That same night, having taken leave of the Minister of War, Bolkónski set off to rejoin the army, not knowing where he would find it and fearing to be captured by the French on the way to Krems.
In Brünn everybody attached to the court was packing up, and the heavy baggage was already being dispatched to Olmütz. Near Hetzelsdorf Prince Andrew struck the high road along which the Russian army was moving with great haste and in the greatest disorder. The road was so obstructed with carts that it was impossible to get by in a carriage. Prince Andrew took a horse and a Cossack from a Cossack commander, and hungry and weary, making his way past the baggage wagons, rode in search of the commander in chief and of his own luggage. Very sinister reports of the position of the army reached him as he went along, and the appearance of the troops in their disorderly flight confirmed these rumors.
“Cette armée russe que l’or de l’Angleterre a transportée des extrémités de l’univers, nous allons lui faire éprouver le même sort—(le sort de l’armée d’Ulm).” * He remembered these words in Bonaparte’s address to his army at the beginning of the campaign, and they awoke in him astonishment at the genius of his hero, a feeling of wounded pride, and a hope of glory. “And should there be nothing left but to die?” he thought. “Well, if need be, I shall do it no worse than others.”
the earth by English gold, we shall cause to share the same
fate—(the fate of the army at Ulm).”
He looked with disdain at the endless confused mass of detachments, carts, guns, artillery, and again baggage wagons and vehicles of all kinds overtaking one another and blocking the muddy road, three and sometimes four abreast. From all sides, behind and before, as far as ear could reach, there were the rattle of wheels, the creaking of carts and gun carriages, the tramp of horses, the crack of whips, shouts, the urging of horses, and the swearing of soldiers, orderlies, and officers. All along the sides of the road fallen horses were to be seen, some flayed, some not, and broken-down carts beside which solitary soldiers sat waiting for something, and again soldiers straggling from their companies, crowds of whom set off to the neighboring villages, or returned from them dragging sheep, fowls, hay, and bulging sacks. At each ascent or descent of the road the crowds were yet denser and the din of shouting more incessant. Soldiers floundering knee-deep in mud pushed the guns and wagons themselves. Whips cracked, hoofs slipped, traces broke, and lungs were strained with shouting. The officers directing the march rode backward and forward between the carts. Their voices were but feebly heard amid the uproar and one saw by their faces that they despaired of the possibility of checking this disorder.
“Here is our dear Orthodox Russian army,” thought Bolkónski, recalling Bilíbin’s words.
Wishing to find out where the commander in chief was, he rode up to a convoy. Directly opposite to him came a strange one-horse vehicle, evidently rigged up by soldiers out of any available materials and looking like something between a cart, a cabriolet, and a calèche. A soldier was driving, and a woman enveloped in shawls sat behind the apron under the leather hood of the vehicle. Prince Andrew rode up and was just putting his question to a soldier when his attention was diverted by the desperate shrieks of the woman in the vehicle. An officer in charge of transport was beating the soldier who was driving the woman’s vehicle for trying to get ahead of others, and the strokes of his whip fell on the apron of the equipage. The woman screamed piercingly. Seeing Prince Andrew she leaned out from behind the apron and, waving her thin arms from under the woolen shawl, cried:
“Mr. Aide-de-camp! Mr. Aide-de-camp!... For heaven’s sake... Protect me! What will become of us? I am the wife of the doctor of the Seventh Chasseurs.... They won’t let us pass, we are left behind and have lost our people...”
“I’ll flatten you into a pancake!” shouted the angry officer to the soldier. “Turn back with your slut!”
“Mr. Aide-de-camp! Help me!... What does it all mean?” screamed the doctor’s wife.
“Kindly let this cart pass. Don’t you see it’s a woman?” said Prince Andrew riding up to the officer.
The officer glanced at him, and without replying turned again to the soldier. “I’ll teach you to push on!... Back!”
“Let them pass, I tell you!” repeated Prince Andrew, compressing his lips.
“And who are you?” cried the officer, turning on him with tipsy rage, “who are you? Are you in command here? Eh? I am commander here, not you! Go back or I’ll flatten you into a pancake,” repeated he. This expression evidently pleased him.
“That was a nice snub for the little aide-de-camp,” came a voice from behind.
Prince Andrew saw that the officer was in that state of senseless, tipsy rage when a man does not know what he is saying. He saw that his championship of the doctor’s wife in her queer trap might expose him to what he dreaded more than anything in the world—to ridicule; but his instinct urged him on. Before the officer finished his sentence Prince Andrew, his face distorted with fury, rode up to him and raised his riding whip.
The officer flourished his arm and hastily rode away.
“It’s all the fault of these fellows on the staff that there’s this disorder,” he muttered. “Do as you like.”
Prince Andrew without lifting his eyes rode hastily away from the doctor’s wife, who was calling him her deliverer, and recalling with a sense of disgust the minutest details of this humiliating scene he galloped on to the village where he was told who the commander in chief was.
