Kutuzov fell back toward Vienna, destroying behind him the bridges over the rivers Inn (at Braunau) and Traun (near Linz). On October 23 the Russian troops were crossing the river Enns. At midday the Russian baggage train, the artillery, and columns of troops were defiling through the town of Enns on both sides of the bridge.
It was a warm, rainy, autumnal day. The wide expanse that opened out before the heights on which the Russian batteries stood guarding the bridge was at times veiled by a diaphanous curtain of slanting rain, and then, suddenly spread out in the sunlight, far-distant objects could be clearly seen glittering as though freshly varnished. Down below, the little town could be seen with its white, red-roofed houses, its cathedral, and its bridge, on both sides of which streamed jostling masses of Russian troops. At the bend of the Danube, vessels, an island, and a castle with a park surrounded by the waters of the confluence of the Enns and the Danube became visible, and the rocky left bank of the Danube covered with pine forests, with a mystic background of green treetops and bluish gorges. The turrets of a convent stood out beyond a wild virgin pine forest, and far away on the other side of the Enns the enemy's horse patrols could be discerned.
Among the field guns on the brow of the hill the general in command of the rearguard stood with a staff officer, scanning the country through his fieldglass. A little behind them Nesvitski, who had been sent to the rearguard by the commander in chief, was sitting on the trail of a gun carriage. A Cossack who accompanied him had handed him a knapsack and a flask, and Nesvitski was treating some officers to pies and real doppelkummel. The officers gladly gathered round him, some on their knees, some squatting Turkish fashion on the wet grass.
"Yes, the Austrian prince who built that castle was no fool. It's a fine place! Why are you not eating anything, gentlemen?" Nesvitski was saying.
"Thank you very much, Prince," answered one of the officers, pleased to be talking to a staff officer of such importance. "It's a lovely place! We passed close to the park and saw two deer... and what a splendid house!"
"Look, Prince," said another, who would have dearly liked to take another pie but felt shy, and therefore pretended to be examining the countryside--"See, our infantrymen have already got there. Look there in the meadow behind the village, three of them are dragging something. They'll ransack that castle," he remarked with evident approval.
"So they will," said Nesvitski. "No, but what I should like," added he, munching a pie in his moist-lipped handsome mouth, "would be to slip in over there."
He pointed with a smile to a turreted nunnery, and his eyes narrowed and gleamed.
"That would be fine, gentlemen!"
The officers laughed.
"Just to flutter the nuns a bit. They say there are Italian girls among them. On my word I'd give five years of my life for it!"
"They must be feeling dull, too," said one of the bolder officers, laughing.
Meanwhile the staff officer standing in front pointed out something to the general, who looked through his field glass.
"Yes, so it is, so it is," said the general angrily, lowering the field glass and shrugging his shoulders, "so it is! They'll be fired on at the crossing. And why are they dawdling there?"
On the opposite side the enemy could be seen by the naked eye, and from their battery a milk-white cloud arose. Then came the distant report of a shot, and our troops could be seen hurrying to the crossing.
Nesvitski rose, puffing, and went up to the general, smiling.
"Would not your excellency like a little refreshment?" he said.
"It's a bad business," said the general without answering him, "our men have been wasting time."
"Hadn't I better ride over, your excellency?" asked Nesvitski.
"Yes, please do," answered the general, and he repeated the order that had already once been given in detail: "and tell the hussars that they are to cross last and to fire the bridge as I ordered; and the inflammable material on the bridge must be reinspected."
"Very good," answered Nesvitski.
He called the Cossack with his horse, told him to put away the knapsack and flask, and swung his heavy person easily into the saddle.
"I'll really call in on the nuns," he said to the officers who watched him smilingly, and he rode off by the winding path down the hill.
"Now then, let's see how far it will carry, Captain. Just try!" said the general, turning to an artillery officer. "Have a little fun to pass the time."
"Crew, to your guns!" commanded the officer.
In a moment the men came running gaily from their campfires and began loading.
"One!" came the command.
Number one jumped briskly aside. The gun rang out with a deafening metallic roar, and a whistling grenade flew above the heads of our troops below the hill and fell far short of the enemy, a little smoke showing the spot where it burst.
The faces of officers and men brightened up at the sound. Everyone got up and began watching the movements of our troops below, as plainly visible as if but a stone's throw away, and the movements of the approaching enemy farther off. At the same instant the sun came fully out from behind the clouds, and the clear sound of the solitary shot and the brilliance of the bright sunshine merged in a single joyous and spirited impression.
Two of the enemy's shots had already flown across the bridge, where there was a crush. Halfway across stood Prince Nesvitski, who had alighted from his horse and whose big body was jammed against the railings. He looked back laughing to the Cossack who stood a few steps behind him holding two horses by their bridles. Each time Prince Nesvitski tried to move on, soldiers and carts pushed him back again and pressed him against the railings, and all he could do was to smile.
"What a fine fellow you are, friend!" said the Cossack to a convoy soldier with a wagon, who was pressing onto the infantrymen who were crowded together close to his wheels and his horses. "What a fellow! You can't wait a moment! Don't you see the general wants to pass?"
But the convoyman took no notice of the word "general" and shouted at the soldiers who were blocking his way. "Hi there, boys! Keep to the left! Wait a bit." But the soldiers, crowded together shoulder to shoulder, their bayonets interlocking, moved over the bridge in a dense mass. Looking down over the rails Prince Nesvitski saw the rapid, noisy little waves of the Enns, which rippling and eddying round the piles of the bridge chased each other along. Looking on the bridge he saw equally uniform living waves of soldiers, shoulder straps, covered shakos, knapsacks, bayonets, long muskets, and, under the shakos, faces with broad cheekbones, sunken cheeks, and listless tired expressions, and feet that moved through the sticky mud that covered the planks of the bridge. Sometimes through the monotonous waves of men, like a fleck of white foam on the waves of the Enns, an officer, in a cloak and with a type of face different from that of the men, squeezed his way along; sometimes like a chip of wood whirling in the river, an hussar on foot, an orderly, or a townsman was carried through the waves of infantry; and sometimes like a log floating down the river, an officers' or company's baggage wagon, piled high, leather covered, and hemmed in on all sides, moved across the bridge.
