AT THE END of the day of Borodino, Pierre ran for a second time from Raevsky's battery, and with crowds of soldiers crossed the ravine on the way to Knyazkovo. There he reached an ambulance tent, and seeing blood and hearing screams and groans, he hurried on, caught up in a mob of soldiers.
The one thing Pierre desired now with his whole soul was to get away from the terrible sensations in which he had passed that day, to get back into the ordinary conditions of life, and to go to sleep quietly indoors in his own bed. He felt that only in the ordinary conditions of life would he be fit to understand himself and all he had seen and felt. But the ordinary conditions of life were nowhere to be found.
Though bullets and cannon balls were not whistling here on the road along which he was going, still he saw here on all sides the same sights as on the field of battle. There were everywhere the same suffering, exhausted, and sometimes strangely indifferent faces; everywhere the same blood and soldiers' overcoats, the same sound of firing at a distance, yet still rousing the same horror. There was heat and dust besides.
After walking about three versts along the Mozhaisk road, Pierre sat down by the roadside.
The shadows of night were beginning to fall over the earth, and the roar of cannon died down. Pierre lay leaning on his elbow, and lay so a long while, gazing at the shadows passing by him in the dusk. He was continually fancying that a cannon ball was swooping down upon him with a fearful whiz. He started and sat up. He had no idea how long he had been there. In the middle of the night, three soldiers, dragging branches after them, settled themselves near him and began making a fire.
Casting sidelong glances at Pierre, the soldiers lighted the fire, set a pot on it, broke up their biscuits into it, and put in some lard. The pleasant odour of the savoury and greasy mess blended with the smell of smoke. Pierre raised himself and sighed. The soldiers (there were three of them) were eating and talking among themselves. without taking any notice of Pierre.
“And what lot will you be one of?” one of the soldiers suddenly asked Pierre, evidently suggesting in this inquiry precisely what Pierre was thinking about. “If you are hungry we'll give you some, only tell us whether you're a true man.”
“I?” … said Pierre, feeling the necessity of minimising his social position as far as possible, so as to be closer to the soldiers and more within their range. “I am really a militia officer, but my company's nowhere about; I came to the battle and lost sight of my comrades.”
“Well! Fancy that!” said one of the soldiers.
Another soldier shook his head.
“Well, you can have some of the mash, if you like!” said the first, and licking a wooden spoon he gave it to Pierre.
Pierre squatted by the fire, and fell to eating the mess in the pot, which seemed to him the most delicious dish he had ever tasted. While he was bending over the pot, helping himself to big spoonfuls and greedily munching one after another, the soldiers stared at him in silence.
“Where do you want to go? Tell us!” the first of them asked again.
“You're a gentleman, then?”
“And what's your name?”
“Well, Pyotr Kirillovitch, come along, we'll take you there.”
In the pitch dark the soldiers and Pierre walked to Mozhaisk.
The cocks were crowing when they reached Mozhaisk, and began ascending the steep hill into the town.
Pierre walked on with the soldiers, entirely forgetting that his inn was at the bottom of the hill and he had passed it. He would not have been aware of this—so preoccupied was he—if he had not chanced halfway up the hill to stumble across his groom, who had been to look for him in the town, and was on his way back to the inn. The groom recognised Pierre by his hat, which gleamed white in the dark.
“Your excellency!” he cried, “why, we had quite given you up. How is it you are on foot? And, mercy on us, where are you going?”
“Oh, to be sure…” said Pierre.
The soldiers halted.
“Well, found your own folks then?” said one of them.
“Well, good-bye to you—Pyotr Kirillovitch, wasn't it?”
“Good-bye, Pyotr Kirillovitch!” said the other voices.
“Good-bye,” said Pierre, and with the groom he turned in the direction of the inn.
“I ought to give them something!” thought Pierre, feeling for his pocket. “No, better not,” some inner voice prompted him.
There was not a room at the inn: all were full. Pierre went out into the yard, and muffling his head up, lay down in his carriage.