BOOK THIRTEEN: 1812
13. CHAPTER XIII
But even as he spoke he began to doubt whether this was the corporal
he knew or a stranger, so unlike himself did the corporal seem at that
moment. Moreover, just as Pierre was speaking a sharp rattle of
drums was suddenly heard from both sides. The corporal frowned at
Pierre's words and, uttering some meaningless oaths, slammed the door.
The shed became semidark, and the sharp rattle of the drums on two
sides drowned the sick man's groans.
"There it is!... It again!..." said Pierre to himself, and an
involuntary shudder ran down his spine. In the corporal's changed
face, in the sound of his voice, in the stirring and deafening noise
of the drums, he recognized that mysterious, callous force which
compelled people against their will to kill their fellow men- that
force the effect of which he had witnessed during the executions. To
fear or to try to escape that force, to address entreaties or
exhortations to those who served as its tools, was useless. Pierre
knew this now. One had to wait and endure. He did not again go to
the sick man, nor turn to look at him, but stood frowning by the
door of the hut.
When that door was opened and the prisoners, crowding against one
another like a flock of sheep, squeezed into the exit, Pierre pushed
his way forward and approached that very captain who as the corporal
had assured him was ready to do anything for him. The captain was also
in marching kit, and on his cold face appeared that same it which
Pierre had recognized in the corporal's words and in the roll of the
"Pass on, pass on!" the captain reiterated, frowning sternly, and
looking at the prisoners who thronged past him.
Pierre went up to him, though he knew his attempt would be vain.
"What now?" the officer asked with a cold look as if not recognizing
Pierre told him about the sick man.
"He'll manage to walk, devil take him!" said the captain. "Pass
on, pass on!" he continued without looking at Pierre.