Part 29 out of 34
Through the cross streets of the Khamovniki quarter the prisoners
marched, followed only by their escort and the vehicles and wagons
belonging to that escort, but when they reached the supply stores they
came among a huge and closely packed train of artillery mingled with
At the bridge they all halted, waiting for those in front to get
across. From the bridge they had a view of endless lines of moving
baggage trains before and behind them. To the right, where the
Kaluga road turns near Neskuchny, endless rows of troops and carts
stretched away into the distance. These were troops of Beauharnais'
corps which had started before any of the others. Behind, along the
riverside and across the Stone Bridge, were Ney's troops and
Davout's troops, in whose charge were the prisoners, were crossing
the Crimean bridge and some were already debouching into the Kaluga
road. But the baggage trains stretched out so that the last of
Beauharnais' train had not yet got out of Moscow and reached the
Kaluga road when the vanguard of Ney's army was already emerging
from the Great Ordynka Street.
When they had crossed the Crimean bridge the prisoners moved a few
steps forward, halted, and again moved on, and from all sides vehicles
and men crowded closer and closer together. They advanced the few
hundred paces that separated the bridge from the Kaluga road, taking
more than an hour to do so, and came out upon the square where the
streets of the Transmoskva ward and the Kaluga road converge, and
the prisoners jammed close together had to stand for some hours at
that crossway. From all sides, like the roar of the sea, were heard
the rattle of wheels, the tramp of feet, and incessant shouts of anger
and abuse. Pierre stood pressed against the wall of a charred house,
listening to that noise which mingled in his imagination with the roll
of the drums.
To get a better view, several officer prisoners climbed onto the
wall of the half-burned house against which Pierre was leaning.
"What crowds! Just look at the crowds!... They've loaded goods
even on the cannon! Look there, those are furs!" they exclaimed. "Just
see what the blackguards have looted.... There! See what that one
has behind in the cart.... Why, those are settings taken from some
icons, by heaven!... Oh, the rascals!... See how that fellow has
loaded himself up, he can hardly walk! Good lord, they've even grabbed
those chaises!... See that fellow there sitting on the trunks....
Heavens! They're fighting."
"That's right, hit him on the snout- on his snout! Like this, we
shan't get away before evening. Look, look there.... Why, that must be
Napoleon's own. See what horses! And the monograms with a crown!
It's like a portable house.... That fellow's dropped his sack and
doesn't see it. Fighting again... A woman with a baby, and not
bad-looking either! Yes, I dare say, that's the way they'll let you
pass... Just look, there's no end to it. Russian wenches, by heaven,
so they are! In carriages- see how comfortably they've settled
Again, as at the church in Khamovniki, a wave of general curiosity
bore all the prisoners forward onto the road, and Pierre, thanks to
his stature, saw over the heads of the others what so attracted
their curiosity. In three carriages involved among the munition carts,
closely squeezed together, sat women with rouged faces, dressed in
glaring colors, who were shouting something in shrill voices.
From the moment Pierre had recognized the appearance of the
mysterious force nothing had seemed to him strange or dreadful:
neither the corpse smeared with soot for fun nor these women
hurrying away nor the burned ruins of Moscow. All that he now
witnessed scarcely made an impression on him- as if his soul, making
ready for a hard struggle, refused to receive impressions that might
The women's vehicles drove by. Behind them came more carts,
soldiers, wagons, soldiers, gun carriages, carriages, soldiers,
ammunition carts, more soldiers, and now and then women.
Pierre did not see the people as individuals but saw their movement.
All these people and horses seemed driven forward by some
invisible power. During the hour Pierre watched them they all came
flowing from the different streets with one and the same desire to get
on quickly; they all jostled one another, began to grow angry and to
fight, white teeth gleamed, brows frowned, ever the same words of
abuse flew from side to side, and all the faces bore the same
swaggeringly resolute and coldly cruel expression that had struck
Pierre that morning on the corporal's face when the drums were
It was not till nearly evening that the officer commanding the
escort collected his men and with shouts and quarrels forced his way
in among the baggage trains, and the prisoners, hemmed in on all
sides, emerged onto the Kaluga road.
They marched very quickly, without resting, and halted only when the
sun began to set. The baggage carts drew up close together and the men
began to prepare for their night's rest. They all appeared angry and
dissatisfied. For a long time, oaths, angry shouts, and fighting could
be heard from all sides. A carriage that followed the escort ran
into one of the carts and knocked a hole in it with its pole.
Several soldiers ran toward the cart from different sides: some beat
the carriage horses on their heads, turning them aside, others
fought among themselves, and Pierre saw that one German was badly
wounded on the head by a sword.
It seemed that all these men, now that they had stopped amid
fields in the chill dusk of the autumn evening, experienced one and
the same feeling of unpleasant awakening from the hurry and
eagerness to push on that had seized them at the start. Once at a
standstill they all seemed to understand that they did not yet know
where they were going, and that much that was painful and difficult
awaited them on this journey.
During this halt the escort treated the prisoners even worse than
they had done at the start. It was here that the prisoners for the
first time received horseflesh for their meat ration.
From the officer down to the lowest soldier they showed what
seemed like personal spite against each of the prisoners, in
unexpected contrast to their former friendly relations.
This spite increased still more when, on calling over the roll of
prisoners, it was found that in the bustle of leaving Moscow one
Russian soldier, who had pretended to suffer from colic, had
escaped. Pierre saw a Frenchman beat a Russian soldier cruelly for
straying too far from the road, and heard his friend the captain
reprimand and threaten to court-martial a noncommissioned officer on
account of the escape of the Russian. To the noncommissioned officer's
excuse that the prisoner was ill and could not walk, the officer
replied that the order was to shoot those who lagged behind. Pierre
felt that that fatal force which had crushed him during the
executions, but which be had not felt during his imprisonment, now
again controlled his existence. It was terrible, but he felt that in
proportion to the efforts of that fatal force to crush him, there grew
and strengthened in his soul a power of life independent of it.
He ate his supper of buckwheat soup with horseflesh and chatted with
Neither Pierre nor any of the others spoke of what they had seen
in Moscow, or of the roughness of their treatment by the French, or of
the order to shoot them which had been announced to them. As if in
reaction against the worsening of their position they were all
particularly animated and gay. They spoke of personal reminiscences,
of amusing scenes they had witnessed during the campaign, and
avoided all talk of their present situation.
The sun had set long since. Bright stars shone out here and there in
the sky. A red glow as of a conflagration spread above the horizon
from the rising full moon, and that vast red ball swayed strangely
in the gray haze. It grew light. The evening was ending, but the night
had not yet come. Pierre got up and left his new companions,
crossing between the campfires to the other side of the road where
he had been told the common soldier prisoners were stationed. He
wanted to talk to them. On the road he was stopped by a French
sentinel who ordered him back.
Pierre turned back, not to his companions by the campfire, but to an
unharnessed cart where there was nobody. Tucking his legs under him
and dropping his head he sat down on the cold ground by the wheel of
the cart and remained motionless a long while sunk in thought.
Suddenly he burst out into a fit of his broad, good-natured
laughter, so loud that men from various sides turned with surprise
to see what this strange and evidently solitary laughter could mean.
