After talking for some time with the esaul about next day's attack, which now, seeing how near they were to the French, he seemed to have definitely decided on, Denisov turned his horse and rode back.
"Now, my lad, we'll go and get dwy," he said to Petya.
As they approached the watchhouse Denisov stopped, peering into the forest. Among the trees a man with long legs and long, swinging arms, wearing a short jacket, bast shoes, and a Kazan hat, was approaching with long, light steps. He had a musketoon over his shoulder and an ax stuck in his girdle. When he espied Denisov he hastily threw something into the bushes, removed his sodden hat by its floppy brim, and approached his commander. It was Tikhon. His wrinkled and pockmarked face and narrow little eyes beamed with self-satisfied merriment. He lifted his head high and gazed at Denisov as if repressing a laugh.
"Well, where did you disappear to?" inquired Denisov.
"Where did I disappear to? I went to get Frenchmen," answered Tikhon boldly and hurriedly, in a husky but melodious bass voice.
"Why did you push yourself in there by daylight? You ass! Well, why haven't you taken one?"
"Oh, I took one all right," said Tikhon.
"Where is he?"
"You see, I took him first thing at dawn," Tikhon continued, spreading out his flat feet with outturned toes in their bast shoes. "I took him into the forest. Then I see he's no good and think I'll go and fetch a likelier one."
"You see?... What a wogue--it's just as I thought," said Denisov to the esaul. "Why didn't you bwing that one?"
"What was the good of bringing him?" Tikhon interrupted hastily and angrily--"that one wouldn't have done for you. As if I don't know what sort you want!"
"What a bwute you are!... Well?"
"I went for another one," Tikhon continued, "and I crept like this through the wood and lay down." (He suddenly lay down on his stomach with a supple movement to show how he had done it.) "One turned up and I grabbed him, like this." (He jumped up quickly and lightly.) "'Come along to the colonel,' I said. He starts yelling, and suddenly there were four of them. They rushed at me with their little swords. So I went for them with my ax, this way: 'What are you up to?' says I. 'Christ be with you!'" shouted Tikhon, waving his arms with an angry scowl and throwing out his chest.
"Yes, we saw from the hill how you took to your heels through the puddles!" said the esaul, screwing up his glittering eyes.
Petya badly wanted to laugh, but noticed that they all refrained from laughing. He turned his eyes rapidly from Tikhon's face to the esaul's and Denisov's, unable to make out what it all meant.
"Don't play the fool!" said Denisov, coughing angrily. "Why didn't you bwing the first one?"
Tikhon scratched his back with one hand and his head with the other, then suddenly his whole face expanded into a beaming, foolish grin, disclosing a gap where he had lost a tooth (that was why he was called Shcherbaty--the gap-toothed). Denisov smiled, and Petya burst into a peal of merry laughter in which Tikhon himself joined.
"Oh, but he was a regular good-for-nothing," said Tikhon. "The clothes on him--poor stuff! How could I bring him? And so rude, your honor! Why, he says: 'I'm a general's son myself, I won't go!' he says."
"You are a bwute!" said Denisov. "I wanted to question..."
"But I questioned him," said Tikhon. "He said he didn't know much. 'There are a lot of us,' he says, 'but all poor stuff--only soldiers in name,' he says. 'Shout loud at them,' he says, 'and you'll take them all,'" Tikhon concluded, looking cheerfully and resolutely into Denisov's eyes.
"I'll give you a hundwed sharp lashes--that'll teach you to play the fool!" said Denisov severely.
"But why are you angry?" remonstrated Tikhon, "just as if I'd never seen your Frenchmen! Only wait till it gets dark and I'll fetch you any of them you want--three if you like."
"Well, let's go," said Denisov, and rode all the way to the watchhouse in silence and frowning angrily.
Tikhon followed behind and Petya heard the Cossacks laughing with him and at him, about some pair of boots he had thrown into the bushes.
When the fit of laughter that had seized him at Tikhon's words and smile had passed and Petya realized for a moment that this Tikhon had killed a man, he felt uneasy. He looked round at the captive drummer boy and felt a pang in his heart. But this uneasiness lasted only a moment. He felt it necessary to hold his head higher, to brace himself, and to question the esaul with an air of importance about tomorrow's undertaking, that he might not be unworthy of the company in which he found himself.
