“Forfeit, forfeit!” cried the militia officer.
“All right, one can’t talk—how tiresome!”
“What is ‘the talk of all Moscow’?” Pierre asked angrily, rising to his feet.
“Come now, Count, you know!”
“I don’t know anything about it,” said Pierre.
“I know you were friendly with Natalie, and so... but I was always more friendly with Véra—that dear Véra.”
“No, madame!” Pierre continued in a tone of displeasure, “I have not taken on myself the role of Natalie Rostóva’s knight at all, and have not been to their house for nearly a month. But I cannot understand the cruelty...”
“Qui s’excuse s’accuse,” * said Julie, smiling and waving the lint triumphantly, and to have the last word she promptly changed the subject. “Do you know what I heard today? Poor Mary Bolkónskaya arrived in Moscow yesterday. Do you know that she has lost her father?”
“Really? Where is she? I should like very much to see her,” said Pierre.
“I spent the evening with her yesterday. She is going to their estate near Moscow either today or tomorrow morning, with her nephew.”
“Well, and how is she?” asked Pierre.
“She is well, but sad. But do you know who rescued her? It is quite a romance. Nicholas Rostóv! She was surrounded, and they wanted to kill her and had wounded some of her people. He rushed in and saved her....”
“Another romance,” said the militia officer. “Really, this general flight has been arranged to get all the old maids married off. Catiche is one and Princess Bolkónskaya another.”
“Do you know, I really believe she is un petit peu amoureuse du jeune homme.” *
“Forfeit, forfeit, forfeit!”
“But how could one say that in Russian?”
When Pierre returned home he was handed two of Rostopchín’s broadsheets that had been brought that day.
The first declared that the report that Count Rostopchín had forbidden people to leave Moscow was false; on the contrary he was glad that ladies and tradesmen’s wives were leaving the city. “There will be less panic and less gossip,” ran the broadsheet “but I will stake my life on it that that scoundrel will not enter Moscow.” These words showed Pierre clearly for the first time that the French would enter Moscow. The second broadsheet stated that our headquarters were at Vyázma, that Count Wittgenstein had defeated the French, but that as many of the inhabitants of Moscow wished to be armed, weapons were ready for them at the arsenal: sabers, pistols, and muskets which could be had at a low price. The tone of the proclamation was not as jocose as in the former Chigírin talks. Pierre pondered over these broadsheets. Evidently the terrible stormcloud he had desired with the whole strength of his soul but which yet aroused involuntary horror in him was drawing near.
“Shall I join the army and enter the service, or wait?” he asked himself for the hundredth time. He took a pack of cards that lay on the table and began to lay them out for a game of patience.
“If this patience comes out,” he said to himself after shuffling the cards, holding them in his hand, and lifting his head, “if it comes out, it means... what does it mean?”
He had not decided what it should mean when he heard the voice of the eldest princess at the door asking whether she might come in.
“Then it will mean that I must go to the army,” said Pierre to himself. “Come in, come in!” he added to the princess.
Only the eldest princess, the one with the stony face and long waist, was still living in Pierre’s house. The two younger ones had both married.
“Excuse my coming to you, cousin,” she said in a reproachful and agitated voice. “You know some decision must be come to. What is going to happen? Everyone has left Moscow and the people are rioting. How is it that we are staying on?”
“On the contrary, things seem satisfactory, ma cousine,” said Pierre in the bantering tone he habitually adopted toward her, always feeling uncomfortable in the role of her benefactor.
“Satisfactory, indeed! Very satisfactory! Barbara Ivánovna told me today how our troops are distinguishing themselves. It certainly does them credit! And the people too are quite mutinous—they no longer obey, even my maid has taken to being rude. At this rate they will soon begin beating us. One can’t walk in the streets. But, above all, the French will be here any day now, so what are we waiting for? I ask just one thing of you, cousin,” she went on, “arrange for me to be taken to Petersburg. Whatever I may be, I can’t live under Bonaparte’s rule.”
“Oh, come, ma cousine! Where do you get your information from? On the contrary...”
“I won’t submit to your Napoleon! Others may if they please.... If you don’t want to do this...”
“But I will, I’ll give the order at once.”
The princess was apparently vexed at not having anyone to be angry with. Muttering to herself, she sat down on a chair.