On reaching the village he dismounted and went to the nearest house, intending to rest if but for a moment, eat something, and try to sort out the stinging and tormenting thoughts that confused his mind. “This is a mob of scoundrels and not an army,” he was thinking as he went up to the window of the first house, when a familiar voice called him by name.
He turned round. Nesvítski’s handsome face looked out of the little window. Nesvítski, moving his moist lips as he chewed something, and flourishing his arm, called him to enter.
“Bolkónski! Bolkónski!... Don’t you hear? Eh? Come quick...” he shouted.
Entering the house, Prince Andrew saw Nesvítski and another adjutant having something to eat. They hastily turned round to him asking if he had any news. On their familiar faces he read agitation and alarm. This was particularly noticeable on Nesvítski’s usually laughing countenance.
“Where is the commander in chief?” asked Bolkónski.
“Here, in that house,” answered the adjutant.
“Well, is it true that it’s peace and capitulation?” asked Nesvítski.
“I was going to ask you. I know nothing except that it was all I could do to get here.”
“And we, my dear boy! It’s terrible! I was wrong to laugh at Mack, we’re getting it still worse,” said Nesvítski. “But sit down and have something to eat.”
“You won’t be able to find either your baggage or anything else now, Prince. And God only knows where your man Peter is,” said the other adjutant.
“Where are headquarters?”
“We are to spend the night in Znaim.”
“Well, I have got all I need into packs for two horses,” said Nesvítski. “They’ve made up splendid packs for me—fit to cross the Bohemian mountains with. It’s a bad lookout, old fellow! But what’s the matter with you? You must be ill to shiver like that,” he added, noticing that Prince Andrew winced as at an electric shock.
“It’s nothing,” replied Prince Andrew.
He had just remembered his recent encounter with the doctor’s wife and the convoy officer.
“What is the commander in chief doing here?” he asked.
“I can’t make out at all,” said Nesvítski.
“Well, all I can make out is that everything is abominable, abominable, quite abominable!” said Prince Andrew, and he went off to the house where the commander in chief was.
Passing by Kutúzov’s carriage and the exhausted saddle horses of his suite, with their Cossacks who were talking loudly together, Prince Andrew entered the passage. Kutúzov himself, he was told, was in the house with Prince Bagratión and Weyrother. Weyrother was the Austrian general who had succeeded Schmidt. In the passage little Kozlóvski was squatting on his heels in front of a clerk. The clerk, with cuffs turned up, was hastily writing at a tub turned bottom upwards. Kozlóvski’s face looked worn—he too had evidently not slept all night. He glanced at Prince Andrew and did not even nod to him.
“Second line... have you written it?” he continued dictating to the clerk. “The Kiev Grenadiers, Podolian...”
“One can’t write so fast, your honor,” said the clerk, glancing angrily and disrespectfully at Kozlóvski.
Through the door came the sounds of Kutúzov’s voice, excited and dissatisfied, interrupted by another, an unfamiliar voice. From the sound of these voices, the inattentive way Kozlóvski looked at him, the disrespectful manner of the exhausted clerk, the fact that the clerk and Kozlóvski were squatting on the floor by a tub so near to the commander in chief, and from the noisy laughter of the Cossacks holding the horses near the window, Prince Andrew felt that something important and disastrous was about to happen.
He turned to Kozlóvski with urgent questions.
“Immediately, Prince,” said Kozlóvski. “Dispositions for Bagratión.”
“What about capitulation?”
“Nothing of the sort. Orders are issued for a battle.”
Prince Andrew moved toward the door from whence voices were heard. Just as he was going to open it the sounds ceased, the door opened, and Kutúzov with his eagle nose and puffy face appeared in the doorway. Prince Andrew stood right in front of Kutúzov but the expression of the commander in chief’s one sound eye showed him to be so preoccupied with thoughts and anxieties as to be oblivious of his presence. He looked straight at his adjutant’s face without recognizing him.
“Well, have you finished?” said he to Kozlóvski.
“One moment, your excellency.”
Bagratión, a gaunt middle-aged man of medium height with a firm, impassive face of Oriental type, came out after the commander in chief.
“I have the honor to present myself,” repeated Prince Andrew rather loudly, handing Kutúzov an envelope.
“Ah, from Vienna? Very good. Later, later!”
Kutúzov went out into the porch with Bagratión.
“Well, good-by, Prince,” said he to Bagratión. “My blessing, and may Christ be with you in your great endeavor!”
His face suddenly softened and tears came into his eyes. With his left hand he drew Bagratión toward him, and with his right, on which he wore a ring, he made the sign of the cross over him with a gesture evidently habitual, offering his puffy cheek, but Bagratión kissed him on the neck instead.
“Christ be with you!” Kutúzov repeated and went toward his carriage. “Get in with me,” said he to Bolkónski.
“Your excellency, I should like to be of use here. Allow me to remain with Prince Bagratión’s detachment.”