The officer who had been sent to inquire met Denisov on the way with the news that Dolokhov was soon coming and that all was well with him.
Denisov at once cheered up and, calling Petya to him, said: "Well, tell me about yourself."
Petya, having left his people after their departure from Moscow, joined his regiment and was soon taken as orderly by a general commanding a large guerrilla detachment. From the time he received his commission, and especially since he had joined the active army and taken part in the battle of Vyazma, Petya had been in a constant state of blissful excitement at being grown-up and in a perpetual ecstatic hurry not to miss any chance to do something really heroic. He was highly delighted with what he saw and experienced in the army, but at the same time it always seemed to him that the really heroic exploits were being performed just where he did not happen to be. And he was always in a hurry to get where he was not.
When on the twenty-first of October his general expressed a wish to send somebody to Denisov's detachment, Petya begged so piteously to be sent that the general could not refuse. But when dispatching him he recalled Petya's mad action at the battle of Vyazma, where instead of riding by the road to the place to which he had been sent, he had galloped to the advanced line under the fire of the French and had there twice fired his pistol. So now the general explicitly forbade his taking part in any action whatever of Denisov's. That was why Petya had blushed and grown confused when Denisov asked him whether he could stay. Before they had ridden to the outskirts of the forest Petya had considered he must carry out his instructions strictly and return at once. But when he saw the French and saw Tikhon and learned that there would certainly be an attack that night, he decided, with the rapidity with which young people change their views, that the general, whom he had greatly respected till then, was a rubbishy German, that Denisov was a hero, the esaul a hero, and Tikhon a hero too, and that it would be shameful for him to leave them at a moment of difficulty.
It was already growing dusk when Denisov, Petya, and the esaul rode up to the watchhouse. In the twilight saddled horses could be seen, and Cossacks and hussars who had rigged up rough shelters in the glade and were kindling glowing fires in a hollow of the forest where the French could not see the smoke. In the passage of the small watchhouse a Cossack with sleeves rolled up was chopping some mutton. In the room three officers of Denisov's band were converting a door into a tabletop. Petya took off his wet clothes, gave them to be dried, and at once began helping the officers to fix up the dinner table.
In ten minutes the table was ready and a napkin spread on it. On the table were vodka, a flask of rum, white bread, roast mutton, and salt.
Sitting at table with the officers and tearing the fat savory mutton with his hands, down which the grease trickled, Petya was in an ecstatic childish state of love for all men, and consequently of confidence that others loved him in the same way.
"So then what do you think, Vasili Dmitrich?" said he to Denisov. "It's all right my staying a day with you?" And not waiting for a reply he answered his own question: "You see I was told to find out- well, I am finding out.... Only do let me into the very... into the chief... I don't want a reward... But I want..."
Petya clenched his teeth and looked around, throwing back his head and flourishing his arms.
"Into the vewy chief..." Denisov repeated with a smile.
"Only, please let me command something, so that I may really command..." Petya went on. "What would it be to you?... Oh, you want a knife?" he said, turning to an officer who wished to cut himself a piece of mutton.
And he handed him his clasp knife. The officer admired it.
"Please keep it. I have several like it," said Petya, blushing. "Heavens! I was quite forgetting!" he suddenly cried. "I have some raisins, fine ones; you know, seedless ones. We have a new sutler and he has such capital things. I bought ten pounds. I am used to something sweet. Would you like some?..." and Petya ran out into the passage to his Cossack and brought back some bags which contained about five pounds of raisins. "Have some, gentlemen, have some!"
"You want a coffeepot, don't you?" he asked the esaul. "I bought a capital one from our sutler! He has splendid things. And he's very honest, that's the chief thing. I'll be sure to send it to you. Or perhaps your flints are giving out, or are worn out--that happens sometimes, you know. I have brought some with me, here they are"- and he showed a bag--"a hundred flints. I bought them very cheap. Please take as many as you want, or all if you like...."
Then suddenly, dismayed lest he had said too much, Petya stopped and blushed.
