Chapter 1

IN THE OCTOBER OF 1805 the Russian troops were occupying the towns and villages of the Austrian archduchy, and fresh regiments kept arriving from Russia and encamping about the fortress of Braunau, burdening the inhabitants on whom they were billeted. Braunau was the chief headquarters of the commander- in-chief, Kutuzov.

On the 11th of October 1805, one of the infantry regiments that had just reached Braunau had halted half a mile from the town, awaiting the inspection of the commander-in-chief. In spite of the un-Russian character of the country and the environment (the fruit gardens, the stone walls, the tiled roofs, the mountains in the distance, the foreign peasants, who looked with curiosity at the Russian soldiers), the regiment looked exactly as every Russian regiment always looks when it is getting ready for inspection anywhere in the heart of Russia. In the evening, on the last stage of the march, the order had been received that the commander-in-chief would inspect the regiment on the march. Though the wording of the order did not seem quite clear to the general in command of the regiment, and the question arose whether they were to take it to mean, in marching order or not, it was decided on a consultation between the majors to present the regiment in parade order on the ground, since, as the saying is, it is better to bow too low than not to bow low enough. And the soldiers after a twenty-five mile march had not closed their eyes, but had spent the night mending and cleaning, while the adjutants and officers had been reckoning up and calculating. And by the morning the regiment, instead of the straggling, disorderly crowd it had been on the last march, the previous evening, presented the spectacle of an organised mass of two thousand men, of whom every one knew his part and his duty, and had every button and every strap in its proper position, and shining with cleanliness. It was not only the outside that was in good order; if the commander-in-chief should think fit to peep below the uniform, he would see on every man alike a clean shirt, and in every knapsack he would find the regulation number of articles. There was only one circumstance which no one could feel comfortable about. That was their foot-gear. More than half the soldiers had holes in their boots. But this deficiency was not due to any shortcoming on the part of their commanding officer, since in spite of his repeated demands the boots had not yet been granted him by the Austrian authorities, and the regiment had marched nearly a thousand miles.

The commander of the regiment was a sanguine-looking general past middle age, with grey whiskers and eyebrows, broad and thick-set, and thicker through from the chest to the back than across the shoulders. He wore a brand-new uniform with the creases still in it where it had been folded, and rich gold epaulettes, which seemed to stand up instead of lying down on his thick shoulders. The general had the air of a man who has successfully performed one of the most solemn duties of his life. He walked about in front of the line, and quivered as he walked, with a slight jerk of his back at each step. The general was unmistakably admiring his regiment, and happy in it, and it was evident that his whole brain was engrossed by the regiment. But for all that, his quivering strut seemed to say that, apart from his military interests, he had plenty of warmth in his heart for the attractions of social life and the fair sex.

“Well, Mihail Mitritch, sir,” he said, addressing a major (the major came forward smiling; they were evidently in excellent spirits).

“We have had our hands full all night…But it’ll do, I fancy; the regiment’s not so bad as some…eh?”

The major understood this good-humoured irony and laughed.

“Even on the Tsaritsyn review ground they wouldn’t be turned off.”

“Eh?” said the commander.

At that moment two figures on horseback came into sight on the road from the town, where sentinels had been posted to give the signal. They were an adjutant, and a Cossack riding behind him.

The adjutant had been sent by the commander-in-chief to confirm to the commander what had not been clearly stated in the previous order, namely, that the commander-in-chief wished to inspect the regiment

  By PanEris using Melati.

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