they had fallen further back, and then further again, till they reached Drissa; and from Drissa they retreated again, till they were getting near the frontiers of Russia proper.

On the 13th of July the Pavlograd hussars took part in their first serious action.

On the previous evening there had been a violent storm of rain and hail. The summer of 1812 was remarkably stormy throughout.

The two Pavlograd squadrons were bivouacking in the middle of a field of rye, which was already in ear, but had been completely trodden down by the cattle and horses. The rain was falling in torrents, and Rostov was sitting with a young officer, Ilyin, a protégé of his, under a shanty, that had been hastily rigged up for them. An officer of their regiment, adorned with long moustaches, that hung down from his cheeks, was caught in the rain on his way back from visiting the staff, and he went into Rostov’s shanty for shelter.

“I’m on my way from the staff, count. Have you heard of Raevsky’s exploit?” And the officer proceeded to relate to them details of the Saltanov battle that had been told him at the staff.

Rostov smoked his pipe, and wriggled his neck, down which the water was trickling. He listened with little interest, looking from time to time at the young officer Ilyin, who was squatting beside him. Ilyin, a lad of sixteen, who had lately joined the regiment, took now with Nikolay the place Nikolay had taken seven years before with Denisov. Ilyin tried to imitate Rostov in everything and adored him, as a girl might have done.

The officer with the double moustaches, Zdrzhinsky, in a very high-flown manner, described the dike at Saltanov as the Russian Thermopylae, and the heroic deed of General Raevsky on that dike as worthy of antiquity. Zdrzhinsky told then how Raevsky had thrust his two sons forward on the dike under a terrific fire, and had charged at their side. Rostov listened to the tale, and said nothing betokening sympathy with Zdrzhinsky’s enthusiasm. He looked, indeed, as though ashamed of what he was told, but not intending to gainsay it. After Austerlitz and the campaign of 1807, Rostov knew from his own experience that men always lie when they describe deeds of battle, as he did himself indeed. He had had too sufficient experience to know that everything in battle happens utterly differently from our imagination and description of it. And so he did not like Zdrzhinsky’s story, and did not, indeed, like Zdrzhinsky himself, who had, besides his unprepossessing moustaches, a habit of bending right over into the face of the person he was speaking to. He was in their way in the cramped little shanty. Rostov looked at him without speaking. “In the first place, on the dike they were charging there must have been such a crowd and confusion that, if Raevsky really thrust his sons forward, it would have had no effect except on the dozen men closest to him,” thought Rostov; “the rest could not have even seen who were with Raevsky on the dike. And those who did see it were not likely to be greatly affected by it, for what thought had they to spare for Raevsky’s tender, parental feelings, when they had their own skins to think of saving? And besides the fate of the country did not depend on whether that dike was taken or not, as we are told the fate of Greece did depend on Thermopylae. And then what was the object of such a sacrifice? Why do your own children a mischief in war? I wouldn’t put Petya, my brother, in a place of danger; no, even Ilyin here, who’s nothing to me but a good-natured lad, I would do my best to keep safe and sheltered,” Rostov mused, as he listened to Zdrzhinsky. But he did not give utterance to his thoughts, he had experience of that too. He knew that this tale redounded to the glory of our arms, and therefore one must appear not to doubt its truth: and he acted accordingly.

“I can’t stand this, though,” said Ilyin, noticing that Rostov did not care for Zdrzhinsky’s story; “stockings and shirt, and all—I’m wet through. I’m going to look for shelter. I fancy the rain’s not so heavy.” Ilyin ran out and Zdrzhinsky rode away.

Five minutes later Ilyin came splashing through the mud to the shanty.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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