"Ha-ha-ha!" laughed Pierre. And he said aloud to himself: "The
soldier did not let me pass. They took me and shut me up. They hold me
captive. What, me? Me? My immortal soul? Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!..." and
he laughed till tears started to his eyes.
A man got up and came to see what this queer big fellow was laughing
at all by himself. Pierre stopped laughing, got up, went farther
away from the inquisitive man, and looked around him.
The huge, endless bivouac that had previously resounded with the
crackling of campfires and the voices of many men had grown quiet, the
red campfires were growing paler and dying down. High up in the
light sky hung the full moon. Forests and fields beyond the camp,
unseen before, were now visible in the distance. And farther still,
beyond those forests and fields, the bright, oscillating, limitless
distance lured one to itself. Pierre glanced up at the sky and the
twinkling stars in its faraway depths. "And all that is me, all that
is within me, and it is all I!" thought Pierre. "And they caught all
that and put it into a shed boarded up with planks!" He smiled, and
went and lay down to sleep beside his companions.
In the early days of October another envoy came to Kutuzov with a
letter from Napoleon proposing peace and falsely dated from Moscow,
though Napoleon was already not far from Kutuzov on the old Kaluga
road. Kutuzov replied to this letter as he had done to the one
formerly brought by Lauriston, saying that there could be no
question of peace.
Soon after that a report was received from Dorokhov's guerrilla
detachment operating to the left of Tarutino that troops of
Broussier's division had been seen at Forminsk and that being
separated from the rest of the French army they might easily be
destroyed. The soldiers and officers again demanded action. Generals
on the staff, excited by the memory of the easy victory at Tarutino,
urged Kutuzov to carry out Dorokhov's suggestion. Kutuzov did not
consider any offensive necessary. The result was a compromise which
was inevitable: a small detachment was sent to Forminsk to attack
By a strange coincidence, this task, which turned out to be a most
difficult and important one, was entrusted to Dokhturov- that same
modest little Dokhturov whom no one had described to us as drawing
up plans of battles, dashing about in front of regiments, showering
crosses on batteries, and so on, and who was thought to be and was
spoken of as undecided and undiscerning- but whom we find commanding
wherever the position was most difficult all through the
Russo-French wars from Austerlitz to the year 1813. At Austerlitz he
remained last at the Augezd dam, rallying the regiments, saving what
was possible when all were flying and perishing and not a single
general was left in the rear guard. Ill with fever he went to Smolensk
with twenty thousand men to defend the town against Napoleon's whole
army. In Smolensk, at the Malakhov Gate, he had hardly dozed off in
a paroxysm of fever before he was awakened by the bombardment of the
town- and Smolensk held out all day long. At the battle of Borodino,
when Bagration was killed and nine tenths of the men of our left flank
had fallen and the full force of the French artillery fire was
directed against it, the man sent there was this same irresolute and
undiscerning Dokhturov- Kutuzov hastening to rectify a mistake he
had made by sending someone else there first. And the quiet little
Dokhturov rode thither, and Borodino became the greatest glory of
the Russian army. Many heroes have been described to us in verse and
prose, but of Dokhturov scarcely a word has been said.
It was Dokhturov again whom they sent to Forminsk and from there
to Malo-Yaroslavets, the place where the last battle with the French
was fought and where the obvious disintegration of the French army
began; and we are told of many geniuses and heroes of that period of
the campaign, but of Dokhturov nothing or very little is said and that
dubiously. And this silence about Dokhturov is the clearest
testimony to his merit.
It is natural for a man who does not understand the workings of a
machine to imagine that a shaving that has fallen into it by chance
and is interfering with its action and tossing about in it is its most
important part. The man who does not understand the construction of
the machine cannot conceive that the small connecting cogwheel which
revolves quietly is one of the most essential parts of the machine,
and not the shaving which merely harms and hinders the working.
On the tenth of October when Dokhturov had gone halfway to
Forminsk and stopped at the village of Aristovo, preparing
faithfully to execute the orders he had received, the whole French
army having, in its convulsive movement, reached Murat's position
apparently in order to give battle- suddenly without any reason turned
off to the left onto the new Kaluga road and began to enter
Forminsk, where only Broussier had been till then. At that time
Dokhturov had under his command, besides Dorokhov's detachment, the
two small guerrilla detachments of Figner and Seslavin.
On the evening of October 11 Seslavin came to the Aristovo
headquarters with a French guardsman he had captured. The prisoner
said that the troops that had entered Forminsk that day were the
vanguard of the whole army, that Napoleon was there and the whole army
had left Moscow four days previously. That same evening a house serf
who had come from Borovsk said he had seen an immense army entering
the town. Some Cossacks of Dokhturov's detachment reported having
sighted the French Guards marching along the road to Borovsk. From all
these reports it was evident that where they had expected to meet a
single division there was now the whole French army marching from
Moscow in an unexpected direction- along the Kaluga road. Dokhturov
was unwilling to undertake any action, as it was not clear to him
now what he ought to do. He had been ordered to attack Forminsk. But
only Broussier had been there at that time and now the whole French
army was there. Ermolov wished to act on his own judgment, but
Dokhturov insisted that he must have Kutuzov's instructions. So it was
decided to send a dispatch to the staff.
For this purpose a capable officer, Bolkhovitinov, was chosen, who
was to explain the whole affair by word of mouth, besides delivering a
written report. Toward midnight Bolkhovitinov, having received the
dispatch and verbal instructions, galloped off to the General Staff
accompanied by a Cossack with spare horses.
It was a warm, dark, autumn night. It had been raining for four
days. Having changed horses twice and galloped twenty miles in an hour
and a half over a sticky, muddy road, Bolkhovitinov reached Litashevka
after one o'clock at night. Dismounting at a cottage on whose wattle
fence hung a signboard, GENERAL STAFF, and throwing down his reins, he
entered a dark passage.
"The general on duty, quick! It's very important!" said he to
someone who had risen and was sniffing in the dark passage.
"He has been very unwell since the evening and this is the third
night he has not slept," said the orderly pleadingly in a whisper.
"You should wake the captain first."
"But this is very important, from General Dokhturov," said
Bolkhovitinov, entering the open door which he had found by feeling in
The orderly had gone in before him and began waking somebody.
"Your honor, your honor! A courier."
"What? What's that? From whom?" came a sleepy voice.
"From Dokhturov and from Alexey Petrovich. Napoleon is at Forminsk,"
said Bolkhovitinov, unable to see in the dark who was speaking but
guessing by the voice that it was not Konovnitsyn.
The man who had wakened yawned and stretched himself.
"I don't like waking him," he said, fumbling for something. "He is
very ill. Perhaps this is only a rumor."
"Here is the dispatch," said Bolkhovitinov. "My orders are to give
it at once to the general on duty."
"Wait a moment, I'll light a candle. You damned rascal, where do you
always hide it?" said the voice of the man who was stretching himself,
to the orderly. (This was Shcherbinin, Konovnitsyn's adjutant.)
"I've found it, I've found it!" he added.
The orderly was striking a light and Shcherbinin was fumbling for
something on the candlestick.
"Oh, the nasty beasts!" said he with disgust.
By the light of the sparks Bolkhovitinov saw Shcherbinin's
youthful face as he held the candle, and the face of another man who
was still asleep. This was Konovnitsyn.
