Count Osterman-Tolstoy met the hussars on their return, summoned Rostov, thanked him and told him he would report his gallant action to the Tsar and would recommend him for the cross of St. George. When Rostov was called up to Count Osterman, bethinking himself that he had received no command to charge, he had no doubt that his commanding officer sent for him to reprimand him for his breach of discipline. Osterman’s flattering words and promise of a reward should, therefore, have been a pleasant surprise to Rostov; but he still suffered from that unpleasant vague feeling of moral nausea. “Why, what on earth is it that’s worrying me?” he wondered, as he rode away from the general. “Ilyin? No, he’s all right. Did I do anything disgraceful? No, that’s not it either!” Something else fretted him like a remorse. “Yes, yes, that officer with the dimple. And I remember clearly how my hand paused when I had lifted it.”

Rostov saw the prisoners being led away, and galloped after them to look at his Frenchman with the dimple in his chin. He was sitting in his strange uniform on one of the spare horses, looking uneasily about him. The sword-cut in his arm could hardly be called a wound. He looked at Rostov with a constrained smile, and waved his hand by way of a greeting. Rostov still felt the same discomfort and vague remorse.

All that day and the next Rostov’s friends and comrades noticed that, without being exactly depressed or irritable, he was silent, dreamy, and preoccupied. He did not care to drink, tried to be alone, and seemed absorbed in thought. Rostov was still pondering on his brilliant exploit, which, to his amazement, had won him the St. George’s Cross and made his reputation indeed for fearless gallantry. There was something he could not fathom in it. “So they are even more frightened than we are,” he thought. “Why, is this all that’s meant by heroism? And did I do it for the sake of my country? And was he to blame with his dimple and his blue eyes? How frightened he was! He thought I was going to kill him. Why should I kill him? My hand trembled. And they have given me the St. George’s Cross. I can’t make it out, I can’t make it out!”

But while Nikolay was worrying over these questions in his heart and unable to find any clear solution of the doubts that troubled him, the wheel of fortune was turning in his favour, as so often happens in the service. He was brought forward after the affair at Ostrovna, received the command of a battalion of hussars, and when an officer of dauntless courage was wanted he was picked out.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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