BOOK TWELVE: 1812
11. CHAPTER XI
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
"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.