Anhelli - Chapter 9

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And when the Shaman was about to go forth with Anhelli under the stars,
having comforted some of the prisoners,
he heard a great clanking in one of the corridors.

Turning, therefore, to one of those who followed him,
he asked him what that might be, that clanking of iron and beating?
And the prisoner answered : "They are punishing one of us.

"Evidently the old man who yesterday refused to work
because of God's holiday, they are making run the gauntlet."

And the Shaman and Anhelli, having repaired to the place of torture,
beheld in a corridor two ranks of men standing with chains in their hands,
each in the posture of a man who designeth to strike.

And they saw advancing towards them two soldiers with lamps,
and in the centre behind them, stripped to the girdle, a man with a grey beard.

And at every step, as he approached, was heard the blow of a chain
and a second clang coming from the gaunt breast of the old man who was beaten.

When he was already at the end of the punishment
and there remained to him scarce ten paces or a little more,
Anhelli heard two blows, weaker, as if given by merciful men.

But the old man, on receiving them, fell in a cross upon the ground and was dead.

So those two young men who had struck him mercifully,
fell upon his shoulders and lay upon his dead body,
calling out, one and the other, "My father !"

And the Shaman turned away and, looking upon Anhelli,
covered Anhelli's head with the skirt of his own garment.

And he bade himself be borne away by heavenly spirits,
and opening his eyes Anhelli beheld the snow and the stars.

And he was persuaded that the vision of the mines was a dream,
for he knew not how he had come away from them.

© Juliusz Slowacki