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   Chapter 11 XI ON THE WAY TO THE SCAFFOLD

The Seven Who Were Hanged By Leonid Andreyev Characters: 32835

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Before placing the condemned people in coaches, all five were brought together in a large cold room with a vaulted ceiling, which resembled an office, where people worked no longer, or a deserted waiting-room. They were now permitted to speak to one another.

Only Tanya Kovalchuk availed herself at once of the permission. The others firmly and silently shook each other's hands, which were as cold as ice and as hot as fire,-and silently, trying not to look at each other, they crowded together in an awkward, absent-minded group. Now that they were together, they felt somewhat ashamed of what each of them had experienced when alone; and they were afraid to look, so as not to notice or to show that new, peculiar, somewhat shameful sensation that each of them felt or suspected the others of feeling.

But after a short silence they glanced at each other, smiled and immediately began to feel at ease and unrestrained, as before. No change seemed to have occurred, and if it had occurred, it had come so gently over all of them that it could not be discerned in any one separately. All spoke and moved about strangely: abruptly, by jolts, either too fast or too slowly. Sometimes they seemed to choke with their words and repeated them a number of times; sometimes they did not finish a phrase they had started, or thought they had finished-they did not notice it. They all blinked their eyes and examined ordinary objects curiously, not recognizing them, like people who had worn eye-glasses and had suddenly taken them off; and all of them frequently turned around abruptly, as though some one behind them was calling them all the time and showing them something. But they did not notice this, either. Musya's and Tanya Kovalchuk's cheeks and ears were burning; Sergey was at first somewhat pale, but he soon recovered and looked as he always did.

Only Vasily attracted everybody's attention. Even among them, he looked strange and terrible. Werner became agitated and said to Musya in a low voice, with tender anxiety:

"What does this mean, Musyechka? Is it possible that he-- What? I must go to him."

Vasily looked at Werner from the distance, as though not recognizing him, and he lowered his eyes.

"Vasya, what have you done with your hair? What is the matter with you? Never mind, my dear, never mind, it will soon be over. We must keep up, we must, we must."

Vasily was silent. But when it seemed that he would no longer say anything, a dull, belated, terribly remote answer came-like an answer from the grave:

"I'm all right. I hold my own."

Then he repeated:

"I hold my own."

Werner was delighted.

"That's the way, that's the way. Good boy. That's the way."

But his eyes met Vasily's dark, wearied glance fixed upon him from the distance and he thought with instant sorrow: "From where is he looking? From where is he speaking?" and with profound tenderness, with which people address a grave, he said:

"Vasya, do you hear? I love you very much."

"So do I love you very much," answered the tongue, moving with difficulty.

Suddenly Musya took Werner by the hand and with an expression of surprise, she said like an actress on the stage, with measured emphasis:

"Werner, what is this? You said, 'I love'? You never before said 'I love' to anybody. And why are you all so-tender and serene? Why?"

"Why?"

And like an actor, also accentuating what he felt, Werner pressed Musya's hand firmly:

"Yes, now I love very much. Don't tell it to the others,-it isn't necessary, I feel somewhat ashamed, but I love deeply."

Their eyes met and flashed up brightly, and everything about them seemed to have plunged in darkness. It is thus that in the flash of lightning all other lights are instantly darkened and the heavy yellow flame casts a shadow upon earth.

"Yes," said Musya, "yes, Werner."

"Yes," he answered, "yes, Musya, yes."

They understood each other and something was firmly settled between them at this moment. And his eyes glistening, Werner again became agitated and quickly stepped over to Sergey.

"Seryozha!"

But Tanya Kovalchuk answered. Almost crying with maternal pride, she tugged Sergey frantically by the sleeve.

"Listen, Werner! I am crying here for him, I am wearing myself to death, and he is occupying himself with gymnastics!"

"According to the Mueller system?" smiled Werner.

Sergey knit his brow confusedly.

"You needn't laugh, Werner. I have convinced myself conclusively-"

All began to laugh. Drawing strength and courage from one another, they gradually regained their poise-became the same as they used to be. They did not notice this, however, and thought that they had never changed at all. Suddenly Werner interrupted their laughter and said to Sergey very earnestly:

"You are right, Seryozha. You are perfectly right."

