was wrinkled as with a great effort to remember something, but he could think of nothing but a huge millwheel turning under red, smooth waves. Suddenly he remembered: it was the young Cossack who had given him his brother's clothes.

'The other one,' he shouted, pointing to his muffler, 'where did you leave him?'

Soldiers came between them and pushed the crowd away.

There was a terrific crash in the mill; a thick red cloud rushed upwards, dotted with sparks. Under this cloud an ever-increasing mass of people was flocking towards the spot where Yakob was; they were murmuring, pulling the soldiers by their cloaks. Women, children, and old men pressed in a circle round him, gesticulating, shouting: 'It was he...he...he!'

Words were lost in the chaos of sounds, faces became merely a dense mass, above which fists were flung upwards like stones.

Yakob tripped about among the soldiers like a fawn in a cage, raised and lowered his head, and clutched his rags; he could not shut his quivering mouth, and from his breast came a cry like the sob of a child.

The crowd turned upon him with fists and nails; he hid his face in his rags, stopped his ears with his fingers, and shook his head.

The prisoners had been dispatched, and it was Yakob's turn to be taken before the officer in command of the battalion.

'Say that I...that I...' Yakob entreated his guard.

'What are you in such a hurry for?'

'Say that I...'

The soldiers were sitting round a camp-fire, piling up the faggots. Soup was boiling in a cauldron.

'Say that I...' he begged again, standing in the thick smoke.

At last he was taken into the school-house.

The officer in command stood in the middle of the room with a cigarette between his fingers.

'I...I...' groaned Yakob, already in the door. His dishevelled hair made him look like a sea-urchin; his face was quite disfigured with black marks of violence; behind his bleeding left ear still stuck the cigarette. His swollen upper lip was drawn sideways and gave him the expression of a ghastly smile. His eyes looked out helpless,
dispirited, from his swollen lids.

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