Chapter 15

AT EIGHT O’CLOCK Kutuzov rode out to Pratzen at the head of Miloradovitch’s fourth column, the one which was to occupy the place left vacant by the columns of Przhebyshevsky and Langeron, who had by this time gone down to the plain. He greeted the men of the foremost regiment, and gave them the command to march, showing thereby that he meant to lead that column himself. On reaching the village of Pratzen he halted. Prince Andrey was behind among the immense number of persons who made up the commander-in-chief’s suite. Prince Andrey was in a state of excitement, of irritation, and at the same time of repressed calm, as a man often is on attaining a long-desired moment. He was firmly convinced that to-day would be the day of his Toulon or his bridge of Arcola. How it would come to pass he knew not, but he was firmly convinced that it would be so. The locality and the position of our troops he had mastered to the minutest detail, so far as they could be known to any one in our army. His own strategic plan, which obviously could not conceivably be carried out now, was forgotten by him. Throwing himself into Weierother’s plan, Prince Andrey was now deliberating over the contingencies that might arise, and inventing new combinations, in which his rapidity of resource and decision might be called for.

On the left, below in the fog, could be heard firing between unseen forces. There, it seemed to Prince Andrey, the battle would be concentrated, there “the difficulty would arise, and there I shall be sent,” he thought, “with a brigade or a division, and there, flag in hand, I shall march forward and shatter all before me.”

Prince Andrey could not look unmoved upon the flags of the passing battalions. Looking at the flag, he kept thinking: perhaps it is that very flag with which I shall have to lead the men. Towards morning nothing was left of the fog on the heights but a hoar frost passing into dew, but in the valleys the fog still lay in a milky-white sea. Nothing could be seen in the valley to the left into which our troops had vanished, and from which sounds of firing were coming. Above the heights stood a clear, dark blue sky, and on the right the vast orb of the sun. In the distance in front, on the coast of that sea of mist, rose up the wooded hills, on which the enemy’s army should have been, and something could be descried there. On the right there was the tramp of hoofs and rumble of wheels, with now and then the gleam of bayonets, as the guards plunged into the region of mist; on the left, behind the village, similar masses of cavalry were moving and disappearing into the sea of fog. In front and behind were the marching infantry. The commander-in-chief was standing at the end of the village, letting the troops pass before him. Kutuzov seemed exhausted and irritable that morning. The infantry marching by him halted without any command being given, apparently because something in front blocked up the way.

“Do tell the men to form in battalion columns and go round the village,” said Kutuzov angrily to a general who rode up. “How is it you don’t understand, my dear sir, that it’s out of the question to let them file through the defile of the village street, when we are advancing to meet the enemy.”

“I had proposed forming beyond the village, your most high excellency,” replied the general.

Kutuzov laughed bitterly.

“A nice position you’ll be in, deploying your front in sight of the enemy—very nice.”

“The enemy is a long way off yet, your most high excellency. According to the disposition. …”

“The disposition!” Kutuzov cried with bitter spleen; “but who told you so? … Kindly do as you are commanded.”

“Yes, sir.”

“My dear boy,” Nesvitsky whispered to Prince Andrey, “the old fellow is in a vile temper.”

An Austrian officer wearing a white uniform and green plumes in his hat, galloped up to Kutuzov and asked him in the Emperor’s name: Had the fourth column started?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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