At five in the morning it was still quite dark. The troops of the center, the reserves, and Bagratión’s right flank had not yet moved, but on the left flank the columns of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, which were to be the first to descend the heights to attack the French right flank and drive it into the Bohemian mountains according to plan, were already up and astir. The smoke of the campfires, into which they were throwing everything superfluous, made the eyes smart. It was cold and dark. The officers were hurriedly drinking tea and breakfasting, the soldiers, munching biscuit and beating a tattoo with their feet to warm themselves, gathering round the fires throwing into the flames the remains of sheds, chairs, tables, wheels, tubs, and everything that they did not want or could not carry away with them. Austrian column guides were moving in and out among the Russian troops and served as heralds of the advance. As soon as an Austrian officer showed himself near a commanding officer’s quarters, the regiment began to move: the soldiers ran from the fires, thrust their pipes into their boots, their bags into the carts, got their muskets ready, and formed rank. The officers buttoned up their coats, buckled on their swords and pouches, and moved along the ranks shouting. The train drivers and orderlies harnessed and packed the wagons and tied on the loads. The adjutants and battalion and regimental commanders mounted, crossed themselves, gave final instructions, orders, and commissions to the baggage men who remained behind, and the monotonous tramp of thousands of feet resounded. The column moved forward without knowing where and unable, from the masses around them, the smoke and the increasing fog, to see either the place they were leaving or that to which they were going.
A soldier on the march is hemmed in and borne along by his regiment as much as a sailor is by his ship. However far he has walked, whatever strange, unknown, and dangerous places he reaches, just as a sailor is always surrounded by the same decks, masts, and rigging of his ship, so the soldier always has around him the same comrades, the same ranks, the same sergeant major Iván Mítrich, the same company dog Jack, and the same commanders. The sailor rarely cares to know the latitude in which his ship is sailing, but on the day of battle—heaven knows how and whence—a stern note of which all are conscious sounds in the moral atmosphere of an army, announcing the approach of something decisive and solemn, and awakening in the men an unusual curiosity. On the day of battle the soldiers excitedly try to get beyond the interests of their regiment, they listen intently, look about, and eagerly ask concerning what is going on around them.
The fog had grown so dense that though it was growing light they could not see ten paces ahead. Bushes looked like gigantic trees and level ground like cliffs and slopes. Anywhere, on any side, one might encounter an enemy invisible ten paces off. But the columns advanced for a long time, always in the same fog, descending and ascending hills, avoiding gardens and enclosures, going over new and unknown ground, and nowhere encountering the enemy. On the contrary, the soldiers became aware that in front, behind, and on all sides, other Russian columns were moving in the same direction. Every soldier felt glad to know that to the unknown place where he was going, many more of our men were going too.
“There now, the Kúrskies have also gone past,” was being said in the ranks.
“It’s wonderful what a lot of our troops have gathered, lads! Last night I looked at the campfires and there was no end of them. A regular Moscow!”
Though none of the column commanders rode up to the ranks or talked to the men (the commanders, as we saw at the council of war, were out of humor and dissatisfied with the affair, and so did not exert themselves to cheer the men but merely carried out the orders), yet the troops marched gaily, as they always do when going into action, especially to an attack. But when they had marched for about an hour in the dense fog, the greater part of the men had to halt and an unpleasant consciousness of some dislocation and blunder spread through the ranks. How such a consciousness is communicated is very difficult to define, but it certainly is communicated very surely, and flows rapidly, imperceptibly, and irrepressibly, as water does in a creek. Had the Russian army been alone without any allies, it might perhaps have been a long time before this consciousness of mismanagement became a general conviction, but as it was, the disorder was readily and naturally attributed to the stupid Germans, and everyone was convinced that a dangerous muddle had been occasioned by the sausage eaters.
“Why have we stopped? Is the way blocked? Or have we already come up against the French?”
“No, one can’t hear them. They’d be firing if we had.”
“They were in a hurry enough to start us, and now here we stand in the middle of a field without rhyme or reason. It’s all those damned Germans’ muddling! What stupid devils!”
“Yes, I’d send them on in front, but no fear, they’re crowding up behind. And now here we stand hungry.”
“I say, shall we soon be clear? They say the cavalry are blocking the way,” said an officer.
“Ah, those damned Germans! They don’t know their own country!” said another.
“What division are you?” shouted an adjutant, riding up.
