morning he awoke
with a start. The sun was shining on the snow, the mountains glittered
like glass. The trees on the slopes were covered with millions of
crystals; freshness floated between heaven and earth. Yakob stepped out
of the shed, greeted the sentry and sat down on the boards, blinking
The air was
fresh and cold,
tiny atoms of hoarfrost were flying about. Yakob felt the sun's warmth
thawing his limbs, caressing him. He let himself be absorbed into the
creaked, and voices
rang out clear and fresh. Opposite to him a squadron of Uhlans were
at the farrier's, who came out, black as a charcoal-burner, and chatted
with them. They were laughing, their eyes shone. From inside the forge
the hammer rang out like a bell. Yakob held his head in his hand and
At each stroke he shut his eyes. The soldiers brought him a cup of hot
coffee; he drank it and lighted his pipe.
murmuring of the brook,
punctuated by the hammer-strokes, stimulated his thoughts till they
clearer, limpid as the stream.
I...it was I...'
he silently confided to all the fresh voices of the morning.
again took him
away with fixed bayonets. He knew where he was going. They would go
the village and stop at the wall of the cemetery.
The sky was
the beauty of the morning was waning. They called at the school-house
orders. Yakob remained outside the open window.
won't...' he heard a voice.
against the fence,
supported his temples on his fists and watched the snow-clouds and
of immense, heavy
weariness came over him, and made him limp. He could see the ruins of
mill, the tumbled-down granaries, the broken doors. The water trickled
down the wheel; smoke and soot were
the water, yet
the water flowed on.
did it all matter?
hear?' he asked of
the water. 'Do you hear?' he asked of his wife and children and his
him here and they
took him there. They made him wait outside houses, and he sat down on
steps as if he had never been used to anything else. He picked up a dry
branch and gently tapped the snow
with it and
waited. He waited
as in a dream, going round and round the wish that it might all be over
was waiting, the
crowd amused themselves with shaking their fists at him; he was
that his wife seemed to have gone away to the town and did not see him.
At last his
guard went off
in a bad temper. A soldier on horseback remained with him.
old man,' he said,
'no one will have anything to do with it.'
glanced at him; the
soldier and his horse seemed to be towering above the cottages, above
trees of the park with their flocks of circling crows. He looked into
'It was I.'
going begging, old
began their round,
and behind them followed the miller's wife and other women. His legs
giving way, as though they were rushes. He took off his cap and gave a
tired look in the direction of his cottage.
they joined a detachment
which was starting off on the old road. They went as far as Gregor's
then to the cross-roads, and in single file down the path. From time to
time isolated gunshots rang out.
down by the side
of a ditch.
to finish this
business,' said the sergeant, and scratched his head. 'No one would
forward voluntarily... I have been ordered....'
soldiers looked embarrassed
and drew away, looking at Yakob.
He hid his
head between his
knees, and his thoughts dwelt on everything, sky, water, mountains,
was breaking; a
terrible sweat stood on his brows.
groan escaped from
Yakob's breast, a groan like a winter-wind. He sprang up, stood on the
edge of the ditch, sighed with all the strength of his old breast and
like a branch.
smoke rose from
the ditch and from the forests.