Chapter 21

PIERRE got out of his carriage, and passing by the toiling peasants, clambered up the knoll from which the doctor had told him he could get a view of the field of battle.

It was eleven o’clock in the morning. The sun was a little on the left, and behind Pierre, and in the pure, clear air, the huge panorama that stretched in an amphitheatre before him from the rising ground lay bathed in brilliant sunshine.

The Smolensk high-road ran winding through that amphitheatre, intersecting it towards the left at the top, and passing through a village with a white church, which lay some five hundred paces before and below the knoll. This was Borodino. The road passed below the village, crossed a bridge, and ran winding uphill and downhill, mounting up and up to the hamlet of Valuev, visible six versts away, where Napoleon now was. Behind Valuev the road disappeared into a copse turning yellow on the horizon. In this copse of birch- and pine-trees, on the right of the road, could be seen far away the shining cross and belfry of the Kolotsky monastery. Here and there in the blue distance, to right and to left of the copse and the road, could be seen smoking camp-fires and indistinct masses of our troops and the enemy’s. On the right, along the course of the rivers Kolotcha and Moskva, the country was broken and hilly. Through the gaps between the hills could be seen the villages of Bezzubovo and Zaharino. On the left the ground was more level; there were fields of corn and a smoking village that had been set on fire—Semyonovskoye.

Everything Pierre saw was so indefinite, that in no part of the scene before him could he find anything fully corresponding to his preconceptions. There was nowhere a field of battle such as he had expected to see, nothing but fields, dells, troops, woods, camp-fires, villages, mounds, and streams. With all Pierre’s efforts, he could not discover in the living landscape a military position. He could not even distinguish between our troops and the enemy’s.

“I must ask some one who understands it,” he thought, and he addressed the officer, who was looking with curiosity at his huge, unmilitary figure.

“Allow me to ask,” Pierre said, “what village is that before us?”

“Burdino, isn’t it called?” said the officer, turning inquiringly to his comrade.

“Borodino,” the other corrected.

The officer, obviously pleased at an opportunity for conversation, went nearer to Pierre.

“Are these our men there?” asked Pierre.

“Yes, and away further, those are the French,” said the officer. “There they are, there you can see them.”

“Where? where?” asked Pierre.

“One can see them with the naked eye. Look!” The officer pointed to smoke rising on the left beyond the river, and the same stern and grave expression came into his face that Pierre had noticed in many of the faces he had met.

“Ah, that’s the French! And there? …” Pierre pointed to a knoll on the left about which troops could be seen.

“Those are our men.”

“Oh, indeed! And there? …” Pierre pointed to another mound in the distance, with a big tree on it, near a village that could be seen in a gap between the hills, where there was a dark patch and the smoke of campfires.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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