Chapter 30

PIERRE, on returning to Gorky from seeing Prince Andrey, gave directions to his postillion to have horses ready and to call him early next morning, and promptly fell fast asleep in the corner behind a screen which Boris had put at his disposal.

When Pierre was fully awake next morning, there was no one in the hut. The panes were rattling in the little windows. The postillion was at his side, shaking him. “Your excellency, your excellency, your excellency …” the groom kept saying persistently, shaking him by the shoulder, without even looking at him, apparently having lost all hope of ever waking him up.

“Eh, has it begun? Is it time?” said Pierre, waking up.

“Listen to the firing, your excellency,” said the postillion, an old soldier; “all the gentlemen are gone already; his highness set off long ago.”

Pierre dressed in haste, and ran out into the porch. It was a bright, fresh, dewy, cheerful morning. The sun had just broken through the cloud that had screened it, and its rays filtered through the rent clouds, and over the roofs of the street opposite on to the dew-drenched dust of the road, on to the fences and the windows of the houses, and Pierre’s horses standing by the cottage. The roar of the cannon could be heard more distinctly in the open air. An adjutant galloped down the street, followed by a Cossack.

“It’s time, count, it’s time!” cried the adjutant. Pierre gave orders that he should be followed with a horse, and walked along the street to the knoll from which he had viewed the field of battle the day before. On this knoll was a crowd of officers, and Pierre heard the French chatter of the staff, and saw Kutuzov’s grey head sunk in his shoulders, and his white cap, with red braiding on it. Kutuzov was looking through a field-glass along the high-road before him.

Mounting the steps of the approach to the mound, Pierre glanced before him, and felt a thrill of delight at the beauty of the spectacle. It was the same scene that he had admired from that mound the day before. But now the whole panorama was filled with troops and the smoke of the guns, and in the pure morning air the slanting rays of the sun, behind Pierre on the left, shed on it a brilliant light full of gold and pink tones, and broken up by long, dark shadows. The distant forests that bounded the scene lay in a crescent on the horizon, looking as though carved out of some precious yellow-green stone, and through their midst behind Valuev ran the great Smolensk road, all covered with troops. In the foreground lay golden fields and copses glittering in the sun. Everywhere, to right, to left, and in front were soldiers. The whole scene was inspiriting, impressive, and unexpected; but what struck Pierre most of all was the aspect of the field of battle itself, of Borodino, and the hollow on both sides of the Kolotcha.

About the Kolotcha, in Borodino, and both sides of it, especially to the left where the Voina runs through swampy ground into the Kolotcha, a mist still hung over the scene, melting, parting, shimmering with light in the bright sunshine, and giving fairy-like beauty to the shapes seen through it. The smoke of the guns mingled with this mist, and everywhere gleams of sunlight sparkled in it from the water, from the dew, from the bayonets of the soldiers crowding on the river banks and in Borodino. Through this mist could be seen a white church, here and there roofs of cottages in Borodino, and fitful glimpses came of compact masses of soldiers, and green ammunition-boxes and cannons. And the whole scene moved, or seemed to move, as the mist and smoke trailed over the wide plain. In this low ground about Borodino in the mist, and above it, and especially along the whole line to the left, in the copses, in the meadows below, and on the tops of the heights, clouds of smoke were incessantly springing out of nothing, now singly, now several at once, then at longer intervals, then in rapid succession. These clouds of smoke, puffing, rolling, melting into one another, and sundering apart, trailed all across the wide plain. These puffs of smoke, and the reports that followed them, were, strange to say, what gave the chief charm to the scene.

Poooff!” suddenly there flew up a round, compact ball of smoke, with shades of purple, grey, and milk- white in it, and “booom!” followed the roar of the cannon a minute later.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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