Book 02, Chapter 21
Book 02, Chapter 21
The wind had fallen and black clouds, merging with the powder smoke, hung low over the field of battle on the horizon. It was growing dark and the glow of two conflagrations was the more conspicuous. The cannonade was dying down, but the rattle of musketry behind and on the right sounded oftener and nearer. As soon as Túshin with his guns, continually driving round or coming upon wounded men, was out of range of fire and had descended into the dip, he was met by some of the staff, among them the staff officer and Zherkóv, who had been twice sent to Túshin’s battery but had never reached it. Interrupting one another, they all gave, and transmitted, orders as to how to proceed, reprimanding and reproaching him. Túshin gave no orders, and, silently—fearing to speak because at every word he felt ready to weep without knowing why—rode behind on his artillery nag. Though the orders were to abandon the wounded, many of them dragged themselves after troops and begged for seats on the gun carriages. The jaunty infantry officer who just before the battle had rushed out of Túshin’s wattle shed was laid, with a bullet in his stomach, on “Matvévna’s” carriage. At the foot of the hill, a pale hussar cadet, supporting one hand with the other, came up to Túshin and asked for a seat.
“Captain, for God’s sake! I’ve hurt my arm,” he said timidly. “For God’s sake... I can’t walk. For God’s sake!”
It was plain that this cadet had already repeatedly asked for a lift and been refused. He asked in a hesitating, piteous voice.
“Tell them to give me a seat, for God’s sake!”
“Give him a seat,” said Túshin. “Lay a cloak for him to sit on, lad,” he said, addressing his favorite soldier. “And where is the wounded officer?”
“He has been set down. He died,” replied someone.
“Help him up. Sit down, dear fellow, sit down! Spread out the cloak, Antónov.”
The cadet was Rostóv. With one hand he supported the other; he was pale and his jaw trembled, shivering feverishly. He was placed on “Matvévna,” the gun from which they had removed the dead officer. The cloak they spread under him was wet with blood which stained his breeches and arm.
“What, are you wounded, my lad?” said Túshin, approaching the gun on which Rostóv sat.
“No, it’s a sprain.”
“Then what is this blood on the gun carriage?” inquired Túshin.
“It was the officer, your honor, stained it,” answered the artilleryman, wiping away the blood with his coat sleeve, as if apologizing for the state of his gun.
It was all that they could do to get the guns up the rise aided by the infantry, and having reached the village of Gruntersdorf they halted. It had grown so dark that one could not distinguish the uniforms ten paces off, and the firing had begun to subside. Suddenly, near by on the right, shouting and firing were again heard. Flashes of shot gleamed in the darkness. This was the last French attack and was met by soldiers who had sheltered in the village houses. They all rushed out of the village again, but Túshin’s guns could not move, and the artillerymen, Túshin, and the cadet exchanged silent glances as they awaited their fate. The firing died down and soldiers, talking eagerly, streamed out of a side street.
“Not hurt, Petróv?” asked one.
“We’ve given it ‘em hot, mate! They won’t make another push now,” said another.
“You couldn’t see a thing. How they shot at their own fellows! Nothing could be seen. Pitch-dark, brother! Isn’t there something to drink?”
The French had been repulsed for the last time. And again and again in the complete darkness Túshin’s guns moved forward, surrounded by the humming infantry as by a frame.
In the darkness, it seemed as though a gloomy unseen river was flowing always in one direction, humming with whispers and talk and the sound of hoofs and wheels. Amid the general rumble, the groans and voices of the wounded were more distinctly heard than any other sound in the darkness of the night. The gloom that enveloped the army was filled with their groans, which seemed to melt into one with the darkness of the night. After a while the moving mass became agitated, someone rode past on a white horse followed by his suite, and said something in passing: “What did he say? Where to, now? Halt, is it? Did he thank us?” came eager questions from all sides. The whole moving mass began pressing closer together and a report spread that they were ordered to halt: evidently those in front had halted. All remained where they were in the middle of the muddy road.
Fires were lighted and the talk became more audible. Captain Túshin, having given orders to his company, sent a soldier to find a dressing station or a doctor for the cadet, and sat down by a bonfire the soldiers had kindled on the road. Rostóv, too, dragged himself to the fire. From pain, cold, and damp, a feverish shivering shook his whole body. Drowsiness was irresistibly mastering him, but he kept awake by an excruciating pain in his arm, for which he could find no satisfactory position. He kept closing his eyes and then again looking at the fire, which seemed to him dazzlingly red, and at the feeble, round-shouldered figure of Túshin who was sitting cross-legged like a Turk beside him. Túshin’s large, kind, intelligent eyes were fixed with sympathy and commiseration on Rostóv, who saw that Túshin with his whole heart wished to help him but could not.
