On August 25, the eve of the battle of Borodino, M. de Beausset, prefect of the French Emperor's palace, arrived at Napoleon's quarters at Valuevo with Colonel Fabvier, the former from Paris and the latter from Madrid.
Donning his court uniform, M. de Beausset ordered a box he had brought for the Emperor to be carried before him and entered the first compartment of Napoleon's tent, where he began opening the box while conversing with Napoleon's aides-de-camp who surrounded him.
Fabvier, not entering the tent, remained at the entrance talking to some generals of his acquaintance.
The Emperor Napoleon had not yet left his bedroom and was finishing his toilet. Slightly snorting and grunting, he presented now his back and now his plump hairy chest to the brush with which his valet was rubbing him down. Another valet, with his finger over the mouth of a bottle, was sprinkling Eau de Cologne on the Emperor's pampered body with an expression which seemed to say that he alone knew where and how much Eau de Cologne should be sprinkled. Napoleon's short hair was wet and matted on the forehead, but his face, though puffy and yellow, expressed physical satisfaction. "Go on, harder, go on!" he muttered to the valet who was rubbing him, slightly twitching and grunting. An aide-de-camp, who had entered the bedroom to report to the Emperor the number of prisoners taken in yesterday's action, was standing by the door after delivering his message, awaiting permission to withdraw. Napoleon, frowning, looked at him from under his brows.
"No prisoners!" said he, repeating the aide-de-camp's words. "They are forcing us to exterminate them. So much the worse for the Russian army.... Go on... harder, harder!" he muttered, hunching his back and presenting his fat shoulders.
"All right. Let Monsieur de Beausset enter, and Fabvier too," he said, nodding to the aide-de-camp.
"Yes, sire," and the aide-de-camp disappeared through the door of the tent.
Two valets rapidly dressed His Majesty, and wearing the blue uniform of the Guards he went with firm quick steps to the reception room.
De Beausset's hands meanwhile were busily engaged arranging the present he had brought from the Empress, on two chairs directly in front of the entrance. But Napoleon had dressed and come out with such unexpected rapidity that he had not time to finish arranging the surprise.
Napoleon noticed at once what they were about and guessed that they were not ready. He did not wish to deprive them of the pleasure of giving him a surprise, so he pretended not to see de Beausset and called Fabvier to him, listening silently and with a stern frown to what Fabvier told him of the heroism and devotion of his troops fighting at Salamanca, at the other end of Europe, with but one thought--to be worthy of their Emperor--and but one fear--to fail to please him. The result of that battle had been deplorable. Napoleon made ironic remarks during Fabvier's account, as if he had not expected that matters could go otherwise in his absence.
"I must make up for that in Moscow," said Napoleon. "I'll see you later," he added, and summoned de Beausset, who by that time had prepared the surprise, having placed something on the chairs and covered it with a cloth.
De Beausset bowed low, with that courtly French bow which only the old retainers of the Bourbons knew how to make, and approached him, presenting an envelope.
Napoleon turned to him gaily and pulled his ear.
"You have hurried here. I am very glad. Well, what is Paris saying?" he asked, suddenly changing his former stern expression for a most cordial tone.
"Sire, all Paris regrets your absence," replied de Beausset as was proper.
But though Napoleon knew that de Beausset had to say something of this kind, and though in his lucid moments he knew it was untrue, he was pleased to hear it from him. Again he honored him by touching his ear.
"I am very sorry to have made you travel so far," said he.
"Sire, I expected nothing less than to find you at the gates of Moscow," replied de Beausset.
Napoleon smiled and, lifting his head absentmindedly, glanced to the right. An aide-de-camp approached with gliding steps and offered him a gold snuffbox, which he took.
"Yes, it has happened luckily for you," he said, raising the open snuffbox to his nose. "You are fond of travel, and in three days you will see Moscow. You surely did not expect to see that Asiatic capital. You will have a pleasant journey."
De Beausset bowed gratefully at this regard for his taste for travel (of which he had not till then been aware).