"It's as if a dam had burst," said the Cossack hopelessly. "Are there many more of you to come?"
"A million all but one!" replied a waggish soldier in a torn coat, with a wink, and passed on followed by another, an old man.
"If he" (he meant the enemy) "begins popping at the bridge now," said the old soldier dismally to a comrade, "you'll forget to scratch yourself."
That soldier passed on, and after him came another sitting on a cart.
"Where the devil have the leg bands been shoved to?" said an orderly, running behind the cart and fumbling in the back of it.
And he also passed on with the wagon. Then came some merry soldiers who had evidently been drinking.
"And then, old fellow, he gives him one in the teeth with the butt end of his gun..." a soldier whose greatcoat was well tucked up said gaily, with a wide swing of his arm.
"Yes, the ham was just delicious..." answered another with a loud laugh. And they, too, passed on, so that Nesvitski did not learn who had been struck on the teeth, or what the ham had to do with it.
"Bah! How they scurry. He just sends a ball and they think they'll all be killed," a sergeant was saying angrily and reproachfully.
"As it flies past me, Daddy, the ball I mean," said a young soldier with an enormous mouth, hardly refraining from laughing, "I felt like dying of fright. I did, 'pon my word, I got that frightened!" said he, as if bragging of having been frightened.
That one also passed. Then followed a cart unlike any that had gone before. It was a German cart with a pair of horses led by a German, and seemed loaded with a whole houseful of effects. A fine brindled cow with a large udder was attached to the cart behind. A woman with an unweaned baby, an old woman, and a healthy German girl with bright red cheeks were sitting on some feather beds. Evidently these fugitives were allowed to pass by special permission. The eyes of all the soldiers turned toward the women, and while the vehicle was passing at foot pace all the soldiers' remarks related to the two young ones. Every face bore almost the same smile, expressing unseemly thoughts about the women.
"Just see, the German sausage is making tracks, too!"
"Sell me the missis," said another soldier, addressing the German, who, angry and frightened, strode energetically along with downcast eyes.
"See how smart she's made herself! Oh, the devils!"
"There, Fedotov, you should be quartered on them!"
"I have seen as much before now, mate!"
"Where are you going?" asked an infantry officer who was eating an apple, also half smiling as he looked at the handsome girl.
The German closed his eyes, signifying that he did not understand.
"Take it if you like," said the officer, giving the girl an apple.
The girl smiled and took it. Nesvitski like the rest of the men on the bridge did not take his eyes off the women till they had passed. When they had gone by, the same stream of soldiers followed, with the same kind of talk, and at last all stopped. As often happens, the horses of a convoy wagon became restive at the end of the bridge, and the whole crowd had to wait.
"And why are they stopping? There's no proper order!" said the soldiers. "Where are you shoving to? Devil take you! Can't you wait? It'll be worse if he fires the bridge. See, here's an officer jammed in too"--different voices were saying in the crowd, as the men looked at one another, and all pressed toward the exit from the bridge.
Looking down at the waters of the Enns under the bridge, Nesvitski suddenly heard a sound new to him, of something swiftly approaching... something big, that splashed into the water.
"Just see where it carries to!" a soldier near by said sternly, looking round at the sound.
"Encouraging us to get along quicker," said another uneasily.
The crowd moved on again. Nesvitski realized that it was a cannon ball.
"Hey, Cossack, my horse!" he said. "Now, then, you there! get out of the way! Make way!"
With great difficulty he managed to get to his horse, and shouting continually he moved on. The soldiers squeezed themselves to make way for him, but again pressed on him so that they jammed his leg, and those nearest him were not to blame for they were themselves pressed still harder from behind.
"Nesvitski, Nesvitski! you numskull!" came a hoarse voice from behind him.
Nesvitski looked round and saw, some fifteen paces away but separated by the living mass of moving infantry, Vaska Denisov, red and shaggy, with his cap on the back of his black head and a cloak hanging jauntily over his shoulder.
"Tell these devils, these fiends, to let me pass!" shouted Denisov evidently in a fit of rage, his coal-black eyes with their bloodshot whites glittering and rolling as he waved his sheathed saber in a small bare hand as red as his face.
"Ah, Vaska!" joyfully replied Nesvitski. "What's up with you?"
"The squadwon can't pass," shouted Vaska Denisov, showing his white teeth fiercely and spurring his black thoroughbred Arab, which twitched its ears as the bayonets touched it, and snorted, spurting white foam from his bit, tramping the planks of the bridge with his hoofs, and apparently ready to jump over the railings had his rider let him. "What is this? They're like sheep! Just like sheep! Out of the way!... Let us pass!... Stop there, you devil with the cart! I'll hack you with my saber!" he shouted, actually drawing his saber from its scabbard and flourishing it.
The soldiers crowded against one another with terrified faces, and Denisov joined Nesvitski.
"How's it you're not drunk today?" said Nesvitski when the other had ridden up to him.
"They don't even give one time to dwink!" answered Vaska Denisov. "They keep dwagging the wegiment to and fwo all day. If they mean to fight, let's fight. But the devil knows what this is."
"What a dandy you are today!" said Nesvitski, looking at Denisov's new cloak and saddlecloth.
Denisov smiled, took out of his sabretache a handkerchief that diffused a smell of perfume, and put it to Nesvitski's nose.
"Of course. I'm going into action! I've shaved, bwushed my teeth, and scented myself."
The imposing figure of Nesvitski followed by his Cossack, and the determination of Denisov who flourished his sword and shouted frantically, had such an effect that they managed to squeeze through to the farther side of the bridge and stopped the infantry. Beside the bridge Nesvitski found the colonel to whom he had to deliver the order, and having done this he rode back.
