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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 31
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 31 Post by :patriccl Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3260

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 31

Having descended the hill the general after whom Pierre was
galloping turned sharply to the left, and Pierre, losing sight of him,
galloped in among some ranks of infantry marching ahead of him. He
tried to pass either in front of them or to the right or left, but
there were soldiers everywhere, all with expression and busy with some
unseen but evidently important task. They all gazed with the same
dissatisfied and inquiring expression at this stout man in a white
hat, who for some unknown reason threatened to trample them under
his horse's hoofs.

"Why ride into the middle of the battalion?" one of them shouted
at him.

Another prodded his horse with the butt end of a musket, and Pierre,
bending over his saddlebow and hardly able to control his shying
horse, galloped ahead of the soldiers where there was a free space.

There was a bridge ahead of him, where other soldiers stood
firing. Pierre rode up to them. Without being aware of it he had
come to the bridge across the Kolocha between Gorki and Borodino,
which the French (having occupied Borodino) were attacking in the
first phase of the battle. Pierre saw that there was a bridge in front
of him and that soldiers were doing something on both sides of it
and in the meadow, among the rows of new-mown hay which he had taken
no notice of amid the smoke of the campfires the day before; but
despite the incessant firing going on there he had no idea that this
was the field of battle. He did not notice the sound of the bullets
whistling from every side, or the projectiles that flew over him,
did not see the enemy on the other side of the river, and for a long
time did not notice the killed and wounded, though many fell near him.
He looked about him with a smile which did not leave his face.

"Why's that fellow in front of the line?" shouted somebody at him
again.

"To the left!... Keep to the right!" the men shouted to him.

Pierre went to the right, and unexpectedly encountered one of
Raevski's adjutants whom he knew. The adjutant looked angrily at
him, evidently also intending to shout at him, but on recognizing
him he nodded.

"How have you got here?" he said, and galloped on.

Pierre, feeling out of place there, having nothing to do, and afraid
of getting in someone's way again, galloped after the adjutant.

"What's happening here? May I come with you?" he asked.

"One moment, one moment!" replied the adjutant, and riding up to a
stout colonel who was standing in the meadow, he gave him some message
and then addressed Pierre.

"Why have you come here, Count?" he asked with a smile. "Still
inquisitive?"

"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.

But the adjutant turned his horse about and rode on.

"Here it's tolerable," said he, "but with Bagration on the left
flank they're getting it frightfully hot."

"Really?" said Pierre. "Where is that?"

"Come along with me to our knoll. We can get a view from there and
in our battery it is still bearable," said the adjutant. "Will you
come?"

"Yes, I'll come with you," replied Pierre, looking round for his
groom.

It was only now that he noticed wounded men staggering along or
being carried on stretchers. On that very meadow he had ridden over
the day before, a soldier was lying athwart the rows of scented hay,
with his head thrown awkwardly back and his shako off.

"Why haven't they carried him away?" Pierre was about to ask, but
seeing the stern expression of the adjutant who was also looking
that way, he checked himself.

Pierre did not find his groom and rode along the hollow with the
adjutant to Raevski's Redoubt. His horse lagged behind the
adjutant's and jolted him at every step.

"You don't seem to be used to riding, Count?" remarked the adjutant.

"No it's not that, but her action seems so jerky," said Pierre in
a puzzled tone.

"Why... she's wounded!" said the adjutant. "In the off foreleg above
the knee. A bullet, no doubt. I congratulate you, Count, on your
baptism of fire!"

Having ridden in the smoke past the Sixth Corps, behind the
artillery which had been moved forward and was in action, deafening
them with the noise of firing, they came to a small wood. There it was
cool and quiet, with a scent of autumn. Pierre and the adjutant
dismounted and walked up the hill on foot.

"Is the general here?" asked the adjutant on reaching the knoll.

"He was here a minute ago but has just gone that way," someone
told him, pointing to the right.

The adjutant looked at Pierre as if puzzled what to do with him now.

"Don't trouble about me," said Pierre. "I'll go up onto the knoll if
I may?"

"Yes, do. You'll see everything from there and it's less
dangerous, and I'll come for you."

Pierre went to the battery and the adjutant rode on. They did not
meet again, and only much later did Pierre learn that he lost an arm
that day.

The knoll to which Pierre ascended was that famous one afterwards
known to the Russians as the Knoll Battery or Raevski's Redoubt, and
to the French as la grande redoute, la fatale redoute, la redoute du
centre, around which tens of thousands fell, and which the French
regarded as the key to the whole position.

This redoubt consisted of a knoll, on three sides of which
trenches had been dug. Within the entrenchment stood ten guns that
were being fired through openings in the earthwork.

In line with the knoll on both sides stood other guns which also
fired incessantly. A little behind the guns stood infantry. When
ascending that knoll Pierre had no notion that this spot, on which
small trenches had been dug and from which a few guns were firing, was
the most important point of the battle.

On the contrary, just because he happened to be there he thought
it one of the least significant parts of the field.

