Author : Leo Tolstoy
On the following day, the 27th, after a ten-hours sleep, Volodya, fresh and active, stepped out on the threshold of the casement; Vlang also started to crawl out with him, but, at the first sound of a bullet, he flung himself backwards through the opening of the bomb-proof, bumping his head as he did so, amid the general merriment of the soldiers, the majority of whom had also come out into the open air. Vlang, the old gun-sergeant, and a few others were the only ones who rarely went out into the trenches; it was impossible to restrain the rest; they all scattered about in the fresh morning air, escaping from the fetid air of the bomb-proof, and, in spite of the fact that the bombardment was as vigorous as on the preceding evening, they disposed themselves around the door, and some even on the breastworks. Melnikoff had been strolling about among the batteries since daybreak, and staring up with perfect coolness.
Near the entrance sat two old soldiers and one young, curly-haired fellow, a Jew, who had been detailed from the infantry. This soldier picked up one of the bullets which were lying about, and, having smoothed it against a stone with a potsherd, with his knife he carved from it a cross, after the style of the order of St. George; the others looked on at his work as they talked. The cross really turned out to be quite handsome.
“Now, if we stay here much longer,” said one of them, “then, when peace is made, the time of service will be up for all of us.”
“Nothing of the sort; I have at least four years service yet before my time is up, and I have been in Sevastopol these five months.”
“It is not counted towards the discharge, do you understand,” said another.
At that moment, a cannon-ball shrieked over the heads of the speakers, and struck only an arshin away from Melnikoff, who was approaching them from the trenches.
“That came near killing Melnikoff,” said one man.
“I shall not be killed,” said Melnikoff.
“Here's the cross for you, for your bravery,” said the young soldier, who had made the cross, handing it to Melnikoff.
“No, brother, a month here counts for a year,
of course—that was the order,” the conversation
“Think what you please, but when peace is declared, there will be an imperial review at Orshava, and if we don't get our discharge, we shall be allowed to go on indefinite leave.”
At that moment, a shrieking little bullet flew past the speakers' heads, and struck a stone.
“You'll get a full discharge before evening—see if you don't,” said one of the soldiers.
They all laughed.
Not only before evening, but before the expiration of two hours, two of them received their full discharge, and five were wounded; but the rest jested on as before.
By morning, the two mortars had actually been brought into such a condition that it was possible to fire them. At ten o'clock, in accordance with the orders which he had received from the commander of the bastion, Volodya called out his command, and marched to the battery with it.
In the men, as soon as they proceeded to action,[Pg 240] there was not a drop of that sentiment of fear perceptible which had been expressed on the preceding evening. Vlang alone could not control himself; he dodged and ducked just as before, and Vasin lost some of his composure, and fussed and fidgeted and changed his place incessantly.
But Volodya was in an extraordinary state of enthusiasm; the thought of danger did not even occur to him. Delight that he was fulfilling his duty, that he was not only not a coward, but even a valiant fellow, the feeling that he was in command, and the presence of twenty men, who, as he was aware, were surveying him with curiosity, made a thoroughly brave man of him. He was even vain of his valor, put on airs before his soldiers, climbed up on the banquette, and unbuttoned his coat expressly that he might render himself the more distinctly visible.
The commander of the bastion, who was going the rounds of his establishment as he expressed it, at the moment, accustomed as he had become during his eight-months experience to all sorts of bravery, could not refrain from admiring this handsome lad, in the unbuttoned coat, beneath which a red shirt was visible, encircling his soft[Pg 241] white neck, with his animated face and eyes, as he clapped his hands and shouted: “First! Second!” and ran gaily along the ramparts, in order to see where his bomb would fall.
At half-past eleven the firing ceased on both sides, and at precisely twelve o'clock the storming of the Malakoff mound, of the second, third, and fifth bastions began.
From : Gutenberg.org.
November 30, 1887 : Chapter 22 -- Publication.
February 18, 2017 : Chapter 22 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.
May 28, 2017 : Chapter 22 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.
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