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Chapter 6

  • Next day the troops assembled in their appointed places in the evening an_dvanced during the night. It was an autumn night with dark purple clouds, bu_o rain. The ground was damp but not muddy, and the troops advance_oiselessly, only occasionally a jingling of the artillery could be faintl_eard. The men were forbidden to talk out loud, to smoke their pipes, or t_trike a light, and they tried to prevent their horses neighing. The secrec_f the undertaking heightened its charm and they marched gaily. Some columns,
  • supposing they had reached their destination, halted, piled arms, and settle_own on the cold ground, but the majority marched all night and arrived a_laces where they evidently should not have been.
  • Only Count Orlov-Denisov with his Cossacks (the least important detachment o_ll) got to his appointed place at the right time. This detachment halted a_he outskirts of a forest, on the path leading from the village of Stromilov_o Dmitrovsk.
  • Toward dawn, Count Orlov-Denisov, who had dozed off, was awakened by _eserter from the French army being brought to him. This was a Polish sergean_f Poniatowski's corps, who explained in Polish that he had come over becaus_e had been slighted in the service: that he ought long ago to have been mad_n officer, that he was braver than any of them, and so he had left them an_ished to pay them out. He said that Murat was spending the night less than _ile from where they were, and that if they would let him have a convoy of _undred men he would capture him alive. Count Orlov-Denisov consulted hi_ellow officers.
  • The offer was too tempting to be refused. Everyone volunteered to go an_verybody advised making the attempt. After much disputing and arguing, Major-
  • General Grekov with two Cossack regiments decided to go with the Polis_ergeant.
  • "Now, remember," said Count Orlov-Denisov to the sergeant at parting, "if yo_ave been lying I'll have you hanged like a dog; but if it's true you shal_ave a hundred gold pieces!"
  • Without replying, the sergeant, with a resolute air, mounted and rode awa_ith Grekov whose men had quickly assembled. They disappeared into the forest,
  • and Count Orlov-Denisov, having seen Grekov off, returned, shivering from th_reshness of the early dawn and excited by what he had undertaken on his ow_esponsibility, and began looking at the enemy camp, now just visible in th_eceptive light of dawn and the dying campfires. Our columns ought to hav_egun to appear on an open declivity to his right. He looked in tha_irection, but though the columns would have been visible quite far off, the_ere not to be seen. It seemed to the count that things were beginning to sti_n the French camp, and his keen-sighted adjutant confirmed this.
  • "Oh, it is really too late," said Count Orlov, looking at the camp.
  • As often happens when someone we have trusted is no longer before our eyes, i_uddenly seemed quite clear and obvious to him that the sergeant was a_mpostor, that he had lied, and that the whole Russian attack would be ruine_y the absence of those two regiments, which he would lead away heaven onl_new where. How could one capture a commander in chief from among such a mas_f troops!
  • "I am sure that rascal was lying," said the count.
  • "They can still be called back," said one of his suite, who like Count Orlo_elt distrustful of the adventure when he looked at the enemy's camp.
  • "Eh? Really… what do you think? Should we let them go on or not?"
  • "Will you have them fetched back?"
  • "Fetch them back, fetch them back!" said Count Orlov with sudde_etermination, looking at his watch. "It will be too late. It is quite light."
  • And the adjutant galloped through the forest after Grekov. When Greko_eturned, Count Orlov-Denisov, excited both by the abandoned attempt and b_ainly awaiting the infantry columns that still did not appear, as well as b_he proximity of the enemy, resolved to advance. All his men felt the sam_xcitement.
  • "Mount!" he commanded in a whisper. The men took their places and crosse_hemselves… . "Forward, with God's aid!"
  • "Hurrah-ah-ah!" reverberated in the forest, and the Cossack companies,
  • trailing their lances and advancing one after another as if poured out of _ack, dashed gaily across the brook toward the camp.
  • One desperate, frightened yell from the first French soldier who saw th_ossacks, and all who were in the camp, undressed and only just waking up, ra_ff in all directions, abandoning cannons, muskets, and horses.
  • Had the Cossacks pursued the French, without heeding what was behind an_round them, they would have captured Murat and everything there. That wa_hat the officers desired. But it was impossible to make the Cossacks budg_hen once they had got booty and prisoners. None of them listened to orders.
  • Fifteen hundred prisoners and thirty-eight guns were taken on the spot,
  • besides standards and (what seemed most important to the Cossacks) horses,
  • saddles, horsecloths, and the like. All this had to be dealt with, th_risoners and guns secured, the booty divided—not without some shouting an_ven a little themselves—and it was on this that the Cossacks all busie_hemselves.
  • The French, not being farther pursued, began to recover themselves: the_ormed into detachments and began firing. Orlov-Denisov, still waiting for th_ther columns to arrive, advanced no further.
  • Meantime, according to the dispositions which said that "the First Column wil_arch" and so on, the infantry of the belated columns, commanded by Bennigse_nd directed by Toll, had started in due order and, as always happens, had go_omewhere, but not to their appointed places. As always happens the men,
  • starting cheerfully, began to halt; murmurs were heard, there was a sense o_onfusion, and finally a backward movement. Adjutants and generals gallope_bout, shouted, grew angry, quarreled, said they had come quite wrong and wer_ate, gave vent to a little abuse, and at last gave it all up and wen_orward, simply to get somewhere. "We shall get somewhere or other!" And the_id indeed get somewhere, though not to their right places; a few eventuall_ven got to their right place, but too late to be of any use and only in tim_o be fired at. Toll, who in this battle played the part of Weyrother a_usterlitz, galloped assiduously from place to place, finding everythin_pside down everywhere. Thus he stumbled on Bagovut's corps in a wood when i_as already broad daylight, though the corps should long before have joine_rlov-Denisov. Excited and vexed by the failure and supposing that someon_ust be responsible for it, Toll galloped up to the commander of the corps an_egan upbraiding him severely, saying that he ought to be shot. Genera_agovut, a fighting old soldier of placid temperament, being also upset by al_he delay, confusion, and cross-purposes, fell into a rage to everybody'_urprise and quite contrary to his usual character and said disagreeabl_hings to Toll.
  • "I prefer not to take lessons from anyone, but I can die with my men as wel_s anybody," he said, and advanced with a single division.
  • Coming out onto a field under the enemy's fire, this brave general wen_traight ahead, leading his men under fire, without considering in hi_gitation whether going into action now, with a single division, would be o_ny use or no. Danger, cannon balls, and bullets were just what he needed i_is angry mood. One of the first bullets killed him, and other bullets kille_any of his men. And his division remained under fire for some time quit_selessly.