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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about Best Russian Short Stories.

The night was drawing to a close.  The air turned chilly, and the tops of the bushes defined themselves more clearly in the dark.  Gabriel Andersen went again to the military post.  But this time he hid, crouching low as he made his way under the cover of the bushes.  Behind him people moved about quietly and carefully, bending the bushes, silent as shadows.  Next to Gabriel, on his right, walked a tall man with a revolver in his hand.

The figure of a soldier on the hill outlined itself strangely, unexpectedly, not where they had been looking for it.  It was faintly illumined by the gleam from the dying fire.  Gabriel Andersen recognised the soldier.  It was the one who had proposed that he should be searched.  Nothing stirred in Andersen’s heart.  His face was cold and motionless, as of a man who is asleep.  Round the fire the soldiers lay stretched out sleeping, all except the subaltern, who sat with his head drooping over his knees.

The tall thin man on Andersen’s right raised the revolver and pulled the trigger.  A momentary blinding flash, a deafening report.

Andersen saw the guard lift his hands and then sit down on the ground clasping his bosom.  From all directions short, crackling sparks flashed up which combined into one riving roar.  The subaltern jumped up and dropped straight into the fire.  Grey soldiers’ figures moved about in all directions like apparitions, throwing up their hands and falling and writhing on the black earth.  The young officer ran past Andersen, fluttering his hands like some strange, frightened bird.  Andersen, as if he were thinking of something else, raised his cane.  With all his strength he hit the officer on the head, each blow descending with a dull, ugly thud.  The officer reeled in a circle, struck a bush, and sat down after the second blow, covering his head with both hands, as children do.  Some one ran up and discharged a revolver as if from Andersen’s own hand.  The officer sank together in a heap and lunged with great force head foremost on the ground.  His legs twitched for a while, then he curled up quietly.

The shots ceased.  Black men with white faces, ghostly grey in the dark, moved about the dead bodies of the soldiers, taking away their arms and ammunition.

Andersen watched all this with a cold, attentive stare.  When all was over, he went up, took hold of the burned subaltern’s legs, and tried to remove the body from the fire.  But it was too heavy for him, and he let it go.

IV

Andersen sat motionless on the steps of the town hall, and thought.  He thought of how he, Gabriel Andersen, with his spectacles, cane, overcoat and poems, had lied and betrayed fifteen men.  He thought it was terrible, yet there was neither pity, shame nor regret in his heart.  Were he to be set free, he knew that he, Gabriel Andersen, with the spectacles and poems, would go straightway and do it again. 

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