"No, but you must understand," said Golovin gladly. "Of course, we-"

But at this point they were asked to start. And their jailers were so kind as to permit them to ride in pairs, as they pleased. Altogether the jailers were extremely kind; even too kind. It was as if they tried partly to show themselves humane and partly to show that they were not there at all, but that everything was being done as by machinery. But they were all pale.

"Musya, you go with him." Werner pointed at Vasily, who stood motionless.

"I understand," Musya nodded. "And you?"

"I? Tanya will go with Sergey, you go with Vasya.... I will go alone. That doesn't matter, I can do it, you know."

When they went out in the yard, the moist, soft darkness rushed warmly and strongly against their faces, their eyes, taking their breath away, then suddenly it penetrated their bodies tenderly and refreshingly. It was hard to believe that this wonderful effect was produced simply by the spring wind, the warm, moist wind. And the really wonderful spring night was filled with the odor of melting snow, and through the boundless space the noise of drops resounded. Hastily and frequently, as though trying to overtake one another, little drops were falling, striking in unison a ringing tune. Suddenly one of them would strike out of tune and all was mingled in a merry splash in hasty confusion. Then a large, heavy drop would strike firmly and again the fast, spring melody resounded distinctly. And over the city, above the roofs of the fortress, hung a pale redness in the sky reflected by the electric lights.

"U-ach!" Sergey Golovin heaved a deep sigh and held his breath, as though he regretted to exhale from his lungs the fine, fresh air.

"How long have you had such weather?" inquired Werner. "It's real spring."

"It's only the second day," was the polite answer. "Before that we had mostly frosty weather."

The dark carriages rolled over noiselessly one after another, took them in by twos, started off into the darkness-there where the lantern was shaking at the gate. The convoys like gray silhouettes surrounded each carriage; the horseshoes struck noisily against the ground, or plashed upon the melting snow.

When Werner bent down, about to climb into the carriage, the gendarme whispered to him:

"There is somebody else going along with you."

Werner was surprised.

"Where? Where is he going? Oh, yes! Another one? Who is he?"

The gendarme was silent. Indeed, in a dark corner a small, motionless but living figure pressed close to the side of the carriage. By the reflection of the lantern Werner noticed the flash of an open eye. Seating himself, Werner pushed his foot against the other man's knee.

"Excuse me, comrade."

The man made no reply. It was only when the carriage started, that he suddenly asked in broken Russian, speaking with difficulty:

"Who are you?"

"I am Werner, condemned to hanging for the attempt upon N-. And you?"

"I am Yanson. They must not hang me."

They were riding thus in order to appear two hours later face to face before the inexplicable great mystery, in order to pass from Life to Death-and they were introducing each other. Life and Death moved simultaneously, and until the very end Life remained life, to the most ridiculous and insipid trifles.

"What have you done, Yanson?"

"I killed my master with a knife. I stole money."

It seemed from the tone of his voice that Yanson was falling asleep. Werner found his flabby hand in the darkness and pressed it. Yanson withdrew it drowsily.

"Are you afraid?" asked Werner.

"I don't want to be hanged."

They became silent. Werner again found the Esthonian's hand and pressed it firmly between his dry, burning palms. Yanson's hand lay motionless, like a board, but he made no longer any effort to withdraw it.

It was close and suffocating in the carriage. The air was filled with the smell of soldiers' clothes, mustiness, and the leather of wet boots. The young gendarme who sat opposite Werner breathed warmly upon him, and in his breath there was the odor of onions and cheap tobacco. But some brisk, fresh air came in through certain clefts, and because of this, spring was felt even more intensely in this small, stifling, moving box, than outside. The carriage kept turning now to the right, now to the left, now it seemed to turn back. At times it seemed as though they had been turning around on one and the same spot for hours for some reason or other. At first a bluish electric light penetrated through the lowered, heavy window shades; then suddenly, after a certain turn it grew dark, and only by this could they guess that they had turned into deserted streets in the outskirts of the city and that they were nearing the S. railroad station. Sometimes during sharp turns, Werner's live, bent knee would strike against the live, bent knee of the gendarme, and it was hard to believe that the execution was approaching.