When the flame of the sulphur splinters kindled by the tinder burned
up, first blue and then red, Shcherbinin lit the tallow candle, from
the candlestick of which the cockroaches that had been gnawing it were
running away, and looked at the messenger. Bolkhovitinov was
bespattered all over with mud and had smeared his face by wiping it
with his sleeve.
"Who gave the report?" inquired Shcherbinin, taking the envelope.
"The news is reliable," said Bolkhovitinov. "Prisoners, Cossacks,
and the scouts all say the same thing."
"There's nothing to be done, we'll have to wake him," said
Shcherbinin, rising and going up to the man in the nightcap who lay
covered by a greatcoat. "Peter Petrovich!" said he. (Konovnitsyn did
not stir.) "To the General Staff!" he said with a smile, knowing
that those words would be sure to arouse him.
And in fact the head in the nightcap was lifted at once. On
Konovnitsyn's handsome, resolute face with cheeks flushed by fever,
there still remained for an instant a faraway dreamy expression remote
from present affairs, but then he suddenly started and his face
assumed its habitual calm and firm appearance.
"Well, what is it? From whom?" he asked immediately but without
hurry, blinking at the light.
While listening to the officer's report Konovnitsyn broke the seal
and read the dispatch. Hardly had he done so before he lowered his
legs in their woolen stockings to the earthen floor and began
putting on his boots. Then he took off his nightcap, combed his hair
over his temples, and donned his cap.
"Did you get here quickly? Let us go to his Highness."
Konovnitsyn had understood at once that the news brought was of
great importance and that no time must be lost. He did not consider or
ask himself whether the news was good or bad. That did not interest
him. He regarded the whole business of the war not with his
intelligence or his reason but by something else. There was within him
a deep unexpressed conviction that all would be well, but that one
must not trust to this and still less speak about it, but must only
attend to one's own work. And he did his work, giving his whole
strength to the task.
Peter Petrovich Konovnitsyn, like Dokhturov, seems to have been
included merely for propriety's sake in the list of the so-called
heroes of 1812- the Barclays, Raevskis, Ermolovs, Platovs, and
Miloradoviches. Like Dokhturov he had the reputation of being a man of
very limited capacity and information, and like Dokhturov he never
made plans of battle but was always found where the situation was most
difficult. Since his appointment as general on duty he had always
slept with his door open, giving orders that every messenger should be
allowed to wake him up. In battle he was always under fire, so that
Kutuzov reproved him for it and feared to send him to the front, and
like Dokhturov he was one of those unnoticed cogwheels that, without
clatter or noise, constitute the most essential part of the machine.
Coming out of the hut into the damp, dark night Konovnitsyn frowned-
partly from an increased pain in his head and partly at the unpleasant
thought that occurred to him, of how all that nest of influential
men on the staff would be stirred up by this news, especially
Bennigsen, who ever since Tarutino had been at daggers drawn with
Kutuzov; and how they would make suggestions, quarrel, issue orders,
and rescind them. And this premonition was disagreeable to him
though he knew it could not be helped.
And in fact Toll, to whom he went to communicate the news,
immediately began to expound his plans to a general sharing his
quarters, until Konovnitsyn, who listened in weary silence, reminded
him that they must go to see his Highness.
Kutuzov like all old people did not sleep much at night. He often
fell asleep unexpectedly in the daytime, but at night, lying on his
bed without undressing, he generally remained awake thinking.
So he lay now on his bed, supporting his large, heavy, scarred
head on his plump hand, with his one eye open, meditating and
peering into the darkness.
Since Bennigsen, who corresponded with the Emperor and had more
influence than anyone else on the staff, had begun to avoid him,
Kutuzov was more at ease as to the possibility of himself and his
troops being obliged to take part in useless aggressive movements. The
lesson of the Tarutino battle and of the day before it, which
Kutuzov remembered with pain, must, he thought, have some effect on
"They must understand that we can only lose by taking the offensive.
Patience and time are my warriors, my champions," thought Kutuzov.
He knew that an apple should not be plucked while it is green. It will
fall of itself when ripe, but if picked unripe the apple is spoiled,
the tree is harmed, and your teeth are set on edge. Like an
experienced sportsman he knew that the beast was wounded, and
wounded as only the whole strength of Russia could have wounded it,
but whether it was mortally wounded or not was still an undecided
question. Now by the fact of Lauriston and Barthelemi having been
sent, and by the reports of the guerrillas, Kutuzov was almost sure
that the wound was mortal. But he needed further proofs and it was
necessary to wait.
"They want to run to see how they have wounded it. Wait and we shall
see! Continual maneuvers, continual advances!" thought he. "What
for? Only to distinguish themselves! As if fighting were fun. They are
like children from whom one can't get any sensible account of what has
happened because they all want to show how well they can fight. But
that's not what is needed now.
"And what ingenious maneuvers they all propose to me! It seems to
them that when they have thought of two or three contingencies" (he
remembered the general plan sent him from Petersburg) "they have
foreseen everything. But the contingencies are endless."
The undecided question as to whether the wound inflicted at Borodino
was mortal or not had hung over Kutuzov's head for a whole month. On
the one hand the French had occupied Moscow. On the other Kutuzov felt
assured with all his being that the terrible blow into which he and
all the Russians had put their whole strength must have been mortal.
But in any case proofs were needed; he had waited a whole month for
them and grew more impatient the longer he waited. Lying on his bed
during those sleepless nights he did just what he reproached those
younger generals for doing. He imagined all sorts of possible
contingencies, just like the younger men, but with this difference,
that he saw thousands of contingencies instead of two or three and
based nothing on them. The longer he thought the more contingencies
presented themselves. He imagined all sorts of movements of the
Napoleonic army as a whole or in sections- against Petersburg, or
against him, or to outflank him. He thought too of the possibility
(which he feared most of all) that Napoleon might fight him with his
own weapon and remain in Moscow awaiting him. Kutuzov even imagined
that Napoleon's army might turn back through Medyn and Yukhnov, but
the one thing he could not foresee was what happened- the insane,
convulsive stampede of Napoleon's army during its first eleven days
after leaving Moscow: a stampede which made possible what Kutuzov
had not yet even dared to think of- the complete extermination of
the French. Dorokhov's report about Broussier's division, the
guerrillas' reports of distress in Napoleon's army, rumors of
preparations for leaving Moscow, all confirmed the supposition that
the French army was beaten and preparing for flight. But these were
only suppositions, which seemed important to the younger men but not
to Kutuzov. With his sixty years' experience he knew what value to
attach to rumors, knew how apt people who desire anything are to group
all news so that it appears to confirm what they desire, and he knew
how readily in such cases they omit all that makes for the contrary.
And the more he desired it the less he allowed himself to believe
it. This question absorbed all his mental powers. All else was to
him only life's customary routine. To such customary routine
belonged his conversations with the staff, the letters he wrote from
Tarutino to Madame de Stael, the reading of novels, the distribution
of awards, his correspondence with Petersburg, and so on. But the
destruction of the French, which he alone foresaw, was his heart's one
On the night of the eleventh of October he lay leaning on his arm
and thinking of that.