Having cleared the way Denisov stopped at the end of the bridge. Carelessly holding in his stallion that was neighing and pawing the ground, eager to rejoin its fellows, he watched his squadron draw nearer. Then the clang of hoofs, as of several horses galloping, resounded on the planks of the bridge, and the squadron, officers in front and men four abreast, spread across the bridge and began to emerge on his side of it.
The infantry who had been stopped crowded near the bridge in the trampled mud and gazed with that particular feeling of ill-will, estrangement, and ridicule with which troops of different arms usually encounter one another at the clean, smart hussars who moved past them in regular order.
"Smart lads! Only fit for a fair!" said one.
"What good are they? They're led about just for show!" remarked another.
"Don't kick up the dust, you infantry!" jested an hussar whose prancing horse had splashed mud over some foot soldiers.
"I'd like to put you on a two days' march with a knapsack! Your fine cords would soon get a bit rubbed," said an infantryman, wiping the mud off his face with his sleeve. "Perched up there, you're more like a bird than a man."
"There now, Zikin, they ought to put you on a horse. You'd look fine," said a corporal, chaffing a thin little soldier who bent under the weight of his knapsack.
"Take a stick between your legs, that'll suit you for a horse!" the hussar shouted back.
The last of the infantry hurriedly crossed the bridge, squeezing together as they approached it as if passing through a funnel. At last the baggage wagons had all crossed, the crush was less, and the last battalion came onto the bridge. Only Denisov's squadron of hussars remained on the farther side of the bridge facing the enemy, who could be seen from the hill on the opposite bank but was not yet visible from the bridge, for the horizon as seen from the valley through which the river flowed was formed by the rising ground only half a mile away. At the foot of the hill lay wasteland over which a few groups of our Cossack scouts were moving. Suddenly on the road at the top of the high ground, artillery and troops in blue uniform were seen. These were the French. A group of Cossack scouts retired down the hill at a trot. All the officers and men of Denisov's squadron, though they tried to talk of other things and to look in other directions, thought only of what was there on the hilltop, and kept constantly looking at the patches appearing on the skyline, which they knew to be the enemy's troops. The weather had cleared again since noon and the sun was descending brightly upon the Danube and the dark hills around it. It was calm, and at intervals the bugle calls and the shouts of the enemy could be heard from the hill. There was no one now between the squadron and the enemy except a few scattered skirmishers. An empty space of some seven hundred yards was all that separated them. The enemy ceased firing, and that stern, threatening, inaccessible, and intangible line which separates two hostile armies was all the more clearly felt.
"One step beyond that boundary line which resembles the line dividing the living from the dead lies uncertainty, suffering, and death. And what is there? Who is there?--there beyond that field, that tree, that roof lit up by the sun? No one knows, but one wants to know. You fear and yet long to cross that line, and know that sooner or later it must be crossed and you will have to find out what is there, just as you will inevitably have to learn what lies the other side of death. But you are strong, healthy, cheerful, and excited, and are surrounded by other such excitedly animated and healthy men." So thinks, or at any rate feels, anyone who comes in sight of the enemy, and that feeling gives a particular glamour and glad keenness of impression to everything that takes place at such moments.
On the high ground where the enemy was, the smoke of a cannon rose, and a ball flew whistling over the heads of the hussar squadron. The officers who had been standing together rode off to their places. The hussars began carefully aligning their horses. Silence fell on the whole squadron. All were looking at the enemy in front and at the squadron commander, awaiting the word of command. A second and a third cannon ball flew past. Evidently they were firing at the hussars, but the balls with rapid rhythmic whistle flew over the heads of the horsemen and fell somewhere beyond them. The hussars did not look round, but at the sound of each shot, as at the word of command, the whole squadron with its rows of faces so alike yet so different, holding its breath while the ball flew past, rose in the stirrups and sank back again. The soldiers without turning their heads glanced at one another, curious to see their comrades' impression. Every face, from Denisov's to that of the bugler, showed one common expression of conflict, irritation, and excitement, around chin and mouth. The quartermaster frowned, looking at the soldiers as if threatening to punish them. Cadet Mironov ducked every time a ball flew past. Rostov on the left flank, mounted on his Rook--a handsome horse despite its game leg--had the happy air of a schoolboy called up before a large audience for an examination in which he feels sure he will distinguish himself. He was glancing at everyone with a clear, bright expression, as if asking them to notice how calmly he sat under fire. But despite himself, on his face too that same indication of something new and stern showed round the mouth.
"Who's that curtseying there? Cadet Miwonov! That's not wight! Look at me," cried Denisov who, unable to keep still on one spot, kept turning his horse in front of the squadron.
The black, hairy, snub-nosed face of Vaska Denisov, and his whole short sturdy figure with the sinewy hairy hand and stumpy fingers in which he held the hilt of his naked saber, looked just as it usually did, especially toward evening when he had emptied his second bottle; he was only redder than usual. With his shaggy head thrown back like birds when they drink, pressing his spurs mercilessly into the sides of his good horse, Bedouin, and sitting as though falling backwards in the saddle, he galloped to the other flank of the squadron and shouted in a hoarse voice to the men to look to their pistols. He rode up to Kirsten. The staff captain on his broad-backed, steady mare came at a walk to meet him. His face with its long mustache was serious as always, only his eyes were brighter than usual.
"Well, what about it?" said he to Denisov. "It won't come to a fight. You'll see--we shall retire."
"The devil only knows what they're about!" muttered Denisov. "Ah, Wostov," he cried noticing the cadet's bright face, "you've got it at last."
And he smiled approvingly, evidently pleased with the cadet. Rostov felt perfectly happy. Just then the commander appeared on the bridge. Denisov galloped up to him.
"Your excellency! Let us attack them! I'll dwive them off."