“Then why are you here? You should have gone on long ago, now you won’t get there till evening.”
“What stupid orders! They don’t themselves know what they are doing!” said the officer and rode off.
Then a general rode past shouting something angrily, not in Russian.
“Tafa-lafa! But what he’s jabbering no one can make out,” said a soldier, mimicking the general who had ridden away. “I’d shoot them, the scoundrels!”
“We were ordered to be at the place before nine, but we haven’t got halfway. Fine orders!” was being repeated on different sides.
And the feeling of energy with which the troops had started began to turn into vexation and anger at the stupid arrangements and at the Germans.
The cause of the confusion was that while the Austrian cavalry was moving toward our left flank, the higher command found that our center was too far separated from our right flank and the cavalry were all ordered to turn back to the right. Several thousand cavalry crossed in front of the infantry, who had to wait.
At the front an altercation occurred between an Austrian guide and a Russian general. The general shouted a demand that the cavalry should be halted, the Austrian argued that not he, but the higher command, was to blame. The troops meanwhile stood growing listless and dispirited. After an hour’s delay they at last moved on, descending the hill. The fog that was dispersing on the hill lay still more densely below, where they were descending. In front in the fog a shot was heard and then another, at first irregularly at varying intervals—trata...tat—and then more and more regularly and rapidly, and the action at the Goldbach Stream began.
Not expecting to come on the enemy down by the stream, and having stumbled on him in the fog, hearing no encouraging word from their commanders, and with a consciousness of being too late spreading through the ranks, and above all being unable to see anything in front or around them in the thick fog, the Russians exchanged shots with the enemy lazily and advanced and again halted, receiving no timely orders from the officers or adjutants who wandered about in the fog in those unknown surroundings unable to find their own regiments. In this way the action began for the first, second, and third columns, which had gone down into the valley. The fourth column, with which Kutúzov was, stood on the Pratzen Heights.
Below, where the fight was beginning, there was still thick fog; on the higher ground it was clearing, but nothing could be seen of what was going on in front. Whether all the enemy forces were, as we supposed, six miles away, or whether they were near by in that sea of mist, no one knew till after eight o’clock.
It was nine o’clock in the morning. The fog lay unbroken like a sea down below, but higher up at the village of Schlappanitz where Napoleon stood with his marshals around him, it was quite light. Above him was a clear blue sky, and the sun’s vast orb quivered like a huge hollow, crimson float on the surface of that milky sea of mist. The whole French army, and even Napoleon himself with his staff, were not on the far side of the streams and hollows of Sokolnitz and Schlappanitz beyond which we intended to take up our position and begin the action, but were on this side, so close to our own forces that Napoleon with the naked eye could distinguish a mounted man from one on foot. Napoleon, in the blue cloak which he had worn on his Italian campaign, sat on his small gray Arab horse a little in front of his marshals. He gazed silently at the hills which seemed to rise out of the sea of mist and on which the Russian troops were moving in the distance, and he listened to the sounds of firing in the valley. Not a single muscle of his face—which in those days was still thin—moved. His gleaming eyes were fixed intently on one spot. His predictions were being justified. Part of the Russian force had already descended into the valley toward the ponds and lakes and part were leaving these Pratzen Heights which he intended to attack and regarded as the key to the position. He saw over the mist that in a hollow between two hills near the village of Pratzen, the Russian columns, their bayonets glittering, were moving continuously in one direction toward the valley and disappearing one after another into the mist. From information he had received the evening before, from the sound of wheels and footsteps heard by the outposts during the night, by the disorderly movement of the Russian columns, and from all indications, he saw clearly that the allies believed him to be far away in front of them, and that the columns moving near Pratzen constituted the center of the Russian army, and that that center was already sufficiently weakened to be successfully attacked. But still he did not begin the engagement.
Today was a great day for him—the anniversary of his coronation. Before dawn he had slept for a few hours, and refreshed, vigorous, and in good spirits, he mounted his horse and rode out into the field in that happy mood in which everything seems possible and everything succeeds. He sat motionless, looking at the heights visible above the mist, and his cold face wore that special look of confident, self-complacent happiness that one sees on the face of a boy happily in love. The marshals stood behind him not venturing to distract his attention. He looked now at the Pratzen Heights, now at the sun floating up out of the mist.