"Where are we going?" Yanson asked suddenly. He was somewhat dizzy from the continuous turning of the dark box and he felt slightly sick at his stomach.

Werner answered and pressed the Esthonian's hand more firmly. He felt like saying something especially kind and caressing to this little, sleepy man, and he already loved him as he had never loved anyone in his life.

"You don't seem to sit comfortably, my dear man. Move over here, to me."

Yanson was silent for awhile, then he replied:

"Well, thank you. I'm sitting all right. Are they going to hang you too?"

"Yes," answered Werner, almost laughing with unexpected jollity, and he waved his hand easily and freely, as though he were speaking of some absurd and trifling joke which kind but terribly comical people wanted to play on him.

"Have you a wife?" asked Yanson.

"No. I have no wife. I am single."

"I am also alone. Alone," said Yanson.

Werner's head also began to feel dizzy. And at times it seemed that they were going to some festival; strange to say, almost all those who went to the scaffold experienced the same sensation and mingled with sorrow and fear there was a vague joy as they anticipated the extraordinary thing that was soon to befall them. Reality was intoxicated with madness and Death, united with Life, brought forth apparitions. It seemed very possible that flags were waving over the houses.

"We have arrived!" said Werner gayly when the carriage stopped, and he jumped out easily. But with Yanson it was a rather slow affair: silently and very drowsily he resisted and would not come out. He seized the knob. The gendarme opened the weak fingers and pulled his hand away. Then Yanson seized the corner of the carriage, the door, the high wheel, but immediately let it go upon the slightest effort on the part of the gendarme. He did not exactly seize these things; he rather cleaved to each object sleepily and silently, and was torn away easily, without any effort. Finally he got up.

There were no flags. The railroad station was dark, deserted and lifeless; the passenger trains were not running any longer, and the train which was silently waiting for these passengers on the way needed no bright light, no commotion. Suddenly Werner began to feel weary. It was not fear, nor anguish, but a feeling of enormous, painful, tormenting weariness which makes one feel like going off somewhere, lying down and closing one's eyes very tightly. Werner stretched himself and yawned slowly. Yanson also stretched himself and quickly yawned several times.

"I wish they'd be quicker about it," said Werner wearily. Yanson was silent, shrinking together.

When the condemned moved along the deserted platform which was surrounded by soldiers, to the dimly lighted cars, Werner found himself near Sergey Golovin; Sergey, pointing with his hand somewhere aside, began to say something, but only the word "lantern" was heard distinctly, and the rest was drowned in slow and weary yawning.

"What did you say?" asked Werner, also yawning.

"The lantern. The lamp in the lantern is smoking," said Sergey. Werner looked around. Indeed, the lamp in the lantern was smoking very much, and the glass had already turned black on top.

"Yes, it is smoking."

Suddenly he thought: "What have I to do with the smoking of the lamp, since--"

Sergey apparently thought the same, as he glanced quickly at Werner and turned away. But both stopped yawning.

They all went to the cars themselves, only Yanson had to be led by the arms. At first he stamped his feet and his boots seemed to stick to the boards of the platform. Then he bent his knees and fell into the arms of the gendarmes, his feet dangled like those of a very intoxicated man, and the tips of the boots scraped against the wood. It took a long time until he was silently pushed through the door.

Vasily Kashirin also moved himself, unconsciously imitating the movements of his comrades-he did everything as they did. But on boarding the platform of the car, he stumbled, and a gendarme took him by the elbow to support him. Vasily shuddered and screamed shrilly, drawing back his arm:

"Ai!"

"What is it, Vasya?" Werner rushed over to him. Vasily was silent, trembling in every limb. The confused and even offended gendarme explained:

"I wanted to keep him from falling, and he-"

"Come, Vasya, let me hold you," said Werner, about to take him by the arm. But Vasily drew back his arm again and cried more loudly than before:

"Ai!"

"Vasya, it is I, Werner."

"I know. Don't touch me. I'll go myself."

