War And Peace

CHAPTER XVI

Chinese

IN APRIL the army was excited by the news of the arrival of the Tsar. Rostov did not succeed in being present at the review the Tsar held at Bartenstein; the Pavlograd hussars were at the advance posts, a long way in front of Bartenstein.

They were bivouacking. Denisov and Rostov were living in a mud hut dug out by the soldiers for them, and roofed with branches and turf. The hut was made after a pattern that had just come into fashion among the soldiers. A trench was dug out an ell and a half in breadth, two ells in depth, and three and a half in length. At one end of the trench steps were scooped out, and these formed the entrance and the approach. The trench itself was the room, and in it the lucky officers, such as the captain, had a plank lying on piles at the further end away from the steps—this was the table. On both sides of the trench the earth had been thrown up, and these mounds made the two beds and the sofa. The roof was so constructed that one could stand upright in the middle, and on the beds it was possible to sit, if one moved up close to the table. Denisov, who always fared luxuriously, because the soldiers of his squadron were fond of him, had a board nailed up in the front part of the roof, and in the board a broken but cemented window pane. When it was very cold, they used to bring red-hot embers from the soldiers' camp-fires in a bent sheet of iron and set them near the steps (in the drawing-room, as Denisov called that part of the hut), and this made it so warm that the officers, of whom there were always a number with Denisov and Rostov, used to sit with nothing but their shirts on.

In April Rostov had been on duty. At eight o'clock in the morning, on coming home after a sleepless night, he sent for hot embers, changed his rain-soaked underclothes, said his prayers, drank some tea, warmed himself, put things tidy in his corner and on the table, and with a wind-beaten, heated face, and with only his shirt on, lay down on his back, folding his hands behind his head. He was engaged in agreeable meditations, reflecting that he would be sure to be promoted for the last reconnoitring expedition, and was expecting Denisov to come in. He wanted to talk to him.

Behind the hut he heard the resounding roar of Denisov, unmistakably irritated. Rostov moved to the window to see to whom he was speaking, and saw the quartermaster, Toptcheenko.

“I told you not to let them stuff themselves with that root—Mary's what do you call it!” Denisov was roaring. “Why, I saw it myself, Lazartchuk was pulling it up in the field.”

“I did give the order, your honour; they won't heed it,” answered the quartermaster.

Rostov lay down again on his bed, and thought contentedly: “Let him see to things now; he's fussing about while I have done my work, and I am lying here—it's splendid!” Through the wall he could hear now some one besides the quartermaster speaking. Lavrushka, Denisov's smart rogue of a valet, was telling him something about some transports, biscuits and oxen, he had seen, while on the look-out for provisions.

Again he heard Denisov's shout from further away, and the words: “Saddle! second platoon!”

“Where are they off to?” thought Rostov.

Five minutes later Denisov came into the hut, clambered with muddy feet on the bed, angrily lighted his pipe, scattered about all his belongings, put on his riding-whip and sword, and was going out of the hut. In reply to Rostov's question, where was he going? he answered angrily and vaguely that he had business to see after.

“God be my judge, then, and our gracious Emperor!” said Denisov, as he went out. Outside the hut Rostov heard the hoofs of several horses splashing through the mud. Rostov did not even trouble himself to find out where Denisov was going. Getting warm through in his corner, he fell asleep, and it was only towards evening that he came out of the hut. Denisov had not yet come back. The weather had cleared; near the next hut two officers were playing quoits, with a laugh sticking big radishes for pegs in the soft muddy earth. Rostov joined them. In the middle of a game the officers saw transport waggons driving up to them, some fifteen hussars on lean horses rode behind them. The transport waggons, escorted by the hussars, drove up to the picket ropes, and a crowd of hussars surrounded them.

“There, look! Denisov was always fretting about it,” said Rostov; “here are provisions come at last.”

“High time, too!” said the officers. “Won't the soldiers be pleased!”

A little behind the hussars rode Denisov, accompanied by two infantry officers, with whom he was in conversation. Rostov went to meet them.

“I warn you, captain,” one of the officers was saying, a thin, little man, visibly wrathful.

“Well, I have told you, I won't give them up,” answered Denisov.

“You will have to answer for it, captain. It's mutiny—carrying off transports from your own army! Our men have had no food for two days.”

“Mine have had nothing for a fortnight,” answered Denisov.

“It's brigandage; you will answer for it, sir!” repeated the infantry officer, raising his voice.

“But why do you keep pestering me? Eh?” roared Denisov, suddenly getting furious. “It's I will have to answer for it, and not you; and you'd better not cry out till you're hurt. Be off!” he shouted at the officers.

“All right!” the little officer responded, not the least intimidated, and not moving away. “It's robbery, so I tell you.…”

“Go to the devil, quick march, while you're safe and sound.” And Denisov moved towards the officer.

“All right, all right,” said the officer threateningly; and he turned his horse and trotted away, swaying in the saddle.

