Chapter 15

BEFORE FOUR O’CLOCK in the afternoon Prince Andrey, who had persisted in his petition to Kutuzov, reached Grunte, and joined Bagration. Bonaparte’s adjutant had not yet reached Murat’s division, and the battle had not yet begun. In Bagration’s detachment, they knew nothing of the progress of events. They talked about peace, but did not believe in its possibility. They talked of a battle, but did not believe in a battle’s being close at hand either.

Knowing Bolkonsky to be a favourite and trusted adjutant, Bagration received him with a commanding officer’s special graciousness and condescension. He informed him that there would probably be an engagement that day or the next day, and gave him full liberty to remain in attendance on him during the battle, or to retire to the rear-guard to watch over the order of the retreat, also a matter of great importance.

“To-day, though, there will most likely be no action,” said Bagration, as though to reassure Prince Andrey.

“If this is one of the common run of little staff dandies, sent here to win a cross, he can do that in the rear-guard, but if he wants to be with me, let him … he’ll be of use, if he’s a brave officer,” thought Bagration. Prince Andrey, without replying, asked the prince’s permission to ride round the position and find out the disposition of the forces, so that, in case of a message, he might know where to take it. An officer on duty, a handsome and elegantly dressed man, with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who spoke French badly, but with assurance, was summoned to conduct Prince Andrey.

On all sides they saw officers drenched through, with dejected faces, apparently looking for something, and soldiers dragging doors, benches, and fences from the village.

“Here we can’t put a stop to these people,” said the staff-officer, pointing to them. “Their commanders let their companies get out of hand. And look here,” he pointed to a canteen-keeper’s booth, “they gather here, and here they sit. I drove them all out this morning, and look, it’s full again. I must go and scare them, prince. One moment.”

“Let us go together, and I’ll get some bread and cheese there,” said Prince Andrey, who had not yet had time for a meal.

“Why didn’t you mention it, prince? I would have offered you something.”

They got off their horses and went into the canteen-keeper’s booth. Several officers, with flushed and exhausted faces, were sitting at the tables, eating and drinking.

“Now what does this mean, gentlemen?” said the staff-officer, in the reproachful tone of a man who has repeated the same thing several times. “You mustn’t absent yourselves like this. The prince gave orders that no one was to leave his post. Come, really, captain,” he remonstrated with a muddy, thin little artillery officer, who in his stockings (he had given his boots to the canteen-keeper to dry) stood up at their entrance, smiling not quite naturally.

“Now aren’t you ashamed, Captain Tushin?” pursued the staff-officer. “I should have thought you as an artillery officer ought to set an example, and you have no boots on. They’ll sound the alarm, and you’ll be in a pretty position without your boots on.” (The staff-officer smiled.) “Kindly return to your posts, gentlemen, all, all,” he added in a tone of authority.

Prince Andrey could not help smiling as he glanced at Captain Tushin. Smiling, without a word, Tushin shifted from one bare foot to the other, looking inquiringly, with his big, shrewd, and good-natured eyes, from Prince Andrey to the staff-officer.

“The soldiers say it’s easier barefoot,” said Captain Tushin, smiling shyly, evidently anxious to carry off his awkward position in a jesting tone. But before he had uttered the words, he felt that his joke would not do and had not come off. He was in confusion.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.