And continuing to tremble he entered the car himself and seated himself in a corner. Bending over to Musya, Werner asked her softly, pointing with his eyes at Vasily:

"How about him?"

"Bad," answered Musya, also in a soft voice. "He is dead already. Werner, tell me, is there such a thing as death?"

"I don't know, Musya, but I think that there is no such thing," replied Werner seriously and thoughtfully.

"That's what I have thought. But he? I was tortured with him in the carriage-it was like riding with a corpse."

"I don't know, Musya. Perhaps there is such a thing as death for some people. Meanwhile, perhaps, but later there will be no death. For me death also existed before, but now it exists no longer."

Musya's somewhat paled cheeks flushed as she asked:

"It did exist, Werner? It did?"

"It did. But not now any longer. Just the same as with you."

A noise was heard in the doorway of the car. Mishka Tsiganok entered, stamping noisily with his heels, breathing loudly and spitting. He cast a swift glance and stopped obdurately.

"No room here, gendarme!" he shouted to the tired gendarme who looked at him angrily. "You make it so that I am comfortable here, otherwise I won't go-hang me here on the lamp-post. What a carriage they gave me, dogs! Is that a carriage? It's the devil's belly, not a carriage!"

But suddenly he bent down his head, stretched out his neck and thus went forward to the others. Out of the disheveled frame of hair and beard his black eyes looked wildly and sharply with an almost insane expression.

"Ah, gentlemen!" he drawled out. "So that's what it is. Hello, master!"

He thrust his hand to Werner and sat down opposite him. And bending closely over to him, he winked one eye and quickly passed his hand over his throat.

"You, too? What?"

"Yes!" smiled Werner.

"Are all of us to be hanged?"

"All."

"Oho!" Tsiganok grinned, showing his teeth, and quickly felt everybody with his eyes, s

topping for an instant longer on Musya and Yanson. Then he winked again to Werner.

"The Minister?"

"Yes, the Minister. And you?"

"I am here for something else, master. People like me don't deal with ministers. I am a murderer, master, that's what I am. An ordinary murderer. Never mind, master, move away a little, I haven't come into your company of my own will. There will be room enough for all of us in the other world."

He surveyed them all with one swift, suspicious, wild glance from under his disheveled hair. But all looked at him silently and seriously, even with apparent interest. He grinned, showing his teeth, and quickly clapped Werner on the knee several times.

"That's the way, master! How does the song run? 'Don't rustle, O green little mother forest....'"

"Why do you call me 'master,' since we are all going-"

"Correct," Tsiganok agreed with satisfaction. "What kind of master are you, if you are going to hang right beside me? There is a master for you"; and he pointed with his finger at the silent gendarme. "Eh, that fellow there is not worse than our kind"; he pointed with his eyes at Vasily. "Master! He there, master! You're afraid, aren't you?"

"No," answered the heavy tongue.

"Never mind that 'No.' Don't be ashamed; there's nothing to be ashamed of. Only a dog wags his tail and snarls when he is taken to be hanged, but you are a man. Who is that dope? He isn't one of you, is he?"

He darted his glance rapidly about, and hissing, kept spitting continuously. Yanson, curled up into a motionless bundle, pressed closely into the corner. The flaps of his outworn fur cap stirred, but he maintained silence. Werner answered for him:

"He killed his employer."

"O Lord!" wondered Tsiganok. "Why are such people allowed to kill?"

For some time Tsiganok had been looking sideways at Musya; now turning quickly, he stared at her sharply, straight into her face.

"Young lady, young lady! What about you? Her cheeks are rosy and she is laughing. Look, she is really laughing," he said, clasping Werner's knee with his clutching, iron-like fingers. "Look, look!"

Reddening, smiling confusedly, Musya also gazed straight into his sharp and wildly searching eyes.

The wheels rattled fast and noisily. The small cars kept hopping along the narrow rails. Now at a curve or at a crossing the small engine whistled shrilly and carefully-the engineer was afraid lest he might run over somebody. It was strange to think that so much humane painstaking care and exertion was being introduced into the business of hanging people; that the most insane deed on earth was being committed with such an air of simplicity and reasonableness. The cars were running, and human beings sat in them as people always do, and they rode as people usually ride; and then there would be a halt, as usual.

