“Is that you, Clément?” said he. “Where the devil …” but becoming aware of his mistake, he did not finish, and with a slight frown greeted Dolohov as a stranger, and asked him what he could do for him. Dolohov told him that he and his comrade were trying to catch up with their regiment, and asked, addressing the company in general, whether the officers knew anything about the Sixth Regiment. No one could tell them anything about it; and Petya fancied the officers began to look at him and Dolohov with unfriendly and suspicious eyes.

For several seconds no one spoke.

“If you’re reckoning on some soup, you have come too late,” said a voice from behind the fire, with a smothered laugh.

Dolohov answered that they had had supper, and wanted to push on further that night.

He gave their horses to the soldier who was stirring the pot, and squatted down on his heels beside the officer with the long neck. The latter never took his eyes off Dolohov, and asked him again what regiment did he belong to.

Dolohov appeared not to hear the question. Making no answer, he lighted a short French pipe that he took from his pocket, and asked the officers whether the road ahead of them were safe from Cossacks.

“The brigands are everywhere,” answered an officer from behind the fire.

Dolohov said that the Cossacks were only a danger for stragglers like himself and his comrade; “he supposed they would not dare to attack large detachments,” he added inquiringly.

No one replied.

“Well, now he will come away,” Petya was thinking every moment, as he stood by the fire listening to the talk.

But Dolohov took up the conversation that had dropped, and proceeded to ask them point-blank how many men there were in their battalion, how many battalions they had, and how many prisoners.

When he asked about the Russian prisoners, Dolohov added:

“Nasty business dragging those corpses about with one. It would be better to shoot the vermin,” and he broke into such a strange, loud laugh, that Petya fancied the French must see through their disguise at once, and he involuntarily stepped back from the fire.

Dolohov’s words and laughter elicited no response, and a French officer whom they had not seen (he lay rolled up in a coat), sat up and whispered something to his companion. Dolohov stood up and called to the men, who held their horses.

“Will they give us the horses or not?” Petya wondered, unconsciously coming closer to Dolohov.

They did give them the horses. “Bonsoir, messieurs,” said Dolohov.

Petya tried to say “Bonsoir,” but he could not utter a sound. The officers were whispering together. Dolohov was a long while mounting his horse, who would not stand still; then he rode out of the gate at a walking pace. Petya rode beside him, not daring to look round, though he was longing to see whether the French were running after him or not.

When they came out on to the road, Dolohov did not turn back towards the open country, but rode further along it into the village.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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