Chapter 8

DENISOV gave orders for the drummer-boy to be given some vodka and mutton, and to be put into a Russian dress, so that he should not be sent off with the other prisoners, but should stay with his band. Petya’s attention was diverted from the boy by the arrival of Dolohov. He had heard a great many stories told in the army of Dolohov’s extraordinary gallantry and of his cruelty to the French. And therefore from the moment Dolohov entered the hut Petya could not take his eyes off him, and flinging up his head, he assumed a more and more swagging air, that he might not be unworthy of associating even with a hero like Dolohov.

Dolohov’s appearance struck Petya as strange through its simplicity.

Denisov was dressed in a Cossack coat; he had let his beard grow, and had a holy image of Nikolay, the wonder-worker, on his breast. His whole manner of speaking and all his gestures were suggestive of his peculiar position. Dolohov, on the contrary, though in old days he had worn a Persian dress in Moscow, looked now like the most correct officer of the Guards. He was clean-shaven; he wore the wadded coat of the Guards with a St. George medal on a ribbon, and a plain forage cap, put on straight on his head. He took his wet cloak off in the corner and, without greeting any one, went straight up to Denisov and began at once asking questions about the matter in hand. Denisov told him of the designs the larger detachment had upon the French convoy, of the message Petya had brought, and the answer he had given to both generals. Then he told him all he knew of the position of the French.

“That’s so. But we must find out what troops they are, and what are their numbers,” said Dolohov; “we must go and have a look at them. We can’t rush into the thing without knowing for certain how many there are of them. I like to do things properly. Come, won’t one of you gentlemen like to come with me to pay them a call in their camp? I have an extra uniform with me.”

“I, I … I’ll come with you!” cried Petya.

“There’s not the slightest need for you to go,” said Denisov, addressing Dolohov; “and as for him I wouldn’t let him go on any account.”

“That’s good!” cried Petya; “why shouldn’t I go? …”

“Why, because there’s no reason to.”

“Oh, well, excuse me … because … because … I’m going, and that’s all. You will take me?” he cried, turning to Dolohov.

“Why not? …” Dolohov answered, absently, staring into the face of the French drummer-boy.

“Have you had that youngster long?” he asked Denisov.

“We caught him to-day, but he knows nothing; I have kept him with us.”

“Oh, and what do you do with the rest?” said Dolohov.

“What do I do with them? I take a receipt for them, and send them off!” cried Denisov, suddenly flushing. “And I make bold to say that I haven’t a single man’s life on my conscience. Is there any difficulty in your sending thirty, or three hundred men, under escort, to the town rather than stain—I say so bluntly—one’s honour as a soldier?”

“It’s all very well for this little count here at sixteen to talk of such refinements,” Dolohov said, with a cold sneer; “but it’s high time for you to drop all that.”

“Why, I am not saying anything, I only say that I am certainly going with you,” said Petya shyly.

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