"Ha, what's this?" asked Napoleon, noticing that all the courtiers were looking at something concealed under a cloth.
With courtly adroitness de Beausset half turned and without turning his back to the Emperor retired two steps, twitching off the cloth at the same time, and said:
"A present to Your Majesty from the Empress."
It was a portrait, painted in bright colors by Gerard, of the son borne to Napoleon by the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, the boy whom for some reason everyone called "The King of Rome."
A very pretty curly-headed boy with a look of the Christ in the Sistine Madonna was depicted playing at stick and ball. The ball represented the terrestrial globe and the stick in his other hand a scepter.
Though it was not clear what the artist meant to express by depicting the so-called King of Rome spiking the earth with a stick, the allegory apparently seemed to Napoleon, as it had done to all who had seen it in Paris, quite clear and very pleasing.
"The King of Rome!" he said, pointing to the portrait with a graceful gesture. "Admirable!"
With the natural capacity of an Italian for changing the expression of his face at will, he drew nearer to the portrait and assumed a look of pensive tenderness. He felt that what he now said and did would be historical, and it seemed to him that it would now be best for him--whose grandeur enabled his son to play stick and ball with the terrestrial globe--to show, in contrast to that grandeur, the simplest paternal tenderness. His eyes grew dim, he moved forward, glanced round at a chair (which seemed to place itself under him), and sat down on it before the portrait. At a single gesture from him everyone went out on tiptoe, leaving the great man to himself and his emotion.
Having sat still for a while he touched--himself not knowing why- the thick spot of paint representing the highest light in the portrait, rose, and recalled de Beausset and the officer on duty. He ordered the portrait to be carried outside his tent, that the Old Guard, stationed round it, might not be deprived of the pleasure of seeing the King of Rome, the son and heir of their adored monarch.
And while he was doing M. de Beausset the honor of breakfasting with him, they heard, as Napoleon had anticipated, the rapturous cries of the officers and men of the Old Guard who had run up to see the portrait.
"Vive l'Empereur! Vive le roi de Rome! Vive l'Empereur!" came those ecstatic cries.
After breakfast Napoleon in de Beausset's presence dictated his order of the day to the army.
"Short and energetic!" he remarked when he had read over the proclamation which he had dictated straight off without corrections. It ran:
Soldiers! This is the battle you have so longed for. Victory depends on you. It is essential for us; it will give us all we need: comfortable quarters and a speedy return to our country. Behave as you did at Austerlitz, Friedland, Vitebsk, and Smolensk. Let our remotest posterity recall your achievements this day with pride. Let it be said of each of you: "He was in the great battle before Moscow!"
"Before Moscow!" repeated Napoleon, and inviting M. de Beausset, who was so fond of travel, to accompany him on his ride, he went out of the tent to where the horses stood saddled.
"Your Majesty is too kind!" replied de Beausset to the invitation to accompany the Emperor; he wanted to sleep, did not know how to ride and was afraid of doing so.
But Napoleon nodded to the traveler, and de Beausset had to mount. When Napoleon came out of the tent the shouting of the Guards before his son's portrait grew still louder. Napoleon frowned.
"Take him away!" he said, pointing with a gracefully majestic gesture to the portrait. "It is too soon for him to see a field of battle."
De Beausset closed his eyes, bowed his head, and sighed deeply, to indicate how profoundly he valued and comprehended the Emperor's words.
On the twenty-fifth of August, so his historians tell us, Napoleon spent the whole day on horseback inspecting the locality, considering plans submitted to him by his marshals, and personally giving commands to his generals.
The original line of the Russian forces along the river Kolocha had been dislocated by the capture of the Shevardino Redoubt on the twenty-fourth, and part of the line--the left flank--had been drawn back. That part of the line was not entrenched and in front of it the ground was more open and level than elsewhere. It was evident to anyone, military or not, that it was here the French should attack. It would seem that not much consideration was needed to reach this conclusion, nor any particular care or trouble on the part of the Emperor and his marshals, nor was there any need of that special and supreme quality called genius that people are so apt to ascribe to Napoleon; yet the historians who described the event later and the men who then surrounded Napoleon, and he himself, thought otherwise.
