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The Sentence 

by Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
Page 10
'What do you want to say?' asked the officer, without looking at him. Something suddenly came over him.

'It was I,' he said hoarsely.

The soldier made his report.

'They gave me food,' Yakob said, 'and this muffler and breeches, and they beat me.'

'It was you who showed them the way?'

'It was.'

'You did show them the way?'

He nodded.

'Did they beat you in the cottage?'

Yakob hesitated. 'In the cottage we were having supper.'

'They beat you afterwards, on the way?'

He again hesitated, and looked into the officer's eyes. They were clear, calm eyes. The guard came a step nearer.

The officer looked down, turned towards the window and asked more gently: 'You had supper together in the cottage. Then you went out with them. Did they beat you on the way?'

He turned suddenly and looked at Yakob. The peasant stood, looked at the grey snowflakes outside the window, and his face, partly black, partly pallid, was wrinkled in deep folds.

'Well, what have you got to say?'

'It was I...' This interrogation made him alternately hot and cold.

'You who beat them, and not they who beat you?' laughed the officer.

'The meat is still there in the cottage, and here is what they gave me,' he said, holding up the muffler and tobacco.

The officer threw his cigarette away and turned on his heel. Yakob's eyes became dull, his arm with the muffler dropped.

The officer wrote an order. 'Take him away.' They passed the schoolmaster and some women and soldiers in the passage.

'Well...well...' they whispered, leaning against the wall.

The guard made a sign with his hand. Yakob, behind him, looked dully into the startled faces of the bystanders.

'How frightened he looks...how they have beaten him...how frightened he looks!' they murmured.

He put the muffler round his neck again, for he felt cold.

'That's him, that's him,' growled the crowd outside.

The manor-house was reached. The light from the numerous windows fell upon horses and gun-carriages drawn up in the yard.

'What do you want?' cried the sentry to the crowd, pushing them back.

He nodded towards Yakob. 'Where is he to go?'

'That sort...' murmured the crowd. Yakob's guard delivered his order. They stopped in the porch. The pillars threw long shadows which lost themselves towards the fence and across the waves of the stream beyond,  in the darkness of the night.

The heat in the waiting-room was overpowering. This was the room where the bailiff had so often given him his pay. The office no longer existed. Soldiers were lying asleep everywhere.

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