When the sun had entirely emerged from the fog, and fields and mist were aglow with dazzling light—as if he had only awaited this to begin the action—he drew the glove from his shapely white hand, made a sign with it to the marshals, and ordered the action to begin. The marshals, accompanied by adjutants, galloped off in different directions, and a few minutes later the chief forces of the French army moved rapidly toward those Pratzen Heights which were being more and more denuded by Russian troops moving down the valley to their left.
At eight o’clock Kutúzov rode to Pratzen at the head of the fourth column, Milorádovich’s, the one that was to take the place of Przebyszéwski’s and Langeron’s columns which had already gone down into the valley. He greeted the men of the foremost regiment and gave them the order to march, thereby indicating that he intended to lead that column himself. When he had reached the village of Pratzen he halted. Prince Andrew was behind, among the immense number forming the commander in chief’s suite. He was in a state of suppressed excitement and irritation, though controlledly calm as a man is at the approach of a long-awaited moment. He was firmly convinced that this was the day of his Toulon, or his bridge of Arcola. How it would come about he did not know, but he felt sure it would do so. The locality and the position of our troops were known to him as far as they could be known to anyone in our army. His own strategic plan, which obviously could not now be carried out, was forgotten. Now, entering into Weyrother’s plan, Prince Andrew considered possible contingencies and formed new projects such as might call for his rapidity of perception and decision.
To the left down below in the mist, the musketry fire of unseen forces could be heard. It was there Prince Andrew thought the fight would concentrate. “There we shall encounter difficulties, and there,” thought he, “I shall be sent with a brigade or division, and there, standard in hand, I shall go forward and break whatever is in front of me.”
He could not look calmly at the standards of the passing battalions. Seeing them he kept thinking, “That may be the very standard with which I shall lead the army.”
In the morning all that was left of the night mist on the heights was a hoar frost now turning to dew, but in the valleys it still lay like a milk-white sea. Nothing was visible in the valley to the left into which our troops had descended and from whence came the sounds of firing. Above the heights was the dark clear sky, and to the right the vast orb of the sun. In front, far off on the farther shore of that sea of mist, some wooded hills were discernible, and it was there the enemy probably was, for something could be descried. On the right the Guards were entering the misty region with a sound of hoofs and wheels and now and then a gleam of bayonets; to the left beyond the village similar masses of cavalry came up and disappeared in the sea of mist. In front and behind moved infantry. The commander in chief was standing at the end of the village letting the troops pass by him. That morning Kutúzov seemed worn and irritable. The infantry passing before him came to a halt without any command being given, apparently obstructed by something in front.
“Do order them to form into battalion columns and go round the village!” he said angrily to a general who had ridden up. “Don’t you understand, your excellency, my dear sir, that you must not defile through narrow village streets when we are marching against the enemy?”
“I intended to re-form them beyond the village, your excellency,” answered the general.
Kutúzov laughed bitterly.
“You’ll make a fine thing of it, deploying in sight of the enemy! Very fine!”
“The enemy is still far away, your excellency. According to the dispositions...”
“The dispositions!” exclaimed Kutúzov bitterly. “Who told you that?... Kindly do as you are ordered.”
“My dear fellow,” Nesvítski whispered to Prince Andrew, “the old man is as surly as a dog.”
An Austrian officer in a white uniform with green plumes in his hat galloped up to Kutúzov and asked in the Emperor’s name had the fourth column advanced into action.
Kutúzov turned round without answering and his eye happened to fall upon Prince Andrew, who was beside him. Seeing him, Kutúzov’s malevolent and caustic expression softened, as if admitting that what was being done was not his adjutant’s fault, and still not answering the Austrian adjutant, he addressed Bolkónski.
“Go, my dear fellow, and see whether the third division has passed the village. Tell it to stop and await my orders.”
Hardly had Prince Andrew started than he stopped him.
“And ask whether sharpshooters have been posted,” he added. “What are they doing? What are they doing?” he murmured to himself, still not replying to the Austrian.
Prince Andrew galloped off to execute the order.
Overtaking the battalions that continued to advance, he stopped the third division and convinced himself that there really were no sharpshooters in front of our columns. The colonel at the head of the regiment was much surprised at the commander in chief’s order to throw out skirmishers. He had felt perfectly sure that there were other troops in front of him and that the enemy must be at least six miles away. There was really nothing to be seen in front except a barren descent hidden by dense mist. Having given orders in the commander in chief’s name to rectify this omission, Prince Andrew galloped back. Kutúzov still in the same place, his stout body resting heavily in the saddle with the lassitude of age, sat yawning wearily with closed eyes. The troops were no longer moving, but stood with the butts of their muskets on the ground.
