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Gaspar Ruiz
written by "Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924"
... would not be shot till sunset. He begged then to know what he was to do with them meantime. The adjutant looked savagely round the courtyard, and, pointing to the door of a small dungeon-like guard-room, receiving light and air through one heavily-barred window, said: "Drive the scoundrels in there." The sergeant, tightening his grip upon the stick he carried in virtue of his rank, executed this order with alacrity and zeal. He hit Gaspar Ruiz, whose movements were slow, over his head and shoulders. Gaspar Ruiz stood still for a moment under the shower of blows, biting his lip thoughtfully as if absorbed by a perplexing mental process—then followed the others without haste. The door was locked, and the adjutant carried off the key. By noon the heat of that low vaulted place crammed to suffocation had become unbearable. The prisoners crowded towards the window, begging their guards for a drop of water; but the soldiers remained lying in indolent attitudes wherever there was a little shade under a wall, while the sentry sat with his back against the door smoking a cigarette, and raising his eyebrows philosophically from time to time. Gaspar Ruiz had pushed his way to the window with irresistible force. His capacious chest needed more air than the others; his big face, resting with its chin on the ledge, pressed close to the bars, seemed to support the other faces crowding up for breath. From moaned entreaties they had passed to desperate cries, and the tumultuous howling of those thirsty men obliged a young officer who was just then crossing the courtyard to shout in order to make himself heard. "Why don't you give some water to these prisoners!" The sergeant, with an air of surprised innocence, excused himself by the remark that all those men were condemned to die in a very few hours. Lieutenant Santierra stamped his foot. "They are condemned to death, not to torture," he shouted. "Give them some water at o...

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