“Get in,” said Kutúzov, and noticing that Bolkónski still delayed, he added: “I need good officers myself, need them myself!”
They got into the carriage and drove for a few minutes in silence.
“There is still much, much before us,” he said, as if with an old man’s penetration he understood all that was passing in Bolkónski’s mind. “If a tenth part of his detachment returns I shall thank God,” he added as if speaking to himself.
Prince Andrew glanced at Kutúzov’s face only a foot distant from him and involuntarily noticed the carefully washed seams of the scar near his temple, where an Ismail bullet had pierced his skull, and the empty eye socket. “Yes, he has a right to speak so calmly of those men’s death,” thought Bolkónski.
“That is why I beg to be sent to that detachment,” he said.
Kutúzov did not reply. He seemed to have forgotten what he had been saying, and sat plunged in thought. Five minutes later, gently swaying on the soft springs of the carriage, he turned to Prince Andrew. There was not a trace of agitation on his face. With delicate irony he questioned Prince Andrew about the details of his interview with the Emperor, about the remarks he had heard at court concerning the Krems affair, and about some ladies they both knew.
On November 1 Kutúzov had received, through a spy, news that the army he commanded was in an almost hopeless position. The spy reported that the French, after crossing the bridge at Vienna, were advancing in immense force upon Kutúzov’s line of communication with the troops that were arriving from Russia. If Kutúzov decided to remain at Krems, Napoleon’s army of one hundred and fifty thousand men would cut him off completely and surround his exhausted army of forty thousand, and he would find himself in the position of Mack at Ulm. If Kutúzov decided to abandon the road connecting him with the troops arriving from Russia, he would have to march with no road into unknown parts of the Bohemian mountains, defending himself against superior forces of the enemy and abandoning all hope of a junction with Buxhöwden. If Kutúzov decided to retreat along the road from Krems to Olmütz, to unite with the troops arriving from Russia, he risked being forestalled on that road by the French who had crossed the Vienna bridge, and encumbered by his baggage and transport, having to accept battle on the march against an enemy three times as strong, who would hem him in from two sides.
Kutúzov chose this latter course.
The French, the spy reported, having crossed the Vienna bridge, were advancing by forced marches toward Znaim, which lay sixty-six miles off on the line of Kutúzov’s retreat. If he reached Znaim before the French, there would be great hope of saving the army; to let the French forestall him at Znaim meant the exposure of his whole army to a disgrace such as that of Ulm, or to utter destruction. But to forestall the French with his whole army was impossible. The road for the French from Vienna to Znaim was shorter and better than the road for the Russians from Krems to Znaim.
The night he received the news, Kutúzov sent Bagratión’s vanguard, four thousand strong, to the right across the hills from the Krems-Znaim to the Vienna-Znaim road. Bagratión was to make this march without resting, and to halt facing Vienna with Znaim to his rear, and if he succeeded in forestalling the French he was to delay them as long as possible. Kutúzov himself with all his transport took the road to Znaim.
Marching thirty miles that stormy night across roadless hills, with his hungry, ill-shod soldiers, and losing a third of his men as stragglers by the way, Bagratión came out on the Vienna-Znaim road at Hollabrünn a few hours ahead of the French who were approaching Hollabrünn from Vienna. Kutúzov with his transport had still to march for some days before he could reach Znaim. Hence Bagratión with his four thousand hungry, exhausted men would have to detain for days the whole enemy army that came upon him at Hollabrünn, which was clearly impossible. But a freak of fate made the impossible possible. The success of the trick that had placed the Vienna bridge in the hands of the French without a fight led Murat to try to deceive Kutúzov in a similar way. Meeting Bagratión’s weak detachment on the Znaim road he supposed it to be Kutúzov’s whole army. To be able to crush it absolutely he awaited the arrival of the rest of the troops who were on their way from Vienna, and with this object offered a three days’ truce on condition that both armies should remain in position without moving. Murat declared that negotiations for peace were already proceeding, and that he therefore offered this truce to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Count Nostitz, the Austrian general occupying the advanced posts, believed Murat’s emissary and retired, leaving Bagratión’s division exposed. Another emissary rode to the Russian line to announce the peace negotiations and to offer the Russian army the three days’ truce. Bagratión replied that he was not authorized either to accept or refuse a truce and sent his adjutant to Kutúzov to report the offer he had received.
A truce was Kutúzov’s sole chance of gaining time, giving Bagratión’s exhausted troops some rest, and letting the transport and heavy convoys (whose movements were concealed from the French) advance if but one stage nearer Znaim. The offer of a truce gave the only, and a quite unexpected, chance of saving the army. On receiving the news he immediately dispatched Adjutant General Wintzingerode, who was in attendance on him, to the enemy camp. Wintzingerode was not merely to agree to the truce but also to offer terms of capitulation, and meanwhile Kutúzov sent his adjutants back to hasten to the utmost the movements of the baggage trains of the entire army along the Krems-Znaim road. Bagratión’s exhausted and hungry detachment, which alone covered this movement of the transport and of the whole army, had to remain stationary in face of an enemy eight times as strong as itself.