"The train will stop for five minutes."

And there death would be waiting-eternity-the great mystery, on with friendliness, watching how Yanson's fingers took the cigarette, how the match flared, and then how the blue smoke issued from Yanson's mouth.

"Thanks," said Yanson; "it's good."

"How strange!" said Sergey.

"What is strange?" Werner turned around. "What is strange?"

"I mean-the cigarette."

Yanson held a cigarette, an ordinary cigarette, in his ordinary live hands, and, pale-faced, looked at it with surprise, even with terror. And all fixed their eyes upon the little tube, from the end of which smoke was issuing, like a bluish ribbon, wafted aside by the breathing, with the ashes, gathering, turning black. The light went out.

"The light's out," said Tanya.

"Yes, the light's out."

"Let it go," said Werner, frowning, looking uneasily at Yanson, whose hand, holding the cigarette, was hanging loosely, as if dead. Suddenly Tsiganok turned quickly, bent over to Werner, close to him, face to face, and rolling the whites of his eyes, like a horse, whispered:

"Master, how about the convoys? Suppose we-we? Shall we try?"

"No, don't do it," Werner replied, also in a whisper. "We shall drink it to the bitter end."

"Why not? It's livelier in a fight! Eh? I strike him, he strikes me, and you don't even know how the thing is done. It's just as if you don't die at all."

"No, you shouldn't do it," said Werner, and turned to Yanson. "Why don't you smoke, friend?"

Suddenly Yanson's wizened face became wofully wrinkled, as if somebody had pulled strings which set all the wrinkles in motion. And, as in a dream, he began to whimper, without tears, in a dry, strained voice:

"I don't want to smoke. Aha! aha! aha! Why should I be hanged? Aha! aha! aha!"

They began to bustle about him. Tanya Kovalchuk, weeping freely, petted him on the arm, and adjusted the drooping earlaps of his worn fur cap.

"My dear, do not cry! My own! my dear! Poor, unfortunate little fellow!"

Musya looked aside. Tsiganok caught her glance and grinned, showing his teeth.

"What a queer fellow! He drinks tea, and yet feels cold," he said, with an abrupt laugh. But suddenly his own face became bluish-black, like cast-iron, and his large yellow teeth flashed.

Suddenly the little cars trembled and slackened their speed. All, except Yanson and Kashirin, rose and sat down again quickly.

"Here is the station," said Sergey.

It seemed to them as if all the air had been suddenly pumped out of the car, it became so difficult to breathe. The heart grew larger, making the chest almost burst, beating in the throat, tossing about madly-shouting in horror with its blood-filled voice. And the eyes looked upon the quivering floor, and the ears heard how the wheels were turning ever more slowly-the wheels slipped and turned again, and then suddenly-they stopped.

The train had halted.

Then a dream set in. It was not terrible, rather fantastic, unfamiliar to the memory, strange. The dreamer himself seemed to remain aside, only his bodiless apparition moved about, spoke soundlessly, walked noiselessly, suffered without suffering. As in a dream, they walked out of the car, formed into parties of two, inhaled the peculiarly fresh spring air of the forest. As in a dream, Yanson resisted bluntly, powerlessly, and was dragged out of the car silently.

They descended the steps of the station.

"Are we to walk?" asked some one almost cheerily.

"It isn't far now," answered another, also cheerily.

Then they walked in a large, black, silent crowd amid the forest, along a rough, wet and soft spring road. From the forest, from the snow, a fresh, strong breath of air was wafted. The feet slipped, sometimes sinking into the snow, and involuntarily the hands of the comrades clung to each other. And the convoys, breathing with difficulty, walked over the untouched snow on each side of the road. Some one said in an angry voice:

"Why didn't they clear the road? Did they want us to turn somersaults in the snow?"

Some one else apologized guiltily.

"We cleaned it, your Honor. But it is thawing and it can't be helped."

Consciousness of what they were doing returned to the prisoners, but not completely,-in fragments, in strange parts. Now, suddenly, their minds practically admitted:

"It is indeed impossible to clear the road."

