Chapter 31

THE GENERAL after whom Pierre galloped trotted downhill, turned off sharply to the left, and Pierre, losing sight of him, galloped into the middle of a battalion of infantry marching ahead of him. He tried to get away from them, turning to left and to right; but there were soldiers everywhere, all with the same anxious faces, preoccupied with some unseen, but evidently serious, business. They all looked with the same expression of annoyed inquiry at the stout man in the white hat, who was, for some unknown reason, trampling them under his horse’s feet.

“What does he want to ride into the middle of a battalion for?” one man shouted at him. Another gave his horse a shove with the butt-end of his gun; and Pierre, leaning over on the saddle-bow, and scarcely able to hold in his rearing horse, galloped out to where there was open space in front of the soldiers.

Ahead of him he saw a bridge, and at the bridge stood the soldiers firing. Pierre rode towards them. Though he did not know it, he rode up to the bridge over the Kolotcha, between Gorky and Borodino, which was attacked by the French in one of the first actions. Pierre saw there was a bridge in front of him, and that the soldiers were doing something in the smoke on both sides of the bridge, and in the meadow among the new-mown hay he had noticed the day before. But in spite of the unceasing fire going on there, he had no notion that this was the very centre of the battle. He did not notice the bullets whizzing on all sides, and the shells flying over him; he did not see the enemy on the other side of the river, and it was a long time before he saw the killed and wounded, though many fell close to him. He gazed about him with a smile still on his face.

“What’s that fellow doing in front of the line?” some one shouted at him again.

“To the left,” “to the right,” men shouted to him. Pierre turned to the right, and unwittingly rode up to an adjutant of General Raevsky’s, with whom he was acquainted. The adjutant glanced wrathfully at Pierre; and he, too, was apparently about to shout at him, but recognising him, he nodded.

“How did you come here?” he said, and galloped on. Pierre, feeling out of place and of no use, and afraid of getting in some one’s way again, galloped after him.

“What is it, here? Can I go with you?” he asked.

“In a minute, in a minute,” answered the adjutant, and galloping up to a stout colonel in the meadow, he gave him some message, and then addressed Pierre. “What has brought you here, count?” he said to him, with a smile. “Are you still curious?”

“Yes, yes,” said Pierre. But the adjutant, turning his horse’s head, rode on further.

“Here it’s all right,” said the adjutant; “but on the left flank, in Bagration’s division, it’s fearfully hot.”

“Really?” said Pierre. “Where’s that?”

“Why, come along with me to the mound; we can get a view from there. But it’s still bearable at our battery,” said the adjutant. “Are you coming?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll go with you,” said Pierre, looking about him, trying to see his groom. It was only then for the first time that Pierre saw wounded men, staggering along and some borne on stretchers. In the meadow with the rows of sweet-scented hay, through which he had ridden the day before, there lay motionless across the rows one soldier with his shako off, and his head thrown awkwardly back. “And why haven’t they taken that one?” Pierre was beginning, but seeing the adjutant’s set face looking in the same direction, he was silent.

Pierre did not succeed in finding his groom, and rode along the hollow with the adjutant towards Raevsky’s redoubt. His horse dropped behind the adjutant’s, and jolted him at regular intervals.

“You are not used to riding, count, I fancy?” asked the adjutant.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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