The officers of the army are obtained partly from the oldestablished military schools, partly from the ranks of the noncommissioned officers, the proportion of the latter being about one-third of the total number of officers.
A French noncommissioned officer of hussars, in crimson uniform and a shaggy cap, shouted to the approaching Balashev to halt.
The noncommissioned officer frowned and, muttering words of abuse, advanced his horse's chest against Balashev, put his hand to his saber, and shouted rudely at the Russian general, asking: was he deaf that he did not do as he was told?
The noncommissioned officer began talking with his comrades about regimental matters without looking at the Russian general.
One fair-haired young soldier of the third company, whom Prince Andrew knew and who had a strap round the calf of one leg, crossed himself, stepped back to get a good run, and plunged into the water; another, a dark noncommissioned officer who was always shaggy, stood up to his waist in the water joyfully wriggling his muscular figure and snorted with satisfaction as he poured the water over his head with hands blackened to the wrists.
Two steps from him, leaning against a branch and talking loudly and attracting general attention, stood a tall, handsome, black-haired noncommissioned officer with a bandaged head.
An old, noncommissioned officer ran out of the ranks and taking him by the elbow dragged him to his company.
Toward evening a noncommissioned officer entered with two soldiers and told him that he had been pardoned and would now go to the barracks for the prisoners of war.
To the noncommissioned officer's excuse that the prisoner was ill and could not walk, the officer replied that the order was to shoot those who lagged behind.
Every army is composed of lower grades of the service--the rank and file--of whom there are always the greatest number; of the next higher military rank--corporals and noncommissioned officers of whom there are fewer, and of still-higher officers of whom there are still fewer, and so on to the highest military command which is concentrated in one person.
The noncommissioned officers (of whom there are fewer) perform the action itself less frequently than the soldiers, but they already give commands.