“All right, all right!” he said to Prince Andrew, and turned to a general who, watch in hand, was saying it was time they started as all the left-flank columns had already descended.
“Plenty of time, your excellency,” muttered Kutúzov in the midst of a yawn. “Plenty of time,” he repeated.
Just then at a distance behind Kutúzov was heard the sound of regiments saluting, and this sound rapidly came nearer along the whole extended line of the advancing Russian columns. Evidently the person they were greeting was riding quickly. When the soldiers of the regiment in front of which Kutúzov was standing began to shout, he rode a little to one side and looked round with a frown. Along the road from Pratzen galloped what looked like a squadron of horsemen in various uniforms. Two of them rode side by side in front, at full gallop. One in a black uniform with white plumes in his hat rode a bobtailed chestnut horse, the other who was in a white uniform rode a black one. These were the two Emperors followed by their suites. Kutúzov, affecting the manners of an old soldier at the front, gave the command “Attention!” and rode up to the Emperors with a salute. His whole appearance and manner were suddenly transformed. He put on the air of a subordinate who obeys without reasoning. With an affectation of respect which evidently struck Alexander unpleasantly, he rode up and saluted.
This unpleasant impression merely flitted over the young and happy face of the Emperor like a cloud of haze across a clear sky and vanished. After his illness he looked rather thinner that day than on the field of Olmütz where Bolkónski had seen him for the first time abroad, but there was still the same bewitching combination of majesty and mildness in his fine gray eyes, and on his delicate lips the same capacity for varying expression and the same prevalent appearance of goodhearted innocent youth.
At the Olmütz review he had seemed more majestic; here he seemed brighter and more energetic. He was slightly flushed after galloping two miles, and reining in his horse he sighed restfully and looked round at the faces of his suite, young and animated as his own. Czartorýski, Novosíltsev, Prince Volkónsky, Strógonov, and the others, all richly dressed gay young men on splendid, well-groomed, fresh, only slightly heated horses, exchanging remarks and smiling, had stopped behind the Emperor. The Emperor Francis, a rosy, long faced young man, sat very erect on his handsome black horse, looking about him in a leisurely and preoccupied manner. He beckoned to one of his white adjutants and asked some question—“Most likely he is asking at what o’clock they started,” thought Prince Andrew, watching his old acquaintance with a smile he could not repress as he recalled his reception at Brünn. In the Emperors’ suite were the picked young orderly officers of the Guard and line regiments, Russian and Austrian. Among them were grooms leading the Tsar’s beautiful relay horses covered with embroidered cloths.
As when a window is opened a whiff of fresh air from the fields enters a stuffy room, so a whiff of youthfulness, energy, and confidence of success reached Kutúzov’s cheerless staff with the galloping advent of all these brilliant young men.
“Why aren’t you beginning, Michael Ilariónovich?” said the Emperor Alexander hurriedly to Kutúzov, glancing courteously at the same time at the Emperor Francis.
“I am waiting, Your Majesty,” answered Kutúzov, bending forward respectfully.
The Emperor, frowning slightly, bent his ear forward as if he had not quite heard.
“Waiting, Your Majesty,” repeated Kutúzov. (Prince Andrew noted that Kutúzov’s upper lip twitched unnaturally as he said the word “waiting.”) “Not all the columns have formed up yet, Your Majesty.”
The Tsar heard but obviously did not like the reply; he shrugged his rather round shoulders and glanced at Novosíltsev who was near him, as if complaining of Kutúzov.
“You know, Michael Ilariónovich, we are not on the Empress’ Field where a parade does not begin till all the troops are assembled,” said the Tsar with another glance at the Emperor Francis, as if inviting him if not to join in at least to listen to what he was saying. But the Emperor Francis continued to look about him and did not listen.
“That is just why I do not begin, sire,” said Kutúzov in a resounding voice, apparently to preclude the possibility of not being heard, and again something in his face twitched—“That is just why I do not begin, sire, because we are not on parade and not on the Empress’ Field,” said he clearly and distinctly.
In the Emperor’s suite all exchanged rapid looks that expressed dissatisfaction and reproach. “Old though he may be, he should not, he certainly should not, speak like that,” their glances seemed to say.
