War And Peace

CHAPTER XXI

Chinese

THE WIND had sunk, black storm-clouds hung low over the battlefield, melting on the horizon into the clouds of smoke from the powder. Darkness had come, and the glow of conflagrations showed all the more distinctly in two places. The cannonade had grown feebler, but the snapping of musketry-fire in the rear and on the right was heard nearer and more often. As soon as Tushin with his cannons, continually driving round the wounded and coming upon them, had got out of fire and were descending the ravine, he was met by the staff, among whom was the staff-officer and Zherkov, who had twice been sent to Tushin's battery, but had not once reached it. They all vied with one another in giving him orders, telling him how and where to go, finding fault and making criticisms. Tushin gave no orders, and in silence, afraid to speak because at every word he felt, he could not have said why, ready to burst into tears, he rode behind on his artillery nag. Though orders were given to abandon the wounded, many of them dragged themselves after the troops and begged for a seat on the cannons. The jaunty infantry-officer—the one who had run out of Tushin's shanty just before the battle—was laid on Matvyevna's carriage with a bullet in his stomach. At the bottom of the hill a pale ensign of hussars, holding one arm in the other hand, came up to Tushin and begged for a seat.

“Captain, for God's sake. I've hurt my arm,” he said timidly. “For God's sake. I can't walk. For God's sake!” It was evident that this was not the first time the ensign had asked for a lift, and that he had been everywhere refused. He asked in a hesitating and piteous voice, “Tell them to let me get on, for God's sake!”

“Let him get on, let him get on,” said Tushin. “Put a coat under him, you, uncle.” He turned to his favourite soldier. “But where's the wounded officer?”

“We took him off; he was dead,” answered some one.

“Help him on. Sit down, my dear fellow, sit down. Lay the coat there, Antonov.”

The ensign was Rostov. He was holding one hand in the other. He was pale and his lower jaw was trembling as though in a fever. They put him on Matvyevna, the cannon from which they had just removed the dead officer. There was blood on the coat that was laid under him, and Rostov's riding-breeches and arm were smeared with it.

“What, are you wounded, my dear?” said Tushin, going up to the cannon on which Rostov was sitting.

“No; it's a sprain.”

“How is it there's blood on the frame?” asked Tushin.

“That was the officer, your honour, stained it,” answered an artillery-man, wiping the blood off with the sleeve of his coat, and as it were apologising for the dirty state of the cannon.

With difficulty, aided by the infantry, they dragged the cannon uphill, and halted on reaching the village of Guntersdorf. It was by now so dark that one could not distinguish the soldiers' uniforms ten paces away, and the firing had begun to subside. All of a sudden there came the sound of firing and shouts again close by on the right side. The flash of the shots could be seen in the darkness. This was the last attack of the French. It was met by the soldiers in ambush in the houses of the village. All rushed out of the village again, but Tushin's cannons could not move and the artillerymen, Tushin, and the ensign looked at one another in anticipation of their fate. The firing on both sides began to subside, and some soldiers in lively conversation streamed out of a side street.

“Not hurt, Petrov?” inquired one.

“We gave it them hot, lads. They won't meddle with us now,” another was saying.

“One couldn't see a thing. Didn't they give it to their own men! No seeing for the darkness, mates. Isn't there something to drink?”

The French had been repulsed for the last time. And again, in the complete darkness, Tushin's cannons moved forward, surrounded by the infantry, who kept up a hum of talk.

In the darkness they flowed on like an unseen, gloomy river always in the same direction, with a buzz of whisper and talk and the thud of hoofs and rumble of wheels. Above all other sounds, in the confused uproar, rose the moans and cries of the wounded, more distinct than anything in the darkness of the night. Their moans seemed to fill all the darkness surrounding the troops. Their moans and the darkness seemed to melt into one. A little later a thrill of emotion passed over the moving crowd. Some one followed by a suite had ridden by on a white horse, and had said something as he passed.

“What did he say? Where we are going now? to halt, eh? Thanked us, what?” eager questions were heard on all sides, and the whole moving mass began to press back on itself (the foremost, it seemed, had halted), and a rumour passed through that the order had been given to halt. All halted in the muddy road, just where they were.

Fires were lighted and the talk became more audible. Captain Tushin, after giving instructions to his battery, sent some of his soldiers to look for an ambulance or a doctor for the ensign, and sat down by the fire his soldiers had lighted by the roadside. Rostov too dragged himself to the fire. His whole body was trembling with fever from the pain, the cold, and the damp. He was dreadfully sleepy, but he could not go to sleep for the agonising pain in his arm, which ached and would not be easy in any position. He closed his eyes, then opened them to stare at the fire, which seemed to him dazzling red, and then at the stooping, feeble figure of Tushin, squatting in Turkish fashion near him. The big, kindly, and shrewd eyes of Tushin were fixed upon him with sympathy and commiseration. He saw that Tushin wished with all his soul to help him, but could do nothing for him.