“But you have been misinformed,” said Pierre. “Everything is quiet in the city and there is not the slightest danger. See! I’ve just been reading...” He showed her the broadsheet. “Count Rostopchín writes that he will stake his life on it that the enemy will not enter Moscow.”
“Oh, that count of yours!” said the princess malevolently. “He is a hypocrite, a rascal who has himself roused the people to riot. Didn’t he write in those idiotic broadsheets that anyone, ‘whoever it might be, should be dragged to the lockup by his hair’? (How silly!) ‘And honor and glory to whoever captures him,’ he says. This is what his cajolery has brought us to! Barbara Ivánovna told me the mob near killed her because she said something in French.”
“Oh, but it’s so... You take everything so to heart,” said Pierre, and began laying out his cards for patience.
Although that patience did come out, Pierre did not join the army, but remained in deserted Moscow ever in the same state of agitation, irresolution, and alarm, yet at the same time joyfully expecting something terrible.
Next day toward evening the princess set off, and Pierre’s head steward came to inform him that the money needed for the equipment of his regiment could not be found without selling one of the estates. In general the head steward made out to Pierre that his project of raising a regiment would ruin him. Pierre listened to him, scarcely able to repress a smile.
“Well then, sell it,” said he. “What’s to be done? I can’t draw back now!”
The worse everything became, especially his own affairs, the better was Pierre pleased and the more evident was it that the catastrophe he expected was approaching. Hardly anyone he knew was left in town. Julie had gone, and so had Princess Mary. Of his intimate friends only the Rostóvs remained, but he did not go to see them.
To distract his thoughts he drove that day to the village of Vorontsóvo to see the great balloon Leppich was constructing to destroy the foe, and a trial balloon that was to go up next day. The balloon was not yet ready, but Pierre learned that it was being constructed by the Emperor’s desire. The Emperor had written to Count Rostopchín as follows:
As soon as Leppich is ready, get together a crew of reliable and intelligent men for his car and send a courier to General Kutúzov to let him know. I have informed him of the matter.
Please impress upon Leppich to be very careful where he descends for the first time, that he may not make a mistake and fall into the enemy’s hands. It is essential for him to combine his movements with those of the commander in chief.
On his way home from Vorontsóvo, as he was passing the Bolótnoe Place Pierre, seeing a large crowd round the Lóbnoe Place, stopped and got out of his trap. A French cook accused of being a spy was being flogged. The flogging was only just over, and the executioner was releasing from the flogging bench a stout man with red whiskers, in blue stockings and a green jacket, who was moaning piteously. Another criminal, thin and pale, stood near. Judging by their faces they were both Frenchmen. With a frightened and suffering look resembling that on the thin Frenchman’s face, Pierre pushed his way in through the crowd.
“What is it? Who is it? What is it for?” he kept asking.
But the attention of the crowd—officials, burghers, shopkeepers, peasants, and women in cloaks and in pelisses—was so eagerly centered on what was passing in Lóbnoe Place that no one answered him. The stout man rose, frowned, shrugged his shoulders, and evidently trying to appear firm began to pull on his jacket without looking about him, but suddenly his lips trembled and he began to cry, in the way full-blooded grown-up men cry, though angry with himself for doing so. In the crowd people began talking loudly, to stifle their feelings of pity as it seemed to Pierre.
“He’s cook to some prince.”
“Eh, mounseer, Russian sauce seems to be sour to a Frenchman... sets his teeth on edge!” said a wrinkled clerk who was standing behind Pierre, when the Frenchman began to cry.
The clerk glanced round, evidently hoping that his joke would be appreciated. Some people began to laugh, others continued to watch in dismay the executioner who was undressing the other man.
Pierre choked, his face puckered, and he turned hastily away, went back to his trap muttering something to himself as he went, and took his seat. As they drove along he shuddered and exclaimed several times so audibly that the coachman asked him:
“What is your pleasure?”
“Where are you going?” shouted Pierre to the man, who was driving to Lubyánka Street.
“To the Governor’s, as you ordered,” answered the coachman.
“Fool! Idiot!” shouted Pierre, abusing his coachman—a thing he rarely did. “Home, I told you! And drive faster, blockhead!” “I must get away this very day,” he murmured to himself.
