Sevastopol : Chapter 19

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1888

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(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "There are people (we ourselves are such) who realize that our Government is very bad, and who struggle against it." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
• "It usually happens that when an idea which has been useful and even necessary in the past becomes superfluous, that idea, after a more or less prolonged struggle, yields its place to a new idea which was till then an ideal, but which thus becomes a present idea." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "...for no social system can be durable or stable, under which the majority does not enjoy equal rights but is kept in a servile position, and is bound by exceptional laws. Only when the laboring majority have the same rights as other citizens, and are freed from shameful disabilities, is a firm order of society possible." (From : "To the Czar and His Assistants," by Leo Tolstoy, ....)

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Chapter 19

XIX.

The table had been moved out from the wall, and spread with a soiled table-cloth, in the same room in which Volodya had presented himself to the colonel on the preceding evening. The battery commander now offered him his hand, and questioned him about Petersburg and his journey.

“Well, gentlemen, I beg the favor of a glass with any of you who drink vodka. The ensigns do not drink,” he added, with a smile.

On the whole, the battery commander did not appear nearly so stern to-day as he had on the preceding evening; on the contrary, he had the appearance of a kindly, hospitable host, and an elder comrade among the officers. But, in spite of this, all the officers, from the old captain down to Ensign Dyadenko, by their very manner of speaking and looking the commander straight in the eye, as they approached, one after the other, to drink their vodka, exhibited great respect for him.

[Pg 217]

The dinner consisted of a large wooden bowl of cabbage-soup, in which floated fat chunks of beef, and a huge quantity of pepper and laurel-leaves, mustard, and Polish meat-balls in a cabbage leaf, turnover patties of chopped meat and dough, and with butter, which was not perfectly fresh. There were no napkins, the spoons were of pewter and wood, there were only two glasses, and on the table stood a decanter of water with a broken neck; but the dinner was not dull; conversation never halted.

At first, their talk turned on the battle of Inkerman, in which the battery had taken part, as to the causes of failure, of which each one gave his own impressions and ideas, and held his tongue as soon as the battery commander himself began to speak; then the conversation naturally changed to the insufficiency of caliber of the light guns, and upon the new lightened cannons, in which connection Volodya had an opportunity to display his knowledge of artillery.

But their talk did not dwell upon the present terrible position of Sevastopol, as though each of them had meditated too much on that subject to allude to it again. In the same way, to[Pg 218] Volodya's great amazement and disappointment, not a word was said about the duties of the service which he was to fulfill, just as though he had come to Sevastopol merely for the purpose of telling about the new cannon and dining with the commander of the battery.

While they were at dinner, a bomb fell not far from the house in which they were seated. The walls and the floor trembled, as though in an earthquake, and the window was obscured with the smoke of the powder.

“You did not see anything of this sort in Petersburg, I fancy; but these surprises often take place here,” said the battery commander.

“Look out, Vlang, and see where it burst.”

Vlang looked, and reported that it had burst on the square, and then there was nothing more said about the bomb.

Just before the end of the dinner, an old man, the clerk of the battery, entered the room, with three sealed envelopes, and handed them to the commander.

[Pg 219]

“This is very important; a messenger has this moment brought these from the chief of the artillery.”

All the officers gazed, with impatient curiosity, at the commander's practiced fingers as they broke the seal of the envelope and drew forth the very important paper. “What can it be?” each one asked himself.

It might be that they were to march out of Sevastopol for a rest, it might be an order for the whole battery to betake themselves to the bastions.

“Again!” said the commander, flinging the paper angrily on the table.

“What's it about, Apollon Sergiéitch?” inquired the eldest officer.

“An officer and crew are required for a mortar battery over yonder, and I have only four officers, and there is not a full gun-crew in the line,” growled the commander: “and here more are demanded of me. But some one must go, gentlemen,” he said, after a brief pause: “the order requires him to be at the barrier at seven o'clock.... Send the sergeant! Who is to go, gentlemen? decide,” he repeated.

“Well, here's one who has never been yet,” said Tchernovitzky, pointing to Volodya. The commander of the battery made no reply.

[Pg 220]

“Yes, I should like to go,” said Volodya, as he felt the cold sweat start out on his back and neck.

“No; why should you? There's no occasion!” broke in the captain. “Of course, no one will refuse, but neither is it proper to ask any one; but if Apollon Sergiéitch will permit us, we will draw lots, as we did once before.”

All agreed to this. Kraut cut some paper into bits, folded them up, and dropped them into a cap. The captain jested, and even plucked up the audacity, on this occasion, to ask the colonel for wine, to keep up their courage, he said. Dyadenko sat in gloomy silence, Volodya smiled at something or other, Tchernovitzky declared that it would infallibly fall to him, Kraut was perfectly composed.

Volodya was allowed to draw first; he took one slip, which was rather long, but it immediately occurred to him to change it; he took another, which was smaller and thinner, unfolded it, and read on it, “I go.”

“It has fallen to me,” he said, with a sigh.

“Well, God be with you. You will get your baptism of fire at once,” said the commander of[Pg 221] the battery, gazing at the perturbed countenance of the ensign with a kindly smile;[Pg 222] “but you must get there as speedily as possible. And, to make it more cheerful for you, Vlang shall go with you as gun-sergeant.”

From : Gutenberg.org

Chronology

November 30, 1887 :
Chapter 19 -- Publication.

February 18, 2017 17:33:26 :
Chapter 19 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

May 28, 2017 15:35:44 :
Chapter 19 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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