War And Peace

CHAPTER II

Chinese

“COMING!” the sentinel shouted at that moment. The general, turning red, ran to his horse, with trembling hands caught at the stirrup, swung himself up, settled himself in the saddle, drew out his sword, and with a pleased and resolute face opened his mouth on one side, in readiness to shout. The regiment fluttered all over, like a bird preening its wings, and subsided into stillness.

“Silence!” roared the general, in a soul-quaking voice, expressing at once gladness on his own account, severity as regards the regiment, and welcome as regards the approaching commander-in-chief.

A high, blue Vienna coach with several horses was driving at a smart trot, rumbling on its springs, along the broad unpaved high-road, with trees planted on each side of it. The general's suite and an escort of Croats galloped after the coach. Beside Kutuzov sat an Austrian general in a white uniform, that looked strange among the black Russian ones. The coach drew up on reaching the regiment. Kutuzov and the Austrian general were talking of something in low voices, and Kutuzov smiled slightly as, treading heavily, he put his foot on the carriage step, exactly as though those two thousand men gazing breathlessly at him and at their general, did not exist at all.

The word of command rang out, again the regiment quivered with a clanking sound as it presented arms. In the deathly silence the weak voice of the commander-in-chief was audible. The regiment roared: “Good health to your Ex .. lency .. lency .. lency!” And again all was still. At first Kutuzov stood in one spot, while the regiment moved; then Kutuzov began walking on foot among the ranks, the white general beside him, followed by his suite.

From the way that the general in command of the regiment saluted the commander-in-chief, fixing his eyes intently on him, rigidly respectful and obsequious, from the way in which, craning forward, he followed the generals through the ranks, with an effort restraining his quivering strut, and darted up at every word and every gesture of the commander-in-chief,—it was evident that he performed his duties as a subordinate with even greater zest than his duties as a commanding officer. Thanks to the strictness and assiduity of its commander, the regiment was in excellent form as compared with the others that had arrived at Braunau at the same time. The sick and the stragglers left behind only numbered two hundred and seventeen, and everything was in good order except the soldiers' boots.

Kutuzov walked through the ranks, stopping now and then, and saying a few friendly words to officers he had known in the Turkish war, and sometimes to the soldiers. Looking at their boots, he several times shook his head dejectedly, and pointed them out to the Austrian general with an expression as much as to say that he blamed no one for it, but he could not help seeing what a bad state of things it was. The general in command of the regiment, on every occasion such as this, ran forward, afraid of missing a single word the commander-in-chief might utter regarding the regiment. Behind Kutuzov, at such a distance that every word, even feebly articulated, could be heard, followed his suite, consisting of some twenty persons. These gentlemen were talking among themselves, and sometimes laughed. Nearest of all to the commander-in-chief walked a handsome adjutant. It was Prince Bolkonsky. Beside him was his comrade Nesvitsky, a tall staff-officer, excessively stout, with a good-natured, smiling, handsome face, and moist eyes. Nesvitsky could hardly suppress his mirth, which was excited by a swarthy officer of hussars walking near him. This officer, without a smile or a change in the expression of his fixed eyes, was staring with a serious face at the commanding officer's back, and mimicking every movement he made. Every time the commanding officer quivered and darted forward, the officer of hussars quivered and darted forward in precisely the same way. Nesvitsky laughed, and poked the others to make them look at the mimic.

Kutuzov walked slowly and listlessly by the thousands of eyes which were almost rolling out of their sockets in the effort to watch him. On reaching the third company, he suddenly stopped. The suite, not foreseeing this halt, could not help pressing up closer to him.

“Ah, Timohin!” said the commander-in-chief, recognising the captain with the red nose who had got into trouble over the blue overcoat.

One would have thought it impossible to stand more rigidly erect than Timohin had done when the general in command of the regiment had made his remarks to him; but at the instant when the commander-in-chief addressed him, the captain stood with such erect rigidity that it seemed that, were the commander-in-chief to remain for some time looking at him, the captain could hardly sustain the ordeal, and for that reason Kutuzov, realising his position, and wishing him nothing but good, hurriedly turned away. A scarcely perceptible smile passed over Kutuzov's podgy face, disfigured by the scar of a wound.

“Another old comrade at Ismail!” he said. “A gallant officer! Are you satisfied with him?” Kutuzov asked of the general in command.

And the general, all unconscious that he was being reflected as in a mirror in the officer of hussars behind him, quivered, pressed forward, and answered: “Fully, your most high excellency.”

“We all have our weaknesses,” said Kutuzov, smiling and walking away from him. “He had a predilection for Bacchus.”