The Tsar looked intently and observantly into Kutúzov’s eye waiting to hear whether he would say anything more. But Kutúzov, with respectfully bowed head, seemed also to be waiting. The silence lasted for about a minute.
“However, if you command it, Your Majesty,” said Kutúzov, lifting his head and again assuming his former tone of a dull, unreasoning, but submissive general.
He touched his horse and having called Milorádovich, the commander of the column, gave him the order to advance.
The troops again began to move, and two battalions of the Nóvgorod and one of the Ápsheron regiment went forward past the Emperor.
As this Ápsheron battalion marched by, the red-faced Milorádovich, without his greatcoat, with his Orders on his breast and an enormous tuft of plumes in his cocked hat worn on one side with its corners front and back, galloped strenuously forward, and with a dashing salute reined in his horse before the Emperor.
“God be with you, general!” said the Emperor.
“Ma foi, sire, nous ferons ce qui sera dans notre possibilité, sire,” * he answered gaily, raising nevertheless ironic smiles among the gentlemen of the Tsar’s suite by his poor French.
Milorádovich wheeled his horse sharply and stationed himself a little behind the Emperor. The Ápsheron men, excited by the Tsar’s presence, passed in step before the Emperors and their suites at a bold, brisk pace.
“Lads!” shouted Milorádovich in a loud, self-confident, and cheery voice, obviously so elated by the sound of firing, by the prospect of battle, and by the sight of the gallant Ápsherons, his comrades in Suvórov’s time, now passing so gallantly before the Emperors, that he forgot the sovereigns’ presence. “Lads, it’s not the first village you’ve had to take,” cried he.
“Glad to do our best!” shouted the soldiers.
The Emperor’s horse started at the sudden cry. This horse that had carried the sovereign at reviews in Russia bore him also here on the field of Austerlitz, enduring the heedless blows of his left foot and pricking its ears at the sound of shots just as it had done on the Empress’ Field, not understanding the significance of the firing, nor of the nearness of the Emperor Francis’ black cob, nor of all that was being said, thought, and felt that day by its rider.
The Emperor turned with a smile to one of his followers and made a remark to him, pointing to the gallant Ápsherons.
Kutúzov accompanied by his adjutants rode at a walking pace behind the carabineers.
When he had gone less than half a mile in the rear of the column he stopped at a solitary, deserted house that had probably once been an inn, where two roads parted. Both of them led downhill and troops were marching along both.
The fog had begun to clear and enemy troops were already dimly visible about a mile and a half off on the opposite heights. Down below, on the left, the firing became more distinct. Kutúzov had stopped and was speaking to an Austrian general. Prince Andrew, who was a little behind looking at them, turned to an adjutant to ask him for a field glass.
“Look, look!” said this adjutant, looking not at the troops in the distance, but down the hill before him. “It’s the French!”
The two generals and the adjutant took hold of the field glass, trying to snatch it from one another. The expression on all their faces suddenly changed to one of horror. The French were supposed to be a mile and a half away, but had suddenly and unexpectedly appeared just in front of us.
“It’s the enemy?... No!... Yes, see it is!... for certain.... But how is that?” said different voices.
With the naked eye Prince Andrew saw below them to the right, not more than five hundred paces from where Kutúzov was standing, a dense French column coming up to meet the Ápsherons.
“Here it is! The decisive moment has arrived. My turn has come,” thought Prince Andrew, and striking his horse he rode up to Kutúzov.
“The Ápsherons must be stopped, your excellency,” cried he. But at that very instant a cloud of smoke spread all round, firing was heard quite close at hand, and a voice of naïve terror barely two steps from Prince Andrew shouted, “Brothers! All’s lost!” And at this as if at a command, everyone began to run.
Confused and ever-increasing crowds were running back to where five minutes before the troops had passed the Emperors. Not only would it have been difficult to stop that crowd, it was even impossible not to be carried back with it oneself. Bolkónski only tried not to lose touch with it, and looked around bewildered and unable to grasp what was happening in front of him. Nesvítski with an angry face, red and unlike himself, was shouting to Kutúzov that if he did not ride away at once he would certainly be taken prisoner. Kutúzov remained in the same place and without answering drew out a handkerchief. Blood was flowing from his cheek. Prince Andrew forced his way to him.
“You are wounded?” he asked, hardly able to master the trembling of his lower jaw.
