That same night, Rostov was with a platoon on skirmishing duty in front o_agration's detachment. His hussars were placed along the line in couples an_e himself rode along the line trying to master the sleepiness that kep_oming over him. An enormous space, with our army's campfires dimly glowing i_he fog, could be seen behind him; in front of him was misty darkness. Rosto_ould see nothing, peer as he would into that foggy distance: now somethin_leamed gray, now there was something black, now little lights seemed t_limmer where the enemy ought to be, now he fancied it was only something i_is own eyes. His eyes kept closing, and in his fancy appeared—now th_mperor, now Denisov, and now Moscow memories—and he again hurriedly opene_is eyes and saw close before him the head and ears of the horse he wa_iding, and sometimes, when he came within six paces of them, the blac_igures of hussars, but in the distance was still the same misty darkness.
"Why not?… It might easily happen," thought Rostov, "that the Emperor wil_eet me and give me an order as he would to any other officer; he'll say: 'G_nd find out what's there.' There are many stories of his getting to know a_fficer in just such a chance way and attaching him to himself! What if h_ave me a place near him? Oh, how I would guard him, how I would tell him th_ruth, how I would unmask his deceivers!" And in order to realize vividly hi_ove devotion to the sovereign, Rostov pictured to himself an enemy or _eceitful German, whom he would not only kill with pleasure but whom he woul_lap in the face before the Emperor. Suddenly a distant shout aroused him. H_tarted and opened his eyes.
"Where am I? Oh yes, in the skirmishing line… pass and watchword—shaft, Olmutz. What a nuisance that our squadron will be in reserve tomorrow," h_hought. "I'll ask leave to go to the front, this may be my only chance o_eeing the Emperor. It won't be long now before I am off duty. I'll tak_nother turn and when I get back I'll go to the general and ask him." H_eadjusted himself in the saddle and touched up his horse to ride once mor_ound his hussars. It seemed to him that it was getting lighter. To the lef_e saw a sloping descent lit up, and facing it a black knoll that seemed a_teep as a wall. On this knoll there was a white patch that Rostov could no_t all make out: was it a glade in the wood lit up by the moon, or som_nmelted snow, or some white houses? He even thought something moved on tha_hite spot. "I expect it's snow… that spot… a spot—une tache," he thought.
"There now… it's not a tache… Natasha… sister, black eyes… Na… tasha… (Won'_he be surprised when I tell her how I've seen the Emperor?) Natasha… take m_abretache… "—"Keep to the right, your honor, there are bushes here," came th_oice of an hussar, past whom Rostov was riding in the act of falling asleep.
Rostov lifted his head that had sunk almost to his horse's mane and pulled u_eside the hussar. He was succumbing to irresistible, youthful, childis_rowsiness. "But what was I thinking? I mustn't forget. How shall I speak t_he Emperor? No, that's not it—that's tomorrow. Oh yes! Natasha… sabretache… saber them… Whom? The hussars… Ah, the hussars with mustaches. Along th_verskaya Street rode the hussar with mustaches… I thought about him too, jus_pposite Guryev's house… Old Guryev… . Oh, but Denisov's a fine fellow. Bu_hat's all nonsense. The chief thing is that the Emperor is here. How h_ooked at me and wished to say something, but dared not… . No, it was I wh_ared not. But that's nonsense, the chief thing is not to forget the importan_hing I was thinking of. Yes, Na-tasha, sabretache, oh, yes, yes! That'_ight!" And his head once more sank to his horse's neck. All at once it seeme_o him that he was being fired at. "What? What? What?… Cut them down! What?… "
said Rostov, waking up. At the moment he opened his eyes he heard in front o_im, where the enemy was, the long-drawn shouts of thousands of voices. Hi_orse and the horse of the hussar near him pricked their ears at these shouts.
Over there, where the shouting came from, a fire flared up and went out again, then another, and all along the French line on the hill fires flared up an_he shouting grew louder and louder. Rostov could hear the sound of Frenc_ords but could not distinguish them. The din of many voices was too great; all he could hear was: "ahahah!" and "rrrr!"
"What's that? What do you make of it?" said Rostov to the hussar beside him.
"That must be the enemy's camp!"
The hussar did not reply.
"Why, don't you hear it?" Rostov asked again, after waiting for a reply.
"Who can tell, your honor?" replied the hussar reluctantly.
"From the direction, it must be the enemy," repeated Rostov.
"It may be he or it may be nothing," muttered the hussar. "It's dark… Steady!"
he cried to his fidgeting horse.
Rostov's horse was also getting restive: it pawed the frozen ground, prickin_ts ears at the noise and looking at the lights. The shouting grew stil_ouder and merged into a general roar that only an army of several thousan_en could produce. The lights spread farther and farther, probably along th_ine of the French camp. Rostov no longer wanted to sleep. The gay triumphan_houting of the enemy army had a stimulating effect on him. "Vive l'Empereur!
L'Empereur!" he now heard distinctly.
"They can't be far off, probably just beyond the stream," he said to th_ussar beside him.
The hussar only sighed without replying and coughed angrily. The sound o_orse's hoofs approaching at a trot along the line of hussars was heard, an_ut of the foggy darkness the figure of a sergeant of hussars suddenl_ppeared, looming huge as an elephant.
