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Chapter II.7

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Two of the enemy's shots had already flown across the bridge, where there was a crush. Halfway across stood Prince Nesvitski, who had alighted from his horse and whose big body was body was jammed against the railings. He looked back laughing to the Cossack who stood a few steps behind him holding two horses by their bridles. Each time Prince Nesvitski tried to move on, soldiers and carts pushed him back again and pressed him against the railings, and all he could do was to smile.

"What a fine fellow you are, friend!" said the Cossack to a convoy soldier with a wagon, who was pressing onto the infantrymen who were crowded together close 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 the soldiers who were blocking his way. "Hi there, boys! Keep to the left! Wait a bit." But the soldiers, crowded together shoulder to shoulder, their bayonets interlocking, moved over the bridge in a dense mass. Looking down over the rails Prince Nesvitski saw the rapid, noisy little waves of the Enns, which rippling 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, under the shakos, faces with broad cheekbones, sunken cheeks, and listless tired expressions, and feet that moved through the sticky mud that covered the planks of the bridge. Sometimes through the monotonous waves of men, like a fleck of white foam on the waves of the Enns, an officer, in a cloak and with a 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, an orderly, or a townsman was carried through the waves of infantry; and sometimes like a log floating down the river, an officers' or company's baggage wagon, piled high, leather covered, and hemmed in on all sides, moved across the bridge.

"It's as if a dam had burst," said the Cossack hopelessly. "Are there many more of you to come?"

"A million all but one!" replied a waggish soldier in a torn coat, with a wink, and passed on followed by another, an old man.

"If he" (he meant the enemy) "begins popping at the bridge now," said the old soldier 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, running behind the cart and fumbling in the back of it.

And he also passed on with the wagon. Then came some merry soldiers who had evidently been drinking.

"And then, old fellow, he gives him one in the teeth with the butt end of his gun..." a soldier whose greatcoat was well tucked up said gaily, with a wide swing of his arm.

"Yes, the ham was just delicious..." answered another with a loud laugh. And they, too, passed on, so that Nesvitski did not learn who had been struck on the 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 be killed," a sergeant was saying angrily and reproachfully.

"As it flies past me, Daddy, the ball I mean," said a young soldier with an enormous 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 having been frightened.

That one also passed. Then followed a cart unlike any that had gone before. It was a German cart with a pair of horses led by a German, and seemed loaded with a whole houseful of effects. A fine brindled cow with a large udder was attached to the cart behind. A woman with an unweaned baby, an old woman, and a healthy German girl with bright red cheeks were sitting on some feather beds. Evidently these fugitives were allowed to pass by special permission. The eyes of all the soldiers turned toward the women, and while the vehicle was passing at foot pace all the soldiers' remarks related to the two young ones. Every face bore almost the same smile, expressing unseemly thoughts about the women.

"Just see, the German sausage is making tracks, too!"

"Sell me the missis," said another soldier, addressing the German, who, angry and 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, also half 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 bridge did not take his eyes off the women till they had passed. When they had gone by, the same stream of soldiers followed, with the same kind of talk, and at last all stopped. As often happens, the horses of a convoy wagon became restive at the end of the bridge, and the whole crowd had to wait.

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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