Kutúzov’s expectations that the proposals of capitulation (which were in no way binding) might give time for part of the transport to pass, and also that Murat’s mistake would very soon be discovered, proved correct. As soon as Bonaparte (who was at Schönbrunn, sixteen miles from Hollabrünn) received Murat’s dispatch with the proposal of a truce and a capitulation, he detected a ruse and wrote the following letter to Murat:
Schönbrunn, 25th Brumaire, 1805,
at eight o’clock in the morning
To PRINCE MURAT,
I cannot find words to express to you my displeasure. You command only my advance guard, and have no right to arrange an armistice without my order. You are causing me to lose the fruits of a campaign. Break the armistice immediately and march on the enemy. Inform him that the general who signed that capitulation had no right to do so, and that no one but the Emperor of Russia has that right.
If, however, the Emperor of Russia ratifies that convention, I will ratify it; but it is only a trick. March on, destroy the Russian army.... You are in a position to seize its baggage and artillery.
The Russian Emperor’s aide-de-camp is an impostor. Officers are nothing when they have no powers; this one had none.... The Austrians let themselves be tricked at the crossing of the Vienna bridge, you are letting yourself be tricked by an aide-de-camp of the Emperor.
Bonaparte’s adjutant rode full gallop with this menacing letter to Murat. Bonaparte himself, not trusting to his generals, moved with all the Guards to the field of battle, afraid of letting a ready victim escape, and Bagratión’s four thousand men merrily lighted campfires, dried and warmed themselves, cooked their porridge for the first time for three days, and not one of them knew or imagined what was in store for him.
Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon Prince Andrew, who had persisted in his request to Kutúzov, arrived at Grunth and reported himself to Bagratión. Bonaparte’s adjutant had not yet reached Murat’s detachment and the battle had not yet begun. In Bagratión’s detachment no one knew anything of the general position of affairs. They talked of peace but did not believe in its possibility; others talked of a battle but also disbelieved in the nearness of an engagement. Bagratión, knowing Bolkónski to be a favorite and trusted adjutant, received him with distinction and special marks of favor, explaining to him that there would probably be an engagement that day or the next, and giving him full liberty to remain with him during the battle or to join the rearguard and have an eye on the order of retreat, “which is also very important.”
“However, there will hardly be an engagement today,” said Bagratión as if to reassure Prince Andrew.
“If he is one of the ordinary little staff dandies sent to earn a medal he can get his reward just as well in the rearguard, but if he wishes to stay with me, let him... he’ll be of use here if he’s a brave officer,” thought Bagratión. Prince Andrew, without replying, asked the prince’s permission to ride round the position to see the disposition of the forces, so as to know his bearings should he be sent to execute an order. The officer on duty, a handsome, elegantly dressed man with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who was fond of speaking French though he spoke it badly, offered to conduct Prince Andrew.
On all sides they saw rain-soaked officers with dejected faces who seemed to be seeking something, and soldiers dragging doors, benches, and fencing from the village.
“There now, Prince! We can’t stop those fellows,” said the staff officer pointing to the soldiers. “The officers don’t keep them in hand. And there,” he pointed to a sutler’s tent, “they crowd in and sit. This morning I turned them all out and now look, it’s full again. I must go there, Prince, and scare them a bit. It won’t take a moment.”
“Yes, let’s go in and I will get myself a roll and some cheese,” said Prince Andrew who had not yet had time to eat anything.
“Why didn’t you mention it, Prince? I would have offered you something.”
They dismounted and entered the tent. Several officers, with flushed and weary faces, were sitting at the table eating and drinking.
“Now what does this mean, gentlemen?” said the staff officer, in the reproachful tone of a man who has repeated the same thing more than once. “You know it won’t do to leave your posts like this. The prince gave orders that no one should leave his post. Now you, Captain,” and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably.
“Well, aren’t you ashamed of yourself, Captain Túshin?” he continued. “One would think that as an artillery officer you would set a good example, yet here you are without your boots! The alarm will be sounded and you’ll be in a pretty position without your boots!” (The staff officer smiled.) “Kindly return to your posts, gentlemen, all of you, all!” he added in a tone of command.
Prince Andrew smiled involuntarily as he looked at the artillery officer Túshin, who silent and smiling, shifting from one stockinged foot to the other, glanced inquiringly with his large, intelligent, kindly eyes from Prince Andrew to the staff officer.
“The soldiers say it feels easier without boots,” said Captain Túshin smiling shyly in his uncomfortable position, evidently wishing to adopt a jocular tone. But before he had finished he felt that his jest was unacceptable and had not come off. He grew confused.
“Kindly return to your posts,” said the staff officer trying to preserve his gravity.
