Prince Andrey, at five oclock in the evening, was returning homewards to Bilibins, mentally composing a letter to his father about the battle and his reception at Bränn. At the steps of Bilibins house stood a cart packed half full of things, and Franz, Bilibins servant, came out of the doorway, with difficulty dragging a travelling-trunk.
Before going back to Bilibins Prince Andrey had driven to a book-sellers to lay in a stock of books for the campaign, and had spent some time in the shop.
What is it? asked Bolkonsky.
Ah, your excellency! said Franz, with some exertion rolling the trunk on the cart. We are to move on still farther. The scoundrel is already at our heels again!
Eh? what? queried Prince Andrey.
Bilibin came out to meet Bolkonsky. His ordinarily composed face looked excited.
No, no, confess that this is charming, he said, this story of the bridge of Tabor. They have crossed it without striking a blow.
Prince Andrey could not understand.
Why, where do you come from not to know what every coachman in the town knows by now?
I come from the archduchess. I heard nothing there.
And didnt you see that people are packing up everywhere?
I have seen nothing But whats the matter? Prince Andrey asked impatiently.
Whats the matter? The matter is that the French have crossed the bridge that Auersperg was defending, and they havent blown up the bridge, so that Murat is at this moment running along the road to Bränn, and to-day or to-morrow theyll be here.
Here? But how is it the bridge wasnt blown up, since it was mined?
Why, thats what I ask you. No onenot Bonaparte himselfcan tell why. Bolkonsky shrugged his shoulders.
But if they have crossed the bridge, then it will be all over with the army; it will be cut off, he said.
Thats the whole point, answered Bilibin. Listen. The French enter Vienna, as I told you. Everything is satisfactory. Next day, that is yesterday, Messieurs les Maréchaux, Murat, Lannes, and Beliard get on their horses and ride off to the bridge. (Remark that all three are Gascons.) Gentlemen, says one, you know that the Tabor bridge has been mined and countermined, and is protected by a formidable fortification and fifteen thousand troops, who have orders to blow up the bridge and not to let us pass. But our gracious Emperor Napoleon will be pleased if we take the bridge. Let us go us there and take it. Yes, let us go, say the others; and they start off and take the bridge, cross it, and now with their whole army on this side of the Danube, they are coming straight upon us, and upon you and your communications.
Leave off jesting, said Prince Andrey, with mournful seriousness. The news grieved Prince Andrey, and yet it gave him pleasure. As soon as he heard that the Russian army was in such a hopeless position, the idea struck him that he was the very man destined to extricate the Russian army from that position, and that it had comethe Toulonthat would lift him for ever from out of the ranks of unknown officers, and open the first path to glory for him! As he listened to Bilibin, he was already considering how, on
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|