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War And Peace 156

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retreated they would have withdrawn from that too.... Officer!" said Bagration to Rostov, "are the enemys skirmishers still there?" "They were there this evening, but now I dont know, your excellency. Shall I go with some of my hussars to see?" replied Rostov. Bagration stopped and, before replying, tried to see Rostovs face in the mist. "Well, go and see," he said, after a pause. "Yes, sir." Rostov spurred his horse, called to Sergeant Fedchenko and two other hussars, told them to follow him, and trotted downhill in the direction from which the shouting came. He felt both frightened and pleased to be riding alone with three hussars into that mysterious and dangerous misty distance where no one had been before him. Bagration called to him from the hill not to go beyond the stream, but Rostov pretended not to hear him and did not stop but rode on and on, continually mistaking bushes for trees and gullies for men and continually discovering his mistakes. Having descended the hill at a trot, he no longer saw either our own or the enemys fires, but heard the shouting of the French more loudly and distinctly. In the valley he saw before him something like a river, but when he reached it he found it was a road. Having come out onto the road he reined in his horse, hesitating whether to ride along it or cross it and ride over the black field up the hillside. To keep to the road which gleamed white in the mist would have been safer because it would be easier to see people coming along it. "Follow me!" said he, crossed the road, and began riding up the hill at a gallop toward the point where the French pickets had been standing that evening. "Your honor, there he is!" cried one of the hussars behind him. And before Rostov had time to make out what the black thing was that had suddenly appeared in the fog, there was a flash, followed by a report, and a bullet whizzing high up in the mist with a plaintive sound passed out of hearing. Another musket missed fire but flashed in the pan. Rostov turned his horse and galloped back. Four more reports followed at intervals, and the bullets passed somewhere in the fog singing in different tones. Rostov reined in his horse, whose spirits had risen, like his own, at the firing, and went back at a footpace. "Well, some more! Some more!" a merry voice was saying in his soul. But no more shots came. Only when approaching Bagration did Rostov let his horse gallop again, and with his hand at the salute rode up to the general. Dolgorukov was still insisting that the French had retreated and had only lit fires to deceive us. "What does that prove?" he was saying as Rostov rode up. "They might retreat and leave the pickets." "Its plain that they have not all gone yet, Prince," said Bagration. "Wait till tomorrow morning, well find out everything tomorrow." "The picket is still on the hill, your excellency, just where it was in the evening," reported Rostov, stooping forward with his hand at the salute and unable to repress the smile of delight induced by his ride and especially by the sound of the bullets. "Very good, very good," said Bagration. "Thank you, officer." "Your excellency," said Rostov, "may I ask a favor?" "What is it?" "Tomorrow our squadron is to be in reserve. May I ask to be attached to the first squadron?" "Whats your name?" "Count Rostov." "Oh, very well, you may stay in attendance on me." "Count Ilya Rostovs son?" asked Dolgorukov. But Rostov did not reply. "Then I may reckon on it, your excellency?" "I will give the order." "Tomorrow very likely I may be sent with some message to the Emperor," thought Rostov. "Thank God!" The fires and shouting in the enemys army were occasioned by the fact that while Napoleons proclamation was being read to the troops the Emperor himself rode round his bivouacs. The soldiers, on seeing him, lit wisps of straw and ran after him, shouting, "Vive lEmpereur!" Napoleons proclamation was as follows: Soldiers! The Russian army is advancing against you to avenge the Austrian army of Ulm. They are the same battalions you broke at Hollabrunn and have pursued ever since to this place. The position we occupy is a strong one, and while they are marching to go round me on the right they will expose a flank to me. Soldiers! I will myself direct your battalions. I will keep out of fire if you with your habitual valor carry

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