He tried to remember whether he had not done anything else that was foolish. And running over the events of the day he remembered the French drummer boy. "It's capital for us here, but what of him? Where have they put him? Have they fed him? Haven't they hurt his feelings?" he thought. But having caught himself saying too much about the flints, he was now afraid to speak out.
"I might ask," he thought, "but they'll say: 'He's a boy himself and so he pities the boy.' I'll show them tomorrow whether I'm a boy. Will it seem odd if I ask?" Petya thought. "Well, never mind!" and immediately, blushing and looking anxiously at the officers to see if they appeared ironical, he said:
"May I call in that boy who was taken prisoner and give him something to eat?... Perhaps..."
"Yes, he's a poor little fellow," said Denisov, who evidently saw nothing shameful in this reminder. "Call him in. His name is Vincent Bosse. Have him fetched."
"I'll call him," said Petya.
"Yes, yes, call him. A poor little fellow," Denisov repeated.
Petya was standing at the door when Denisov said this. He slipped in between the officers, came close to Denisov, and said:
"Let me kiss you, dear old fellow! Oh, how fine, how splendid!"
And having kissed Denisov he ran out of the hut.
"Bosse! Vincent!" Petya cried, stopping outside the door.
"Who do you want, sir?" asked a voice in the darkness.
Petya replied that he wanted the French lad who had been captured that day.
"Ah, Vesenny?" said a Cossack.
Vincent, the boy's name, had already been changed by the Cossacks into Vesenny (vernal) and into Vesenya by the peasants and soldiers. In both these adaptations the reference to spring (vesna) matched the impression made by the young lad.
"He is warming himself there by the bonfire. Ho, Vesenya! Vesenya!--Vesenny!" laughing voices were heard calling to one another in the darkness.
"He's a smart lad," said an hussar standing near Petya. "We gave him something to eat a while ago. He was awfully hungry!"
The sound of bare feet splashing through the mud was heard in the darkness, and the drummer boy came to the door.
"Ah, c'est vous!" said Petya. "Voulez-vous manger? N'ayez pas peur, on ne vous fera pas de mal,"* he added shyly and affectionately, touching the boy's hand. "Entrez, entrez."*
*"Ah, it's you! Do you want something to eat? Don't be afraid, they won't hurt you."
* "Come in, come in."
"Merci, monsieur,"* said the drummer boy in a trembling almost childish voice, and he began scraping his dirty feet on the threshold.
*"Thank you, sir."
There were many things Petya wanted to say to the drummer boy, but did not dare to. He stood irresolutely beside him in the passage. Then in the darkness he took the boy's hand and pressed it.
"Come in, come in!" he repeated in a gentle whisper. "Oh, what can I do for him?" he thought, and opening the door he let the boy pass in first.
When the boy had entered the hut, Petya sat down at a distance from him, considering it beneath his dignity to pay attention to him. But he fingered the money in his pocket and wondered whether it would seem ridiculous to give some to the drummer boy.
The arrival of Dolokhov diverted Petya's attention from the drummer boy, to whom Denisov had had some mutton and vodka given, and whom he had had dressed in a Russian coat so that he might be kept with their band and not sent away with the other prisoners. Petya had heard in the army many stories of Dolokhov's extraordinary bravery and of his cruelty to the French, so from the moment he entered the hut Petya did not take his eyes from him, but braced himself up more and more and held his head high, that he might not be unworthy even of such company.
Dolokhov's appearance amazed Petya by its simplicity.
Denisov wore a Cossack coat, had a beard, had an icon of Nicholas the Wonder-Worker on his breast, and his way of speaking and everything he did indicated his unusual position. But Dolokhov, who in Moscow had worn a Persian costume, had now the appearance of a most correct officer of the Guards. He was clean-shaven and wore a Guardsman's padded coat with an Order of St. George at his buttonhole and a plain forage cap set straight on his head. He took off his wet felt cloak in a corner of the room, and without greeting anyone went up to Denisov and began questioning him about the matter in hand. Denisov told him of the designs the large detachments had on the transport, of the message Petya had brought, and his own replies to both generals. Then he told him all he knew of the French detachment.