"Attack indeed!" said the colonel in a bored voice, puckering up his face as if driving off a troublesome fly. "And why are you stopping here? Don't you see the skirmishers are retreating? Lead the squadron back."
The squadron crossed the bridge and drew out of range of fire without having lost a single man. The second squadron that had been in the front line followed them across and the last Cossacks quitted the farther side of the river.
The two Pavlograd squadrons, having crossed the bridge, retired up the hill one after the other. Their colonel, Karl Bogdanich Schubert, came up to Denisov's squadron and rode at a footpace not far from Rostov, without taking any notice of him although they were now meeting for the first time since their encounter concerning Telyanin. Rostov, feeling that he was at the front and in the power of a man toward whom he now admitted that he had been to blame, did not lift his eyes from the colonel's athletic back, his nape covered with light hair, and his red neck. It seemed to Rostov that Bogdanich was only pretending not to notice him, and that his whole aim now was to test the cadet's courage, so he drew himself up and looked around him merrily; then it seemed to him that Bogdanich rode so near in order to show him his courage. Next he thought that his enemy would send the squadron on a desperate attack just to punish him--Rostov. Then he imagined how, after the attack, Bogdanich would come up to him as he lay wounded and would magnanimously extend the hand of reconciliation.
The high-shouldered figure of Zherkov, familiar to the Pavlograds as he had but recently left their regiment, rode up to the colonel. After his dismissal from headquarters Zherkov had not remained in the regiment, saying he was not such a fool as to slave at the front when he could get more rewards by doing nothing on the staff, and had succeeded in attaching himself as an orderly officer to Prince Bagration. He now came to his former chief with an order from the commander of the rear guard.
"Colonel," he said, addressing Rostov's enemy with an air of gloomy gravity and glancing round at his comrades, "there is an order to stop and fire the bridge."
"An order to who?" asked the colonel morosely.
"I don't myself know 'to who,'" replied the cornet in a serious tone, "but the prince told me to 'go and tell the colonel that the hussars must return quickly and fire the bridge.'"
Zherkov was followed by an officer of the suite who rode up to the colonel of hussars with the same order. After him the stout Nesvitski came galloping up on a Cossack horse that could scarcely carry his weight.
"How's this, Colonel?" he shouted as he approached. "I told you to fire the bridge, and now someone has gone and blundered; they are all beside themselves over there and one can't make anything out."
The colonel deliberately stopped the regiment and turned to Nesvitski.
"You spoke to me of inflammable material," said he, "but you said nothing about firing it."
"But, my dear sir," said Nesvitski as he drew up, taking off his cap and smoothing his hair wet with perspiration with his plump hand, "wasn't I telling you to fire the bridge, when inflammable material had been put in position?"
"I am not your 'dear sir,' Mr. Staff Officer, and you did not tell me to burn the bridge! I know the service, and it is my habit orders strictly to obey. You said the bridge would be burned, but who would it burn, I could not know by the holy spirit!"
"Ah, that's always the way!" said Nesvitski with a wave of the hand. "How did you get here?" said he, turning to Zherkov.
"On the same business. But you are damp! Let me wring you out!"
"You were saying, Mr. Staff Officer..." continued the colonel in an offended tone.
"Colonel," interrupted the officer of the suite, "You must be quick or the enemy will bring up his guns to use grapeshot."
The colonel looked silently at the officer of the suite, at the stout staff officer, and at Zherkov, and he frowned.
"I will the bridge fire," he said in a solemn tone as if to announce that in spite of all the unpleasantness he had to endure he would still do the right thing.
Striking his horse with his long muscular legs as if it were to blame for everything, the colonel moved forward and ordered the second squadron, that in which Rostov was serving under Denisov, to return to the bridge.
"There, it's just as I thought," said Rostov to himself. "He wishes to test me!" His heart contracted and the blood rushed to his face. "Let him see whether I am a coward!" he thought.
Again on all the bright faces of the squadron the serious expression appeared that they had worn when under fire. Rostov watched his enemy, the colonel, closely--to find in his face confirmation of his own conjecture, but the colonel did not once glance at Rostov, and looked as he always did when at the front, solemn and stern. Then came the word of command.
"Look sharp! Look sharp!" several voices repeated around him.
Their sabers catching in the bridles and their spurs jingling, the hussars hastily dismounted, not knowing what they were to do. The men were crossing themselves. Rostov no longer looked at the colonel, he had no time. He was afraid of falling behind the hussars, so much afraid that his heart stood still. His hand trembled as he gave his horse into an orderly's charge, and he felt the blood rush to his heart with a thud. Denisov rode past him, leaning back and shouting something. Rostov saw nothing but the hussars running all around him, their spurs catching and their sabers clattering.
"Stretchers!" shouted someone behind him.
Rostov did not think what this call for stretchers meant; he ran on, trying only to be ahead of the others; but just at the bridge, not looking at the ground, he came on some sticky, trodden mud, stumbled, and fell on his hands. The others outstripped him.
"At boss zides, Captain," he heard the voice of the colonel, who, having ridden ahead, had pulled up his horse near the bridge, with a triumphant, cheerful face.
Rostov wiping his muddy hands on his breeches looked at his enemy and was about to run on, thinking that the farther he went to the front the better. But Bogdanich, without looking at or recognizing Rostov, shouted to him:
"Who's that running on the middle of the bridge? To the right! Come back, Cadet!" he cried angrily; and turning to Denisov, who, showing off his courage, had ridden on to the planks of the bridge:
"Why run risks, Captain? You should dismount," he said.
"Oh, every bullet has its billet," answered Vaska Denisov, turning in his saddle.
Meanwhile Nesvitski, Zherkov, and the officer of the suite were standing together out of range of the shots, watching, now the small group of men with yellow shakos, dark-green jackets braided with cord, and blue riding breeches, who were swarming near the bridge, and then at what was approaching in the distance from the opposite side- the blue uniforms and groups with horses, easily recognizable as artillery.
