Chapter 9

PETYA AND DOLOHOV, after dressing up in French uniforms and shakoes, rode to the clearing from which Denisov had looked at the French camp, and coming out of the wood, descended into the hollow in the pitch darkness. When they had ridden downhill, Dolohov bade the Cossacks accompanying him to wait there, and set off at a smart trot along the road towards the bridge. Petya, faint with excitement, trotted along beside him.

“If we are caught, I won’t be taken alive. I have a pistol,” whispered Petya.

“Don’t speak Russian,” said Dolohov, in a rapid whisper, and at that moment they heard in the dark the challenge: “Who goes there?” and the click of a gun.

The blood rushed into Petya’s face, and he clutched at his pistol.

“Uhlans of the Sixth Regiment,” said Dolohov, neither hastening nor slackening his horse’s pace.

The black figure of a sentinel stood on the bridge.

“The password?”

Dolohov reined in his horse, and advanced at a walking pace.

“Tell me, is Colonel Gerard here?” he said.

“Password?” repeated the sentinel, making no reply and barring their way.

“When an officer makes his round, sentinels don’t ask him for the password …” cried Dolohov, suddenly losing his temper and riding straight at the sentinel. “I ask you, is the colonel here?”

And not waiting for an answer from the sentinel, who moved aside, Dolohov rode at a walking pace uphill.

Noticing the black outline of a man crossing the road, Dolohov stopped the man, and asked where the colonel and officers were. The man, a soldier with a sack over his shoulder, stopped, came close up to Dolohov’s horse, stroking it with his hand, and told them in a simple and friendly way that the colonel and the officers were higher up the hill, on the right, in the courtyard of the farm, as he called the little manor-house.

After going further along the road, from both sides of which they heard French talk round the camp-fires, Dolohov turned into the yard of the manor-house. On reaching the gate, he dismounted and walked towards a big, blazing fire, round which several men were sitting, engaged in loud conversation. There was something boiling in a cauldron on one side, and a soldier in a peaked cap and blue coat, kneeling in the bright glow of the fire, was stirring it with his ramrod.

“He’s a tough customer,” said one of the officers, sitting in the shadow on the opposite side of the fire.

“He’ll make them run, the rabbits” (a French proverb), said the other, with a laugh.

Both paused, and peered into the darkness at the sound of the steps of Petya and Dolohov approaching with their horses.

Bonjour, messieurs!” Dolohov called loudly and distinctly.

There was a stir among the officers in the shadow, and a tall officer with a long neck came round the fire and went up to Dolohov.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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