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A Coat for the Tsar (1958)

Early one April morning, in the year 1905, Herschl Schenkman, a soldier in the army of the Tsar, ran out from behind a thick clump of meadow grass onto the dirt country road between Pinsk and Brest-Litovsk. He stood for a moment blinking in the sun. The run from the meadow had been uphill, and Herschl felt exhausted when he was out on the road again. Only fifteen minutes before he had been walking hurriedly along that road, with his head bowed forward, but in looking up once he fixed his eyes upon a think column of men, moving around a bend in the turf, some five hundred yards ahead. At first Herschl had thought the men were farm laborers, walking out for the spring planting, for on all sides of him the black muddy fields had been plowed, and the men seemed to be carrying long wooden staves across their shoulders; but as he looked closer and the column continued to approach he could make out a man in blue on horseback in the lead. Once he even saw something on the man's shoulder glitter as it caught the sun. Soon he could discern the spikey outlines of bayonets. He heard voices. The men had started to sing. Herschl wheeled around in the road and began to run. Stumbling, his feet kicking up huge clods of dirt, he fell flat on the ground behind a low hazel copse. Then he slid backwards along his belly as the detachment marched slowly past him and out of sight. Even then he crouched behind the green shrubbery and waited another ten minutes before he dared to reappear. ( A Coat for the Tsar, p. 3)