"That's so. But we must know what troops they are and their numbers," said Dolokhov. "It will be necessary to go there. We can't start the affair without knowing for certain how many there are. I like to work accurately. Here now--wouldn't one of these gentlemen like to ride over to the French camp with me? I have brought a spare uniform."
"I, I... I'll go with you!" cried Petya.
"There's no need for you to go at all," said Denisov, addressing Dolokhov, "and as for him, I won't let him go on any account."
"I like that!" exclaimed Petya. "Why shouldn't I go?"
"Because it's useless."
"Well, you must excuse me, because... because... I shall go, and that's all. You'll take me, won't you?" he said, turning to Dolokhov.
"Why not?" Dolokhov answered absently, scrutinizing the face of the French drummer boy. "Have you had that youngster with you long?" he asked Denisov.
"He was taken today but he knows nothing. I'm keeping him with me."
"Yes, and where do you put the others?" inquired Dolokhov.
"Where? I send them away and take a weceipt for them," shouted Denisov, suddenly flushing. "And I say boldly that I have not a single man's life on my conscience. Would it be difficult for you to send thirty or thwee hundwed men to town under escort, instead of staining- I speak bluntly--staining the honor of a soldier?"
"That kind of amiable talk would be suitable from this young count of sixteen," said Dolokhov with cold irony, "but it's time for you to drop it."
"Why, I've not said anything! I only say that I'll certainly go with you," said Petya shyly.
"But for you and me, old fellow, it's time to drop these amenities," continued Dolokhov, as if he found particular pleasure in speaking of this subject which irritated Denisov. "Now, why have you kept this lad?" he went on, swaying his head. "Because you are sorry for him! Don't we know those 'receipts' of yours? You send a hundred men away, and thirty get there. The rest either starve or get killed. So isn't it all the same not to send them?"
The esaul, screwing up his light-colored eyes, nodded approvingly.
"That's not the point. I'm not going to discuss the matter. I do not wish to take it on my conscience. You say they'll die. All wight. Only not by my fault!"
Dolokhov began laughing.
"Who has told them not to capture me these twenty times over? But if they did catch me they'd string me up to an aspen tree, and with all your chivalry just the same." He paused. "However, we must get to work. Tell the Cossack to fetch my kit. I have two French uniforms in it. Well, are you coming with me?" he asked Petya.
"I? Yes, yes, certainly!" cried Petya, blushing almost to tears and glancing at Denisov.
While Dolokhov had been disputing with Denisov what should be done with prisoners, Petya had once more felt awkward and restless; but again he had no time to grasp fully what they were talking about. "If grown-up, distinguished men think so, it must be necessary and right," thought he. "But above all Denisov must not dare to imagine that I'll obey him and that he can order me about. I will certainly go to the French camp with Dolokhov. If he can, so can I!"
And to all Denisov's persuasions, Petya replied that he too was accustomed to do everything accurately and not just anyhow, and that he never considered personal danger.
"For you'll admit that if we don't know for sure how many of them there are... hundreds of lives may depend on it, while there are only two of us. Besides, I want to go very much and certainly will go, so don't hinder me," said he. "It will only make things worse..."
Having put on French greatcoats and shakos, Petya and Dolokhov rode to the clearing from which Denisov had reconnoitered the French camp, and emerging from the forest in pitch darkness they descended into the hollow. On reaching the bottom, Dolokhov told the Cossacks accompanying him to await him there and rode on at a quick trot along the road to the bridge. Petya, his heart in his mouth with excitement, rode by his side.
"If we're caught, I won't be taken alive! I have a pistol," whispered he.
"Don't talk Russian," said Dolokhov in a hurried whisper, and at that very moment they heard through the darkness the challenge: "Qui vive?"* and the click of a musket.
*"Who goes there?"
The blood rushed to Petya's face and he grasped his pistol.
"Lanciers du 6-me,"* replied Dolokhov, neither hastening nor slackening his horse's pace.
*"Lancers of the 6th Regiment."
The black figure of a sentinel stood on the bridge.
Dolokhov reined in his horse and advanced at a walk.
"Dites donc, le colonel Gerard est ici?"* he asked.
*"Tell me, is Colonel Gerard here?"
