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The Sentence 

by Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
Page 11
They passed on into a brilliantly lighted room. The staff was quartered there. The general took a few steps across the room, murmured something and stood still in front of Yakob.

'Ah, that is the man?' he turned and looked at Yakob with his blue eyes that shot glances quick as lightning from under bushy grey eyebrows.

'It was I,' ejaculated Yakob hoarsely.

'It was you who showed them the way?'

Yakob became calmer. He felt he would be able to make himself more quickly understood here. 'It was.'

'You brought them here?'

'Yes.'

He passed his hand over his hair and shrank into himself again. He looked at the brilliant lights.

'Do you know what is the punishment for that?'

The general came a step nearer; Yakob felt overawed by the feeling of strength and power that emanated from him. He was choking. Yes, he understood and yet did not understand.'

'What have you got to say for yourself!'

'We had supper together...' he began, but stopped, for the general frowned and eyed him coldly. Yakob looked towards the window and listened to hear the sound of wind and waves. The general was still looking at him, and so they stood for a moment which seemed an eternity to Yakob, the man in the field-grey uniform who looked as if he had been sculptured in stone, and the quailing, shrunken, shivering form, covered with dirt and rags. Yakob felt as though a heavy weight were resting on him. Then both silently looked down.

'Take him back to the battalion.'

The steely sound of the command moved something in the souls of the soldiers, and took the enjoyment of their sleep from them.

They returned to the school-house. The crowd, as though following a thief caught in the act, ran by their side again.

They found room for the old man in a shed, some one threw him a blanket. Soldiers were sleeping in serried ranks. Their heavy breathing mixed with the sound of wind and waves, and the cold blue light of the moon embraced everything.

Yakob buried himself in the straw, looked out through a hole in the boarding and wept bitterly.

'What are you crying for?' asked the sentry outside, and tapped his shoulder with his gun.

Yakob did not answer.

'Thinking of your wife?' the soldier gossiped, walking up and down outside the shed. 'You're old, what good is your wife to you?' The soldier stopped and stretched his arms till the joints cracked.

'Or your children? Never mind, they'll get on in the world without a helpless old man like you.'

Yakob was silent, and the soldier crouched down near him.

'Old man, you ought...'

'No...' tremblingly came from the inside.

'You see,' the soldier paced up and down again, 'you are thinking of your cottage. I can understand that. But do you think the cottage will be any the worse off for your death?'

The soldier's simple and dour words outside in the blue night, his talk of Yakob's death, of his own death which might come at any moment, slowly brought sleep to Yakob.

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