There was a stir in the next room and he heard the steps of Toll,
Konovnitsyn, and Bolkhovitinov.
"Eh, who's there? Come in, come in! What news?" the field marshal
called out to them.
While a footman was lighting a candle, Toll communicated the
substance of the news.
"Who brought it?" asked Kutuzov with a look which, when the candle
was lit, struck Toll by its cold severity.
"There can be no doubt about it, your Highness."
"Call him in, call him here."
Kutuzov sat up with one leg hanging down from the bed and his big
paunch resting against the other which was doubled under him. He
screwed up his seeing eye to scrutinize the messenger more
carefully, as if wishing to read in his face what preoccupied his
"Tell me, tell me, friend," said he to Bolkhovitinov in his low,
aged voice, as he pulled together the shirt which gaped open on his
chest, "come nearer- nearer. What news have you brought me? Eh? That
Napoleon has left Moscow? Are you sure? Eh?"
Bolkhovitinov gave a detailed account from the beginning of all he
had been told to report.
"Speak quicker, quicker! Don't torture me!" Kutuzov interrupted him.
Bolkhovitinov told him everything and was then silent, awaiting
instructions. Toll was beginning to say something but Kutuzov
checked him. He tried to say something, but his face suddenly puckered
and wrinkled; he waved his arm at Toll and turned to the opposite side
of the room, to the corner darkened by the icons that hung there.
"O Lord, my Creator, Thou has heard our prayer..." said he in a
tremulous voice with folded hands. "Russia is saved. I thank Thee, O
Lord!" and he wept.
From the time he received this news to the end of the campaign all
Kutuzov's activity was directed toward restraining his troops, by
authority, by guile, and by entreaty, from useless attacks, maneuvers,
or encounters with the perishing enemy. Dokhturov went to
Malo-Yaroslavets, but Kutuzov lingered with the main army and gave
orders for the evacuation of Kaluga- a retreat beyond which town
seemed to him quite possible.
Everywhere Kutuzov retreated, but the enemy without waiting for
his retreat fled in the opposite direction.
Napoleon's historians describe to us his skilled maneuvers at
Tarutino and Malo-Yaroslavets, and make conjectures as to what would
have happened had Napoleon been in time to penetrate into the rich
But not to speak of the fact that nothing prevented him from
advancing into those southern provinces (for the Russian army did
not bar his way), the historians forget that nothing could have
saved his army, for then already it bore within itself the germs of
inevitable ruin. How could that army- which had found abundant
supplies in Moscow and had trampled them underfoot instead of
keeping them, and on arriving at Smolensk had looted provisions
instead of storing them- how could that army recuperate in Kaluga
province, which was inhabited by Russians such as those who lived in
Moscow, and where fire had the same property of consuming what was set
That army could not recover anywhere. Since the battle of Borodino
and the pillage of Moscow it had borne within itself, as it were,
the chemical elements of dissolution.
The members of what had once been an army- Napoleon himself and
all his soldiers fled- without knowing whither, each concerned only to
make his escape as quickly as possible from this position, of the
hopelessness of which they were all more or less vaguely conscious.
So it came about that at the council at Malo-Yaroslavets, when the
generals pretending to confer together expressed various opinions, all
mouths were closed by the opinion uttered by the simple-minded soldier
Mouton who, speaking last, said what they all felt: that the one thing
needful was to get away as quickly as possible; and no one, not even
Napoleon, could say anything against that truth which they all
But though they all realized that it was necessary to get away,
there still remained a feeling of shame at admitting that they must
flee. An external shock was needed to overcome that shame, and this
shock came in due time. It was what the French called "le hourra de
The day after the council at Malo-Yaroslavets Napoleon rode out
early in the morning amid the lines of his army with his suite of
marshals and an escort, on the pretext of inspecting the army and
the scene of the previous and of the impending battle. Some Cossacks
on the prowl for booty fell in with the Emperor and very nearly
captured him. If the Cossacks did not capture Napoleon then, what
saved him was the very thing that was destroying the French army,
the booty on which the Cossacks fell. Here as at Tarutino they went
after plunder, leaving the men. Disregarding Napoleon they rushed
after the plunder and Napoleon managed to escape.
When les enfants du Don might so easily have taken the Emperor
himself in the midst of his army, it was clear that there was
nothing for it but to fly as fast as possible along the nearest,
familiar road. Napoleon with his forty-year-old stomach understood
that hint, not feeling his former agility and boldness, and under
the influence of the fright the Cossacks had given him he at once
agreed with Mouton and issued orders- as the historians tell us- to
retreat by the Smolensk road.
That Napoleon agreed with Mouton, and that the army retreated,
does not prove that Napoleon caused it to retreat, but that the forces
which influenced the whole army and directed it along the Mozhaysk
(that is, the Smolensk) road acted simultaneously on him also.
A man in motion always devises an aim for that motion. To be able to
go a thousand miles he must imagine that something good awaits him
at the end of those thousand miles. One must have the prospect of a
promised land to have the strength to move.
The promised land for the French during their advance had been
Moscow, during their retreat it was their native land. But that native
land was too far off, and for a man going a thousand miles it is
absolutely necessary to set aside his final goal and to say to
himself: "Today I shall get to a place twenty-five miles off where I
shall rest and spend the night," and during the first day's journey
that resting place eclipses his ultimate goal and attracts all his
hopes and desires. And the impulses felt by a single person are always
magnified in a crowd.
For the French retreating along the old Smolensk road, the final
goal- their native land- was too remote, and their immediate goal
was Smolensk, toward which all their desires and hopes, enormously
intensified in the mass, urged them on. It was not that they knew that
much food and fresh troops awaited them in Smolensk, nor that they
were told so (on the contrary their superior officers, and Napoleon
himself, knew that provisions were scarce there), but because this
alone could give them strength to move on and endure their present
privations. So both those who knew and those who did not know deceived
themselves, and pushed on to Smolensk as to a promised land.
Coming out onto the highroad the French fled with surprising
energy and unheard-of rapidity toward the goal they had fixed on.
Besides the common impulse which bound the whole crowd of French
into one mass and supplied them with a certain energy, there was
another cause binding them together- their great numbers. As with
the physical law of gravity, their enormous mass drew the individual
human atoms to itself. In their hundreds of thousands they moved
like a whole nation.
Each of them desired nothing more than to give himself up as a
prisoner to escape from all this horror and misery; but on the one
hand the force of this common attraction to Smolensk, their goal, drew
each of them in the same direction; on the other hand an army corps
could not surrender to a company, and though the French availed
themselves of every convenient opportunity to detach themselves and to
surrender on the slightest decent pretext, such pretexts did not
always occur. Their very numbers and their crowded and swift
movement deprived them of that possibility and rendered it not only
difficult but impossible for the Russians to stop this movement, to
which the French were directing all their energies. Beyond a certain
limit no mechanical disruption of the body could hasten the process of
A lump of snow cannot be melted instantaneously. There is a
certain limit of time in less than which no amount of heat can melt
the snow. On the contrary the greater the heat the more solidified the
remaining snow becomes.
Of the Russian commanders Kutuzov alone understood this. When the
flight of the French army along the Smolensk road became well defined,
what Konovnitsyn had foreseen on the night of the eleventh of
October began to occur. The superior officers all wanted to
distinguish themselves, to cut off, to seize, to capture, and to
overthrow the French, and all clamored for action.