Napoleon rode over the plain and surveyed the locality with a profound air and in silence, nodded with approval or shook his head dubiously, and without communicating to the generals around him the profound course of ideas which guided his decisions merely gave them his final conclusions in the form of commands. Having listened to a suggestion from Davout, who was now called Prince d'Eckmuhl, to turn the Russian left wing, Napoleon said it should not be done, without explaining why not. To a proposal made by General Campan (who was to attack the fleches) to lead his division through the woods, Napoleon agreed, though the so-called Duke of Elchingen (Ney) ventured to remark that a movement through the woods was dangerous and might disorder the division.
Having inspected the country opposite the Shevardino Redoubt, Napoleon pondered a little in silence and then indicated the spots where two batteries should be set up by the morrow to act against the Russian entrenchments, and the places where, in line with them, the field artillery should be placed.
After giving these and other commands he returned to his tent, and the dispositions for the battle were written down from his dictation.
These dispositions, of which the French historians write with enthusiasm and other historians with profound respect, were as follows:
At dawn the two new batteries established during the night on the plain occupied by the Prince d'Eckmuhl will open fire on the opposing batteries of the enemy.
At the same time the commander of the artillery of the 1st Corps, General Pernetti, with thirty cannon of Campan's division and all the howitzers of Dessaix's and Friant's divisions, will move forward, open fire, and overwhelm with shellfire the enemy's battery, against which will operate:
24 guns of the artillery of the Guards
30 guns of Campan's division
and 8 guns of Friant's and Dessaix's divisions
in all 62 guns.
The commander of the artillery of the 3rd Corps, General Fouche, will place the howitzers of the 3rd and 8th Corps, sixteen in all, on the flanks of the battery that is to bombard the entrenchment on the left, which will have forty guns in all directed against it.
General Sorbier must be ready at the first order to advance with all the howitzers of the Guard's artillery against either one or other of the entrenchments.
During the cannonade Prince Poniatowski is to advance through the wood on the village and turn the enemy's position.
General Campan will move through the wood to seize the first fortification.
After the advance has begun in this manner, orders will be given in accordance with the enemy's movements.
The cannonade on the left flank will begin as soon as the guns of the right wing are heard. The sharpshooters of Morand's division and of the vice-King's division will open a heavy fire on seeing the attack commence on the right wing.
The vice-King will occupy the village and cross by its three bridges, advancing to the same heights as Morand's and Gibrard's divisions, which under his leadership will be directed against the redoubt and come into line with the rest of the forces.
All this must be done in good order (le tout se fera avec ordre et methode) as far as possible retaining troops in reserve.
The Imperial Camp near Mozhaysk,
September, 6, 1812.
These dispositions, which are very obscure and confused if one allows oneself to regard the arrangements without religious awe of his genius, related to Napoleon's orders to deal with four points--four different orders. Not one of these was, or could be, carried out.
In the disposition it is said first that the batteries placed on the spot chosen by Napoleon, with the guns of Pernetti and Fouche; which were to come in line with them, 102 guns in all, were to open fire and shower shells on the Russian fleches and redoubts. This could not be done, as from the spots selected by Napoleon the projectiles did not carry to the Russian works, and those 102 guns shot into the air until the nearest commander, contrary to Napoleon's instructions, moved them forward.
The second order was that Poniatowski, moving to the village through the wood, should turn the Russian left flank. This could not be done and was not done, because Poniatowski, advancing on the village through the wood, met Tuchkov there barring his way, and could not and did not turn the Russian position.
The third order was: General Campan will move through the wood to seize the first fortification. General Campan's division did not seize the first fortification but was driven back, for on emerging from the wood it had to reform under grapeshot, of which Napoleon was unaware.