Prince Andrew glanced again at the artillery officer’s small figure. There was something peculiar about it, quite unsoldierly, rather comic, but extremely attractive.
The staff officer and Prince Andrew mounted their horses and rode on.
Having ridden beyond the village, continually meeting and overtaking soldiers and officers of various regiments, they saw on their left some entrenchments being thrown up, the freshly dug clay of which showed up red. Several battalions of soldiers, in their shirt sleeves despite the cold wind, swarmed in these earthworks like a host of white ants; spadefuls of red clay were continually being thrown up from behind the bank by unseen hands. Prince Andrew and the officer rode up, looked at the entrenchment, and went on again. Just behind it they came upon some dozens of soldiers, continually replaced by others, who ran from the entrenchment. They had to hold their noses and put their horses to a trot to escape from the poisoned atmosphere of these latrines.
“Voilà l’agrément des camps, monsieur le prince,” * said the staff officer.
They rode up the opposite hill. From there the French could already be seen. Prince Andrew stopped and began examining the position.
“That’s our battery,” said the staff officer indicating the highest point. “It’s in charge of the queer fellow we saw without his boots. You can see everything from there; let’s go there, Prince.”
“Thank you very much, I will go on alone,” said Prince Andrew, wishing to rid himself of this staff officer’s company, “please don’t trouble yourself further.”
The staff officer remained behind and Prince Andrew rode on alone.
The farther forward and nearer the enemy he went, the more orderly and cheerful were the troops. The greatest disorder and depression had been in the baggage train he had passed that morning on the Znaim road seven miles away from the French. At Grunth also some apprehension and alarm could be felt, but the nearer Prince Andrew came to the French lines the more confident was the appearance of our troops. The soldiers in their greatcoats were ranged in lines, the sergeants major and company officers were counting the men, poking the last man in each section in the ribs and telling him to hold his hand up. Soldiers scattered over the whole place were dragging logs and brushwood and were building shelters with merry chatter and laughter; around the fires sat others, dressed and undressed, drying their shirts and leg bands or mending boots or overcoats and crowding round the boilers and porridge cookers. In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers were gazing eagerly at the steaming boiler, waiting till the sample, which a quartermaster sergeant was carrying in a wooden bowl to an officer who sat on a log before his shelter, had been tasted.
Another company, a lucky one for not all the companies had vodka, crowded round a pockmarked, broad-shouldered sergeant major who, tilting a keg, filled one after another the canteen lids held out to him. The soldiers lifted the canteen lids to their lips with reverential faces, emptied them, rolling the vodka in their mouths, and walked away from the sergeant major with brightened expressions, licking their lips and wiping them on the sleeves of their greatcoats. All their faces were as serene as if all this were happening at home awaiting peaceful encampment, and not within sight of the enemy before an action in which at least half of them would be left on the field. After passing a chasseur regiment and in the lines of the Kiev grenadiers—fine fellows busy with similar peaceful affairs—near the shelter of the regimental commander, higher than and different from the others, Prince Andrew came out in front of a platoon of grenadiers before whom lay a naked man. Two soldiers held him while two others were flourishing their switches and striking him regularly on his bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally. A stout major was pacing up and down the line, and regardless of the screams kept repeating:
“It’s a shame for a soldier to steal; a soldier must be honest, honorable, and brave, but if he robs his fellows there is no honor in him, he’s a scoundrel. Go on! Go on!”
So the swishing sound of the strokes, and the desperate but unnatural screams, continued.
“Go on, go on!” said the major.
A young officer with a bewildered and pained expression on his face stepped away from the man and looked round inquiringly at the adjutant as he rode by.
Prince Andrew, having reached the front line, rode along it. Our front line and that of the enemy were far apart on the right and left flanks, but in the center where the men with a flag of truce had passed that morning, the lines were so near together that the men could see one another’s faces and speak to one another. Besides the soldiers who formed the picket line on either side, there were many curious onlookers who, jesting and laughing, stared at their strange foreign enemies.
Since early morning—despite an injunction not to approach the picket line—the officers had been unable to keep sight-seers away. The soldiers forming the picket line, like showmen exhibiting a curiosity, no longer looked at the French but paid attention to the sight-seers and grew weary waiting to be relieved. Prince Andrew halted to have a look at the French.
“Look! Look there!” one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. “Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn’t it? It’s all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sídorov!”
“Wait a bit and listen. It’s fine!” answered Sídorov, who was considered an adept at French.
The soldier to whom the laughers referred was Dólokhov. Prince Andrew recognized him and stopped to listen to what he was saying. Dólokhov had come from the left flank where their regiment was stationed, with his captain.
“Now then, go on, go on!” incited the officer, bending forward and trying not to lose a word of the speech which was incomprehensible to him. “More, please: more! What’s he saying?”
