Sevastopol : Chapter 20

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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....)
• "People who take part in Government, or work under its direction, may deceive themselves or their sympathizers by making a show of struggling; but those against whom they struggle (the Government) know quite well, by the strength of the resistance experienced, that these people are not really pulling, but are only pretending to." (From : "A Letter to Russian Liberals," by Leo Tolstoy, Au....)
• "It is necessary that men should understand things as they are, should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an instrument for killing, and that the enrollment and management of an army -- the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with so self-confidently -- is a preparation for murder." (From : "'Thou Shalt Not Kill'," by Leo Tolstoy, August 8,....)


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Chapter 20


Vlang was exceedingly well pleased with the duty assigned to him, and ran hastily to make his preparations, and, when he was dressed, he went to the assistance of Volodya, and tried to persuade the latter to take his cot and fur coat with him, and some old “Annals of the Country,” and a spirit-lamp coffee-pot, and other useless things. The captain advised Volodya to read up his “Manual,”[L] first, about mortar-firing, and immediately to copy the tables out of it.

Volodya set about this at once, and, to his amazement and delight, he perceived that, though he was still somewhat troubled with a sensation of fear of danger, and still more lest he should turn out a coward, yet it was far from being to that degree to which it had affected him on the preceding evening. The reason for this lay partly in the daylight and in active occupation, and partly, principally, also, in the fact that fear and all powerful[Pg 223] emotions cannot long continue with the same intensity. In a word, he had already succeeded in recovering from his terror.

At seven o'clock, just as the sun had begun to hide itself behind the Nikolaevsky barracks, the sergeant came to him, and announced that the men were ready and waiting for him.

“I have given the list to Vlanga. You will please to ask him for it, Your Honor!” said he.

Twenty artillery-men, with side-arms, but without loading-tools, were standing at the corner of the house. Volodya and the yunker stepped up to them.

“Shall I make them a little speech, or shall I simply say, ‘Good day, children!’ or shall I say nothing at all?” thought he. “And why should I not say, ‘Good day, children!’ Why, I ought to say that much!” And he shouted boldly, in his ringing voice:—

“Good day, children!”

The soldiers responded cheerfully. The fresh, young voice sounded pleasant in the ears of all. Volodya marched vigorously at their head, in front of the soldiers, and, although his heart beat as if he had run several versts at the top of his[Pg 224] speed, his step was light and his countenance cheerful.

On arriving at the Malakoff mound, and climbing the slope, he perceived that Vlang, who had not lagged a single pace behind him, and who had appeared such a valiant fellow at home in the house, kept constantly swerving to one side, and ducking his head, as though all the cannon-balls and bombs, which whizzed by very frequently in that locality, were flying straight at him. Some of the soldiers did the same, and the faces of the majority of them betrayed, if not fear, at least anxiety. This circumstance put the finishing touch to Volodya's composure and encouraged him finally.

“So here I am also on the Malakoff mound, which I imagined to be a thousand times more terrible! And I can walk along without ducking my head before the bombs, and am far less terrified than the rest! So I am not a coward, after all?” he thought with delight, and even with a somewhat enthusiastic self-sufficiency.

But this feeling was soon shaken by a spectacle upon which he stumbled in the twilight, on the Kornilovsky battery, in his search for the commander of the bastion. Four sailors standing[Pg 225] near the breastworks were holding the bloody body of a man, without shoes or coat, by its arms and legs, and staggering as they tried to fling it over the ramparts.

(On the second day of the bombardment, it had been found impossible, in some localities, to carry off the corpses from the bastions, and so they were flung into the trench, in order that they might not impede action in the batteries.)

Volodya stood petrified for a moment, as he saw the corpse waver on the summit of the breastworks, and then roll down into the ditch; but, luckily for him, the commander of the bastion met him there, communicated his orders, and furnished him with a guide to the battery and to the bomb-proofs designated for his service. We will not enumerate the remaining dangers and disenchantments which our hero underwent that evening: how, instead of the firing, such as he had seen on the Volkoff field, according to the rules of accuracy and precision, which he had expected to find here, he found two cracked mortars, one of which had been crushed by a cannon-ball in the muzzle, while the other stood upon the splinters[Pg 226] of a ruined platform; how he could not obtain any workmen until the following morning in order to repair the platform; how not a single charge was of the weight prescribed in the “Manual;” how two soldiers of his command were wounded, and how he was twenty times within a hair's-breadth of death.

Fortunately, there had been assigned for his assistant a gun-captain of gigantic size, a sailor, who had served on the mortars since the beginning of the siege, and who convinced him of the practicability of using them, conducted him all over the bastion, with a lantern, during the night, exactly as though it had been his own kitchen-garden, and who promised to put everything in proper shape on the morrow.

The bomb-proof to which his guide conducted him was excavated in the rocky soil, and consisted of a long hole, two cubic fathoms in extent, covered with oaken planks an arshin in thickness. Here he took up his post, with all his soldiers. Vlang was the first, when he caught sight of the little door, twenty-eight inches high, of the bomb-proof, to rush headlong into it, in front of them all, and, after nearly cracking his skull on the stone[Pg 227] floor, he huddled down in a corner, from which he did not again emerge.

And Volodya, when all the soldiers had placed themselves along the wall on the floor, and some had lighted their pipes, set up his bed in one corner, lighted a candle, and lay upon his cot, smoking a cigarette.

Shots were incessantly heard, over the bomb-proof, but they were not very loud, with the exception of those from one cannon, which stood close by and shook the bomb-proof with its thunder. In the bomb-proof itself all was still; the soldiers, who were a little shy, as yet, of the new officer, only exchanged a few words, now and then, as they requested each other to move out of the way or to furnish a light for a pipe. A rat scratched somewhere among the stones, or Vlang, who had not yet recovered himself, and who still gazed wildly about him, uttered a sudden vigorous sigh.

Volodya, as he lay on his bed, in his quiet corner, surrounded by the men, and illuminated only by a single candle, experienced that sensation of well-being which he had known as a child, when, in the course of a game of hide-and-go-seek, he used[Pg 228] to crawl into a cupboard or under his mother's skirts, and listen, not daring to draw his breath, and afraid of the dark, and yet conscious of enjoying himself. He felt a little oppressed, but cheerful.

[Pg 229]

From :


November 30, 1887 :
Chapter 20 -- Publication.

February 18, 2017 17:33:47 :
Chapter 20 -- Added to

March 19, 2019 15:04:08 :
Chapter 20 -- Last Updated on


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