The two Pavlograd squadrons were bivouacking on a field of rye, which was already in ear but had been completely trodden down by cattle and horses. The rain was descending in torrents, and Rostov, with a young officer named Ilyin, his protege, was sitting in a hastily constructed shelter. An officer of their regiment, with long mustaches extending onto his cheeks, who after riding to the staff had been overtaken by the rain, entered Rostov's shelter.
"I have come from the staff, Count. Have you heard of Raevski's exploit?"
And the officer gave them details of the Saltanov battle, which he had heard at the staff.
Rostov, smoking his pipe and turning his head about as the water trickled down his neck, listened inattentively, with an occasional glance at Ilyin, who was pressing close to him. This officer, a lad of sixteen who had recently joined the regiment, was now in the same relation to Nicholas that Nicholas had been to Denisov seven years before. Ilyin tried to imitate Rostov in everything and adored him as a girl might have done.
Zdrzhinski, the officer with the long mustache, spoke grandiloquently of the Saltanov dam being "a Russian Thermopylae," and of how a deed worthy of antiquity had been performed by General Raevski. He recounted how Raevski had led his two sons onto the dam under terrific fire and had charged with them beside him. Rostov heard the story and not only said nothing to encourage Zdrzhinski's enthusiasm but, on the contrary, looked like a man ashamed of what he was hearing, though with no intention of contradicting it. Since the campaigns of Austerlitz and of 1807 Rostov knew by experience that men always lie when describing military exploits, as he himself had done when recounting them; besides that, he had experience enough to know that nothing happens in war at all as we can imagine or relate it. And so he did not like Zdrzhinski's tale, nor did he like Zdrzhinski himself who, with his mustaches extending over his cheeks, bent low over the face of his hearer, as was his habit, and crowded Rostov in the narrow shanty. Rostov looked at him in silence. "In the first place, there must have been such a confusion and crowding on the dam that was being attacked that if Raevski did lead his sons there, it could have had no effect except perhaps on some dozen men nearest to him," thought he, "the rest could not have seen how or with whom Raevski came onto the dam. And even those who did see it would not have been much stimulated by it, for what had they to do with Raevski's tender paternal feelings when their own skins were in danger? And besides, the fate of the Fatherland did not depend on whether they took the Saltanov dam or not, as we are told was the case at Thermopylae. So why should he have made such a sacrifice? And why expose his own children in the battle? I would not have taken my brother Petya there, or even Ilyin, who's a stranger to me but a nice lad, but would have tried to put them somewhere under cover," Nicholas continued to think, as he listened to Zdrzhinski. But he did not express his thoughts, for in such matters, too, he had gained experience. He knew that this tale redounded to the glory of our arms and so one had to pretend not to doubt it. And he acted accordingly.
"I can't stand this any more," said Ilyin, noticing that Rostov did not relish Zdrzhinski's conversation. "My stockings and shirt... and the water is running on my seat! I'll go and look for shelter. The rain seems less heavy."
Ilyin went out and Zdrzhinski rode away.
Five minutes later Ilyin, splashing through the mud, came running back to the shanty.
"Hurrah! Rostov, come quick! I've found it! About two hundred yards away there's a tavern where ours have already gathered. We can at least get dry there, and Mary Hendrikhovna's there."
Mary Hendrikhovna was the wife of the regimental doctor, a pretty young German woman he had married in Poland. The doctor, whether from lack of means or because he did not like to part from his young wife in the early days of their marriage, took her about with him wherever the hussar regiment went and his jealousy had become a standing joke among the hussar officers.
Rostov threw his cloak over his shoulders, shouted to Lavrushka to follow with the things, and- now slipping in the mud, now splashing right through it- set off with Ilyin in the lessening rain and the darkness that was occasionally rent by distant lightning.
"Rostov, where are you?"
"Here. What lightning!" they called to one another.
War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy