A cannon ball struck the very end of the earth work by which he was standing, crumbling down the earth; a black ball flashed before his eyes and at the same instant plumped into something. Some militiamen who were entering the battery ran back.
"All with grapeshot!" shouted the officer.
The sergeant ran up to the officer and in a frightened whisper informed him (as a butler at dinner informs his master that there is no more of some wine asked for) that there were no more charges.
"The scoundrels! What are they doing?" shouted the officer, turning to Pierre.
The officer's face was red and perspiring and his eyes glittered under his frowning brow.
"Run to the reserves and bring up the ammunition boxes!" he yelled, angrily avoiding Pierre with his eyes and speaking to his men.
"I'll go," said Pierre.
The officer, without answering him, strode across to the opposite side.
"Don't fire . . . . Wait!" he shouted.
The man who had been ordered to go for ammunition stumbled against Pierre.
"Eh, sir, this is no place for you," said he, and ran down the slope.
Pierre ran after him, avoiding the spot where the young officer was sitting.
One cannon ball, another, and a third flew over him, falling in front, beside, and behind him. Pierre ran down the slope."Where am I going?" he suddenly asked himself when he was already near the green ammunition wagons. He halted irresolutely, not knowing whether to return or go on. Suddenly a terrible concussion threw him backwards to the ground. At the same instant he was dazzled by a great flash of flame, and immediately a deafening roar, crackling, and whistling made his ears tingle.
When he came to himself he was sitting on the ground leaning on his hands; the ammunition wagons he had been approaching no longer existed, only charred green boards and rags littered the scorched grass, and a horse, dangling fragments of its shaft behind it, galloped past, while another horse lay, like Pierre, on the ground, uttering prolonged and piercing cries.