Chapter 13

ROSTOV had been sent that night with a platoon on picket duty to the line of outposts in the foremost part of Bagration’s detachment. His hussars were scattered in couples about the outposts; he himself rode about the line of the outposts trying to struggle against the sleepiness which kept overcoming him. Behind him could be seen the immense expanse of the dimly burning fires of our army; before him was the misty darkness. However intently Rostov gazed into this misty distance, he could see nothing; at one moment there seemed something greyish, at the next something blackish, then something like the glimmer of a fire over there where the enemy must be, then he fancied the glimmer had been only in his own eyes. His eyes kept closing, and there floated before his mind the image of the Emperor, then of Denisov, and Moscow memories, and again he opened his eyes and saw close before him the head and ears of the horse he was riding, and sometimes black figures of hussars, when he rode within six paces of them, but in the distance still the same misty darkness. “Why? it may well happen,” mused Rostov, “that the Emperor will meet me and give me some commission, as he might to any officer; he’ll say, “Go and find out what’s there.” There are a lot of stories of how quite by chance he has made the acquaintance of officers and given them some place close to him too. Oh, if he were to give me a place in attendance on him! Oh, what care I would take of him, how I would tell him the whole truth, how I would unmask all who deceive him!” And to picture his love and devotion to the Tsar more vividly, Rostov imagined some enemy or treacherous German, whom he would with great zest not simply kill, but slap in the face before the Tsar’s eyes. All at once a shout in the distance roused Rostov. He started and opened his eyes. “Where am I? Yes, in the picket line; the pass and watchword—shaft, Olmütz. How annoying that our squadron will be in reserve …” he thought. “I’ll ask to go to the front. It may be my only chance of seeing the Emperor. And now it’s not long before I’m off duty. I’ll ride round once more, and as I come back, I’ll go to the general and ask him.” He sat up straight in the saddle and set off to ride once more round his hussars. It seemed to him that it was lighter. On the left side he could see a sloping descent that looked lighted up and a black knoll facing it that seemed steep as a wall. On this knoll was a white patch which Rostov could not understand; was it a clearing in the wood, lighted up by the moon, or the remains of snow, or white horses? It seemed to him indeed that something was moving over that white spot. “It must be snow—that spot: a spot—une tache,” Rostov mused dreamily. “But that’s not a tache … Na … tasha, my sister, her black eyes. Na … tasha (won’t she be surprised when I tell her how I’ve seen the Emperor!) Natasha … tasha … sabretache.…” “Keep to the right, your honour, there are bushes here,” said the voice of an hussar, by whom Rostov was riding as he fell asleep. Rostov lifted his head, which had dropped on to his horse’s mane, and pulled up beside the hussar. He could not shake off the youthful, childish drowsiness that overcame him. “But, I say, what was I thinking? I mustn’t forget. How I am going to speak to the Emperor? No, not that—that’s to-morrow. Yes, yes! Natasha, attacks, tacks us,—whom? The hussars. Ah, the hussars with their moustaches … Along the Tversky boulevard rode that hussar with the moustaches, I was thinking of him too just opposite Guryev’s house.… Old Guryev.… Ah, a fine fellow, Denisov! But that’s all nonsense. The great thing is that the Emperor’s here now. How he looked at me and longed to say something, but he did not dare.… No, it was I did not dare. But that’s nonsense, and the great thing is not to forget something important I was thinking of, yes. Natasha, attacks us, yes, yes, yes. That’s right.” And again he dropped with his head on his horse’s neck. All at once it seemed to him that he was being fired at. “What? what?… Cut them down! What?” Rostov was saying, as he wakened up. At the instant that he opened his eyes, Rostov heard in front, over where the enemy were, the prolonged shouting of thousands of voices. His horse and the horse of the hussar near him pricked up their ears at these shouts. Over where the shouts came from, a light was lighted and put out, then another, and all along the line of the French troops on the hillside fires were lighted and the shouts grew louder and louder. Rostov heard the sound of French words though he could not distinguish them. He could only hear: aaaa! and rrrr!

“What is it? What do you think?” Rostov said to the hussar near him. “That’s in the enemy’s camp surely?”

The hussar made no reply.

“Why, don’t you hear it?” Rostov asked again, after waiting some time for a reply.

“Who can tell, your honour?” the hussar answered reluctantly.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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