this makes the madmen who have made men mad
by their contagion; conquerors and kings,
founders of sects and systems, to whom add
sophists, bards, statesmen, all unquiet things
which stir too strongly the soul's secret springs,
and are themselves the fools to those they fool;
envied, yet how unenviable! what stings
are theirs! one breast laid open were a school
which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule:
lord byron \u2018child harold\u2019s pilgrimage, xliii\u2019
it was a cold night. much colder than the likes of most living things should like to feel but life is
not about their preferences. in this tiny town, whose name is forgotten in the shadow of a larger,
mother nature seemed to rule with an iron hand. the fear of the mercy, or the lack rather, of the
elements overrules all other fear that men have sought to keep in its place. who cares where the
town lies now, borders have changed, countries pillaged, men robbed, families torn apart, and
whole people\u2019s obliterated since and before those times. it that doesn\u2019t really matter now where it
lies, if it ever really did.
like i said before, life was ruled at the mercy of the elements, and the people lived to care for very
little more. but i generalize. the only rule everyone in life unanimously lives by is to live or die.
there are always those who would care for something else, and ignore what the rest lived by, there
can be no standard for these things, men can only rule so far. to penetrate the mind is a different
there was some form of rule established there at that time, a loose one to be sure, but enough.
enough to cause men to build prisons and bars beside their hen coups and goat sheds, to protect
their lives by taking lives if such a idiotic formula ever worked in the first place. still the practice
held, though how they meted out justice in such a tiny place where it would seem that criminals
would freeze in their cells before they could be dealt with, was a mystery to me. they were a
tough bunch, they had to be, for nature did not meet out her pity for those who could not be
strong enough to bear her fury. yet man is what it wants to be, and while nature had an
unquestioned say for all that concerned nature, there were those things that a blast of snow on a
hot day could not shock you with, and life took life into its own hands. we believed that we had
power. within the sanctioned walls of the prison house, they liked to believe that nothing nature
could do would save life that was meant to be condemned, and take what was they meant to be
saved. the fools we were.
the squeaking of the pen stopped. people began to shuffle in their chairs and the chattering began.
it was only a soft trickle at first of voices but then it gathered up its courage and any attempt at
renewing order must have been long forgotten.
the bowed man who sat in the criminals\u2019 seat seemed not to have noticed this and any other signs
that his hearing was over. a hard lined face peered down, not particularly at him but certainly in
that direction and shouted for the guard motioning him for the condemned to be taken away. the
man perked up immediately and looked around, with almost a pitiful degree of hope written on
his face. he clearly had not heard the words.
the hard lined man shouted again, but the words fell a mumbled whisper on the man in the box,
still rooted to the spot, looking more like a frightened fox than a man, his eyes too bright for his
posture, his whole being seeming ready to jump and run, anywhere but here, and yet he seemed
bound by a over reaching lethargy that made his shoulders sag and give his face a hollow warning
that said that it was useless. it was a young face. too young to be sitting there, looking like it had
had all the life and heart ripped out of it and didn\u2019t know it yet, too simple an expression to truly
realize it, yet you could tell that the realization was creeping up and it was panicking. that face
was more horrible than the cruel and unfeeling, the stupid, the kind and the simply unreadable
ones that surrounded it, because it was obvious that he was simply unaware. too eager and yet too
reluctant, he was still expecting everything but hoping for nothing, the understanding had not yet
reached him. yet.
three guards led him away. in keeping with ordinances, i had to follow. a waste of man power, the
man would have willingly followed them into the sea while in such a guise, i thought, although a
hesitation showed itself on his features, in contrary to his attitude of body and in keeping with his
he followed as meekly and quietly into the swirling sleet outside as we could have asked, seeming
to have some mistaken idea that, that what, what could he have been hoping for, any chance of
hope for him was gone, it was pitiful to watch him stumble still for something that was so
pronounced. but whatever it was it brought a smile to his face, a smile that was more hideious
than the willing look before, because as the smile grew the hesitation and swirling doubt of the
veracity of his cheer grew stronger, in mockery of the smile that played on the lips and the fear
that fought in the eyes for domination of his mind.
\u2018he will come to himself soon\u2019 one baliff had told me, while still within the warmth of the court
room \u2018back in his miserably cold cell and then he will beat the walls and cry out and he will be a
lot of trouble then\u2019. i had not half a crazed notion in my mind just then what he would do, i was
too busy thinking about my dinner, and when i would have to return to klocksovisk to be under
my uncles thumb again at home, to be reworking this messy business. i said yes he probably
would but i did not smile then. i do so now, if only i knew how much trouble he would be! then i
didn\u2019t know much of anything, it was my first time a part of a jury.
one more time. that was all that he had said and still they would hang him. yes he had done
wrong, but what did that matter now he thought impatiently. he would not do so again.
hadn\u2019t he said that? hadn\u2019t he cried out that it was enough, it laid heavily on his heart
enough, only do not take his life?
