The snub-nosed, black, hairy face of Vaska Denisov, and his little, battered figure, and the sinewy, short- fingered hand in which he held the hilt of his naked sword—his whole figure was just as it always was, especially in the evening after he had drunk a couple of bottles. He was only rather redder in the face than usual, and tossing back his shaggy head, as birds do when they drink, his little legs mercilessly driving the spurs into his good horse Bedouin, he galloped to the other flank of the squadron, looking as though he were falling backwards in the saddle, and shouted in a husky voice to the men to look to their pistols. He rode up to Kirsten. The staff-captain on his stout, steady charger rode at a walking pace to meet him. The staff-captain’s face with its long whiskers was serious, as always, but his eyes looked brighter than usual.

“Well,” he said to Denisov, “it won’t come to a fight. You’ll see, we shall retreat again.”

“Devil knows what they’re about!” growled Denisov. “Ah, Rostov!” he called to the ensign, noticing his beaming face. “Well, you’ve not had long to wait.” And he smiled approvingly, unmistakably pleased at the sight of the ensign. Rostov felt perfectly blissful. At that moment the colonel appeared at the bridge. Denisov galloped up to him.

“Your excellency, let us attack! we’ll settle them.”

“Attack, indeed!” said the colonel in a bored voice, puckering his face up as though at a teasing fly. “And what are you stopping here for? You see the flanks are retreating. Lead the squadron back.”

The squadron crossed the bridge and passed out of range of the enemy’s guns without losing a single man. It was followed by the second squadron, and the Cossacks last of all crossed, leaving the further side of the river clear.

The two squadrons of the Pavlograd regiment, after crossing the bridge, rode one after the other up the hill. Their colonel, Karl Bogdanitch Schubert, had joined Denisov’s squadron, and was riding at a walking pace not far from Rostov, taking no notice of him, though this was the first time they had met since the incident in connection with Telyanin. Rostov, feeling himself at the front in the power of the man towards whom be now admitted that he had been to blame, never took his eyes off the athletic back, and flaxen head and red neck of the colonel. It seemed to Rostov at one time that Bogdanitch was only feigning inattention, and that his whole aim was now to test the ensign’s pluck; and he drew himself up and looked about him gaily. Then he fancied that Bogdanitch was riding close by him on purpose to show off his own valour. Then the thought struck him that his enemy was now sending the squadron to a hopeless attack on purpose to punish him, Rostov. Then he dreamed of how after the attack he would go up to him as he lay wounded, and magnanimously hold out his hand in reconciliation. The high-shouldered figure of Zherkov, who was known to the Pavlograd hussars, as he had not long before left their regiment, rode up to the colonel. After Zherkov had been dismissed from the staff of the commander-in-chief, he had not remained in the regiment, saying that he was not such a fool as to go to hard labour at the front when he could get more pay for doing nothing on the staff, and he had succeeded in getting appointed an orderly on the staff of Prince Bagration. He rode up to his old colonel with an order from the commander of the rear guard.

“Colonel,” he said, with his gloomy seriousness, addressing Rostov’s enemy, and looking round at his comrades, “there’s an order to go back and burn the bridge.”

“An order, who to?” asked the colonel grimly.

“Well, I don’t know, colonel, who to,” answered the cornet, seriously, “only the prince commanded me: ‘Ride and tell the colonel the hussars are to make haste back and burn the bridge.’ ”

Zherkov was followed by an officer of the suite, who rode up to the colonel with the same command. After the officer of the suite the stout figure of Nesvitsky was seen riding up on a Cossack’s horse, which had some trouble to gallop with him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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