"Will they burn the bridge or not? Who'll get there first? Will they get there and fire the bridge or will the French get within grapeshot range and wipe them out?" These were the questions each man of the troops on the high ground above the bridge involuntarily asked himself with a sinking heart--watching the bridge and the hussars in the bright evening light and the blue tunics advancing from the other side with their bayonets and guns.
"Ugh. The hussars will get it hot!" said Nesvitski; "they are within grapeshot range now."
"He shouldn't have taken so many men," said the officer of the suite.
"True enough," answered Nesvitski; "two smart fellows could have done the job just as well."
"Ah, your excellency," put in Zherkov, his eyes fixed on the hussars, but still with that naive air that made it impossible to know whether he was speaking in jest or in earnest. "Ah, your excellency! How you look at things! Send two men? And who then would give us the Vladimir medal and ribbon? But now, even if they do get peppered, the squadron may be recommended for honors and he may get a ribbon. Our Bogdanich knows how things are done."
"There now!" said the officer of the suite, "that's grapeshot."
He pointed to the French guns, the limbers of which were being detached and hurriedly removed.
On the French side, amid the groups with cannon, a cloud of smoke appeared, then a second and a third almost simultaneously, and at the moment when the first report was heard a fourth was seen. Then two reports one after another, and a third.
"Oh! Oh!" groaned Nesvitski as if in fierce pain, seizing the officer of the suite by the arm. "Look! A man has fallen! Fallen, fallen!"
"Two, I think."
"If I were Tsar I would never go to war," said Nesvitski, turning away.
The French guns were hastily reloaded. The infantry in their blue uniforms advanced toward the bridge at a run. Smoke appeared again but at irregular intervals, and grapeshot cracked and rattled onto the bridge. But this time Nesvitski could not see what was happening there, as a dense cloud of smoke arose from it. The hussars had succeeded in setting it on fire and the French batteries were now firing at them, no longer to hinder them but because the guns were trained and there was someone to fire at.
The French had time to fire three rounds of grapeshot before the hussars got back to their horses. Two were misdirected and the shot went too high, but the last round fell in the midst of a group of hussars and knocked three of them over.
Rostov, absorbed by his relations with Bogdanich, had paused on the bridge not knowing what to do. There was no one to hew down (as he had always imagined battles to himself), nor could he help to fire the bridge because he had not brought any burning straw with him like the other soldiers. He stood looking about him, when suddenly he heard a rattle on the bridge as if nuts were being spilt, and the hussar nearest to him fell against the rails with a groan. Rostov ran up to him with the others. Again someone shouted, "Stretchers!" Four men seized the hussar and began lifting him.
"Oooh! For Christ's sake let me alone!" cried the wounded man, but still he was lifted and laid on the stretcher.
Nicholas Rostov turned away and, as if searching for something, gazed into the distance, at the waters of the Danube, at the sky, and at the sun. How beautiful the sky looked; how blue, how calm, and how deep! How bright and glorious was the setting sun! With what soft glitter the waters of the distant Danube shone. And fairer still were the faraway blue mountains beyond the river, the nunnery, the mysterious gorges, and the pine forests veiled in the mist of their summits... There was peace and happiness... "I should wishing for nothing else, nothing, if only I were there," thought Rostov. "In myself alone and in that sunshine there is so much happiness; but here... groans, suffering, fear, and this uncertainty and hurry... There--they are shouting again, and again are all running back somewhere, and I shall run with them, and it, death, is here above me and around... Another instant and I shall never again see the sun, this water, that gorge!..."
At that instant the sun began to hide behind the clouds, and other stretchers came into view before Rostov. And the fear of death and of the stretchers, and love of the sun and of life, all merged into one feeling of sickening agitation.
"O Lord God! Thou who art in that heaven, save, forgive, and protect me!" Rostov whispered.
The hussars ran back to the men who held their horses; their voices sounded louder and calmer, the stretchers disappeared from sight.
"Well, fwiend? So you've smelt powdah!" shouted Vaska Denisov just above his ear.
"It's all over; but I am a coward--yes, a coward!" thought Rostov, and sighing deeply he took Rook, his horse, which stood resting one foot, from the orderly and began to mount.
"Was that grapeshot?" he asked Denisov.
"Yes and no mistake!" cried Denisov. "You worked like wegular bwicks and it's nasty work! An attack's pleasant work! Hacking away at the dogs! But this sort of thing is the very devil, with them shooting at you like a target."
And Denisov rode up to a group that had stopped near Rostov, composed of the colonel, Nesvitski, Zherkov, and the officer from the suite.
"Well, it seems that no one has noticed," thought Rostov. And this was true. No one had taken any notice, for everyone knew the sensation which the cadet under fire for the first time had experienced.
"Here's something for you to report," said Zherkov. "See if I don't get promoted to a sublieutenancy."
"Inform the prince that I the bridge fired!" said the colonel triumphantly and gaily.
"And if he asks about the losses?"
"A trifle," said the colonel in his bass voice: "two hussars wounded, and one knocked out," he added, unable to restrain a happy smile, and pronouncing the phrase "knocked out" with ringing distinctness.
Pursued by the French army of a hundred thousand men under the command of Bonaparte, encountering a population that was unfriendly to it, losing confidence in its allies, suffering from shortness of supplies, and compelled to act under conditions of war unlike anything that had been foreseen, the Russian army of thirty-five thousand men commanded by Kutuzov was hurriedly retreating along the Danube, stopping where overtaken by the enemy and fighting rearguard actions only as far as necessary to enable it to retreat without losing its heavy equipment. There had been actions at Lambach, Amstetten, and Melk; but despite the courage and endurance--acknowledged even by the enemy--with which the Russians fought, the only consequence of these actions was a yet more rapid retreat. Austrian troops that had escaped capture at Ulm and had joined Kutuzov at Braunau now separated from the Russian army, and Kutuzov was left with only his own weak and exhausted forces. The defense of Vienna was no longer to be thought of. Instead of an offensive, the plan of which, carefully prepared in accord with the modern science of strategics, had been handed to Kutuzov when he was in Vienna by the Austrian Hofkriegsrath, the sole and almost unattainable aim remaining for him was to effect a junction with the forces that were advancing from Russia, without losing his army as Mack had done at Ulm.