The fourth order was: The vice-King will occupy the village (Borodino) and cross by its three bridges, advancing to the same heights as Morand's and Gdrard's divisions (for whose movements no directions are given), which under his leadership will be directed against the redoubt and come into line with the rest of the forces.
As far as one can make out, not so much from this unintelligible sentence as from the attempts the vice-King made to execute the orders given him, he was to advance from the left through Borodino to the redoubt while the divisions of Morand and Gerard were to advance simultaneously from the front.
All this, like the other parts of the disposition, was not and could not be executed. After passing through Borodino the vice-King was driven back to the Kolocha and could get no farther; while the divisions of Morand and Gerard did not take the redoubt but were driven back, and the redoubt was only taken at the end of the battle by the cavalry (a thing probably unforeseen and not heard of by Napoleon). So not one of the orders in the disposition was, or could be, executed. But in the disposition it is said that, after the fight has commenced in this manner, orders will be given in accordance with the enemy's movements, and so it might be supposed that all necessary arrangements would be made by Napoleon during the battle. But this was not and could not be done, for during the whole battle Napoleon was so far away that, as appeared later, he could not know the course of the battle and not one of his orders during the fight could be executed.
Many historians say that the French did not win the battle of Borodino because Napoleon had a cold, and that if he had not had a cold the orders he gave before and during the battle would have been still more full of genius and Russia would have been lost and the face of the world have been changed. To historians who believe that Russia was shaped by the will of one man--Peter the Great--and that France from a republic became an empire and French armies went to Russia at the will of one man--Napoleon--to say that Russia remained a power because Napoleon had a bad cold on the twenty-fourth of August may seem logical and convincing.
If it had depended on Napoleon's will to fight or not to fight the battle of Borodino, and if this or that other arrangement depended on his will, then evidently a cold affecting the manifestation of his will might have saved Russia, and consequently the valet who omitted to bring Napoleon his waterproof boots on the twenty-fourth would have been the savior of Russia. Along that line of thought such a deduction is indubitable, as indubitable as the deduction Voltaire made in jest (without knowing what he was jesting at) when he saw that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was due to Charles IX's stomach being deranged. But to men who do not admit that Russia was formed by the will of one man, Peter I, or that the French Empire was formed and the war with Russia begun by the will of one man, Napoleon, that argument seems not merely untrue and irrational, but contrary to all human reality. To the question of what causes historic events another answer presents itself, namely, that the course of human events is predetermined from on high--depends on the coincidence of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that a Napoleon's influence on the course of these events is purely external and fictitious.
Strange as at first glance it may seem to suppose that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not due to Charles IX's will, though he gave the order for it and thought it was done as a result of that order; and strange as it may seem to suppose that the slaughter of eighty thousand men at Borodino was not due to Napoleon's will, though he ordered the commencement and conduct of the battle and thought it was done because he ordered it; strange as these suppositions appear, yet human dignity--which tells me that each of us is, if not more at least not less a man than the great Napoleon--demands the acceptance of that solution of the question, and historic investigation abundantly confirms it.
At the battle of Borodino Napoleon shot at no one and killed no one. That was all done by the soldiers. Therefore it was not he who killed people.
The French soldiers went to kill and be killed at the battle of Borodino not because of Napoleon's orders but by their own volition. The whole army--French, Italian, German, Polish, and Dutch--hungry, ragged, and weary of the campaign, felt at the sight of an army blocking their road to Moscow that the wine was drawn and must be drunk. Had Napoleon then forbidden them to fight the Russians, they would have killed him and have proceeded to fight the Russians because it was inevitable.
When they heard Napoleon's proclamation offering them, as compensation for mutilation and death, the words of posterity about their having been in the battle before Moscow, they cried "Vive l'Empereur!" just as they had cried "Vive l'Empereur!" at the sight of the portrait of the boy piercing the terrestrial globe with a toy stick, and just as they would have cried "Vive l'Empereur!" at any nonsense that might be told them. There was nothing left for them to do but cry "Vive l'Empereur!" and go to fight, in order to get food and rest as conquerors in Moscow. So it was not because of Napoleon's commands that they killed their fellow men.