From all sides were heard the footsteps and talk of the infantry, who were walking, driving past, and settling down all around. The sound of voices, the tramping feet, the horses’ hoofs moving in mud, the crackling of wood fires near and afar, merged into one tremulous rumble.
It was no longer, as before, a dark, unseen river flowing through the gloom, but a dark sea swelling and gradually subsiding after a storm. Rostóv looked at and listened listlessly to what passed before and around him. An infantryman came to the fire, squatted on his heels, held his hands to the blaze, and turned away his face.
“You don’t mind your honor?” he asked Túshin. “I’ve lost my company, your honor. I don’t know where... such bad luck!”
With the soldier, an infantry officer with a bandaged cheek came up to the bonfire, and addressing Túshin asked him to have the guns moved a trifle to let a wagon go past. After he had gone, two soldiers rushed to the campfire. They were quarreling and fighting desperately, each trying to snatch from the other a boot they were both holding on to.
“You picked it up?... I dare say! You’re very smart!” one of them shouted hoarsely.
Then a thin, pale soldier, his neck bandaged with a bloodstained leg band, came up and in angry tones asked the artillerymen for water.
“Must one die like a dog?” said he.
Túshin told them to give the man some water. Then a cheerful soldier ran up, begging a little fire for the infantry.
“A nice little hot torch for the infantry! Good luck to you, fellow countrymen. Thanks for the fire—we’ll return it with interest,” said he, carrying away into the darkness a glowing stick.
Next came four soldiers, carrying something heavy on a cloak, and passed by the fire. One of them stumbled.
“Who the devil has put the logs on the road?” snarled he.
“He’s dead—why carry him?” said another.
And they disappeared into the darkness with their load.
“Still aching?” Túshin asked Rostóv in a whisper.
“Your honor, you’re wanted by the general. He is in the hut here,” said a gunner, coming up to Túshin.
Túshin rose and, buttoning his greatcoat and pulling it straight, walked away from the fire.
Not far from the artillery campfire, in a hut that had been prepared for him, Prince Bagratión sat at dinner, talking with some commanding officers who had gathered at his quarters. The little old man with the half-closed eyes was there greedily gnawing a mutton bone, and the general who had served blamelessly for twenty-two years, flushed by a glass of vodka and the dinner; and the staff officer with the signet ring, and Zherkóv, uneasily glancing at them all, and Prince Andrew, pale, with compressed lips and feverishly glittering eyes.
In a corner of the hut stood a standard captured from the French, and the accountant with the naïve face was feeling its texture, shaking his head in perplexity—perhaps because the banner really interested him, perhaps because it was hard for him, hungry as he was, to look on at a dinner where there was no place for him. In the next hut there was a French colonel who had been taken prisoner by our dragoons. Our officers were flocking in to look at him. Prince Bagratión was thanking the individual commanders and inquiring into details of the action and our losses. The general whose regiment had been inspected at Braunau was informing the prince that as soon as the action began he had withdrawn from the wood, mustered the men who were woodcutting, and, allowing the French to pass him, had made a bayonet charge with two battalions and had broken up the French troops.
“When I saw, your excellency, that their first battalion was disorganized, I stopped in the road and thought: ‘I’ll let them come on and will meet them with the fire of the whole battalion’—and that’s what I did.”
The general had so wished to do this and was so sorry he had not managed to do it that it seemed to him as if it had really happened. Perhaps it might really have been so? Could one possibly make out amid all that confusion what did or did not happen?
“By the way, your excellency, I should inform you,” he continued—remembering Dólokhov’s conversation with Kutúzov and his last interview with the gentleman-ranker—“that Private Dólokhov, who was reduced to the ranks, took a French officer prisoner in my presence and particularly distinguished himself.”
“I saw the Pávlograd hussars attack there, your excellency,” chimed in Zherkóv, looking uneasily around. He had not seen the hussars all that day, but had heard about them from an infantry officer. “They broke up two squares, your excellency.”
Several of those present smiled at Zherkóv’s words, expecting one of his usual jokes, but noticing that what he was saying redounded to the glory of our arms and of the day’s work, they assumed a serious expression, though many of them knew that what he was saying was a lie devoid of any foundation. Prince Bagratión turned to the old colonel:
“Gentlemen, I thank you all; all arms have behaved heroically: infantry, cavalry, and artillery. How was it that two guns were abandoned in the center?” he inquired, searching with his eyes for someone. (Prince Bagratión did not ask about the guns on the left flank; he knew that all the guns there had been abandoned at the very beginning of the action.) “I think I sent you?” he added, turning to the staff officer on duty.
“One was damaged,” answered the staff officer, “and the other I can’t understand. I was there all the time giving orders and had only just left.... It is true that it was hot there,” he added, modestly.
