Chapter 10

AT DAWN on the 16th, Denisov’s squadron, in which Nikolay Rostov was serving, and which formed part of Prince Bagration’s detachment, moved on from its halting place for the night—to advance into action, as was said. After about a mile’s march, in the rear of other columns, it was brought to a standstill on the high-road. Rostov saw the Cossacks, the first and second squadrons of hussars, and the infantry battalions with the artillery pass him and march on ahead; he also saw the Generals Bagration and Dolgorukov ride by with their adjutants. All the panic he had felt, as before, at the prospect of battle, all the inner conflict by means of which he had overcome that panic, all his dreams of distinguishing himself in true hussar style in this battle—all were for nothing. His squadron was held back in reserve, and Nikolay Rostov spent a tedious and wretched day. About nine o’clock in the morning he heard firing ahead of him, and shouts of hurrah, saw the wounded being brought back (there were not many of them), and finally saw a whole detachment of French cavalry being brought away in the midst of a company of Cossacks. Obviously the action was over, and the action had, obviously, been a small one, but successful. The soldiers and officers as they came back were talking of a brilliant victory, of the taking of the town of Vishau, and a whole French squadron taken prisoners. The day was bright and sunny after a sharp frost at night, and the cheerful brightness of the autumn day was in keeping with the news of victory, which was told not only by the accounts of those who had taken part in it, but by the joyful expression of soldiers, officers, generals, and adjutants, who rode to and fro by Rostov. All the greater was the pang in Nikolay’s heart that he should have suffered the dread that goes before the battle for nothing, and have spent that happy day in inactivity.

“Rostov, come here, let’s drink ‘begone, dull care!’ ” shouted Denisov, sitting at the roadside before a bottle and some edibles. The officers gathered in a ring, eating and talking, round Denisov’s wine-case.

“Here they’re bringing another!” said one of the officers, pointing to a French prisoner, a dragoon, who was being led on foot by two Cossacks. One of them was leading by the bridle the prisoner’s horse, a tall and beautiful French beast.

“Sell the horse?” Denisov called to the Cossacks.

“If you will, your honour.”

The officers got up and stood round the Cossacks and the prisoner. The French dragoon was a young fellow, an Alsatian who spoke French with a German accent. He was breathless with excitement, his face was red, and hearing French spoken he began quickly speaking to the officers, turning from one to another. He said that they wouldn’t have taken him, that it wasn’t his fault he was taken, but the fault of the corporal, who had sent him to get the horsecloths, that he had told him the Russians were there. And at every word he added: “But don’t let anybody hurt my little horse,” and stroked his horse. It was evident that he did not quite grasp where he was. At one moment he was excusing himself for having been taken prisoner, at the next, imagining himself before his superior officers, he was trying to prove his soldierly discipline and zeal for the service. He brought with him in all its freshness into our rearguard the atmosphere of the French army, so alien to us.

The Cossacks sold the horse for two gold pieces, and Rostov, being the richest of the officers since he had received money from home, bought it.

“Be good to the little horse!” the Alsatian said with simple-hearted good-nature to Rostov, when the horse was handed to the hussar.

Rostov smiling, soothed the dragoon, and gave him money.

“Alley! Alley!” said the Cossack, touching the prisoner’s arm to make him go on.

“The Emperor! the Emperor!” was suddenly heard among the hussars. Everything was bustle and hurry, and Rostov saw behind them on the road several horsemen riding up with white plumes in their hats. In a single moment all were in their places and eagerly expectant.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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