At the sight of the tortured Frenchman and the crowd surrounding the Lóbnoe Place, Pierre had so definitely made up his mind that he could no longer remain in Moscow and would leave for the army that very day that it seemed to him that either he had told the coachman this or that the man ought to have known it for himself.
On reaching home Pierre gave orders to Evstáfey—his head coachman who knew everything, could do anything, and was known to all Moscow—that he would leave that night for the army at Mozháysk, and that his saddle horses should be sent there. This could not all be arranged that day, so on Evstáfey’s representation Pierre had to put off his departure till next day to allow time for the relay horses to be sent on in advance.
On the twenty-fourth the weather cleared up after a spell of rain, and after dinner Pierre left Moscow. When changing horses that night in Perkhúshkovo, he learned that there had been a great battle that evening. (This was the battle of Shevárdino.) He was told that there in Perkhúshkovo the earth trembled from the firing, but nobody could answer his questions as to who had won. At dawn next day Pierre was approaching Mozháysk.
Every house in Mozháysk had soldiers quartered in it, and at the hostel where Pierre was met by his groom and coachman there was no room to be had. It was full of officers.
Everywhere in Mozháysk and beyond it, troops were stationed or on the march. Cossacks, foot and horse soldiers, wagons, caissons, and cannon were everywhere. Pierre pushed forward as fast as he could, and the farther he left Moscow behind and the deeper he plunged into that sea of troops the more was he overcome by restless agitation and a new and joyful feeling he had not experienced before. It was a feeling akin to what he had felt at the Slobóda Palace during the Emperor’s visit—a sense of the necessity of undertaking something and sacrificing something. He now experienced a glad consciousness that everything that constitutes men’s happiness—the comforts of life, wealth, even life itself—is rubbish it is pleasant to throw away, compared with something... With what? Pierre could not say, and he did not try to determine for whom and for what he felt such particular delight in sacrificing everything. He was not occupied with the question of what to sacrifice for; the fact of sacrificing in itself afforded him a new and joyous sensation.
On the twenty-fourth of August the battle of the Shevárdino Redoubt was fought, on the twenty-fifth not a shot was fired by either side, and on the twenty-sixth the battle of Borodinó itself took place.
Why and how were the battles of Shevárdino and Borodinó given and accepted? Why was the battle of Borodinó fought? There was not the least sense in it for either the French or the Russians. Its immediate result for the Russians was, and was bound to be, that we were brought nearer to the destruction of Moscow—which we feared more than anything in the world; and for the French its immediate result was that they were brought nearer to the destruction of their whole army—which they feared more than anything in the world. What the result must be was quite obvious, and yet Napoleon offered and Kutúzov accepted that battle.
If the commanders had been guided by reason, it would seem that it must have been obvious to Napoleon that by advancing thirteen hundred miles and giving battle with a probability of losing a quarter of his army, he was advancing to certain destruction, and it must have been equally clear to Kutúzov that by accepting battle and risking the loss of a quarter of his army he would certainly lose Moscow. For Kutúzov this was mathematically clear, as it is that if when playing draughts I have one man less and go on exchanging, I shall certainly lose, and therefore should not exchange. When my opponent has sixteen men and I have fourteen, I am only one eighth weaker than he, but when I have exchanged thirteen more men he will be three times as strong as I am.
Before the battle of Borodinó our strength in proportion to the French was about as five to six, but after that battle it was little more than one to two: previously we had a hundred thousand against a hundred and twenty thousand; afterwards little more than fifty thousand against a hundred thousand. Yet the shrewd and experienced Kutúzov accepted the battle, while Napoleon, who was said to be a commander of genius, gave it, losing a quarter of his army and lengthening his lines of communication still more. If it is said that he expected to end the campaign by occupying Moscow as he had ended a previous campaign by occupying Vienna, there is much evidence to the contrary. Napoleon’s historians themselves tell us that from Smolénsk onwards he wished to stop, knew the danger of his extended position, and knew that the occupation of Moscow would not be the end of the campaign, for he had seen at Smolénsk the state in which Russian towns were left to him, and had not received a single reply to his repeated announcements of his wish to negotiate.
In giving and accepting battle at Borodinó, Kutúzov acted involuntarily and irrationally. But later on, to fit what had occurred, the historians provided cunningly devised evidence of the foresight and genius of the generals who, of all the blind tools of history were the most enslaved and involuntary.