Dólokhov did not answer the captain; he had been drawn into a hot dispute with the French grenadier. They were naturally talking about the campaign. The Frenchman, confusing the Austrians with the Russians, was trying to prove that the Russians had surrendered and had fled all the way from Ulm, while Dólokhov maintained that the Russians had not surrendered but had beaten the French.
“We have orders to drive you off here, and we shall drive you off,” said Dólokhov.
“Only take care you and your Cossacks are not all captured!” said the French grenadier.
The French onlookers and listeners laughed.
“We’ll make you dance as we did under Suvórov...,” * said Dólokhov.
“Qu’ est-ce qu’il chante?” * asked a Frenchman.
“It’s ancient history,” said another, guessing that it referred to a former war. “The Emperor will teach your Suvara as he has taught the others...”
“Bonaparte...” began Dólokhov, but the Frenchman interrupted him.
“Not Bonaparte. He is the Emperor! Sacré nom...!” cried he angrily.
“The devil skin your Emperor.”
And Dólokhov swore at him in coarse soldier’s Russian and shouldering his musket walked away.
“Let us go, Iván Lukích,” he said to the captain.
“Ah, that’s the way to talk French,” said the picket soldiers. “Now, Sídorov, you have a try!”
Sídorov, turning to the French, winked, and began to jabber meaningless sounds very fast: “Kari, mala, tafa, safi, muter, Kaská,” he said, trying to give an expressive intonation to his voice.
“Ho! ho! ho! Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ouh! ouh!” came peals of such healthy and good-humored laughter from the soldiers that it infected the French involuntarily, so much so that the only thing left to do seemed to be to unload the muskets, explode the ammunition, and all return home as quickly as possible.
But the guns remained loaded, the loopholes in blockhouses and entrenchments looked out just as menacingly, and the unlimbered cannon confronted one another as before.
Having ridden round the whole line from right flank to left, Prince Andrew made his way up to the battery from which the staff officer had told him the whole field could be seen. Here he dismounted, and stopped beside the farthest of the four unlimbered cannon. Before the guns an artillery sentry was pacing up and down; he stood at attention when the officer arrived, but at a sign resumed his measured, monotonous pacing. Behind the guns were their limbers and still farther back picket ropes and artillerymen’s bonfires. To the left, not far from the farthest cannon, was a small, newly constructed wattle shed from which came the sound of officers’ voices in eager conversation.
It was true that a view over nearly the whole Russian position and the greater part of the enemy’s opened out from this battery. Just facing it, on the crest of the opposite hill, the village of Schön Grabern could be seen, and in three places to left and right the French troops amid the smoke of their campfires, the greater part of whom were evidently in the village itself and behind the hill. To the left from that village, amid the smoke, was something resembling a battery, but it was impossible to see it clearly with the naked eye. Our right flank was posted on a rather steep incline which dominated the French position. Our infantry were stationed there, and at the farthest point the dragoons. In the center, where Túshin’s battery stood and from which Prince Andrew was surveying the position, was the easiest and most direct descent and ascent to the brook separating us from Schön Grabern. On the left our troops were close to a copse, in which smoked the bonfires of our infantry who were felling wood. The French line was wider than ours, and it was plain that they could easily outflank us on both sides. Behind our position was a steep and deep dip, making it difficult for artillery and cavalry to retire. Prince Andrew took out his notebook and, leaning on the cannon, sketched a plan of the position. He made some notes on two points, intending to mention them to Bagratión. His idea was, first, to concentrate all the artillery in the center, and secondly, to withdraw the cavalry to the other side of the dip. Prince Andrew, being always near the commander in chief, closely following the mass movements and general orders, and constantly studying historical accounts of battles, involuntarily pictured to himself the course of events in the forthcoming action in broad outline. He imagined only important possibilities: “If the enemy attacks the right flank,” he said to himself, “the Kiev grenadiers and the Podólsk chasseurs must hold their position till reserves from the center come up. In that case the dragoons could successfully make a flank counterattack. If they attack our center we, having the center battery on this high ground, shall withdraw the left flank under its cover, and retreat to the dip by echelons.” So he reasoned.... All the time he had been beside the gun, he had heard the voices of the officers distinctly, but as often happens had not understood a word of what they were saying. Suddenly, however, he was struck by a voice coming from the shed, and its tone was so sincere that he could not but listen.
“No, friend,” said a pleasant and, as it seemed to Prince Andrew, a familiar voice, “what I say is that if it were possible to know what is beyond death, none of us would be afraid of it. That’s so, friend.”
Another, a younger voice, interrupted him: “Afraid or not, you can’t escape it anyhow.”
“All the same, one is afraid! Oh, you clever people,” said a third manly voice interrupting them both. “Of course you artillery men are very wise, because you can take everything along with you—vodka and snacks.”
And the owner of the manly voice, evidently an infantry officer, laughed.
“Yes, one is afraid,” continued the first speaker, he of the familiar voice. “One is afraid of the unknown, that’s what it is. Whatever we may say about the soul going to the sky... we know there is no sky but only an atmosphere.”
