Chapter 14

THROUGH THE LANES of Hamovniky, the prisoners marched alone with their escort, a train of carts and waggons, belonging to the soldiers of the escort, following behind them. But as they came out to the provision shops they found themselves in the middle of a huge train of artillery, moving with difficulty, and mixed up with private baggage-waggons.

At the bridge itself the whole mass halted, waiting for the foremost to get across. From the bridge the prisoners got a view of endless trains of baggage-waggons in front and behind. On the right, where the Kaluga road turns by Neskutchny Gardens, endless files of troops and waggons stretched away into the distance. These were the troops of Beauharnais’s corps, which had set off before all the rest. Behind, along the riverside, and across Kamenny bridge, stretched the troops and transport of Ney’s corps.

Davoust’s troops, to which the prisoners belonged, were crossing by the Crimean Ford, and part had already entered Kaluga Street. But the baggage-trains were so long that the last waggons of Beauharnais’s corps had not yet got out of Moscow into Kaluga Street, while the vanguard of Ney’s troops had already emerged from Bolshaya Ordynka.

After crossing the Crimean Ford, the prisoners moved a few steps at a time and then halted, and again moved forward, and the crowd of vehicles and people grew greater and greater on all sides. After taking over an hour in crossing the few hundred steps which separates the bridge from Kaluga Street and getting as far as the square where the Zamoskvoryetche streets run into Kaluga Street, the prisoners were jammed in a close block and kept standing for several hours at the crossroads. On all sides there was an unceasing sound, like the roar of the sea, of rumbling wheels, and tramping troops, and incessant shouts of anger and loud abuse. Pierre stood squeezed against the wall of a charred house, listening to that sound, which in his imagination melted off into the roll of drums.

Several of the Russian officers clambered up on to the wall of the burnt house by which Pierre stood so as to get a better view.

“The crowds! What crowds!…They have even loaded goods on the cannons! Look at the furs!…” they kept saying. “I say, the vermin, they have been pillaging.…Look at what that one has got behind, on the cart.…Why, they are holy pictures, by God!…Those must be Germans. And a Russian peasant; by God!…Ah; the wretches!…See, how he’s loaded; he can hardly move! Look, I say, chaises; they have got hold of them, too!…See, he has perched on the boxes. Heavens!…They have started fighting!…That’s right; hit him in the face! We shan’t get by before evening like this. Look, look!…Why, that must surely be Napoleon himself. Do you see the horses! with the monograms and a crown! That’s a portable house. He has dropped his sack, and doesn’t see it. Fighting again.…A woman with a baby, and good-looking, too! Yes, I dare say; that’s the way they will let you pass.…Look; why, there’s no end to it. Russian wenches, I do declare they are. See how comfortable they are in the carriages!”

Again a wave of general curiosity, as at the church in Hamovniky, carried all the prisoners forward towards the road, and Pierre, thanks to his height, saw over the heads of the others what attracted the prisoners’ curiosity. Three carriages were blocked between caissons, and in them a number of women with rouged faces, decked out in flaring colours, were sitting closely packed together, shouting something in shrill voices.

From the moment when Pierre had recognised the manifestation of that mysterious force, nothing seemed to him strange or terrible; not the corpse with its face blacked for a jest, nor these women hurrying away, nor the burnt ruins of Moscow. All that Pierre saw now made hardly any impression on him—as though his soul, in preparation for a hard struggle, refused to receive any impression that might weaken it.

The carriages of women drove by. They were followed again by carts, soldiers, waggons, soldiers, carriages, soldiers, caissons, and again soldiers, and at rare intervals women.

Pierre did not see the people separately; he saw only their movement.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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