On the twenty-eighth of October Kutuzov with his army crossed to the left bank of the Danube and took up a position for the first time with the river between himself and the main body of the French. On the thirtieth he attacked Mortier's division, which was on the left bank, and broke it up. In this action for the first time trophies were taken: banners, cannon, and two enemy generals. For the first time, after a fortnight's retreat, the Russian troops had halted and after a fight had not only held the field but had repulsed the French. Though the troops were ill-clad, exhausted, and had lost a third of their number in killed, wounded, sick, and stragglers; though a number of sick and wounded had been abandoned on the other side of the Danube with a letter in which Kutuzov entrusted them to the humanity of the enemy; and though the big hospitals and the houses in Krems converted into military hospitals could no longer accommodate all the sick and wounded, yet the stand made at Krems and the victory over Mortier raised the spirits of the army considerably. Throughout the whole army and at headquarters most joyful though erroneous rumors were rife of the imaginary approach of columns from Russia, of some victory gained by the Austrians, and of the retreat of the frightened Bonaparte.
Prince Andrew during the battle had been in attendance on the Austrian General Schmidt, who was killed in the action. His horse had been wounded under him and his own arm slightly grazed by a bullet. As a mark of the commander in chief's special favor he was sent with the news of this victory to the Austrian court, now no longer at Vienna (which was threatened by the French) but at Brunn. Despite his apparently delicate build Prince Andrew could endure physical fatigue far better than many very muscular men, and on the night of the battle, having arrived at Krems excited but not weary, with dispatches from Dokhturov to Kutuzov, he was sent immediately with a special dispatch to Brunn. To be so sent meant not only a reward but an important step toward promotion.
The night was dark but starry, the road showed black in the snow that had fallen the previous day--the day of the battle. Reviewing his impressions of the recent battle, picturing pleasantly to himself the impression his news of a victory would create, or recalling the send-off given him by the commander in chief and his fellow officers, Prince Andrew was galloping along in a post chaise enjoying the feelings of a man who has at length begun to attain a long-desired happiness. As soon as he closed his eyes his ears seemed filled with the rattle of the wheels and the sensation of victory. Then he began to imagine that the Russians were running away and that he himself was killed, but he quickly roused himself with a feeling of joy, as if learning afresh that this was not so but that on the contrary the French had run away. He again recalled all the details of the victory and his own calm courage during the battle, and feeling reassured he dozed off.... The dark starry night was followed by a bright cheerful morning. The snow was thawing in the sunshine, the horses galloped quickly, and on both sides of the road were forests of different kinds, fields, and villages.
At one of the post stations he overtook a convoy of Russian wounded. The Russian officer in charge of the transport lolled back in the front cart, shouting and scolding a soldier with coarse abuse. In each of the long German carts six or more pale, dirty, bandaged men were being jolted over the stony road. Some of them were talking (he heard Russian words), others were eating bread; the more severely wounded looked silently, with the languid interest of sick children, at the envoy hurrying past them.
Prince Andrew told his driver to stop, and asked a soldier in what action they had been wounded. "Day before yesterday, on the Danube," answered the soldier. Prince Andrew took out his purse and gave the soldier three gold pieces.
"That's for them all," he said to the officer who came up.
"Get well soon, lads!" he continued, turning to the soldiers. "There's plenty to do still."
"What news, sir?" asked the officer, evidently anxious to start a conversation.
"Good news!... Go on!" he shouted to the driver, and they galloped on.
It was already quite dark when Prince Andrew rattled over the paved streets of Brunn and found himself surrounded by high buildings, the lights of shops, houses, and street lamps, fine carriages, and all that atmosphere of a large and active town which is always so attractive to a soldier after camp life. Despite his rapid journey and sleepless night, Prince Andrew when he drove up to the palace felt even more vigorous and alert than he had done the day before. Only his eyes gleamed feverishly and his thoughts followed one another with extraordinary clearness and rapidity. He again vividly recalled the details of the battle, no longer dim, but definite and in the concise form in which he imagined himself stating them to the Emperor Francis. He vividly imagined the casual questions that might be put to him and the answers he would give. He expected to be at once presented to the Emperor. At the chief entrance to the palace, however, an official came running out to meet him, and learning that he was a special messenger led him to another entrance.
"To the right from the corridor, Euer Hochgeboren! There you will find the adjutant on duty," said the official. "He will conduct you to the Minister of War."
The adjutant on duty, meeting Prince Andrew, asked him to wait, and went in to the Minister of War. Five minutes later he returned and bowing with particular courtesy ushered Prince Andrew before him along a corridor to the cabinet where the Minister of War was at work. The adjutant by his elaborate courtesy appeared to wish to ward off any attempt at familiarity on the part of the Russian messenger.
Prince Andrew's joyous feeling was considerably weakened as he approached the door of the minister's room. He felt offended, and without his noticing it the feeling of offense immediately turned into one of disdain which was quite uncalled for. His fertile mind instantly suggested to him a point of view which gave him a right to despise the adjutant and the minister. "Away from the smell of powder, they probably think it easy to gain victories!" he thought. His eyes narrowed disdainfully, he entered the room of the Minister of War with peculiarly deliberate steps. This feeling of disdain was heightened when he saw the minister seated at a large table reading some papers and making pencil notes on them, and for the first two or three minutes taking no notice of his arrival. A wax candle stood at each side of the minister's bent bald head with its gray temples. He went on reading to the end, without raising his eyes at the opening of the door and the sound of footsteps.
"Take this and deliver it," said he to his adjutant, handing him the papers and still taking no notice of the special messenger.