Kutuzov alone used all his power (and such power is very limited
in the case of any commander in chief) to prevent an attack.
He could not tell them what we say now: "Why fight, why block the
road, losing our own men and inhumanly slaughtering unfortunate
wretches? What is the use of that, when a third of their army has
melted away on the road from Moscow to Vyazma without any battle?" But
drawing from his aged wisdom what they could understand, he told
them of the golden bridge, and they laughed at and slandered him,
flinging themselves on, rending and exulting over the dying beast.
Ermolov, Miloradovich, Platov, and others in proximity to the French
near Vyazma could not resist their desire to cut off and break up
two French corps, and by way of reporting their intention to Kutuzov
they sent him a blank sheet of paper in an envelope.
And try as Kutuzov might to restrain the troops, our men attacked,
trying to bar the road. Infantry regiments, we are told, advanced to
the attack with music and with drums beating, and killed and lost
thousands of men.
But they did not cut off or overthrow anybody and the French army,
closing up more firmly at the danger, continued, while steadily
melting away, to pursue its fatal path to Smolensk.
BOOK FOURTEEN: 1812
The Battle of Borodino, with the occupation of Moscow that
followed it and the flight of the French without further conflicts, is
one of the most instructive phenomena in history.
All historians agree that the external activity of states and
nations in their conflicts with one another is expressed in wars,
and that as a direct result of greater or less success in war the
political strength of states and nations increases or decreases.
Strange as may be the historical account of how some king or
emperor, having quarreled with another, collects an army, fights his
enemy's army, gains a victory by killing three, five, or ten
thousand men, and subjugates a kingdom and an entire nation of several
millions, all the facts of history (as far as we know it) confirm
the truth of the statement that the greater or lesser success of one
army against another is the cause, or at least an essential
indication, of an increase or decrease in the strength of the
nation- even though it is unintelligible why the defeat of an army-
a hundredth part of a nation- should oblige that whole nation to
submit. An army gains a victory, and at once the rights of the
conquering nation have increased to the detriment of the defeated.
An army has suffered defeat, and at once a people loses its rights
in proportion to the severity of the reverse, and if its army
suffers a complete defeat the nation is quite subjugated.
So according to history it has been found from the most ancient
times, and so it is to our own day. All Napoleon's wars serve to
confirm this rule. In proportion to the defeat of the Austrian army
Austria loses its rights, and the rights and the strength of France
increase. The victories of the French at Jena and Auerstadt destroy
the independent existence of Prussia.
But then, in 1812, the French gain a victory near Moscow. Moscow
is taken and after that, with no further battles, it is not Russia
that ceases to exist, but the French army of six hundred thousand, and
then Napoleonic France itself. To strain the facts to fit the rules of
history: to say that the field of battle at Borodino remained in the
hands of the Russians, or that after Moscow there were other battles
that destroyed Napoleon's army, is impossible.
After the French victory at Borodino there was no general engagement
nor any that were at all serious, yet the French army ceased to exist.
What does this mean? If it were an example taken from the history of
China, we might say that it was not an historic phenomenon (which is
the historians' usual expedient when anything does not fit their
standards); if the matter concerned some brief conflict in which
only a small number of troops took part, we might treat it as an
exception; but this event occurred before our fathers' eyes, and for
them it was a question of the life or death of their fatherland, and
it happened in the greatest of all known wars.
The period of the campaign of 1812 from the battle of Borodino to
the expulsion of the French proved that the winning of a battle does
not produce a conquest and is not even an invariable indication of
conquest; it proved that the force which decides the fate of peoples
lies not in the conquerors, nor even in armies and battles, but in
The French historians, describing the condition of the French army
before it left Moscow, affirm that all was in order in the Grand Army,
except the cavalry, the artillery, and the transport- there was no
forage for the horses or the cattle. That was a misfortune no one
could remedy, for the peasants of the district burned their hay rather
than let the French have it.
The victory gained did not bring the usual results because the
peasants Karp and Vlas (who after the French had evacuated Moscow
drove in their carts to pillage the town, and in general personally
failed to manifest any heroic feelings), and the whole innumerable
multitude of such peasants, did not bring their hay to Moscow for
the high price offered them, but burned it instead.
Let us imagine two men who have come out to fight a duel with
rapiers according to all the rules of the art of fencing. The
fencing has gone on for some time; suddenly one of the combatants,
feeling himself wounded and understanding that the matter is no joke
but concerns his life, throws down his rapier, and seizing the first
cudgel that comes to hand begins to brandish it. Then let us imagine
that the combatant who so sensibly employed the best and simplest
means to attain his end was at the same time influenced by
traditions of chivalry and, desiring to conceal the facts of the case,
insisted that he had gained his victory with the rapier according to
all the rules of art. One can imagine what confusion and obscurity
would result from such an account of the duel.
The fencer who demanded a contest according to the rules of
fencing was the French army; his opponent who threw away the rapier
and snatched up the cudgel was the Russian people; those who try to
explain the matter according to the rules of fencing are the
historians who have described the event.
After the burning of Smolensk a war began which did not follow any
previous traditions of war. The burning of towns and villages, the
retreats after battles, the blow dealt at Borodino and the renewed
retreat, the burning of Moscow, the capture of marauders, the
seizure of transports, and the guerrilla war were all departures
from the rules.
Napoleon felt this, and from the time he took up the correct fencing
attitude in Moscow and instead of his opponent's rapier saw a cudgel
raised above his head, he did not cease to complain to Kutuzov and
to the Emperor Alexander that the war was being carried on contrary to
all the rules- as if there were any rules for killing people. In spite
of the complaints of the French as to the nonobservance of the
rules, in spite of the fact that to some highly placed Russians it
seemed rather disgraceful to fight with a cudgel and they wanted to
assume a pose en quarte or en tierce according to all the rules, and
to make an adroit thrust en prime, and so on- the cudgel of the
people's war was lifted with all its menacing and majestic strength,
and without consulting anyone's tastes or rules and regardless of
anything else, it rose and fell with stupid simplicity, but
consistently, and belabored the French till the whole invasion had
And it is well for a people who do not- as the French did in 1813-
salute according to all the rules of art, and, presenting the hilt
of their rapier gracefully and politely, hand it to their
magnanimous conqueror, but at the moment of trial, without asking what
rules others have adopted in similar cases, simply and easily pick
up the first cudgel that comes to hand and strike with it till the
feeling of resentment and revenge in their soul yields to a feeling of
contempt and compassion.
One of the most obvious and advantageous departures from the
so-called laws of war is the action of scattered groups against men
pressed together in a mass. Such action always occurs in wars that
take on a national character. In such actions, instead of two crowds
opposing each other, the men disperse, attack singly, run away when
attacked by stronger forces, but again attack when opportunity offers.
This was done by the guerrillas in Spain, by the mountain tribes in
the Caucasus, and by the Russians in 1812.
People have called this kind of war "guerrilla warfare" and assume
that by so calling it they have explained its meaning. But such a
war does not fit in under any rule and is directly opposed to a
well-known rule of tactics which is accepted as infallible. That
rule says that an attacker should concentrate his forces in order to
be stronger than his opponent at the moment of conflict.
