“But for me and you, mate, it’s high time to drop such delicacy,” Dolohov went on, apparently deriving peculiar gratification from talking on a subject irritating to Denisov. “Why have you kept this lad,” he said, “except because you are sorry for him? Why, we all know how much your receipts are worth. You send off a hundred men and thirty reach the town. They die of hunger or are killed on the way. So isn’t it just as well to make short work of them?”

The esaul, screwing up his light-coloured eyes, nodded his head approvingly.

“That’s not my affair, no need to discuss it. I don’t care to have their lives on my conscience. You say they die. Well, let them. Only not through my doing.”

Dolohov laughed.

“Who prevented their taking me twenty times over? But you know if they do catch me—and you too with your chivalrous sentiments—it will just be the same—the nearest aspen-tree.” He paused. “We must be getting to work, though. Send my Cossack here with the pack. I have two French uniforms. Well, are you coming with me?” he asked Petya.

“I? Yes, yes, of course,” cried Petya, blushing till the tears came into his eyes, and glancing at Denisov.

While Dolohov had been arguing with Denisov what should be done with prisoners, Petya had again had that feeling of discomfort and nervous hurry; but again he had not time to get a clear idea of what they were talking about. “If that’s what is thought by grown-up men, famous leaders, then it must be so, it must be all right,” he thought. “And the great thing is, that Denisov shouldn’t dare to imagine that I must obey him, that he can order me about. I shall certainly go with Dolohov into the French camp. He can go, and so can I!”

To all Denisov’s efforts to dissuade him from going, Petya replied that he too liked doing things properly and not in haphazard fashion, and that he never thought about danger to himself.

“For, you must admit, if we don’t know exactly how many men there are there, it might cost the life of hundreds, and it is only we two, and so I very much wish it, and I shall certainly, most certainly go, and don’t try to prevent me,” he said; “it won’t be any use …”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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