"Mot d'ordre," repeated the sentinel, barring the way and not replying.
"Quand un officier fait sa ronde, les sentinelles ne demandent pas le mot d'ordre..." cried Dolokhov suddenly flaring up and riding straight at the sentinel. "Je vous demande si le colonel est ici."*
*"When an officer is making his round, sentinels don't ask him for the password.... I am asking you if the colonel is here."
And without waiting for an answer from the sentinel, who had stepped aside, Dolokhov rode up the incline at a walk.
Noticing the black outline of a man crossing the road, Dolokhov stopped him and inquired where the commander and officers were. The man, a soldier with a sack over his shoulder, stopped, came close up to Dolokhov's horse, touched it with his hand, and explained simply and in a friendly way that the commander and the officers were higher up the hill to the right in the courtyard of the farm, as he called the landowner's house.
Having ridden up the road, on both sides of which French talk could be heard around the campfires, Dolokhov turned into the courtyard of the landowner's house. Having ridden in, he dismounted and approached a big blazing campfire, around which sat several men talking noisily. Something was boiling in a small cauldron at the edge of the fire and a soldier in a peaked cap and blue overcoat, lit up by the fire, was kneeling beside it stirring its contents with a ramrod.
"Oh, he's a hard nut to crack," said one of the officers who was sitting in the shadow at the other side of the fire.
"He'll make them get a move on, those fellows!" said another, laughing.
Both fell silent, peering out through the darkness at the sound of Dolokhov's and Petya's steps as they advanced to the fire leading their horses.
"Bonjour, messieurs!"* said Dolokhov loudly and clearly.
*"Good day, gentlemen."
There was a stir among the officers in the shadow beyond the fire, and one tall, long-necked officer, walking round the fire, came up to Dolokhov.
"Is that you, Clement?" he asked. "Where the devil...?" But, noticing his mistake, he broke off short and, with a frown, greeted Dolokhov as a stranger, asking what he could do for him.
Dolokhov said that he and his companion were trying to overtake their regiment, and addressing the company in general asked whether they knew anything of the 6th Regiment. None of them knew anything, and Petya thought the officers were beginning to look at him and Dolokhov with hostility and suspicion. For some seconds all were silent.
"If you were counting on the evening soup, you have come too late," said a voice from behind the fire with a repressed laugh.
Dolokhov replied that they were not hungry and must push on farther that night.
He handed the horses over to the soldier who was stirring the pot and squatted down on his heels by the fire beside the officer with the long neck. That officer did not take his eyes from Dolokhov and again asked to what regiment he belonged. Dolokhov, as if he had not heard the question, did not reply, but lighting a short French pipe which he took from his pocket began asking the officer in how far the road before them was safe from Cossacks.
"Those brigands are everywhere," replied an officer from behind the fire.
Dolokhov remarked that the Cossacks were a danger only to stragglers such as his companion and himself, "but probably they would not dare to attack large detachments?" he added inquiringly. No one replied.
"Well, now he'll come away," Petya thought every moment as he stood by the campfire listening to the talk.
But Dolokhov restarted the conversation which had dropped and began putting direct questions as to how many men there were in the battalion, how many battalions, and how many prisoners. Asking about the Russian prisoners with that detachment, Dolokhov said:
"A horrid business dragging these corpses about with one! It would be better to shoot such rabble," and burst into loud laughter, so strange that Petya thought the French would immediately detect their disguise, and involuntarily took a step back from the campfire.
No one replied a word to Dolokhov's laughter, and a French officer whom they could not see (he lay wrapped in a greatcoat) rose and whispered something to a companion. Dolokhov got up and called to the soldier who was holding their horses.
"Will they bring our horses or not?" thought Petya, instinctively drawing nearer to Dolokhov.
The horses were brought.
"Good evening, gentlemen," said Dolokhov.
Petya wished to say "Good night" but could not utter a word. The officers were whispering together. Dolokhov was a long time mounting his horse which would not stand still, then he rode out of the yard at a footpace. Petya rode beside him, longing to look round to see whether or no the French were running after them, but not daring to.
