joy or relief, he gazed at what was being done. The fifth was the factory lad in the loose gown. As soon as they touched him, he darted away in terror and clutched at Pierre (Pierre shuddered and tore himself away from him). The factory lad could not walk. He was held up under the arms and dragged along, and he screamed something all the while. When they had brought him to the post he was suddenly quiet. He seemed suddenly to have grasped something. Whether he grasped that it was no use to scream, or that it was impossible for men to kill him, he stood at the post, waiting to be bound like the others, and like a wild beast under fire looked about him with glittering eyes.

Pierre could not make himself turn away and close his eyes. The curiosity and emotion he felt, and all the crowd with him, at this fifth murder reached its highest pitch. Like the rest, this fifth man seemed calm. He wrapped his dressing-gown round him, and scratched one bare foot with the other.

When they bound up his eyes, of himself he straightened the knot, which hurt the back of his head; then, when they propped him against the blood-stained post, he staggered back, and as he was uncomfortable in that position, he shifted his attitude, and leaned back quietly, with his feet put down symmetrically. Pierre never took his eyes off him, and did not miss the slightest movement he made.

The word of command must have sounded, and after it the shots of the eight muskets. But Pierre, however earnestly he tried to recollect it afterwards, had not heard the slightest sound from the shots. He only saw the factory lad suddenly fall back on the cords, saw blood oozing in two places, and saw the cords themselves work loose from the weight of the hanging body, and the factory lad sit down, his head falling unnaturally, and one leg bent under him. Pierre ran up to the post. No one hindered him. Men with pale and frightened faces were doing something round the factory lad. There was one old whiskered Frenchman, whose lower jaw twitched all the while as he untied the cords. The body sank down. The soldiers, with clumsy haste, dragged it from the post and shoved it into the pit.

All of them clearly knew, beyond all doubt, that they were criminals, who must make haste to hide the traces of their crime.

Pierre glanced into the pit and saw that the factory lad was lying there with his knees up close to his head, and one shoulder higher than the other. And that shoulder was convulsively, rhythmically rising and falling. But spadefuls of earth were already falling all over the body. One of the soldiers, in a voice of rage, exasperation, and pain, shouted to Pierre to stand aside. But Pierre did not understand him, and still stood at the post, and no one drove him away.

When the pit was quite filled up, the word of command was heard, Pierre was taken back to his place, and the French troops, standing in ranks on both sides of the post, faced about, and began marching with a measured step past the post. The twenty-four sharpshooters, standing in the middle of the circle, with uncharged muskets, ran back to their places as their companies marched by them.

Pierre stared now with dazed eyes at these sharpshooters, who were running two together out of the circle. All of them had joined their companies except one. A young soldier, with a face of deathly pallor, still stood facing the pit on the spot upon which he had shot, his shako falling backwards off his head, and his fuse dropping on to the ground. He staggered like a drunken man, taking a few steps forward, and then a few back, to keep himself from falling. An old under-officer ran out of the ranks, and, seizing the young soldier by the shoulder, dragged him to his company. The crowd of Frenchmen and Russians began to disperse. All walked in silence, with downcast eyes.

“That will teach them to set fire to the places,” said some one among the French. Pierre looked round at the speaker, and saw that it was a soldier who was trying to console himself somehow for what had been done, but could not. Without finishing his sentence, he waved his hand and went on.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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