“Don’t you need a coffee-pot?” he said to the esaul; “I bought a famous one from our canteen-keeper! He has first-rate things. And he’s very honest. That’s the great thing. I’ll be sure and send it you. Or perhaps your flints are worn out; that does happen sometimes. I brought some with me, I have got them here …” he pointed to the panniers. “A hundred flints. I bought them very cheap. You must please take as many as you want or all, indeed …” And suddenly, dismayed at the thought that he had let his tongue run away with him, Petya stopped short and blushed.

He began trying to think whether he had been guilty of any other blunders. And running through his recollections of the day the image of the French drummer-boy rose before his mind.

“We are enjoying ourselves, but how is he feeling? What have they done with him? Have they given him something to eat? Have they been nasty to him?” he wondered.

But thinking he had said too much about the flints, he was afraid to speak now.

“Could I ask about him?” he wondered. “They’ll say: he’s a boy himself, so he feels for the boy. I’ll let them see to-morrow whether I’m a boy! Shall I feel ashamed if I ask?” Petya wondered. “Oh, well! I don’t care,” and he said at once, blushing and watching the officers’ faces in dread of detecting amusement in them:

“Might I call that boy who was taken prisoner, and give him something to eat … perhaps …”

“Yes, poor little fellow,” said Denisov, who clearly saw nothing to be ashamed of in this reminder. “Fetch him in here. His name is Vincent Bosse. Fetch him in.”

“I’ll call him,” said Petya.

“Yes, do. Poor little fellow,” repeated Denisov.

Petya was standing at the door as Denisov said this. He slipped in between the officers and went up to Denisov.

“Let me kiss you, dear old fellow,” he said. “Ah, how jolly it is! how splendid!” And, kissing Denisov, he ran out into the yard.

“Bosse! Vincent!” Petya cried, standing by the door.

“Whom do you want, sir?” said a voice out of the darkness. Petya answered that he wanted the French boy, who had been taken prisoner that day.

“Ah! Vesenny?” said the Cossack.

His name Vincent had already been transformed by the Cossacks into Vesenny, and by the peasants and the soldiers into Visenya. In both names there was a suggestion of the spring—vesna—which seemed to them to harmonise with the figure of the young boy.

“He’s warming himself there at the fire. Ay, Visenya! Visenya!” voices called from one to another with laughter in the darkness. “He is a sharp boy,” said an hussar standing near Petya. “We gave him a meal not long ago. He was hungry, terribly.”

There was a sound of footsteps in the darkness, and the drummer-boy came splashing through the mud with his bare feet towards the door.

“Ah, that’s you!” said Petya. “Are you hungry? Don’t be afraid, they won’t hurt you,” he added, shyly and cordially touching his hand. “Come in, come in.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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