The general in command was afraid that he might be to blame for this, and made no answer. The officer of hussars at that instant noticed the face of the captain with the red nose, and the rigidly drawn-in stomach, and mimicked his face and attitude in such a life-like manner that Nesvitsky could not restrain his laughter. Kutuzov turned round. The officer could apparently do anything he liked with his face; at the instant Kutuzov turned round, the officer had time to get in a grimace before assuming the most serious, respectful, and innocent expression.

The third company was the last, and Kutuzov seemed pondering, as though trying to recall something. Prince Andrey stepped forward and said softly in French: “You told me to remind you of the degraded officer, Dolohov, serving in the ranks in this regiment.”

“Where is Dolohov?” asked Kutuzov.

Dolohov, attired by now in the grey overcoat of a private soldier, did not wait to be called up. The slender figure of the fair-haired soldier, with his bright blue eyes, stepped out of the line. He went up to the commander-in-chief and presented arms.

“A complaint to make?” Kutuzov asked with a slight frown.

“This is Dolohov,” said Prince Andrey.

“Ah!” said Kutuzov. “I hope this will be a lesson to you, do your duty thoroughly. The Emperor is gracious. And I shall not forget you, if you deserve it.”

The bright blue eyes looked at the commander-in-chief just as impudently as at the general of his regiment, as though by his expression tearing down the veil of convention that removed the commander-in-chief so far from the soldier.

“The only favour I beg of your most high excellency,” he said in his firm, ringing, deliberate voice, “is to give me a chance to atone for my offence, and to prove my devotion to his majesty the Emperor, and to Russia.”

Kutuzov turned away. There was a gleam in his eyes of the same smile with which he had turned away from Captain Timohin. He turned away and frowned, as though to express that all Dolohov had said to him and all he could say, he had known long, long ago, that he was sick to death long ago of it, and that it was not at all what was wanted. He turned away and went towards the coach.

The regiment broke into companies and went towards the quarters assigned them at no great distance from Braunau, where they hoped to find boots and clothes, and to rest after their hard marches.

“You won't bear me a grudge, Proho Ignatitch?” said the commanding general, overtaking the third company and riding up to Captain Timohin, who was walking in front of it. The general's face beamed with a delight he could not suppress after the successful inspection. “It's in the Tsar's service … can't be helped … sometimes one has to be a little sharp at inspection. I'm the first to apologise; you know me.… He was very much pleased.” And he held out his hand to the captain.

“Upon my word, general, as if I'd make so bold,” answered the captain, his nose flushing redder. He smiled, and his smile revealed the loss of two front teeth, knocked out by the butt-end of a gun at Ismail.

“And tell Dolohov that I won't forget him; he can be easy about that. And tell me, please, what about him, how's he behaving himself … I've been meaning to inquire…”

“He's very exact in the discharge of his duties, your excellency … but he's a character …” said Timohin.

“Why, what sort of a character?” asked the general.

“It's different on different days, your excellency,” said the captain; “at one time he's sensible and well-educated and good-natured. And then he'll be like a wild beast. In Poland, he all but killed a Jew, if you please.…”

“Well, well,” said the general, “still one must feel for a young man in trouble. He has great connections, you know.… So you …”

“Oh, yes, your excellency,” said Timohin, with a smile that showed he understood his superior officer's wish in the matter.

“Very well, then, very well.”

The general sought out Dolohov in the ranks and pulled up his horse.

“In the first action you may win your epaulettes,” he said to him.

Dolohov looked round and said nothing. There was no change in the lines of his ironically-smiling mouth.

“Well, that's all right then,” the general went on. “A glass of brandy to every man from me,” he added, so that the soldiers could hear. “I thank you all. God be praised!” And riding round the company, he galloped off to another.

“Well, he's really a good fellow, one can get on very well under him,” said Timohin to the subaltern officer walking beside him.

“The king of hearts, that's the only word for him,” the subaltern said, laughing. (The general was nicknamed the king of hearts.)

The cheerful state of mind of the officers after the inspection was shared by the soldiers. The companies went along merrily. Soldiers' voices could be heard on all sides chatting away.

“Why, don't they say Kutuzov's blind in one eye?”

“To be sure he is. Quite blind of one eye.”

“Nay … lads, he's more sharp-eyed than you are. See how he looked at our boots and things.” …

“I say, mate, when he looked at my legs … well, thinks I …”

“And the other was an Austrian with him, that looked as if he'd been chalked all over. As white as flour. I bet they rub him up as we rub up our guns.”

“I say, Fedeshou … did he say anything as to when the battles are going to begin? You stood nearer. They did say Bonaparte himself was in Brunovo.”

