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.