Guerrilla war (always successful, as history shows) directly
infringes that rule.
This contradiction arises from the fact that military science
assumes the strength of an army to be identical with its numbers.
Military science says that the more troops the greater the strength.
Les gros bataillons ont toujours raison.*
*Large battalions are always victorious.
For military science to say this is like defining momentum in
mechanics by reference to the mass only: stating that momenta are
equal or unequal to each other simply because the masses involved
are equal or unequal.
Momentum (quantity of motion) is the product of mass and velocity.
In military affairs the strength of an army is the product of its
mass and some unknown x.
Military science, seeing in history innumerable instances of the
fact that the size of any army does not coincide with its strength and
that small detachments defeat larger ones, obscurely admits the
existence of this unknown factor and tries to discover it- now in a
geometric formation, now in the equipment employed, now, and most
usually, in the genius of the commanders. But the assignment of
these various meanings to the factor does not yield results which
accord with the historic facts.
Yet it is only necessary to abandon the false view (adopted to
gratify the "heroes") of the efficacy of the directions issued in
wartime by commanders, in order to find this unknown quantity.
That unknown quantity is the spirit of the army, that is to say, the
greater or lesser readiness to fight and face danger felt by all the
men composing an army, quite independently of whether they are, or are
not, fighting under the command of a genius, in two- or three-line
formation, with cudgels or with rifles that repeat thirty times a
minute. Men who want to fight will always put themselves in the most
advantageous conditions for fighting.
The spirit of an army is the factor which multiplied by the mass
gives the resulting force. To define and express the significance of
this unknown factor- the spirit of an army- is a problem for science.
This problem is only solvable if we cease arbitrarily to
substitute for the unknown x itself the conditions under which that
force becomes apparent- such as the commands of the general, the
equipment employed, and so on- mistaking these for the real
significance of the factor, and if we recognize this unknown
quantity in its entirety as being the greater or lesser desire to
fight and to face danger. Only then, expressing known historic facts
by equations and comparing the relative significance of this factor,
can we hope to define the unknown.
Ten men, battalions, or divisions, fighting fifteen men, battalions,
or divisions, conquer- that is, kill or take captive- all the
others, while themselves losing four, so that on the one side four and
on the other fifteen were lost. Consequently the four were equal to
the fifteen, and therefore 4x = 15y. Consequently x/y = 15/4. This
equation does not give us the value of the unknown factor but gives us
a ratio between two unknowns. And by bringing variously selected
historic units (battles, campaigns, periods of war) into such
equations, a series of numbers could be obtained in which certain laws
should exist and might be discovered.
The tactical rule that an army should act in masses when
attacking, and in smaller groups in retreat, unconsciously confirms
the truth that the strength of an army depends on its spirit. To
lead men forward under fire more discipline (obtainable only by
movement in masses) is needed than is needed to resist attacks. But
this rule which leaves out of account the spirit of the army
continually proves incorrect and is in particularly striking
contrast to the facts when some strong rise or fall in the spirit of
the troops occurs, as in all national wars.
The French, retreating in 1812- though according to tactics they
should have separated into detachments to defend themselves-
congregated into a mass because the spirit of the army had so fallen
that only the mass held the army together. The Russians, on the
contrary, ought according to tactics to have attacked in mass, but
in fact they split up into small units, because their spirit had so
risen that separate individuals, without orders, dealt blows at the
French without needing any compulsion to induce them to expose
themselves to hardships and dangers.
The so-called partisan war began with the entry of the French into
Before partisan warfare had been officially recognized by the
government, thousands of enemy stragglers, marauders, and foragers had
been destroyed by the Cossacks and the peasants, who killed them off
as instinctively as dogs worry a stray mad dog to death. Denis
Davydov, with his Russian instinct, was the first to recognize the
value of this terrible cudgel which regardless of the rules of
military science destroyed the French, and to him belongs the credit
for taking the first step toward regularizing this method of warfare.
On August 24 Davydov's first partisan detachment was formed and then
others were recognized. The further the campaign progressed the more
numerous these detachments became.
The irregulars destroyed the great army piecemeal. They gathered the
fallen leaves that dropped of themselves from that withered tree-
the French army- and sometimes shook that tree itself. By October,
when the French were fleeing toward Smolensk, there were hundreds of
such companies, of various sizes and characters. There were some
that adopted all the army methods and had infantry, artillery, staffs,
and the comforts of life. Others consisted solely of Cossack
cavalry. There were also small scratch groups of foot and horse, and
groups of peasants and landowners that remained unknown. A sacristan
commanded one party which captured several hundred prisoners in the
course of a month; and there was Vasilisa, the wife of a village
elder, who slew hundreds of the French.
The partisan warfare flamed up most fiercely in the latter days of
October. Its first period had passed: when the partisans themselves,
amazed at their own boldness, feared every minute to be surrounded and
captured by the French, and hid in the forests without unsaddling,
hardly daring to dismount and always expecting to be pursued. By the
end of October this kind of warfare had taken definite shape: it had
become clear to all what could be ventured against the French and what
could not. Now only the commanders of detachments with staffs, and
moving according to rules at a distance from the French, still
regarded many things as impossible. The small bands that had started
their activities long before and had already observed the French
closely considered things possible which the commanders of the big
detachments did not dare to contemplate. The Cossacks and peasants who
crept in among the French now considered everything possible.
On October 22, Denisov (who was one of the irregulars) was with
his group at the height of the guerrilla enthusiasm. Since early
morning he and his party had been on the move. All day long he had
been watching from the forest that skirted the highroad a large French
convoy of cavalry baggage and Russian prisoners separated from the
rest of the army, which- as was learned from spies and prisoners-
was moving under a strong escort to Smolensk. Besides Denisov and
Dolokhov (who also led a small party and moved in Denisov's vicinity),
the commanders of some large divisions with staffs also knew of this
convoy and, as Denisov expressed it, were sharpening their teeth for
it. Two of the commanders of large parties- one a Pole and the other a
German- sent invitations to Denisov almost simultaneously,
requesting him to join up with their divisions to attack the convoy.
"No, bwother, I have gwown mustaches myself," said Denisov on
reading these documents, and he wrote to the German that, despite
his heartfelt desire to serve under so valiant and renowned a general,
he had to forgo that pleasure because he was already under the command
of the Polish general. To the Polish general he replied to the same
effect, informing him that he was already under the command of the
Having arranged matters thus, Denisov and Dolokhov intended, without
reporting matters to the higher command, to attack and seize that
convoy with their own small forces. On October 22 it was moving from
the village of Mikulino to that of Shamshevo. To the left of the
road between Mikulino and Shamshevo there were large forests,
extending in some places up to the road itself though in others a mile
or more back from it. Through these forests Denisov and his party rode
all day, sometimes keeping well back in them and sometimes coming to
the very edge, but never losing sight of the moving French. That
morning, Cossacks of Denisov's party had seized and carried off into
the forest two wagons loaded with cavalry saddles, which had stuck
in the mud not far from Mikulino where the forest ran close to the
road. Since then, and until evening, the party had the movements of
the French without attacking. It was necessary to let the French reach
Shamshevo quietly without alarming them and then, after joining
Dolokhov who was to come that evening to a consultation at a
watchman's hut in the forest less than a mile from Shamshevo, to
surprise the French at dawn, falling like an avalanche on their
heads from two sides, and rout and capture them all at one blow.