Having reached the knoll, Pierre sat down at one end of a trench
surrounding the battery and gazed at what was going on around him with
an unconsciously happy smile. Occasionally he rose and walked about
the battery still with that same smile, trying not to obstruct the
soldiers who were loading, hauling the guns, and continually running
past him with bags and charges. The guns of that battery were being
fired continually one after another with a deafening roar,
enveloping the whole neighborhood in powder smoke.

In contrast with the dread felt by the infantrymen placed in
support, here in the battery where a small number of men busy at their
work were separated from the rest by a trench, everyone experienced
a common and as it were family feeling of animation.

The intrusion of Pierre's nonmilitary figure in a white hat made
an unpleasant impression at first. The soldiers looked askance at
him with surprise and even alarm as they went past him. The senior
artillery officer, a tall, long-legged, pockmarked man, moved over
to Pierre as if to see the action of the farthest gun and looked at
him with curiosity.

A young round-faced officer, quite a boy still and evidently only
just out of the Cadet College, who was zealously commanding the two
guns entrusted to him, addressed Pierre sternly.

"Sir," he said, "permit me to ask you to stand aside. You must not
be here."

The soldiers shook their heads disapprovingly as they looked at
Pierre. But when they had convinced themselves that this man in the
white hat was doing no harm, but either sat quietly on the slope of
the trench with a shy smile or, politely making way for the
soldiers, paced up and down the battery under fire as calmly as if
he were on a boulevard, their feeling of hostile distrust gradually
began to change into a kindly and bantering sympathy, such as soldiers
feel for their dogs, cocks, goats, and in general for the animals that
live with the regiment. The men soon accepted Pierre into their
family, adopted him, gave him a nickname ("our gentleman"), and made
kindly fun of him among themselves.

A shell tore up the earth two paces from Pierre and he looked around
with a smile as he brushed from his clothes some earth it had thrown
up.

"And how's it you're not afraid, sir, really now?" a red-faced,
broad-shouldered soldier asked Pierre, with a grin that disclosed a
set of sound, white teeth.

"Are you afraid, then?" said Pierre.

"What else do you expect?" answered the soldier. "She has no
mercy, you know! When she comes spluttering down, out go your innards.
One can't help being afraid," he said laughing.

Several of the men, with bright kindly faces, stopped beside Pierre.
They seemed not to have expected him to talk like anybody else, and
the discovery that he did so delighted them.

"It's the business of us soldiers. But in a gentleman it's
wonderful! There's a gentleman for you!"

"To your places!" cried the young officer to the men gathered
round Pierre.

The young officer was evidently exercising his duties for the
first or second time and therefore treated both his superiors and
the men with great precision and formality.

The booming cannonade and the fusillade of musketry were growing
more intense over the whole field, especially to the left where
Bagration's fleches were, but where Pierre was the smoke of the firing
made it almost impossible to distinguish anything. Moreover, his whole
attention was engrossed by watching the family circle- separated
from all else- formed by the men in the battery. His first unconscious
feeling of joyful animation produced by the sights and sounds of the
battlefield was now replaced by another, especially since he had
seen that soldier lying alone in the hayfield. Now, seated on the
slope of the trench, he observed the faces of those around him.

By ten o'clock some twenty men had already been carried away from
the battery; two guns were smashed and cannon balls fell more and more
frequently on the battery and spent bullets buzzed and whistled
around. But the men in the battery seemed not to notice this, and
merry voices and jokes were heard on all sides.

"A live one!" shouted a man as a whistling shell approached.

"Not this way! To the infantry!" added another with loud laughter,
seeing the shell fly past and fall into the ranks of the supports.

"Are you bowing to a friend, eh?" remarked another, chaffing a
peasant who ducked low as a cannon ball flew over.

Several soldiers gathered by the wall of the trench, looking out
to see what was happening in front.

"They've withdrawn the front line, it has retired," said they,
pointing over the earthwork.

"Mind your own business," an old sergeant shouted at them. "If
they've retired it's because there's work for them to do farther
back."

And the sergeant, taking one of the men by the shoulders, gave him a
shove with his knee. This was followed by a burst of laughter.

"To the fifth gun, wheel it up!" came shouts from one side.

"Now then, all together, like bargees!" rose the merry voices of
those who were moving the gun.

"Oh, she nearly knocked our gentleman's hat off!" cried the
red-faced humorist, showing his teeth chaffing Pierre. "Awkward
baggage!" he added reproachfully to a cannon ball that struck a cannon
wheel and a man's leg.

"Now then, you foxes!" said another, laughing at some militiamen
who, stooping low, entered the battery to carry away the wounded man.

"So this gruel isn't to your taste? Oh, you crows! You're scared!"
they shouted at the militiamen who stood hesitating before the man
whose leg had been torn off.

"There, lads... oh, oh!" they mimicked the peasants, "they don't
like it at all!"

Pierre noticed that after every ball that hit the redoubt, and after
every loss, the liveliness increased more and more.

As the flames of the fire hidden within come more and more vividly
and rapidly from an approaching thundercloud, so, as if in
opposition to what was taking place, the lightning of hidden fire
growing more and more intense glowed in the faces of these men.

