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Chapter XI.28

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Pierre, having decided that until he had carried out his design he would disclose neither his identity nor his knowledge of French, stood at the half-open door of the corridor, intending to conceal himself as soon as the French entered. But the French entered and still Pierre did not retire- an irresistible curiosity kept him there.

There were two of them. One was an officer- a tall, soldierly, handsome man- the other evidently a private or an orderly, sunburned, short, and thin, with sunken cheeks and a dull expression. The officer walked in front, leaning on a stick and slightly limping. When he had advanced a few steps he stopped, having apparently decided that these were good quarters, turned round to the soldiers standing at the entrance, and in a loud voice of command ordered them to put up the horses. Having done that, the officer, lifting his elbow with a smart gesture, stroked his mustache and lightly touched his hat.

"Bonjour, la compagnie!"* said he gaily, smiling and looking about him.

*"Good day, everybody!"

No one gave any reply.

"Vous etes le bourgeois?"* the officer asked Gerasim.

*"Are you the master here?"

Gerasim gazed at the officer with an alarmed and inquiring look.

"Quartier, quartier, logement!" said the officer, looking down at the little man with a condescending and good-natured smile. "Les francais sont de bons enfants. Que diable! Voyons! Ne nous fachons pas, mon vieux!"* added he, clapping the scared and silent Gerasim on the shoulder. "Well, does no one speak French in this establishment?" he asked again in French, looking around and meeting Pierre's eyes. Pierre moved away from the door.

*"Quarters, quarters, lodgings! The French are good fellows. What the devil! There, don't let us be cross, old fellow!"

Again the officer turned to Gerasim and asked him to show him the rooms in the house.

"Master, not here- don't understand... me, you..." said Gerasim, trying to render his words more comprehensible by contorting them.

Still smiling, the French officer spread out his hands before Gerasim's nose, intimating that he did not understand him either, and moved, limping, to the door at which Pierre was standing. Pierre wished to go away and conceal himself, but at that moment he saw Makar Alexeevich appearing at the open kitchen door with the pistol in his hand. With a madman's cunning, Makar Alexeevich eyed the Frenchman, raised his pistol, and took aim.

"Board them!" yelled the tipsy man, trying to press the trigger. Hearing the yell the officer turned round, and at the same moment Pierre threw himself on the drunkard. Just when Pierre snatched at and struck up the pistol Makar Alexeevich at last got his fingers on the trigger, there was a deafening report, and all were enveloped in a cloud of smoke. The Frenchman turned pale and rushed to the door.

Forgetting his intention of concealing his knowledge of French, Pierre, snatching away the pistol and throwing it down, ran up to the officer and addressed him in French.

"You are not wounded?" he asked.

"I think not," answered the Frenchman, feeling himself over. "But I have had a lucky escape this time," he added, pointing to the damaged plaster of the wall. "Who is that man?" said he, looking sternly at Pierre.

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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