“The wound is not here, it is there!” said Kutúzov, pressing the handkerchief to his wounded cheek and pointing to the fleeing soldiers. “Stop them!” he shouted, and at the same moment, probably realizing that it was impossible to stop them, spurred his horse and rode to the right.
A fresh wave of the flying mob caught him and bore him back with it.
The troops were running in such a dense mass that once surrounded by them it was difficult to get out again. One was shouting, “Get on! Why are you hindering us?” Another in the same place turned round and fired in the air; a third was striking the horse Kutúzov himself rode. Having by a great effort got away to the left from that flood of men, Kutúzov, with his suite diminished by more than half, rode toward a sound of artillery fire near by. Having forced his way out of the crowd of fugitives, Prince Andrew, trying to keep near Kutúzov, saw on the slope of the hill amid the smoke a Russian battery that was still firing and Frenchmen running toward it. Higher up stood some Russian infantry, neither moving forward to protect the battery nor backward with the fleeing crowd. A mounted general separated himself from the infantry and approached Kutúzov. Of Kutúzov’s suite only four remained. They were all pale and exchanged looks in silence.
“Stop those wretches!” gasped Kutúzov to the regimental commander, pointing to the flying soldiers; but at that instant, as if to punish him for those words, bullets flew hissing across the regiment and across Kutúzov’s suite like a flock of little birds.
The French had attacked the battery and, seeing Kutúzov, were firing at him. After this volley the regimental commander clutched at his leg; several soldiers fell, and a second lieutenant who was holding the flag let it fall from his hands. It swayed and fell, but caught on the muskets of the nearest soldiers. The soldiers started firing without orders.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” groaned Kutúzov despairingly and looked around.... “Bolkónski!” he whispered, his voice trembling from a consciousness of the feebleness of age, “Bolkónski!” he whispered, pointing to the disordered battalion and at the enemy, “what’s that?”
But before he had finished speaking, Prince Andrew, feeling tears of shame and anger choking him, had already leapt from his horse and run to the standard.
“Forward, lads!” he shouted in a voice piercing as a child’s.
“Here it is!” thought he, seizing the staff of the standard and hearing with pleasure the whistle of bullets evidently aimed at him. Several soldiers fell.
“Hurrah!” shouted Prince Andrew, and, scarcely able to hold up the heavy standard, he ran forward with full confidence that the whole battalion would follow him.
And really he only ran a few steps alone. One soldier moved and then another and soon the whole battalion ran forward shouting “Hurrah!” and overtook him. A sergeant of the battalion ran up and took the flag that was swaying from its weight in Prince Andrew’s hands, but he was immediately killed. Prince Andrew again seized the standard and, dragging it by the staff, ran on with the battalion. In front he saw our artillerymen, some of whom were fighting, while others, having abandoned their guns, were running toward him. He also saw French infantry soldiers who were seizing the artillery horses and turning the guns round. Prince Andrew and the battalion were already within twenty paces of the cannon. He heard the whistle of bullets above him unceasingly and to right and left of him soldiers continually groaned and dropped. But he did not look at them: he looked only at what was going on in front of him—at the battery. He now saw clearly the figure of a red-haired gunner with his shako knocked awry, pulling one end of a mop while a French soldier tugged at the other. He could distinctly see the distraught yet angry expression on the faces of these two men, who evidently did not realize what they were doing.
“What are they about?” thought Prince Andrew as he gazed at them. “Why doesn’t the red-haired gunner run away as he is unarmed? Why doesn’t the Frenchman stab him? He will not get away before the Frenchman remembers his bayonet and stabs him....”
And really another French soldier, trailing his musket, ran up to the struggling men, and the fate of the red-haired gunner, who had triumphantly secured the mop and still did not realize what awaited him, was about to be decided. But Prince Andrew did not see how it ended. It seemed to him as though one of the soldiers near him hit him on the head with the full swing of a bludgeon. It hurt a little, but the worst of it was that the pain distracted him and prevented his seeing what he had been looking at.
“What’s this? Am I falling? My legs are giving way,” thought he, and fell on his back. He opened his eyes, hoping to see how the struggle of the Frenchmen with the gunners ended, whether the red-haired gunner had been killed or not and whether the cannon had been captured or saved. But he saw nothing. Above him there was now nothing but the sky—the lofty sky, not clear yet still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds gliding slowly across it. “How quiet, peaceful, and solemn; not at all as I ran,” thought Prince Andrew—“not as we ran, shouting and fighting, not at all as the gunner and the Frenchman with frightened and angry faces struggled for the mop: how differently do those clouds glide across that lofty infinite sky! How was it I did not see that lofty sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity, all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but quiet and peace. Thank God!...”