Coming out onto the road Dolokhov did not ride back across the open country, but through the village. At one spot he stopped and listened. "Do you hear?" he asked. Petya recognized the sound of Russian voices and saw the dark figures of Russian prisoners round their campfires. When they had descended to the bridge Petya and Dolokhov rode past the sentinel, who without saying a word paced morosely up and down it, then they descended into the hollow where the Cossacks awaited them.
"Well now, good-by. Tell Denisov, 'at the first shot at daybreak,'" said Dolokhov and was about to ride away, but Petya seized hold of him.
"Really!" he cried, "you are such a hero! Oh, how fine, how splendid! How I love you!"
"All right, all right!" said Dolokhov. But Petya did not let go of him and Dolokhov saw through the gloom that Petya was bending toward him and wanted to kiss him. Dolokhov kissed him, laughed, turned his horse, and vanished into the darkness.
Having returned to the watchman's hut, Petya found Denisov in the passage. He was awaiting Petya's return in a state of agitation, anxiety, and self-reproach for having let him go.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed. "Yes, thank God!" he repeated, listening to Petya's rapturous account. "But, devil take you, I haven't slept because of you! Well, thank God. Now lie down. We can still get a nap before morning."
"But... no," said Petya, "I don't want to sleep yet. Besides I know myself, if I fall asleep it's finished. And then I am used to not sleeping before a battle."
He sat awhile in the hut joyfully recalling the details of his expedition and vividly picturing to himself what would happen next day.
Then, noticing that Denisov was asleep, he rose and went out of doors.
It was still quite dark outside. The rain was over, but drops were still falling from the trees. Near the watchman's hut the black shapes of the Cossacks' shanties and of horses tethered together could be seen. Behind the hut the dark shapes of the two wagons with their horses beside them were discernible, and in the hollow the dying campfire gleamed red. Not all the Cossacks and hussars were asleep; here and there, amid the sounds of falling drops and the munching of the horses near by, could be heard low voices which seemed to be whispering.
Petya came out, peered into the darkness, and went up to the wagons. Someone was snoring under them, and around them stood saddled horses munching their oats. In the dark Petya recognized his own horse, which he called "Karabakh" though it was of Ukranian breed, and went up to it.
"Well, Karabakh! We'll do some service tomorrow," said he, sniffing its nostrils and kissing it.
"Why aren't you asleep, sir?" said a Cossack who was sitting under a wagon.
"No, ah... Likhachev--isn't that your name? Do you know I have only just come back! We've been into the French camp."
And Petya gave the Cossack a detailed account not only of his ride but also of his object, and why he considered it better to risk his life than to act "just anyhow."
"Well, you should get some sleep now," said the Cossack.
"No, I am used to this," said Petya. "I say, aren't the flints in your pistols worn out? I brought some with me. Don't you want any? You can have some."
The Cossack bent forward from under the wagon to get a closer look at Petya.
"Because I am accustomed to doing everything accurately," said Petya. "Some fellows do things just anyhow, without preparation, and then they're sorry for it afterwards. I don't like that."
"Just so," said the Cossack.
"Oh yes, another thing! Please, my dear fellow, will you sharpen my saber for me? It's got bl..." (Petya feared to tell a lie, and the saber never had been sharpened.) "Can you do it?"
"Of course I can."
Likhachev got up, rummaged in his pack, and soon Petya heard the warlike sound of steel on whetstone. He climbed onto the wagon and sat on its edge. The Cossack was sharpening the saber under the wagon.
"I say! Are the lads asleep?" asked Petya.
"Some are, and some aren't--like us."
"Well, and that boy?"
"Vesenny? Oh, he's thrown himself down there in the passage. Fast asleep after his fright. He was that glad!"
After that Petya remained silent for a long time, listening to the sounds. He heard footsteps in the darkness and a black figure appeared.
"What are you sharpening?" asked a man coming up to the wagon.
"Why, this gentleman's saber."
"That's right," said the man, whom Petya took to be an hussar. "Was the cup left here?"
"There, by the wheel!"
The hussar took the cup.
"It must be daylight soon," said he, yawning, and went away.