The manly voice again interrupted the artillery officer.
“Well, stand us some of your herb vodka, Túshin,” it said.
“Why,” thought Prince Andrew, “that’s the captain who stood up in the sutler’s hut without his boots.” He recognized the agreeable, philosophizing voice with pleasure.
“Some herb vodka? Certainly!” said Túshin. “But still, to conceive a future life...”
He did not finish. Just then there was a whistle in the air; nearer and nearer, faster and louder, louder and faster, a cannon ball, as if it had not finished saying what was necessary, thudded into the ground near the shed with super human force, throwing up a mass of earth. The ground seemed to groan at the terrible impact.
And immediately Túshin, with a short pipe in the corner of his mouth and his kind, intelligent face rather pale, rushed out of the shed followed by the owner of the manly voice, a dashing infantry officer who hurried off to his company, buttoning up his coat as he ran.
Mounting his horse again Prince Andrew lingered with the battery, looking at the puff from the gun that had sent the ball. His eyes ran rapidly over the wide space, but he only saw that the hitherto motionless masses of the French now swayed and that there really was a battery to their left. The smoke above it had not yet dispersed. Two mounted Frenchmen, probably adjutants, were galloping up the hill. A small but distinctly visible enemy column was moving down the hill, probably to strengthen the front line. The smoke of the first shot had not yet dispersed before another puff appeared, followed by a report. The battle had begun! Prince Andrew turned his horse and galloped back to Grunth to find Prince Bagratión. He heard the cannonade behind him growing louder and more frequent. Evidently our guns had begun to reply. From the bottom of the slope, where the parleys had taken place, came the report of musketry.
Lemarrois had just arrived at a gallop with Bonaparte’s stern letter, and Murat, humiliated and anxious to expiate his fault, had at once moved his forces to attack the center and outflank both the Russian wings, hoping before evening and before the arrival of the Emperor to crush the contemptible detachment that stood before him.
“It has begun. Here it is!” thought Prince Andrew, feeling the blood rush to his heart. “But where and how will my Toulon present itself?”
Passing between the companies that had been eating porridge and drinking vodka a quarter of an hour before, he saw everywhere the same rapid movement of soldiers forming ranks and getting their muskets ready, and on all their faces he recognized the same eagerness that filled his heart. “It has begun! Here it is, dreadful but enjoyable!” was what the face of each soldier and each officer seemed to say.
Before he had reached the embankments that were being thrown up, he saw, in the light of the dull autumn evening, mounted men coming toward him. The foremost, wearing a Cossack cloak and lambskin cap and riding a white horse, was Prince Bagratión. Prince Andrew stopped, waiting for him to come up; Prince Bagratión reined in his horse and recognizing Prince Andrew nodded to him. He still looked ahead while Prince Andrew told him what he had seen.
The feeling, “It has begun! Here it is!” was seen even on Prince Bagratión’s hard brown face with its half-closed, dull, sleepy eyes. Prince Andrew gazed with anxious curiosity at that impassive face and wished he could tell what, if anything, this man was thinking and feeling at that moment. “Is there anything at all behind that impassive face?” Prince Andrew asked himself as he looked. Prince Bagratión bent his head in sign of agreement with what Prince Andrew told him, and said, “Very good!” in a tone that seemed to imply that everything that took place and was reported to him was exactly what he had foreseen. Prince Andrew, out of breath with his rapid ride, spoke quickly. Prince Bagratión, uttering his words with an Oriental accent, spoke particularly slowly, as if to impress the fact that there was no need to hurry. However, he put his horse to a trot in the direction of Túshin’s battery. Prince Andrew followed with the suite. Behind Prince Bagratión rode an officer of the suite, the prince’s personal adjutant, Zherkóv, an orderly officer, the staff officer on duty, riding a fine bobtailed horse, and a civilian—an accountant who had asked permission to be present at the battle out of curiosity. The accountant, a stout, full-faced man, looked around him with a naïve smile of satisfaction and presented a strange appearance among the hussars, Cossacks, and adjutants, in his camlet coat, as he jolted on his horse with a convoy officer’s saddle.
“He wants to see a battle,” said Zherkóv to Bolkónski, pointing to the accountant, “but he feels a pain in the pit of his stomach already.”
“Oh, leave off!” said the accountant with a beaming but rather cunning smile, as if flattered at being made the subject of Zherkóv’s joke, and purposely trying to appear stupider than he really was.
“It is very strange, mon Monsieur Prince,” said the staff officer. (He remembered that in French there is some peculiar way of addressing a prince, but could not get it quite right.)
By this time they were all approaching Túshin’s battery, and a ball struck the ground in front of them.
“What’s that that has fallen?” asked the accountant with a naïve smile.
“A French pancake,” answered Zherkóv.
“So that’s what they hit with?” asked the accountant. “How awful!”
