from one boundary rut to another to make a verst; or cut off the flowers of wormwood growing in the rut, and crushing them in his hands, sniffed at the bitter-sweet, pungent odour. Of all the thoughts of the previous day not a trace remained. He thought of nothing at all. He listened wearily to the sounds that were ever the same, the whiz of the shells above the booming of the cannon, looked at the faces of the men of the first battalion, which he had gazed at to weariness already, and waited. “Here it comes … this one’s for us again!” he thought, listening to the whiz of something flying out of the region of smoke. “One, another! More! Fallen” … He stopped short and looked towards the ranks. “No; it has flown over. But that one has fallen!” And he fell to pacing up and down again, trying to reach the next boundary in sixteen steps.

A whiz and a thud! Five paces from him the dry soil was thrown up, as a cannon ball sank into the earth. A chill ran down his back. He looked at the ranks. Probably a number had been struck: the men had gathered in a crowd in the second battalion.

M. l’aide-de-camp,” he shouted, “tell the men not to crowd together.”

The adjutant, having obeyed this instruction, was approaching Prince Andrey. From the other side the major in command of the battalion came riding up.

“Look out!” rang out a frightened cry from a soldier, and like a bird, with swift, whirring wings alighting on the earth, a grenade dropped with a dull thud a couple of paces from Prince Andrey, near the major’s horse. The horse, with no question of whether it were right or wrong to show fear, snorted, reared, almost throwing the major, and galloped away. The horse’s terror infected the men.

“Lie down!” shouted the adjutant, throwing himself on the ground. Prince Andrey stood in uncertainty. The shell was smoking and rotating like a top between him and the recumbent adjutant, near a bush of wormwood in the rut between the meadow and the field.

“Can this be death?” Prince Andrey wondered, with an utterly new, wistful feeling, looking at the grass, at the wormwood and at the thread of smoke coiling from the rotating top. “I can’t die, I don’t want to die, I love life, I love this grass and earth and air …”

He thought this, and yet at the same time he did not forget that people were looking at him.

“For shame, M. l’aide-de-camp!” he said to the adjutant; “what sort of …” He did not finish. Simultaneously there was a tearing, crashing sound, like the smash of broken crockery, a puff of stifling fumes, and Prince Andrey was sent spinning over, and flinging up one arm, fell on his face.

Several officers ran up to him. A great stain of blood was spreading over the grass from the right side of his stomach.

The militiamen stood with the stretchers behind the officers. Prince Andrey lay on his chest, with his face sunk in the grass; he was still breathing in hard, hoarse gasps.

“Well, why are you waiting, come along!”

The peasants went up and took him by the shoulders and legs, but he moaned piteously, and they looked at one another, and laid him down again.

“Pick him up, lay him on, it’s all the same!” shouted some one. They lifted him by the shoulders again and laid him on the stretcher.

“Ah, my God! my God! what is it?…The stomach! It’s all over then! Ah, my God!” could be heard among the officers. “It almost grazed my ear,” the adjutant was saying. The peasants, with the stretcher across their shoulders, hurried along the path they had trodden to the ambulance station.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.