Two of the enemy's shots had already flown across the bridge, where there wa_ crush. Halfway across stood Prince Nesvitski, who had alighted from hi_orse and whose big body was jammed against the railings. He looked bac_aughing to the Cossack who stood a few steps behind him holding two horses b_heir bridles. Each time Prince Nesvitski tried to move on, soldiers and cart_ushed him back again and pressed him against the railings, and all he coul_o was to smile.
"What a fine fellow you are, friend!" said the Cossack to a convoy soldie_ith a wagon, who was pressing onto the infantrymen who were crowded togethe_lose to his wheels and his horses. "What a fellow! You can't wait a moment!
Don't you see the general wants to pass?"
But the convoyman took no notice of the word "general" and shouted at th_oldiers who were blocking his way. "Hi there, boys! Keep to the left! Wait _it." But the soldiers, crowded together shoulder to shoulder, their bayonet_nterlocking, moved over the bridge in a dense mass. Looking down over th_ails Prince Nesvitski saw the rapid, noisy little waves of the Enns, whic_ippling and eddying round the piles of the bridge chased each other along.
Looking on the bridge he saw equally uniform living waves of soldiers, shoulder straps, covered shakos, knapsacks, bayonets, long muskets, and, unde_he shakos, faces with broad cheekbones, sunken cheeks, and listless tire_xpressions, and feet that moved through the sticky mud that covered th_lanks of the bridge. Sometimes through the monotonous waves of men, like _leck of white foam on the waves of the Enns, an officer, in a cloak and wit_ type of face different from that of the men, squeezed his way along; sometimes like a chip of wood whirling in the river, an hussar on foot, a_rderly, or a townsman was carried through the waves of infantry; an_ometimes like a log floating down the river, an officers' or company'_aggage wagon, piled high, leather covered, and hemmed in on all sides, move_cross the bridge.
"It's as if a dam had burst," said the Cossack hopelessly. "Are there man_ore of you to come?"
"A million all but one!" replied a waggish soldier in a torn coat, with _ink, and passed on followed by another, an old man.
"If he" (he meant the enemy) "begins popping at the bridge now," said the ol_oldier dismally to a comrade, "you'll forget to scratch yourself."
That soldier passed on, and after him came another sitting on a cart.
"Where the devil have the leg bands been shoved to?" said an orderly, runnin_ehind the cart and fumbling in the back of it.
And he also passed on with the wagon. Then came some merry soldiers who ha_vidently been drinking.
"And then, old fellow, he gives him one in the teeth with the butt end of hi_un… " a soldier whose greatcoat was well tucked up said gaily, with a wid_wing of his arm.
"Yes, the ham was just delicious… " answered another with a loud laugh. An_hey, too, passed on, so that Nesvitski did not learn who had been struck o_he teeth, or what the ham had to do with it.
"Bah! How they scurry. He just sends a ball and they think they'll all b_illed," a sergeant was saying angrily and reproachfully.
"As it flies past me, Daddy, the ball I mean," said a young soldier with a_normous mouth, hardly refraining from laughing, "I felt like dying of fright.
I did, 'pon my word, I got that frightened!" said he, as if bragging of havin_een frightened.
That one also passed. Then followed a cart unlike any that had gone before. I_as a German cart with a pair of horses led by a German, and seemed loade_ith a whole houseful of effects. A fine brindled cow with a large udder wa_ttached to the cart behind. A woman with an unweaned baby, an old woman, an_ healthy German girl with bright red cheeks were sitting on some feathe_eds. Evidently these fugitives were allowed to pass by special permission.
The eyes of all the soldiers turned toward the women, and while the vehicl_as passing at foot pace all the soldiers' remarks related to the two youn_nes. Every face bore almost the same smile, expressing unseemly thought_bout the women.
"Just see, the German sausage is making tracks, too!"
"Sell me the missis," said another soldier, addressing the German, who, angr_nd frightened, strode energetically along with downcast eyes.
"See how smart she's made herself! Oh, the devils!"
"There, Fedotov, you should be quartered on them!"
"I have seen as much before now, mate!"
"Where are you going?" asked an infantry officer who was eating an apple, als_alf smiling as he looked at the handsome girl.
The German closed his eyes, signifying that he did not understand.
"Take it if you like," said the officer, giving the girl an apple.
The girl smiled and took it. Nesvitski like the rest of the men on the bridg_id not take his eyes off the women till they had passed. When they had gon_y, the same stream of soldiers followed, with the same kind of talk, and a_ast all stopped. As often happens, the horses of a convoy wagon becam_estive at the end of the bridge, and the whole crowd had to wait.
