Chapter 13

THE SAME NIGHT, after taking leave of the minister of war, Bolkonsky set off to join the army, not knowing where he should find it, at the risk of being caught by the French on the way to Krems.

At Bränn all the court and every one connected with it was packing up, and the heavy baggage was already being despatched to Olmätz. Near Esselsdorf, Prince Andrey came out on the road along which the Russian army was moving in the utmost haste and in the greatest disorder. The road was so obstructed with baggage-waggons that it was impossible to get by in a carriage. Prince Andrey procured a horse and a Cossack from the officer in command of the Cossacks, and hungry and weary he threaded his way in and out between the waggons and rode in search of the commander-in-chief and his own luggage. The most sinister rumours as to the position of the army reached him on the road, and the appearance of the army fleeing in disorder confirmed these rumours.

“As for that Russian army which English gold has brought from the ends of the universe, we are going to inflict upon it the same fate (the fate of the army of Ulm)”; he remembered the words of Bonaparte’s address to his army at the beginning of the campaign, and these words aroused in him simultaneously admiration for the genius of his hero, a feeling of mortified pride, and the hope of glory. “And if there’s nothing left but to die?” he thought. “Well, if it must be! I will do it no worse than others.”

Prince Andrey looked disdainfully at the endless, confused mass of companies, of baggage-waggons, parks of artillery, and again store-waggons, carts, and waggons of every possible form, pursuing one another and obstructing the muddy road three and four abreast. On every side, behind and before, as far as the ear could reach in every direction there was the rumble of wheels, the rattle of carts, of waggons, and of gun-carriages, the tramp of horses, the crack of whips, the shouts of drivers, the swearing of soldiers, of orderlies, and officers. At the sides of the roads he saw fallen horses, and sometimes their skinned carcases, broken-down waggons, with solitary soldiers sitting on them, waiting for something, detached groups of soldiers strayed from their companies, starting off to neighbouring villages, or dragging back from them fowls, sheep, hay, or sacks of stores of some sort. Where the road went uphill or downhill the crush became greater, and there was an uninterrupted roar of shouts. The soldiers floundering knee- deep in the mud clutched the guns and clung to the waggons in the midst of cracking whips, slipping hoofs, breaking traces and throat-splitting yells. The officers superintending their movements rode to and fro in front and behind the convoys. Their voices were faintly audible in the midst of the general uproar, their faces betrayed that they despaired of the possibility of checking the disorder.

Voilà le cher holy armament,” thought Bolkonsky, recalling Bilibin’s words.

He rode up to a convoy, intending to ask of some one of these men where he could find the commander- in-chief. Directly opposite to him came a strange vehicle, with one horse, obviously rigged up by soldiers with the resources at their disposal, and looking like something between a cart, a cabriolet, and a coach. A soldier was driving it, and under the leathern tilt behind a cover sat a woman, muffled up in shawls. Prince Andrey rode up and was just addressing a question to the soldier, when his attention was taken off by the despairing shrieks of the woman in this conveyance. The officer, directing the traffic, aimed a blow at the soldier who sat in the coachman’s seat, for trying to push in ahead of others, and the lash fell on the cover of the equipage. The woman shrieked shrilly. On catching sight of Prince Andrey, she looked out from under the cover and putting her thin arms out from the shawls and waving them, she screamed:

“Adjutant! sir! … For God’s sake! … protect me. … What will happen to us? … I am the wife of the doctor of the Seventh Chasseurs … they won’t let us pass, we have dropped behind, lost our own people. …”

“I’ll thrash you into mincemeat! turn back!” shouted the exasperated officer to the soldier: “turn back with your hussy!”

“Sir, protect us. What does it mean?” screamed the doctor’s wife.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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