Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 6

  • Kutuzov fell back toward Vienna, destroying behind him the bridges over th_ivers Inn (at Braunau) and Traun (near Linz). On October 23 the Russia_roops were crossing the river Enns. At midday the Russian baggage train, th_rtillery, and columns of troops were defiling through the town of Enns o_oth sides of the bridge.
  • It was a warm, rainy, autumnal day. The wide expanse that opened out befor_he heights on which the Russian batteries stood guarding the bridge was a_imes veiled by a diaphanous curtain of slanting rain, and then, suddenl_pread out in the sunlight, far-distant objects could be clearly see_littering as though freshly varnished. Down below, the little town could b_een with its white, red-roofed houses, its cathedral, and its bridge, on bot_ides of which streamed jostling masses of Russian troops. At the bend of th_anube, vessels, an island, and a castle with a park surrounded by the water_f the confluence of the Enns and the Danube became visible, and the rock_eft bank of the Danube covered with pine forests, with a mystic background o_reen treetops and bluish gorges. The turrets of a convent stood out beyond _ild virgin pine forest, and far away on the other side of the Enns th_nemy's horse patrols could be discerned.
  • Among the field guns on the brow of the hill the general in command of th_earguard stood with a staff officer, scanning the country through hi_ieldglass. A little behind them Nesvitski, who had been sent to the rearguar_y the commander in chief, was sitting on the trail of a gun carriage. _ossack who accompanied him had handed him a knapsack and a flask, an_esvitski was treating some officers to pies and real doppelkummel. Th_fficers gladly gathered round him, some on their knees, some squattin_urkish fashion on the wet grass.
  • "Yes, the Austrian prince who built that castle was no fool. It's a fin_lace! Why are you not eating anything, gentlemen?" Nesvitski was saying.
  • "Thank you very much, Prince," answered one of the officers, pleased to b_alking to a staff officer of such importance. "It's a lovely place! We passe_lose to the park and saw two deer… and what a splendid house!"
  • "Look, Prince," said another, who would have dearly liked to take another pi_ut felt shy, and therefore pretended to be examining the countryside—"See,
  • our infantrymen have already got there. Look there in the meadow behind th_illage, three of them are dragging something. They'll ransack that castle,"
  • he remarked with evident approval.
  • "So they will," said Nesvitski. "No, but what I should like," added he,
  • munching a pie in his moist-lipped handsome mouth, "would be to slip in ove_here."
  • He pointed with a smile to a turreted nunnery, and his eyes narrowed an_leamed.
  • "That would be fine, gentlemen!"
  • The officers laughed.
  • "Just to flutter the nuns a bit. They say there are Italian girls among them.
  • On my word I'd give five years of my life for it!"
  • "They must be feeling dull, too," said one of the bolder officers, laughing.
  • Meanwhile the staff officer standing in front pointed out something to th_eneral, who looked through his field glass.
  • "Yes, so it is, so it is," said the general angrily, lowering the field glas_nd shrugging his shoulders, "so it is! They'll be fired on at the crossing.
  • And why are they dawdling there?"
  • On the opposite side the enemy could be seen by the naked eye, and from thei_attery a milk-white cloud arose. Then came the distant report of a shot, an_ur troops could be seen hurrying to the crossing.
  • Nesvitski rose, puffing, and went up to the general, smiling.
  • "Would not your excellency like a little refreshment?" he said.
  • "It's a bad business," said the general without answering him, "our men hav_een wasting time."
  • "Hadn't I better ride over, your excellency?" asked Nesvitski.
  • "Yes, please do," answered the general, and he repeated the order that ha_lready once been given in detail: "and tell the hussars that they are t_ross last and to fire the bridge as I ordered; and the inflammable materia_n the bridge must be reinspected."
  • "Very good," answered Nesvitski.
  • He called the Cossack with his horse, told him to put away the knapsack an_lask, and swung his heavy person easily into the saddle.
  • "I'll really call in on the nuns," he said to the officers who watched hi_milingly, and he rode off by the winding path down the hill.
  • "Now then, let's see how far it will carry, Captain. Just try!" said th_eneral, turning to an artillery officer. "Have a little fun to pass th_ime."
  • "Crew, to your guns!" commanded the officer.
  • In a moment the men came running gaily from their campfires and began loading.
  • "One!" came the command.
  • Number one jumped briskly aside. The gun rang out with a deafening metalli_oar, and a whistling grenade flew above the heads of our troops below th_ill and fell far short of the enemy, a little smoke showing the spot where i_urst.
  • The faces of officers and men brightened up at the sound. Everyone got up an_egan watching the movements of our troops below, as plainly visible as if bu_ stone's throw away, and the movements of the approaching enemy farther off.
  • At the same instant the sun came fully out from behind the clouds, and th_lear sound of the solitary shot and the brilliance of the bright sunshin_erged in a single joyous and spirited impression.