"Your honor, the generals!" said the sergeant, riding up to Rostov.
Rostov, still looking round toward the fires and the shouts, rode with th_ergeant to meet some mounted men who were riding along the line. One was on _hite horse. Prince Bagration and Prince Dolgorukov with their adjutants ha_ome to witness the curious phenomenon of the lights and shouts in the enemy'_amp. Rostov rode up to Bagration, reported to him, and then joined th_djutants listening to what the generals were saying.
"Believe me," said Prince Dolgorukov, addressing Bagration, "it is nothing bu_ trick! He has retreated and ordered the rearguard to kindle fires and make _oise to deceive us."
"Hardly," said Bagration. "I saw them this evening on that knoll; if they ha_etreated they would have withdrawn from that too… . Officer!" said Bagratio_o Rostov, "are the enemy's skirmishers still there?"
"They were there this evening, but now I don't know, your excellency. Shall _o with some of my hussars to see?" replied Rostov.
Bagration stopped and, before replying, tried to see Rostov's face in th_ist.
"Well, go and see," he said, after a pause.
Rostov spurred his horse, called to Sergeant Fedchenko and two other hussars, told them to follow him, and trotted downhill in the direction from which th_houting came. He felt both frightened and pleased to be riding alone wit_hree hussars into that mysterious and dangerous misty distance where no on_ad been before him. Bagration called to him from the hill not to go beyon_he stream, but Rostov pretended not to hear him and did not stop but rode o_nd on, continually mistaking bushes for trees and gullies for men an_ontinually discovering his mistakes. Having descended the hill at a trot, h_o longer saw either our own or the enemy's fires, but heard the shouting o_he French more loudly and distinctly. In the valley he saw before hi_omething like a river, but when he reached it he found it was a road. Havin_ome out onto the road he reined in his horse, hesitating whether to rid_long it or cross it and ride over the black field up the hillside. To keep t_he road which gleamed white in the mist would have been safer because i_ould be easier to see people coming along it. "Follow me!" said he, crosse_he road, and began riding up the hill at a gallop toward the point where th_rench pickets had been standing that evening.
"Your honor, there he is!" cried one of the hussars behind him. And befor_ostov had time to make out what the black thing was that had suddenl_ppeared in the fog, there was a flash, followed by a report, and a bulle_hizzing high up in the mist with a plaintive sound passed out of hearing.
Another musket missed fire but flashed in the pan. Rostov turned his horse an_alloped back. Four more reports followed at intervals, and the bullets passe_omewhere in the fog singing in different tones. Rostov reined in his horse, whose spirits had risen, like his own, at the firing, and went back at _ootpace. "Well, some more! Some more!" a merry voice was saying in his soul.
But no more shots came.
Only when approaching Bagration did Rostov let his horse gallop again, an_ith his hand at the salute rode up to the general.
Dolgorukov was still insisting that the French had retreated and had only li_ires to deceive us.
"What does that prove?" he was saying as Rostov rode up. "They might retrea_nd leave the pickets."
"It's plain that they have not all gone yet, Prince," said Bagration. "Wai_ill tomorrow morning, we'll find out everything tomorrow."
"The picket is still on the hill, your excellency, just where it was in th_vening," reported Rostov, stooping forward with his hand at the salute an_nable to repress the smile of delight induced by his ride and especially b_he sound of the bullets.
"Very good, very good," said Bagration. "Thank you, officer."
"Your excellency," said Rostov, "may I ask a favor?"
"What is it?"
"Tomorrow our squadron is to be in reserve. May I ask to be attached to th_irst squadron?"
"What's your name?"
"Oh, very well, you may stay in attendance on me."
"Count Ilya Rostov's son?" asked Dolgorukov.
But Rostov did not reply.
"Then I may reckon on it, your excellency?"
"I will give the order."
"Tomorrow very likely I may be sent with some message to the Emperor," though_ostov.
The fires and shouting in the enemy's army were occasioned by the fact tha_hile Napoleon's proclamation was being read to the troops the Emperor himsel_ode round his bivouacs. The soldiers, on seeing him, lit wisps of straw an_an after him, shouting, "Vive l'Empereur!" Napoleon's proclamation was a_ollows:
Soldiers! The Russian army is advancing against you to avenge the Austria_rmy of Ulm. They are the same battalions you broke at Hollabrunn and hav_ursued ever since to this place. The position we occupy is a strong one, an_hile they are marching to go round me on the right they will expose a flan_o me. Soldiers! I will myself direct your battalions. I will keep out of fir_f you with your habitual valor carry disorder and confusion into the enemy'_anks, but should victory be in doubt, even for a moment, you will see you_mperor exposing himself to the first blows of the enemy, for there must be n_oubt of victory, especially on this day when what is at stake is the honor o_he French infantry, so necessary to the honor of our nation.
Do not break your ranks on the plea of removing the wounded! Let every man b_ully imbued with the thought that we must defeat these hirelings of England, inspired by such hatred of our nation! This victory will conclude our campaig_nd we can return to winter quarters, where fresh French troops who are bein_aised in France will join us, and the peace I shall conclude will be worth_f my people, of you, and of myself.