Prince Andrew felt that either the actions of Kutuzov's army interested the Minister of War less than any of the other matters he was concerned with, or he wanted to give the Russian special messenger that impression. "But that is a matter of perfect indifference to me," he thought. The minister drew the remaining papers together, arranged them evenly, and then raised his head. He had an intellectual and distinctive head, but the instant he turned to Prince Andrew the firm, intelligent expression on his face changed in a way evidently deliberate and habitual to him. His face took on the stupid artificial smile (which does not even attempt to hide its artificiality) of a man who is continually receiving many petitioners one after another.
"From General Field Marshal Kutuzov?" he asked. "I hope it is good news? There has been an encounter with Mortier? A victory? It was high time!"
He took the dispatch which was addressed to him and began to read it with a mournful expression.
"Oh, my God! My God! Schmidt!" he exclaimed in German. "What a calamity! What a calamity!"
Having glanced through the dispatch he laid it on the table and looked at Prince Andrew, evidently considering something.
"Ah what a calamity! You say the affair was decisive? But Mortier is not captured." Again he pondered. "I am very glad you have brought good news, though Schmidt's death is a heavy price to pay for the victory. His Majesty will no doubt wish to see you, but not today. I thank you! You must have a rest. Be at the levee tomorrow after the parade. However, I will let you know."
The stupid smile, which had left his face while he was speaking, reappeared.
"Au revoir! Thank you very much. His Majesty will probably desire to see you," he added, bowing his head.
When Prince Andrew left the palace he felt that all the interest and happiness the victory had afforded him had been now left in the indifferent hands of the Minister of War and the polite adjutant. The whole tenor of his thoughts instantaneously changed; the battle seemed the memory of a remote event long past.
Prince Andrew stayed at Brunn with Bilibin, a Russian acquaintance of his in the diplomatic service.
"Ah, my dear prince! I could not have a more welcome visitor," said Bilibin as he came out to meet Prince Andrew. "Franz, put the prince's things in my bedroom," said he to the servant who was ushering Bolkonski in. "So you're a messenger of victory, eh? Splendid! And I am sitting here ill, as you see."
After washing and dressing, Prince Andrew came into the diplomat's luxurious study and sat down to the dinner prepared for him. Bilibin settled down comfortably beside the fire.
After his journey and the campaign during which he had been deprived of all the comforts of cleanliness and all the refinements of life, Prince Andrew felt a pleasant sense of repose among luxurious surroundings such as he had been accustomed to from childhood. Besides it was pleasant, after his reception by the Austrians, to speak if not in Russian (for they were speaking French) at least with a Russian who would, he supposed, share the general Russian antipathy to the Austrians which was then particularly strong.
Bilibin was a man of thirty-five, a bachelor, and of the same circle as Prince Andrew. They had known each other previously in Petersburg, but had become more intimate when Prince Andrew was in Vienna with Kutuzov. Just as Prince Andrew was a young man who gave promise of rising high in the military profession, so to an even greater extent Bilibin gave promise of rising in his diplomatic career. He still a young man but no longer a young diplomat, as he had entered the service at the age of sixteen, had been in Paris and Copenhagen, and now held a rather important post in Vienna. Both the foreign minister and our ambassador in Vienna knew him and valued him. He was not one of those many diplomats who are esteemed because they have certain negative qualities, avoid doing certain things, and speak French. He was one of those, who, liking work, knew how to do it, and despite his indolence would sometimes spend a whole night at his writing table. He worked well whatever the import of his work. It was not the question "What for?" but the question "How?" that interested him. What the diplomatic matter might be he did not care, but it gave him great pleasure to prepare a circular, memorandum, or report, skillfully, pointedly, and elegantly. Bilibin's services were valued not only for what he wrote, but also for his skill in dealing and conversing with those in the highest spheres.
Bilibin liked conversation as he liked work, only when it could be made elegantly witty. In society he always awaited an opportunity to say something striking and took part in a conversation only when that was possible. His conversation was always sprinkled with wittily original, finished phrases of general interest. These sayings were prepared in the inner laboratory of his mind in a portable form as if intentionally, so that insignificant society people might carry them from drawing room to drawing room. And, in fact, Bilibin's witticisms were hawked about in the Viennese drawing rooms and often had an influence on matters considered important.
His thin, worn, sallow face was covered with deep wrinkles, which always looked as clean and well washed as the tips of one's fingers after a Russian bath. The movement of these wrinkles formed the principal play of expression on his face. Now his forehead would pucker into deep folds and his eyebrows were lifted, then his eyebrows would descend and deep wrinkles would crease his cheeks. His small, deep-set eyes always twinkled and looked out straight.
"Well, now tell me about your exploits," said he.
Bolkonski, very modestly without once mentioning himself, described the engagement and his reception by the Minister of War.
"They received me and my news as one receives a dog in a game of skittles," said he in conclusion.
Bilibin smiled and the wrinkles on his face disappeared.
"Cependant, mon cher," he remarked, examining his nails from a distance and puckering the skin above his left eye, "malgre la haute estime que je professe pour the Orthodox Russian army, j'avoue que votre victoire n'est pas des plus victorieuses."*
*"But my dear fellow, with all my respect for the Orthodox Russian army, I must say that your victory was not particularly victorious."
He went on talking in this way in French, uttering only those words in Russian on which he wished to put a contemptuous emphasis.
"Come now! You with all your forces fall on the unfortunate Mortier and his one division, and even then Mortier slips through your fingers! Where's the victory?"
"But seriously," said Prince Andrew, "we can at any rate say without boasting that it was a little better than at Ulm..."
"Why didn't you capture one, just one, marshal for us?"
"Because not everything happens as one expects or with the smoothness of a parade. We had expected, as I told you, to get at their rear by seven in the morning but had not reached it by five in the afternoon."
"And why didn't you do it at seven in the morning? You ought to have been there at seven in the morning," returned Bilibin with a smile. "You ought to have been there at seven in the morning."