Then again everything died out, and only their sense of smell remained: the unbearably fresh smell of the forest and of the melting snow. And everything became unusually clear to the consciousness: the forest, the night, the road and the fact that soon they would be hanged. Their conversation, restrained to whispers, flashed in fragments.

"It is almost four o'clock."

"I said we started too early."

"The sun dawns at five."

"Of course, at five. We should have-"

They stopped in a meadow, in the darkness. A little distance away, beyond the bare trees, two small lanterns moved silently. There were the gallows.

"I lost one of my rubbers," said Sergey Golovin.

"Really?" asked Werner, not understanding what he said.

"I lost a rubber. It's cold."

"Where's Vasily?"

"I don't know. There he is."

Vasily stood, gloomy, motionless.

"And where is Musya?"

"Here I am. Is that you, Werner?"

They began to look about, avoiding the direction of the gallows, where the lanterns continued to move about silently with terrible suggestiveness. On the left, the bare forest seemed to be growing thinner, and something large and white and flat was visible. A damp wind issued from it.

"The sea," said Sergey Golovin, inhaling the air with nose and mouth. "The sea is there!"

Musya answered sonorously:

"My love which is as broad as the sea!"

"What is that, Musya?"

"The banks of life cannot hold my love, which is as broad as the sea."

"My love which is as broad as the sea," echoed Sergey, thoughtfully, carried away by the sound of her voice and by her words.

"My love which is as broad as the sea," repeated Werner, and suddenly he spoke wonderingly, cheerfully:

"Musya, how young you are!"

Suddenly Tsiganok whispered warmly, out of breath, right into Werner's ear:

"Master! master! There's the forest! My God! what's that? There-where the lanterns are-are those the gallows? What does it mean?"

Werner looked at him. Tsiganok was writhing in agony before his death.

"We must bid each other good-by," said Tanya Kovalchuk.

"Wait, they have yet to read the sentence," answered Werner. "Where is Yanson?"

Yanson was lying on the snow, and about him people were busying themselves. There was a smell of ammonia in the air.

"Well, what is it, doctor? Will you be through soon?" some one asked impatiently.

"It's nothing. He has simply fainted. Rub his ears with snow! He is coming to himself already! You may read the sentence!"

The light of the dark lantern flashed upon the paper and on the white, gloveless hands holding it. Both the paper and the hands quivered slightly, and the voice also quivered:

"Gentlemen, perhaps it is not necessary to read the sentence to you. You know it already. What do you say?"

"Don't read it," Werner answered for them all, and the little lantern was soon extinguished.

The services of the priest were also declined by them all. Tsiganok said:

"Stop your fooling, father-you will forgive me, but they will hang me. Go to-where you came from."

And the dark, broad silhouette of the priest moved back silently and quickly and disappeared. Day was breaking: the snow turned whiter, the figures of the people became more distinct, and the forest-thinner, more melancholy.

"Gentlemen, you must go in pairs. Take your places in pairs as you wish, but I ask you to hurry up."

Werner pointed to Yanson, who was now standing, supported by two gendarmes.

"I will go with him. And you, Seryozha, take Vasily. Go ahead."

"Very well."

"You and I go together, Musechka, shall we not?" asked Tanya Kovalchuk. "Come, let us kiss each other good-by."

They kissed one another quickly. Tsiganok kissed firmly, so that they felt his teeth; Yanson softly, drowsily, with his mouth half open-and it seemed that he did not understand what he was doing.

When Sergey Golovin and Kashirin had gone a few steps, Kashirin suddenly stopped and said loudly and distinctly:

"Good-by, comrades."

"Good-by, comrade," they shouted in answer.

They went off. It grew quiet. The lanterns beyond the trees became motionless. They awaited an outcry, a voice, some kind of noise-but it was just as quiet there as it was among them-and the yellow lanterns were motionless.

"Oh, my God!" some one cried hoarsely and wildly. They looked about. It was Tsiganok, writhing in agony at the thought of death. "They are hanging!"

They turned away from him, and again it became quiet. Tsiganok was writhing, catching at the air with his hands.