“A dog astride a fence, a dog astride a fence to the life!” Denisov called after him—the bitterest insult a cavalry man can pay an infantry man on horseback; and riding up to Rostov he broke into a guffaw.

“Carried off the transports, carried them off from the infantry by force!” he said. “Why, am I to let the men die of hunger?”

The stores carried off by the hussars had been intended for an infantry regiment, but learning from Lavrushka that the transport was unescorted, Denisov and his hussars had carried off the stores by force. Biscuits were dealt out freely to the soldiers; they even shared them with the other squadrons.

Next day the colonel sent for Denisov, and putting his fingers held apart before his eyes, he said to him: “I look at the matter like this; see, I know nothing, and will take no steps; but I advise you to ride over to the staff, and there, in the commissariat department, to smooth the thing over, and if possible give a receipt for so much stores. If not, and a claim is entered for the infantry regiments, there will be a fuss, and it may end unpleasantly.”

Denisov went straight from the colonel to the staff with a sincere desire to follow his advice.

In the evening he came back to his hut in a condition such as Rostov had never seen his friend in before. Denisov could not speak, and was gasping for breath. When Rostov asked him what was wrong with him, he could only in a faint and husky voice utter incoherent oaths and threats.

Alarmed at Denisov's condition, Rostov suggested he should undress, drink some water, and sent for the doctor.

“Me to be court-martialled for brigandage—oh! some more water!—Let them court-martial me; I will, I always will, beat blackguards, and I'll tell the Emperor.—Ice,” he kept saying.

The regimental doctor said it was necessary to bleed him. A deep saucer of black blood was drawn from Denisov's hairy arm, and only then did he recover himself sufficiently to relate what had happened.

“I got there,” Denisov said. “ ‘Well, where are your chief's quarters?' I asked. They showed me. ‘Will you please to wait?' ‘I have come on business, and I have come over thirty versts, I haven't time to wait; announce me.' Very good; but the over-thief appears; he, too, thought fit to lecture me. ‘This is robbery!' says he. ‘The robber,' said I, ‘is not the man who takes the stores to feed his soldiers, but the man who takes them to fill his pockets.' ‘Will you please to be silent?' Very good. ‘Give a receipt,' says he, ‘to the commissioner, but the affair will be reported at headquarters.' I go before the commissioner. I go in. Sitting at the table … Who? No, think of it!… Who is it that's starving us to death?” roared Denisov, bringing the fist of his lanced arm down so violently that the table almost fell over, and the glasses jumped on it “Telyanin! … ‘What, it's you that's starving us to death?' said I, and I gave him one on the snout, and well it went home, and then another, so … ‘Ah! … you so-and-so …' and I gave him a thrashing. But I did have a bit of fun, though, I can say that,” cried Denisov, his white teeth showing in a smile of malignant glee under his black moustaches. “I should have killed him, if they hadn't pulled me off.”

“But why are you shouting; keep quiet,” said Rostov; “it's bleeding again. Stay, it must be bound up.”

Denisov was bandaged up and put to bed. Next day he waked up calm and in good spirits.

But at midday the adjutant of the regiment came with a grave and gloomy face to the hut shared by Denisov and Rostov, and regretfully showed them a formal communication to Major Denisov from the colonel, in which inquiries were made about the incidents of the previous day. The adjutant informed them that the affair seemed likely to take a very disastrous turn; that a court-martial was to be held; and that, with the strictness now prevailing as regards pillaging and breach of discipline, it would be a lucky chance if it ended in being degraded to the ranks.

The case, as presented by the offended parties, was that Major Denisov, after carrying off the transports, had without any provocation come in a drunken condition to the chief commissioner of the commissariat, had called him a thief, threatened to beat him; and, when he was led out, had rushed into the office, attacked two officials, and sprained the arm of one of them.

In response to further inquiries from Rostov, Denisov said, laughing, that it did seem certainly as though some other fellow had been mixed up in it, but that it was all stuff and nonsense; that he would never dream of being afraid of courts of any sort, and that if the scoundrels dared to pick a quarrel with him, he would give them an answer they wouldn't soon forget.

Denisov spoke in this careless way of the whole affair. But Rostov knew him too well not to detect that in his heart (though he hid it from others) he was afraid of a court-martial, and was worrying over the matter, which was obviously certain to have disastrous consequences. Documents began to come every day, and notices from the court, and Denisov received a summons to put his squadron under the command of the officer next in seniority, and on the first of May to appear before the staff of the division for an investigation into the row in the commissariat office. On the previous day Platov undertook a reconnaissance of the enemy with two regiments of Cossacks and two squadrons of hussars. Denisov, with his usual swaggering gallantry, rode in the front of the line. One of the bullets fired by the French sharpshooters struck him in the fleshy upper part of the leg. Possibly at any other time Denisov would not have left the regiment for so slight a wound, but now he took advantage of it to excuse himself from appearing before the staff, and went into the hospital.

Contents

PreviousChapter

NextChapter


Back Home

旺旺英语--名著对译