Chapter 10

ON REACHING the hut in the wood, Petya found Denisov in the porch. He was waiting for Petya’s return in great uneasiness, anxiety, and vexation with himself for having let him go.

“Thank God!” he cried. “Well, thank God!” he repeated, hearing Petya’s ecstatic account. “And, damn you, you have prevented my sleeping!” he added. “Well, thank God; now, go to bed. We can still get a nap before morning.”

“Yes … no,” said Petya. “I’m not sleepy yet. Besides, I know what I am; if once I go to sleep, it will be all up with me. And besides, it’s not my habit to sleep before a battle.”

Petya sat for a long while in the hut, joyfully recalling the details of his adventure, and vividly imagining what was coming next day. Then, noticing that Denisov had fallen asleep, he got up and went out of doors.

It was still quite dark outside. The rain was over, but the trees were still dripping. Close by the hut could be seen the black outlines of the Cossacks’ shanties and the horses tied together. Behind the hut there was a dark blur where two waggons stood with the horses near by, and in the hollow there was a red glow from the dying fire. The Cossacks and the hussars were not all asleep; there mingled with the sound of the falling drops and the munching of the horses, the sound of low voices, that seemed to be whispering.

Petya came out of the porch, looked about him in the darkness, and went up to the waggons. Some one was snoring under the waggons, and saddled horses were standing round them munching oats. In the dark Petya recognised and approached his own mare, whom he called Karabach, though she was in fact of a Little Russian breed.

“Well, Karabach, to-morrow we shall do good service,” he said, sniffing her nostrils and kissing her.

“Why, aren’t you asleep, sir?” said a Cossack, sitting under the waggon.

“No; but … Lihatchev—I believe that’s your name, eh? You know I have only just come back. We have been calling on the French.” And Petya gave the Cossack a detailed account, not only of his adventure, but also of his reasons for going, and why he thought it better to risk his life than to do things in a haphazard way.

“Well, you must be sleepy; get a little sleep,” said the Cossack.

“No, I am used to it,” answered Petya. “And how are the flints in our pistols—not worn out? I brought some with me. Don’t you want any? Do take some.”

The Cossack popped out from under the waggon to take a closer look at Petya.

“For, you see, I like to do everything carefully,” said Petya. “Some men, you know, leave things to chance, and don’t have things ready, and then they regret it. I don’t like that.”

“No, to be sure,” said the Cossack.

“Oh, and another thing, please, my dear fellow, sharpen my sabre for me; I have blunt …” (but Petya could not bring out a lie) … “it has never been sharpened. Can you do that?”

“To be sure I can.”

Lihatchev stood up, and rummaged in the baggage, and Petya stood and heard the martial sound of steel and whetstone. He clambered on to the waggon, and sat on the edge of it. The Cossack sharpened the sabre below.

“Are the other brave fellows asleep?” said Petya.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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