fall of clouds that
hung right over the tops of the trees, full of wind and cold, but
a genuine summer day.
house from early
morning soldiers were moving about, mitigating the weariness of the man
on guard. Now one, now another wanted to see how the pillaged house
Quite simply they walked
open door into
the interior, finishing what remained of the unripe apples they had
in the garden. One stood still on the threshold, put his hand to his
bowed, and duly asked, 'if the lady
and picked up two books from the ground. 'May I be permitted to take
liberty of asking to whom these books belong? What is the reason for
exceedingly great number? Do they serve a special department of study?'
He made his inquiries in such a stilted way that I was forced
to keep my answers on the same level. He owned he would be happy if I
agree that he should help in the work, for he had not had a book in his
hand for a year. He therefore stayed in the garret and with the anxiety
of a genuine bibliomaniac collected volumes of similar size and shape,
put together scattered maps and tied up bundles. Martin looked
at this assistant, and annoyance was depicted on the face of Martin's
In front of the house one of the soldiers had brought cigarettes to the
man on guard. Another turned to him ironically: 'Well, under the
I suppose you are going to light one?'
not allowed to light
a cigarette on guard?'
wouldn't be allowed;
but perhaps, as there is no officer to see me....'
was a young,
fair-haired, amiable boy, assistant to an engine driver in some small
in Siberia. He was quite ready to relate his history. He could not
sufficiently how it came to pass that he was still alive. He had run
from the trenches at S., certain that he would die if he were not taken
prisoner. The fire of the enemy was concentrated on their entrenchment,
so as to cut off all chance of escape. Every one round him fell, and he
was constantly feeling himself to ascertain that he was not wounded.
see, lady, when they turn their whole fire on one spot, you must get
it rains so thick that no one can stand it.'
didn't you fire
just as thick?'
with amiable wonder.
'When we had nothing to fire?' he said good-humouredly.
somehow it all ended
happily. But, then, the others, his companions...ah, how dashing they
been, what fellows! An admirable, glorious army, the S. Regiment!
everyone was killed; it was sad to see them. Now they had to fill up
gaps with raw recruits; but it was no longer the old army; there will
be such fighting again.... It will be hard to discipline them. They had
fought continuously for a year. A whole year in the war! They had been
close to Drialdow, in Lwow, even close to Cracow itself. 'Do you know
then, just there,
just five miles from Cracow. The bitter cold of a windy day penetrated
to our bones. To think that the town was only five miles off!'
I went away
to return to
the packing of my books. At the door I noticed a woman standing, a
she was frightened and timid.
they have robbed
they are at it in
my place,' she said softly. 'Their cattle have eaten up my whole
and they are tearing up everything in my kitchen-garden. I was looking
this morning; not a cucumber left.
mowing the oats; the officer gave me an advance in money, and the rest
he paid with note of hand. Is it true that they are going to burn
watchman came up,
young, black-eyed, a gloomy Siberian villager. When he laughed, his
shone like claws.
but we are ordered to do penance,' he said defiantly to Martin. 'Very
we'll do it. It was worse in the trenches--a great deal worse! Often we
were so close to the enemy that we could see them perfectly. We used to
take off our caps, raise them in the air; they fired. If they hit, then
we waved a white handkerchief: that meant they had made a hit. Later on
they would show their caps and we fired.'
from a distance?'
Siberia,' he answered,
and turned his head. 'We were four brothers all serving in the army;
still write to me, the fourth is gone. Our father is an old man, and
ploughs nor sows. He sold a
for 150 roubles,
for what is the use of a horse when there is no more farming? God! what
a country this is,' he continued with pity. 'With us in Siberia a
with no more than ten cows is
We are rich!
We have land where wheat grows like anything. Manure we cart away and
we've no use for it. Ah! Siberia!'
sat in silence. It was strange to her to hear of this country as the
Land. When she had to go she said, thoughtfully and nervously: 'Of
if I hadn't sold him the oats
have taken them.
Even those two roubles on account were better than that.'
upstairs again, and
by evening the work of packing the books and things was completed.
who loved books
made elaborate remarks on them also to his simple comrades. He spoke
the psychical aspect of fighting, the physiology of heroic deeds, the
of those destined for
He was a
thoughtful man and unquestionably sensitive; but all that he said had
stamp of oriental thought, systematically arranged in advance and quite
perfectly expressed at the moment, free
of elementary knowledge.
belong,' I said,
'to this detachment of machine gunners?'
I am, as
you see, lady, a simple soldier.'
like to see a machine
gun at close quarters. Can I?'
immediately perceived that
I had asked something out of order. He was confused and turned pale.
never seen a machine
gun,' I continued, 'up to now; but, of course, if there are any
'It is not
that,' he answered,
with hesitation. 'I must tell you honestly, lady, we haven't a single
himself and was
silent; at that moment he did not show the repose of a psychologist.
we have absolutely
no officers. There is nothing but what you see there in the forest; the
rest are pitiful remnants--some 200 soldiers left out of two regiments.'
day Martin joyously
informed me that in the night the soldiers had gone away. They had
nothing, but it was likely that another detachment would come in by the
soldier who helped
you to pack was here very early. I told him the lady was asleep, so he
only left this card.'
It was a
visiting card with
a bent edge; at the bottom was written, in pencil and in Roman
friend,' I thought
to myself, 'that is just the souvenir I should have expected you to
me after plundering me right and left... a "P.P.C." card! And my
from you means destruction to somebody else's woods, house, and garden.'