On our right flank commanded by Bagratión, at nine o’clock the battle had not yet begun. Not wishing to agree to Dolgorúkov’s demand to commence the action, and wishing to avert responsibility from himself, Prince Bagratión proposed to Dolgorúkov to send to inquire of the commander in chief. Bagratión knew that as the distance between the two flanks was more than six miles, even if the messenger were not killed (which he very likely would be), and found the commander in chief (which would be very difficult), he would not be able to get back before evening.
Bagratión cast his large, expressionless, sleepy eyes round his suite, and the boyish face Rostóv, breathless with excitement and hope, was the first to catch his eye. He sent him.
“And if I should meet His Majesty before I meet the commander in chief, your excellency?” said Rostóv, with his hand to his cap.
“You can give the message to His Majesty,” said Dolgorúkov, hurriedly interrupting Bagratión.
On being relieved from picket duty Rostóv had managed to get a few hours’ sleep before morning and felt cheerful, bold, and resolute, with elasticity of movement, faith in his good fortune, and generally in that state of mind which makes everything seem possible, pleasant, and easy.
All his wishes were being fulfilled that morning: there was to be a general engagement in which he was taking part, more than that, he was orderly to the bravest general, and still more, he was going with a message to Kutúzov, perhaps even to the sovereign himself. The morning was bright, he had a good horse under him, and his heart was full of joy and happiness. On receiving the order he gave his horse the rein and galloped along the line. At first he rode along the line of Bagratión’s troops, which had not yet advanced into action but were standing motionless; then he came to the region occupied by Uvárov’s cavalry and here he noticed a stir and signs of preparation for battle; having passed Uvárov’s cavalry he clearly heard the sound of cannon and musketry ahead of him. The firing grew louder and louder.
In the fresh morning air were now heard, not two or three musket shots at irregular intervals as before, followed by one or two cannon shots, but a roll of volleys of musketry from the slopes of the hill before Pratzen, interrupted by such frequent reports of cannon that sometimes several of them were not separated from one another but merged into a general roar.
He could see puffs of musketry smoke that seemed to chase one another down the hillsides, and clouds of cannon smoke rolling, spreading, and mingling with one another. He could also, by the gleam of bayonets visible through the smoke, make out moving masses of infantry and narrow lines of artillery with green caissons.
Rostóv stopped his horse for a moment on a hillock to see what was going on, but strain his attention as he would he could not understand or make out anything of what was happening: there in the smoke men of some sort were moving about, in front and behind moved lines of troops; but why, whither, and who they were, it was impossible to make out. These sights and sounds had no depressing or intimidating effect on him; on the contrary, they stimulated his energy and determination.
“Go on! Go on! Give it them!” he mentally exclaimed at these sounds, and again proceeded to gallop along the line, penetrating farther and farther into the region where the army was already in action.
“How it will be there I don’t know, but all will be well!” thought Rostóv.
After passing some Austrian troops he noticed that the next part of the line (the Guards) was already in action.
“So much the better! I shall see it close,” he thought.
He was riding almost along the front line. A handful of men came galloping toward him. They were our Uhlans who with disordered ranks were returning from the attack. Rostóv got out of their way, involuntarily noticed that one of them was bleeding, and galloped on.
“That is no business of mine,” he thought. He had not ridden many hundred yards after that before he saw to his left, across the whole width of the field, an enormous mass of cavalry in brilliant white uniforms, mounted on black horses, trotting straight toward him and across his path. Rostóv put his horse to full gallop to get out of the way of these men, and he would have got clear had they continued at the same speed, but they kept increasing their pace, so that some of the horses were already galloping. Rostóv heard the thud of their hoofs and the jingle of their weapons and saw their horses, their figures, and even their faces, more and more distinctly. They were our Horse Guards, advancing to attack the French cavalry that was coming to meet them.
The Horse Guards were galloping, but still holding in their horses. Rostóv could already see their faces and heard the command: “Charge!” shouted by an officer who was urging his thoroughbred to full speed. Rostóv, fearing to be crushed or swept into the attack on the French, galloped along the front as hard as his horse could go, but still was not in time to avoid them.