And it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders were executed and during the battle he did not know what was going on before him. So the way in which these people killed one another was not decided by Napoleon's will but occurred independently of him, in accord with the will of hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the common action. It only seemed to Napoleon that it all took place by his will. And so the question whether he had or had not a cold has no more historic interest than the cold of the least of the transport soldiers.
Moreover, the assertion made by various writers that his cold was the cause of his dispositions not being as well planned as on former occasions, and of his orders during the battle not being as good as previously, is quite baseless, which again shows that Napoleon's cold on the twenty-sixth of August was unimportant.
The dispositions cited above are not at all worse, but are even better, than previous dispositions by which he had won victories. His pseudo-orders during the battle were also no worse than formerly, but much the same as usual. These dispositions and orders only seem worse than previous ones because the battle of Borodino was the first Napoleon did not win. The profoundest and most excellent dispositions and orders seem very bad, and every learned militarist criticizes them with looks of importance, when they relate to a battle that has been lost, and the very worst dispositions and orders seem very good, and serious people fill whole volumes to demonstrate their merits, when they relate to a battle that has been won.
The dispositions drawn up by Weyrother for the battle of Austerlitz were a model of perfection for that kind of composition, but still they were criticized--criticized for their very perfection, for their excessive minuteness.
Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle; he inclined to the most reasonable opinions, he made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the field of battle, but with his great tact and military experience carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly and with dignity.
On returning from a second inspection of the lines, Napoleon remarked:
"The chessmen are set up, the game will begin tomorrow!"
Having ordered punch and summoned de Beausset, he began to talk to him about Paris and about some changes he meant to make the Empress' household, surprising the prefect by his memory of minute details relating to the court.
He showed an interest in trifles, joked about de Beausset's love of travel, and chatted carelessly, as a famous, self-confident surgeon who knows his job does when turning up his sleeves and putting on his apron while a patient is being strapped to the operating table. "The matter is in my hands and is clear and definite in my head. When the times comes to set to work I shall do it as no one else could, but now I can jest, and the more I jest and the calmer I am the more tranquil and confident you ought to be, and the more amazed at my genius."
Having finished his second glass of punch, Napoleon went to rest before the serious business which, he considered, awaited him next day. He was so much interested in that task that he was unable to sleep, and in spite of his cold which had grown worse from the dampness of the evening, he went into the large division of the tent at three o'clock in the morning, loudly blowing his nose. He asked whether the Russians had not withdrawn, and was told that the enemy's fires were still in the same places. He nodded approval.
The adjutant in attendance came into the tent.
"Well, Rapp, do you think we shall do good business today?" Napoleon asked him.
"Without doubt, sire," replied Rapp.
Napoleon looked at him.
"Do you remember, sire, what you did me the honor to say at Smolensk?" continued Rapp. "The wine is drawn and must be drunk."
Napoleon frowned and sat silent for a long time leaning his head on his hand.
"This poor army!" he suddenly remarked. "It has diminished greatly since Smolensk. Fortune is frankly a courtesan, Rapp. I have always said so and I am beginning to experience it. But the Guards, Rapp, the Guards are intact?" he remarked interrogatively.
"Yes, sire," replied Rapp.
Napoleon took a lozenge, put it in his mouth, and glanced at his watch. He was not sleepy and it was still not nearly morning. It was impossible to give further orders for the sake of killing time, for the orders had all been given and were now being executed.
"Have the biscuits and rice been served out to the regiments of the Guards?" asked Napoleon sternly.
"The rice too?"
Rapp replied that he had given the Emperor's order about the rice, but Napoleon shook his head in dissatisfaction as if not believing that his order had been executed. An attendant came in with punch. Napoleon ordered another glass to be brought for Rapp, and silently sipped his own.
