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War And Peace 534

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War And Peace

arm and addressed the people, almost shouting: "Deal with him as you think fit! I hand him over to you." The crowd remained silent and only pressed closer and closer to one another. To keep one another back, to breathe in that stifling atmosphere, to be unable to stir, and to await something unknown, uncomprehended, and terrible, was becoming unbearable. Those standing in front, who had seen and heard what had taken place before them, all stood with wide open eyes and mouths, straining with all their strength, and held back the crowd that was pushing behind them. "Beat him!... Let the traitor perish and not disgrace the Russian name!" shouted Rostopchin. "Cut him down. I command it." Hearing not so much the words as the angry tone of Rostopchins voice, the crowd moaned and heaved forward, but again paused. "Count!" exclaimed the timid yet theatrical voice of Vereshchagin in the midst of the momentary silence that ensued, "Count! One God is above us both...." He lifted his head and again the thick vein in his thin neck filled with blood and the color rapidly came and went in his face. He did not finish what he wished to say. "Cut him down! I command it..." shouted Rostopchin, suddenly growing pale like Vereshchagin. "Draw sabers!" cried the dragoon officer, drawing his own. Another still stronger wave flowed through the crowd and reaching the front ranks carried it swaying to the very steps of the porch. The tall youth, with a stony look on his face, and rigid and uplifted arm, stood beside Vereshchagin. "Saber him!" the dragoon officer almost whispered. And one of the soldiers, his face all at once distorted with fury, struck Vereshchagin on the head with the blunt side of his saber. "Ah!" cried Vereshchagin in meek surprise, looking round with a frightened glance as if not understanding why this was done to him. A similar moan of surprise and horror ran through the crowd. "O Lord!" exclaimed a sorrowful voice. But after the exclamation of surprise that had escaped from Vereshchagin he uttered a plaintive cry of pain, and that cry was fatal. The barrier of human feeling, strained to the utmost, that had held the crowd in check suddenly broke. The crime had begun and must now be completed. The plaintive moan of reproach was drowned by the threatening and angry roar of the crowd. Like the seventh and last wave that shatters a ship, that last irresistible wave burst from the rear and reached the front ranks, carrying them off their feet and engulfing them all. The dragoon was about to repeat his blow. Vereshchagin with a cry of horror, covering his head with his hands, rushed toward the crowd. The tall youth, against whom he stumbled, seized his thin neck with his hands and, yelling wildly, fell with him under the feet of the pressing, struggling crowd. Some beat and tore at Vereshchagin, others at the tall youth. And the screams of those that were being trampled on and of those who tried to rescue the tall lad only increased the fury of the crowd. It was a long time before the dragoons could extricate the bleeding youth, beaten almost to death. And for a long time, despite the feverish haste with which the mob tried to end the work that had been begun, those who were hitting, throttling, and tearing at Vereshchagin were unable to kill him, for the crowd pressed from all sides, swaying as one mass with them in the center and rendering it impossible for them either to kill him or let him go. "Hit him with an ax, eh!... Crushed?... Traitor, he sold Christ.... Still alive... tenacious... serves him right! Torture serves a thief right. Use the hatchet!... What--still alive?" Only when the victim ceased to struggle and his cries changed to a long-drawn, measured death rattle did the crowd around his prostrate, bleeding corpse begin rapidly to change places. Each one came up, glanced at what had been done, and with horror, reproach, and astonishment pushed back again. "O Lord! The people are like wild beasts! How could he be alive?" voices in the crowd could be heard saying. "Quite a young fellow too... must have been a merchants son. What men!... and they say hes not the right one.... How not the right one?... O Lord! And theres another has been beaten too--they say hes nearly done for.... Oh, the people... Arent they afraid of sinning?..." said the same mob now, looking with pained distress at the dead body with its long, thin, half-severed neck and its livid

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