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only the mist was falling and drops from the trees. Denisov, the esaul, and Petya rode silently, following the peasant in the knitted cap who, stepping lightly with outturned toes and moving noiselessly in his bast shoes over the roots and wet leaves, silently led them to the edge of the forest. He ascended an incline, stopped, looked about him, and advanced to where the screen of trees was less dense. On reaching a large oak tree that had not yet shed its leaves, he stopped and beckoned mysteriously to them with his hand. Denisov and Petya rode up to him. From the spot where the peasant was standing they could see the French. Immediately beyond the forest, on a downward slope, lay a field of spring rye. To the right, beyond a steep ravine, was a small village and a landowners house with a broken roof. In the village, in the house, in the garden, by the well, by the pond, over all the rising ground, and all along the road uphill from the bridge leading to the village, not more than five hundred yards away, crowds of men could be seen through the shimmering mist. Their un-Russian shouting at their horses which were straining uphill with the carts, and their calls to one another, could be clearly heard. "Bwing the prisoner here," said Denisov in a low voice, not taking his eyes off the French. A Cossack dismounted, lifted the boy down, and took him to Denisov. Pointing to the French troops, Denisov asked him what these and those of them were. The boy, thrusting his cold hands into his pockets and lifting his eyebrows, looked at Denisov in affright, but in spite of an evident desire to say all he knew gave confused answers, merely assenting to everything Denisov asked him. Denisov turned away from him frowning and addressed the esaul, conveying his own conjectures to him. Petya, rapidly turning his head, looked now at the drummer boy, now at Denisov, now at the esaul, and now at the French in the village and along the road, trying not to miss anything of importance. "Whether Dolokhov comes or not, we must seize it, eh?" said Denisov with a merry sparkle in his eyes. "It is a very suitable spot," said the esaul. "Well send the infantwy down by the swamps," Denisov continued. "Theyll cweep up to the garden; youll wide up fwom there with the Cossacks"--he pointed to a spot in the forest beyond the village--"and I with my hussars fwom here. And at the signal shot..." "The hollow is impassable--theres a swamp there," said the esaul. "The horses would sink. We must ride round more to the left...." While they were talking in undertones the crack of a shot sounded from the low ground by the pond, a puff of white smoke appeared, then another, and the sound of hundreds of seemingly merry French voices shouting together came up from the slope. For a moment Denisov and the esaul drew back. They were so near that they thought they were the cause of the firing and shouting. But the firing and shouting did not relate to them. Down below, a man wearing something red was running through the marsh. The French were evidently firing and shouting at him. "Why, thats our Tikhon," said the esaul. "So it is! It is!" "The wascal!" said Denisov. "Hell get away!" said the esaul, screwing up his eyes. The man whom they called Tikhon, having run to the stream, plunged in so that the water splashed in the air, and, having disappeared for an instant, scrambled out on all fours, all black with the wet, and ran on. The French who had been pursuing him stopped. "Smart, that!" said the esaul. "What a beast!" said Denisov with his former look of vexation. "What has he been doing all this time?" "Who is he?" asked Petya. "Hes our plastun. I sent him to capture a tongue." "Oh, yes," said Petya, nodding at the first words Denisov uttered as if he understood it all, though he really did not understand anything of it. Tikhon Shcherbaty was one of the most indispensable men in their band. He was a peasant from Pokrovsk, near the river Gzhat. When Denisov had come to Pokrovsk at the beginning of his operations and had as usual summoned the village elder and asked him what he knew about the French, the elder, as though shielding himself, had replied, as all village elders did, that he had neither seen nor heard anything of them. But when Denisov explained that his purpose was

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