The ancients have left us model heroic poems in which the heroes furnish the whole interest of the story, and we are still unable to accustom ourselves to the fact that for our epoch histories of that kind are meaningless.
On the other question, how the battle of Borodinó and the preceding battle of Shevárdino were fought, there also exists a definite and well-known, but quite false, conception. All the historians describe the affair as follows:
The Russian army, they say, in its retreat from Smolénsk sought out for itself the best position for a general engagement and found such a position at Borodinó.
The Russians, they say, fortified this position in advance on the left of the highroad (from Moscow to Smolénsk) and almost at a right angle to it, from Borodinó to Utítsa, at the very place where the battle was fought.
In front of this position, they say, a fortified outpost was set up on the Shevárdino mound to observe the enemy. On the twenty-fourth, we are told, Napoleon attacked this advanced post and took it, and, on the twenty-sixth, attacked the whole Russian army, which was in position on the field of Borodinó.
So the histories say, and it is all quite wrong, as anyone who cares to look into the matter can easily convince himself.
The Russians did not seek out the best position but, on the contrary, during the retreat passed many positions better than Borodinó. They did not stop at any one of these positions because Kutúzov did not wish to occupy a position he had not himself chosen, because the popular demand for a battle had not yet expressed itself strongly enough, and because Milorádovich had not yet arrived with the militia, and for many other reasons. The fact is that other positions they had passed were stronger, and that the position at Borodinó (the one where the battle was fought), far from being strong, was no more a position than any other spot one might find in the Russian Empire by sticking a pin into the map at hazard.
Not only did the Russians not fortify the position on the field of Borodinó to the left of, and at a right angle to, the highroad (that is, the position on which the battle took place), but never till the twenty-fifth of August, 1812, did they think that a battle might be fought there. This was shown first by the fact that there were no entrenchments there by the twenty fifth and that those begun on the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth were not completed, and secondly, by the position of the Shevárdino Redoubt. That redoubt was quite senseless in front of the position where the battle was accepted. Why was it more strongly fortified than any other post? And why were all efforts exhausted and six thousand men sacrificed to defend it till late at night on the twenty-fourth? A Cossack patrol would have sufficed to observe the enemy. Thirdly, as proof that the position on which the battle was fought had not been foreseen and that the Shevárdino Redoubt was not an advanced post of that position, we have the fact that up to the twenty-fifth, Barclay de Tolly and Bagratión were convinced that the Shevárdino Redoubt was the left flank of the position, and that Kutúzov himself in his report, written in hot haste after the battle, speaks of the Shevárdino Redoubt as the left flank of the position. It was much later, when reports on the battle of Borodinó were written at leisure, that the incorrect and extraordinary statement was invented (probably to justify the mistakes of a commander in chief who had to be represented as infallible) that the Shevárdino Redoubt was an advanced post—whereas in reality it was simply a fortified point on the left flank—and that the battle of Borodinó was fought by us on an entrenched position previously selected, whereas it was fought on a quite unexpected spot which was almost unentrenched.
The case was evidently this: a position was selected along the river Kolochá—which crosses the highroad not at a right angle but at an acute angle—so that the left flank was at Shevárdino, the right flank near the village of Nóvoe, and the center at Borodinó at the confluence of the rivers Kolochá and Vóyna.
To anyone who looks at the field of Borodinó without thinking of how the battle was actually fought, this position, protected by the river Kolochá, presents itself as obvious for an army whose object was to prevent an enemy from advancing along the Smolénsk road to Moscow.
Napoleon, riding to Valúevo on the twenty-fourth, did not see (as the history books say he did) the position of the Russians from Utítsa to Borodinó (he could not have seen that position because it did not exist), nor did he see an advanced post of the Russian army, but while pursuing the Russian rearguard he came upon the left flank of the Russian position—at the Shevárdino Redoubt—and unexpectedly for the Russians moved his army across the Kolochá. And the Russians, not having time to begin a general engagement, withdrew their left wing from the position they had intended to occupy and took up a new position which had not been foreseen and was not fortified. By crossing to the other side of the Kolochá to the left of the highroad, Napoleon shifted the whole forthcoming battle from right to left (looking from the Russian side) and transferred it to the plain between Utítsa, Semënovsk, and Borodinó—a plain no more advantageous as a position than any other plain in Russia—and there the whole battle of the twenty-sixth of August took place.
