But Pierre was not heeding the woman. For several seconds he had been gazing intently at what was passing a few paces from him. He was looking at the Armenian family and two French soldiers, who had approached them. One of these soldiers, a nimble, little man, was dressed in a blue coat, with a cord tied round for a belt. He had a night-cap on his head, and his feet were bare. Another, whose appearance struck Pierre particularly, was a long, round-shouldered, fair-haired, thin man, with ponderous movements and an idiotic expression of face. He was dressed in a frieze tunic, blue trousers and big, torn, high boots. The little bare-footed Frenchman in the blue coat, on going up to the Armenians, said something, and at once took hold of the old man’s legs, and the old man began immediately in haste pulling off his boots. The other soldier in the tunic stopped facing the beautiful Armenian girl, with his hands in his pockets, and stared at her without speaking or moving.

“Take it, take the child,” said Pierre, handing the child to the peasant woman, and speaking with peremptory haste. “You give her to them, you take her,” he almost shouted to the woman, setting the screaming child on the ground, and looking round again at the Frenchmen and the Armenian family. The old man was by now sitting barefoot. The little Frenchman had just taken the second boot from him, and was slapping the boots together. The old man was saying something with a sob, but all that Pierre only saw in a passing glimpse. His whole attention was absorbed by the Frenchman in the tunic, who had meanwhile, with a deliberate, swinging gait, moved up to the young woman, and taking his hands out of his pockets, caught hold of her neck.

The beautiful Armenian still sat in the same immobile pose, with her long lashes drooping, and seemed not to see and not to feel what the soldier was doing to her.

While Pierre ran the few steps that separated him from the Frenchman, the long soldier in the tunic had already torn the necklace from the Armenian beauty’s neck, and the young woman, clutching at her neck with both hands, screamed shrilly.

“Let that woman alone!” Pierre roared in a voice hoarse with rage, and seizing the long, stooping soldier by the shoulders he shoved him away. The soldier fell down, got up, and ran away. His comrade, dropping the boots, pulled out his sword, and moved up to Pierre in a menacing attitude.

Voyons, pas de bêtises!” he shouted.

Pierre was in that transport of frenzy in which he remembered nothing, and his strength was increased tenfold. He dashed at the barefoot Frenchman, and before he had time to draw his cutlass, he knocked him down, and was pommelling him with his fists Shouts of approval were heard from the crowd around, and at the same time a patrol of French Uhlans came riding round the corner. The Uhlans trotted up to Pierre, and the French soldiers surrounded him. Pierre had no recollection of what followed. He remembered that he beat somebody, and was beaten, and that in the end he found that his hands were tied, that a group of French soldiers were standing round him, ransacking his clothes.

“Lieutenant, he has a dagger,” were the first words Pierre grasped the meaning of.

“Ah, a weapon,” said the officer, and he turned to the barefoot soldier, who had been taken with Pierre. “Very good, very good; you can tell all your story at the court-martial,” said the officer. And then he turned to Pierre: “Do you know French?”

Pierre looked about him with bloodshot eyes, and made no reply. Probably his face looked very terrible; for the officer said something in a whisper, and four more Uhlans left the rest, and stationed themselves both sides of Pierre.

“Do you speak French?” the officer, keeping his distance, repeated the question. “Call the interpreter.” From the ranks a little man came forward, in a Russian civilian dress. Pierre, from his dress and speech, at once recognised in him a French shopman from some Moscow shop.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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