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Chapter 11

  • From Prince Shcherbatov's house the prisoners were led straight down th_irgin's Field, to the left of the nunnery, as far as a kitchen garden i_hich a post had been set up. Beyond that post a fresh pit had been dug in th_round, and near the post and the pit a large crowd stood in a semicircle. Th_rowd consisted of a few Russians and many of Napoleon's soldiers who were no_n duty—Germans, Italians, and Frenchmen, in a variety of uniforms. To th_ight and left of the post stood rows of French troops in blue uniforms wit_ed epaulets and high boots and shakos.
  • The prisoners were placed in a certain order, according to the list (Pierr_as sixth), and were led to the post. Several drums suddenly began to beat o_oth sides of them, and at that sound Pierre felt as if part of his soul ha_een torn away. He lost the power of thinking or understanding. He could onl_ear and see. And he had only one wish—that the frightful thing that had t_appen should happen quickly. Pierre looked round at his fellow prisoners an_crutinized them.
  • The two first were convicts with shaven heads. One was tall and thin, th_ther dark, shaggy, and sinewy, with a flat nose. The third was a domesti_erf, about forty-five years old, with grizzled hair and a plump, well-
  • nourished body. The fourth was a peasant, a very handsome man with a broad,
  • light-brown beard and black eyes. The fifth was a factory hand, a thin,
  • sallow-faced lad of eighteen in a loose coat.
  • Pierre heard the French consulting whether to shoot them separately or two a_ time. "In couples," replied the officer in command in a calm voice. Ther_as a stir in the ranks of the soldiers and it was evident that they were al_urrying—not as men hurry to do something they understand, but as people hurr_o finish a necessary but unpleasant and incomprehensible task.
  • A French official wearing a scarf came up to the right of the row of prisoner_nd read out the sentence in Russian and in French.
  • Then two pairs of Frenchmen approached the criminals and at the officer'_ommand took the two convicts who stood first in the row. The convicts stoppe_hen they reached the post and, while sacks were being brought, looked dumbl_round as a wounded beast looks at an approaching huntsman. One crosse_imself continually, the other scratched his back and made a movement of th_ips resembling a smile. With hurried hands the soldiers blindfolded them,
  • drawing the sacks over their heads, and bound them to the post.
  • Twelve sharpshooters with muskets stepped out of the ranks with a firm regula_read and halted eight paces from the post. Pierre turned away to avoid seein_hat was going to happen. Suddenly a crackling, rolling noise was heard whic_eemed to him louder than the most terrific thunder, and he looked round.
  • There was some smoke, and the Frenchmen were doing something near the pit,
  • with pale faces and trembling hands. Two more prisoners were led up. In th_ame way and with similar looks, these two glanced vainly at the onlooker_ith only a silent appeal for protection in their eyes, evidently unable t_nderstand or believe what was going to happen to them. They could not believ_t because they alone knew what their life meant to them, and so they neithe_nderstood nor believed that it could be taken from them.
  • Again Pierre did not wish to look and again turned away; but again the soun_s of a frightful explosion struck his ear, and at the same moment he sa_moke, blood, and the pale, scared faces of the Frenchmen who were again doin_omething by the post, their trembling hands impeding one another. Pierre,
  • breathing heavily, looked around as if asking what it meant. The same questio_as expressed in all the looks that met his.
  • On the faces of all the Russians and of the French soldiers and officer_ithout exception, he read the same dismay, horror, and conflict that were i_is own heart. "But who, after all, is doing this? They are all suffering as _m. Who then is it? Who?" flashed for an instant through his mind.
  • "Sharpshooters of the 86th, forward!" shouted someone. The fifth prisoner, th_ne next to Pierre, was led away—alone. Pierre did not understand that he wa_aved, that he and the rest had been brought there only to witness th_xecution. With ever-growing horror, and no sense of joy or relief, he gaze_t what was taking place. The fifth man was the factory lad in the loos_loak. The moment they laid hands on him he sprang aside in terror an_lutched at Pierre. (Pierre shuddered and shook himself free.) The lad wa_nable to walk. They dragged him along, holding him up under the arms, and h_creamed. When they got him to the post he grew quiet, as if he suddenl_nderstood something. Whether he understood that screaming was useless o_hether he thought it incredible that men should kill him, at any rate he too_is stand at the post, waiting to be blindfolded like the others, and like _ounded animal looked around him with glittering eyes.
  • Pierre was no longer able to turn away and close his eyes. His curiosity an_gitation, like that of the whole crowd, reached the highest pitch at thi_ifth murder. Like the others this fifth man seemed calm; he wrapped his loos_loak closer and rubbed one bare foot with the other.
  • When they began to blindfold him he himself adjusted the knot which hurt th_ack of his head; then when they propped him against the bloodstained post, h_eaned back and, not being comfortable in that position, straightened himself,
  • adjusted his feet, and leaned back again more comfortably. Pierre did not tak_is eyes from him and did not miss his slightest movement.
  • Probably a word of command was given and was followed by the reports of eigh_uskets; but try as he would Pierre could not afterwards remember having hear_he slightest sound of the shots. He only saw how the workman suddenly san_own on the cords that held him, how blood showed itself in two places, ho_he ropes slackened under the weight of the hanging body, and how the workma_at down, his head hanging unnaturally and one leg bent under him. Pierre ra_p to the post. No one hindered him. Pale, frightened people were doin_omething around the workman. The lower jaw of an old Frenchman with a thic_ustache trembled as he untied the ropes. The body collapsed. The soldier_ragged it awkwardly from the post and began pushing it into the pit.
  • They all plainly and certainly knew that they were criminals who must hide th_races of their guilt as quickly as possible.
  • Pierre glanced into the pit and saw that the factory lad was lying with hi_nees close up to his head and one shoulder higher than the other. Tha_houlder rose and fell rhythmically and convulsively, but spadefuls of eart_ere already being thrown over the whole body. One of the soldiers, evidentl_uffering, shouted gruffly and angrily at Pierre to go back. But Pierre di_ot understand him and remained near the post, and no one drove him away.
  • When the pit had been filled up a command was given. Pierre was taken back t_is place, and the rows of troops on both sides of the post made a half tur_nd went past it at a measured pace. The twenty-four sharpshooters wit_ischarged muskets, standing in the center of the circle, ran back to thei_laces as the companies passed by.
  • Pierre gazed now with dazed eyes at these sharpshooters who ran in couples ou_f the circle. All but one rejoined their companies. This one, a youn_oldier, his face deadly pale, his shako pushed back, and his musket restin_n the ground, still stood near the pit at the spot from which he had fired.
  • He swayed like a drunken man, taking some steps forward and back to sav_imself from falling. An old, noncommissioned officer ran out of the ranks an_aking him by the elbow dragged him to his company. The crowd of Russians an_renchmen began to disperse. They all went away silently and with droopin_eads.
  • "That will teach them to start fires," said one of the Frenchmen.
  • Pierre glanced round at the speaker and saw that it was a soldier who wa_rying to find some relief after what had been done, but was not able to d_o. Without finishing what he had begun to say he made a hopeless movemen_ith his arm and went away.