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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 11
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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 11 Post by :kzvans Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :866

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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 11

From Prince Shcherbatov's house the prisoners were led straight down
the Virgin's Field, to the left of the nunnery, as far as a kitchen
garden in which a post had been set up. Beyond that post a fresh pit
had been dug in the ground, and near the post and the pit a large
crowd stood in a semicircle. The crowd consisted of a few Russians and
many of Napoleon's soldiers who were not on duty- Germans, Italians,
and Frenchmen, in a variety of uniforms. To the right and left of
the post stood rows of French troops in blue uniforms with red
epaulets and high boots and shakos.

The prisoners were placed in a certain order, according to the
list (Pierre was sixth), and were led to the post. Several drums
suddenly began to beat on both sides of them, and at that sound Pierre
felt as if part of his soul had been torn away. He lost the power of
thinking or understanding. He could only hear and see. And he had only
one wish- that the frightful thing that had to happen should happen
quickly. Pierre looked round at his fellow prisoners and scrutinized

The two first were convicts with shaven heads. One was tall and
thin, the other dark, shaggy, and sinewy, with a flat nose. The
third was a domestic serf, 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 at a time. "In couples," replied the officer in
command in a calm voice. There was a stir in the ranks of the soldiers
and it was evident that they were all hurrying- not as men hurry to do
something they understand, but as people hurry to finish a necessary
but unpleasant and incomprehensible task.

A French official wearing a scarf came up to the right of the row of
prisoners and read out the sentence in Russian and in French.

Then two pairs of Frenchmen approached the criminals and at the
officer's command took the two convicts who stood first in the row.
The convicts stopped when they reached the post and, while sacks
were being brought, looked dumbly around as a wounded beast looks at
an approaching huntsman. One crossed himself continually, the other
scratched his back and made a movement of the lips 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 regular tread and halted eight paces from the post. Pierre turned
away to avoid seeing what was going to happen. Suddenly a crackling,
rolling noise was heard which seemed 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 the same way and
with similar looks, these two glanced vainly at the onlookers with
only a silent appeal for protection in their eyes, evidently unable to
understand or believe what was going to happen to them. They could not
believe it because they alone knew what their life meant to them,
and so they neither understood nor believed that it could be taken
from them.

Again Pierre did not wish to look and again turned away; but again
the sound as of a frightful explosion struck his ear, and at the
same moment he saw smoke, blood, and the pale, scared faces of the
Frenchmen who were again doing something by the post, their
trembling hands impeding one another. Pierre, breathing heavily,
looked around as if asking what it meant. The same question was
expressed in all the looks that met his.

On the faces of all the Russians and of the French soldiers and
officers without exception, he read the same dismay, horror, and
conflict that were in his own heart. "But who, after all, is doing
this? They are all suffering as I am. Who then is it? Who?" flashed
for an instant through his mind.

"Sharpshooters of the 86th, forward!" shouted someone. The fifth
prisoner, the one next to Pierre, was led away- alone. Pierre did
not understand that he was saved, that he and the rest had been
brought there only to witness the execution. With ever-growing horror,
and no sense of joy or relief, he gazed at what was taking place.
The fifth man was the factory lad in the loose cloak. The moment
they laid hands on him he sprang aside in terror and clutched at
Pierre. (Pierre shuddered and shook himself free.) The lad was
unable to walk. They dragged him along, holding him up under the arms,
and he screamed. When they got him to the post he grew quiet, as if he
suddenly understood something. Whether he understood that screaming
was useless or whether he thought it incredible that men should kill
him, at any rate he took his stand at the post, waiting to be
blindfolded like the others, and like a wounded animal looked around
him with glittering eyes.

Pierre was no longer able to turn away and close his eyes. His
curiosity and agitation, like that of the whole crowd, reached the
highest pitch at this fifth murder. Like the others this fifth man
seemed calm; he wrapped his loose cloak closer and rubbed one bare
foot with the other.

When they began to blindfold him he himself adjusted the knot
which hurt the back of his head; then when they propped him against
the bloodstained post, he leaned back and, not being comfortable in
that position, straightened himself, adjusted his feet, and leaned
back again more comfortably. Pierre did not take his eyes from him and
did not miss his slightest movement.

Probably a word of command was given and was followed by the reports
of eight muskets; but try as he would Pierre could not afterwards
remember having heard the slightest sound of the shots. He only saw
how the workman suddenly sank down on the cords that held him, how
blood showed itself in two places, how the ropes slackened under the
weight of the hanging body, and how the workman sat down, his head
hanging unnaturally and one leg bent under him. Pierre ran up to the
post. No one hindered him. Pale, frightened people were doing
something around the workman. The lower jaw of an old Frenchman with a
thick mustache trembled as he untied the ropes. The body collapsed.
The soldiers dragged 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 the traces of their guilt as quickly as possible.

Pierre glanced into the pit and saw that the factory lad was lying
with his knees close up to his head and one shoulder higher than the
other. That shoulder rose and fell rhythmically and convulsively,
but spadefuls of earth were already being thrown over the whole
body. One of the soldiers, evidently suffering, shouted gruffly and
angrily at Pierre to go back. But Pierre did not 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 to his place, and the rows of troops on both sides of the
post made a half turn and went past it at a measured pace. The
twenty-four sharpshooters with discharged muskets, standing in the
center of the circle, ran back to their places as the companies passed

Pierre gazed now with dazed eyes at these sharpshooters who ran in
couples out of the circle. All but one rejoined their companies.
This one, a young soldier, his face deadly pale, his shako pushed
back, and his musket resting on 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 save himself from falling. An
old, noncommissioned officer ran out of the ranks and taking him by
the elbow dragged him to his company. The crowd of Russians and
Frenchmen began to disperse. They all went away silently and with
drooping heads.

"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 was trying to find some relief after what had been done, but was
not able to do so. Without finishing what he had begun to say he
made a hopeless movement with his arm and went away.

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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12 War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12

War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 12
After the execution Pierre was separated from the rest of theprisoners and placed alone in a small, ruined, and befouled church.Toward evening a noncommissioned officer entered with two soldiersand told him that he had been pardoned and would now go to thebarracks for the prisoners of war. Without understanding what was saidto him, Pierre got up and went with the soldiers. They took him to theupper end of the field there were some sheds built of charredplanks, beams, and battens, and led him into one of them. In thedarkness some twenty different men surrounded Pierre. He looked atthem without understanding

War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 10 War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 10

War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 10
On the eighth of September an officer- a very important onejudging by the respect the guards showed him- entered the coachhouse where the prisoners were. This officer, probably someone onthe staff, was holding a paper in his hand, and called over all theRussians there, naming Pierre as "the man who does not give his name."Glancing indolently and indifferently at all the prisoners, he orderedthe officer in charge to have them decently dressed and tidied upbefore taking them to the marshal. An hour later a squad of soldiersarrived and Pierre with thirteen others was led to the Virgin's Field.It was a fine