Had Napoleon not ridden out on the evening of the twenty-fourth to the Kolochá, and had he not then ordered an immediate attack on the redoubt but had begun the attack next morning, no one would have doubted that the Shevárdino Redoubt was the left flank of our position, and the battle would have taken place where we expected it. In that case we should probably have defended the Shevárdino Redoubt—our left flank—still more obstinately. We should have attacked Napoleon in the center or on the right, and the engagement would have taken place on the twenty-fifth, in the position we intended and had fortified. But as the attack on our left flank took place in the evening after the retreat of our rear guard (that is, immediately after the fight at Gridnëva), and as the Russian commanders did not wish, or were not in time, to begin a general engagement then on the evening of the twenty-fourth, the first and chief action of the battle of Borodinó was already lost on the twenty-fourth, and obviously led to the loss of the one fought on the twenty-sixth.
After the loss of the Shevárdino Redoubt, we found ourselves on the morning of the twenty-fifth without a position for our left flank, and were forced to bend it back and hastily entrench it where it chanced to be.
Not only was the Russian army on the twenty-sixth defended by weak, unfinished entrenchments, but the disadvantage of that position was increased by the fact that the Russian commanders—not having fully realized what had happened, namely the loss of our position on the left flank and the shifting of the whole field of the forthcoming battle from right to left—maintained their extended position from the village of Nóvoe to Utítsa, and consequently had to move their forces from right to left during the battle. So it happened that throughout the whole battle the Russians opposed the entire French army launched against our left flank with but half as many men. (Poniatowski’s action against Utítsa, and Uvárov’s on the right flank against the French, were actions distinct from the main course of the battle.) So the battle of Borodinó did not take place at all as (in an effort to conceal our commanders’ mistakes even at the cost of diminishing the glory due to the Russian army and people) it has been described. The battle of Borodinó was not fought on a chosen and entrenched position with forces only slightly weaker than those of the enemy, but, as a result of the loss of the Shevárdino Redoubt, the Russians fought the battle of Borodinó on an open and almost unentrenched position, with forces only half as numerous as the French; that is to say, under conditions in which it was not merely unthinkable to fight for ten hours and secure an indecisive result, but unthinkable to keep an army even from complete disintegration and flight.
On the morning of the twenty-fifth Pierre was leaving Mozháysk. At the descent of the high steep hill, down which a winding road led out of the town past the cathedral on the right, where a service was being held and the bells were ringing, Pierre got out of his vehicle and proceeded on foot. Behind him a cavalry regiment was coming down the hill preceded by its singers. Coming up toward him was a train of carts carrying men who had been wounded in the engagement the day before. The peasant drivers, shouting and lashing their horses, kept crossing from side to side. The carts, in each of which three or four wounded soldiers were lying or sitting, jolted over the stones that had been thrown on the steep incline to make it something like a road. The wounded, bandaged with rags, with pale cheeks, compressed lips, and knitted brows, held on to the sides of the carts as they were jolted against one another. Almost all of them stared with naïve, childlike curiosity at Pierre’s white hat and green swallow-tail coat.
Pierre’s coachman shouted angrily at the convoy of wounded to keep to one side of the road. The cavalry regiment, as it descended the hill with its singers, surrounded Pierre’s carriage and blocked the road. Pierre stopped, being pressed against the side of the cutting in which the road ran. The sunshine from behind the hill did not penetrate into the cutting and there it was cold and damp, but above Pierre’s head was the bright August sunshine and the bells sounded merrily. One of the carts with wounded stopped by the side of the road close to Pierre. The driver in his bast shoes ran panting up to it, placed a stone under one of its tireless hind wheels, and began arranging the breech-band on his little horse.
One of the wounded, an old soldier with a bandaged arm who was following the cart on foot, caught hold of it with his sound hand and turned to look at Pierre.
“I say, fellow countryman! Will they set us down here or take us on to Moscow?” he asked.
Pierre was so deep in thought that he did not hear the question. He was looking now at the cavalry regiment that had met the convoy of wounded, now at the cart by which he was standing, in which two wounded men were sitting and one was lying. One of those sitting up in the cart had probably been wounded in the cheek. His whole head was wrapped in rags and one cheek was swollen to the size of a baby’s head. His nose and mouth were twisted to one side. This soldier was looking at the cathedral and crossing himself. Another, a young lad, a fair-haired recruit as white as though there was no blood in his thin face, looked at Pierre kindly, with a fixed smile. The third lay prone so that his face was not visible. The cavalry singers were passing close by:
Living in a foreign land...
they sang their soldiers’ dance song.