"And why are they stopping? There's no proper order!" said the soldiers.
"Where are you shoving to? Devil take you! Can't you wait? It'll be worse i_e fires the bridge. See, here's an officer jammed in too"—different voice_ere saying in the crowd, as the men looked at one another, and all presse_oward the exit from the bridge.
Looking down at the waters of the Enns under the bridge, Nesvitski suddenl_eard a sound new to him, of something swiftly approaching… something big, that splashed into the water.
"Just see where it carries to!" a soldier near by said sternly, looking roun_t the sound.
"Encouraging us to get along quicker," said another uneasily.
The crowd moved on again. Nesvitski realized that it was a cannon ball.
"Hey, Cossack, my horse!" he said. "Now, then, you there! get out of the way!
With great difficulty he managed to get to his horse, and shouting continuall_e moved on. The soldiers squeezed themselves to make way for him, but agai_ressed on him so that they jammed his leg, and those nearest him were not t_lame for they were themselves pressed still harder from behind.
"Nesvitski, Nesvitski! you numskull!" came a hoarse voice from behind him.
Nesvitski looked round and saw, some fifteen paces away but separated by th_iving mass of moving infantry, Vaska Denisov, red and shaggy, with his cap o_he back of his black head and a cloak hanging jauntily over his shoulder.
"Tell these devils, these fiends, to let me pass!" shouted Denisov evidentl_n a fit of rage, his coal-black eyes with their bloodshot whites glitterin_nd rolling as he waved his sheathed saber in a small bare hand as red as hi_ace.
"Ah, Vaska!" joyfully replied Nesvitski. "What's up with you?"
"The squadwon can't pass," shouted Vaska Denisov, showing his white teet_iercely and spurring his black thoroughbred Arab, which twitched its ears a_he bayonets touched it, and snorted, spurting white foam from his bit, tramping the planks of the bridge with his hoofs, and apparently ready to jum_ver the railings had his rider let him. "What is this? They're like sheep!
Just like sheep! Out of the way!… Let us pass!… Stop there, you devil with th_art! I'll hack you with my saber!" he shouted, actually drawing his sabe_rom its scabbard and flourishing it.
The soldiers crowded against one another with terrified faces, and Deniso_oined Nesvitski.
"How's it you're not drunk today?" said Nesvitski when the other had ridden u_o him.
"They don't even give one time to dwink!" answered Vaska Denisov. "They kee_wagging the wegiment to and fwo all day. If they mean to fight, let's fight.
But the devil knows what this is."
"What a dandy you are today!" said Nesvitski, looking at Denisov's new cloa_nd saddlecloth.
Denisov smiled, took out of his sabretache a handkerchief that diffused _mell of perfume, and put it to Nesvitski's nose.
"Of course. I'm going into action! I've shaved, bwushed my teeth, and scente_yself."
The imposing figure of Nesvitski followed by his Cossack, and th_etermination of Denisov who flourished his sword and shouted frantically, ha_uch an effect that they managed to squeeze through to the farther side of th_ridge and stopped the infantry. Beside the bridge Nesvitski found the colone_o whom he had to deliver the order, and having done this he rode back.
Having cleared the way Denisov stopped at the end of the bridge. Carelessl_olding in his stallion that was neighing and pawing the ground, eager t_ejoin its fellows, he watched his squadron draw nearer. Then the clang o_oofs, as of several horses galloping, resounded on the planks of the bridge, and the squadron, officers in front and men four abreast, spread across th_ridge and began to emerge on his side of it.
The infantry who had been stopped crowded near the bridge in the trampled mu_nd gazed with that particular feeling of ill-will, estrangement, and ridicul_ith which troops of different arms usually encounter one another at th_lean, smart hussars who moved past them in regular order.
"Smart lads! Only fit for a fair!" said one.
"What good are they? They're led about just for show!" remarked another.
"Don't kick up the dust, you infantry!" jested an hussar whose prancing hors_ad splashed mud over some foot soldiers.
"I'd like to put you on a two days' march with a knapsack! Your fine cord_ould soon get a bit rubbed," said an infantryman, wiping the mud off his fac_ith his sleeve. "Perched up there, you're more like a bird than a man."
"There now, Zikin, they ought to put you on a horse. You'd look fine," said _orporal, chaffing a thin little soldier who bent under the weight of hi_napsack.
"Take a stick between your legs, that'll suit you for a horse!" the hussa_houted back.