On all sides they heard the footsteps and the chatter of the infantry going and coming and settling themselves round them. The sounds of voices, of steps, and of horses' hoofs tramping in the mud, the crackling firewood far and near, all melted into one fluctuating roar of sound.

It was not now as before an unseen river flowing in the darkness, but a gloomy sea subsiding and still agitated after a storm. Rostov gazed vacantly and listened to what was passing before him and around him. An infantry soldier came up to the fire, squatted on his heels, held his hands to the fire, and turned his face.

“You don't mind, your honour?” he said, looking inquiringly at Tushin. “Here I've got lost from my company, your honour; I don't know myself where I am. It's dreadful!”

With the soldier an infantry officer approached the fire with a bandaged face. He asked Tushin to have the cannon moved a very little, so as to let a store waggon pass by. After the officer two soldiers ran up to the fire. They were swearing desperately and fighting, trying to pull a boot from one another.

“No fear! you picked it up! that's smart!” one shouted in a husky voice.

Then a thin, pale soldier approached, his neck bandaged with a bloodstained rag. With a voice of exasperation he asked the artillerymen for water.

“Why, is one to die like a dog?” he said.

Tushin told them to give him water. Next a good-humoured soldier ran up, to beg for some red-hot embers for the infantry.

“Some of your fire for the infantry! Glad to halt, lads. Thanks for the loan of the firing; we'll pay it back with interest,” he said, carrying some glowing firebrands away into the darkness.

Next four soldiers passed by, carrying something heavy in an overcoat. One of them stumbled.

“Ay, the devils, they've left firewood in the road,” grumbled one.

“He's dead; why carry him?” said one of them.

“Come on, you!” And they vanished into the darkness with their burden.

“Does it ache, eh?” Tushin asked Rostov in a whisper.

“Yes, it does ache.”

“Your honour's sent for to the general. Here in a cottage he is,” said a gunner, coming up to Tushin.

“In a minute, my dear.” Tushin got up and walked away from the fire, buttoning up his coat and setting himself straight.

In a cottage that had been prepared for him not far from the artillerymen's fire, Prince Bagration was sitting at dinner, talking with several commanding officers, who had gathered about him. The little old colonel with the half-shut eyes was there, greedily gnawing at a mutton-bone, and the general of twenty-two years' irreproachable service, flushed with a glass of vodka and his dinner, and the staff-officer with the signet ring, and Zherkov, stealing uneasy glances at every one, and Prince Andrey, pale with set lips and feverishly glittering eyes.

In the corner of the cottage room stood a French flag, that had been captured, and the auditor with the naïve countenance was feeling the stuff of which the flag was made, and shaking his head with a puzzled air, possibly because looking at the flag really interested him, or possibly because he did not enjoy the sight of the dinner, as he was hungry and no place had been laid for him. In the next cottage there was the French colonel, who had been taken prisoner by the dragoons. Our officers were flocking in to look at him. Prince Bagration thanked the several commanding officers, and inquired into details of the battle and of the losses. The general, whose regiment had been inspected at Braunau, submitted to the prince that as soon as the engagement began, he had fallen back from the copse, mustered the men who were cutting wood, and letting them pass by him, had made a bayonet charge with two battalions and repulsed the French.

“As soon as I saw, your excellency, that the first battalion was thrown into confusion, I stood in the road and thought, ‘I'll let them get through and then open fire on them'; and that's what I did.”

The general had so longed to do this, he had so regretted not having succeeded in doing it, that it seemed to him now that this was just what had happened. Indeed might it not actually have been so? Who could make out in such confusion what did and what did not happen?

“And by the way I ought to note, your excellency,” he continued, recalling Dolohov's conversation with Kutuzov and his own late interview with the degraded officer, “that the private Dolohov, degraded to the ranks, took a French officer prisoner before my eyes and particularly distinguished himself.”

“I saw here, your excellency, the attack of the Pavlograd hussars,” Zherkov put in, looking uneasily about him. He had not seen the hussars at all that day, but had only heard about them from an infantry officer. “They broke up two squares, your excellency.”

When Zherkov began to speak, several officers smiled, as they always did, expecting a joke from him. But as they perceived that what he was saying all redounded to the glory of our arms and of the day, they assumed a serious expression, although many were very well aware that what Zherkov was saying was a lie utterly without foundation. Prince Bagration turned to the old colonel.

“I thank you all, gentlemen; all branches of the service behaved heroically—infantry, cavalry, and artillery. How did two cannons come to be abandoned in the centre?” he inquired, looking about for some one. (Prince Bagration did not ask about the cannons of the left flank; he knew that all of them had been abandoned at the very beginning of the action.) “I think it was you I sent,” he added, addressing the staff-officer.

“One had been disabled,” answered the staff-officer, “but the other, I can't explain; I was there all the while myself, giving instructions, and I had scarcely left there.… It was pretty hot, it's true,” he added modestly.

