ON THE MORNING of the 25th Pierre drove out of Mozhaisk. On the slope of an immense, steep, and winding hill, leading out of the town, Pierre got out of the carriage, and walked by a cathedral on the right of the hill, where a service was being performed. A cavalry regiment followed him down the hill, the singers of the regiment in front. A train of carts came up the hill towards them, filled with wounded from the previous day's engagement. The peasant drivers kept running from side to side, shouting and whipping the horses. The carts, in each of which three or four wounded soldiers were lying or sitting, jolted up and down on the stones that had been thrown on the steep ascent to mend the road. The wounded men, pale and bandaged up, with compressed lips and knitted brows, clung to the sides, as they were shaken and jolted in the carts. Almost all of them stared with naïve and childlike curiosity at Pierre's white hat and green coat.
Pierre's coachman shouted angrily at the train of wounded men to keep to one side of the road. The cavalry regiment, coming down the hill in time to their song, overtook Pierre's chaise and blocked the road. Pierre stopped, keeping close to the edge of the road that had been hollowed out in the hill. The sun did not reach over the side of the hill to the road, and there it felt cold and damp. But overhead it was a bright August morning, and the chimes rang out merrily. One cart full of wounded men came to a standstill at the edge of the road quite close to Pierre. The driver, in bast shoes, ran panting up to his cart, thrust a stone under the hind wheels, which were without tires, and began setting straight the breech on his horse.
An old wounded soldier, with his arm in a sling, walking behind the cart, caught hold of it with his uninjured arm, and looked round at Pierre.
“Well, fellow-countryman, are we to be put down here or taken on to Moscow?” he said.
Pierre was so lost in thought that he did not hear the question. He looked from the cavalry regiment, which was now meeting the train of wounded, to the cart by which he stood, with the two wounded men sitting, and one lying down in it. One of the soldiers sitting in the cart had probably been wounded in the cheek. His whole head was done up in bandages, and one cheek was swollen as large as a baby's head. All his mouth and nose were on one side. This soldier was looking at the cathedral and crossing himself. Another, a young fellow, a light-haired recruit, as white as though there were not a drop of blood in his thin face, gazed with a fixed, good-natured smile at Pierre. The third lay so that his face could not be seen. The singers of the cavalry regiment passed close by the cart.
“A! za-pro-pa-la …”
they sang the military dance tune. As though seconding them, though in a different tone of gaiety, clanged out the metallic notes of the chimes at the top of the hill. And the hot rays of the sun bathed the top of the opposite slope with sunshine sparkling with another suggestion of gaiety. But where Pierre stood under the hillside, by the cart full of wounded soldiers, and the panting, little nag, it was damp, overcast, and dismal.
The soldier with the wounded cheek looked angrily at the singing horse soldiers.
“Oh, the smart fellows!” he murmured reproachfully.
“It's not soldiers only, but peasants, too, I have seen to-day! Peasants, too, they are hunting up,” said the soldier standing by the cart, addressing himself to Pierre, with a melancholy smile. “They can't pick and choose now. … They want to mass all the people together—it's a matter of Moscow, you see. There is only one thing to do now.” In spite of the vagueness of the soldier's words, Pierre fully grasped his meaning, and nodded his head approvingly.
The road was clear once more, and Pierre walked downhill, and drove on further.
Pierre drove on, looking on both sides of the road for familiar faces, and meeting none but unfamiliar, military faces, belonging to all sorts of regiments, and all staring with the same surprise at his white hat and green coat.
After driving four versts, for the first time he met an acquaintance, and greeted him joyfully. This was a doctor, one of the heads of the medical staff. He drove to meet Pierre in a covered gig, with a young doctor sitting beside him; and recognising Pierre, he called to the Cossack, who sat on the driver's seat, and told him to stop.
“Count, your excellency, how do you come here?” asked the doctor.
“Oh, I wanted to have a look …”
“Oh well, there will be something to look at …” Pierre got out of his carriage, and stopped to have a talk with the doctor, explaining to him his plan for taking part in the battle.
The doctor advised Bezuhov to go straight to his highness.
“Why, you would be God knows where during the battle, out of sight,” he said, with a glance at his young companion; “and his highness knows you anyway, and will give you a gracious reception. That's what I should do, my friend,” said the doctor.
The doctor seemed tired and hurried.
“So you think. … But one thing more I wanted to ask you, where is the position exactly?” said Pierre.
“The position?” said the doctor; “well, that's not in my line. Drive on to Tatarinovo, there's a great deal of digging going on there. There you'll come out on a mound; from there you get a view,” said the doctor.
“A view from it? … If you would …”
But the doctor interrupted, and moved toward his gig.
“I would have shown you the way, but by God, you see” (the doctor made a significant gesture), “I'm racing to the commander of the corps. We're in such a fix, you see … you know, count, there's to be a battle tomorrow; with a hundred thousand troops, we must reckon on twenty thousand wounded at least; and we haven't the stretchers, nor beds, nor attendants, nor doctors for six thousand. There are ten thousand carts; but we want other things; one must manage as one can.”
The strange idea that of those thousands of men, alive and well, young and old, who had been staring with such light-hearted amusement at his hat, twenty thousand were inevitably doomed to wounds and death (perhaps the very men whom he had seen) made a great impression on Pierre.
“They will die, perhaps, to-morrow; how can they think of anything but death?” And suddenly, by some latent connection of ideas, he saw a vivid picture of the hillside of Mozhaisk, the carts of wounded men, the chimes, the slanting sunshine, and the singing of the cavalry regiment.
“They were going into battle, and meeting wounded soldiers, and never for a minute paused to think what was in store for them, but went by and winked at their wounded comrades. And of all those, twenty thousand are doomed to death, and they can wonder at my hat! Strange!” thought Pierre, as he went on towards Tatarinovo.
Carriages, waggons, and crowds of orderlies and sentinels were standing about a gentleman's house on the left side of the road. The commander-in-chief was putting up there. But when Pierre arrived, he found his highness and almost all the staff were out. They had all gone to the church service. Pierre pushed on ahead to Gorky; and driving uphill into a little village street, Pierre saw for the first time the peasants of the militia in white shirts, with crosses on their caps. With loud talk and laughter, eager and perspiring, they were working on the right of the road at a huge mound overgrown with grass.
Some of them were digging out the earth, others were carrying the earth away in wheelbarrows, while a third lot stood doing nothing.
There were two officers on the knoll giving them instructions. Seeing these peasants, who were unmistakably enjoying the novelty of their position as soldiers, Pierre thought again of the wounded soldiers at Mozhaisk, and he understood what the soldier had tried to express by the words “they want to mass all the people together.” The sight of these bearded peasants toiling on the field of battle with their queer, clumsy boots, with their perspiring necks, and here and there with shirts unbuttoned showing their sun-burnt collar-bones, impressed Pierre more strongly than anything he had yet seen and heard with the solemnity and gravity of the moment.