Rostov had no memory and no consciousness of how he ran to his post and got on his horse. Instantly his regret at not taking part in the battle, his humdrum mood among the men he saw every day—all was gone; instantly all thought of self had vanished. He was entirely absorbed in the feeling of happiness at the Tsar’s being near. His nearness alone made up to him by itself, he felt, for the loss of the whole day. He was happy, as a lover is happy when the moment of the longed-for meeting has come. Not daring to look round from the front line, by an ecstatic instinct without looking round, he felt his approach. And he felt it not only from the sound of the tramping hoofs of the approaching cavalcade, he felt it because as the Tsar came nearer everything grew brighter, more joyful and significant, and more festive. Nearer and nearer moved this sun, as he seemed to Rostov, shedding around him rays of mild and majestic light, and now he felt himself enfolded in that radiance, he heard his voice—that voice caressing, calm, majestic, and yet so simple. A deathlike silence had come—as seemed to Rostov fitting—and in that silence he heard the sound of the Tsar’s voice.

“The Pavlograd hussars?” he was saying interrogatively

“The reserve, sire,” replied a voice—such a human voice, after the superhuman voice that had said: “Les hussards de Pavlograd?

The Tsar was on a level with Rostov, and he stood still there. Alexander’s face was even handsomer than it had been at the review three days before. It beamed with such gaiety and youth, such innocent youthfulness, that suggested the playfulness of a boy of fourteen, and yet it was still the face of the majestic Emperor. Glancing casually along the squadron, the Tsar’s eyes met the eyes of Rostov, and for not more than two seconds rested on them. Whether it was that the Tsar saw what was passing in Rostov’s soul (it seemed to Rostov that he saw everything), any way he looked for two seconds with his blue eyes into Rostov’s face. (A soft, mild radiance beamed from them.) Then all at once he raised his eyebrows, struck his left foot sharply against his horse, and galloped on.

The young Emperor could not restrain his desire to be present at the battle, and in spite of the expostulations of his courtiers, at twelve o’clock, escaping from the third column which he had been following, he galloped to the vanguard. Before he reached the hussars, several adjutants met him with news of the successful issue of the engagement.

The action, which had simply consisted in the capture of a squadron of the French, was magnified into a brilliant victory over the enemy, and so the Tsar and the whole army believed, especially while the smoke still hung over the field of battle, that the French had been defeated, and had been forced to retreat against their will. A few minutes after the Tsar had galloped on, the division of the Pavlograd hussars received orders to move forward. In Vishau itself, a little German town, Rostov saw the Tsar once more. In the market-place of the town where there had been rather a heavy firing before the Tsar’s arrival, lay several dead and wounded soldiers, whom there had not been time to pick up. The Tsar, surrounded by his suite of officers and courtiers, was mounted on a different horse from the one he had ridden at the review, a chestnut English thoroughbred. Bending on one side with a graceful gesture, holding a gold field-glass to his eyes, he was looking at a soldier lying on his face with a blood-stained and uncovered head. The wounded soldier was an object so impure, so grim, and so revolting, that Rostov was shocked at his being near the Emperor. Rostov saw how the Tsar’s stooping shoulders shuddered, as though a cold shiver had passed over them, how his left foot convulsively pressed the spur into the horse’s side, and how the trained horse looked round indifferently and did not stir. An adjutant dismounting lifted the soldier up under his arms, and began laying him on a stretcher that came up. The soldier groaned.

“Gently, gently, can’t you do it more gently?” said the Tsar, apparently suffering more than the dying soldier, and he rode away.

Rostov saw the tears in the Tsar’s eyes, and heard him say in French to Tchartorizhsky, as he rode off: “What an awful thing war is, what an awful thing!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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