As if responding to them but with a different sort of merriment, the metallic sound of the bells reverberated high above and the hot rays of the sun bathed the top of the opposite slope with yet another sort of merriment. But beneath the slope, by the cart with the wounded near the panting little nag where Pierre stood, it was damp, somber, and sad.
The soldier with the swollen cheek looked angrily at the cavalry singers.
“Oh, the coxcombs!” he muttered reproachfully.
“It’s not the soldiers only, but I’ve seen peasants today, too.... The peasants—even they have to go,” said the soldier behind the cart, addressing Pierre with a sad smile. “No distinctions made nowadays.... They want the whole nation to fall on them—in a word, it’s Moscow! They want to make an end of it.”
In spite of the obscurity of the soldier’s words Pierre understood what he wanted to say and nodded approval.
The road was clear again; Pierre descended the hill and drove on.
He kept looking to either side of the road for familiar faces, but only saw everywhere the unfamiliar faces of various military men of different branches of the service, who all looked with astonishment at his white hat and green tail coat.
Having gone nearly three miles he at last met an acquaintance and eagerly addressed him. This was one of the head army doctors. He was driving toward Pierre in a covered gig, sitting beside a young surgeon, and on recognizing Pierre he told the Cossack who occupied the driver’s seat to pull up.
“Count! Your excellency, how come you to be here?” asked the doctor.
“Well, you know, I wanted to see...”
“Yes, yes, there will be something to see....”
Pierre got out and talked to the doctor, explaining his intention of taking part in a battle.
The doctor advised him to apply direct to Kutúzov.
“Why should you be God knows where out of sight, during the battle?” he said, exchanging glances with his young companion. “Anyhow his Serene Highness knows you and will receive you graciously. That’s what you must do.”
The doctor seemed tired and in a hurry.
“You think so?... Ah, I also wanted to ask you where our position is exactly?” said Pierre.
“The position?” repeated the doctor. “Well, that’s not my line. Drive past Tatárinova, a lot of digging is going on there. Go up the hillock and you’ll see.”
“Can one see from there?... If you would...”
But the doctor interrupted him and moved toward his gig.
“I would go with you but on my honor I’m up to here”—and he pointed to his throat. “I’m galloping to the commander of the corps. How do matters stand?... You know, Count, there’ll be a battle tomorrow. Out of an army of a hundred thousand we must expect at least twenty thousand wounded, and we haven’t stretchers, or bunks, or dressers, or doctors enough for six thousand. We have ten thousand carts, but we need other things as well—we must manage as best we can!”
The strange thought that of the thousands of men, young and old, who had stared with merry surprise at his hat (perhaps the very men he had noticed), twenty thousand were inevitably doomed to wounds and death amazed Pierre.
“They may die tomorrow; why are they thinking of anything but death?” And by some latent sequence of thought the descent of the Mozháysk hill, the carts with the wounded, the ringing bells, the slanting rays of the sun, and the songs of the cavalrymen vividly recurred to his mind.
“The cavalry ride to battle and meet the wounded and do not for a moment think of what awaits them, but pass by, winking at the wounded. Yet from among these men twenty thousand are doomed to die, and they wonder at my hat! Strange!” thought Pierre, continuing his way to Tatárinova.
In front of a landowner’s house to the left of the road stood carriages, wagons, and crowds of orderlies and sentinels. The commander in chief was putting up there, but just when Pierre arrived he was not in and hardly any of the staff were there—they had gone to the church service. Pierre drove on toward Górki.
When he had ascended the hill and reached the little village street, he saw for the first time peasant militiamen in their white shirts and with crosses on their caps, who, talking and laughing loudly, animated and perspiring, were at work on a huge knoll overgrown with grass to the right of the road.
Some of them were digging, others were wheeling barrowloads of earth along planks, while others stood about doing nothing.