Some one said that Captain Tushin was close by here in the village, and that he had already been sent for.

“Oh, but you went there,” said Prince Bagration, addressing Prince Andrey.

“To be sure, we rode there almost together,” said the staff-officer, smiling affably to Bolkonsky.

“I had not the pleasure of seeing you,” said Prince Andrey, coldly and abruptly. Every one was silent.

Tushin appeared in the doorway, timidly edging in behind the generals' backs. Making his way round the generals in the crowded hut, embarrassed as he always was before his superior officers, Tushin did not see the flag-staff and tumbled over it. Several of the officers laughed.

“How was it a cannon was abandoned?” asked Bagration, frowning, not so much at the captain as at the laughing officers, among whom Zherkov's laugh was the loudest. Only now in the presence of the angry-looking commander, Tushin conceived in all its awfulness the crime and disgrace of his being still alive when he had lost two cannons. He had been so excited that till that instant he had not had time to think of that. The officers' laughter had bewildered him still more. He stood before Bagration, his lower jaw quivering, and could scarcely articulate:

“I don't know … your excellency … I hadn't the men, your excellency.”

“You could have got them from the battalions that were covering your position!” That there were no battalions there was what Tushin did not say, though it was the fact. He was afraid of getting another officer into trouble by saying that, and without uttering a word he gazed straight into Bagration's face, as a confused schoolboy gazes at the face of an examiner.

The silence was rather a lengthy one. Prince Bagration, though he had no wish to be severe, apparently found nothing to say; the others did not venture to intervene. Prince Andrey was looking from under his brows at Tushin and his fingers moved nervously.

“Your excellency,” Prince Andrey broke the silence with his abrupt voice, “you sent me to Captain Tushin's battery. I went there and found two-thirds of the men and horses killed, two cannons disabled and no forces near to defend them.”

Prince Bagration and Tushin looked now with equal intensity at Bolkonsky, as he went on speaking with suppressed emotion.

“And if your excellency will permit me to express my opinion,” he went on, “we owe the success of the day more to the action of that battery and the heroic steadiness of Captain Tushin and his men than to anything else,” said Prince Andrey, and he got up at once and walked away from the table, without waiting for a reply.

Prince Bagration looked at Tushin and, apparently loath to express his disbelief in Bolkonsky's off-handed judgment, yet unable to put complete faith in it, he bent his head and said to Tushin that he could go. Prince Andrey walked out after him.

“Thanks, my dear fellow, you got me out of a scrape,” Tushin said to him.

Prince Andrey looked at Tushin, and walked away without uttering a word. Prince Andrey felt bitter and melancholy. It was all so strange, so unlike what he had been hoping for.

“Who are they? Why are they here? What do they want? And when will it all end?” thought Rostov, looking at the shadowy figures that kept flitting before his eyes. The pain in his arm became even more agonising. He was heavy with sleep, crimson circles danced before his eyes, and the impression of these voices and these faces and the sense of his loneliness all blended with the misery of the pain. It was they, these soldiers, wounded and unhurt alike, it was they crushing and weighing upon him, and twisting his veins and burning the flesh in his sprained arm and shoulder. To get rid of them he closed his eyes.

He dozed off for a minute, but in that brief interval he dreamed of innumerable things. He saw his mother and her large, white hand; he saw Sonya's thin shoulders, Natasha's eyes and her laugh, and Denisov with his voice and his whiskers, and Telyanin, and all the affair with Telyanin and Bogdanitch. All that affair was inextricably mixed up with this soldier with the harsh voice, and that affair and this soldier here were so agonisingly, so ruthlessly pulling, crushing, and twisting his arm always in the same direction. He was trying to get away from them, but they would not let go of his shoulder for a second. It would not ache, it would be all right if they wouldn't drag at it; but there was no getting rid of them.

He opened his eyes and looked upwards. The black pall of darkness hung only a few feet above the light of the fire. In the light fluttered tiny flakes of falling snow. Tushin had not returned, the doctor had not come. He was alone, only a soldier was sitting now naked on the other side of the fire, warming his thin, yellow body.

“Nobody cares for me!” thought Rostov. “No one to help me, no one to feel sorry for me. And I too was once at home, and strong, and happy and loved,” he sighed, and with the sigh unconsciously he moaned.

“In pain, eh?” asked the soldier, shaking his shirt out before the fire, and without waiting for an answer, he added huskily: “Ah, what a lot of fellows done for to-day—awful!”

Rostov did not hear the soldier. He gazed at the snowflakes whirling over the fire and thought of the Russian winter with his warm, brightly lighted home, his cosy fur cloak, his swift sledge, his good health, and all the love and tenderness of his family. “And what did I come here for!” he wondered.

On the next day, the French did not renew the attack and the remnant of Bagration's detachment joined Kutuzov's army.

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