"I have neither taste nor smell," he remarked, sniffing at his glass. "This cold is tiresome. They talk about medicine--what is the good of medicine when it can't cure a cold! Corvisart gave me these lozenges but they don't help at all. What can doctors cure? One can't cure anything. Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies. Our body is like a perfect watch that should go for a certain time; watchmaker cannot open it, he can only adjust it by fumbling, and that blindfold.... Yes, our body is just a machine for living, that is all."
And having entered on the path of definition, of which he was fond, Napoleon suddenly and unexpectedly gave a new one.
"Do you know, Rapp, what military art is?" asked he. "It is the art of being stronger than the enemy at a given moment. That's all."
Rapp made no reply.
"Tomorrow we shall have to deal with Kutuzov!" said Napoleon. "We shall see! Do you remember at Braunau he commanded an army for three weeks and did not once mount a horse to inspect his entrenchments.... We shall see!"
He looked at his watch. It was still only four o'clock. He did not feel sleepy. The punch was finished and there was still nothing to do. He rose, walked to and fro, put on a warm overcoat and a hat, and went out of the tent. The night was dark and damp, a scarcely perceptible moisture was descending from above. Near by, the campfires were dimly burning among the French Guards, and in the distance those of the Russian line shone through the smoke. The weather was calm, and the rustle and tramp of the French troops already beginning to move to take up their positions were clearly audible.
Napoleon walked about in front of his tent, looked at the fires and listened to these sounds, and as he was passing a tall guardsman in a shaggy cap, who was standing sentinel before his tent and had drawn himself up like a black pillar at sight of the Emperor, Napoleon stopped in front of him.
"What year did you enter the service?" he asked with that affectation of military bluntness and geniality with which he always addressed the soldiers.
The man answered the question.
"Ah! One of the old ones! Has your regiment had its rice?"
"It has, Your Majesty."
Napoleon nodded and walked away.
At half-past five Napoleon rode to the village of Shevardino.
It was growing light, the sky was clearing, only a single cloud lay in the east. The abandoned campfires were burning themselves out in the faint morning light.
On the right a single deep report of a cannon resounded and died away in the prevailing silence. Some minutes passed. A second and a third report shook the air, then a fourth and a fifth boomed solemnly near by on the right.
The first shots had not yet ceased to reverberate before others rang out and yet more were heard mingling with and overtaking one another.
Napoleon with his suite rode up to the Shevardino Redoubt where he dismounted. The game had begun.
On returning to Gorki after having seen Prince Andrew, Pierre ordered his groom to get the horses ready and to call him early in the morning, and then immediately fell asleep behind a partition in a corner Boris had given up to him.
Before he was thoroughly awake next morning everybody had already left the hut. The panes were rattling in the little windows and his groom was shaking him.
"Your excellency! Your excellency! Your excellency!" he kept repeating pertinaciously while he shook Pierre by the shoulder without looking at him, having apparently lost hope of getting him to wake up.
"What? Has it begun? Is it time?" Pierre asked, waking up.
"Hear the firing," said the groom, a discharged soldier. "All the gentlemen have gone out, and his Serene Highness himself rode past long ago."
Pierre dressed hastily and ran out to the porch. Outside all was bright, fresh, dewy, and cheerful. The sun, just bursting forth from behind a cloud that had concealed it, was shining, with rays still half broken by the clouds, over the roofs of the street opposite, on the dew-besprinkled dust of the road, on the walls of the houses, on the windows, the fence, and on Pierre's horses standing before the hut. The roar of guns sounded more distinct outside. An adjutant accompanied by a Cossack passed by at a sharp trot.
"It's time, Count; it's time!" cried the adjutant.
Telling the groom to follow him with the horses, Pierre went down the street to the knoll from which he had looked at the field of battle the day before. A crowd of military men was assembled there, members of the staff could be heard conversing in French, and Kutuzov's gray head in a white cap with a red band was visible, his gray nape sunk between his shoulders. He was looking through a field glass down the highroad before him.
