Chapter 7

OVER THE BRIDGE two of the enemy’s shots had already flown and there was a crush on the bridge. In the middle of the bridge stood Nesvitsky. He had dismounted and stood with his stout person jammed against the railings. He looked laughingly back at his Cossack, who was standing several paces behind him holding the two horses by their bridles. Every time Nesvitsky tried to move on, the advancing soldiers and waggons bore down upon him and shoved him back against the railings. There was nothing for him to do but to smile.

“Hi there, my lad,” said the Cossack to a soldier in charge of a waggon-load who was forcing his way through the foot-soldiers that pressed right up to his wheels and his horses; “what are you about? No, you wait a bit; you see the general wants to pass.”

But the convoy soldier, taking no notice of the allusion to the general, bawled to the soldiers who blocked the way: “Hi! fellows, keep to the left! wait a bit!” But the fellows, shoulder to shoulder, with their bayonets interlocked, moved over the bridge in one compact mass. Looking down over the rails, Prince Nesvitsky saw the noisy, rapid, but not high waves of the Enns, which, swirling in eddies round the piles of the bridge, chased one another down stream. Looking on the bridge he saw the living waves of the soldiers, all alike as they streamed by: shakoes with covers on them, knapsacks, bayonets, long rifles, and under the shakoes broad-jawed faces, sunken cheeks, and looks of listless weariness, and legs moving over the boards of the bridge, that were coated with sticky mud. Sometimes among the monotonous streams of soldiers, like a crest of white foam on the waves of the Enns, an officer forced his way through, in a cloak, with a face of a different type from the soldiers. Sometimes, like a chip whirling on the river, there passed over the bridge among the waves of infantry a dismounted hussar, an orderly, or an inhabitant of the town. Sometimes, like a log floating down the river, there moved over the bridge, hemmed in on all sides, a baggage-waggon, piled up high and covered with leather covers.

“Why, they’re like a river bursting its banks,” said the Cossack, stopping hopelessly. “Are there many more over there?”

“A million, all but one!” said a cheerful soldier in a torn coat, winking, as he passed out of sight; after him came another soldier, an older man.

“If he” (he meant the enemy) “starts popping at the bridge just now,” said the old soldier dismally, addressing his companion, “you’ll forget to scratch yourself.” And he passed on. After him came another soldier riding on a waggon.

“Where the devil did you put the leg-wrappers?” said an orderly, running after the waggon and fumbling in the back part of it. And he too passed on with the waggon.

Then came some hilarious soldiers, who had unmistakably been drinking.

“And didn’t he up with the butt end of his gun and give him one right in the teeth,” one soldier was saying gleefully with a wide sweep of his arm.

“It just was a delicious ham,” answered the other with a chuckle. And they passed on, so that Nesvitsky never knew who had received the blow in his teeth, and what the ham had to do with it.

“Yes, they’re in a hurry now! When he let fly a bit of cold lead, one would have thought they were all being killed,” said an under officer, angrily and reproachfully.

“When it whizzed by me, uncle, the bullet,” said a young soldier with a huge mouth, scarcely able to keep from laughing, “I turned fairly numb. Upon my soul, wasn’t I in a fright, to be sure!” said the soldier, making a sort of boast of his terror.

He, too, passed on. After him came a waggon unlike all that had passed over before. It was a German Vorspann with two horses, loaded, it seemed, with the goods of a whole household. The horses were

  By PanEris using Melati.

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