The last of the Horse Guards, a huge pockmarked fellow, frowned angrily on seeing Rostóv before him, with whom he would inevitably collide. This Guardsman would certainly have bowled Rostóv and his Bedouin over (Rostóv felt himself quite tiny and weak compared to these gigantic men and horses) had it not occurred to Rostóv to flourish his whip before the eyes of the Guardsman’s horse. The heavy black horse, sixteen hands high, shied, throwing back its ears; but the pockmarked Guardsman drove his huge spurs in violently, and the horse, flourishing its tail and extending its neck, galloped on yet faster. Hardly had the Horse Guards passed Rostóv before he heard them shout, “Hurrah!” and looking back saw that their foremost ranks were mixed up with some foreign cavalry with red epaulets, probably French. He could see nothing more, for immediately afterwards cannon began firing from somewhere and smoke enveloped everything.
At that moment, as the Horse Guards, having passed him, disappeared in the smoke, Rostóv hesitated whether to gallop after them or to go where he was sent. This was the brilliant charge of the Horse Guards that amazed the French themselves. Rostóv was horrified to hear later that of all that mass of huge and handsome men, of all those brilliant, rich youths, officers and cadets, who had galloped past him on their thousand-ruble horses, only eighteen were left after the charge.
“Why should I envy them? My chance is not lost, and maybe I shall see the Emperor immediately!” thought Rostóv and galloped on.
When he came level with the Foot Guards he noticed that about them and around them cannon balls were flying, of which he was aware not so much because he heard their sound as because he saw uneasiness on the soldiers’ faces and unnatural warlike solemnity on those of the officers.
Passing behind one of the lines of a regiment of Foot Guards he heard a voice calling him by name.
“What?” he answered, not recognizing Borís.
“I say, we’ve been in the front line! Our regiment attacked!” said Borís with the happy smile seen on the faces of young men who have been under fire for the first time.
“Have you?” he said. “Well, how did it go?”
“We drove them back!” said Borís with animation, growing talkative. “Can you imagine it?” and he began describing how the Guards, having taken up their position and seeing troops before them, thought they were Austrians, and all at once discovered from the cannon balls discharged by those troops that they were themselves in the front line and had unexpectedly to go into action. Rostóv without hearing Borís to the end spurred his horse.
“Where are you off to?” asked Borís.
“With a message to His Majesty.”
“There he is!” said Borís, thinking Rostóv had said “His Highness,” and pointing to the Grand Duke who with his high shoulders and frowning brows stood a hundred paces away from them in his helmet and Horse Guards’ jacket, shouting something to a pale, white uniformed Austrian officer.
“But that’s the Grand Duke, and I want the commander in chief or the Emperor,” said Rostóv, and was about to spur his horse.
“Count! Count!” shouted Berg who ran up from the other side as eager as Borís. “Count! I am wounded in my right hand” (and he showed his bleeding hand with a handkerchief tied round it) “and I remained at the front. I held my sword in my left hand, Count. All our family—the von Bergs—have been knights!”
He said something more, but Rostóv did not wait to hear it and rode away.
Having passed the Guards and traversed an empty space, Rostóv, to avoid again getting in front of the first line as he had done when the Horse Guards charged, followed the line of reserves, going far round the place where the hottest musket fire and cannonade were heard. Suddenly he heard musket fire quite close in front of him and behind our troops, where he could never have expected the enemy to be.
“What can it be?” he thought. “The enemy in the rear of our army? Impossible!” And suddenly he was seized by a panic of fear for himself and for the issue of the whole battle. “But be that what it may,” he reflected, “there is no riding round it now. I must look for the commander in chief here, and if all is lost it is for me to perish with the rest.”
The foreboding of evil that had suddenly come over Rostóv was more and more confirmed the farther he rode into the region behind the village of Pratzen, which was full of troops of all kinds.
“What does it mean? What is it? Whom are they firing at? Who is firing?” Rostóv kept asking as he came up to Russian and Austrian soldiers running in confused crowds across his path.
“The devil knows! They’ve killed everybody! It’s all up now!” he was told in Russian, German, and Czech by the crowd of fugitives who understood what was happening as little as he did.
“Kill the Germans!” shouted one.
“May the devil take them—the traitors!”
“Zum Henker diese Russen!” * muttered a German.