Mounting the steps to the knoll Pierre looked at the scene before him, spellbound by beauty. It was the same panorama he had admired from that spot the day before, but now the whole place was full of troops and covered by smoke clouds from the guns, and the slanting rays of the bright sun, rising slightly to the left behind Pierre, cast upon it through the clear morning air penetrating streaks of rosy, golden tinted light and long dark shadows. The forest at the farthest extremity of the panorama seemed carved in some precious stone of a yellowish-green color; its undulating outline was silhouetted against the horizon and was pierced beyond Valuevo by the Smolensk highroad crowded with troops. Nearer at hand glittered golden cornfields interspersed with copses. There were troops to be seen everywhere, in front and to the right and left. All this was vivid, majestic, and unexpected; but what impressed Pierre most of all was the view of the battlefield itself, of Borodino and the hollows on both sides of the Kolocha.
Above the Kolocha, in Borodino and on both sides of it, especially to the left where the Voyna flowing between its marshy banks falls into the Kolocha, a mist had spread which seemed to melt, to dissolve, and to become translucent when the brilliant sun appeared and magically colored and outlined everything. The smoke of the guns mingled with this mist, and over the whole expanse and through that mist the rays of the morning sun were reflected, flashing back like lightning from the water, from the dew, and from the bayonets of the troops crowded together by the riverbanks and in Borodino. A white church could be seen through the mist, and here and there the roofs of huts in Borodino as well as dense masses of soldiers, or green ammunition chests and ordnance. And all this moved, or seemed to move, as the smoke and mist spread out over the whole space. Just as in the mist-enveloped hollow near Borodino, so along the entire line outside and above it and especially in the woods and fields to the left, in the valleys and on the summits of the high ground, clouds of powder smoke seemed continually to spring up out of nothing, now singly, now several at a time, some translucent, others dense, which, swelling, growing, rolling, and blending, extended over the whole expanse.
These puffs of smoke and (strange to say) the sound of the firing produced the chief beauty of the spectacle.
"Puff!"--suddenly a round compact cloud of smoke was seen merging from violet into gray and milky white, and "boom!" came the report a second later.
"Puff! puff!"--and two clouds arose pushing one another and blending together; and "boom, boom!" came the sounds confirming what the eye had seen.
Pierre glanced round at the first cloud, which he had seen as a round compact ball, and in its place already were balloons of smoke floating to one side, and--"puff" (with a pause)--"puff, puff!" three and then four more appeared and then from each, with the same interval--"boom--boom, boom!" came the fine, firm, precise sounds in reply. It seemed as if those smoke clouds sometimes ran and sometimes stood still while woods, fields, and glittering bayonets ran past them. From the left, over fields and bushes, those large balls of smoke were continually appearing followed by their solemn reports, while nearer still, in the hollows and woods, there burst from the muskets small cloudlets that had no time to become balls, but had their little echoes in just the same way. "Trakh-ta-ta-takh!" came the frequent crackle of musketry, but it was irregular and feeble in comparison with the reports of the cannon.
Pierre wished to be there with that smoke, those shining bayonets, that movement, and those sounds. He turned to look at Kutuzov and his suite, to compare his impressions with those of others. They were all looking at the field of battle as he was, and, as it seemed to him, with the same feelings. All their faces were now shining with that latent warmth of feeling Pierre had noticed the day before and had fully understood after his talk with Prince Andrew.
"Go, my dear fellow, go... and Christ be with you!" Kutuzov was saying to a general who stood beside him, not taking his eye from the battlefield.
Having received this order the general passed by Pierre on his way down the knoll.
"To the crossing!" said the general coldly and sternly in reply to one of the staff who asked where he was going.
"I'll go there too, I too!" thought Pierre, and followed the general.
The general mounted a horse a Cossack had brought him. Pierre went to his groom who was holding his horses and, asking which was the quietest, clambered onto it, seized it by the mane, and turning out his toes pressed his heels against its sides and, feeling that his spectacles were slipping off but unable to let go of the mane and reins, he galloped after the general, causing the staff officers to smile as they watched him from the knoll.