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.