He seemed to swell with satisfaction. He had hardly finished speaking when they again heard an unexpectedly violent whistling which suddenly ended with a thud into something soft... f-f-flop! and a Cossack, riding a little to their right and behind the accountant, crashed to earth with his horse. Zherkóv and the staff officer bent over their saddles and turned their horses away. The accountant stopped, facing the Cossack, and examined him with attentive curiosity. The Cossack was dead, but the horse still struggled.
Prince Bagratión screwed up his eyes, looked round, and, seeing the cause of the confusion, turned away with indifference, as if to say, “Is it worth while noticing trifles?” He reined in his horse with the care of a skillful rider and, slightly bending over, disengaged his saber which had caught in his cloak. It was an old-fashioned saber of a kind no longer in general use. Prince Andrew remembered the story of Suvórov giving his saber to Bagratión in Italy, and the recollection was particularly pleasant at that moment. They had reached the battery at which Prince Andrew had been when he examined the battlefield.
“Whose company?” asked Prince Bagratión of an artilleryman standing by the ammunition wagon.
He asked, “Whose company?” but he really meant, “Are you frightened here?” and the artilleryman understood him.
“Captain Túshin’s, your excellency!” shouted the red-haired, freckled gunner in a merry voice, standing to attention.
“Yes, yes,” muttered Bagratión as if considering something, and he rode past the limbers to the farthest cannon.
As he approached, a ringing shot issued from it deafening him and his suite, and in the smoke that suddenly surrounded the gun they could see the gunners who had seized it straining to roll it quickly back to its former position. A huge, broad-shouldered gunner, Number One, holding a mop, his legs far apart, sprang to the wheel; while Number Two with a trembling hand placed a charge in the cannon’s mouth. The short, round-shouldered Captain Túshin, stumbling over the tail of the gun carriage, moved forward and, not noticing the general, looked out shading his eyes with his small hand.
“Lift it two lines more and it will be just right,” cried he in a feeble voice to which he tried to impart a dashing note, ill-suited to his weak figure. “Number Two!” he squeaked. “Fire, Medvédev!”
Bagratión called to him, and Túshin, raising three fingers to his cap with a bashful and awkward gesture not at all like a military salute but like a priest’s benediction, approached the general. Though Túshin’s guns had been intended to cannonade the valley, he was firing incendiary balls at the village of Schön Grabern visible just opposite, in front of which large masses of French were advancing.
No one had given Túshin orders where and at what to fire, but after consulting his sergeant major, Zakharchénko, for whom he had great respect, he had decided that it would be a good thing to set fire to the village. “Very good!” said Bagratión in reply to the officer’s report, and began deliberately to examine the whole battlefield extended before him. The French had advanced nearest on our right. Below the height on which the Kiev regiment was stationed, in the hollow where the rivulet flowed, the soul-stirring rolling and crackling of musketry was heard, and much farther to the right beyond the dragoons, the officer of the suite pointed out to Bagratión a French column that was outflanking us. To the left the horizon bounded by the adjacent wood. Prince Bagratión ordered two battalions from the center to be sent to reinforce the right flank. The officer of the suite ventured to remark to the prince that if these battalions went away, the guns would remain without support. Prince Bagratión turned to the officer and with his dull eyes looked at him in silence. It seemed to Prince Andrew that the officer’s remark was just and that really no answer could be made to it. But at that moment an adjutant galloped up with a message from the commander of the regiment in the hollow and news that immense masses of the French were coming down upon them and that his regiment was in disorder and was retreating upon the Kiev grenadiers. Prince Bagratión bowed his head in sign of assent and approval. He rode off at a walk to the right and sent an adjutant to the dragoons with orders to attack the French. But this adjutant returned half an hour later with the news that the commander of the dragoons had already retreated beyond the dip in the ground, as a heavy fire had been opened on him and he was losing men uselessly, and so had hastened to throw some sharpshooters into the wood.
“Very good!” said Bagratión.
As he was leaving the battery, firing was heard on the left also, and as it was too far to the left flank for him to have time to go there himself, Prince Bagratión sent Zherkóv to tell the general in command (the one who had paraded his regiment before Kutúzov at Braunau) that he must retreat as quickly as possible behind the hollow in the rear, as the right flank would probably not be able to withstand the enemy’s attack very long. About Túshin and the battalion that had been in support of his battery all was forgotten. Prince Andrew listened attentively to Bagratión’s colloquies with the commanding officers and the orders he gave them and, to his surprise, found that no orders were really given, but that Prince Bagratión tried to make it appear that everything done by necessity, by accident, or by the will of subordinate commanders was done, if not by his direct command, at least in accord with his intentions. Prince Andrew noticed, however, that though what happened was due to chance and was independent of the commander’s will, owing to the tact Bagratión showed, his presence was very valuable. Officers who approached him with disturbed countenances became calm; soldiers and officers greeted him gaily, grew more cheerful in his presence, and were evidently anxious to display their courage before him.