Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 148

148
PARTISAN REVIEW
with his adherents; I possess some of his strength of conviction, hut I
entirely lack his power; in consequence, the adherents have slipped away.
There are still a good many, hut nobody admits it.
If
you go to the tea·
house today, that is on an execution day, and listen around a bit, you will
perhaps hear only ambiguous utterances. These people are all adherents,
but they are quite useless to me under the present commander with his
present views. And now I ask you: Shall such a lifework as this"-here he
pointed to the machine-"be allowed to perish just because of this com–
mander and the women in his family who influence him? Can we allow
this? Even though one is only on our island for a few days, as a stranger?
But there is no time to lose, there is something afoot to undermine my
jurisdiction; discussions are already taking place in the commander's
office to which I am not summoned. Even your visit today seems to me to
be characteristic of the entire situation; they are cowards, so they send
you, a stranger, ahead of them.- How different the executions were in the
old days! Already, a day before the execution, the entire valley was over–
crowded with people; they all came just to watch; early in the morning
the commander appeared with his ladies; a flourish of trumpets awakened
the entire encampment; I made the announcement that everything was
ready; the society people-no high official was allowed to be absent–
took their places around the machine; this heap of wicker chairs is a
miserable relic of those times. The machine was freshly painted and shone
brightly, I used new spare parts for almost every execution. Before hun–
dreds of eyes-all the spectators stood on tip-toe as far back as those
slopes over there-the condemned man was laid under the harrow by the
commander himself. What a common soldier is allowed to do today, was
then my task, as presiding judge, and I felt honored by it. And now the
execution began! Not a single discord disturbed the work of the machine.
Many stopped looking, even, and just lay there in the sand with their eyes
closed. Everybody realized: Justice is now being done. In the stillness
only the sighing of the condemned man, muffled by the felt, could be
heard. Today the machine ng_ longer succeeds in wringing from the con–
demned man a sigh that is sufficiently loud for the felt not to stifle it. In
those days, however, the writing needles dripped a corrosive liquid which
we are not allowed to use today. Well, then came the sixth hour! It was
impossible to grant all the petitions to be allowed to witness the spectacle
from close by. The commander in his wisdom gave orders that the children
should be considered first; of course I was always allowed to stand close
by on account of my position; many's the time I used to crouch there with
a small child in each arm. How we all absorbed the expression of trans–
figuration from the man's tortured face, how we lifted our cheeks into the
glow of this justice, finally achieved and already fading! What times
those were, comrade!" The officer had evidently forgotten who it was
standing before him; he had embraced the explorer and laid his head on
his shoulder. The latter was greatly embarrassed and looked impatiently
beyond the officer. The guard had finished the cleaning job and was now
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