“Bonaparte! What nonsense the fellow talks! What won't you know next! Now it's the Prussian that's revolting. The Austrian, do you see, is pacifying him. When he's quiet, then the war will begin with Bonaparte. And he talks of Bonaparte's being in Brunovo! It's plain the fellow's a fool. You'd better keep your ears open.”

“Those devils of quartermasters! … The fifth company's turned into the village by now, and they're cooking their porridge, and we're not there yet.”

“Give us a biscuit, old man.”

“And did you give me tobacco yesterday? All right, my lad. Well, well, God be with you.”

“They might have made a halt, or we'll have to do another four miles with nothing to eat.”

“I say, it was fine how those Germans gave us carriages. One drove along, something like.”

“But here, lads, the folks are regularly stripped bare. There it was all Poles of some sort, all under the Russian crown, but now we've come to the regular Germans, my boy.”

“Singers to the front,” the captain called. And from the different ranks about twenty men advanced to the front. The drummer, who was their leader, turned round facing the chorus and waving his arm, struck up a soldier's song, beginning: “The sun was scarcely dawning,” and ending with the words: “So, lads, we'll march to glory with Father Kamensky.” … This song had been composed in Turkey, and now was sung in Austria, the only change being the substitution of the words “Father Kutuzov” for “Father Kamensky.”

Jerking out the last words in soldierly fashion and waving his arms, as though he were flinging something on the ground, the drummer, a lean, handsome soldier of forty, looked sternly at the soldier-chorus and frowned. Then, having satisfied himself that all eyes were fixed upon him, he gesticulated, as though he were carefully lifting some unseen precious object over his head in both hands, holding it there some seconds, and all at once with a desperate movement flinging it away.

“Ah, the threshold of my cottage,
My new cottage.”

Here twenty voices caught up the refrain, and the castanet player, in spite of the weight of his weapon and knapsack, bounded nimbly forward, and walked backwards facing the company, shaking his shoulders, and seeming to menace some one with the castanets. The soldiers stepped out in time to the song, swinging their arms and unconsciously falling into step. Behind the company came the sound of wheels, the rumble of springs, and the tramp of horses. Kutuzov and his suite were going back to the town. The commander-in-chief made a sign for the soldiers to go on freely, and he and all his suite looked as though they took pleasure in the sound of the singing, and the spectacle of the dancing soldier and the gaily, smartly marching men. In the second row from the right flank, beside which the carriage passed, they could not help noticing the blue-eyed soldier, Dolohov, who marched with a special jauntiness and grace in time to the song, and looked at the faces of the persons driving by with an expression that seemed to pity every one who was not at that moment marching in the ranks. The cornet of hussars, the officer of Kutuzov's suite, who had mimicked the general, fell back from the carriage and rode up to Dolohov.

The cornet of hussars, Zherkov, had at one time belonged to the fast set in Petersburg, of which Dolohov had been the leader. Zherkov had met Dolohov abroad as a common soldier, and had not seen fit to recognise him. But now, after Kutuzov's conversation with the degraded officer, he addressed him with all the cordiality of an old friend.

“Friend of my heart, how are you?” he said, through the singing, making his horse keep pace with the marching soldiers.

“How am I?” Dolohov answered coldly. “As you see.” The lively song gave a peculiar flavour to the tone of free-and-easy gaiety, with which Zherkov spoke, and the studied coldness of Dolohov's replies.

“Well, how do you get on with your officers?” asked Zherkov.

“All right; they're good fellows. How did you manage to poke yourself on to the staff?”

“I was attached; I'm on duty.”

They were silent.

“My gay goshawk I took with me,
From my right sleeve I set him free,”

said the song, arousing an involuntary sensation of courage and cheerfulness. Their conversation would most likely have been different, if they had not been talking while the song was singing.

“Is it true, the Austrians have been beaten?” asked Dolohov.

“Devil knows; they say so.”

“I'm glad,” Dolohov made a brief, sharp reply, as was required to fit in with the tune.

“I say, come round to us some evening; we'll have a game of faro,” said Zherkov.

“Is money so plentiful among you?”

“Do come.”

“I can't; I've sworn not to. I won't drink or play till I'm promoted.”

“Well, but in the first action …”

“Then we shall see.” Again they paused.

“You come, if you want anything; one can always be of use on the staff.…”

Dolohov grinned. “Don't trouble yourself. What I want, I'm not going to ask for; I take it for myself.”

“Oh, well, I only …”

“Well, and I only.”

“Good-bye.”

“Good-bye.”

“And far and free
To his own country.”

Zherkov put spurs to his horse, which three times picked up its legs excitedly, not knowing which to start from, then galloped off round the company, and overtook the carriage, keeping time too to the song.

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