In their rear, more than a mile from Mikulino where the forest
came right up to the road, six Cossacks were posted to report if any
fresh columns of French should show themselves.
Beyond Shamshevo, Dolokhov was to observe the road in the same
way, to find out at what distance there were other French troops. They
reckoned that the convoy had fifteen hundred men. Denisov had two
hundred, and Dolokhov might have as many more, but the disparity of
numbers did not deter Denisov. All that he now wanted to know was what
troops these were and to learn that he had to capture a "tongue"- that
is, a man from the enemy column. That morning's attack on the wagons
had been made so hastily that the Frenchmen with the wagons had all
been killed; only a little drummer boy had been taken alive, and as he
was a straggler he could tell them nothing definite about the troops
in that column.
Denisov considered it dangerous to make a second attack for fear
of putting the whole column on the alert, so he sent Tikhon
Shcherbaty, a peasant of his party, to Shamshevo to try and seize at
least one of the French quartermasters who had been sent on in
It was a warm rainy autumn day. The sky and the horizon were both
the color of muddy water. At times a sort of mist descended, and
then suddenly heavy slanting rain came down.
Denisov in a felt cloak and a sheepskin cap from which the rain
ran down was riding a thin thoroughbred horse with sunken sides.
Like his horse, which turned its head and laid its ears back, he
shrank from the driving rain and gazed anxiously before him. His
thin face with its short, thick black beard looked angry.
Beside Denisov rode an esaul,* Denisov's fellow worker, also in felt
cloak and sheepskin cap, and riding a large sleek Don horse.
*A captain of Cossacks.
Esaul Lovayski the Third was a tall man as straight as an arrow,
pale-faced, fair-haired, with narrow light eyes and with calm
self-satisfaction in his face and bearing. Though it was impossible to
say in what the peculiarity of the horse and rider lay, yet at first
glance at the esaul and Denisov one saw that the latter was wet and
uncomfortable and was a man mounted on a horse, while looking at the
esaul one saw that he was as comfortable and as much at ease as always
and that he was not a man who had mounted a horse, but a man who was
one with his horse, a being consequently possessed of twofold
A little ahead of them walked a peasant guide, wet to the skin and
wearing a gray peasant coat and a white knitted cap.
A little behind, on a poor, small, lean Kirghiz mount with an
enormous tail and mane and a bleeding mouth, rode a young officer in a
blue French overcoat.
Beside him rode an hussar, with a boy in a tattered French uniform
and blue cap behind him on the crupper of his horse. The boy held on
to the hussar with cold, red hands, and raising his eyebrows gazed
about him with surprise. This was the French drummer boy captured that
Behind them along the narrow, sodden, cutup forest road came hussars
in threes and fours, and then Cossacks: some in felt cloaks, some in
French greatcoats, and some with horsecloths over their heads. The
horses, being drenched by the rain, all looked black whether
chestnut or bay. Their necks, with their wet, close-clinging manes,
looked strangely thin. Steam rose from them. Clothes, saddles,
reins, were all wet, slippery, and sodden, like the ground and the
fallen leaves that strewed the road. The men sat huddled up trying not
to stir, so as to warm the water that had trickled to their bodies and
not admit the fresh cold water that was leaking in under their
seats, their knees, and at the back of their necks. In the midst of
the outspread line of Cossacks two wagons, drawn by French horses
and by saddled Cossack horses that had been hitched on in front,
rumbled over the tree stumps and branches and splashed through the
water that lay in the ruts.
Denisov's horse swerved aside to avoid a pool in the track and
bumped his rider's knee against a tree.
"Oh, the devil!" exclaimed Denisov angrily, and showing his teeth he
struck his horse three times with his whip, splashing himself and
his comrades with mud.
Denisov was out of sorts both because of the rain and also from
hunger (none of them had eaten anything since morning), and yet more
because he still had no news from Dolokhov and the man sent to capture
a "tongue" had not returned.
"There'll hardly be another such chance to fall on a transport as
today. It's too risky to attack them by oneself, and if we put it
off till another day one of the big guerrilla detachments will
snatch the prey from under our noses," thought Denisov, continually
peering forward, hoping to see a messenger from Dolokhov.
On coming to a path in the forest along which he could see far to
the right, Denisov stopped.
"There's someone coming," said he.
The esaul looked in the direction Denisov indicated.
"There are two, an officer and a Cossack. But it is not
presupposable that it is the lieutenant colonel himself," said the
esaul, who was fond of using words the Cossacks did not know.
The approaching riders having descended a decline were no longer
visible, but they reappeared a few minutes later. In front, at a weary
gallop and using his leather whip, rode an officer, disheveled and
drenched, whose trousers had worked up to above his knees. Behind him,
standing in the stirrups, trotted a Cossack. The officer, a very young
lad with a broad rosy face and keen merry eyes, galloped up to Denisov
and handed him a sodden envelope.
"From the general," said the officer. "Please excuse its not being
Denisov, frowning, took the envelope and opened it.
"There, they kept telling us: 'It's dangerous, it's dangerous,'"
said the officer, addressing the esaul while Denisov was reading the
dispatch. "But Komarov and I"- he pointed to the Cossack- "were
prepared. We have each of us two pistols.... But what's this?" he
asked, noticing the French drummer boy. "A prisoner? You've already
been in action? May I speak to him?"
"Wostov! Petya!" exclaimed Denisov, having run through the dispatch.
"Why didn't you say who you were?" and turning with a smile he held
out his hand to the lad.
The officer was Petya Rostov.
All the way Petya had been preparing himself to behave with
Denisov as befitted a grownup man and an officer- without hinting at
their previous acquaintance. But as soon as Denisov smiled at him
Petya brightened up, blushed with pleasure, forgot the official manner
he had been rehearsing, and began telling him how he had already
been in a battle near Vyazma and how a certain hussar had
distinguished himself there.
"Well, I am glad to see you," Denisov interrupted him, and his
face again assumed its anxious expression.
"Michael Feoklitych," said he to the esaul, "this is again fwom that
German, you know. He"- he indicated Petya- "is serving under him."
And Denisov told the esaul that the dispatch just delivered was a
repetition of the German general's demand that he should join forces
with him for an attack on the transport.
"If we don't take it tomowwow, he'll snatch it fwom under our
noses," he added.
While Denisov was talking to the esaul, Petya- abashed by
Denisov's cold tone and supposing that it was due to the condition
of his trousers- furtively tried to pull them down under his greatcoat
so that no one should notice it, while maintaining as martial an air
"Will there be any orders, your honor?" he asked Denisov, holding
his hand at the salute and resuming the game of adjutant and general
for which he had prepared himself, "or shall I remain with your
"Orders?" Denisov repeated thoughtfully. "But can you stay till
"Oh, please... May I stay with you?" cried Petya.
"But, just what did the genewal tell you? To weturn at once?"
"He gave me no instructions. I think I could?" he returned,
"Well, all wight," said Denisov.
