War And Peace

CHAPTER XV

Chinese

BEFORE FOUR O'CLOCK in the afternoon Prince Andrey, who had persisted in his petition to Kutuzov, reached Grunte, and joined Bagration. Bonaparte's adjutant had not yet reached Murat's division, and the battle had not yet begun. In Bagration's detachment, they knew nothing of the progress of events. They talked about peace, but did not believe in its possibility. They talked of a battle, but did not believe in a battle's being close at hand either.

Knowing Bolkonsky to be a favourite and trusted adjutant, Bagration received him with a commanding officer's special graciousness and condescension. He informed him that there would probably be an engagement that day or the next day, and gave him full liberty to remain in attendance on him during the battle, or to retire to the rear-guard to watch over the order of the retreat, also a matter of great importance.

“To-day, though, there will most likely be no action,” said Bagration, as though to reassure Prince Andrey.

“If this is one of the common run of little staff dandies, sent here to win a cross, he can do that in the rear-guard, but if he wants to be with me, let him … he'll be of use, if he's a brave officer,” thought Bagration. Prince Andrey, without replying, asked the prince's permission to ride round the position and find out the disposition of the forces, so that, in case of a message, he might know where to take it. An officer on duty, a handsome and elegantly dressed man, with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who spoke French badly, but with assurance, was summoned to conduct Prince Andrey.

On all sides they saw officers drenched through, with dejected faces, apparently looking for something, and soldiers dragging doors, benches, and fences from the village.

“Here we can't put a stop to these people,” said the staff-officer, pointing to them. “Their commanders let their companies get out of hand. And look here,” he pointed to a canteen-keeper's booth, “they gather here, and here they sit. I drove them all out this morning, and look, it's full again. I must go and scare them, prince. One moment.”

“Let us go together, and I'll get some bread and cheese there,” said Prince Andrey, who had not yet had time for a meal.

“Why didn't you mention it, prince? I would have offered you something.”

They got off their horses and went into the canteen-keeper's booth. Several officers, with flushed and exhausted faces, were sitting at the tables, eating and drinking.

“Now what does this mean, gentlemen?” said the staff-officer, in the reproachful tone of a man who has repeated the same thing several times. “You mustn't absent yourselves like this. The prince gave orders that no one was to leave his post. Come, really, captain,” he remonstrated with a muddy, thin little artillery officer, who in his stockings (he had given his boots to the canteen-keeper to dry) stood up at their entrance, smiling not quite naturally.

“Now aren't you ashamed, Captain Tushin?” pursued the staff-officer. “I should have thought you as an artillery officer ought to set an example, and you have no boots on. They'll sound the alarm, and you'll be in a pretty position without your boots on.” (The staff-officer smiled.) “Kindly return to your posts, gentlemen, all, all,” he added in a tone of authority.

Prince Andrey could not help smiling as he glanced at Captain Tushin. Smiling, without a word, Tushin shifted from one bare foot to the other, looking inquiringly, with his big, shrewd, and good-natured eyes, from Prince Andrey to the staff-officer.

“The soldiers say it's easier barefoot,” said Captain Tushin, smiling shyly, evidently anxious to carry off his awkward position in a jesting tone. But before he had uttered the words, he felt that his joke would not do and had not come off. He was in confusion.

“Kindly go to your places,” said the staff-officer, trying to preserve his gravity.

Prince Andrey glanced once more at the little figure of the artillery officer. There was something peculiar about it, utterly unsoldierly, rather comic, but very attractive.

The staff-officer and Prince Andrey got on their horses and rode on.

Riding out beyond the village, continually meeting or overtaking soldiers and officers of various ranks, they saw on the left earthworks being thrown up, still red with the freshly dug clay. Several battalions of soldiers, in their shirt-sleeves, in spite of the cold wind were toiling like white ants at these entrenchments; from the trench they saw spadefuls of red clay continually being thrown out by unseen hands. They rode up to the entrenchment, examined it, and were riding on further. Close behind the entrenchment they came upon dozens of soldiers continually running to and from the earthworks, and they had to hold their noses and put their horses to a gallop to get by the pestilential atmosphere of this improvised sewer.

Voilà l'agrément des camps, monsieur le prince,” said the staff-officer. They rode up the opposite hill. From that hill they had a view of the French. Prince Andrey stopped and began looking closer at what lay before them.

“You see here is where our battery stands,” said the staff-officer, pointing to the highest point, “commanded by that queer fellow sitting without his boots; from there you can see everything; let us go there, prince.”

“I am very grateful to you, I'll go on alone now,” said Prince Andrey, anxious to be rid of the staff-officer; “don't trouble yourself further, please.”

The staff-officer left him, and Prince Andrey rode on alone.

The further forward and the nearer to the enemy he went, the more orderly and cheerful he found the troops. The greatest disorder and depression had prevailed in the transport forces before Znaim, which Prince Andrey had passed that morning, ten versts from the French. At Grunte too a certain alarm and vague dread could be felt. But the nearer Prince Andrey got to the French line, the more self-confident was the appearance of our troops. The soldiers, in their great-coats, stood ranged in lines with their sergeant, and the captain was calling over the men, poking the last soldier in the line in the ribs, and telling him to hold up his hand. Soldiers were dotted all over the plain, dragging logs and brushwood, and constructing shanties, chatting together, and laughing good-humouredly. They were sitting round the fires, dressed and stripped, drying shirts and foot-gear. Or they thronged round the porridge-pots and cauldrons, brushing their boots and their coats. In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers, with greedy faces, watched the steaming pots, and waited for the sample, which was being taken in a wooden bowl to the commissariat officer, sitting on a piece of wood facing his shanty.

