Chapter 17

PRINCE ANDREY mounted his horse but lingered at the battery, looking at the smoke of the cannon from which the ball had flown. His eyes moved rapidly over the wide plain. He only saw that the previously immobile masses of the French were heaving to and fro, and that it really was a battery on the left. The smoke still clung about it. Two Frenchmen on horseback, doubtless adjutants, were galloping on the hill. A small column of the enemy, distinctly visible, were moving downhill, probably to strengthen the line. The smoke of the first shot had not cleared away, when there was a fresh puff of smoke and another shot. The battle was beginning. Prince Andrey turned his horse and galloped back to Grunte to look for Prince Bagration. Behind him he heard the cannonade becoming louder and more frequent. Our men were evidently beginning to reply. Musket shots could be heard below at the spot where the lines were closest. Lemarrois had only just galloped to Murat with Napoleon’s menacing letter, and Murat, abashed and anxious to efface his error, at once moved his forces to the centre and towards both flanks, hoping before evening and the arrival of the Emperor to destroy the insignificant detachment before him.

“It has begun! Here it comes!” thought Prince Andrey, feeling the blood rush to his heart. “But where? What form is my Toulon to take?” he wondered.

Passing between the companies that had been eating porridge and drinking vodka a quarter of an hour before, he saw everywhere nothing but the same rapid movements of soldiers forming in ranks and getting their guns, and on every face he saw the same eagerness that he felt in his heart. “It has begun! Here it comes! Terrible and delightful!” said the face of every private and officer. Before he reached the earthworks that were being thrown up, he saw in the evening light of the dull autumn day men on horseback crossing towards him. The foremost, wearing a cloak and an Astrachan cap, was riding on a white horse. It was Prince Bagration. Prince Andrey stopped and waited for him to come up. Prince Bagration stopped his horse, and recognising Prince Andrey nodded to him. He still gazed on ahead while Prince Andrey told him what he had been seeing.

The expression: “It has begun! it is coming!” was discernible even on Prince Bagration’s strong, brown face, with his half-closed, lustreless, sleepy-looking eyes. Prince Andrey glanced with uneasy curiosity at that impassive face, and he longed to know: Was that man thinking and feeling, and what was he thinking and feeling at that moment? “Is there anything at all there behind that impassive face?” Prince Andrey wondered, looking at him. Prince Bagration nodded in token of his assent to Prince Andrey’s words, and said: “Very good,” with an expression that seemed to signify that all that happened, and all that was told him, was exactly what he had foreseen. Prince Andrey, panting from his rapid ride, spoke quickly. Prince Bagration uttered his words in his Oriental accent with peculiar deliberation, as though impressing upon him that there was no need of hurry. He did, however, spur his horse into a gallop in the direction of Tushin’s battery. Prince Andrey rode after him with his suite. The party consisted of an officer of the suite, Bagration’s private adjutant, Zherkov, an orderly officer, the staff-officer on duty, riding a beautiful horse of English breed, and a civilian official, the auditor, who had asked to be present from curiosity to see the battle. The auditor, a plump man with a plump face, looked about him with a naïve smile of amusement, swaying about on his horse, and cutting a queer figure in his cloak on his saddle among the hussars, Cossacks, and adjutants.

“This gentleman wants to see a battle,” said Zherkov to Bolkonsky, indicating the auditor, “but has begun to feel queer already.”

“Come, leave off,” said the auditor, with a beaming smile at once naïve and cunning, as though he were flattered at being the object of Zherkov’s jests, and was purposely trying to seem stupider than he was in reality.

“It’s very curious, mon Monsieur Prince,” said the staff-officer on duty. (He vaguely remembered that the title prince was translated in some peculiar way in French, but could not get it quite right.) By this time they were all riding up to Tushin’s battery, and a ball struck the ground before them.

“What was that falling?” asked the auditor, smiling naïvely.

  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.