And turning to his men he directed a party to go on to the halting
place arranged near the watchman's hut in the forest, and told the
officer on the Kirghiz horse (who performed the duties of an adjutant)
to go and find out where Dolokhov was and whether he would come that
evening. Denisov himself intended going with the esaul and Petya to
the edge of the forest where it reached out to Shamshevo, to have a
look at the part of the French bivouac they were to attack next day.
"Well, old fellow," said he to the peasant guide, "lead us to
Denisov, Petya, and the esaul, accompanied by some Cossacks and
the hussar who had the prisoner, rode to the left across a ravine to
the edge of the forest.
The rain had stopped, and only the mist was falling and drops from
the trees. Denisov, the esaul, and Petya rode silently, following
the peasant in the knitted cap who, stepping lightly with outturned
toes and moving noiselessly in his bast shoes over the roots and wet
leaves, silently led them to the edge of the forest.
He ascended an incline, stopped, looked about him, and advanced to
where the screen of trees was less dense. On reaching a large oak tree
that had not yet shed its leaves, he stopped and beckoned mysteriously
to them with his hand.
Denisov and Petya rode up to him. From the spot where the peasant
was standing they could see the French. Immediately beyond the forest,
on a downward slope, lay a field of spring rye. To the right, beyond a
steep ravine, was a small village and a landowner's house with a
broken roof. In the village, in the house, in the garden, by the well,
by the pond, over all the rising ground, and all along the road uphill
from the bridge leading to the village, not more than five hundred
yards away, crowds of men could be seen through the shimmering mist.
Their un-Russian shouting at their horses which were straining
uphill with the carts, and their calls to one another, could be
"Bwing the prisoner here," said Denisov in a low voice, not taking
his eyes off the French.
A Cossack dismounted, lifted the boy down, and took him to
Denisov. Pointing to the French troops, Denisov asked him what these
and those of them were. The boy, thrusting his cold hands into his
pockets and lifting his eyebrows, looked at Denisov in affright, but
in spite of an evident desire to say all he knew gave confused
answers, merely assenting to everything Denisov asked him. Denisov
turned away from him frowning and addressed the esaul, conveying his
own conjectures to him.
Petya, rapidly turning his head, looked now at the drummer boy,
now at Denisov, now at the esaul, and now at the French in the village
and along the road, trying not to miss anything of importance.
"Whether Dolokhov comes or not, we must seize it, eh?" said
Denisov with a merry sparkle in his eyes.
"It is a very suitable spot," said the esaul.
"We'll send the infantwy down by the swamps," Denisov continued.
"They'll cweep up to the garden; you'll wide up fwom there with the
Cossacks"- he pointed to a spot in the forest beyond the village- "and
I with my hussars fwom here. And at the signal shot..."
"The hollow is impassable- there's a swamp there," said the esaul.
"The horses would sink. We must ride round more to the left...."
While they were talking in undertones the crack of a shot sounded
from the low ground by the pond, a puff of white smoke appeared,
then another, and the sound of hundreds of seemingly merry French
voices shouting together came up from the slope. For a moment
Denisov and the esaul drew back. They were so near that they thought
they were the cause of the firing and shouting. But the firing and
shouting did not relate to them. Down below, a man wearing something
red was running through the marsh. The French were evidently firing
and shouting at him.
"Why, that's our Tikhon," said the esaul.
"So it is! It is!"
"The wascal!" said Denisov.
"He'll get away!" said the esaul, screwing up his eyes.
The man whom they called Tikhon, having run to the stream, plunged
in so that the water splashed in the air, and, having disappeared
for an instant, scrambled out on all fours, all black with the wet,
and ran on. The French who had been pursuing him stopped.
"Smart, that!" said the esaul.
"What a beast!" said Denisov with his former look of vexation. "What
has he been doing all this time?"
"Who is he?" asked Petya.
"He's our plastun. I sent him to capture a 'tongue.'"
"Oh, yes," said Petya, nodding at the first words Denisov uttered as
if he understood it all, though he really did not understand
anything of it.
Tikhon Shcherbaty was one of the most indispensable men in their
band. He was a peasant from Pokrovsk, near the river Gzhat. When
Denisov had come to Pokrovsk at the beginning of his operations and
had as usual summoned the village elder and asked him what he knew
about the French, the elder, as though shielding himself, had replied,
as all village elders did, that he had neither seen nor heard anything
of them. But when Denisov explained that his purpose was to kill the
French, and asked if no French had strayed that way, the elder replied
that some "more-orderers" had really been at their village, but that
Tikhon Shcherbaty was the only man who dealt with such matters.
Denisov had Tikhon called and, having praised him for his activity,
said a few words in the elder's presence about loyalty to the Tsar and
the country and the hatred of the French that all sons of the
fatherland should cherish.
"We don't do the French any harm," said Tikhon, evidently frightened
by Denisov's words. "We only fooled about with the lads for fun, you
know! We killed a score or so of 'more-orderers,' but we did no harm
Next day when Denisov had left Pokrovsk, having quite forgotten
about this peasant, it was reported to him that Tikhon had attached
himself to their party and asked to be allowed to remain with it.
Denisov gave orders to let him do so.
Tikhon, who at first did rough work, laying campfires, fetching
water, flaying dead horses, and so on, soon showed a great liking
and aptitude for partisan warfare. At night he would go out for
booty and always brought back French clothing and weapons, and when
told to would bring in French captives also. Denisov then relieved him
from drudgery and began taking him with him when he went out on
expeditions and had him enrolled among the Cossacks.
Tikhon did not like riding, and always went on foot, never lagging
behind the cavalry. He was armed with a musketoon (which he carried
rather as a joke), a pike and an ax, which latter he used as a wolf
uses its teeth, with equal case picking fleas out of its fur or
crunching thick bones. Tikhon with equal accuracy would split logs
with blows at arm's length, or holding the head of the ax would cut
thin little pegs or carve spoons. In Denisov's party he held a
peculiar and exceptional position. When anything particularly
difficult or nasty had to be done- to push a cart out of the mud
with one's shoulders, pull a horse out of a swamp by its tail, skin
it, slink in among the French, or walk more than thirty miles in a
day- everybody pointed laughingly at Tikhon.
"It won't hurt that devil- he's as strong as a horse!" they said
Once a Frenchman Tikhon was trying to capture fired a pistol at
him and shot him in the fleshy part of the back. That wound (which
Tikhon treated only with internal and external applications of
vodka) was the subject of the liveliest jokes by the whole detachment-
jokes in which Tikhon readily joined.
"Hallo, mate! Never again? Gave you a twist?" the Cossacks would
banter him. And Tikhon, purposely writhing and making faces, pretended
to be angry and swore at the French with the funniest curses. The only
effect of this incident on Tikhon was that after being wounded he
seldom brought in prisoners.
He was the bravest and most useful man in the party. No one found
more opportunities for attacking, no one captured or killed more
Frenchmen, and consequently he was made the buffoon of all the
Cossacks and hussars and willingly accepted that role. Now he had been
sent by Denisov overnight to Shamshevo to capture a "tongue." But
whether because he had not been content to take only one Frenchman
or because he had slept through the night, he had crept by day into
some bushes right among the French and, as Denisov had witnessed
from above, had been detected by them.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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,"
"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
"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,
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
"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
"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
"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
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