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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Last Journey
By Leonid Andreyev (1871–1919)
 
From ‘The Seven who were Hanged,’ translated by Herman Bernstein

THE LITTLE cars ran on carefully.  1
  Sergey Golovin at one time had lived for several years with his relatives at their country-house, along this very road. He had traveled upon it by day as well as by night, and he knew it well. He closed his eyes, and thought that he might now simply be returning home—that he had stayed out late in the city with acquaintances, and was now coming back on the last train.  2
  “We will soon be there,” he said, opening his eyes and looking out of the grated, mute window.  3
  Nobody stirred, nobody answered; only Tsiganok spat quickly several times and his eyes ran over the car, as though feeling the windows, the doors, the soldiers.  4
  “It’s cold,” said Vasily Kashirin, his lips closed tightly, as though really frozen; and his words sounded strangely.  5
  Tanya Kovalchuk began to bustle about.  6
  “Here’s a handkerchief. Tie it about your neck. It’s a very warm one.”  7
  “Around the neck?” Sergey asked suddenly, startled by his own question. But as the same thing occurred to all of them, no one seemed to hear him. It was as if nothing had been said, or as if they had all said the same thing at the same time.  8
  “Never mind, Vasya, tie it about your neck. It will be warmer,” Werner advised him. Then he turned to Yanson and asked gently:  9
  “And you, friend, are you cold?”  10
  “Werner, perhaps he wants to smoke. Comrade, perhaps you would like to smoke?” asked Musya. “We have something to smoke.”  11
  “I would.”  12
  “Give him a cigarette, Seryozha,” said Werner delightedly. But Sergey was already getting out a cigarette. All looked 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.  13
  “Thanks,” said Yanson; “it’s good.”  14
  “How strange!” said Sergey.  15
  “What is strange?” Werner turned around. “What is strange?”  16
  “I mean—the cigarette.”  17
  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.  18
  “The light’s out,” said Tanya.  19
  “Yes, the light’s out.”  20
  “Let it go,” said Werner, frowning, looking uneasily at Yanson, whose hand, holding the cigarette, was hanging loosely, as if dead….  21
  Suddenly the little cars trembled and slackened their speed. All, except Yanson and Kashirin, rose and sat down again quickly.  22
  “Here is the station,” said Sergey.  23
  It seemed to them as if 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.  24
  The train had halted.  25
  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.  26
  They descended the steps of the station.  27
  “Are we to walk?” asked someone almost cheerily.  28
  “It isn’t far now,” answered another, also cheerily.  29
  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. Someone said in an angry voice:  30
  “Why didn’t they clear the road? Did they want us to turn somersaults in the snow?”  31
  Someone else apologized guiltily.  32
  “We cleaned it, your Honor. But it is thawing and it can’t be helped.”  33
  Consciousness of what they were doing returned to the prisoners, but not completely,—in fragments, in strange parts. Now, suddenly their minds practically admitted:  34
  “It is indeed impossible to clear the road.”  35
  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.  36
 
 
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