it would be a stupid waste of breath to say that they did not listen; there he was now, where
he might be now if they had listened! but it was no good hoping. all they saw was that the
young girl was dead andhe was not to be pitied. oh it was not even a question of if he didn\u2019t
do it. he had done so alright\u2026.. but what they didn\u2019t know was what was going on in his
head. one more time, he had meant to say to them, in his own defense, but it would be too
he had only a dim recollection of the proceedings, hadn\u2019t his head filled up it all, they would
dispose of it no matter what he would. who should take it, when, where, why, how, it all was
a mystery. if they didn\u2019t take it now they would take it later, he was sure of it.
he had tried to explain, but they had shut him up, and now here he was.
death on the morrow.
it had taken a little over an hour for the words to sink in, he had kept smiling at them and
hoping, hoping that they would take him home soon, that they would have found katushka
and brought her back, they would have known that it wasn\u2019t her that was dead, it was only
the innocent deer he had meant to shoot and they were to be having it for supper. not that, it
wasn\u2019t right, it wasn\u2019t their deer then, oh all right then he would give it up if that was what
they wanted, but for the girl\u2026
no no no, but what was that in his ears. lock him up, take him away\u2026.no no you couldn\u2019t
do that to the poor innocent deer\u2026... and then it had all sunk in. his mind cleared and he
wished it hadn\u2019t, he wished with everything in him that he could have just stopped thinking
and gone back to his fairy tales, that\u2019s all that\u2019s all they were now it screeched in his mind,
of the deer and katushka\u2019s face, her happy face when he brought her the deer, this couldn\u2019t
be real, he couldn\u2019t remember anything else........
he doubled over on the floor and started to weep. it didn\u2019t matter now, not a shred of dignity
was left, why should he fight to preserve even this one? he wasn\u2019t thinking now about his
wrongs, about what they thought he was, and why they were locking him up this way. he
was thinking that he was going to die. he could never forget her, always in his thoughts, but
now there was a dull glaze on those. he could not change that now. he was going to die.
it was the snow, it hadn\u2019t been there before, he must have noticed that, from there it wouldn\u2019t take
much for his senses to realize where he was. suddenly he was alert and everything had changed.
he had started screaming. right out there in the snow that he suddenly saw whirling around him,
in frosty flakes dripping, dripping off the end of his nose and twirling about his hair as if he
wasn\u2019t the last man in the world that they wanted to touch, the murderer who was to be
condemned on the morrow. the weather at least treated him like every other human being. but that
he was an innocent man was all he ever said. innocent he screeched into the night air, it was an
accident, i am innocent. innocent. my word, they had caught him there hadn\u2019t they? i was at the
trial and he didn\u2019t make a sound, why was he screaming now? maybe it was the cold that had
brought him to his senses, but if that was what it was, i preferred the sense he had before. at least
he was quiet then. i thought like any other newly appointed minister of justice, i was young then
too. rash, inconceivable idea\u2019s of convenience had flitted briefly through my mind and i stopped
appalled, at my lack of concentration on the evil matter, but i was all attention now. the screams
made it hard to have anything else.
how we made it through the town with him screeching into the night air i will never guess but we
did. the prison was on the farthest side of town from the court house, i grumbled bitterly, and we
had to walk the whole freezing way.
\u2018at least we will not have to walk so far to bring him to the gallows.\u2019 unbidden the thought
entered my mind and i shivered, not with the cold this time. some how it was harder to believe
that you were justice with that voice blocking out all other sounds from your ears with its cries of
one of the guards had sought to quell him before, petyn i think, but it was no use he didn\u2019t seem
to hear us, so we were silent, except for garole\u2019s cursing, the rest of the way. when we let him out
of the caged cart though, a smile crossed his face and the sounds abruptly abated. at first i did not
understand, only watched as the guards went about their business.
\u2018not going to scream any more eh? you are using your brain now and not your tongue. that\u2019s
good\u2019 fiery, red haired garole made a break from his cursing at the cold. the other fellow, petyn,
with the dark beard, was silent, the one who had been trying to quell his noise before.
\u2018hey cheer up petyn, he\u2019s not going to give us any more trouble now. the screaming fit is over\u2019,
leered michal when we had gone some 20 paces with the prisoner. he was the younger gangly
one, hardly more than a child he looked from the way his too large great coat dragged on the
snow behind him, hardly a trace of a moustache on his shiny pink face,. he had an insolent gleam
in his eye, like he not only resented the proceedings, but he was bored by them. i suppose all
guards have at one or another time felt like that, but i was very fresh, as i said, so i noted
everything with a keen eye. the dark one, petyn, didn\u2019t say anything until we got to the door of
the prison house. \u2018its not over,\u2019 petyn quietly spoke then, \u2018i\u2019ve seen it before.\u2019
it had dawned on him before the rest of us, none of us were using our heads, how could we the
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