Two officers were standing on the knoll, directing the men. On seeing these peasants, who were evidently still amused by the novelty of their position as soldiers, Pierre once more thought of the wounded men at Mozháysk and understood what the soldier had meant when he said: “They want the whole nation to fall on them.” The sight of these bearded peasants at work on the battlefield, with their queer, clumsy boots and perspiring necks, and their shirts opening from the left toward the middle, unfastened, exposing their sunburned collarbones, impressed Pierre more strongly with the solemnity and importance of the moment than anything he had yet seen or heard.
Pierre stepped out of his carriage and, passing the toiling militiamen, ascended the knoll from which, according to the doctor, the battlefield could be seen.
It was about eleven o’clock. The sun shone somewhat to the left and behind him and brightly lit up the enormous panorama which, rising like an amphitheater, extended before him in the clear rarefied atmosphere.
From above on the left, bisecting that amphitheater, wound the Smolénsk highroad, passing through a village with a white church some five hundred paces in front of the knoll and below it. This was Borodinó. Below the village the road crossed the river by a bridge and, winding down and up, rose higher and higher to the village of Valúevo visible about four miles away, where Napoleon was then stationed. Beyond Valúevo the road disappeared into a yellowing forest on the horizon. Far in the distance in that birch and fir forest to the right of the road, the cross and belfry of the Kolochá Monastery gleamed in the sun. Here and there over the whole of that blue expanse, to right and left of the forest and the road, smoking campfires could be seen and indefinite masses of troops—ours and the enemy’s. The ground to the right—along the course of the Kolochá and Moskvá rivers—was broken and hilly. Between the hollows the villages of Bezúbova and Zakhárino showed in the distance. On the left the ground was more level; there were fields of grain, and the smoking ruins of Semënovsk, which had been burned down, could be seen.
All that Pierre saw was so indefinite that neither the left nor the right side of the field fully satisfied his expectations. Nowhere could he see the battlefield he had expected to find, but only fields, meadows, troops, woods, the smoke of campfires, villages, mounds, and streams; and try as he would he could descry no military “position” in this place which teemed with life, nor could he even distinguish our troops from the enemy’s.
“I must ask someone who knows,” he thought, and addressed an officer who was looking with curiosity at his huge unmilitary figure.
“May I ask you,” said Pierre, “what village that is in front?”
“Búrdino, isn’t it?” said the officer, turning to his companion.
“Borodinó,” the other corrected him.
The officer, evidently glad of an opportunity for a talk, moved up to Pierre.
“Are those our men there?” Pierre inquired.
“Yes, and there, further on, are the French,” said the officer. “There they are, there... you can see them.”
“Where? Where?” asked Pierre.
“One can see them with the naked eye... Why, there!”
The officer pointed with his hand to the smoke visible on the left beyond the river, and the same stern and serious expression that Pierre had noticed on many of the faces he had met came into his face.
“Ah, those are the French! And over there?...” Pierre pointed to a knoll on the left, near which some troops could be seen.
“Those are ours.”
“Ah, ours! And there?...” Pierre pointed to another knoll in the distance with a big tree on it, near a village that lay in a hollow where also some campfires were smoking and something black was visible.
“That’s his again,” said the officer. (It was the Shevárdino Redoubt.) “It was ours yesterday, but now it is his.”
“Then how about our position?”
“Our position?” replied the officer with a smile of satisfaction. “I can tell you quite clearly, because I constructed nearly all our entrenchments. There, you see? There’s our center, at Borodinó, just there,” and he pointed to the village in front of them with the white church. “That’s where one crosses the Kolochá. You see down there where the rows of hay are lying in the hollow, there’s the bridge. That’s our center. Our right flank is over there”—he pointed sharply to the right, far away in the broken ground—“That’s where the Moskvá River is, and we have thrown up three redoubts there, very strong ones. The left flank...” here the officer paused. “Well, you see, that’s difficult to explain.... Yesterday our left flank was there at Shevárdino, you see, where the oak is, but now we have withdrawn our left wing—now it is over there, do you see that village and the smoke? That’s Semënovsk, yes, there,” he pointed to Raévski’s knoll. “But the battle will hardly be there. His having moved his troops there is only a ruse; he will probably pass round to the right of the Moskvá. But wherever it may be, many a man will be missing tomorrow!” he remarked.
An elderly sergeant who had approached the officer while he was giving these explanations had waited in silence for him to finish speaking, but at this point, evidently not liking the officer’s remark, interrupted him.