Petya ought to have known that he was in a forest with Denisov's guerrilla band, less than a mile from the road, sitting on a wagon captured from the French beside which horses were tethered, that under it Likhachev was sitting sharpening a saber for him, that the big dark blotch to the right was the watchman's hut, and the red blotch below to the left was the dying embers of a campfire, that the man who had come for the cup was an hussar who wanted a drink; but he neither knew nor waited to know anything of all this. He was in a fairy kingdom where nothing resembled reality. The big dark blotch might really be the watchman's hut or it might be a cavern leading to the very depths of the earth. Perhaps the red spot was a fire, or it might be the eye of an enormous monster. Perhaps he was really sitting on a wagon, but it might very well be that he was not sitting on a wagon but on a terribly high tower from which, if he fell, he would have to fall for a whole day or a whole month, or go on falling and never reach the bottom. Perhaps it was just the Cossack, Likhachev, who was sitting under the wagon, but it might be the kindest, bravest, most wonderful, most splendid man in the world, whom no one knew of. It might really have been that the hussar came for water and went back into the hollow, but perhaps he had simply vanished--disappeared altogether and dissolved into nothingness.
Nothing Petya could have seen now would have surprised him. He was in a fairy kingdom where everything was possible.
He looked up at the sky. And the sky was a fairy realm like the earth. It was clearing, and over the tops of the trees clouds were swiftly sailing as if unveiling the stars. Sometimes it looked as if the clouds were passing, and a clear black sky appeared. Sometimes it seemed as if the black spaces were clouds. Sometimes the sky seemed to be rising high, high overhead, and then it seemed to sink so low that one could touch it with one's hand.
Petya's eyes began to close and he swayed a little.
The trees were dripping. Quiet talking was heard. The horses neighed and jostled one another. Someone snored.
"Ozheg-zheg, Ozheg-zheg..." hissed the saber against the whetstone, and suddenly Petya heard an harmonious orchestra playing some unknown, sweetly solemn hymn. Petya was as musical as Natasha and more so than Nicholas, but had never learned music or thought about it, and so the melody that unexpectedly came to his mind seemed to him particularly fresh and attractive. The music became more and more audible. The melody grew and passed from one instrument to another. And what was played was a fugue--though Petya had not the least conception of what a fugue is. Each instrument--now resembling a violin and now a horn, but better and clearer than violin or horn- played its own part, and before it had finished the melody merged with another instrument that began almost the same air, and then with a third and a fourth; and they all blended into one and again became separate and again blended, now into solemn church music, now into something dazzlingly brilliant and triumphant.
"Oh--why, that was in a dream!" Petya said to himself, as he lurched forward. "It's in my ears. But perhaps it's music of my own. Well, go on, my music! Now!..."
He closed his eyes, and, from all sides as if from a distance, sounds fluttered, grew into harmonies, separated, blended, and again all mingled into the same sweet and solemn hymn. "Oh, this is delightful! As much as I like and as I like!" said Petya to himself. He tried to conduct that enormous orchestra.
"Now softly, softly die away!" and the sounds obeyed him. "Now fuller, more joyful. Still more and more joyful!" And from an unknown depth rose increasingly triumphant sounds. "Now voices join in!" ordered Petya. And at first from afar he heard men's voices and then women's. The voices grew in harmonious triumphant strength, and Petya listened to their surpassing beauty in awe and joy.
With a solemn triumphal march there mingled a song, the drip from the trees, and the hissing of the saber, "Ozheg-zheg-zheg..." and again the horses jostled one another and neighed, not disturbing the choir but joining in it.
Petya did not know how long this lasted: he enjoyed himself all the time, wondered at his enjoyment and regretted that there was no one to share it. He was awakened by Likhachev's kindly voice.
"It's ready, your honor; you can split a Frenchman in half with it!"
Petya woke up.
"It's getting light, it's really getting light!" he exclaimed.
The horses that had previously been invisible could now be seen to their very tails, and a watery light showed itself through the bare branches. Petya shook himself, jumped up, took a ruble from his pocket and gave it to Likhachev; then he flourished the saber, tested it, and sheathed it. The Cossacks were untying their horses and tightening their saddle girths.
"And here's the commander," said Likhachev.
Denisov came out of the watchman's hut and, having called Petya, gave orders to get ready.