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War And Peace 158

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War And Peace

was no end of them. A regular Moscow!" Though none of the column commanders rode up to the ranks or talked to the men (the commanders, as we saw at the council of war, were out of humor and dissatisfied with the affair, and so did not exert themselves to cheer the men but merely carried out the orders), yet the troops marched gaily, as they always do when going into action, especially to an attack. But when they had marched for about an hour in the dense fog, the greater part of the men had to halt and an unpleasant consciousness of some dislocation and blunder spread through the ranks. How such a consciousness is communicated is very difficult to define, but it certainly is communicated very surely, and flows rapidly, imperceptibly, and irrepressibly, as water does in a creek. Had the Russian army been alone without any allies, it might perhaps have been a long time before this consciousness of mismanagement became a general conviction, but as it was, the disorder was readily and naturally attributed to the stupid Germans, and everyone was convinced that a dangerous muddle had been occasioned by the sausage eaters. "Why have we stopped? Is the way blocked? Or have we already come up against the French?" "No, one cant hear them. Theyd be firing if we had." "They were in a hurry enough to start us, and now here we stand in the middle of a field without rhyme or reason. Its all those damned Germans muddling! What stupid devils!" "Yes, Id send them on in front, but no fear, theyre crowding up behind. And now here we stand hungry." "I say, shall we soon be clear? They say the cavalry are blocking the way," said an officer. "Ah, those damned Germans! They dont know their own country!" said another. "What division are you?" shouted an adjutant, riding up. "The Eighteenth." "Then why are you here? You should have gone on long ago, now you wont get there till evening." "What stupid orders! They dont themselves know what they are doing!" said the officer and rode off. Then a general rode past shouting something angrily, not in Russian. "Tafa-lafa! But what hes jabbering no one can make out," said a soldier, mimicking the general who had ridden away. "Id shoot them, the scoundrels!" "We were ordered to be at the place before nine, but we havent got halfway. Fine orders!" was being repeated on different sides. And the feeling of energy with which the troops had started began to turn into vexation and anger at the stupid arrangements and at the Germans. The cause of the confusion was that while the Austrian cavalry was moving toward our left flank, the higher command found that our center was too far separated from our right flank and the cavalry were all ordered to turn back to the right. Several thousand cavalry crossed in front of the infantry, who had to wait. At the front an altercation occurred between an Austrian guide and a Russian general. The general shouted a demand that the cavalry should be halted, the Austrian argued that not he, but the higher command, was to blame. The troops meanwhile stood growing listless and dispirited. After an hours delay they at last moved on, descending the hill. The fog that was dispersing on the hill lay still more densely below, where they were descending. In front in the fog a shot was heard and then another, at first irregularly at varying intervals--trata... tat--and then more and more regularly and rapidly, and the action at the Goldbach Stream began. Not expecting to come on the enemy down by the stream, and having stumbled on him in the fog, hearing no encouraging word from their commanders, and with a consciousness of being too late spreading through the ranks, and above all being unable to see anything in front or around them in the thick fog, the Russians exchanged shots with the enemy lazily and advanced and again halted, receiving no timely orders from the officers or adjutants who wandered about in the fog in those unknown surroundings unable to find their own regiments. In this way the action began for the first, second, and third columns, which had gone down into the valley. The fourth column, with which Kutuzov was, stood on the Pratzen Heights. Below, where the fight was beginning, there was still thick fog; on the higher ground it was clearing, but nothing could be seen of what was going on in front. Whether all the enemy forces were, as we supposed, six miles away, or whether

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