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   Chapter 6 VI THE HOURS ARE RUSHING

The Seven Who Were Hanged By Leonid Andreyev Characters: 2906

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


On the fortress where the condemned terrorists were imprisoned there was a steeple with an old-fashioned clock upon it. At every hour, at every half-hour, and at every quarter-hour the clock rang out in long-drawn, mournful chimes, slowly melting high in the air, like the distant and plaintive call of migrating birds. In the daytime, this strange and sad music was lost in the noise of the city, of the wide and crowded street which passed near the fortress. The cars buzzed along, the hoofs of the horses beat upon the pavements, the rocking automobiles honked in the distance, peasant izvozchiks had come especially from the outskirts of the city for the Shrovetide season and the tinkling of the bells upon the necks of their little horses filled the air. The prattle of voices-an intoxicated, merry Shrovetide prattle of voices arose everywhere. And in the midst of these various noises there was the young thawing spring, the muddy pools on the meadows, the trees of the squares which had suddenly become black. From the sea a warm breeze was blowing in broad, moist gusts. It was almost as if one could have seen the tiny fresh particles of air carried away, merged into the free, endless expanse of the atmosphere-could have heard them laughing in their flight.

At night the street grew quiet in the lonely light of the large, electric sun. And then, the enormous fortress, within whose walls there was not a single light, passed into darkne

ss and silence, separating itself from the ever living, stirring city by a wall of silence, motionlessness and darkness. Then it was that the strokes of the clock became audible. A strange melody, foreign to earth, was slowly and mournfully born and died out up in the heights. It was born again; deceiving the ear, it rang plaintively and softly-it broke off-and rang again. Like large, transparent, glassy drops, hours and minutes descended from an unknown height into a metallic, softly resounding bell.

This was the only sound that reached the cells, by day and night, where the condemned remained in solitary confinement. Through the roof, through the thickness of the stone walls, it penetrated, stirring the silence-it passed unnoticed, to return again, also unnoticed. Sometimes they awaited it in despair, living from one sound to the next, trusting the silence no longer. Only important criminals were sent to this prison. There were special rules there, stern, grim and severe, like the corner of the fortress wall, and if there be nobility in cruelty, then the dull, dead, solemnly mute silence, which caught the slightest rustle and breathing, was noble.

And in this solemn silence, broken by the mournful tolling of the departing minutes, separated from all that lives, five human beings, two women and three men, waited for the advent of night, of dawn and the execution, and all of them prepared for it, each in his or her own way.

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