In another company—a lucky one, for not all had vodka—the soldiers stood in a group round a broad-shouldered, pock-marked sergeant, who was tilting a keg of vodka, and pouring it into the covers of the canteens held out to him in turn. The soldiers, with reverential faces, lifted the covers to their mouths, drained them, and licking their lips and rubbing them with the sleeves of their coats, they walked away looking more good-humoured than before. Every face was as serene as though it were all happening not in sight of the enemy, just before an action in which at least half of the detachment must certainly be left on the field, but somewhere at home in Russia, with every prospect of a quiet halting-place. Prince Andrey rode by the Chasseur regiment, and as he advanced into the ranks of the Kiev Grenadiers, stalwart fellows all engaged in the same peaceful pursuits, not far from the colonel's shanty, standing higher than the rest, he came upon a platoon of grenadiers, before whom lay a man stripped naked. Two soldiers were holding him, while two others were brandishing supple twigs and bringing them down at regular intervals on the man's bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally. A stout major was walking up and down in front of the platoon, and regardless of the screams, he kept saying: “It's a disgrace for a soldier to steal; a soldier must be honest, honourable, and brave, and to steal from a comrade, he must be without honour indeed, a monster. Again, again!”

And still he heard the dull thuds and the desperate but affected scream.

“Again, again,” the major was saying.

A young officer, with an expression of bewilderment and distress in his face, walked away from the flogging, looking inquiringly at the adjutant.

Prince Andrey, coming out to the foremost line, rode along in front of it. Our line and the enemy's were far from one another at the left and also at the right flank; but in the centre, at the spot where in the morning the messengers had met, the lines came so close that the soldiers of the two armies could see each other's faces and talk together. Besides these soldiers, whose place was in that part of the line, many others had gathered there from both sides, and they were laughing, as they scrutinised the strange and novel dress and aspect of their foes.

Since early morning, though it was forbidden to go up to the line, the commanding officers could not keep the inquisitive soldiers back. The soldiers, whose post was in that part of the line, like showmen exhibiting some curiosity, no longer looked at the French, but made observations on the men who came up to look, and waited with a bored face to be relieved. Prince Andrey stopped to look carefully at the French.

“Look'ee, look'ee,” one soldier was saying to a comrade, pointing to a Russian musketeer, who had gone up to the lines with an officer and was talking warmly and rapidly with a French grenadier. “I say, doesn't he jabber away fine! I bet the Frenchy can't keep pace with him. Now, then, Sidorov?”

“Wait a bit; listen. Aye, it's fine!” replied Sidorov, reputed a regular scholar at talking French.

The soldier, at whom they had pointed laughing, was Dolohov. Prince Andrey recognised him and listened to what he was saying. Dolohov, together with his captain, had come from the left flank, where his regiment was posted.

“Come, again, again!” the captain urged, craning forward and trying not to lose a syllable of the conversation, though it was unintelligible to him. “Please, go on. What's he saying?”

Dolohov did not answer the captain; he had been drawn into a hot dispute with the French grenadier. They were talking, as was to be expected, of the campaign. The Frenchman, mixing up the Austrians and the Russians, was maintaining that the Russians had been defeated and had been fleeing all the way from Ulm. Dolohov declared that the Russians had never been defeated, but had beaten the French.

“We have orders to drive you away from here, and we shall too,” said Dolohov.

“You had better take care you are not all captured with all your Cossacks,” said the French grenadier.

Spectators and listeners on the French side laughed.

“We shall make you dance, as you danced in Suvorov's day” (on vous fera danser), said Dolohov.

“What is he prating about?” said a Frenchman.

“Ancient history,” said another, guessing that the allusion was to former wars. “The Emperor will show your Suvorov, like the others.…”

“Bonaparte …” Dolohov was beginning, but the Frenchman interrupted him.

“Not Bonaparte. He is the Emperor! Sacré nom …” he said angrily.

“Damnation to him, your Emperor!”

And Dolohov swore a coarse soldier's oath in Russian, and, shouldering his gun, walked away.

“Come along, Ivan Lukitch,” he said to his captain.

“So that's how they talk French,” said the soldiers in the line. “Now then, you, Sidorov.” Sidorov winked, and, turning to the French, he fell to gabbling disconnected syllables very rapidly.

Kari-ma-la-ta-fa-sa-fi-mu-ter-kess-ka,” he jabbered, trying to give the most expressive intonation to his voice.

“Ho, ho, ho! ha ha! ha ha! Oh! oo!” the soldiers burst into a roar of such hearty, good-humoured laughter, in which the French line too could not keep from joining, that after it it seemed as though they must unload their guns, blow up their ammunition, and all hurry away back to their homes. But the guns remained loaded, the port-holes in the houses and earthworks looked out as menacingly as ever, and the cannons, taken off their platforms, confronted one another as before.

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