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War And Peace 655


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you know--well, those dead had been lying there for nearly a month, and says the peasant, they lie as white as paper, clean, and not as much smell as a puff of powder smoke." "Was it from the cold?" asked someone. "Youre a clever fellow! From the cold indeed! Why, it was hot. If it had been from the cold, ours would not have rotted either. But, he says, go up to ours and they are all rotten and maggoty. So, he says, we tie our faces up with kerchiefs and turn our heads away as we drag them off: we can hardly do it. But theirs, he says, are white as paper and not so much smell as a whiff of gunpowder." All were silent. "It must be from their food," said the sergeant major. "They used to gobble the same food as the gentry." No one contradicted him. "That peasant near Mozhaysk where the battle was said the men were all called up from ten villages around and they carted for twenty days and still didnt finish carting the dead away. And as for the wolves, he says..." "That was a real battle," said an old soldier. "Its the only one worth remembering; but since that... its only been tormenting folk." "And do you know, Daddy, the day before yesterday we ran at them and, my word, they didnt let us get near before they just threw down their muskets and went on their knees. Pardon! they say. Thats only one case. They say Platov took Poleon himself twice. But he didnt know the right charm. He catches him and catches him--no good! He turns into a bird in his hands and flies away. And theres no way of killing him either." "Youre a first-class liar, Kiselev, when I come to look at you!" "Liar, indeed! Its the real truth." "If he fell into my hands, when Id caught him Id bury him in the ground with an aspen stake to fix him down. What a lot of men hes ruined!" "Well, anyhow were going to end it. He wont come here again," remarked the old soldier, yawning. The conversation flagged, and the soldiers began settling down to sleep. "Look at the stars. Its wonderful how they shine! You would think the women had spread out their linen," said one of the men, gazing with admiration at the Milky Way. "Thats a sign of a good harvest next year." "We shall want some more wood." "You warm your back and your belly gets frozen. Thats queer." "O Lord!" "What are you pushing for? Is the fire only for you? Look how hes sprawling!" In the silence that ensued, the snoring of those who had fallen asleep could be heard. Others turned over and warmed themselves, now and again exchanging a few words. From a campfire a hundred paces off came a sound of general, merry laughter. "Hark at them roaring there in the Fifth Company!" said one of the soldiers, "and what a lot of them there are!" One of the men got up and went over to the Fifth Company. "Theyre having such fun," said he, coming back. "Two Frenchies have turned up. Ones quite frozen and the others an awful swaggerer. Hes singing songs...." "Oh, Ill go across and have a look...." And several of the men went over to the Fifth Company. CHAPTER IX The fifth company was bivouacking at the very edge of the forest. A huge campfire was blazing brightly in the midst of the snow, lighting up the branches of trees heavy with hoarfrost. About midnight they heard the sound of steps in the snow of the forest, and the crackling of dry branches. "A bear, lads," said one of the men. They all raised their heads to listen, and out of the forest into the bright firelight stepped two strangely clad human figures clinging to one another. These were two Frenchmen who had been hiding in the forest. They came up to the fire, hoarsely uttering something in a language our soldiers did not understand. One was taller than the other; he wore an officers hat and seemed quite exhausted. On approaching the fire he had been going to sit down, but fell. The other, a short sturdy soldier with a shawl tied round his head, was stronger. He raised his companion and said something, pointing to his mouth. The soldiers surrounded the Frenchmen, spread a greatcoat on the ground for the sick man, and brought some buckwheat porridge and vodka for both of them. The exhausted French officer was Ramballe and the man with his head wrapped in the

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