Someone mentioned that Captain Túshin was bivouacking close to the village and had already been sent for.
“Oh, but you were there?” said Prince Bagratión, addressing Prince Andrew.
“Of course, we only just missed one another,” said the staff officer, with a smile to Bolkónski.
“I had not the pleasure of seeing you,” said Prince Andrew, coldly and abruptly.
All were silent. Túshin appeared at the threshold and made his way timidly from behind the backs of the generals. As he stepped past the generals in the crowded hut, feeling embarrassed as he always was by the sight of his superiors, he did not notice the staff of the banner and stumbled over it. Several of those present laughed.
“How was it a gun was abandoned?” asked Bagratión, frowning, not so much at the captain as at those who were laughing, among whom Zherkóv laughed loudest.
Only now, when he was confronted by the stern authorities, did his guilt and the disgrace of having lost two guns and yet remaining alive present themselves to Túshin in all their horror. He had been so excited that he had not thought about it until that moment. The officers’ laughter confused him still more. He stood before Bagratión with his lower jaw trembling and was hardly able to mutter: “I don’t know... your excellency... I had no men... your excellency.”
“You might have taken some from the covering troops.”
Túshin did not say that there were no covering troops, though that was perfectly true. He was afraid of getting some other officer into trouble, and silently fixed his eyes on Bagratión as a schoolboy who has blundered looks at an examiner.
The silence lasted some time. Prince Bagratión, apparently not wishing to be severe, found nothing to say; the others did not venture to intervene. Prince Andrew looked at Túshin from under his brows and his fingers twitched nervously.
“Your excellency!” Prince Andrew broke the silence with his abrupt voice, “you were pleased to send me to Captain Túshin’s battery. I went there and found two thirds of the men and horses knocked out, two guns smashed, and no supports at all.”
Prince Bagratión and Túshin looked with equal intentness at Bolkónski, who spoke with suppressed agitation.
“And, if your excellency will allow me to express my opinion,” he continued, “we owe today’s success chiefly to the action of that battery and the heroic endurance of Captain Túshin and his company,” and without awaiting a reply, Prince Andrew rose and left the table.
Prince Bagratión looked at Túshin, evidently reluctant to show distrust in Bolkónski’s emphatic opinion yet not feeling able fully to credit it, bent his head, and told Túshin that he could go. Prince Andrew went out with him.
“Thank you; you saved me, my dear fellow!” said Túshin.
Prince Andrew gave him a look, but said nothing and went away. He felt sad and depressed. It was all so strange, so unlike what he had hoped.
“Who are they? Why are they here? What do they want? And when will all this end?” thought Rostóv, looking at the changing shadows before him. The pain in his arm became more and more intense. Irresistible drowsiness overpowered him, red rings danced before his eyes, and the impression of those voices and faces and a sense of loneliness merged with the physical pain. It was they, these soldiers—wounded and unwounded—it was they who were crushing, weighing down, and twisting the sinews and scorching the flesh of his sprained arm and shoulder. To rid himself of them he closed his eyes.
For a moment he dozed, but in that short interval innumerable things appeared to him in a dream: his mother and her large white hand, Sónya’s thin little shoulders, Natásha’s eyes and laughter, Denísov with his voice and mustache, and Telyánin and all that affair with Telyánin and Bogdánich. That affair was the same thing as this soldier with the harsh voice, and it was that affair and this soldier that were so agonizingly, incessantly pulling and pressing his arm and always dragging it in one direction. He tried to get away from them, but they would not for an instant let his shoulder move a hair’s breadth. It would not ache—it would be well—if only they did not pull it, but it was impossible to get rid of them.
He opened his eyes and looked up. The black canopy of night hung less than a yard above the glow of the charcoal. Flakes of falling snow were fluttering in that light. Túshin had not returned, the doctor had not come. He was alone now, except for a soldier who was sitting naked at the other side of the fire, warming his thin yellow body.
“Nobody wants me!” thought Rostóv. “There is no one to help me or pity me. Yet I was once at home, strong, happy, and loved.” He sighed and, doing so, groaned involuntarily.
“Eh, is anything hurting you?” asked the soldier, shaking his shirt out over the fire, and not waiting for an answer he gave a grunt and added: “What a lot of men have been crippled today—frightful!”
Rostóv did not listen to the soldier. He looked at the snowflakes fluttering above the fire and remembered a Russian winter at his warm, bright home, his fluffy fur coat, his quickly gliding sleigh, his healthy body, and all the affection and care of his family. “And why did I come here?” he wondered.
Next day the French army did not renew their attack, and the remnant of Bagratión’s detachment was reunited to Kutúzov’s army.
From : Gutenberg.org
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