Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 149

pouring rice-porridge from a can into the tray. The condemned man, who
seemed to have almost completely recovered, no sooner noticed this than
he began to clack with his tongue for the porridge. The guard kept shov·
away, for the porridge was undoubtedly intended for a later
moment, but it was nevertheless unseemly for him to put his dirty hands
in the tray and eat out of it in front of the ravenous offender.
The officer quickly pulled himself together. "I was not really trying
to touch your emotions," he said. "I know it is impossible to make those
times comprehensible today. Besides, the machine still works and can
speak for itself.
speaks for itself, even when it is standing all alone in
this valley. And in the end, the corpse still falls with an unbelievably
gentle flying motion into the ditch, even though there are no longer hun·
dreds to gather around the ditch like flies, as there used to
At that
time we had.to put up a strong railing around the ditch, but that has been
torn down long ago."
The explorer looked aimlessly about him, wanting to keep his face
from the officer. The latter, thinking he was looking at the barrenness of
the valley, seized his hands and walked around him in order to catch his
glance: "Do you see the shame of it?" he said.
But the explorer remained silent. For a little while the officer left
him alone; with outspread legs and his hands on his hips, he stood still,
looking at the ground. Then he smiled encouragingly at the explorer and
said: "I was standing nearby yesterday, when the commander gave you the
invitation. I heard it. I know the commander. I understood at once what
he had in mind with that invitation. Although his power would be sufficient
to take measures against me, he does not yet dare do so; but he wants to
expose me to your judgement, as being that of a distinguished foreigner.
He has made a careful calculation; this is your second day on the island,
you did not know the
commander and his thought processes, you are
prejudiced by the European point of view, you are perhaps, on principle,
opponent of capital punishment in general, and of such a machine-like
type of execution in. particular; furthermore you see how the execution
takes place, without public sympathy, sadly, on a machine that is already
somewhat damaged; now would
not be easily possible-this is what
the commander thinks-that you should not approve of my procedure?
And if you did not approve of it, would you not keep silent about it-I am
speaking from the commander's point of view-for you certainly have
complete confidence in your own much tried convictions? You have surely
seen and learned to appreciate the different peculiarities of many peoples,
therefore you will in all probability not speak out with all your might
against the procedure as you would, perhaps, do in your own country. But
that isn't at all necessary for the commander. A haphazard, merely an
incautious word suffices. It need not in any way correspond to your con·
victions, if only it appears to meet with his wishes. I am sure he will ques·
tion you with all the cunning he possesses. And the ladies will sit around
a circle, all ears. You'll probably say: 'In our country the court pro·
80...,139,140,141,142,143,144,145,146,147,148 150,151,152,153,154,155,156,157,158,159,...160
Powered by FlippingBook