"How is that, gentlemen? Am I to go alone? It's livelier to die together. Gentlemen, what does it mean?"

He seized Werner by the hand, his fingers clutching and then relaxing.

"Dear master, at least you come with me? Eh? Do me the favor? Don't refuse."

Werner answered painfully:

"I can't, my dear fellow. I am going with him."

"Oh, my God! Must I go alone, then? My God! How is it to be?"

Musya stepped forward and said softly:

"You may go with me."

Tsiganok stepped back and rolled the whites of his eyes wildly.

"With you!"

"Yes."

"Just think of her! What a little girl! And you're not afraid? If you are, I would rather go alone!"

"No, I am not afraid."

Tsiganok grinned.

"Just think of her! But do you know that I am a murderer? Don't you despise me? You had better not do it. I shan't be angry at you."

Musya was silent, and in the faint light of dawn her face was pale and enigmatic. Then suddenly she walked over to Tsiganok quickly, and, throwing her arms about his neck, kissed him firmly upon his lips. He took her by the shoulders with his fingers, held her away from himself, then shook her, and, with loud smacks, kissed her on the lips, on the nose, on the eyes.

"Come!"

Suddenly the soldier standing nearest them staggered forward, and opening his hands, let his gun drop. He did not stoop down to regain it, but stood for an instant motionless, turned abruptly and, like a blind man, walked toward the forest over the untouched snow.

"Where are you going?" called out another soldier in fright. "Halt!"

But the man continued walking through the deep snow silently and with difficulty. Then he must have stumbled over something, for he waved his arms and fell face downward. And there he remained lying on the snow.

"Pick up the gun, you sour-faced gray-coat, or I'll pick it up," said Tsiganok sternly to the other soldier. "You don't know your business!"

The little lanterns began to move about busily again. Now it was the turn of Werner and Yanson.

"Good-by, master!" called Tsiganok loudly. "We'll meet each other in the other world, you'll see! Don't turn away from me. When you see me, bring me some water to drink-it will be hot there for me!"

"Good-by!"

"I don't want to be hanged!" said Yanson drowsily.

Werner took him by the hand, and then the Esthonian walked a few steps alone. But later they saw him stop and fall down in the snow. Soldiers bent over him, lifted him up and carried him on, and he struggled faintly in their arms. Why did he not cry? He must have forgotten even that he had a voice.

And again the little yellow lanterns became motionless.

"And I, Musechka," said Tanya Kovalchuk mournfully, "must I go alone? We lived together, and now-"

"Tanechka, dearest-"

But Tsiganok took her part heatedly.

Holding her by the hand, as though fearing that some one would take her away from him, he said quickly, in a business-like manner, to Tanya:

"Ah, young lady, you can go alone! You are a pure soul-you can go alone wherever you please! But I-I can't! A murderer!... Understand? I can't go alone! Where are you going, you murderer? they will ask me. Why, I even stole horses, by God! But with her it is just as if-just as if I were with an infant, understand? Do you understand me?"

"I do. Go. Come, let me kiss you once more, Musechka."

"Kiss! Kiss each other!" urged Tsiganok. "That's a woman's job! You must bid each other a hearty good-by!"

Musya and Tsiganok moved forward. Musya walked cautiously, slipping, and by force of habit raising her skirts slightly. And the man led her to death firmly, holding her arm carefully and feeling the ground with his foot.

The lights stopped moving. It was quiet and lonely around Tanya Kovalchuk. The soldiers were silent, all gray in the soft, colorless light of daybreak.

"I am alone," sighed Tanya Kovalchuk suddenly. "Seryozha is dead, Werner is dead-and Vasya, too. I am alone! Soldiers! soldiers! I am alone, alone-"

The sun was rising over the sea.

The bodies were placed in a box. Then they were taken away. With stretched necks, with bulging eyes, with blue, swollen tongues, looking like some unknown, terrible flowers between the lips, which were covered with bloody foam-the bodies were hurried back along the same road by which they had come-alive. And the spring snow was just as soft and fresh; the spring air was just as strong and fragrant. And on the snow lay Sergey's black rubber-shoe, wet, trampled under foot.

Thus did men greet the rising sun.

THE END

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