Petya, having left his people after their departure from Moscow, joined hi_egiment and was soon taken as orderly by a general commanding a larg_uerrilla detachment. From the time he received his commission, and especiall_ince he had joined the active army and taken part in the battle of Vyazma,
Petya had been in a constant state of blissful excitement at being grown-u_nd in a perpetual ecstatic hurry not to miss any chance to do somethin_eally heroic. He was highly delighted with what he saw and experienced in th_rmy, but at the same time it always seemed to him that the really heroi_xploits were being performed just where he did not happen to be. And he wa_lways in a hurry to get where he was not.
When on the twenty-first of October his general expressed a wish to sen_omebody to Denisov's detachment, Petya begged so piteously to be sent tha_he general could not refuse. But when dispatching him he recalled Petya's ma_ction at the battle of Vyazma, where instead of riding by the road to th_lace to which he had been sent, he had galloped to the advanced line unde_he fire of the French and had there twice fired his pistol. So now th_eneral explicitly forbade his taking part in any action whatever o_enisov's. That was why Petya had blushed and grown confused when Deniso_sked him whether he could stay. Before they had ridden to the outskirts o_he forest Petya had considered he must carry out his instructions strictl_nd return at once. But when he saw the French and saw Tikhon and learned tha_here would certainly be an attack that night, he decided, with the rapidit_ith which young people change their views, that the general, whom he ha_reatly respected till then, was a rubbishy German, that Denisov was a hero,
the esaul a hero, and Tikhon a hero too, and that it would be shameful for hi_o leave them at a moment of difficulty.
It was already growing dusk when Denisov, Petya, and the esaul rode up to th_atchhouse. In the twilight saddled horses could be seen, and Cossacks an_ussars who had rigged up rough shelters in the glade and were kindlin_lowing fires in a hollow of the forest where the French could not see th_moke. In the passage of the small watchhouse a Cossack with sleeves rolled u_as chopping some mutton. In the room three officers of Denisov's band wer_onverting a door into a tabletop. Petya took off his wet clothes, gave the_o be dried, and at once began helping the officers to fix up the dinne_able.
In ten minutes the table was ready and a napkin spread on it. On the tabl_ere vodka, a flask of rum, white bread, roast mutton, and salt.
Sitting at table with the officers and tearing the fat savory mutton with hi_ands, down which the grease trickled, Petya was in an ecstatic childish stat_f love for all men, and consequently of confidence that others loved him i_he same way.
"So then what do you think, Vasili Dmitrich?" said he to Denisov. "It's al_ight my staying a day with you?" And not waiting for a reply he answered hi_wn question: "You see I was told to find out- well, I am finding out… . Onl_o let me into the very… into the chief… I don't want a reward… But I want… "
Petya clenched his teeth and looked around, throwing back his head an_lourishing his arms.
"Into the vewy chief… " Denisov repeated with a smile.
"Only, please let me command something, so that I may really command… " Pety_ent on. "What would it be to you?… Oh, you want a knife?" he said, turning t_n officer who wished to cut himself a piece of mutton.
And he handed him his clasp knife. The officer admired it.
"Please keep it. I have several like it," said Petya, blushing. "Heavens! _as quite forgetting!" he suddenly cried. "I have some raisins, fine ones; yo_now, seedless ones. We have a new sutler and he has such capital things. _ought ten pounds. I am used to something sweet. Would you like some?… " an_etya ran out into the passage to his Cossack and brought back some bags whic_ontained about five pounds of raisins. "Have some, gentlemen, have some!"
"You want a coffeepot, don't you?" he asked the esaul. "I bought a capital on_rom our sutler! He has splendid things. And he's very honest, that's th_hief thing. I'll be sure to send it to you. Or perhaps your flints are givin_ut, or are worn out—that happens sometimes, you know. I have brought som_ith me, here they are"- and he showed a bag—"a hundred flints. I bought the_ery cheap. Please take as many as you want, or all if you like… ."
Then suddenly, dismayed lest he had said too much, Petya stopped and blushed.
He tried to remember whether he had not done anything else that was foolish.
And running over the events of the day he remembered the French drummer boy.
"It's capital for us here, but what of him? Where have they put him? Have the_ed him? Haven't they hurt his feelings?" he thought. But having caugh_imself saying too much about the flints, he was now afraid to speak out.
"I might ask," he thought, "but they'll say: 'He's a boy himself and so h_ities the boy.' I'll show them tomorrow whether I'm a boy. Will it seem od_f I ask?" Petya thought. "Well, never mind!" and immediately, blushing an_ooking anxiously at the officers to see if they appeared ironical, he said:
"May I call in that boy who was taken prisoner and give him something to eat?…
"Yes, he's a poor little fellow," said Denisov, who evidently saw nothin_hameful in this reminder. "Call him in. His name is Vincent Bosse. Have hi_etched."
"I'll call him," said Petya.
"Yes, yes, call him. A poor little fellow," Denisov repeated.
Petya was standing at the door when Denisov said this. He slipped in betwee_he officers, came close to Denisov, and said:
"Let me kiss you, dear old fellow! Oh, how fine, how splendid!"
And having kissed Denisov he ran out of the hut.
"Bosse! Vincent!" Petya cried, stopping outside the door.
"Who do you want, sir?" asked a voice in the darkness.
Petya replied that he wanted the French lad who had been captured that day.
"Ah, Vesenny?" said a Cossack.
Vincent, the boy's name, had already been changed by the Cossacks into Vesenny
(vernal) and into Vesenya by the peasants and soldiers. In both thes_daptations the reference to spring (vesna) matched the impression made by th_oung lad.
"He is warming himself there by the bonfire. Ho, Vesenya! Vesenya!—Vesenny!"
laughing voices were heard calling to one another in the darkness.
"He's a smart lad," said an hussar standing near Petya. "We gave him somethin_o eat a while ago. He was awfully hungry!"
The sound of bare feet splashing through the mud was heard in the darkness,
and the drummer boy came to the door.
"Ah, c'est vous!" said Petya. "Voulez-vous manger? N'ayez pas peur, on ne vou_era pas de mal,"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_112) he added shyly an_ffectionately, touching the boy's hand. "Entrez,
monsieur,"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_114) said the drummer boy in _rembling almost childish voice, and he began scraping his dirty feet on th_hreshold. There were many things Petya wanted to say to the drummer boy, bu_id not dare to. He stood irresolutely beside him in the passage. Then in th_arkness he took the boy's hand and pressed it. "Come in, come in!" h_epeated in a gentle whisper. "Oh, what can I do for him?" he thought, an_pening the door he let the boy pass in first. When the boy had entered th_ut, Petya sat down at a distance from him, considering it beneath his dignit_o pay attention to him. But he fingered the money in his pocket and wondere_hether it would seem ridiculous to give some to the drummer boy.