"Why did you not succeed in impressing on Bonaparte by diplomatic methods that he had better leave Genoa alone?" retorted Prince Andrew in the same tone.
"I know," interrupted Bilibin, "you're thinking it's very easy to take marshals, sitting on a sofa by the fire! That is true, but still why didn't you capture him? So don't be surprised if not only the Minister of War but also his Most August Majesty the Emperor and King Francis is not much delighted by your victory. Even I, a poor secretary of the Russian Embassy, do not feel any need in token of my joy to give my Franz a thaler, or let him go with his Liebchen to the Prater... True, we have no Prater here..."
He looked straight at Prince Andrew and suddenly unwrinkled his forehead.
"It is now my turn to ask you 'why?' mon cher," said Bolkonski. "I confess I do not understand: perhaps there are diplomatic subtleties here beyond my feeble intelligence, but I can't make it out. Mack loses a whole army, the Archduke Ferdinand and the Archduke Karl give no signs of life and make blunder after blunder. Kutuzov alone at last gains a real victory, destroying the spell of the invincibility of the French, and the Minister of War does not even care to hear the details."
"That's just it, my dear fellow. You see it's hurrah for the Tsar, for Russia, for the Orthodox Greek faith! All that is beautiful, but what do we, I mean the Austrian court, care for your victories? Bring us nice news of a victory by the Archduke Karl or Ferdinand (one archduke's as good as another, as you know) and even if it is only over a fire brigade of Bonaparte's, that will be another story and we'll fire off some cannon! But this sort of thing seems done on purpose to vex us. The Archduke Karl does nothing, the Archduke Ferdinand disgraces himself. You abandon Vienna, give up its defense--as much as to say: 'Heaven is with us, but heaven help you and your capital!' The one general whom we all loved, Schmidt, you expose to a bullet, and then you congratulate us on the victory! Admit that more irritating news than yours could not have been conceived. It's as if it had been done on purpose, on purpose. Besides, suppose you did gain a brilliant victory, if even the Archduke Karl gained a victory, what effect would that have on the general course of events? It's too late now when Vienna is occupied by the French army!"
"What? Occupied? Vienna occupied?"
"Not only occupied, but Bonaparte is at Schonbrunn, and the count, our dear Count Vrbna, goes to him for orders."
After the fatigues and impressions of the journey, his reception, and especially after having dined, Bolkonski felt that he could not take in the full significance of the words he heard.
"Count Lichtenfels was here this morning," Bilibin continued, "and showed me a letter in which the parade of the French in Vienna was fully described: Prince Murat et tout le tremblement... You see that your victory is not a matter for great rejoicing and that you can't be received as a savior."
"Really I don't care about that, I don't care at all," said Prince Andrew, beginning to understand that his news of the battle before Krems was really of small importance in view of such events as the fall of Austria's capital. "How is it Vienna was taken? What of the bridge and its celebrated bridgehead and Prince Auersperg? We heard reports that Prince Auersperg was defending Vienna?" he said.
"Prince Auersperg is on this, on our side of the river, and is defending us--doing it very badly, I think, but still he is defending us. But Vienna is on the other side. No, the bridge has not yet been taken and I hope it will not be, for it is mined and orders have been given to blow it up. Otherwise we should long ago have been in the mountains of Bohemia, and you and your army would have spent a bad quarter of an hour between two fires."
"But still this does not mean that the campaign is over," said Prince Andrew.
"Well, I think it is. The bigwigs here think so too, but they daren't say so. It will be as I said at the beginning of the campaign, it won't be your skirmishing at Durrenstein, or gunpowder at all, that will decide the matter, but those who devised it," said Bilibin quoting one of his own mots, releasing the wrinkles on his forehead, and pausing. "The only question is what will come of the meeting between the Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia in Berlin? If Prussia joins the Allies, Austria's hand will be forced and there will be war. If not it is merely a question of settling where the preliminaries of the new Campo Formio are to be drawn up."
"What an extraordinary genius!" Prince Andrew suddenly exclaimed, clenching his small hand and striking the table with it, "and what luck the man has!"
"Buonaparte?" said Bilibin inquiringly, puckering up his forehead to indicate that he was about to say something witty. "Buonaparte?" he repeated, accentuating the u: "I think, however, now that he lays down laws for Austria at Schonbrunn, il faut lui faire grace de l'u!* I shall certainly adopt an innovation and call him simply Bonaparte!"
*"We must let him off the u!"
"But joking apart," said Prince Andrew, "do you really think the campaign is over?"
"This is what I think. Austria has been made a fool of, and she is not used to it. She will retaliate. And she has been fooled in the first place because her provinces have been pillaged--they say the Holy Russian army loots terribly--her army is destroyed, her capital taken, and all this for the beaux yeux* of His Sardinian Majesty. And therefore--this is between ourselves--I instinctively feel that we are being deceived, my instinct tells me of negotiations with France and projects for peace, a secret peace concluded separately."
"Impossible!" cried Prince Andrew. "That would be too base."
"If we live we shall see," replied Bilibin, his face again becoming smooth as a sign that the conversation was at an end.
When Prince Andrew reached the room prepared for him and lay down in a clean shirt on the feather bed with its warmed and fragrant pillows, he felt that the battle of which he had brought tidings was far, far away from him. The alliance with Prussia, Austria's treachery, Bonaparte's new triumph, tomorrow's levee and parade, and the audience with the Emperor Francis occupied his thoughts.
He closed his eyes, and immediately a sound of cannonading, of musketry and the rattling of carriage wheels seemed to fill his ears, and now again drawn out in a thin line the musketeers were descending the hill, the French were firing, and he felt his heart palpitating as he rode forward beside Schmidt with the bullets merrily whistling all around, and he experienced tenfold the joy of living, as he had not done since childhood.
He woke up...
"Yes, that all happened!" he said, and, smiling happily to himself like a child, he fell into a deep, youthful slumber.