Pierre did not look out at the battlefield and was not concerned
to know what was happening there; he was entirely absorbed in watching
this fire which burned ever more brightly and which he felt was
flaming up in the same way in his own soul.

At ten o'clock the infantry that had been among the bushes in
front of the battery and along the Kamenka streamlet retreated. From
the battery they could be seen running back past it carrying their
wounded on their muskets. A general with his suite came to the
battery, and after speaking to the colonel gave Pierre an angry look
and went away again having ordered the infantry supports behind the
battery to lie down, so as to be less exposed to fire. After this from
amid the ranks of infantry to the right of the battery came the
sound of a drum and shouts of command, and from the battery one saw
how those ranks of infantry moved forward.

Pierre looked over the wall of the trench and was particularly
struck by a pale young officer who, letting his sword hang down, was
walking backwards and kept glancing uneasily around.

The ranks of the infantry disappeared amid the smoke but their
long-drawn shout and rapid musketry firing could still be heard. A few
minutes later crowds of wounded men and stretcher-bearers came back
from that direction. Projectiles began to fall still more frequently
in the battery. Several men were lying about who had not been removed.
Around the cannon the men moved still more briskly and busily. No
one any longer took notice of Pierre. Once or twice he was shouted
at for being in the way. The senior officer moved with big, rapid
strides from one gun to another with a frowning face. The young
officer, with his face still more flushed, commanded the men more
scrupulously than ever. The soldiers handed up the charges, turned,
loaded, and did their business with strained smartness. They gave
little jumps as they walked, as though they were on springs.

The stormcloud had come upon them, and in every face the fire
which Pierre had watched kindle burned up brightly. Pierre standing
beside the commanding officer. The young officer, his hand to his
shako, ran up to his superior.

"I have the honor to report, sir, that only eight rounds are left.
Are we to continue firing?" he asked.

"Grapeshot!" the senior shouted, without answering the question,
looking over the wall of the trench.

Suddenly something happened: the young officer gave a gasp and
bending double sat down on the ground like a bird shot on the wing.
Everything became strange, confused, and misty in Pierre's eyes.

One cannon ball after another whistled by and struck the
earthwork, a soldier, or a gun. Pierre, who had not noticed these
sounds before, now heard nothing else. On the right of the battery
soldiers shouting "Hurrah!" were running not forwards but backwards,
it seemed to Pierre.

A cannon ball struck the very end of the earth work by which he
was standing, crumbling down the earth; a black ball flashed before
his eyes and at the same instant plumped into something. Some
militiamen who were entering the battery ran back.

"All with grapeshot!" shouted the officer.

The sergeant ran up to the officer and in a frightened whisper
informed him (as a butler at dinner informs his master that there is
no more of some wine asked for) that there were no more charges.

"The scoundrels! What are they doing?" shouted the officer,
turning to Pierre.

The officer's face was red and perspiring and his eyes glittered
under his frowning brow.

"Run to the reserves and bring up the ammunition boxes!" he
yelled, angrily avoiding Pierre with his eyes and speaking to his men.

"I'll go," said Pierre.

The officer, without answering him, strode across to the opposite
side.

"Don't fire.... Wait!" he shouted.

The man who had been ordered to go for ammunition stumbled against
Pierre.

"Eh, sir, this is no place for you," said he, and ran down the
slope.

Pierre ran after him, avoiding the spot where the young officer
was sitting.

One cannon ball, another, and a third flew over him, falling in
front, beside, and behind him. Pierre ran down the slope. "Where am
I going?" he suddenly asked himself when he was already near the green
ammunition wagons. He halted irresolutely, not knowing whether to
return or go on. Suddenly a terrible concussion threw him backwards to
the ground. At the same instant he was dazzled by a great flash of
flame, and immediately a deafening roar, crackling, and whistling made
his ears tingle.

When he came to himself he was sitting on the ground leaning on
his hands; the ammunition wagons he had been approaching no longer
existed, only charred green boards and rags littered the scorched
grass, and a horse, dangling fragments of its shaft behind it,
galloped past, while another horse lay, like Pierre, on the ground,
uttering prolonged and piercing cries.

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Beside himself with terror Pierre jumped up and ran back to thebattery, as to the only refuge from the horrors that surrounded him.On entering the earthwork he noticed that there were men doingsomething there but that no shots were being fired from the battery.He had no time to realize who these men were. He saw the seniorofficer lying on the earth wall with his back turned as if he wereexamining something down below and that one of the soldiers he hadnoticed before was struggling forward shouting "Brothers!" andtrying to free himself from some men who were holding him by thearm. He
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On returning to Gorki after having seen Prince Andrew, Pierreordered his groom to get the horses ready and to call him early in themorning, and then immediately fell asleep behind a partition in acorner Boris had given up to him.Before he was thoroughly awake next morning everybody had alreadyleft the hut. The panes were rattling in the little windows and hisgroom was shaking him."Your excellency! Your excellency! Your excellency!" he keptrepeating pertinaciously while he shook Pierre by the shoulder withoutlooking at him, having apparently lost hope of getting him to wake up."What? Has it begun? Is it time?" Pierre asked, waking
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