Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 146

(Continued from page 107)
into the ditch, where he plumps down into the bloody water and cotton.
The tribunal is ended and we, the soldier and I, shovel him under."
The explorer had bent his ear to the officer and, with his hands in his
coat-pockets, observed the work of the machine. The condemned man was
also observing it but without comprehension. He leaned over a little to
follow the oscillating needles, when the guard, at a sign from the officer,
slashed his shirt and trousers from behind with a knife so that they fell
down off him. The man tried to seize the falling garments in order to cover
his nakedness, but the soldier lifted him into the air and shook the last
shreds from him. The officer brought the machine.to a standstill and in the
silence that now reigned the condemned man was placed under the harrow.
The chains were undone and straps fastened in their place. Just at first it
seemed almost to spell relief for the condemned man. Then the harrow
settled down a bit lower, for he was a thin man. When the points touched
him, a shudder ran over his skin; while the guard was busy with his right
hand, he reached out blindly with his left; but it was towards where the
explorer was standing. Uninterruptedly the officer kept looking at the
explQrer from the side, as if trying to read on his face the impression that
the execution, which he had explained to him at least superficially, was
making on him.
The strap
for the wrist broke; the guard had probably
pulled on it too hard. The guard showed him the broken bit of strap and
the officer was obliged to help. Turning his face towards the explorer, he
walked over to the guard and said: "This machine is quite complicated,
here and there something is bound to tear or break; but one should not
for this reason allow oneself to be misled as to one's general judgement.
As a matter of fact, a substitute for the strap may be had promptly; I am
going to use a chain, only the delicacy of the vibration of the right arm
will in that case of course be reduced." And as he attached the chain, he
added: "The means at my disposal for the upkeep of the machine are very
limited now. Under the former commander there existed a fund intended
only for this purpose, to which I had free access. There was also a ware–
house here in which all kinds of spare parts were kept. I confess I was
almost wasteful with them, I mean formerly, not now, as the new com–
mander-to whom everything is only a pretext for combatting old institu·
tions-asserts. Now he administers the Machine Fund himself, and when·
ever I send for a new strap the broken one is required as proof, the new
one takes ten days to arrive, then it's of poor quality and not worth much.
But in the mean time how am I to make the machine go without straps?
Nobody bothers about that!''
The explorer reflected: It is always a delicate matter to intervene
effectively in other people's affairs. He was neither a citizen of the penal
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