Peter Rosegger
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, I.N.R.I., by Peter Rosegger, Translated by Elizabeth Lee
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Title: I.N.R.I. A prisoner's Story of the Cross
Author: Peter Rosegger

Release Date: November 5, 2005 [eBook #17011]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
E-text prepared by Al Haines

I. N. R. I.
A Prisoner's Story of the Cross
Translated by Elizabeth Lee

Hodder and Stoughton Limited London First Edition, September, 1905. Second Edition, September, 1905. Third Edition, December, 1905. Made and Printed in Great Britain. Wyman & Sons Ltd., London, Reading and Fakenham

The difficult path which leads to the gardens where the waters of life sparkle, takes us first to a big city in which the hearts of men pulsate with feverish unrest.
There is such a great crowd in the broad square in front of the law courts that the electric cars are forced to stop. Six or eight of them are standing in a row, and the police cannot break through the crowd. Every one is making for the law courts; some hurry forward excitedly, others push their way through quietly, and fresh streams of people from the side streets are continually joining the rest. The public prosecutor is expected every moment to appear on the balcony and announce the verdict to the public.
Every one was indulging in remarks about the prisoner who had wished to do so terrible a deed.
"He is condemned, sure enough!" shouted one man. "The like of him gets to Heaven with a hempen cord!"
"Don't be silly," said another, with lofty superiority. "In half an hour at most he'll pass the gate a free man. Juries don't condemn the like of him."
Many agreed with the first speaker, but more with the last.
"Whoever believes that he'll be let off is a fool!" shouted some one. "Just consider what he did, what he wished to do!"
"He wanted to do a splendid thing!"
Passionate discussion and wagering began. It would have struck a keen observer that good broadcloth expected condemnation, while fustian and rags eagerly desired acquittal. A big man of imposing presence asked in a loud tone, over the heads of the people, if anyone would bet him ten ducats that the wretch would hang.
A starved-looking little fellow declared himself willing to take up the bet. The handsome man turned his head in its silk hat, and when he saw the starved, undersized creature, murmured sleepily, "He! he'll bet ten ducats with me! My dear sir, you'd better go home to your mother and ask her to give you a couple of pennies."
Laughter followed; but it was interrupted. The crowd swayed suddenly, as when a gust of wind passes over the surface of water. A man appeared on the balcony of the law courts. He had a short, dark beard; his head with its high forehead was uncovered. He stepped forward ceremoniously to the railing, and raised his hand to enforce silence. And when the murmur of the crowd died away, he exclaimed in a thin voice, but pronouncing every syllable clearly, "The prisoner, Konrad Ferleitner, is found guilty by a majority of two-thirds of the jury, and in the name of his Majesty the King is condemned to die by hanging."
He stood for a moment after making the announcement, and then went back into the house. A few isolated exclamations came from the crowd.
"To make a martyr of him! Enthusiasm is infectious!"
"An enthusiast! If he's an enthusiast, I'm a rascal!"
"Why not?" replied a shock-headed man with a laugh.
"Move on!" ordered the police, who were now reinforced by the military. The crowd yielded on all sides, and the tram rails were once more free.
A few minutes later a closed carriage was driven along the same road. The glint of a bayonet could be seen through the window. The crowd flocked after the carriage, but it went so swiftly over the paved road that the dust flew up under the horses' hoofs, and at length it vanished in the poplar avenue that led to the prison. Some of the people stopped, panting, and asked each other why they had run so fast. "It won't take place to-day. We shall see in the papers when it's to come off."
"Do you think so? I tell you it's only for specially invited and honoured guests! The times when executions were conducted in public are gone, my dear fellow. The people are kept out of the way."
"Patience, my wise compeer! It'll be a people's holiday when the hangman is hung."
The crowd melted into the ordinary traffic of the street.
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