Chapter 36

PRINCE ANDREY’S REGIMENT was in the reserves, which were until two o’clock stationed behind Semyonovskoye in complete inaction, under a hot artillery fire. Before two o’clock the regiment, which had already lost over two hundred men, was moved forward into the trampled oat-field, in that space between Semyonovskoye and the battery redoubt, on which thousands of men were killed that day, and on which, about two o’clock, there was directed the concentrated fire of several hundreds of the enemy’s cannons.

Not leaving that spot, nor discharging a single round of ammunition, the regiment lost here another third of its men. In front, and especially on the right side, the cannons kept booming in the smoke that never lifted, and from the mysterious region of the smoke that hid all the country in front, there came flying swiftly hissing cannon balls and slowly whizzing grenades. Sometimes, as though to give them a breathing space, for a whole quarter of an hour all the cannon balls and grenades flew over them, but at other times, in the course of a single minute, several men out of the regiment would be swept off, and they were busy the whole time dragging away the dead and carrying off the wounded.

With every fresh stroke the chances of life grew less and less for those who were not yet killed. The regiment was divided into battalions three hundred paces apart; but in spite of that, all the regiment was under the influence of the same mood. All the men of the regiment were alike gloomy and silent. At rare intervals there was the sound of talk in the ranks, but that sound was hushed every time the falling thud and the cry of “stretchers!” was heard. For the greater part of the time, by command of the officers, the men sat on the ground. One, taking off his shako, carefully loosened and then drew up the folds of it; another, crumbling the dry clay in his hands, rubbed up his bayonet with it; another shifted and fastened the buckle of his shoulder straps; while another carefully undid, and did up again, his leg bandages, and changed his boots. Some built little houses of clods of the ploughed field, or plaited straws of stubble. All of them appeared entirely engrossed in these pursuits. When men were killed or wounded, when the stretchers trailed by, when our troops retreated, when immense masses of the enemy came into view through the smoke, no one took any notice of these circumstances. When our artillery or cavalry advanced, when our infantry could be seen moving, approving observations could be heard on all sides. But quite extraneous incidents that had nothing to do with the battle were what attracted most notice; as though the attention of these morally overstrained men found a rest in the commonplace incidents of everyday life. Some batteries of artillery passed in front of their line. In one of the ammunition carriages a horse had put its legs through the traces.

“Hey! look at the trace-horse!… Take her leg out! She’ll fall!… Hey! they don’t see!…” Shouts rose from the ranks all through the regiment.

Another time the attention of all was attracted by a little brown dog, with its tail in the air, who had come no one knew from where, and was running about fussily in front of the ranks. All at once a cannon ball fell near it, and it squealed and dashed away with its tail between its legs! Roars and shrieks of laughter rang out from the whole regiment. But distractions of this kind did not last more than a minute, and the men had been eight hours without food or occupation, with the terror of death never relaxing for an instant, and their pale and haggard faces grew paler and more haggard.

Prince Andrey, pale and haggard like every one else in the regiment, walked to and fro in the meadow next to the oat-field from one boundary-line to the other, with his hands clasped behind his back, and his eyes fixed on the ground. There was no need for him to give orders, and nothing for him to do. Everything was done of itself. The killed were dragged behind the line; the wounded were removed, and the ranks closed up. If any soldiers ran away, they made haste to return at once. At first Prince Andrey, thinking it his duty to keep up the spirits of the men, and set them an example, had walked about among the ranks. But soon he felt that there was nothing he could teach them. All his energies, like those of every soldier, were unconsciously directed to restraining himself from contemplating the horror of his position. He walked about the meadow, dragging one leg after the other, making the grass rustle, and watching the dust, which covered his boots. Then he strode along, trying to step on the traces of the footsteps of the mowers on the meadow; or counting his steps, calculated how many times he would have to walk

  By PanEris using Melati.

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