“Gabions must be sent for,” said he sternly.
The officer appeared abashed, as though he understood that one might think of how many men would be missing tomorrow but ought not to speak of it.
“Well, send number three company again,” the officer replied hurriedly.
“And you, are you one of the doctors?”
“No, I’ve come on my own,” answered Pierre, and he went down the hill again, passing the militiamen.
“Oh, those damned fellows!” muttered the officer who followed him, holding his nose as he ran past the men at work.
“There they are... bringing her, coming... There they are... They’ll be here in a minute...” voices were suddenly heard saying; and officers, soldiers, and militiamen began running forward along the road.
A church procession was coming up the hill from Borodinó. First along the dusty road came the infantry in ranks, bareheaded and with arms reversed. From behind them came the sound of church singing.
Soldiers and militiamen ran bareheaded past Pierre toward the procession.
“They are bringing her, our Protectress!... The Iberian Mother of God!” someone cried.
“The Smolénsk Mother of God,” another corrected him.
The militiamen, both those who had been in the village and those who had been at work on the battery, threw down their spades and ran to meet the church procession. Following the battalion that marched along the dusty road came priests in their vestments—one little old man in a hood with attendants and singers. Behind them soldiers and officers bore a large, dark-faced icon with an embossed metal cover. This was the icon that had been brought from Smolénsk and had since accompanied the army. Behind, before, and on both sides, crowds of militiamen with bared heads walked, ran, and bowed to the ground.
At the summit of the hill they stopped with the icon; the men who had been holding it up by the linen bands attached to it were relieved by others, the chanters relit their censers, and service began. The hot rays of the sun beat down vertically and a fresh soft wind played with the hair of the bared heads and with the ribbons decorating the icon. The singing did not sound loud under the open sky. An immense crowd of bareheaded officers, soldiers, and militiamen surrounded the icon. Behind the priest and a chanter stood the notabilities on a spot reserved for them. A bald general with a St. George’s Cross on his neck stood just behind the priest’s back, and without crossing himself (he was evidently a German) patiently awaited the end of the service, which he considered it necessary to hear to the end, probably to arouse the patriotism of the Russian people. Another general stood in a martial pose, crossing himself by shaking his hand in front of his chest while looking about him. Standing among the crowd of peasants, Pierre recognized several acquaintances among these notables, but did not look at them—his whole attention was absorbed in watching the serious expression on the faces of the crowd of soldiers and militiamen who were all gazing eagerly at the icon. As soon as the tired chanters, who were singing the service for the twentieth time that day, began lazily and mechanically to sing: “Save from calamity Thy servants, O Mother of God,” and the priest and deacon chimed in: “For to Thee under God we all flee as to an inviolable bulwark and protection,” there again kindled in all those faces the same expression of consciousness of the solemnity of the impending moment that Pierre had seen on the faces at the foot of the hill at Mozháysk and momentarily on many and many faces he had met that morning; and heads were bowed more frequently and hair tossed back, and sighs and the sound men made as they crossed themselves were heard.
The crowd round the icon suddenly parted and pressed against Pierre. Someone, a very important personage judging by the haste with which way was made for him, was approaching the icon.
It was Kutúzov, who had been riding round the position and on his way back to Tatárinova had stopped where the service was being held. Pierre recognized him at once by his peculiar figure, which distinguished him from everybody else.
With a long overcoat on his exceedingly stout, round-shouldered body, with uncovered white head and puffy face showing the white ball of the eye he had lost, Kutúzov walked with plunging, swaying gait into the crowd and stopped behind the priest. He crossed himself with an accustomed movement, bent till he touched the ground with his hand, and bowed his white head with a deep sigh. Behind Kutúzov was Bennigsen and the suite. Despite the presence of the commander in chief, who attracted the attention of all the superior officers, the militiamen and soldiers continued their prayers without looking at him.
When the service was over, Kutúzov stepped up to the icon, sank heavily to his knees, bowed to the ground, and for a long time tried vainly to rise, but could not do so on account of his weakness and weight. His white head twitched with the effort. At last he rose, kissed the icon as a child does with naïvely pouting lips, and again bowed till he touched the ground with his hand. The other generals followed his example, then the officers, and after them with excited faces, pressing on one another, crowding, panting, and pushing, scrambled the soldiers and militiamen.